Willow recap: Season 1, Episode 5

Adwoa Aboah and Amar Chadha-Patel

Adwoa Aboah and Amar Chadha-Patel
Photo: : Lucasfilm

Having read some of the comments about the use of anachronistic music in WillowI already know some of you are really going to hate the beginning of this episode (and some of the other scenes, too). Personally, I don’t mind it in something like this that’s heavily referential and purposefully modern, but up until now, they’ve limited it to the end credits. It’s a bit strange waiting until episode five to incorporate it—either do it from the start or not at all.

Anyway, we start out with our heroes being chased by the Gales (the four creepy monsters who kidnapped Airk in the premiere) as rock music plays over the scene. Willow shoots fire at them using some kind of device we’ve never seen before. When Boorman voices my question out loud and asks Willow what the hell it is he just answers, “Don’t worry about it.” With the creatures closing in fast, the group’s only hope of getting away is to head into the wildwood, a place so frightening even the Gales won’t follow them there. It sounds a lot like the fire swamp in The Princess Bride, and considering this show is not shy about its pop culture homages, that’s got to be intentional. Graydon has heard that it “makes you never want to leave” and “saps your will to do anything,” yet it’s never mentioned again. That’s certainly not what happens here.

Jade is especially freaked out because the Bone Reavers who killed her parents fled into the wildwood, and may possibly still be there. In case you need a refresher, we last saw these savage warriors in skull masks in the premiere, chasing our group on horseback across a grassy plane. One of them recognized Boorman, who was supposed to be dead according to the masked rider. So that’s two characters who have some prior acquaintance with them, making it pretty much inevitable that we’ll see more of them in this episode.

Along the way, Willow continues to be the Yoda to Elora’s Luke (another non-coincidental reference, this being a Lucasfilm property and all). She’s finally making real progress and wants to try Cherlindrea’s wand, but Willow doesn’t think she’s ready yet. That’s another setup that will pay off later, but we’ll have to wait for it because the Bone Reavers have arrived. Boorman, in the midst of giving Graydon advice about women, is the first to notice they’re not alone. He tells the group to stay calm because he has a plan.

The entire party is captured and taken to the Bone Reavers’ camp. We meet a tough-looking guy named Lori (yes, it’s played for laughs), who seems to have some history with Boorman. That’s confirmed when the leader of the Bone Reavers steps up and introduces herself as Scorpia. Boorman and Scorpia used to be a thing until he supposedly perished in the Dread Mines of Skellin, an operation run by trolls in the mountains nearby. There’s bad blood there, and more than a bit of chemistry, too (she wept for him! aww!). Scorpia interrogates Boorman about how he escaped, and we get one of those unreliable narrator montages juxtaposing his story of bravery with contradictory scenes of what really happened. It’s a bit cliché, but it does include a silly slow-mo of Boorman bathing in a waterfall, so I’ll allow it. Scorpia does too because she’s no fool.

A still from Willow

A still from Willow
Photo: : Disney+

Something else that’s immediately obvious about Scorpia is that she looks a lots like Jade. The big reveal of their connection in this episode might have been more surprising on paper, but in live-action, it’s fairly obvious from the jump. Erin Kellyman has such a distinctive look that when you put her next to someone with a passing resemblance (that’s not shared by anyone else we’ve met in this world), we’re bound to see the connection coming.

So Scorpia and Jade turn out to be sisters, but the real devastating news comes when Jade finds out that their father was General Kael, founder of the Bone Reavers and loyal servant of Bavmorda. In the film, he worked with Sorsha to find baby Elora Danan until Sorsha switched sides and betrayed them. Madmartigan eventually killed him during the Battle of Nockmaar, so now Jade has to process the implications of that on top of everything else she’s going through. (How do you tell the girl you love that her father killed your father?)

There’s a lot more exposition here laying out the origins of the Bone Reavers, and some of it is even interesting—they were slaves who fought for Bavmorda because she promised them freedom, and were ultimately betrayed—but none of it seems super relevant to the story the show has been telling so far. The episode gives us some answers, but not to the questions we’ve been asking. Like: How will they ever find Airk? Who is the Withered Crone? What does she want with him? What really happened to Madmartigan? There’s not much progress here towards any of these mysteries.

Elsewhere in the camp, Graydon and Willow are locked up together until the Bone Reavers decide what to do with them. Graydon takes the opportunity to ask him for advice about wooing Elora (he previously broached the same subject with Boorman, so he’s clearly desperate for some guidance). Willow reminds him she’s the empress of the nine realms and many other important-sounding things. He says she doesn’t have time to connect with Graydon, or anyone else. I mean, even if Willow weren’t training her to fulfill her destiny, he still has a somewhat fatherly connection to her, so he’s probably the last person Graydon should be going to for love advice. He really needs some more guy friends.

