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Willow Rosenberg is a fictional character created for the fantasy television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She was developed by Joss Whedon and portrayed throughout the TV series by Alyson Hannigan.

Willow plays an integral role within the inner circle of friends—called the Scooby Gang—who support Buffy Summers, a teenager gifted with superhuman powers to defeat vampires, demons, and other evil in the fictional town of Sunnydale. The series begins as Buffy, Willow, and their friend Xander Harris are in 10th grade and Willow is a shy, nerdy girl with little confidence. She has inherent magical abilities and begins to study witchcraft; as the series progresses, Willow becomes more sure of herself and her magical powers become significant. Her dependence on magic becomes so consuming that it develops into a dark force that takes her on a redemptive journey in a major story arc when she becomes the sixth season's main villain, threatening to destroy the world in a fit of grief and rage.

The Buffy series became extremely popular and earned a devoted fanbase; Willow's intelligence, shy nature, and vulnerability often resounded strongly with viewers in early seasons. Of the core characters, Willow changes the most, becoming a complex portrayal of a woman whose powers force her to seek balance between what is best for the people she loves and what she is capable of doing. Her character stood out as a positive portrayal of a Jewish woman and at the height of her popularity, she fell in love with another woman, a witch named Tara Maclay. They became one of the first lesbian couples on U.S. television and one of the most positive relationships of the series. Despite not being a titular character, Willow Rosenberg holds the distinction of having the second largest number of appearances on episodes of Buffy and the spin-off series Angel. Alyson Hannigan appeared as Willow in all 144 episodes of Buffy, as well as guest appearances in three episodes of the spinoff Angel, for a total of 147 on-screen appearances over the course of both series. She is also featured in an animated series and video game, both of which use Hannigan's voice, and the comics Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (2007–2011), Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine (2011-2013), Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Ten (2014-2016), Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eleven (2016-2017) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Twelve (2018) which use Hannigan's likeness and continues Willow's storyline following the television series.

The Buffy television series first aired mid-season in March 1997 almost immediately earning positive critical reviews. Willow is presented as a bookish nerd with considerable computer skills, dowdily dressed and easily intimidated by more popular girls in school. She grows faint at the sight of monsters, but quickly forms a friendship with Buffy and is revealed to have grown up with Xander. They are mentored by the school librarian who is also Buffy's Watcher, Rupert Giles, who often works closely with Willow in researching the various monsters the group encounters. Joss Whedon found that Hannigan was especially gifted reacting with fear (calling her the "king of pain") and viewers responded strongly when she was placed in danger, needing to be rescued by Buffy. Willow in various predicaments became common in early episodes. However, Willow establishes herself as integral to the group's effectiveness, often willing to break rules by hacking into highly secure computer systems.

In the second season when the characters are in 11th grade, Willow becomes more sure of herself, standing up to the conceited Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), and approaching Xander, on whom she has had a crush for years, although it is unrequited as Xander is in love with Buffy. Seth Green joined the cast during the second season as Oz, a high school senior who becomes a werewolf, and Willow's primary romantic interest. The show's popularity by early 1998 was evident to the cast members, and Hannigan remarked on her surprise specifically. Willow was noted to be the spirit of the Scooby Gang, and Hannigan attributed Willow's popularity with viewers (she had by May 1998 seven websites devoted to her) to being an underdog who develops confidence and is accepted by Buffy, a strong, popular person in school. Hannigan described her appeal: "Willow is the only reality-based character. She really is what a lot of high-schoolers are like, with that awkwardness and shyness, and all those adolescent feelings."

