Throughout the first season of Dana Terrace’s The Owl House, it was clear that protagonist Luz Noceda’s biggest strength was her kindness and creativity. While she had trouble fitting in at school in the human world, her love of fantasy and magic YA books have served her well in the world of the Boiling Isles. Not only has managed to learn magic and create variety of useful glyphs, she also managed to have her own enemies-to-lovers arc with Amity.
Even at some of their most harrowing moments, The Owl House has been a largely breezy affair, but the current season’s midseason finale “Yesterday’s Lie” gave Luz a ticking clock she was truly unprepared for. When she managed to briefly return to Earth to check on her mother Camila, their happy reunion became tearful when Camila asked her daughter to permanently stay in the human realm once she finds a way home. Now that new episodes have begun airing again, the show is making Luz realize some of the things she lost when she made the choice in the pilot to stay in the Isles and become a witch.
“Follies at the Coven Day Parade” and this week’s “Reaching Out” both put a spotlight on Luz using her helpful nature as a way to get out of addressing her old life on Earth. In “Follies,” she eagerly threw herself into the plights of her surrogate mother Eda and Kikimora (the right hand of series villain Emperor Belos) so as to avoid telling her friends that she may have to leave the Isles if and when she finds a way home. Kikimora’s desire for help turned out to be a ruse, but Luz still saw much of herself in the lieutenant’s supposed family woes, and she was hoping that helping Kiki would help her find some magical middle ground between going back to her family and being able to live in a world that’s allowed her to be her best, truest self. When those familial problems crop up again in “Reaching Out,” it understandably puts Luz in a much messier place. When Amity comes to her looking for help in participating in a magical fight competition, she eagerly throws herself into it so she doesn’t have to think about how she can’t be with Camila on the anniversary of her father’s death. But Amity being a more than capable fighter throws Luz into an anxiety spiral, and she continues avoiding her emotions in the most teen way by trying to insert herself into the fight and justify it as helping her girlfriend.
Characters failing to admit their emotional problems and making situations worse is nothing new, but Owl House’s writers know how not to fall into the bad parts of this trope. Everyone can tell right away that something’s up with Luz, and Amity’s got a good amount of sense, so it’s a breath of fresh air when she just calmly asks Luz what’s going on rather than demand answers and get upset when she doesn’t get them. Their still fairly new romance is largely skipping over the expected “we’re dating, now what?” tropes, which is pretty impressive for a show that very easily could have given the couple some rocky waters. But since the show is already confirmed to ending with season three, it feels like everyone involved is trying to say “gay” and give the couple as much heartwarming material as possible with the time that they have.
Four episodes of the second half of the season have released, and the connecting thread involves the characters finally starting to unpack the baggage that’s hovered over them for much of their lives. For Eda, that means having to confront accidentally hurting her inventor father Dell years ago during the early days of her cursed owl form. “Elsewhere and Elsewhen” spends much of its B-plot seeing her try to escape talking to her dad, but its only a matter of time before he sees her and they finally hash it out. Of the Clawthorne family, Dell is maybe the most normal of the bunch, and it feels right when he calmly tells his daughter that he’d forgiven her long ago. Forgiving herself is something that Eda has needed to be told for some time, though, and you can see how that simple conversation has started to pay off when she begins to more openly use her Harpy abilities during “Reaching Out.”
“Any Sport in a Storm” is the least emotionally distressing for its cast, mainly because Eda doesn’t show up and Luz and Amity are relegated to a funny B-plot. The primary story belongs to Luz’s friend Willow and Hunter, Belos’ Golden Guard who Luz and Amity have both managed to slightly befriend. (Twice, he’s been offered to join the Owl House group, but he’s still in the middle of his Prince Zuko era.) Where Willow sees a potential teammate in a school sport that’ll help boost her self confidence, Hunter sees Willow as a way to recruit young witches to the Emperor’s Coven and prove himself to the adults in his uncle’s employ.
Moreso through Willow than his interactions with Luz and Amity during the first half of the season, “Sport” really underlines how young Hunter is. The way he becomes livelier with kids around his age, it’s honestly pretty affecting to see him make what are surely his first real friends in Willow and their teammates rather than trying to command the respect of adults who clearly despise him. The way his uncle talks to and about him in earlier episodes, Hunter is very much being set up to be an unwitting pawn in Belos’ larger endgame, creating an understandable tension about what exactly is going to happen to him. And the brief mentions of his training to become an effective soldier in Belos’ army throw into perspective how messed up he is as a person, if him literally digging his own grave earlier in the season to avoid going back to Belos empty-handed didn’t already key you in on that. It feels like a relief when he gets the show’s in-universe equivalent of Instagram to socialize, and the show is doing a good job of using characters beyond Luz like Willow and Gus to humanize him and help push his story forward.
As much as Owl House’s second season is slowly building up to an epic confrontation with Belos and his forces during the Day of Unity, it works much better as a character piece where its cast bounces off each other in fun ways. That isn’t to say that the slivers of lore and worldbuilding we’ve been getting are bad, but the show’s done a strong job of building up its core cast this season in new exciting ways that also stay true to who they are. Keeping focus on its characters has always been the show’s biggest strength, and it looks like the finale is going to lead to some emotionally rich moments for all of them.
The Owl House premieres new episodes Saturdays on Disney Channel. Season one and the first half of season two are available to watch on Disney+.
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