If you’ve been watching and enjoying Willow, this week’s episode was one you’d been waiting for. Not because there were any huge story revelations, though there were a few. And not because there were massive action set pieces, though there are some. No, it’s because Willow finally earned an episode to sit back and give us some massive character payoffs. Because, honestly, while the show on its own is good, it’s the truly excellent characters that elevate it even more.
Those payoffs also came from the music. Up until this point, every episode featured some piece of pop or rock music over the credits. A very deliberate, very interesting choice by the filmmakers. One that’s actually a first in any Lucasfilm production ever. Well, now it’s episode five, “Wildwood,” and right off the bat, the music has now moved from the credits into the text of the show—which we can already hear the complaints about, but look, we’re halfway through the season. This is the show. It’s light, weird, and funny, and isn’t apologizing for any of it.
So, set to the sounds of “Time for Some Mayhem” by Arre! Arre!, our heroes are being chased by the Gales, servants of the Crone, who were on their tail at the end of the last episode after leaving Nockmaar. I imagined this would be a much bigger, more important encounter, so to just be thrown into it at the beginning was very surprising, especially because it does end up being a nice little action set piece complete with Willow using some kind of flame thrower spell.
To escape the Gales, the group decides they’ll have to hide in the Wildwood, a place that, apparently, can seduce and hypnotize them. But that’s better than brutal murder, right? And so into the woods, they go, and the Gales do not follow for some reason. It’s a beautiful place and they do all take a break. Jade explains the people who killed her family are from this forest. Elora and Willow discuss some more training. Graydon asks Boorman for advice on women, which is when Boorman notices something. All this time they’ve been surrounded by hidden Bone Reavers and are all about to be captured.
Now, if you remember in the pilot, we’d previously met the Bone Reavers who chased the group and were surprised to see Boorman still alive. Now we learn why. We learn that Boorman was in Skellin, a troll stronghold in a mountain that no one has ever gotten out of alive. We also learn that he was very close to Scorpia (Adwoa Aboah), the leader of the Bone Reavers, who separates everyone upon their arrival into the village. Jade gets tied up on her own. Elora and Kit, who hate each other, are in another cage. Willow is with Graydon, who is still pining over Elora, and Boorman is brought to Scorpia’s hut.
Everyone plans their own escape. Elora stole Cherlindrea’s wand from Willow, and uses it to blast a hole in the bars. She and Kit are immediately swarmed with Bone Reavers. Willow realizes his old friends the Brownies (including Kevin Pollak’s Rool from the original movie) just happen to live in their little enclosure, so they formulate a plan together. Meanwhile, Boorman is lying to Scorpia about how he escaped Skellin. The way he tells it, it was a rousing adventure. But his words don’t match with what we see on screen, which is that he escaped in a barrel of shit. And while he should have come back to Scorpia, he instead partied and was captured by Queen Sorsha, which is where he is at the beginning of the show. Why would she want him? Well, he was last seen with her husband Madmartigan, was he not? Scorpia even asks about Val Kilmer’s movie character, but is interrupted before he can answer.
Before we continue, let’s talk Brownies for a second. The super small characters are such a huge part of the original film and it should be very cool to see them back. And yet, this appearance felt so forced. The insane coincidence of them living in this one specific spot in the forest. That Rool doesn’t want to go on adventures and instead hands over a tiny map. That his daughter wants to be famous like a modern teenager in our world. Other than the fact these creatures were in the original film, none of what happens on the show feels cohesive to this story. Maybe they come back in future episodes and it all ties together but if this is it, it was a crappy cameo.
Meanwhile, Kit and Elora escape and immediately go to save Jade. Jade can save herself though, so she slips through the ropes and gets into a brawl with Scorpia. She holds her own but ultimately is no match for the Bone Reaver leader, who mounts Jade in victory and is ready to kill her...when she notices a mark on her neck. What Jade believed to be true about her past was... not true. Bone Reavers didn’t kill her family. The Bone Reavers are her family, and the people of Tir Asleen kidnapped her as insurance against a future war. For years, she was raised to believe her people were her enemy. Plus, Scorpia is her sister. They’re the final two kids left of Kael, the Bone Reaver leader who was killed by Madmartigan in the original movie.
It’s a lot to take in, both for the viewer and for Jade, whose whole worldview has just changed. So too, however, has the episode. Because as Willow and Graydon escape their little cell, they walk into... a party. Jade’s party. And then Willow goes into full party mode. There’s music, dancing, drinking. Elora uses Cherlindrea’s wand to cook, Graydon gets a shave, and Kit even partakes in a drinking game that’s 100% a purposeful homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
More pop music hits the soundtrack, this time a cover of the song “Crimson and Clover” by Pom Pom Squad, which allows everyone to slow down, dance, and really get into some shit, especially because everyone eats truth plums, which make them tell the truth. Kit tells Jade that she had a suspicion she might be a Bone Reaver, and Jade is furious. Elora reveals to Graydon she saw him kill his brother when she saved him and he tries to tell her he’s not that person. Boorman tells Scorpia that, even though he’s not actually her prisoner anymore, he’s kind of always going to be her prisoner. And, crucially, Willow even reveals to Graydon that he’s a mediocre sorcerer at best and lives in fear of being found out. Which Elora hears.
Basically, it’s all coming out. Everything that needs to be said is being said... with one big exception. We know Kit and Jade are in love. Everyone on the show knows they are in love. They’ve even kissed before so they know they’re in love. And yet, it hasn’t been totally cemented. So when they sneak off into the woods and, despite the revelation that Kit’s dad killed Jade’s, profess their love for each other, it’s an incredible moment. Moving, lovely. They’re about to lock it all in with the kiss we’ve been waiting for, the biggest moment of the entire show so far, when it all goes to hell.
After 45 minutes of lulling the audience into a comfortable haze of character development, at the absolute peak of our joy, it’s all taken away in an instant. Kit is kidnapped. A massive battle ensues. And Boorman reveals that the culprits are trolls.
With the exception of the weird, forced cameo by the Brownies, “Wildwood” was excellent. To watch these characters we’ve come to really care for over the past few weeks get some time to cut loose, be honest with each other, and even fall in love with some of them, was hugely rewarding. Then, to have that all come apart for a cool, exciting cliffhanger ending was equally satisfying. I guess next week, Willow and the crew are going to have to go into the place Boorman left, the troll home of Skellin.
New episodes of Willow arrive Wednesdays on Disney+.
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