Here we are with just two episodes left—including this one—in the first season of Willow, and I’m still not sure the show has figured itself out yet. Following a thrilling episode that was arguably the best of the season so far, thanks in no small part to guest star Christian Slater, this one slows everything down to a slog as our heroes set out to cross the Shattered Sea. We leave behind the sweeping vistas, green hills, and lush forests that gave the show an epic scope to match the film in exchange for a flat, featureless dreamscape. This was a place-setting episode more than anything else, filling in a few missing pieces and getting the characters ready for the showdown I presume will come in the finale.
Speaking of missing pieces, the episode begins with Airk and his mysterious new friend trapped in the Immemorial City. Let’s call her Lili since that’s what she’s calling herself. Airk tells her about the place they’re in—the light changes, there’s the weather, and the clouds move too fast, but the sun never sets. She ominously promises him, “It will. Eventually.” Can he not feel the bad vibes coming off this girl? Airk has never seemed like the brightest character on the show, but come on. If you were being generous, you could chalk it up to that Bavmorda blood Sorsha warned Kit about before they left. Maybe a part of Airk is attracted to the dark and wants to be corrupted.
He tells her it’s okay to drink from the pool that looks like the evil elixir the trolls were brewing in the mines. She calls him “Prince Chauncy McSleezoid” and uses a bunch of other phrases like “palace ditz” and “sicko fantasy” that are probably supposed to sound modern, yet weirdly come across as dated. It sounds like a dialogue from a ‘90s Disney Channel series written by adults who don’t know any actual teenagers. There’s a way to blend contemporary sensibilities with fantasy storytelling, but this is not it (at least there aren’t any rock tunes playing in the background).
As Airk sees a vision of his sister nearly drowning, we transition to the actual scene in real-time. It picks up right where the previous episode left off, with Kit submerged beneath the glowing, watery goo as Elora tries to use magic to save her. She eventually succeeds, and they all head out of the mine to safety. It’s not long before they reach the Shattered Sea, where all the maps end. It’s their final test. No one knows what’s beyond it because no one has ever crossed it and returned. But Airk is on the other side, so cross it they must.
The sea isn’t so much a sea as a slippery surface of silt that you can walk on, seemingly forever. Kit is anxious to get moving, but she’s still weak, so they all stop to rest at an old cabin on the edge of the sea. It’s occupied by a confused old man who’s been there so long he can’t remember his name or why he came there in the first place. Over a meal of worm soup, he tells a muddled tale of a quest, warriors, a kidnapped princess, and an enchanted pool (sounds familiar). Ultimately, they wandered for years until they all forgot who they were and finally turned on each other and killed each other (sounds bad). He believes there’s nothing beyond the sea; it goes on forever.
Meanwhile, in the Immemorial City, Airk wakes up alone; the girl is gone, and so is the glowing pool. He calls out to her, “Hey, new girl. Where you at?” (His exact words, I regret to say.) Everything has suddenly turned cold, but she’s standing in a doorway lit by an otherworldly light. She tries to get him to follow her, saying it might be the way out, but he’s not ready to go there yet. They flirt a bit, and I think Airk must know on some level she’s tempting him toward the dark side. They’re both just going through the motions until Airk’s inevitable fall. It’s an exciting dance, though frustratingly vague. Lili must be considered an unreliable narrator, so it’s impossible to know how much she says is true.
Back at the old man’s cabin, the group is attacked by the Gales. They take off on a vessel pulled by a creature called a mudmander. Elora gets off a few shots with Cherlindrea’s wand as they fend them off. Even Graydon manages to shoot some sparks out of—is that his flute? One of the Gales grabs Elora’s wrist, and she has a vision that seriously spooks her, though we don’t see what it is. She’s been more serious and quiet since they left the mines, but whatever she sees here has shaken her. “She’s coming for me,” she says. Boorman has the cuirass and the Lux, but won’t use them yet (maybe because he fears it won’t work). They eventually escape and their journey across the Shattered Sea begins in earnest.
