See also: Tara (vampire)

Nobody messes with my girl.

Tara Maclay was a witch, member of the Scooby Gang and lover of Willow Rosenberg. She was portrayed by Amber Benson.


Early life


Not much is known about Tara's past. She was born on October 16, 1980, making her roughly the same age as the rest of the Scooby gang. Her family life was clearly traumatic, and she had not had many friends before meeting Willow. In the episode "The Body," Tara tells Buffy that she lost her mother when she was 17, at which point she went through a brief rebellious period. In the episode "Family," it is revealed that her father had told her at a young age that she was partially of demon descent on her mother's side, who, just like Tara, had magic powers. After she finds out this was merely a lie designed to keep control over her, Tara's ties with her family seem entirely severed, leaving Willow and the Scooby Gang her only remaining loved ones, her new family. In the episode "Tough Love," Willow points out that Tara has been out longer than Willow has, perhaps implying that Willow is not Tara's first girlfriend. It is also inferred through a comment her brother made that her family may have been abusive.


Tara is introduced in the Season Four episode "Hush." A member of UC Sunnydale's Wicca group, she meets Willow Rosenberg, herself a practicing witch. In many ways, the painfully shy and quiet Tara is reminiscent of Willow of seasons past. As Willow's romantic relationship with Oz caused her to bloom, it is through Tara that Willow becomes a powerful young woman, and through Willow that Tara's confidence grows. As the season progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the pair are destined for a romantic liaison. Willow realizes that Tara is the person she loves, choosing Tara over her ex-boyfriend Oz. The two thus became one of the few lesbian couples on television and the first-ever prime-time lesbian couple which included a starring character. Magic came to serve as a metaphor for lesbianism and love.

The gift(45)

Willow cures Tara

Although Tara is a recurring character rather than a regular, through her relationship with Willow, she plays an important role in the story on several occasions, such as at the end of the fifth season, when the evil hell-god Glory sucks her mind out, leaving her in a babbling, childlike state until Willow cures her, or in Season 6, when Willow's magic addiction (by this time, magic had become a metaphor for drug use) causes Tara to leave her, although they reconcile some episodes later.

By the beginning of the sixth season, Tara and Willow have been surrogate parent figures to Dawn Summers since Buffy's death at the end of Season Five, and Tara remains devoted to Dawn even after she leaves the Summers house following her breakup with Willow. Inasmuch as Dawn was unaware of the plan by Willow and the others to resurrect Buffy, it would seem she expected to remain in Willow and Tara's guardianship until she turned 18, and her overjoyed reaction to their reconciliation in "Seeing Red" reflects her love for them. Tara is also supportive and understanding of Willow's efforts to deal with the pressure of Scooby Gang leadership, reminding her that their bedroom is "the room where you don't have to be brave." In season six we see Tara as a much more confident human being with great magical skills and knowledge.



Willow visits Tara's grave.

Tara is killed, randomly, by a stray bullet aimed at Buffy and shot by Warren, in the episode "Seeing Red". Her tombstone places the death on May 7, 2002. As a result, Willow, consumed by rage, is propelled into a destructive rampage, and soon attempts to destroy the world.

Powers and abilities

Tara was a skilled spell caster and was shown to perform a wide range of spells during her time on the show. Tara also demonstrated telekinesis, which, when she is in physical contact with Willow, is stronger than it would otherwise be (i.e. she and Willow pool their power by concentrating on moving the same object). An unusual ability she displayed is the ability to magically know something is wrong with someone and to sense the use of mental powers, which she did by "reading" a person's aura (such as when Buffy was possessed by Faith). This ability was one of very few that Willow Rosenberg did not have during the show. In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG this ability is known as "The Sight". Tara had a good knowledge of Latin and grew up riding horses. She rarely used the Internet because the preponderance of bad spelling depressed her.

