I had never seen someone flayed alive on television before, but that’s exactly the kind of gift you get when one of the series’ nicest, most peaceful and loving characters goes completely and absolutely berserk.
The carnage starts off with the episode “Seeing Red” at the end of season 6 when the season’s main villain, The Trio, accidentally murders Tara. This isn’t the first time we’ve had satellite characters killed for impact or storytelling, but it definitely is the character billed closest to Buffy to die such a final death in the series. The episode captures the essence of anger, frustration, and fury as it explores the desperate loss of a romantic love. In addition, the episode uses this Big Bad as a vehicle to discuss more socially relevant topics of justice, vengeance, and morality.
The majority of other characters to die always seem to come back as some kind of mulligan: The slayers die periodically, paving way for the addition of new slayer-like characters, and demons die and return tortured. Buffy’s mother was the first long-term cast member to die permanently, only returning in visions or flashbacks.
I just… I’ve had blood on my hands all day. Blood from people I love.
Tara’s death, however, marks not only the creation of one of my favorite story arcs, but also one of the series’ most disturbing characters: Dark Willow. Willow’s previously explored addiction to magic and extreme power are brought into a dark focus by her anger at the loss of Tara. The transformation into Dark Willow is shown with several different components of cinematography, including wardrobe, make-up, acting/behavior study, and special effects. Not only does her behavior and mannerism clearly change, but also the wardrobe, make-up and hair style all shift to assert a darker, possibly evil underlying character.
Willow’s descent into darkness begins with her sought out revenge against The Trio. With her new found power, she quickly becomes substantially stronger than Buffy, and the Scooby Gang must work together to stop. The social dialog and underlying commentary show how the group is torn between supporting her revenge and hoping to end it. This is one of those rare TV moments where you find yourself on the fence and almost rooting for the murderous villain.