Buffy Character: Tara Maclay | Amber Benson

Tara Maclay (portrayed by Amber Benson) was introduced in season 4, episode 10 – ‘Hush’. She is a later member of the ‘Scooby Gang’ and a witch. Tara and Willow were in a relationship while she was still alive. She died in season 6, episode 20.

Tara grew up in a household where her brother and father were abusive and she was told the women in her family had a ‘curse’ – that she was half-demon. Her interest in magic developed after her mother died when she was 17, which is also when she went through a rebellious period against her father.

She met Willow while at UC Sunnydale through a Wicca group that they both attended. Tara recognized Willow’s desire to practice real magic and the two began to spend more time together practicing spells, which then led to their romantic relationship.

Upon Tara’s 20th birthday, her family demand she comes home as that is when the curse manifests, however, the Scooby Gang refuses to let her be taken against her will. After realizing the curse was fake, she stays with her friends in Sunnydale.

She becomes a victim of Glorificus and has her sanity absorbed to keep Dawn safe. Eventually, however, Willow can restore it and the two of them move into the Summers household to look after Dawn when Buffy dies.

When Buffy is resurrected, Tara disapproves of Willow’s growing magic abuse which ultimately leads to the end of their relationship. The two reconcile after Willow proves she has left magic behind, but it is short-lived when Tara gets hit by a stray bullet and dies. This is the cause of Willow’s descent into a spiral of grief and vengeance.

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Biography

Early Life

Born on the 16th October 1980, Tara Maclay grew up with her brother (Donald), her mother, and her father. Both her brother and father were verbally abusive towards Tara, and she was told she was part-demon and that that part of her would manifest on her 20th birthday. All of the women in her family were said to have this curse.

Tara had very few friends until she met and became part of the Scooby gang.

Her mother died when she was 17 which led to a phase of rebellion against her father. She would also hide her magic practices from him. Tara came out as a lesbian before her freshman year in college.

College

In college, Tara met Willow through a Wicca group called Daughters of Gaea. This group however did not consist of real witches, and the group would taunt Willow when she spoke of practicing real spells. Tara noticed this and approached Willow about practicing witchcraft and the two of them began meeting in private to practice spells.

The two of them begin to grow affection for one another, but Willow keeps it a secret from her friends. Eventually, Willow feels safe enough to introduce Tara to her best friend Buffy. Tara senses there is something wrong with Buffy’s aura, which ends up being because it was actually another slayer, Faith Lehane, in Buffy’s body. Tara and Willow are able to do a spell that reverses and puts Buffy back in her body.

After this, Tara becomes well acquainted with Willow’s friends and begins regularly attending the Scooby gang meetings where they discuss which demons they need to fight.

When Willow’s ex-boyfriend Oz returns and says he can control his lycanthropy, Tara pulls back from Willow as they rekindle their relationship. Willow finds it hard to move forward with Oz as she realizes she is falling in love with Tara.

After trying to avoid Oz on campus, Tara and Oz eventually cross paths and Oz notices Tara wearing Willow’s clothes. After learning of their involvement, Oz is unable to control his emotions and turns into a werewolf and attacks Tara. Oz ends up leaving Sunnydale and Willow reveals that the person she wants to be with is Tara.

Willow and Tara begin dating and together they adopt a kitten.

Scooby Gang

Tara becomes a constant member of the Scooby gang and Buffy’s circle of close friends. She would perform spells alongside Willow and occasionally look after Buffy’s younger sister Dawn.

When her family comes to take Tara home on her 20th birthday because of the curse, the Scooby gang fight for Tara to stay. This gives Tara newfound confidence in herself and her friends and she stays with them in Sunnydale. Tara emphasizes with Buffy after her mother dies, as Tara’s had died too. This brings them closer together and strengthens their bond.

Tara and Willow’s relationship begins to strain when Tara notices Willow’s increasing abuse of magic and disapproves. They fight and end up breaking up.

