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).
Willows character then starts to go off the rails – for two specific reasons. First: she starts to make use of darker magic (instead of just lighter/safer magic). Second: she starts to make use of too much magic (instead of accomplishing some tasks naturally). Initially, Willow has no choice but to play with darker magic, when she undertakes a “Resurrection Spell“, with the aim of bringing Buffy back from the mystical death that she suffered (after defeating Glory).
Darker Willow – At an early stage of the Resurrection Spell – With “sacrificed blood” upon her face
The spell involves Willow speaking several incantations, together with: using blood from a sacrifice (within a specific urn), enduring several tests (cuts, lumps, a snake emerging from her throat) and powerful red fires engulfing Willow (whilst she casts the spell). Willow eventually succeeds in resurrecting Buffy, although she is a “little drained” afterwards (and as such, is unable to cast any spells – for a while).
When it comes to the development of Willows character; both “growing in power”, and “finding her roots” – these are my favourite seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Best seasons to watch for “Young Willow” – the “Growing Witch” – Buffy Seasons Three and Four.
At this time, I feel that Willows character is “many things” – for she is akin to a Willow Tree, whose roots are attempting to “spread”; in several different directions. At the core of the tree, we can see that she is still herself – as she is keen to help the scoobie gang; through both friendship and research. Yet, it is with her breakup from Oz, that Willows roots, start to seek “new directions”; especially for something that can be, “just hers”. She finds this in two places. The first is witchcraft. The second is her friendship with Tara. It is with witchcraft, that Giles “throws some fertilizer”, amongst Willows roots; as he integrates Willow further into the scoobie gang, but as a “source of magic“. It is here that Giles is somewhat “naive” – for he is keen to have Willows assistance in various magical spells; yet fails to fully appreciate, that Willow wants to learn more about the craft, especially in her spare time. It is also here that Willow starts to view witchcraft as a “tool“, when she starts to use magic as way to “fix” her problems. Unfortunately, Willows character, is constantly at the mercy of her emotions – which is something, that the scoobie gang fail to realise; at least for sometime. As such, it is “all too easy” for Willows character, to disregard a cornerstone of witchcraft; the fact that you should be “clear and concise”, when casting spells! A good example is when Willow casts a “guiding sphere” spell, aka Will-o’-the-wisp; within a Halloween house, but then looses control of her spell – when she attempts to do “too many” things with it, aka Will-o’-the-wisps!
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)
Willows interest in the basics (such as charms, glamours and levitation) eventually turns into a desire to move to the next level (where spells involving conjuration, primal forces and transmutation can be found). Willow wants to learn this higher level, despite the fact that her basic spells are only being successful about fifty percent of the time.
Willow – Starting to “step up” her spells (a way to “fix” her problems!)
Fortunately, Willow soon meets a “like-minded” witch at a campus coven: Tara. It is through Tara that Willow starts to learn more about witchcraft, for example: Tara offers Willow a crystal as a gift (which Willow refuses), but leading to Willow suggesting that they can “try out some spells together with it”. Despite their growing friendship, Willow still casts spells without Tara’s assistance – particularly when its needed to help the scoobie gang.
Undaunted by Spikes abduction/demands for a Love Spell, Willow continues with her studies of witchcraft – learning to summon the four elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth) and also spends time with Amy (at a witches coven); where they both help to cast protection spells. Later, Willow impresses Buffy, with her ability to levitate a yellow pencil (whilst explaining to Buffy that its all about “emotional control”).
Willow – always keen to learn more about The Craft!
All of this helps to contribute to Willows growing reputation of being a witch, and is cemented when Anya (an ex vengeance demon, later Xander’s girlfriend), requests Willows assistance in a spell to help her regain her necklace (the source of her vengeance powers). Keen to shake some of her nerdy image, Willow is glad to offer assistance (although Willow does not know that Anya has her own secret agenda). The spell gets out of hand, with Willow seeing glimpses of an evil world, eventually causing her to abort the spell and tell Anya that “this is a little blacker than I like my arts”.