- “You taste like strawberries.”
- ―Rack to Willow Rosenberg[src]
Rack was an evil warlock from Sunnydale, infamous for supplying a pure yet addictive kind of magic. Though Rack appeared to have died in the hands of a dark Willow Rosenberg, he survived and eventually found himself as a traveler in alternate dimensions under the alias Marrak.
Rack was an evil warlock who had, apparently, resided in Sunnydale at least since 1998 (before Amy was a rat and able to know him). He was the mystical equivalent of a drug dealer, but he would share his magic only after the recipient allowed him to explore his or her mentality.
In 2001, he received a visit from Amy Madison and Willow Rosenberg, after they had exhausted all their own magics at The Bronze; this was the first time that his presence was brought to the attention of the Scooby Gang, Buffy Summers, or the show’s audience, though Amy had clearly had prior dealings with him. Rack was apparently well known within the demon community, though not a demon himself. Many semi-demons and weaker magical persons were scared of his very name and refused to help guide anyone to him; in fact, when Spike heard his name, he immediately recognized his name and was visibly alarmed to learn that Willow was in his company.
Rack’s hideout was cloaked so that only demons and those with magic abilities could find it. Once inside, there was a waiting room, usually filled with several people (magic junkies), and a back room where he lived and did magic. He pinned Willow to the ceiling in that room with magic. Willow’s pupils and irises turned a solid black for several hours at one point while she was on the ceiling — she loved the magical high.
The price for Willow’s first taste of magic from Rack was his insistence on “having a taste” of her (a journey through her mind). Willow didn’t seem to like it, but allowed it. After this, Willow and Amy spent several hours with Rack. Willow’s addiction to magic immediately became more pronounced and she went back to Rack’s apartment the next night with Dawn Summers in tow. Willow had told Dawn they were going to the movies, but before they got to the movie, Dawn was told that Willow must make a quick stop. Leaving Dawn alone in the waiting room, Willow spent at least 2 hours in Rack’s room, being high on magic, again on the ceiling. Willow finally emerges and ignored Dawn’s concerns and complaints, apparently not realizing (or caring) how long she was in Rack’s room.
Upon leaving Rack’s place, they were attacked by Mandraz, a demon who claimed that Willow summoned him, the price to pay for using such potent magics. In order to escape, Willow stole and drove a car with her magic, showing her hands-off driving ability to Dawn, laughing and swerving playfully and not watching the road. This led to an accident in which Dawn’s arm was broken and she was badly shaken. This terrified and angered Dawn, as well as seriously injured Willow’s friendship with Xander and Buffy, who found them almost immediately. Buffy and her team have been searching all of Sunnydale for the pair, Buffy finally learned about Rack and, confessing sobbingly to Buffy that she was addicted and needed help, Willow renounced her magic and severed her contact with Rack and Amy.
Rack’s activities afterward were unknown up until Warren Mears shot and accidentally killed Tara Maclay. Warren paid Rack for protection after he discovered that Buffy had survived his assassination attempt. Rack warned Warren that Buffy was the least of his problems compared to “the witch” (Willow); Rack gave Warren the protection spells and some magical weapons that Warren had paid for and sent Warren on his way, though he warned Warren that there was no guarantee that they would stop Willow. Shortly thereafter, Rack was visited by a dark Willow, who appeared to kill the unstable warlock by draining his life force into hers, giving her a much needed magical boost.
Though Rack appeared to have died, in actuality he survived. He lost his powers and was in a coma for a month. At some point, though, he regained his magic and found himself as a traveler in alternate dimensions. While traveling, magic was cut off from Earth as a result of Buffy Summers breaking the Seed of Wonder, and Rack became trapped in a mystical dimension. Some months later, he would encounter the very witch who robbed him of his powers: Willow Rosenberg, who was on a mission to restore magic to their home dimension. Rack disguised himself in a demonic form, introduced himself to her as Marrak, and became her traveling companion, having earned her trust by rescuing her from attacking wing-heads: demons which contain dreams and nightmares from Earth.
While traveling, Willow was reunited with her long-lost lover, Aluwyn, and her “super coven” of traveling witches. Marrak tried to dissuade Willow from losing sight of her mission, but was banished from the witches’ paradise for his impertinence. Later, he appeared to Willow in her dreams using the wing-heads to inform her that her magical paradise was an illusion and that she was being kept on a perpetual “high” while the Earth suffered. Remembering her friends, Willow parted ways with Aluwyn and returned to Marrak’s company, only to find him more covetous of dark magic, having absorbed all the dark magic of the wing-heads.
It was then she realized who he truly was, and attacked him with a magical blast which restored his true form. Revealed, Rack vowed to steal Willow’s magic away from her much as she had stolen his. After a magical duel that extended across various alternate universes, their fight ended when they arrived in a sentient universe, the universe’s antibodies attacking and destroying Rack, while Willow survived due to her ability to accept her past darkness - learning that Rack merely encouraged a pre-existing addiction to magic rather than creating one. This allowed her to move on from Rack for good.
Powers and abilities
Rack was a warlock of the highest order, capable of manipulating dark magic by the mere wave of a hand, and had mastered a multitude of spells. His most notable ability was charging other practitioners of magic with concentrated but exceptionally addictive magical energies, which would cause them to experience very vivid hallucinations while feeling an untold sense of elation and power, though this would instill in them a constant craving for more of those sensations and would cause them to eventually lose control of their own powers.
He was also capable of telekinesis, extreme cloaking abilities (he could hide his entire building from all but demons and other practitioners of magic), sensing and reading auras, and casting purifying fires. It is possible that he could be a sort of magical craftsman, given how he had supplied Warren with a few mystical devices. Like Willow, he was also capable of absorbing magical energy from others.
Behind the scenes
- Both men Willow had apparently killed under her dark persona, Warren Mears and Rack, as mentioned in "Lessons", were eventually retconed as having secretly survived.
- Clem implies that Rack was a pedophile in "Two to Go". When discussing Rack with Dawn, Clem tells her that she’ll have to pay Rack to get information from him. When Dawn claims that she has money, Clem responds “I don’t think that’s the kind of something he’s gonna want. Rack likes little girls—”.