Tara goes to the cultural fair alone, where Glorificus approaches her and demands to know who the Key is. Tara refuses to say, protecting Dawn and thus becomes a victim of Glorificus with her sanity being absorbed. This angers Willow who then tries to take on Glorificus on her own, almost dying in the process.

Willow looks after Tara who is now unable to look after herself and even has to tie her to her bed when sleeping due to uncontrollable violent spasms. The Scooby gang uses Tara to lead them to Glorificus where Willow can regain some of Tara’s consciousness and weaken Glorificus enough for the gang to defeat her.

Willow

The year after this, and Buffy’s death, Willow and Tara become Dawn’s parental figures, moving into the Summers residence and looking after her. Willow reveals that she wants to resurrect Buffy and although at first, she was hesitant, Tara agrees to help.

As Willow continued to overuse magic, Tara’s relationship with her suffered. After arguing one time, Willow uses a spell to alter Tara’s memory so she forgets about it happening. When Tara finds out she is appalled, and so Willow promises to stop using magic however secretly makes her forget this incident as well. This time though, it goes wrong and the entire Scooby gang loses their memories during a vampire attack.

Once everyone’s memories had been restored, Tara breaks up with Willow and leaves the Summers house. It was this that encouraged Willow to cut down on her magic usage.

After the breakup, Tara remained close to Dawn. She was the first Buffy confided in about her affair with Spike, and Tara helped her with understanding and support.

When a vengeance demon traps everyone in the Summer’s house, Willow is pressured by Anya to use her magic to get them out. Willow refuses as she doesn’t want to be using magic, and Tara sticks up for her.

This moment was one of the first steps into the pair reconciling their relationship, as well as both of them being bridesmaids and Xander and Anya’s wedding. They reminisce about their memories and end up kissing and making love.

Death

On the 7th of May 2002, Tara was shot and killed by a bullet shot by Warren Maers that was intended to hit Buffy. Tara’s last words were ‘your shirt?’ spoken to Willow, whose shirt was covered with splatters of Tara’s blood.

Tara’s death consumed Willow with grief which caused her downward spiral into dark magic. She demanded Tara be brought back to life as Buffy had, but was refused as Tara’s death was caused by a non-magical human. Willow then set out to kill those responsible for Tara’s death but the Scooby Gang fought to protect them.

Giles in Devon heard of Tara’s death and attempted to contain Willow with the powers he had from the Coven. This failed and Willow drained him of power which set her into a rage and wants to destroy the world. In the end, Xander was able to convince her not to destroy everything and she went to live with Giles in Devon to learn to control her magic.

As another consequence to Tara’s death, Buffy snapped out of the depression she fell into after she was resurrected and realized that life was worth living.

In later episodes, the Scooby gang was given the opportunity to bring Tara back from the dead, but in the end, they refused as they knew there would always be a catch.

Personality

When we first met Tara, she was a quiet and shy character who spoke with a stutter. She did not often speak up for herself and wore clothes that were baggy and ill-fitting.

She was introverted and didn’t have many friends, often trying to hide or blend in with the crowd – never wanting to draw attention to herself. Her confidence begins to grow as she spends more time with Willow and especially when her place in the Scooby gang is established after her father’s lies are exposed.

Once she started displaying more confidence in herself and her voice, she also started wearing clothes that were more tight-fitting and flattering.

One of Tara’s most prominent traits is her selflessness. She always puts herself and others above her – this is best demonstrated when Willow’s ex-boyfriend comes back and Tara lets Willow be happy with him despite her own growing feelings for Willow. Alongside this, her selfless acts are also demonstrated when she refuses to give Dawn up as the Key, losing her sanity in the process.

Tara also has a lot of wisdom when it comes to witch magic. Although she is a very powerful witch, she believes it is important only to use magic when it is necessary, thus her frustration with Willow when she abuses hers. Tara believes that magic should not be used for selfish purposes, such as resurrections, etc.

Tara is compassionate, understanding, and forgiving, and she matures into a confident woman who puts others above herself. Although she has a kind-hearted soul, this doesn’t stop her from being playful and teasing her friends from time to time.

