Willow Through the Seasons
by Kaz

Willow Rosenberg is one of the most popular characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Consequently, she is often written about in various genres of fanfiction. She’s paired with every possible character (and more than a few impossible), both in Buffy and Angel and in other shows as well, and has taken on all manner of big bads to save the day. 

However, she is also one of the more difficult characters to write well. Her character has changed drastically over the seasons and some writers have not fully grasped the change, or conversely, try to put the season 6 Willow characteristics in a fanfic that takes place during season 2. 

The writer must keep in mind which season the fanfic is set in. Below is a quick synopsis of Willow during each of the seasons … 

Season One Willow

Willow is a shy and introverted sophomore. She is into computers, science, math and books. Overall, Willow is a nerd. But she is also very caring and wants very badly to fit in. Her interpersonal skills are also initially poor, at least with boys “when a boy talks to me I make a few vowel sounds and then I have to go away.” 

She has a huge crush on Xander, one of her best friends of many years. Unfortunately for Willow, he is painfully unaware of Willow’s feelings. Willow also has a crush on Giles during this season, which she later admits to in season 4. 

As the season progresses, she gains some confidence as she helps Buffy defeat the evils in Sunnydale. Willow is able to speak up among her close friends, but still tends to avoid confrontation. 

We also get a glimpse into Willow's psyche as we see her fears expressed. According to the episode 'Nightmares' she fears public exposure and humiliation. In later episodes, we also discover that she has a fear of frogs and in the talent show episode 'The Puppet Show', she gets terrible stage fright.

Season Two Willow

Through association with Buffy, she’s become more outgoing. She’s become aware of witchcraft through Giles and Jenny Calendar (not to mention Amy Madison and Michael) and has expressed an interest in learning about magic. 

Willow meets Oz (in fact, he notices her first) and they begin dating. She gains a level of “respectability” in the high school for dating Oz, who is laid-back, popular and a musician. She begins to change the way she dresses, getting away from “the softer side of Sears” her mother picked out for her during season 1. She becomes more comfortable with being who she is and with her body (evidenced in the confident way she walks at the end of 'Halloween').

In 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered' we see an obsessive Willow. It is obvious that she still harbors feelings for Xander which, coupled with the spell, cause her to be very blatant and sexual. She greets him from his bed and when rejected, threatens him with an ax. This is the first time we see Willow's temper, which in later seasons will have serious consequences.

During Season 2, Willow is still an avid student. In fact she is the epitome of the model student, being selected to run the computer class after the death of Jenny Calendar. Willow's interest in magic grow during the season, and during the finale 'Becoming II', Willow successfully resouls Angelus, though both she and the rest of the Scoobies believe she failed. 

Season Three Willow

After defending the Hellmouth without the Slayer for the summer, both Willow and the other Slayerettes are far more efficient in patrolling. When Buffy returns, Willow isn’t shy about telling her how hurt she is at the slayer’s abandonment—not just in the slaying department but more importantly as a best friend. Season one Willow would have been too shy to speak about her feelings as forcefully as season three Willow does. 

Willow also stands up to her mother (Sheila) for apparently the first time. During 'Gingerbread' in which her mother attempts to burn her at the stake for being a witch, she has a very tense discussion with her mother where she defiantly says she is dating a musician and worships Satan (though the last is just to annoy her mother). She also uses her computer even after her mother forbids her from contact with her friends in that episode.

Willow’s relationship with Oz continues, though she and Xander begin a secret romantic relationship. Willow also continues her magic, causing Spike to kidnap her to do a spell for him. 

Perhaps one of the most obvious pieces of evidence of the way Willow has evolved over the last two seasons is that she stands up to Spike after he kidnapped her. She tells him rather forcefully that ‘there will be no having of any kind’ (Lover’s Walk), though her essential compassionate nature does cause her to try to comfort him through his emotional pain of losing Drusilla. 

At the end of the episode, Oz and Cordelia catch Willow and Xander kissing. Since neither Willow nor Xander want to end their respective relationships with their significant others (Cordelia refuses to forgive Xander anyway), the two decide they should just be friends. It's at this point that Oz declares he needs time to think about his relationship with Willow, though he eventually takes her back. At the end of the season, Willow loses her virginity to Oz right before Graduation. 

Also in season three, we are introduced to Faith and although Willow initially accepts and likes the new slayer, it quickly turns to mutual dislike as Faith monopolizes Buffy’s time. Willow's jealous streak, which she usually keeps so firmly in check, surfaces for the first time.

