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The Slayer Collection:
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Willow

cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Seth Green, Nicholas Brendon, and Amber Benson

creator: Josh Whedon

180 minutes (15) 2003 widescreen ratio 1.78:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 + 4 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by John Percival
The enduring series of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer has generated many DVDs, but this issue forms part of a collection that focuses on each of the main characters. This DVD contains four episodes centring on the emotional journey of shy, nerd turned witch Willow (Alyson Hannigan). Buffy's friendship with Willow was always key to the series as initially Willow did not have any supernatural powers but her talents with computers were just as essential as being able to fight a demon, plus Willow always had the ability to balance Buffy's impulsive personality providing normality when normality was required. Whilst acting as an inspiration for potential wiccans everywhere, Willow demonstrated that being a geek was okay.
   The first episode Phases show a nervous Willow embarking on her relationship with Oz (Seth Green) in the midst of terror being caused by a werewolf. Oz unfortunately discovers that he is the werewolf. As is with most Buffy episodes, violence is masked by some pantomime performances but also some pretty serious themes are tackled. (A poacher who sells the pelts overseas is hunting the werewolf.) So there is persecution in poacher's failure to understand that the werewolf is human and only different in that he gets hairy for a few nights every month. I find Oz to be an extremely interesting character, as although he speaks in monosyllables, he appears to have great depths of maturity and feeling, all which come into conflict when he discovers his condition. What is essentially a thought provoking episode is punctuated with humour such when Willow states that like Oz she is also unpleasant for a few days each month.
   The second episode Doppelgangland is a revisit to an episode where Cordelia, in the presence of Anya, wished that Buffy had never existed. Anya made the wish come true and Cordelia ended up in nightmare world overrun by evil and where most of her friends were vampires. During this Anya's necklace, which held her power, was destroyed and things reverted to normal. However Anya is stuck as a teenage girl and she wants to get her power necklace back from the evil alternate world Sunnydale before it was destroyed. To do this she tricks Willow into performing a magic ritual and inadvertently pulls something other than necklace back. That something is a brilliantly wicked vampire Willow. Doppelgangland is a great episode where the vampire Willow takes control of the other vampires, very easily - showing Willow's potential if she was more dominant and even the evil side that will eventually become apparent. There are also some very funny scenes as each Willow pretends to be the other Willow. Confused yet?
   The third episode Wild At Heart is more soap opera tragedy, saved only by some heartfelt pained acting from both Hannigan and Green. Here we find the 'Oz and Willow relationship' progressing at university but in upheaval from the appearance of a female student who sings in a band. Willow is extremely insecure in the presence Veruca, as she is a musician like Oz and that is something that Willow and Oz do not have in common. Willow is jealous that Veruca can talk to Oz about things that she does not understand, however it goes much deeper. When it is full moon and before Oz enters werewolf mode, he locks himself away for the protection of other people. One night he escapes and awakes in human form naked and next to an also naked Veruca. She is a werewolf too and this means their attraction is more primal than simply being both musicians. The second time they wake up together they are caught by Willow, who feels betrayed by Oz who had no control over his actions but also she realises that she will never be able to have what Oz and Veruca share as she can never be a werewolf. Veruca, who is in touch with her animal desires, wants Oz and is prepared to kill Willow to have him but Oz saves her. This does not mean that all is rosy in the garden once more. Their relationship is damaged and Oz realizes there are impulses at work in him when he is in his human form as well as a werewolf. Unable to cope with the hurt he has caused Willow, Oz leaves. Obviously this is at heart a formulaic love tragedy story with a supernatural twist. The two lovers are torn apart by circumstances beyond their control. This is essentially a good episode that proves there is more to the Buffy series than just vampires.
   The final episode New Moon Rising is the natural continuation of the previous episode on this DVD. Accepting that some time has passed since Wild At Heart, Oz returns to Sunnydale University and is interested in rekindling his romance with Willow. Oz has travelled far and wide to find a way to control his werewolf transformation and is now able to stand under a full moon without going all hairy and snarling. A lot has changed with Oz during his travels, Willow has hardly left Sunnydale but a lot has changed with her too. She is now embarking upon a lesbian relationship with Tara (Amber Benson) but still feels something for Oz and so the evitable love triangle is formed and someone is going to get hurt. It appears that Oz's control of his transformation is based on his love for Willow and his belief that they will be back together. This belief is severely shaken when he uncovers the truth from Tara and his loses his control to such an extent that he no longer needs a full moon to change. This results in a predictable encounter with the government goon squad 'The Initiative' and some interesting choices being made. This should not be allowed to distract away from what is quite a sensitive episode, feelings may stay the same but people change. The same sex relationship is dealt with quite maturely when compared with Buffy's relationships. Buffy's own initial reaction to discovering that Willow is gay is one of shock and then of support, a moral lesson learnt.
   Of course there are many more episodes that would make excellent additions to this DVD, but the examples included here are representative of the emotional struggle endured by Willow. However I would go as far to say that this would perhaps be better titled the 'Willow & Oz' collection as the focus appears mainly on their relationship. In fact Oz was one of the most underused characters of the whole series. With the extras in the disc including a character profile of Willow with interviews with Hannigan, this enjoyable DVD is a must for Willow fans.
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