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Willow sticks the landing with a big season-finale showdown

The end of the quest is here and everyone has lessons to learn before it's all over

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Dempsey Bryk and Ellie Bamber
Dempsey Bryk and Ellie Bamber
Photo: Lucasfilm

We’ve finally arrived at the final chapter of Willow (for this season, at least), and the pieces are in place to pay off everything that’s been set up so far. It’s a shame that that show has only just started to hit its stride as the season comes to a close. I wish it had sorted itself out earlier. If it had been working at this level since the premiere it might have found a bigger audience. Maybe the show will get a second season, since Disney+ isn’t as cutthroat as other streamers (looking at you, Netflix) when it comes to pick ups. Given that cliffhanger ending (and those three volumes on the shelf!), the writers seem to be expecting one.

Before we get to the ending, though, let’s start from the beginning. The episode picks up where we left off last week, with Kit and Elora finally in the Immemorial City facing a very different Airk than the one they expected to find. He’s got short hair, a new leather outfit, and a new attitude to go with the upgraded look. This Airk doesn’t want to be saved at all. Between Airk’s chipper greeting and the Gales blocking the exit, Kit and Elora are more than a little weirded out. This rescue mission is not going great so far.

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Airk calls Elora by her real name, not Dove, which surprises her. “She told me. Well, showed me, actually,” he says, by way of explanation. There’s only one person he could be referring to here. Airk has never heard of the Crone, and even if he had it wouldn’t matter; he’s already too far gone. He tells the girls that she’s not so bad, she just wants to talk. He’s definitely not leaving with them, so they have no choice. Airk was never my favorite character, but at least this darker version is more interesting.

You know who wouldn’t throw Elora over for some Crone? Graydon. If she’s thinking about him right now, she wisely keeps it to herself. Airk gushes about how “amazing” and “fascinating” the Crone is. He’s completely obsessed. Whatever attraction she might have once had is quickly slipping away. The quest is much bigger than saving him now. The more epic task at hand is saving the world from the forces of the Wyrm. If they can save Airk in the process too, great, but it’s no longer their primary goal.

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The rest of the group is still standing around on the cliffs where Elora and Kit jumped at the end of the last episode. Boorman wants to have a discussion before they do anything irrevocably stupid. Jade doesn’t want to discuss anything. Her girlfriend is down there, and she’s going to save her, damn it. “Ever heard the phrase, ‘If your paramour jumps off the edge of the world, wait and think for one second before you follow her?’” Boorman asks.

Jade surmises that it takes a leap of faith to get to the Immemorial City. Willow agrees it could be possible, but it’s also possible Kit and Elora were supposed to go alone. He brings up Madmartigan again, and explains that he chose to fight the Wyrm from within (so that’s what happened, it wasn’t really clear before), leaving Kit to be Elora’s protector. He sounds sad when he says it, and you can hear all the reasons for that sadness in his voice. Warwick Davis has had to deliver a lot of wonky fantasy exposition this season, so before it’s all over I have to take a moment to give him credit for his performance. It can’t have been easy, on many levels.

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Jade is going over the ledge to get her girl back, and there’s no talking her out of it. Willow knows Graydon is going, too. Before he goes, Willow tells him he’s proud of him. That just leaves Boorman and Willow together on the top of the cliff. “Willow and Boorman. The great voyage home.” But they both know Boorman has a huge and squishy heart beneath all that bravado, and he’s going over the edge with the rest of them. Willow’s parting advice is to ask himself what he really loves and give his all to it for as long as he can. For Willow that’s his daughter. The group doesn’t need him anymore, so he leaves. Or it looks like he does, but I’m not fooled. The title character can’t be missing from the climactic final battle.

Airk leads Kit and Elora into the temple to meet the girl he doesn’t mention by name, but we all know is the Crone. Kit notices the pool of glowing evil goo and asks if he’s been “drinking this shit?” Elora puts it more delicately, whispering that it’s, like, really bad for you. He responds with some creepy explanation about a mother giving birth and making milk for the child. You’re not winning anyone over here, Airk. Lili, or whatever she’s calling herself now (Kit is the only one who can call her “the Crone” and live, apparently), arrives all dressed up fancy and tells them the hard part is over. Elora is the Harbinger of the Wyrm. She’s going to awaken him and bring about a new age. It doesn’t sound like a good thing.

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Graydon, Jade, and Boorman have now arrived in the Immemorial City too. Putting the “B” in LGBTQ, Boorman points out that a storm is coming and offers to make out with either Graydon or Jade as the world ends. They’re both in love with other people and not really into it, so Boorman is out of luck. They press on into the city and finally come to the door to the temple, just as the storm hits. Graydon tries to open it with magic, but it doesn’t work and they all turn to stone.

Unaware that their friends are outside risking their lives to save them, Kit and Elora walk through a lit up portal and find themselves in a bright wood. They each face their own form of temptation inside this otherworldly realm. For Kit it’s her mother, telling her everything she always wanted to hear. She offers her freedom to find her own path. For Elora it’s a chance to go back to the way things were before they started this adventure, when she was just a kitchen maid in love with a prince. Airk tells her that the Wyrm can make it happen and before she knows it she’s walking down the aisle to marry him.

