Buffy Character: Willow Rosenberg | Alyson Hannigan

Willow Rosenberg is one of the main characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and a prominent member of the Scooby Gang. She was created by Joss Wheadon. Throughout the seven seasons of this television show, Willow was played by Alyson Hannigan. 

Starting off as a nerdy but loveable character, Willow developed into a powerful yet dangerous witch as the series progressed. Additionally, Willow is one of Buffy’s closest friends, alongside Xander.

She is also renowned for her lesbian relationship with Tara Maclay, especially since they were one of the few gay relationships to be depicted on television during this period. 

Since then, Willow Rosenberg has become a fan-favorite character and she has gained cultural significance, in part due to the exploration of her sexuality. 

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Biography

Prior to the start of the series, Willow was close friends with Xander Harris. The two attended Sunnydale High School together.

Season 1

In the debut season, Willow and Xander develop a friendship with Buffy Summers, who they soon learn is a Vampire Slayer. After their friend, Jesse McNally, is killed, Willow and Xander join Buffy and Rupert Giles in fighting against the evils of Sunnydale.

Willow contributes to this group, nicknamed the Scooby Gang, by providing research and through her technological knowledge. Willow has a crush on Xander, though these feelings are not reciprocated. Instead, Xander feels an attraction to Buffy, making Willow somewhat jealous.

In the episode “I Robot, You Jane”, Willow was lured into a relationship with Moloch, a demon pretending to be a teenage boy named Malcolm. Fortunately, Buffy saved Willow and killed Moloch. 

Season 2

A year later, Willow is more self-assured. She is, however, upset when Xander begins a relationship with Cordelia Chase. Throughout Willow’s life, Cordelia had been cruel to her. However, Willow gets her own love interest in the form of Daniel “Oz” Osbourne, a werewolf and guitar player.

Willow’s teacher, Jenny Calendar, is murdered by Buffy’s boyfriend, Angel. Angel became evil after losing his soul. Willow teaches Jenny’s lessons and soon discovers a spell that can return Angel’s soul. At the end of the season, Willow successfully performs this spell, though she believes that it did not work. 

Season 3

Willow remains in a relationship with Oz. She also continues to become more advanced when it comes to spells. Willow also pursued a problematic affair with Xander, whereby they cheated on Oz and Cordelia, respectively.

After the affair was discovered, Willow and Oz briefly broke up but soon continued their relationship. In the episode “Doppelgängland”, Willow is confronted by a villainous version of herself. As a bisexual, this Vampire version of Willow foreshadows her sexuality later in the show.

At the end of the season, Willow graduates from Sunnydale High. Despite having offers from prestigious colleges, she decides to stay in Sunnydale to support Buffy. 

Season 4

Willow attends UC Sunnydale alongside Buffy and Oz. In fact, she soon moves into Buffy’s dorm room. Willow felt at home in this educational setting. Her relationship with Oz, however, would not last. Oz cheated on Willow with a fellow werewolf, named Veruca.

Willow soon moved on from Oz, developing a lesbian relationship with another witch by the name of Tara Maclay. With Tara’s aid, Willow becomes even more powerful. At the end of the series, Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles temporarily merge into one ultra-powerful being. 

Season 5

In season 5, the Scooby Gang faces Glory, a seemingly undefeatable god. When Glory makes Tara go insane, Willow angrily attacks Glory with magic. Willow is one of the few characters to effectively attack Glory.

At the end of the series, Willow uses a spell to restore Tara’s sanity. Though Buffy is successful in stopping Glory, she sacrifices her life in her sister’s place. 

Season 6

At the start of season 6, Tara and Willow move in with Buffy’s sister, Dawn, to care for her. Willow pursues a spell to revive Buffy. Using dark magic, Willow is successful in resurrecting Buffy.

Unbeknownst to her, Buffy was actually in heaven. Willow begins using magic more and more, leading to an argument with Tara. To make her girlfriend forget the conflict, Willow uses a spell that clears her memory. When Tara learns of this, she breaks up with Willow. Willow spirals into addiction when influenced by Amy Madison, putting Dawn in danger.

When her friends confront her, Willow agrees to give up magic. This results in her reforming her relationship with Tara. Sadly, Tara is shot by Warren Mears.

Enraged, Willow tortures and murders Warren and begins searching for the other two members of the Trio. Willow plans on destroying the whole world but is stopped by Xander. 

Season 7

Willow spends some time away from Sunnydale to recover with Giles. However, she soon joins the fight against the First Evil. During this period, Willow starts a relationship with Kennedy.

In the final episode, Willow uses the Slayer scythe to imbue girls across the world with the powers and abilities of the Vampire Slayer. 

Personality / Traits

At the beginning of the show, Willow is characterized by her shyness. This is a trait that develops as the show progresses. Aside from this, Willow’s other personality traits include her intelligence, kindness, naivety, and her loyalty.