In an essay published in Salon, Stephanie Zacharek argued that "gentle and sensible" Tara - more than any other character on Buffy - quietly and sympathetically stood for the right of all people to choose their own path and make their own mistakes. Zacherek writes, "Her soft, pearlescent voice and shy, doelike eyes didn't contrast with her resolve; they were a huge part of it."[1]

Notable spells and incidents

In season four, Tara was the only character to notice that Faith's spirit was trapped in Buffy's body, and she was also central in sending Willow to the "nether-world" in order to discover how they could reverse the soul-switching (cf. "Who Are You"). Superstar showed Tara cast a defensive spell which fended off a demon by conjuring a magical "fog of protection". In the episode "Where the Wild Things Are," Tara aided Giles and Willow in an attempt to reach and reason with the residual spiritual manifestations of numerous abused children who were plaguing a fraternity house.

In season four's "Restless" Tara is 'borrowed' out of time and space in order to speak for the First Slayer who is a primitive without speech. From Tara's mouth we first hear the prophetic line that is later repeated (almost verbatim) by Dracula in Buffy vs. Dracula, "You think you know, what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun."

In the season five episode "Family," Tara cast a spell to stop the Scooby Gang from being able to see demons so she could hide her supposed demon side. This spell almost got the entire gang killed but Tara reversed it in time. Tara was also seen casting more offensive spells in combat situations.

In season six, Tara also uses effective combat spells and once again she is the only one that sees Buffy for what she is after she returns from the dead. For example, Tara casts a spell creating a "energy ball" that strikes a demon biker attempting to kidnap Anya, thus freeing her friend, in Bargaining, Part One. In part two, Tara magically conjures a jet of flame in an attempt to intimidate the bikers' leader. In the episode "Older and Far Away," she cast a spell to free the trapped party goers in Buffy's house but the spell instead freed a demon from a sword. Normal Again shows Tara cast a spell that unties Willow and Dawn and she also magically sends a heavy shelf, flying towards a demon to save her friends.

Tara made her first demon kill in the two-part season six opener. She axed a demon in the back as he tried to strangle Willow.


  • Tara stated that she was allergic to shrimp in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's fifth season.
  • Tara states that her mother was powerful witch on par with Willow, her grandmother may also have been a witch as Tara states that she possessed a rare Doll's Eye Crystal, which has powerful magical properties.
  • While "Seeing Red" is commonly considered Amber Benson's last appearance as Tara, she actually appears (and is credited) in the following episode as Tara's dead body.

Romantic relationships

I'm under your spell

Tara kisses Willow

  • Willow Rosenberg — Tara met Willow in a Wicca group during college, and began a relationship which became sexual (cf. "The I in Team"). Unlike the heterosexual couples on Buffy, the two were very rarely shown in remotely intimate situations with each other, not kissing on screen until the season 5 episode "The Body", nearly a full season after they came out. They were portrayed as each others' "true love" throughout the series, shadowing Willow's Season Seven relationship with Potential Slayer Kennedy. During the episode "Tabula Rasa," in which the Scoobies fell victim to an amnesia spell, there was still a heavy attraction between Willow and Tara, reinforcing the message of true love.