Fortunately for Graydon, Willow is distracted from his line of inquiry by someone tiny houses. Brownies! Do you remember them? Rool and Franjean—played by Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton, respectively—were the mischievous little creatures who provided the comic relief in the original film, constantly bickering in exaggerated French Canadian accents and rolling around on oversized sets. After arguing with a young Brownie named Ganush about how not every Brownie knows every other one, Kevin Pollak shows up again as Rool. It’s wonderful to have him back, although it’s sadly just for one episode. I would have liked to have seen how much better the Brownie effects could have been done with modern technology. We get a small taste of it here, and it’s not nearly enough.

While Willow is getting reacquainted with his old pal, Kit and Elora are also stuck together and forced to admit that they might not hate each other. They also have a conversation about relationships, and Kit denies that she and Jade are in love. Elora feels sorry for Jade for loving someone who can’t love her back. Kit is grumpy until Elora reveals that she stole the wand and uses it to blast a hole in the bone bars so they can escape.

Graydon and Willow also manage to escape with Rool’s help. No one is paying attention to them, though, because a celebration is underway—a homecoming party with Jade as the guest of honor. It turns out the Bone Reavers aren’t so bad. There’s a whole musical number (with choreography!) and Kit drinks a large man under the table in a very specific homage to Raiders Of The Lost Ark, while Elora gets cooking (literally) with Chalindria’s wand. Then a groovy cover of “Crimson and Clover” plays (I warned you it was coming).

Scorpia offers them something to eat, and they all oblige (far too easily). It’s maybe not the best idea to take food offered by someone who had you tied up mere minutes ago, but it furthers the plot, so that’s what they do. These magical delicacies turn out to be “truth plums.” Frankly, they could have been a lots worse. They give the characters a chance to say everything they’ve been holding back from each other so far.

Elora confronts Graydon about the memory she saw when she pulled the darkness out of him. He admits he was possessed as a kid and pushed his brother out of the tree. It’s a little weird that it’s happened to him twice now, but the show doesn’t make a big deal out of it, so maybe it isn’t one. Guess I’m not alone in wondering what Graydon’s deal is because Elora wants to know too. She asks him directly who he is, and even under the truth plum spell he can’t fully tell her. He says he’ll let her know when he figures it out. I’m starting to suspect that maybe even the writers don’t know at this point.

Under the influence of truth plums, Willow admits to Graydon that he isn’t a great sorcerer. Would it be cool for this series to show that Willow had fulfilled his lofty magical aspirations after all this time? Sure, but I think the point is that magic was never what made Willow special. His loyalty, courage, perseverance, and strong moral compass made him a character we wanted to follow on his original quest. Accepting that about himself is going to be his true arc in the series, I predict. Jade forces Kit to honestly admit she suspected the truth about her all along (what? how?) but didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to break her heart. Jade accuses her of being an expert at it, and then everything finally comes spilling out. They’re the last two people to realize they’re totally in love with each other. Finally on the same page, Kit and Jade are about to seal it with a kiss when the camp is attacked by trolls, bringing an end to the celebration and the episode.

Stray observations:

  • I can’t say that the Brownies were ever my favorite part of Willow, but it was neat to see Kevin Pollak return as Rool. During the press tour to promote the series, showrunner Jon Kasdan revealed that it was the first time Pollak and Warwick Davis had ever been on set together at the same time. Their scenes in the original film were shot separately and composited in the editing room. Rick Overton was also set to return, but evidently had to back out (I haven’t seen an explanation online, but feel free to share in the comments if you have).
  • Rool’s daughter Ganush, who aspires to be famous for decoupage, is played by British actress Amalia Vitale (A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon).
  • Rool’s description of Graydon as a “sad angry frown prince” is hilariously spot on.
  • Another fun Willow film fact relevant to this episode: Like the Eborsisk, General Kael was named after a film critic—Pauline Kael, who once wrote that Star Wars lacked a sense of wonder, calling it “an epic without a dream.” Clearly, that didn’t sit too well with George Lucas.
  • Has it been mentioned before that Boorman’s first name is Thraxus? Or is that new information in this episode? Either way, I will be muttering Thraxus Relaxus at the TV for the rest of the series now.
  • Next week we finally get to the Christian Slater episode. As a one-time Gen X heartthrob who continues to appear in interesting projects and hasn’t lost any of his appeals, he was a great choice for this. I’m really excited for him to join this world.

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