*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Read at your own risk if you have not watched one or both television series. In this series of character reviews, I will strictly be writing about the characters from the television series, not the 1992 film.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
The death of a beloved character often feels like a death in our own families. We watch these shows for years, become entangled in lives of these characters and when they die, it feels like a deeply personal loss.
Tara Maclay (Amber Benson) was introduced as a new character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the 4th season. Like Willow (Alyson Hannigan), Tara is also a witch who is just beginning to develop her powers. But unlike Willow, Tara’s skills are more developed. Their relationship soon grows from friendship to a romantic relationship.
Like all relationships, the roles within the relationships change as things change. As Willow becomes more confident and powerful as a witch, Tara become the “damsel in distress”, needing to be rescued by her girlfriend. Tara also becomes a surrogate parent to Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) after she and Willow move in with the Summers following the death of Dawn’s mother.
When Willow becomes addicted to magic, Tara supports her girlfriend as she tries to come clean, but Willow’s addiction nearly breaks up their relationship. When Tara is killed by The Trio, her death triggers Willow’s grief and anger, pulling her to the dark side.
To sum it up: Though Tara was not on on BVTS for the entire run of the show, her character was still a significant one. Willow and Tara were one of the first major female LGBTQ relationships on television. It felt real and normal. Tara was as beloved as both Willow’s girlfriend and as an individual character. Her death was a blow to the audience and to the characters who grew to love her as much as Willow did.
To this day, BVTS fans still mourn Tara. We mourn her not just because of her unexpected passing, but because of the impact that she left on us. From this writer’s perspective, that is the mark of a great character.