Willow's black magick results in brutal violence. Her evolution over the course of the season leads to a dramatic next-to-the-last episode, says Jeff Jensen
Alyson Hannigan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Credit: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Richard Cartwright/UPN

Willow’s black magick results in brutal violence

Ewwww. Just… ewww. Watching Warren’s skin blow off him like an unzipped windbreaker in a brutal, gale-force breeze was just… ewww. And all due to the new wicked wicca of Sunndyale, the onetime wallflower Willow, bedecked with black hair and black eyes and black magic and giving ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” a much-needed kick in the pants. With ”Villains,” the penultimate episode’s of the show’s on-the-whole so-so first season on UPN, ”Buffy” regained its status as must-see TV.

”Villains” took storylines both boiling and merely simmering all season long and finally brought them together for an explosive outing. I’m referring first to the nefarious nerds Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew, whose wannabe wickedness reached its zenith last episode when Warren — the truly depraved one of the bunch — pumped lead into Buffy (intentionally) and Willow’s galpal Tara (unintentionally).

The two lovers had finally reunited after a separation mandated by Tara because of Willow’s consuming addiction to the dark arts. That storyline seems like it happened so long ago, but in ”Villains” it came back with a vengeance — literally. Willow resorted to magicks once again to invoke Osiris and demand that he return Tara’s soul to her mortal coil. But as Tara died a human death (not a mystical death, like Buffy’s from last season), the laws of occultdom prohibit divined reprieve. And so, ashes to ashes, dust to dust goes Tara — and fully descended into a very bad place went Willow.

Hopped up on hell, Willow marched into the Magic Shop and froze Anya in her tracks and uploaded untold amounts of power from forbidden spellbooks that turned her red hair black and lowered her voice an octave or two. (Let’s stop a sec to genuflect in the direction of Alyson Hannigan, especially good when she’s allowed the chance to get dusky.) Then she went to the hospital and saved Buffy’s life before beginning her Warren hunt.

Along the way, there were some nice moments. I liked how Buffy convinced Xander and Dawn that Willow’s way was not the right way, no matter how sympathetic they may be to her desire for bloody justice. I liked how Xander’s concern for Anya after finding her frozen segued to barely-suppressed disgust after learning she had gone back to vengeance demon mode. I liked her dismissive response when she told him that his wedding-day flip-flop was the catalyst for said change. And I liked how Anya, now being a vengeance demon, gave the Scoobies a plausible means to track down Willow.

But best (and most disturbing) of all was Willow’s final showdown with Warren. In that moment, I found myself flashing back to beginning of the season, to Willow’s risky move to resurrect Buffy, and how success led to temptation, to corruption, to loss, to redemption, and now, to this, a course of action that had none of the aforementioned occurred wouldn’t even be an option for Willow.

Warren’s season-long walk has similarly evolved — from shrewd, aspiring criminal mastermind to power-mad misogynist. Oddly enough, I found myself feeling both sorry for Warren and feeling he got what he deserved, as there was something both random and inevitable about his gruesome demise.

And now, whither Willow? Driven by forces and emotions beyond her human control, Buffy’s best friend is headed for an uncertain future. One has to wonder: Even in the best case scenario — Willow regains her senses and does no more harm to anyone, friend or foe — will she be able to live with the memories of the atrocities she committed in the name of vengeance? Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m trying to banish from my mind the image of Warren’s bloody husk flying off his weasly frame. Ewwww.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • TV Show
  • 7
  • 144
stream service