It’s been a while since I have written a Buffy blog, mainly because they feed way too much into the fandom culture girly within me but like many things she can’t be kept at bay for too long. Prepare for this to be lengthy one.
First, I want to define this archetype the way that I am using it. It basically is the name. We’re introduced to a character who is good, usually also shy in some way (in my case) and we get see their downfall along with their redemption.
A prime example of this character for me is Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
TW: Substance abuse mention and allusion and Death.
When we are introduced to Willow, she’s the stereotypical goody two-shoes nerdy and straightlaced. We get to see Willow hop out of that box and shed that label as the story progresses especially with the help of witchcraft. After her first venture into it she quickly became enamored and grew her skill level ultimately becoming a power comparable to Giles, Buffy’s mentor who has a decades long experience in “magics” as they call it.
Magic might have shaped Willow’s confidence, but it also molded her downfall. We soon see Willow’s relationship with the act become very unhealthy. I can’t pinpoint the first example of this, but I think a very apparent one is when Willow brought Buffy back from the dead, and her argument with Giles in which she disregards his concern for her and exclaims that he shouldn’t “piss her off” since she’s becoming more powerful. I consider Buffy’s death/reincarnation a catalyst for the beginning of Willows downfall. As once it was revealed that Willow ripped Buffy out of Heaven instead of saving her from the fiery pits strife was seen in Willow and Tara’s relationship. This was after Willow put a spell on Tara that would make her forget an argument they had recently. Which is a soft spot for Tara who had her mind invaded by Glory during her reign of her terror. ] Tara brings up her concern about Willow using magic for the wrong reasons. Willow later proves this by unnecessarily using magic causing an argument between the two. Willow then attempts to erase Tara’s memory of it which ends up affecting the whole gang putting them in grave danger when faced with monsters they don’t remember existing or how to defeat. This ended up causing their breakup (which was tear jerking might I add.)
If you couldn’t tell with this storyline Joss Whedon was creating an allegory between Willow’s magic addiction to the very real issue of substance abuse. Something that could truly be its own blog post, I greatly admire the way he went about talking about this real-life issue amongst this fantastical world.
After the breakup Willow continues her abuse of magic only being detoured from continuing it when her need for a fix almost gets her and Dawn killed, something that heavily angers Buffy who reluctantly decides to help Willow after almost giving up on her. After this Willow manages to stay away from doing magic after this. Her ability to stay clean also leads to her rekindling her relationship with Tara. Something that doesn’t last long as the next episode Tara gets killed by Warren who was attempting to kill Buffy.
This causes Willow to completely snap and allow herself to not only use magic again but to allow it to overtake her, turning her into “Dark Willow” who is revered as one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s big bads despite having relatively short reign.
Once she allowed herself to become one with the magics, she first sought after Warren, Tara’s killer tormenting him and ultimately killing him and when discovered by Buffy, Anya, and Xander whispers the phrase “one down” signaling that she was now targeting the two other members of the trio Warren was a part of, Johnathan and Andrew. She was ultimately stopped from doing so by Buffy who distracted her by fighting till her battle with Giles in which she drained him of his power which prompted her to attempt to end the world. Ultimately stopped by Xander who proclaimed her forever love(platonic) to Willow no matter how evil she is. A scene beautifully acted by Alyson Hannigan and Nicholas Brendon.
Willow’s redemption ark was also beautifully done. I think it’s important to note that I was personally rooting for Willow the whole way through and wasn’t too mad when she killed Warren, I was more upset of her disrespect of Dawn and Giles while deep in grief. I do enjoy how they presented Willow as remorseful for her actions because of the way it’s really indictive of her overall character and plays into her humanity which is one of the main reasons she’s so beloved by the audience in my opinion.
After the whole apocalyptic debacle Willow goes away on some kind of retreat with Gile to learn and control her magic in England. Once she returns, she accidentally makes herself invisible, her fear of having to face them again manifested itself into a spell which I think is a cool way to remind the audience how tied to magic Willow is. Willow kind avoid magic throughout season until ultimately realizing that her magic would be needed to save the world (it does).
Willow is really faced with the guilt of her actions in season 7 episode 13 “The Killer in Me”. In this episode Willow is seen seemingly moving on and exploring her feelings for one of the potential slayers Kennedy, once her and Kennedy kiss Willow is transformed into Warren. I think this was beautiful way to not only have Willow be faced with guilt of killing Warren but also the guilt of moving on from Tara. The way the episode itself is also beautifully shot; Joss Whedon made the creative choice to not just have Warren’s actor play Willow but also Alyson Hannigan routinely shifting between the two actors throughout the episode. This episode ends with Willow almost shooting Kennedy the same place Warren shot Buffy, which also resulted in Tara’s death this prompts a heartfelt monologue about her and Tara’s love and apologizing to her after this monologue Kennedy kisses Willow and after pulling away, she no longer appears to be Warren. I have the urge to sit here and dissect the monologue but for the sack of brevity that may be another blog. This by far is one of the best Buffy episodes and probably my favorite.
Willows entire character ark is my second favorite of the show. To watch her gain confidence and then lose it all and have to truly gain it within herself and not due to something/someone else was beautiful to watch.
Note: I also left out the controversy in Tara’s death because I intend to write another blog about it someday.