She is a compassionate and trusting character, which can occasionally lead others to take advantage of her. Upon becoming close friends with Buffy, Willow’s confidence grows. This continues to improve throughout her relationships with Oz and Tara. 

Willow is perhaps Buffy’s most loyal friend. She regularly comforts Buffy when she is upset. When Parker Abrams takes advantage of Buffy, Willow uses her intelligence to confront Parker for his misogynistic and cruel behavior. She can also be a very determined character. 

Though Willow has many positive qualities, she, like all characters, also has flaws. These become particularly apartments during season 6.

She develops an addiction to using magic, resulting in her making questionable decisions in order to fuel her addiction. An example of this is putting Dawn in danger when Willow borrows magical power from the villainous Rack. 

Willow also has a vengeful side, as evidenced by her attempt to perform a spell to punish Oz and Veruca. This can also be seen during her dark Willow phase, in which she hunts down the members of the Trio in revenge for Tara’s death. 

Once Willow rids herself of her evil persona, she returns to being the warm and loving character that fans have grown to care for. 

Appearance

Arguably, Willow’s most famous physical attribute is her red hair. Willow’s look and style develop throughout the series, coinciding with her increasing confidence and her Wicca lifestyle.

At the start of the show, Willow wears clothes chosen by her mother. She frequently wears quirky and colorful hats. In season 3, her hair is noticeably shorter. This represents her increased agency over her own style. 

In season 4, Willow’s style becomes even more distinctive. This symbolizes the increased freedom she had in college, as well as the adoption of her lesbian identity. In the episode “Restless”, she even has a nightmare about regressing to her high school look. 

When Willow becomes villainous in season 6, she has a more gothic and sinister appearance to match her personality. Her hair and eyes become black, as do her clothes. After she abandons her evil persona, she returns to the style that she had before this incident. 

In the last episode, titled “Chosen”, Willow’s hair temporarily turns white when she performs a powerful spell. This is a visual contrast with Willow’s appearance during the dark Willow phase. 

Powers / Abilities

At the beginning of the show, Willow does not have any supernatural powers. Instead, she possesses a gifted intellect. She was skilled at researching, giving Buffy essential information that would help her take down villains.

Unlike Giles, who preferred using old-fashioned methods of research, Willow was skilled when it came to computers and other forms of technology. 

Willow soon developed an interest in magic. The first major instance of her performing a powerful spell came at the end of season 2. Willow is able to complete a curse that reinstates Angel’s soul in the episode “Becoming (Part 2).” She would have to perform this spell again in Angel’s spinoff series. 

Her powers would continue to develop, though they would not become particularly advanced until Willo met Tara. As a fellow witch, Tara was able to help Willow develop her powers.

However, she soon became so powerful that she was more advanced than Tara. Because of her incredible magical abilities, Willow was one of the few people to cause the god known as Glory to feel pain. Willow was also able to magically restore Tara’s mind when it had been absorbed by Glory. 

Another feat of Willow’s power came in the form of reviving Buffy after her death in season 5’s “The Gift.” Willow develops a need for magic in season 6, resulting in her becoming insanely powerful.

When Tara dies, Willow no longer holds back her power and begins draining other magic wielders of power. This evil version of Willow is near unstoppable.

In season 7, Willow stops using magic as frequently. However, her power is again needed in the climax of the show, in which she uses a scythe to transform Potential Slayers across the globe into fully-powered Vampire Slayers. 

Willow’s powers include telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, and healing. Because of this, she is a powerful and potentially dangerous character to get on the wrong side of. 

Relationships

Romantic relationships

Aside from having a crush on Xander for the first few seasons, Willow’s main romantic relationships are with Oz, Tara, and Kennedy. 

  • Daniel “Oz” Osbourne – first introduced in season 2, Oz developed an instant attraction to Willow. Their relationship was slow and steady. Oz was introduced to the supernatural side of Willow’s life in the episode “Surprise”, in which she invited him to Buffy’s surprise birthday party.

Their relationship was complicated when Oz was bitten by his werewolf cousin, causing him to transform into a monster during the full moon. Nonetheless, their relationship continued into the third season. This was until Willow and Xander had a brief affair, which was discovered in the episode “Lover’s Walk”.

This caused Oz to distance himself from her. Soon after, Oz forgave Willow for her infidelity and rekindled the relationship. Their relationship comes to an abrupt end in season 4, after Oz develops a sexual connection to Veruca, a fellow werewolf.

They break up in the episode “Wild at Heart”, in which Oz leaves Sunnydale. He temporarily returns later in the season, specifically in the episode “New Moon Rising.” However, Willow had already moved on with Tara by this point, leading to Oz once again leaving Sunnydale. 

  • Tara Maclay – the show’s inclusion of a lesbian relationship was bold and progressive. The characters first met in the Season 4 episode “Hush”, in which they combined magical abilities to escape the sinister Gentlemen. In fact, Wheadon often used magic to explore the sexual connection between Willow and Tara.