Season Four Willow

Willow is now a freshman at University of California- Sunnydale. Unlike her freshman year in high school, in college she is far more confident and outgoing. Being Oz’s girlfriend helps with that as he introduces her to people he met through his band (called Dingoes Ate My Baby). She continues her studies in a variety of courses, awestruck by the different courses that are available. 

During the first semester, Oz meets a female werewolf and sleeps with her while in wolf form. Willow finds out and in the resulting grief, she attempts a spell to punish Oz and Veruca. This spell is the first glimpse we have of Willow’s willingness to use magic to make herself feel better, or to punish those who hurt her. In the ensuing chaos, Werewolf Oz kills Werewolf Veruca, who was attacking Willow. Then Werewolf Oz goes after his girlfriend only to be stopped by Buffy. When Oz finds out what he did, he leaves Sunnydale, leaving Willow with a broken heart. He then sends for his belongings, without telling Willow that he wasn’t coming back. 

After a severe fit of depression where she tries to alleviate her pain by alcohol, Willow performs a ‘Will Be Done’ spell to get over Oz, with hilarious, but potentially deadly consequences. Willow decides to join an on-campus Wicca group where she meets another witch named Tara. Gradually, the two become friends and then girlfriends, showing that Willow is bi-sexual. (It should be noted that Willow herself uses the term ‘lesbian’, however, since she did love Oz, and he is a he, therefore, she is not a lesbian, but rather bi-sexual.) Her friends are surprised by this, but accepting when they see how happy Tara makes Willow.

Willow is one of the key players in helping to defeat ADAM, the Frankenstein-like creation of the Initiative. Together with Xander and Giles, they perform a spell that lends Buffy the powers of the first slayer, helping her to defeat ADAM.

In the final episode of the season, we are allowed to see a dream Willow is having. We see she still fears the things she did in high school-- public speaking and being unprepared. But additionally, we are shown that she also fears everyone seeing her as the same girl she was in high school. Willow obviously feels she hasn't changed much, outward appearances to the contrary. 

Season 5 Willow

Sophomore year for Willow and the rest of the Scoobies is very trying. Buffy's younger sister, Dawn appears for the first time, though everyone 'remembers' Dawn being around prior to Season 5 thanks to the monks. In reality, Dawn is the Key that will open the wall between different dimensions. Willow and Tara are still together and growing strong- in fact they live together this year, sharing a dorm room. Their relationship continues to flourish throughout the season, with Willow choosing Tara over Oz when he returns. Together, they help Buffy defend Dawn against Glory, the hell goddess who needs the Key to return to her original world. 

Willow is quite affected by Joyce's death, since Joyce was one of the few adults in her life who were around consistently for extensive periods of time. During this time, Willow's magical abilities are growing stronger with Willow trying and succeeding at more difficult spells. This escalation worries Tara who feels Willow is outstripping her in magic. The two fight over this, each feeling the other doesn't trust her. Tara storms out of the dorm room and into Glory's arms. The goddess strips Tara of her mind, leaving her for a terrified Willow to find. Willow then nurses the mentally incapacitated Tara for the remainder of the season. 

However, Willow's need for vengeance once again reasserts itself when she goes after Glory in a fit of fury for hurting Tara. This is the first time we see Willow use dark magic. Her eyes become black and she radiates power. Willow succeeds in harming the goddess, which none yet have been able to do. In the final battle, Willow is Buffy's 'big gun', much to her dismay. She restores Tara's brain by using magic to suck it out of Glory, all at once curing Tara and harming the goddess to allow Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies to defeat the goddess. 

Buffy's death to stop the walls between the different worlds from disappearing completely obviously shatters something inside Willow, as evidenced by both the expression on her face at the end of the season finale and by her actions in Season 6.

Season 6 Willow 

Season 6 begins with Willow being the 'boss' of the Scoobies (Tara, Xander and Anya even made her a plaque decorated with glitter). She successfully raises Buffy from the dead, using dark magic that requires the blood of a fawn and a great deal of physical pain on Willow's part. Willow and Tara have since moved into the Summers' house to care for Dawn and to keep the Buffybot in good working order. 

She begins her junior year of college and we see brief glimpses of her classes in the early episodes of the season. She is apparently still an avid student, though she seems to further stray from her original interests of computers and science.

