Elora Danan has been captured by servants of the Crone, an unspeakable evil that threatens to destroy the world. They mean to banish Elora’s soul for all eternity, completing the task the evil queen attempted in the original film. So it’s up to Willow and his friends to go after her. But first, how about a nice leisurely chat? Let’s talk about the uneven but ultimately crucial third episode of Willow, “The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb.”
Though the previous episode left us on the cliffhanger of Elora (Ellie Bamber) being captured by Ballentine (Ralph Ineson) and his knights, episode three left that hanging a bit longer. Instead, things began with a history lesson. Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) is telling Kit (Ruby Cruz) the legend of the Kymerian Cuirass, the ancient artifact Kit’s father, Madmartigan, left Tir Asleen and his family to go find, with Boorman in tow. We learn how it was crafted by a mother whose son was the true king in order to defeat his evil brother. And, most importantly, we learn that it only works when paired with the Lux Arcana, a key that unlocks the Cuirass’ power to those who are worthy.
It’s a lot of exposition, so of course you know it’s going to come in handy at some point, but Kit is not amused at Boorman’s long-winded tale, saying that his name “Bore Man” makes more sense now. (That’s a perfect example of this show’s ability to weave humor and levity into more serious situations.) Their chat gets interrupted though when, yet a-freaking-gain, Elora has wandered off and gone missing.
As the group walks around looking for the most important woman on the planet, Kit stumbles upon the bush that Elora had been trying to conjure. For the first time Kit knows that this girl she thought of simply as a kitchen maid can actually do magic and could, maybe, be the savior the kingdom needs.
Apparently, Ballentine was taking his “ballen-time” (get it?) with Elora, though, because the group stumbles upon him quite quickly. Jade (Erin Kellyman) tries to reason with her friend and former mentor but they finally see that he’s been fully possessed by evil. A brief fight occurs but Ballentine easily escapes with Elora, leaving everyone else with a new mission: rescue her.
Which, after a shot of the knights speeding away on horseback, seems like a very urgent task. And yet, it’s not. The group is literally walking on the path, chatting. They stop to look at a growing cloud that might just be evil incarnate. There’s little to no urgency. But, thankfully, Elora escapes off the back of Ballentine’s horse and runs into the forest, giving her friends more time since, in addition to being slow, their wagon breaks.
As Boorman, Willow (Warwick Davis), Silas (Graham Hughes), and Graydon (Tony Revolori) attempt to fix the wagon, Jade reveals to Kit that despite Kit always beating Jade at training, Jade would always let her win. Jade says that she never thought Kit would actually be fighting for her life which, considering that kiss from the first episode and the obvious attraction, is a pretty low blow. It’s part of the reason why, once the wagon is fixed and Willow’s crew can go back to their leisurely rescue, Kit goes with Boorman on a shortcut while Jade and the rest follow along the preferred route.
Elora escapes into the woods and comes upon a scene that feels more like a dream. It’s a brightly lit area with a nice cabin and two women, Hubert and Anne, played by Emmy-winning Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham and Caoimhe Farren. They’re just two woodswomen, living their lives, content, confident, and funny. There’s a real Penn and Teller vibe about them, especially since Hubert won’t shut up and Anne doesn’t speak. That vibe changes though when Elora explains who she is. Not only have they heard of her, but they’re also in awe of her. Immediately they swear allegiance to the great Empress Elora Danan and vow to adventure with her. It’s an incredible moment because we see that even if Elora wasn’t magic, she’s magical just by being herself. She’s hope. She’s an inspiration. The promise of a better world. And we see it all in the reactions Hubert and Anne have to her. Unfortunately, Ballentine catches up rather quickly and despite Hubert’s best efforts, even she can’t kill an undead knight, and she’s killed. The same goes for Anne, who runs away with Elora but is killed anyway. Ballentine tells Elora this is her fault. They died because of her.
Back with the now split rescue party, Boorman and Kit end up at the Slaughtered Lamb, which he described as an inn but has since become more of a graveyard. We also learn the real reason he wanted to go: this is where he and Madmartigan hid the Lux Arcana and he wants to retrieve it. Which he does, though he doesn’t tell Kit that, and they’re forced to fight and escape from a bunch of were-rats. Which, as Boorman says, are exactly what they sound like. Rats with werewolf powers.
Elora and the knights reach the base of a mountain which will take them to the place they plan on banishing her soul for eternity, fulfilling the wishes of the Crone. Elora decides that’s not something she wants though and after burning one of the possessed knights simply by touching them, she says she’ll use a spell to call the forces of good. The knights laugh, and we do too as we clearly hear she’s doing the “Let’s Sprout a Plant” spell. Even so, out of nowhere, Willow, Silas, Jade, and Graydon arrive right on time. Did Elora’s magic work? Is she just fated for that kind of luck? Does it really matter?
As Boorman and Kit escape from the were-rats, they run right into their friends and so the titular battle commences. Almost immediately, it’s not going well for the heroes and Willow says it’s a battle that can’t be one. He also explained earlier that he isn’t using magic because he’s not strong enough to continuously do that. And, if he uses too much magic, he won’t be strong enough to fight whatever is coming. That said, he deems the survival of all of his friends against three possessed knights worthy and casts a spell to defeat them. A defeated Ballentine tells Jade how proud he is of her and how important Elora is before asks her to kill him which she, begrudgingly, does.
The heroes have suffered casualties too. Silas was fatally wounded and tells Willow it’s okay because he died saving his best friend. Graydon was also injured, infected by the same magic that turned Ballentine into a demon. He needs to be tended to immediately and, it just so happens, there’s a castle nearby—the place Ballentine and his knights were taking Elora. The place Elora was almost killed as a baby: Nockmaar. Cue the Metallica cover.
“The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb” had some issues but, ultimately, set the series up in a very good place. Kit is starting to believe in Elora. Elora is starting to believe in herself. The mystery of Madmartigan’s quest is starting to come to light. Willow’s tough exterior is being pulled back. And now the show has reached a key location in Willow’s lore, the castle of Nockmaar, the former home of the evil Queen Bavmorda, who just so happens to be Kit’s grandma.
The first three episodes of Willow are streaming on Disney+ now.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.