After Oz briefly returns in the season 4 episode “New Moon Rising”, Willow and Tara fully commit to their relationship. Despite this, their first on-screen kiss was not featured until season 5, specifically the episode “The Body.”

When Buffy dies at the conclusion of season 5, Tara and Willow begin caring for her little sister, Dawn, and move into the Summers house. Their relationship becomes more tumultuous in season 6 when Willow becomes addicted to using her magical abilities. They break up after Willow uses a spell on Tara that makes her forget an argument.

After Willow seemingly gives up using magic, they rebuild their relationship. However, their happiness does not last. Tara was shot dead by Warren Mears. This loss causes Willow to become a vengeful being, resulting in her killing Warren.

  • Kennedy – when Tara was killed off toward the end of season 6, many fans were angry. The writers decided to appease fans by introducing a new female love interest for Willow in the form of Kennedy, a potential slayer.

Introduced in season 7, specifically “Bring on the Night”, Kennedy was designed to be a departure from Tara’s more calm personality.  They are still in a relationship at the end of the show. Fan reaction to the character was mixed, with many preferring Willow’s relationship with Tara. 

Family

Willow’s parents are Sheila and Ira Rosenberg. She does not have any siblings. Willow does not seem to be close to either of her parents. Her mother, Sheila, appears on the show while her father does not.

She only appears in the episode “Gingerbread”, in which she did not believe that Willow was truly a witch. 

Friendships

Willow is friendly with many members of the Scooby Gang. However, her closest friendships are with Xander, Buffy, and Giles. Together, these four characters each represent components of a spiritualistic grouping. Willow is the spirit, Buffy is the body, Xander is the heart, and Giles is the mind. 

  • Buffy Summers – Perhaps one of the most central friendships in the show, Buffy met Willow on her very first day at Sunnydale High. They developed a close bond and considered themselves to be best friends.

They remain friends in college, leading to them sharing a room in season 4. Willow was responsible for resurrecting Buffy in “Bargaining (Part 1).” It was later revealed that this spell had removed Buffy from Heaven. They would come to blows when Willow became evil. They mended their friendship in Season 7.

  • Xander Harris – Willow’s friendship with Xander dates back to before the start of the show. They were friends throughout grade school and remained close into high school. During this period, Willow developed a crush on Xander. Xander, however, only saw Willow as a friend. In season 1, after being declined by Buffy, Xander asked Willow to prom.

Willow also rejected Xander, since she did not want to be his second-best option. In season 3, Willow and Xander cheated on their partners with each other. After this, they agreed to merely be friends. Their friendship continued for the remainder of the show. Xander stopped Willow from destroying the world after Tara was killed. 

  • Rupert Giles – In high school, Willow had an unrequited crush on Giles. Despite this, they always respected each other thanks to their shared love of knowledge and learning. Willow saw Giles as something of a father figure. They began to conflict more when Willow became increasingly reliant on magic. 

Antagonistic 

Though she is allied with both Cordelia and Anya in the fight against evil, Willow has a somewhat strained relationship with both women. This is partly due to their abrasive personalities and their romantic relationships with Xander. 

  • Cordelia Chase – Cordelia bullied Willow throughout grade and high school. Though Willow is upset when Xander first starts dating Cordelia, she soon becomes closer with her.

However, when Xander and Willow begin cheating on their partners in season 3, Cordelia and Willow once again become antagonistic. Despite this, they remained in contact when Cordelia moved to Los Angeles. This can be seen in the three episodes of Angel in which Willow appears. 

  • Anya Jenkins – Anya and Willow first met in the episode “Doppelgängland” in season 3. In this episode, Anya enlists Willow to perform a spell. Unbeknownst to Willow, Anya is attempting to restore her demonic powers after they were lost in the episode “The Wish.” This causes Willow to meet her evil alternate self.

In season 4, Anya develops a relationship with Xander. Willow is not particularly close with Anya and often gets irritated by her. This dynamic continued into season 5, leading to the characters having an argument in the episode “Triangle.”

In this episode, Willow expresses the fear that Anya will hurt Xander. After this episode, the two characters have a deeper understanding of each other and become more friendly. Despite this, they still occasionally argue. 

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Appearances

Alongside Buffy Summers, Willow is one of only two characters to feature in every single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are 144 episodes of the show, meaning that Willow appears in all 144. She first appeared in the debut episode, entitled “Welcome to the Hellmouth.”

Aside from this, Willow has also featured in the spinoff series, Angel (1999-2004). She appears in three episodes of Angel, including the season 2 episodes “Disharmony” and “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb.” She also plays an important role in the Season 4 episode “Orpheus.”

Willow has also continued to appear in the comic book continuations of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In 2009, Willow was featured in her own one-shot comic, called Willow: Goddesses and Monsters.

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Alex Palmer