This is the season where we see Willow depend more and more on magic for even small tasks. Tara, who is more concerned than ever by this, confronts Willow. Once again, the two argue, but Willow performs a memory charm on Tara to make her forget the argument. When Tara finds out, she is obviously shocked and infuriated. She threatens to leave, only to have Willow promise to stay away from magic for at least a week. But Willow doesn't keep her promise, and performs a more generalized memory charm, causing all of the Scoobies to forget who they are. Once their memories are restored, Tara leaves Willow. 

Willow then goes on a downward spiral, becoming more and more addicted to magic as she begins to visit a magic den, much like a crack den. When she gets Dawn into a car accident, causing the girl's arm to break, she realizes she needs help and vows to give magic up forever. It is then we see Willow struggle to stay away from magic. She returns to her science and math roots, using both her chemistry and computer abilities to defeat the various plans of the evil nerds (Warren, Andrew and Jonathan). 

All is going well until the end of the season. Willow is staving off the call of magic and she and Tara make up. But Tara is killed by a stray bullet, causing Willow to apparently lose all her inhibitions against using magic. In a two day magical binge, she heals Buffy (who was also shot), kills the shooter by torture (using magic), fights her friends and attempts to destroy the world. Only Xander's friendship and willingness to be her friend and love her, no matter what she did, causes her to finally give into her grief (rather than her rage) at Tara's death and stop herself from beginning the apocalypse.

Season 7 Willow 

In season 7, Willow returned to Sunnydale from a sojourn in England to regain her grip on sanity. She had been taught by a coven to control her impulses and take energy from the world around her. Her relationships with the Scoobies were strained upon first arriving. Willow was so nervous she unknowingly performed a spell that made her invisible to them and vice versa. However, with the First looming, Willow was allowed back into the fold and was Buffy's most powerful ally. 

Although at times, she's fallen back into the black magic (usually when prompted to use magic to save herself or someone else), she does her best to get back on track. She also attempted to kill Kennedy in a fit of grief over moving past Tara's death, though this was due in part to the First's influence. Willow has also forgiven Andrew (and we can assume Jonathan as well even though he's dead) for the part he played in Tara's death. Although she is not above threatening him when she finds him, it is clear that she has moved on. She appears to be keeping control of her emotions in general, though. 

Her relationships with the core Scoobies have grown to pre-Season 6 strength. When Xander's eye was gouged out, Willow (from what was shown) stayed by his bedside to keep his spirits up, though it was evident that his maiming pained her. Kennedy also accused her of always defending Buffy's actions, which proves that Willow supported Buffy's decisions (at least outwardly) for a majority of the season. When Willow has to tell Buffy that she doesn't support her in her plan to attack the vineyard, Buffy's confidence is weakened considerably (though it is Dawn who finally convinces Buffy to leave). 

Regardless of Willow not supporting Buffy's intentions, the plan they finally used to defeat the First hinged on Willow. It was up to her to transfer the power of the slayer to all potential slayers. She was successful (her hair turned white and she felt the whole thing was 'nifty') and the First was defeated. And although Willow's new relationship with Kennedy began slowly, it progressed throughout the season. They were intimate (proven by the fact that Willow enjoys her girlfriend's tongue ring *g*) and were still together when 'Chosen' ended. 

Post Season 7 

So Willow is back on "track". As Joss promised, Season 7 was about going back to the beginning. There were definitely hints of Season 1 Willow in Season 7 Willow. For instance, the insecurity (in Season 1 it was about almost everything, in Season 7 it was about magic), the babbling, the friendships between the core Scoobies and Willow's innate goodness. I think the last is the key. Willow has always been a good character, however, at times she lost her way. With Season 7 she found the right path and is destined for ... something. We don't know what (though we hope it's her own show ... or guest roles on Angel the Series). 

Writing a Post Season 7 Willow will be interesting. Is she still with Kennedy? Has she regained her trust in her magical abilities or despite her triumph in 'Chosen' is she still wary of her power? Does she still babble when nervous (I think she will always babble when nervous!) Does she stay in touch with Giles, Buffy and Xander? Is she helping to find the potential slayers to train them or has she gone off on her own (or with someone else?) to live her life in Hawaii? Has she moved to Cleveland (the site of another Hellmouth, according to Giles). If only one good comes from the show ending, it will be this. The world, the Buffyverse, is now open to anything. Canon will not and cannot (unless she does get her own show or guest appearances) contradict what you, the wonderful fanfic writer, devises. So go write. Tell us what happens. It is up to fanfic writers to keep Willow and indeed the Buffyverse alive!