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Christian Slater guest stars in an exciting hour of Willow

Val Kilmer may not be returning, but Christian Slater is the next best thing as Willow reveals Madmartigan's fate (sort of)

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Christian Slater and Warwick Davis in Willow
Christian Slater and Warwick Davis in Willow
Photo: Lucasfilm

Christian Slater’s long-awaited Willow episode is here at last. For viewers of a certain age, or anyone familiar with his filmography, this is a pretty big deal. In the ‘80s, he was known for playing iconoclastic characters in films like Heathers and Pump Up The Volume, so bringing him on board a series based on a movie from that era makes sense. Up until now, we had Boorman filling in for Madmartigan as the wisecracking warrior of the group. Slater’s character is similar in tone, but he adds a new energy to the show, and there’s plenty of room for both of them. It’s just too bad they couldn’t get him for the whole series. (I prefer to think it was a scheduling issue rather than the creative team’s choice to have him in only one episode, because who wouldn’t want Slater as a regular?). He plays Allagash, who was briefly name-checked in the previous episode so it should sound familiar when we finally meet him here.

Before we meet him, we see the trolls leading Kit and Willow through the mine. It’s a massive operation, and there are many other captives here—both Daikini and Nelwyn—working as slave labor. Kit and Willow aren’t put to work, though. They’re thrown into a crow’s cage, just like the one Willow found Madmartigan in at the crossroads all those years ago. Kit is sure they can work together to find a way out, but a skeptical voice interrupts her with a laugh. Christian Slater has entered the chat.

He tells Willow and Kit that he’s been imprisoned for 10 years, give or take (apparently we’re now counting in years instead of moons, which was the only time reference up until this point). He tried to escape many times, but gave up hope long ago. “I suppose in the end, it’s hope that really breaks your spirit,” he says, giving the opposite of an inspirational pep talk. As a clever bit of meta misdirection, he introduces himself as Madmartigan.

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Before we can get more clarity on that, the trio is joined by a surprisingly articulate troll who introduces himself as Lord Sarris, chief administrator at Skellin. These trolls are a vastly different species than the feral monsters we met at Tir Asleen in the original. They’ve evolved into bureaucrats, and even have upper and lower managers. Sarris continues: “This ill-tempered crank on my left is my brother, Falken. Say hello, Falken.” I kind of like this new take on the trolls. I mean, they’re nasty villains, and Sarris is outright rude to Willow, but they’re weird and funny, without the humor being forced. Sarris asks Kit who she is and she tells him—maybe those truth plums haven’t worn off yet. He tells them to settle in because no one is coming to save them. He’s wrong, of course.

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The rest of the party is outside at that moment, formulating a plan to break them out. Boorman wants to go alone, but they all insist on going in together. Scorpia, who’s joined the quest for the moment, asks Boorman how he got out the last time when he slaughtered all those trolls. He has to admit he didn’t slaughter them so much as he “slaughtered their pizzazz.” They still seem pretty pizzazzy to me. Boorman leads them through the sewers, which is the actual and unglamorous way he got out the last time.

Sarris has Kit tied to a chair while he goes on about how great the Crone is. Is she the eldritch nightmare that people make her out to be? Yes, but she has some positive qualities too. She taught them how to refine the vermiscus, the evil goo at the bottom of the mine, and how to make an elixir that is presumably the cause of their evolution. As servants of the Crone, they’re preoccupied with the same question she is: Where is Elora Danan? Little do they know, she’s currently sneaking into the mine a few floors below.

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Elora’s powers are growing rapidly due to the proximity of the vermiscus. She’s hearing things and causing the whole cave to shake. As they try to sneak past the trolls, Graydon wants to clarify some things that were left unsettled with Elora. She doesn’t want to have the feelings conversation at that moment, and she has a point. It’s underscored by the way their conversation is framed in the foreground with a big fight scene going on behind them. Graydon also casually reveals what his father whispered to him before they left on the quest. I had totally forgotten about that, to be honest, though it seemed important at the time. He told him to kill Boorman. But Graydon never intended to go through with it (as if he could). Everyone gets distracted when they notice the glowing goo is reacting to Elora’s presence and lighting up Cherlindrea’s wand. She’s losing control of her powers.

Willow tells Christian Slater that he knows he’s not Madmartigan. He carries on the act for as long as he can but ultimately admits he isn’t. Willow knows that he’s Allagash. Kit recognizes the name and recalls her father telling her he was “the only knight in Galladoorn that was dumber than he was.” He also might be the last person to have seen Madmartigan before he disappeared. Allagash was originally on the quest with Boorman and Madmartigan to find the Kymerian Cuirass when he was captured by the trolls. Like his former companions, Allagash is a bit of a rogue who will think nothing of lying, cheating, and stealing, but is equally capable of doing something selflessly noble in the heat of the moment. You never quite know what to expect with these types, which at least keeps it interesting.

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Allagash spins a tale of betrayal among the crew who set out searching for the Kymerian Cuirass. He claims the betrayer was Boorman. Am I supposed to be suspicious of Boorman now? I find it highly unlikely that this character we’ve just met (even if he is played by Christian Slater) is more trustworthy than the guy who’s been with us on this quest since the beginning.

