That’s a hard one. There are so many deaths of beloved characters, and they are all horrible. There’s Jenny, there’s Angel (temporary), there’s Joyce, and of course there’s Spike, and as far as horrible deaths are concerned, I have to count even Warren. But ultimately the one that got to me the most was probably Tara’s death.
I had known that Spike would sacrifice himself at the end of s7 before it happened, and I had known about him showing up at AtS. (Of course, I still bawled my eyes out, and still do every time I watch it.) But I had not the slightest clue that Tara would die. I had heard of Willow going dark, but had no idea what would bring this on, hadn’t thought about it too hard either.
I was still in the middle of a happy dance much like Dawn’s about the joy on my screen of Tara and Willow finally being together again when the shot happened. And it left me completely shocked.
If ever a character doesn’t deserve to die, it’s Tara. She is so purely good and, very rare in BtVS, almost flawless that she could come across as annoying and boring, but she never does. Her kindness toward everybody is always heartwarming to watch. She manages to tell the truth without being blunt or offending. She has a very healthy stance on magic and on life in general. She takes on the role of a parent for Dawn with so much love and warmth, and she continues to care for her even after moving out.
I can’t imagine anyone not loving her for her reaction to Buffy’s meltdown in Dead Things, when she’s not only there for her, isn’t afraid to ask questions and listens to her, but gives support in a way that is unexpected - she’s understanding, encouraging even, instead of condemning when she thinks Buffy loves Spike, but also when she realizes that’s not the case, and offers Buffy the possibility to deal with what she did without feeling so guilty.
Her development from an overly shy girl to a self-assured young woman is beautiful. I admire her strength to leave Willow - the woman that had awakened the self-confidence in Tara - when it becomes necessary despite still loving her so much. I love how naturally she stands up for Willow in Older and Far Away, and how easily she puts Spike in his place in the same episode, being hilarious without hurting him. This all clearly shows that she really came into her own – she doesn’t need Willow for being self-confident.
That she still loves Willow, independent as she is then, is a huge part of why Willow finds the strength on her own to withstand the lure of magic – and it all falls apart with the shot that kills Tara. It’s not only Tara who gets killed there, but also the very thing that keeps Willow together.
What makes it even more shocking – in a show that is all about the supernatural as main source of evil that is constantly threatening to kill beloved characters, it’s a death that isn’t caused supernaturally; she doesn’t die for the cause, in a fight where she knows she risks her life. It befalls her at home where she deems herself safe, it’s an ordinary murder by a human, and the bullet wasn’t even intended for her. With additionally it happening right at the moment she had wished for so long, when she is finally reunited with the woman she loves and happy, it’s the epitome of a tragic death, and ultimately almost destroys the world.
But while Willow’s pain and despair are hurtful to watch – it’s usually only when Dawn stays with Tara’s dead body because she doesn’t want her to be alone that I realize how horribly the death of the gentle witch really hits me.
It’s then that I always start to cry.