Episode 1 of Willow Season 1 starts with us whisked away to this magical world, where we’re updated on the story thus far. It starts with a recap of the Willow movie, with Sorsha pointing out that they managed to free the Kingdom from its curse and they all lived happily ever after… or did they? Unfortunately, Willow ended up having a vision about an ancient evil arriving and destroying the future Empress. In doing so, this is supposed to herald in a new dark age. So they hid Elora away, her true identity concealed – even from herself.
And so we start our new tale with two women fighting atop a cliffside, dueling. Kit is arrogant and claims how amazing she is after besting her training partner, Jade, going on to mention how she wants to explore the world and adventure. However, as the day is drawing on, she heads back to the palace. Whilst there, she reunites with her brother Airk, who has a reputation for being a player. He’s been having a fling with the kitchen maid, aptly nicknamed Dove, but he can’t even remember her name.
Kit is not happy about having to take orders from her mother, including wearing a nice gown for the ball. She scoffs at her, claiming she’s not six anymore, but gets dressed all the same despite how uncomfortable she obviously is. Jade is also dressed up but she’s only doing it for her friend.
At dinner, the pair gossip about Graydon Hatur, the Prince of Galladoorn. There used to be two Princes but one fell out a tree. The GUY left behind is the one Kit is destined to marry. Graydon’s father is slightly arrogant though, which is the direct opposite of Graydon, who happens to be rather dull.
Sorsha steps up and gives a big speech, pointing out they’ve maintained a peace between Tir Asleen and Galladoorn for now but that’s about to be taken to the next level. The Prince and Kit are about to be wed and in doing so, would fully unite both realms. It’s a great political move but Sorsha is not happy about her daughter being forced into a loveless marriage but knows there’s no other way.
Things for Kit are made worse by Jade revealing that she’s leaving. Specifically, she’s been recruited to train as a Knight of Galladoorn at the Shining Legion. She’s heading south after Kit’s wedding. Annoyed, Kit immediately tries to break the peace between the two realms and confronts the Prince. Kit points out she wants to make her own choices and even holds the Prince up at knifepoint.
Sorsha immediately takes her aside and points out what a petulant child she is. Thankfully, Airk shows up and deflects the attention away from her, with Sorsha calling him useless. Late at night, Kit decides to leave the realm completely and step out beyond the barrier. She kisses Jade and tells her she’s going to be a great Knight before heading off.
However, just before she does a fog descends over the entire realm as dogs attack, followed by a monstrous troll. With the Kingdom under attack from these creatures, a foul voice on the air suddenly causes the creatures to stop attacking and leave. According to Graydon, a hawk showed up and took Prince Airk away. Sure would have been nice to see that on-screen though!
Kit decides to leave and search for Airk by heading west. It seems the wedding has been put on hold for now. Sorsha allows this to happen, with Thexus leading the party forward, Jade in attendance as a knight in everything but title, and several others including the Prince of Galladoorn and the released prisoner Boorman. They also need a sorcerer too.
As the group set out to track down Willow, marching across the beautiful countryside on horses, they’re followed by Dove, who wants to find Airk, believing it’s true love. Kit and Jade immediately scoff at this but she manages to prove her worth as a cook for the party.
In the morning, the party set off and find more trouble. While Dove attempts to go it alone, trying to cross a fallen log to the other side of a chasm (which she’s successful in doing), she comes face to face with the magical barrier protecting the realm. She steps forward and through to the other side, and away from the protection she once had.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party find her in the distance and eventually catch up. Unfortunately, Bone Reavers arrive and kill one of their own (not Kit, unfortunately) firing arrows at the group. They manage to make it to safety, inexplicably jumping off a chasm and using the ancient phrase “Hsu-Gala” (which means stop) to make it to the bottom of a cliff-face and to the other side of this shallow sea.
Kit learns a bit of humility when they get dry and continue on, as Graydon accepts Kit’s apology for being so hard on him originally. Kit shows up along with the others to the Nelwyn village and find Willow, who points out that Airk is still alive. Furthermore, he’s been taken by the Gales and is a prisoner of the Withered Crone.
The four who showed up at Tir Asleen actually happen to be the Crone’s servants, explaining their presence. However, the Crone is situated beyond the Shattered Sea and they need to travel further than they ever have before. However, it turns out Kit is not actually the Chosen One as we expected. She’s not Elora.
The Chosen One is actually Dove! She’s the future Empress and High Priestess, and the last hope against the evil!
The Episode Review
With Disney reporting 1.5 billion in losses this past quarter, Willow comes storming onto Disney+…with an episode that’s certainly not going to change those numbers. The characters are generally quite archetypal and poor, while the protagonist of this piece, Kit, acting both arrogant and petulant for large parts of the episode does nothing to make you want to root for her.
The dialogue is disappointing on the whole and there’s an abundance of expository-heavy riffs throughout. It seems like the show is designed for kids but given those who watched the 80’s movie as children will now be grown, the tone is way off.
Coming off the back of House of the Dragon, Willow could not have been released at a worse time and feels like underwhelming fantasy fare, something more akin to the Shannara Chronicles than a genuine fantasy contender.
Some of the ideas aren’t bad but this is yet another unnecessary sequel to an established IP and one that perhaps should have just been an original show in its own right. The ending with Willow and that little twist is a nice way of subverting the usual Disney tropes but we’ll have to wait and see if the show can keep that up through the series.