Appearance

When we first see Tara in season 4, she has blonde shoulder-length hair and wears baggy, ill-fitting clothing. She often parts her hair in unique ways such as zig-zag and other patterns.

She wears a lot of necklaces with chunky charms that elevate her witchy look. Her hair is usually down and covering her face, perhaps to emphasize her lack of confidence at the beginning.

As the seasons progress and Tara’s confidence grows, she begins to wear clothes that are more tight-fitted and colorful as well as experimenting with different hairstyles. Her hair changes from blonde to brown and she is shown wearing it up a lot more often than she used to. Again, this displays her growth in confidence and her true self.

Powers/Abilities

Tara is a very powerful witch however she only uses her magic when it is necessary. She is a key member of the scooby team, helping with fights and combat against demons and helping Willow to practice spells together.

She is capable of telekinesis, which means she can move things with just her mind – this is shown when she and Willow use it to move a fridge to block demons from entering a room. When with Willow this power is enhanced.

Tara also has the rare power of being able to read people’s auras before she even knows them. It is this ability that helps her to identify Willow as a real witch when they meet, and also when she is introduced to Buffy and she knows that there is something wrong (Faith being inside Buffy’s body).

Not only this, but Tara is well knowledgeable when it comes to knowing Latin and she can recite rituals and Latin spells. Although she has the lowest kill count of the Scooby gang (just one demon), she is an asset to the Scooby team.

Friendships

Before the Scooby gang, Tara had few friends and kept to herself. She was not confident and stuttered when speaking. She believed she was cursed and so she never wanted to make any friends.

When she meets Willow, she begins her first proper relationship with another person. At first, the two are just friends but it soon grows to become something more.

Tara’s friendship with Buffy was slow-building. Buffy initially was only connected to Tara through Willow, with no obvious connection there between the two of them themselves.

At first, Buffy didn’t understand Tara, however this began to shift after Tara’s family tried to force her to go home. The two grew even closer after the death of Buffy’s mother, of which Tara could emphasize. They bonded over this shared experience and Tara soon became a confidant for Buffy.

Buffy ended up confessing secrets to Tara and they both shared a bond of trust. Tara’s death leads to Buffy’s dislike of guns, saying ‘they keep killing my friends’ about how Tara passed.

Tara was one of the first members of the Scooby gang to befriend Dawn, Buffy’s little sister. Dawn looked up to Tara and they bonded over their shared feeling of feeling left out and like ‘outsiders’.

Tara was willing for her ‘brain to be sucked’ when Dawn’s life was threatened, and this protectiveness only grew after Buffy’s death when she and Willow moved into the Summers house to look after Dawn.

Xander and Tara were not close but they were good friends with mutual respect for one another. When Xander and Anya got married, Tara was one of their bridesmaids. Giles provided a father-like figure for her, much as he did for the rest of the Scooby gang.

Romance

Tara’s relationship with Willow is one of the most important narratives of both the character’s arc and development. After meeting in a Wicca group, Tara quickly senses Willow’s true power and the pair begin spending time together to practice real magic.

As their mutual affection grows, Willow wants to keep their friendship a secret. Eventually, though, Willow feels safe enough to introduce Tara to Buffy and the rest of her friends who soon accept her as part of the Scooby gang.

Before they officially get together, they face their first problem within the relationship when Willow’s ex Oz comes back and they rekindle their relationship. This causes Tara to draw back from Willow, however, Willow ends up choosing Tara and they become open about their relationship and being girlfriends.

Their relationship faces more problems when Willow begins to abuse her magic, causing arguments between the pair because Tara disapproves. When Willow begins to place spells on Tara, Tara feels betrayed and ends things with Willow.

Though they’re not together the pair still have strong feelings for each other and in the end, they get back together. This reunion is brief however when Tara’s life is cut short and she is shot and dies in Willow’s arms. Her last words are to Willow. Their relationship, although rocky at times, proved to be one of the strongest.

In the modern culture at the time, it was not often found for homosexual relationships to be represented on television, thus making them one of the first openly gay couples to be on TV.

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Marianne LeBlanc
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