Willow’s character then returns to a sense of normality, as she reclaims her space in the Scoobie Gang; but with one important difference: any spells she now casts are primarily to assist Buffy (either directly or indirectly). Willow proves her worth to the Scoobie Gang, as they start to battle against “The First”; which unlike anything they have fought before, is actually “the reason that evil exists”.
Willow’s Candle Magic – Helping to locate The First
An early test for Willow’s reformed character occurs when she talks with Cassie (a young lady they helped in the past); only Cassie is now actually dead, and claims to have a message from Tara (who is also dead). Although Willow becomes emotional in the encounter, she also passes the test: being able to directly face the fact that Tara is dead (without going off the rails). Shortly after, Willow realises that she actually encountered The First, which as it turns out, is able to masquerade as anybody that’s dead. Willow’s reformed character then faces another test, when she attempts to locate The First: her spell goes wrong (as The First corrupts it), and Willow ends up channelling the evil energies of The First (even hitting Buffy with a powerful magical blast). Fortunately, Xander is at hand, who destroys a bowl on Willow’s altar (thus breaking Willow’s channelling of The First). As a result of this (and some common sense), Willow realises that she needs to avoid taking on The First directly: she decides to refrain from magic for a while; and concentrate on increasing her level of self control (in case The First attempts to exploit it again).
Willow’s character then has to atone for what she has done. Firstly, she has to change her attitudes (and beliefs) towards magic. Secondly, she has to accept responsibility for the fact that she caused pain to her friends (and enemies). Thirdly, she has to face up to the fact that Tara is dead. Giles is able to help with the first of these: by taking Willow to a coven where she can work towards reconnecting with the “true essence of magic“. This is achieved by helping Willow connect with nature, and in doing so, become closer to “Mother Earth” (and all things good). Willow has a harder time dealing with the second: as she’s worried that the Scoobie Gang won’t want to know her (after what she did to them).
Willow’s Atonement – What if they won’t take me back?
Upon returning to Sunnydale, Willow does not have time to see whether or not she’s fully recovered, as her magic is required straight away: Willow casts her “Demonic Energy” locator spell (with assistance from Anya), involving candles and the scattering of powder on a map, to help her track down a demon (that’s been flaying its victims). The Scoobie Gang initially suspect that Willow may be responsible for the flaying (because that’s what she did to Warren), although Dawn eventually discovers another possibility: a demon. It is only after encountering this demon (and chatting with Anya), that the Scoobie Gang realise that something else is a foot: as Anya can see Willow, but the rest of the Scoobie Gang can’t. It turns out that Willow has not yet fully recovered: she was so afraid of her friends rejecting her, that she managed to subconsciously cast a spell, whereby they were unable to see each other. Once the spell is reversed, an important indication of friendship occurs: Buffy allows Willow to take energy from her, so that Willow may magically heal herself (from the injuries the demon inflicted).
It is at this time (whilst having a hard time dealing with her emotions) that Willow realises how to turn Amy back from being a rat (by using a “Reveal It” spell). For a time, Willow has a new friend to practice magic with, who unlike Tara, does not have any morality concerns regarding magic (and its use).
Darker Willow – Smiling (with the “fun” in magic)
Amy helps lead Willow along a forbidden path: using magic for fun/pleasure. When this does not prove to be enough (for Willow), Amy introduces Willow to Rack (a warlock), who helps her experiment with black/dangerous magic: eventually resulting in Willow summoning a demon. Shortly after, things come to a head when Willow nearly kills Dawn (Buffy’s sister), and Willow is forced to admit that she needs help with her addiction to magic. It is here that we find the concept of a “spring clean“, when Buffy and Dawn help Willow remove all magical items from Buffy’s house (such as candles, charms and crystals), thereby removing temptation (so that Willow stands a better chance of going “cold turkey”). For a while, the tougher approach works, and “old reliable/nerdy” Willow is back (e.g. using computers for research).
Later (despite Willows failed assault on Glory), Willows magic still continues to prove its worth: being able to temporarily freeze Glory, being able to throw Glory (backwards), being able to raise a “force field” (to help protect the scoobie gang) and being able to re-power a telephone (so that Buffy can call for medical assistance). Willows growing ability/willingness to undertake dangerous spells is again illustrated when she later assists Buffy (who has suffered from a “mental shut-down”).
Willow – in deep Meditation (within the Depths of Buffy’s Mind)
After arranging several candles, Willow starts to mediate, entering a trance which allows her to navigate through Buffy’s memories, eventually “snapping her out of it”. Again, this (necessary) spell raises concern from Giles, who regards the spell as “extraordinarily advanced”. Willow then takes her powers a stage further, when she enters Glory’s mind, in a bid to regain Tara’s mind (and disorientate Glory). Doing so involves Willow placing a hand on both Glory’s and Tara’s heads, then channelling explosive blue energies between herself and them (until her spell completes). Later, we also learn that Willow has gained the ability of telepathy (when she speaks with Spike, through his and her minds).
One such “scoobie spell” involves Willow making use of the four elements, within an incantation to “ionise the atmosphere around us”, with the aim of interfering with an electric tracer signal (that’s being emitted from Spike). At the time, stopping the tracer is important, because it was embedded by “The Initiative” (a secret government operation), which the scoobie gang believes are “up to no good”.
Willow – Reading an Incantation (a “soon to be” familiar sight)
In time, this is proven to be so, and Buffy encounters an opponent that she has trouble defeating: Adam (a hybrid demon/human/machine). With Willows growing power, she is eventually able to cast the dangerous “Adjoining Spell” (which is fundamental to helping Buffy defeat Adam). The spell involves speaking several incantations (assisted by candles and spirit cards) with the aim of combining: spirit (Willow), heart (Xander) and mind (Giles) within strength (Buffy), to create a single “being”. The “being” (an “Uber Buffy”) is then easily able to destroy Adam (by ripping his uranium power source from his chest).
Uber Buffy – with Possessed Yellow Eyes (a theme that later takes its own path)
With the intervention of fate, Buffy experiences some “Déjà Vu” – and discovers a computer disk that Miss Calendar had dropped (just before she died). Indeed, the Paths of Fate had gone to work – as the disc just-so-happens to contain a spell/curse that can restore Angel’s soul (and make him good again).
Early Willow – her First Spell – with Candles and Runes
It is here that Willow starts to venture deeper into witchcraft, as Willow undertakes the task of learning the “Restoration Spell”, even though Giles has warned her that “channelling such magic’s through yourself may open a door that you are unable to close again”. The spell involves reading several incantations (in both English and Latin), together with several candles, runes, incense and a “spirit orb” (which helps to transfer Angel’s soul). Willow eventually succeeds in casting the spell – and hence restores Angel’s soul (who is himself subject to a cruel Twist of Fate).