|buffy the vampire slayer : "new moon
4.19 / Original air date May 2, 2000
|Written by: Marti Noxon
|Directed by: James A. Contner
All BtVS fans know that
as good as Joss Whedon was at writing monsters, he was at his
best when writing about human beings. When stripped back to the
basics, with stories about love, friendship, passion or loss,
BtVS was pretty hard
to beat on any level. It was the way humanity took hits and survived
that made the show so appealing.
Willow Rosenberg had a couple of what Buffy herself termed "unconventional
relationships", first with Oz the Werewolf, and then with
Tara the Wiccan lesbian. One could say that she was attracted
to power from the very beginning. In "New Moon Rising"
we see Willow at a crossroads. She's not just deciding who her
boyfriend or girlfriend will be, Willow is deciding between two
vastly different lifestyles, and also two vastly different forms
of power. No matter what anyone says, decisions like this are
not just based on love, or what will make you happy, and kudos
to Marti Noxon for recognising this fact.
In season four, Willow was still close enough to the light to
recognise Tara's power as the "good" and Oz's as dangerous.
The Willow of later seasons might have viewed the whole thing
quite differently. After all, her power grew and transformed monumentally
between seasons five and six, spurred on by the need to replace
Buffy as leader of the Scooby Gang, and the dip into black magic
she made while trying to defeat Glory on her own terms. But that
Willow was in the future. Here, at the beginning of Willow and
Tara's relationship, we knew Willow was capable of messing with
the dark side, but she always turned back at the brink. It would
be another season before we would see Willow's eyes turn black
for the first time.
There's nothing dark about Tara. Behind the baby-talk and shy
personality lies a strength it took two seasons to really bring
out of her. When tested by desperate circumstances, Tara briefly
stepped over the line in "Family" (season five), but
from that point on we got the feeling that Tara would never again
stray, that she would be there to draw a line against dark magick.
I guess that was what made her so annoying at first, knowing that
this character was meant to be the conscience of the group, the
constant reminder that power always has its price. She was also
the victim; of Glory's mind-meddling, of her family, of Willow
herself, and finally of Warren. Of course, Tara could foresee
none of this while Willow was standing in her doorway with a candle
welcoming her into that world. But let's face it, if Willow Rosenberg
were standing in your doorway with that come-hither expression
promising to make all your dreams come true, could you say no,
even if you could foresee the future?
Buffy's reaction to Willow's coming out is a particularly interesting
point in this episode, and in the history of the series in general.
At the time she's freaked; probably more so than if Willow had
come to her and confessed to her that she was in love with a Polgara
demon. Later she admits to a "momentary wiggins", which
in Buffyspeak means she was surprised, but she got over it. Despite
the fact that Joss didn't write this episode, this idea is classic
Whedon. People react and then they move on. There isn't time for
Buffy to weird out over the nature of things, there are soon far
more important things to be considered. The way that sexuality
is firmly backhanded into its place is somewhat reassuring.
Oz doesn't even blink at the fact that Tara is a girl when he
discovers the truth by accident. His animal nature sees her only
as a rival, the ultimate test to his newfound inner cool. He fails
this test miserably, but somewhere in that automatic treatment
of her as the enemy, as an equal to be destroyed, is
a reassuring sense of acceptance. He doesn't laugh it off as some
kind of joke. His reaction, to turn into the wolf and try to kill
her, is the ultimate validation.
"New Moon Rising", for all its commando action and
other distractions, is about recognition and acceptance. Oz accepts
some things about himself that he can never change. Riley finds
out that his vision of things is not as clear as it once was.
Buffy finally begins to reveal to Riley her history with Angel,
and why the line between human and monster can never be clear
for her again. And what is Willow but a perfect example of how
lines can be blurred? True, nobody ever talks about her bisexuality.
She seems to walk into the clubhouse a fully-fledged, card-carrying
lesbian, but for this important stage of self-discovery Willow
is walking the lines between two different worlds, sexually and
magically speaking, and her friends just have to deal with that.
Most of all, "New Moon Rising" was the beginning of
the commitment between Willow and Tara. It's a very human connection,
one that has nothing to do with witchcraft or demons or any of
the other powers swirling around them. Whedon would continue to
associate magic and sex for a while to come, but the emotional
side of Willow and Tara was initially blissfully free from that.
Before Willow began to change, and before the power began to be
the focus of her existence, we got to witness the beginning of
this relationship that was all about love.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer series overview
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