At the end of the second season, Willow begins to study magic following the murder of the computer teacher and spell caster Jenny Calendar. Willow is able to perform a complicated spell to restore the soul of Angel, a vampire who is also Calendar's murderer and Buffy's boyfriend. During the third season three episodes explore Willow's backstory and foreshadow her development. In "Gingerbread", her home life is made clearer: Sunnydale falls under the spell of a demon who throws the town's adults into a moral panic, and Willow's mother Sheila Rosenberg is portrayed as a career-obsessed academic who is unable to communicate with her daughter, eventually trying to burn Willow at the stake for being involved in witchcraft; her father is never featured. In "The Wish" a vengeance demon named Anya Jenkins grants Cordelia's wish that Buffy never came to Sunnydale, showing what would happen if it were overrun with vampires. In this alternate reality, Willow is an aggressively bisexual vampire. In a related episode, "Doppelgangland", Willow meets "Vamp Willow", who dresses provocatively and flirts with her.

Willow chooses to attend college with Buffy in Sunnydale although she is accepted to prestigious schools elsewhere. Her relationships with Buffy and Xander become strained as they try to find their place following high school. Willow becomes much more confident in college, finally finding a place that respects her intellect, while Buffy has difficulty in classes and Xander does not attend school. Willow's relationship with her boyfriend, Oz, continues until a female werewolf appears on the scene, aggressively pursuing him, and he leaves town to learn how to control the wolf within. She becomes depressed and explores magic more deeply, often with powerful but inconsistent results. She joins the campus Wicca group, meeting Tara Maclay, for whom she immediately feels a strong attraction. Willow adapts to her newfound sexual identity, eventually falling in love with and choosing to be with Tara, even when Oz returns to Sunnydale after apparently getting his lycanthropic tendencies under control.

Each season the Scoobies face a villain they call the Big Bad. In the fifth season, this is a goddess named Glory that Buffy is unable to fight by herself.

The writers of the series often use elements of fantasy and horror as metaphors for real-life conflicts. The series' use of magic, as noted by religion professor Gregory Stevenson, neither promotes nor denigrates Wiccan ideals and Willow rejects Wiccan colleagues for not practicing the magic she favors. Throughout the series, magic is employed to represent different ideas -— relationships, sexuality, ostracism, power, and particularly for Willow, addiction -— that change between episodes and seasons. The ethical judgment of magic, therefore, lies in the results: performing magic to meet selfish needs or neglecting to appreciate its power often ends disastrously. Using it wisely for altruistic reasons is considered a positive act on the series.

Through witchcraft, Willow becomes the only member of the group to cause damage to Glory. She reveals that the spells she casts are physically demanding, giving her headaches and nosebleeds. When Glory assaults Tara, making her insane, Willow, in a magical rage that causes her eyes to turn black, finds Glory and battles her. She does not come from the battle unscathed (after all, Glory is a goddess and Willow "just" a very powerful witch) and must be assisted by Buffy, but her power is evident and surprising to her friends. The final episode of the fifth season sees Willow restoring Tara's sanity and crucially weakening Glory in the process. It also features Buffy's death, sacrificing herself to save the world.

Willow and Tara move into the Summers house and raise Buffy's younger sister Dawn Summers. Fearing that Buffy is in hell, Willow suggests at the beginning of the sixth season that she be raised from the dead. In a dark ceremony in which she expels a snake from her mouth, Willow performs the magic necessary to bring Buffy back. She is successful, but Buffy keeps it secret that she believes she was in heaven.

Willow's powers grow stronger; she uses telepathy which her friends find intrusive, and she begins to cast spells to manipulate Tara. After Willow fails Tara's challenge to go for one week without performing magic, Tara leaves her, and for two episodes Willow descends into addiction that almost gets Dawn killed. Willow goes for months without any magic, helping Buffy track three geeks called The Trio who grandiosely aspire to be supervillains.

