* For the sake of the argument, we're limiting this to the pre-werewolf-exodus, pre-lesbian time frame.
Why do they work so well?
Their chemistry all comes down to their personalities, which are somewhat mismatched on the surface, but complement each other. They're a very nontraditional couple in YA, so I couldn't help but analyze their appeal!
Oz: Redefines laidback. Brilliant, but an avid slacker. Music is his passion, and he plays guitar for the band Dingoes Ate My Baby. He's a man of few words, but he views life with a detached irony that's beyond entertaining.
Willow: Shy bookworm with less-than-stellar self-confidence. Fully adorable. Prone to nervous rambling. Fiercely loyal to her friends. Super sweet, but as Buffy says, she needs to "Wake up and smell the hottie."
Oz notices Willow in a couple episodes before they fully interact in the two incredible What's My Line? episodes, in which they're recruited by some crazy software company during a career fair because they're super smart. And because it's Sunnydale, Oz gets shot in the arm pushing her out of the way of a crazy gun-wielding Order of Taraka member, and then his subtle wooing begins over a box of animal crackers.
Willow: Y'know, I never really thanked you.
Oz: Ooo, yeah, please don't. I don't do thanks. I get all red. Have to bail. It's not pretty.
Willow: Well, then forget that thing. Especially with the part where I kind of owe you my life.
Oz: (pulls out a cookie) Oh, look! Monkey! And he has a little hat. And little pants.
Willow: Yeah, I-I see!
Oz: The monkey's the only cookie animal that gets to wear clothes, you know that?
(Willow smiles brightly.)
Oz: You have the sweetest smile I've ever seen. So, I'm wondering, do the other cookie animals feel sorta ripped? Like, is the hippo going, 'Hey, man, where are my pants? I have my hippo dignity!' And you know the monkey's just, (with a French accent) 'I mock you with my monkey pants!' And there's a big coup in the zoo.
Willow: The monkey is French?
Oz: All monkeys are French. You didn't know that?
Fast forward to Surprise and Innocence (OMG squee over the amazingness of these episodes), in which the subject of dating is first breached:
Oz: I'm gonna ask you to go out with me tomorrow night. And I'm kinda nervous about it, actually. It's interesting.
Willow: Oh. Well, if it helps at all, I'm gonna say yes.
Oz: Yeah, it helps. It-it creates a comfort zone. (Willow smiles) Do you wanna go out with me tomorrow night?
Willow: (cringes and slaps her hand to her forehead) Oh! I can't!
Oz: Well, see, I like that you're unpredictable.
Willow: Oh, it's just it's Buffy's birthday, and we're throwing her a surprise party.
Oz: It's okay.
Willow: But you could come. If you want to.
Oz: Well, I don't wanna crash.
Willow: No, it's fine! Well, you could be m... my date.
Oz: (nods) All right. I'm in. (smiles)
Willow smiles back, and after a moment indicates she has to go. Oz nods to give her leave. She starts away, smiling widely.
Willow: (giddy, to herself) I said 'date.'
So Willow's no-drama, friendly approach to life appeals to Oz, and he gives her confidence by approaching her openly (but not aggressively) and not playing games. The traditional bad boy would get nowhere with Willow ... which is kinda why I love her, FYI.
In Innocence, Willow becomes distraught when she discovers her longtime best friend/crush Xander hooking up with uber-mean-girl Cordelia.
Xander: Willow, we were just kissing. It doesn't mean that much.
Willow: No. It just means that you'd rather be with someone you hate than be with me.
OUCH! So the next time Willow's with Oz, she's feeling the sting of rejection.
Willow: Do you wanna make out with me?
Willow: Forget it. I'm sorry. (Pauses.) Well, do you?
Oz: Sometimes when I'm sitting in class... You know, I'm not thinking about class, 'cause that would never happen. I think about kissing you. And it's like everything stops. It's like, it's like freeze frame. Willow kissage. (He smiles to himself. Willow smiles at him, expectant.) Oh, I'm not gonna kiss you.
Willow: What? But freeze frame!
Oz: Well, to the casual observer, it would appear that you're trying to make your friend Xander jealous or even the score or something. And that's on the empty side. See, in my fantasy when I'm kissing you, you're kissing me. It's okay. I can wait.MELT! FYI, Willow melts too, and soon they enter happy coupledom, despite a minor issue with Oz becoming a werewolf in Phases. And even then, it goes pretty smoothly...
Oz: You mean, you'd still...
Willow: Well, I like you. You're nice and you're funny. And you don't smoke. Yeah, okay, werewolf, but that's not all the time. I mean, three days out of the month I'm not much fun to be around either.
And that, my lovely blogger readers, is their awesome relationship in a nutshell.
Joss Whedon and the amazing Buffy writers managed to create this couple who's impossible not to root for, who bring a smile to your face every time they're on screen. There doesn't need to be epic drama and romance and heartbreak for a couple to be engaging and have chemistry, and that's the magic of Willow and Oz.