Illustration: Nick Wanserski

Big Bads: The Trio (Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan); Dark Willow

Aliases: Nerd Trio, Buffy’s archnemesises, Empire Of The Nerds

Willow Rosenberg, Will, Darth Rosenberg, Red

History: The Trio was in some ways the most terrifying of the Big Bads. They were men, not monsters, filled with a toxic brew of entitlement, misogyny, boredom, and low self-esteem. Warren, the most violent and aggressive of the three, used magic to place his girlfriend into servitude, attempting to rape her and eventually killing her. Andrew and Jonathan were his gentler henchmen, living out boyish, immature fantasies. Deceptively cloaked as nerdy young men, they were tragic and terrible and often really funny. Whereas earlier Big Bads actually lacked souls, the members of the Trio simply let theirs get clouded by delusions of power and grandeur. If this sounds familiar, then you’re probably a woman.

Dark Willow was a manifestation of another abuse of power (and a rough metaphorical warning against doing drugs). Her addiction to magic drove Tara, her girlfriend, away, and Willow began going to a dark magic dealer. After Tara’s death, Willow absorbed a library’s worth of black magic, filling her veins with darkness and turning her raven-haired with power. Dark Willow—a human woman, full of anger, devastated by grief—was the counterbalance to the Trio’s aggressive misogyny. Women are told that we shouldn’t let anger turn us into icy bitches—and indeed Willow became ungrounded and turned against her friends, a danger to them all—but she was also every woman’s fantasy response to men who abuse power.

How’d they bite it? Warren died most memorably, with Dark Willow flaying him alive in retaliation for killing Tara. Jonathan and Andrew later teamed up, but Warren’s ghost—actually the First Evil taking Warren’s ghostly form—persuaded Andrew to kill his best friend on top of the Hellmouth. Jonathan’s blood opened the portal to the Hellmouth, which contained hordes of uber-vampires ready to decimate Sunnydale.

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Andrew survived and found some measure of redemption, joining the Slayerettes and Scoobies in the final battle, which he also survived. Dark Willow did a stint in rehab with a coven in England, returning to use her magic to fight the First Evil. If Dark Willow was a reaction to misogyny, Willow’s final appearance in the series transcended it, becoming more powerful than the bunch of men who died thousands of years ago and made up arbitrary rules about women. It was nifty.