Okay, really Willow and Tara and Willow/Tara thoughts.
It started with someone on Television Without Pity saying that Giles should be leading the Scoobies instead of Faith, since Buffy has been forced out.
And it got me thinking about Willow, and how she isn't a leader type. Except. She *is*. She proved that in Halloween when she quietly and efficiently took charge of both a helpless Buffy (and please, noble women of that time were well trained estate managers, not brainless wimps) and a military Xander. It shows especially in her relationship with Tara. And that led me to think about Tara.
We first meet Tara as an adjunct to Willow. I saw her right away as a potential girlfriend, but I put that down to my slasher's mind - even so, I wasn't shocked when that turned out to be correct. I don't know what nonslash fans thought at that point. If anyone reading this has any thoughts, please tell me.
However, even if Tara was meant to be perceived just as new friend friend, she was still an adjunct to Willow. It was Willow who introduced this shy, quiet and, on first impression, plain girl to the rest of the Scoobies. (Later on, it became obvious that Tara was beautiful. It just wasn't apparent then.) And her personality drove her even more into the background next to Willow's power and vibrance.
Only in one episode, when we discover that Tara had been led to believe she was a demon by her controlling family, do we see her front and center. And even then, only in retrospect do we see how strong she was - she defied this family and went away to college. That takes courage and intelligence - we've never seen Tara work, so she had to have a full scholarship or the strength of will to take an inheritance.
But that's where she was throught most of fourth and fifth season - Willow's blonde shadow. We knew she was a witch of some power, but not equal to Willow. We knew she loved Willow, and Willow loved her. But Willow also dominated her, and thoroughly controlled the relationship - she decided when it was to turn sexual, she clearly "topped", she called Tara "baby" and "sweetie", which I didn't see Tara returning.
Even if Buffy "led" the Scoobies, Tara was Willow's. And Willow needs control.
It was only in the sixth season that we began to see Tara as something else, after she goes through her ordeal with Glory, when she starts getting upset over Willow's overuse of magic.
And here is where Willow's need to control comes through even more strongly - she goes so far as to wipe Tara's memory, and this is wrong not only just by itself, but because of what Tara had gone through with Glory.
And then Tara grows a backbone, and gives Willow an ultimatum. And follows through. And my perception of Tara completely changed. She stopped being Willow's shadow. She became a beautiful, strong, intelligent, powerful woman. In fact, once Giles' departed, she became the only one I perceived as an adult out of all the characters, and that includes Spike and Anya. It was so much so that when Tara showed up in an episode, I would think, "Thank goodness. Tara's here. She'll take care of things."
And, I think, when she went back to Willow, it was on her terms. She asked Willow to kiss her. She decided it all. Would that have changed eventually? I don't know because we were never given a chance to find out.
I wonder how different this season would have been with her calm, warm, intelligence around.
Instead, we have Willow, struggling to maintain control of *herself* and allowing Kennedy to control their relationship, and Buffy struggling without Willow to help her.
And Dawn taking the place of both Willow and Tara, and that's stranger than anything else.