Writing and acting

  • Joss Whedon originally wanted an actress with a smaller, less voluptuous frame, but Marti Noxon saw the vulnerability in Amber Benson's portrayal of Tara and called her back after her audition[5].
  • Benson described her character in an interview, "She's quiet. It's mostly because she is shy, I think. I can identify with it in a sense, because I can be very shy too. It's almost like acting is an outlet for me that helps me to not be shy. I feel like Tara's the same way; her witchcraft empowers her and it forces her out of her shell."[2]
  • Hannigan was asked how Whedon planned the Willow-Tara relationship, "I don't know if he had any idea that was going to develop the relationship the way he did. He was very hands-on in the Willow and Tara scenes.. he only does that when he really cares. But then we started reading the stuff and it's like 'OK, this is clearly going beyond the subtext here.' And he tried to stick to the 'No, no, it's just subtext' defense. Finally it was like 'Oh come on, hit-yourself-over-the-head-with-the-it' text."[3]
  • Amber Benson was normally credited as a guest on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, despite appearing in more episodes than other regulars Oz and Riley. This is typical of how contracts are written for the actors - Seth Green and Marc Blucas's contracts specified that since they were regular characters they had to be available whenever they were needed for an episode and were normally expected to appear in all 22 episodes in a season. (There were exceptions to give a character time off to film a movie or if the storyline didn't require that actor). In contrast Amber Benson's contract was on a per-episode basis, like Kristine Sutherland and Eliza Dushku (and James Marsters in Season 2), hence they were not in the main credits.
  • The only time Amber Benson was credited as a cast member in the opening credits was for the episode "Seeing Red," the episode in which Tara was killed. As Joss Whedon said in his commentary for "Welcome to the Hellmouth," this was something he had wanted to do from the start: kill a character listed as a regular in one of their first appearances as such. Whedon had considered listing Eric Balfour (who played Jesse) in the two-part pilot as a regular, only to surprise the audience by killing him off, but financial restrictions didn't allow for this. To see this opening credits, click "here".
  • After Tara's death, it was fiercely debated whether it constituted an example of a cliché in television that lesbian relationships usually turn out badly[4], often with one partner dying or turning out to be evil. Joss Whedon later explained that Tara's death had nothing to do with her being a lesbian, but it was just another plot twist designed to further Willow's personality; allegedly, if Willow had still been involved with Oz in Season Six, he would've been killed just as Tara was, so Tara was doomed not for being a lesbian but for being Willow's lover. In particular, it had become a well-known characteristic of the show that any couples tended to have their relationships brutally interrupted when they're at their closest.
  • Tara was originally set to return to the show in the Season Seven episode "Conversations with Dead People", in which she would appear as one of the many forms assumed by The First Evil, and attempt to coerce Willow into committing suicide.[5] However, Benson was not available and the episode was already on a really tight schedule.[6] Instead, the First appeared to Willow as Cassie Newton, claiming to speak for Tara and that Willow couldn't see Tara (unless she killed herself) as a consequence of her actions as Dark Willow.
  • While speaking at the Wizard World Chicago Convention in August 2004, Joss Whedon claimed that he had planned to bring Tara back from the dead at the end of Season Seven. According to Whedon, the episode would have centered around Buffy being granted one "life-altering" wish. Buffy would have spent the whole episode trying to decide what she wanted to do with the wish (including, possibly, restoring Angel's humanity). The episode would have ended with Buffy telling Willow that she'd just gotten a great new pair of shoes, and when Willow asked her if she used up her wish on new shoes, Buffy would have said, "No, silly!" and stepped aside to reveal Tara. This plan was abandoned when Amber Benson was unavailable for filming. At the 2007 Comic-Con, he referred to this idea as well.[7]In addition the Season Eight issue 6 letters page hinted that Tara may be involved in an upcoming comic.



Canonical Appearances

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Tara appeared in 47 episodes overall.

Non-Canonical Appearances

Tara also appears in Buffy expanded universe. She appears in a few Buffy novels/comics notably in her mini-series: Willow & Tara. She also makes an appearance in the 2003 video game: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds, in which she is playable in multiplayer only.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG

Willow and Tara were prominently showcased in the first published adventure for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, The Dark Druid. The adventure features Fionn mac Cumhaill as a protagonist and ally. His battle with the druid Fer Doirich continues into the modern age and posits that Willow and Tara are the reincarnations of his fosters Bodhmall and Liath respectively. [8]

  • Official Buffy RPG character sheets for Willow and Tara

Notes and references

  1. [[1]]Willow, destroyer of worlds
  2. Springer, Matt, "Every Little Thing She Does", from Buffy the Vampire Slayer magazine #16 (UK, January 2001), pages 8-12.
  3. Eden, Martin, "Alyson Wonderland", from Buffy the Vampire Slayer magazine #15 (UK, December 2000), page 8-14.
  4. The Lesbian Cliche FAQ
  5. Conversations with dead people: Alternative dialogue between Willow and Tara
  6. Ten Minutes with Amber Benson by von Metzke, Ross, Lesbianation, March 30, 2007. [2]
  7. [[3]]
  8. The Dark Druid by Brannan, Timothy S., Games Unplugged , July 2002, p.25. [4]
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