Along the way, Graydon forms an attachment to the mudmander, which he names Kenneth, after the protagonist of the romantic farce he’s writing. It’s cute, but my complaints about how Graydon has been written this season haven’t changed. Tony Revolori continues to be one of the most interesting actors in the cast. Still, since he turned evil and back again in episode four he hasn’t been given much to do besides pine over Elora. Here we are in the second-to-last episode, and I still don’t quite have a handle on him as a character. And now he can do magic too. With his flute. Willow says it’s because meaningful objects can be conduits of magic, but it comes from inside him. Is this a result of the multiple possessions? Or did he have it in him all along? We aren’t given any other answers.
They spend the rest of their purple journey training, fighting, and brooding. And in Jade and Kit’s case, kissing. I have to take back what I said before about the rock music, because here we get a full-on training montage. They continue on until they’re unsure whether they’re going in the right direction or how long they’ve been out there. Everyone wants to give up. Elora doesn’t want to be Elora Danan anymore. She knows what the Crone has in store for her (doom and gloom) because she saw it in the vision. Willow is having some pretty dark visions of his past mistakes and a potential apocalyptic future. Boorman tries the Lux, and nothing happens, so he’s demoralized too. It’s a downer trip all around.
Only Kit stays strong, solely focused on getting her brother back. She and Elora come to an understanding after their clash at the end of the last episode. Kit admits she was jealous of Elora because everything seems to come naturally to her, and she gets to be herself. Kit never wanted to be a princess, which Elora thinks is funny because she sort of did. They’re at a good enough place that when the party finally reaches the end of the Sea only to find a cliff that drops off into nothingness, Kit can rally Elora to jump off of it with her. Together they take the plunge into the unknown.
They land safely in the water below and arrive in the Immemorial City just in time to see Airk enter the doors. He’s armed and wearing leather armor, looking far more formidable than the last time we saw him. He even got a haircut. Is a badass makeover one of the perks of turning to the dark side? I guess we’ll find out in next week’s finale.
- Elora’s hair has been transitioning from blonde to red as her power grows, finally matching the baby we met in the movie.
- The change in aesthetic in this episode is striking compared to the rest of the series. We’re supposed to be in a vast, wide open space, yet it feels smaller in scope, almost claustrophobic. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe it was intentional to add to the feeling of being in limbo throughout the episode.
- If you saw the first teaser trailer for the show, you’ve already heard the line: “You think you know what is real and what isn’t. What is light. What is dark. ... Now, forget all you know or think you know. Come with me.” Now we know those are Lili’s words to Airk (with a bit of editing) as she reveals her true self to him. She never comes out and says she’s the Crone, but she’s got to be the Crone. Right? Unless I read that wrong and there’s some big twist coming, but I don’t think so.
- The recurring words, “Forget all you know, or think you know,” are another callback to the original Willow, famously first spoken by the High Alwyn (played by legend Billy Barty).
- There weren’t as many good Boorman lines as usual this episode, but we did get this bit of him talking about saving the Lux for a special occasion: “You don’t do a thing like that just casually. It demands the perfect moment. Like charging into the cave of a serpent, facing down a horde of death dealers, visiting your mother after you haven’t seen her for, like, two years. I should really check up on my mother.”
- There was some heavy exposition in this episode about the Crone and the Wyrm and what they want. Still, honestly, I’m more interested in the character interactions and where the plot is going than getting more backstory at this point.
- We did get a little more backstory about what happened with Kaiya and Ranon (she died while Willow was on an adventure and he blamed his father and ran away), but still no clear details about why Willow moved the Nelwyn village underground. I hope they explain that more by the end of the season.
- Next week will be the first episode I didn’t get to screen ahead of time, so I’ll be watching it live with all of you and recapping directly afterward. I’m sure it will be quite a ride.