By Kieran Burt.
Episode three of Willow has been released on Disney+, and it manages to strike a balance between the light and humorous aspects of the show, with the literal darkness encroaching on our heroes. It does drop the ball slightly on the character work, and while the world building expands the world of Willow it’s hard to see how this comes together.
For the first half of the episode, there are several humorous beats, mostly coming from or involving Boorman (who is fast becoming my favourite character in the show), as he points out some of the absurdity of the fantasy setting he’s in. He doesn’t take the chosen one’s power at face value, and he gets called out on telling long, irrelevant fantasy tales. He’s able to point out and make fun of the typical fantasy tropes in a way that avoids dragging the audience out the scene.
Kit’s annoying personality continues, and this time it impacts the relationship with her girlfriend, Jade. This episode forgets entirely that these friends are lovers, not showing any of the confidence that they possessed in the prior episodes. But the script has an odd beat of driving a wedge between the pair, only resolved later with seemingly no growth for either character. Indeed, Boorman interrupts the conversation where growth might have occurred, removing the pay off from the episode. This humour beat doesn’t work as well.
The world building of Willow also suffers a bit in this episode. The characters talk a lot about the locations in the land, but when it comes to their directions, where they go doesn’t lead to where they say. This is definitely a creative failure. Any ideal world building would allow for an audience member to build a reasonable map in their heads of the place they’re in, but Willow’s map is currently confused.
Willow’s script is also confused. This episode states that it’s very dangerous for the characters to split themselves into smaller groups, unless they want to make it easier for their enemies to destroy them. But only a few scenes later the characters do split up, and these consequences of being easily destroyed fail to materialise. The prior warning isn’t mentioned either, the show forgets that it has set this up.
There are some surprisingly dark and emotional beats in the episode, which is fitting of the darker lighting that the second half takes under. Though it is always harder to see what’s going on in these scenes, they are something to be used sparingly. Willow’s use of them is balanced enough, and there is just enough light to still make out what’s going on, but any more and an audience member might need to strain their eyes to see what’s going on.
Willow episode three is certainly more mature than the previous two, leaning into more horror elements again but also in its body count. Death is an unfortunate part of the journey, it’s something that the young teens on the show will learn very quickly if they haven’t already. But it doesn’t go overboard with the gore and horror as to discourage audiences, it strikes a satisfying balance.
Finally, Willow’s score this week drops the ball. Instead of using intentional, original composed music for the show, songs are used. This happens over the credits, which isn’t overly egregious, but there are points in the episode where a piece of music feels out of place.
Overall, while there are some things that leave the audience wanting, the humor of the show is improving, as well as striking a balance between more mature and younger themes. Confused worldbuilding and characters do let the episode down though. Boorman is cementing himself as a character to continue to watch, especially because there is bound to be so much more to him than his humor implies.