By Kieran Burt.
Willow episode four switches up the genre for a week, putting a pause on the more fantastical elements of its story and focusing more on a horror aesthetic, but still developing the lore of the universe and delivering a character based episode.
The show leans more into a horror theme, with the setting being Nockmaar castle. This is the ruins of Queen Bavmorda’s domain, and the only place Willow and the rest of the crew can go to try and heal a heavily wounded Graydon. Even though the castle is in ruins and Bavmorda is long gone, evil still resides and tries to manipulate the heroes.
As the episode is set in a creepy castle, visions and flashbacks are bound to be a part of the experience, and on that front Willow doesn’t disappoint. But the flashbacks are given to challenge the heroes, physically in the case of Jade, but for Willow and Elora Danan the conflicts are more character based. Both of them have to deal with traumatic experiences in their past, and grow from them.
The theme of being an impostor is present throughout the episode. The Lich’s power is a more in your face interpretation of this idea, as it is literally being an impostor, but there are also metaphors here too.
Both Willow and Elora feel impostor syndrome, with neither of them feeling like they belong in the position of sorcerer. Willow’s defeat of Bavmorda is brought up to hammer this point home, and Elora feels like she is nothing more than a kitchen maid.
The return of General Kael, even for a brief fight scene is welcome and his skull helmet is put on full display. Even though his character has never been fleshed out, this is an instance where the cool design and use more than makeup for that.
Willow does use the mechanic of splitting its characters up for the second week in a row, but this time provided a much more compelling reason and disguises this fact much better. It does this by warning the audience about the danger the Gales present, and while their lack of presence makes this a hard claim to take seriously, it’s a clever way to force the heroes to break off from one another without openly announcing it.
The show has developed a habit of undercutting emotional moments with humour, which for the first time was OK, but it’s done more times in this episode, making the tactic feel repetitive and like Willow is scared of developing emotionally. There are the beginnings of good moments, with Jade opening up to Kit, or where Elora opens up to Kit, but they’re never seen to completion before the scene moves on.
The worldbuilding of Willow hasn’t improved from last week. This time, the creators have a go at the tip of the iceberg worldbuilding that made Star Wars feel so expensive, but fail to give any context to what they’re saying. Characters just spout out random words that seemingly have no meaning, which makes things more confusing if anything else. But the other lore tidbits that are given helps to clear up Bavmorda’s relationship to the Crone, and helps the audience understand the prophecy in Willow a bit more.
The Lich features as the villain this week, but it was a disappointing role. As the character inhabits the bodies of its victims his presence isn’t really felt. The rest of the Gales also have a very limited presence, serving as a tease for next week
Overall the horror aspect of the episode is refreshing from the light fantasy of the show to a more adult orientated episode, The theme of the episode is a clever and clear with a surprising relevance to today’s society, and while some of the emotional and lore beats don’t work too well, there are still parts that do.