Willow does not have long to improve the Wards, that “clamp down” upon her Witchcraft, as her magic is soon required to assist Buffy: raising a “force field” (to help keep an “Uber Vampire” at bay), performing locator spells (to find other potential slayers, before The First can eliminate them), reopening a space/time portal (after Buffy jumped through one) and using a crystal/charm (to help a reformed Andrew remember more about The First).
Willow’s Redemption Spell – In balance, with the Goddess
The final test of Willow’s reformed character occurs when Buffy asks Willow to change the “Slayer” spell: so that all potential slayers shall have the same strength as Buffy (and Faith). Willow is initially scared by the request, as she believes the spell could take her beyond Evil Willow: into a total loss of self control. Fortunately, this turns out not to be the case: and after researching the spell, she is able to cast it with the help of Kennedy (a potential slayer), resulting in Willow glowing in white (and thus being equated with a Goddess). After the “Slayer” spell is successfully cast, Willow collapses from exhaustion; but is able to savour the fact that she has helped to defeat The First, and in doing so, has fully redeemed herself.
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).
For a while, Tara’s character then suggests a darker path – when she deliberately prevents Willows “Demonic Energy” locator spell from working. In this spell, Willow mixes a potion and tells Tara that they should each blow half onto a square map representing Sunnydale (which will then glow different colours to show where various demons are located). Tara prevents the spell from being cast, by throwing her half of the potion under her bed instead (whilst Willow has her eyes closed). It turns out that Tara has a secret to protect – she believes she is part demon, and wishes to hide this fact from Willow. This hiding comes to a head when Tara’s family comes to town: she’s so afraid of loosing her new found friends that she casts a spell (so that they may not see the demon part of her).
The spell involves Tara speaking an incantation, that places a curse upon her friends, being cast when some swirling yellow smoke (that’s blown from Tara’s hands) touches their faces. Unfortunately, consequences arise, and Tara’s spell is more effective than she intended – as Buffy and the rest of the scoobie gang are unable to see the monsters that are attempting to kill them. Fortunately, Tara realises the consequences of the spell she cast, and reverses it just in time for Buffy to save the day. Tara admits what she did, then prepares to leave her friends (by leaving Sunnydale with her family). Eventually, it is found that Tara is human, and that her demon side was all part of a family legend (a lie used by her family just to keep their “women in line”). Tara then becomes an important part of the scoobie gang (helping them with friendship, research and magic).