Willow | Official Trailer | Disney+

The rescue team gets their first good look at the full scale of the trolls’ mining operations. Scorpia wants to stay behind to save as many prisoners as possible. With a warning to Jade that she’ll one day have to choose sides and a kiss to Boorman, Scorpia takes off. The rest disguise themselves as trolls and try to blend in. One troll leads Graydon away for an assignment on another floor, and he has no choice but to follow.

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With Allagash’s help, Willow and Kit manage to escape. As they sneak away, Allagash tells them what happened to Madmartigan (occasionally accompanied snippets of the original Willow score, a nice touch). It turns out this mountain isn’t just a mine, there are hidden and ancient places the trolls don’t know about. One of those is the Tomb of Wiggleheim, the final resting place of a famous Nelwyn “adventurer, raconteur, and darts champion,” who had all of his treasures buried with him. One of those treasures is rumored to be the cuirass. When their search party found the tomb all those years ago, trolls attacked them. Allagash fought them so Madmartigan could go in, and gave them his name when he got captured so they wouldn’t search any further for him (which does make sense, since they’re servants of the Crone, and she’s got a specific grudge against Madmartigan).

At the same time, Boorman is also leading Jade and Elora—not to save Willow and Kit as they believe, but straight to the tomb. When they find out they’re understandably pissed. He argues that they’d never be able to free Willow and Kit without it. It’s a convenient excuse to retrieve something we know he’s desperate to find, and maybe it’s intended to make the audience suspect him more, but I still don’t see Boorman making that kind of heel turn at this point. A magic breastplate certainly would come in handy when fighting the trolls.

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Our two separate groups—plus Allagash and minus Graydon, who’s still undercover as a troll somewhere in the mines—finally meet up at the tomb. Allagash and Boorman aren’t thrilled to see each other again. They fight, hurling insults like “You puckered old bergencoif,” and “You spineless little zudcutter.” Their lively exchange feels more Willow than just about anything we’ve seen on this show so far. Boorman clarifies that it wasn’t him but Allagash who betrayed their crew (yep, called it). He stole the Lux Arcana (the magic key that unlocks the power of the cuirass for those who are worthy) and got some of their companions killed. Boorman stole it back from him but regrets that he didn’t stay with Madmartigan until the end.

The Wiggleheim’s tomb holds a series of booby traps and tests before they can get to the treasure. Working together, the group solves some riddles and gains entrance to the tomb. Allagash and Boorman waste no time racing inside and rummaging through piles of treasure, each trying to find the cuirass first. Kit follows them in at a slower pace, almost in a trance, and finds her father’s sword. A swirling portal opens, and someone on the other side calls her name. It sounds a lot like Madmartigan. He asks for her help, but Elora and Jade drag her out of the tomb before Kit steps through the portal and gets stuck in there too.

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Allagash has already taken off with the cuirass and the Lux when they come out. The trolls catch up to them and demand to know which one is Elora Danan. They all say, “I am.” You’ve got to appreciate a well-placed “I am Spartacus” moment. Suddenly one of the trolls steps out—it’s Graydon, just the upper hand they need. He returns Willow’s staff, and a fight ensues. In the middle of it all, Allagash returns, not out of any altruistic motive but because the cuirass doesn’t work. Boorman says it’s because he’s unworthy. Allagash tells the trolls who he really is, calling himself “Chloe Allagash’s brave little man.” How can I stay mad at you, Christian Slater?

Before Allagash sacrifices himself so the rest of them can escape, he tells Kit that her father only let him live so he could one day tell his family that they had to protect what matters most in their world: Elora Danan. Just as it seemed Kit was starting to get over all those resentments they come rushing back. It all adds to her anger after coming so close to seeing her father again, only to be torn away. Elora has already seen this happening exactly as it unfolds here. They yell at each other for a bit (it’s always the same argument), then Kit is struck by falling debris and falls beneath the surface of the vermiscus. Elora tries to save her with a spell, and that’s where we leave them.

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Finally, this episode is bookended by two brief Airk scenes. In the first one, he’s all alone in the Immemorial City, or so it seems. He hears whispers calling to him: “Join us. Embrace your power.” He isn’t tempted and tries to walk out of the city. In this last scene, he comes right back to the place where he started. Exhausted and thirsty, he drinks from a pool that looks a lot like the glowing evil goo in the mines. Then a pretty young girl appears, tells him she’s imprisoned too and asks him to let her out. It’s a good thing the quest to find Airk is back on track, because our prince may be in more trouble than he realizes.

Stray observations

  • This week’s anachronistic end-credit musical track is The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” So much to read into there.
  • Willow has been mostly fun, though it’s sometimes felt a little forced. Slater’s presence really took things up a notch, like finding just the right seasoning to complete a dish. He won’t be back this season, but I hope the writers were taking notes.
  • Speaking of which, although it looked like Allagash was in dire straits when we left him, I have to believe there’s a chance they could bring him back in some way if they get a second season. This is a fantasy show, after all.
  • Let’s hear it for the new and improved trolls and Tom Wilton, who plays Sarris. They were the second-best part of this episode.
  • There’s a good reason the voice of Madmartigan in this episode sounds so much like Val Kilmer—it was recorded by his son Jack Kilmer. Jack’s mother is Joanne Whalley (Sorsha), who married her Willow co-star shortly after the film came out.
  • Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, who played Tyene Sand on Game Of Thrones, joins the show this week as “Lili,” the girl who finds Airk at the end. We’ll see her again in the next two episodes. I have a bad feeling that may not be her true name.