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Kit snaps out of it when she hears the voice of her father calling out to her. Unlike her encounter with Sorsha, this seems real (he’s supposedly in the same realm as the Wyrm, so I’ll buy it). Madmartigan tells her that love is sacrifice, and that she’s got to be willing to give up what she wants for what she believes in. The Crone is not happy with Kit’s defiance. Disappointed not to have gotten both grandkids, she turns Kit to stone.

Elora is inside her own fantasy wedding to Airk, underscored by a slow cover of Bruce Springstein’s “I’m On Fire” (the credits list the artist as Soccer Mommy). She sees her friends in the crowd of guests. Boorman, Graydon, Jade, Kit. Her hair is blond again, a visible sign that she’s lost whatever progress she made on the journey. The Crone made one serious miscalculation, though. Elora has outgrown her infatuation with Airk. This might have been what she once wanted, but it isn’t anymore. She’s grossed out by this new Airk, and tells him that the old version of him would be too.

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The Crone asks who she is to choose pain over pleasure, and Willow arrives just in time to answer the question. He lays out all her official titles, then breaks the spell.

Warwick Davis
Warwick Davis
Photo: Lucasfilm
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Everyone who was turned to stone comes back and the Crone goes into full Crone mode. It’s fighting time! Elora points her wand at the Crone, but Airk steps in to protect her. Then we get what’s possibly the most cringy line of the entire series so far: “You know how it ends. You think you can change it? You think you can defeat the Wyrm? He’s eternal, bitch.” I’m not kidding. That’s really what she says.

Graydon picks up the wand, but he’s not skilled enough yet and the Crone defeats him easily. She is impressed by his passion, though. That’s what Elora is missing. She breaks the wand and tosses Graydon out into the glowing void. That’s it for Graydon? I was hoping for so much more from him, but this series loves to remind its novice sorcerers just how bad they are at magic. Elora, who is no longer a novice, is inspired by Graydon’s sacrifice and is finally able to summon the full strength of her powers without the wand.

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While Elora fights the Crone, Willow, Jade, Kit and Boorman take on the Gales. Boorman gives the cuirass to Kit, believing it will work for her. It makes sense, I guess, but I really would have liked to see it go to Jade, the one who actually aspired to be a knight. She tries to talk some sense into Airk, who is becoming more evil by the minute. He even talks in a scary voice now.

Willow gives Elora a nice pep-talk speech telepathically. He used this power before when he tried to contact Mims, but it would have come in really handy in the earlier episodes. Why didn’t he just reach out to her any of the numerous times she went missing? Or did he have to wait for her to become more powerful to make the connection?

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Elora and the Crone reach the climax of their showdown. There’s sparks flying everywhere and lots of screaming. Elora strikes one final blow and the Crone falls. Airk flies to her side, pathetically asking how he can help. She tells him this was always the plan, that he would be the Harbinger (I don’t actually believe her). To Airk she looks like the glammed-up version of the girl he met, but Kit and Jade see her for the Crone she is. They look on in disgust (as did I) when he kisses her.

Jade urges Kit to try the Lux Arcana, which she does. The cuirass turns into a full suit of armor. It looks pretty cool, but I still say it would have looked even cooler on Jade. Airk is looking pretty Crone-ish himself now. He lets out an evil growl and lunges for Elora, but Kit, her protector, does her job. Airk says he’ll kill her to get to Elora. She came all this way to save him and this is the thanks she gets? Airk was just annoying before, now he’s fully the worst. Kit wins the fight, but hesitates, because he’s still her brother.

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Elora reminds her that love is the most powerful thing in the universe. Willow breaks his staff and gives Kit the glowing stone from inside it. He tells Kit to talk to her brother. If he can see the light he’ll come to her. He wakes up looking normal and boring again. Boorman stumbles out of the temple, looking haggard from the fight and wanting his mum. He gives Elora Graydon’s flute and everyone looks sad. So they’re just going to give up on him that easily? Elora looks back at the temple and for a moment I thought she was going to go back in and save him, but no. They pose for a final character tableau and head off into the sunset.

But it’s not over yet. The Crone was just the big bad of the season; she’s not the final boss of the series. That’s the Wyrm, the dark entity they’ve been talking about all episode. He’s imprisoned in another realm, feeds on magic and never stops planning his escape (please let him be a dragon). Now that the Crone has been defeated, the Wyrm will have to find another corruptible servant.

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That might be Graydon, who isn’t dead after all. Surprise! I don’t want him to turn evil (again), but those concerns will have to wait for another season, if Willow gets one. In the final moments of the episode, a fake Elora asks Graydon to help her lead the world into her light as the first few chords of Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” play us into the end credits. It feels like the show is just trolling the haters now, with one last baffling and incongruous rock track. And that’s the season done, folks.

Stray observations

  • Sorry Graydon and Elora shippers, you were done dirty in this finale. For a while it looked like there was hope for Graylora, but you’ll have to wait until next season to see if the writers can (or would be willing to) fix them.
  • Kit and Jade shippers (do they have an official name?) got a happier ending, with Jade adorably checking out Kit in her armor.
  • We still don’t know exactly why Willow moved the Nelwyn village underground. That’s one lingering question I’d like to have an answer for. It’s probably the only one, so credit to the writers for closing those loops.
  • One last classic Boorman line for the road: “I’d like to leave this world the way I came in—butt naked and kickin’ ass.” I’m going to miss you, Boorman.
  • Thank you all for joining me on this Willow recapping adventure. It was my first time doing regular recaps since joining The A.V. Club, and this opportunity has meant a lot. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing them.