Immediately following Willow's reconciliation with Tara, Warren Mears, one of the Trio, shoots Buffy; a stray shot kills Tara right in front of Willow. In an explosion of rage and grief, Willow soaks up all the dark magic she can, which turns her hair and eyes black. In the final episodes of the season Willow becomes exceedingly strong, surviving unharmed when Warren hits her in the back with an axe. “Axe not gonna cut it,” she quips. She hunts Warren, tortures him by slowly pushing a bullet into his body, then kills him by magically flaying him. Unsatisfied, she attempts to kill the other two members of the Trio but is unsuccessful due to her weakening power. She solves this problem by killing her 'dealer' from earlier in the season and draining him of his magic. When she is confronted by Buffy they begin to fight, only to be stopped by Giles who has borrowed magic from a coven of wiccans. Willow successfully drains him of this borrowed magic, fulfilling his plan and causing her to feel all the pain of everyone in the world. She tries to ease the pain by destroying the world, finally stopped by Xander’s passionate confession of platonic familial love for her.

The seventh season starts with Willow in England, unnerved by her power, studying with a coven near Giles' home to harness it. She fears returning to Sunnydale and what she is capable of doing if she loses control again, a fear that dogs her the whole season.

Buffy and the Scoobies face the First Evil, bent on ending the Slayer line and destroying the world. Potential Slayers from around the globe congregate at Buffy's home and she trains them to battle the First Evil. Willow continues to face her grief over Tara's death and, reluctantly, becomes involved with one of the Potentials, Kennedy.

In the final episode of the series, "Chosen", Buffy calls upon Willow to perform the most powerful spell she has ever attempted. With Kennedy nearby, cautioned to kill her if she becomes out of control, Willow infuses every Potential Slayer in the world with the same powers Buffy and Faith have. The spell momentarily turns her hair white and makes her glow—Kennedy calls her "a goddess"—and it ensures that Buffy and the Potentials defeat the First Evil. Willow is able to escape with Buffy, Xander, Giles, and Kennedy as Sunnydale is destroyed.

Through the gamut of changes Willow endures in the series, Buffy studies scholar Ian Shuttleworth states that Alyson Hannigan's performances are the reason for Willow's popularity: "Hannigan can play on audience heartstrings like a concert harpist... As an actress she is a perfect interpreter in particular of the bare emotional directness which is the specialty of [series writer Marti] Noxon on form."

Subsequent to Buffy's television finale, Dark Horse Comics collaborated with Joss Whedon to produce a canonical comic book continuation of the series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (2007–11), written by Whedon and many other writers from the television series. Unfettered by the practical limitations of casting or a television special effects budget, Season Eight explores more fantastic storylines, characters, and abilities for Willow. Willow's cover art is done by Jo Chen, and Georges Jeanty and Karl Moline produce character artwork and provide alternative covers. It was followed by two closely interlinked sequels, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine and Angel & Faith (both 2012–14). Willow features at different times in both series, as well as in her own spin-off miniseries. Jeanty continues to provide Willow's likeness in Season Nine, while Rebekah Isaacs and Brian Ching are the primary pencillers of Angel & Faith and Willow: Wonderland respectively. While Season Nine and Angel & Faith are substantially less fantastical in tone than Season Eight, Willow's spin-off is high fantasy and focuses on her journey through magical alternate worlds.

Willow appears to Buffy and Xander, who are in charge of thousands of Slayers, a year after the destruction of Sunnydale. Willow reveals a host of new abilities including being able to fly and absorbing others' magic to deconstruct it. The Big Bad of Season Eight is a being named Twilight who is bent on destroying magic in the world. A one-shot comic dedicated to Willow's story was released in 2009 titled Willow: Goddesses and Monsters. It explores the time she took away to discover more about her magical powers, under the tutelage of a half-woman half-snake demon named Aluwyn. Willow is still involved with Kennedy through Season Eight, but becomes intimate with Aluwyn while they are together. She also continues to deal with grief from Tara's death, and struggles with the dark forces of magic that put her in opposition to Buffy. At the conclusion of the season, Buffy destroys an object, a seed, that is the source of the magic in the world, leaving Willow powerless. Whedon divulged that recovering her magical abilities will become Willow's "personal obsession" in a miniseries where she will be the central character.

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