The Jonathan Kasdan-developed series is a sequel to the 1988 film directed by Ron Howard, and, yes, they are both named “Willow.” The film saw the evil sorceress Queen Bavmorda of Nockmaar sending her daughter, Sorsha, and an army, led by General Kael, to hunt down baby Elora Danan. Why? Because the baby was destined to bring about her downfall. But after being sent adrift by a midwife, Elora was discovered by the titular character and tasked with taking her to the Daikini (tall people). On his journey, Willow found a mercenary called Madmartigan, his old comrade Airk, the fairy queen Cherlindrea (who gave Willow his signature wand), the aging enchantress Fin Raziel, and the brownies Franjean and Rool. During the concluding moments of the film, Bavmorda attempted to kill Elora but were thwarted and “banished” by Willow, Fin Raziel, and Sorsha (who had defected to the heroes’ side after falling in love with Madmartigan). After that, Tir Asleen was restored, Willow was given a spell-book by Raziel, and Elora was left in Madmartigan and Sorsha’s care. Now, let’s talk about the show, where these characters are, who the new players are, and what the latest adventure is.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Episode 1: Recap And Ending – How Is Elora Danan’s Secret Identity Revealed?
In the opening narration, in addition to the recap of the film, we are told that after returning home, Willow had a vision of the rise of a dark power that’ll destroy everything. That’s why his wand, as well as Elora, was hidden away (that too in a way that the real Elora didn’t know who she was). Then we are introduced to Kit, Sorsha’s daughter, and Jade, her best friend and knight-in-training, partaking in a sparring session. After Jade clearly lets Kit win because she is the princess and she is about to leave her side and go be a knight with Commander Ballantine, the duo proceeds to the castle because Kit is supposed to be married away to the prince of Galladoorn, son of King Hastur, Graydon. Kit’s brother and the prince of Tir Asleen, Airk (yes, he’s named after Madmartigan’s deceased best friend), who is seen romancing the kitchen maid, Dove, is called over to the castle by Kase to get ready as well.
Sorsha reprimands both Kit and Airk for prioritizing their hobbies over their responsibilities, and as they run away from her to avoid an argument, she hears Willow’s voice faintly warning her about the arrival of “The Gales.” During the dinner, Kit lets Jade (and hence the audience) know that, apparently, there were two princes of Galladoorn. But one of them fell out of a tree and died. So, Kit has to marry the one that’s alive (and clearly not interested in getting married). Through Sorsha and King Hastur’s conversation, we get to know about the overall condition of this world. We know that something called “The Barrier” is being breached (unsuccessfully) by Bone Reavers. Even though Sorsha warns that there could be a new enemy on the rise because settlements in the North have been torched and abandoned, Hastur insists that nothing can cross this Barrier. So, based on that assurance, Sorsha officially announces Kit and Graydon’s marriage and their task to protect the realm until Elora Danan returns.
Sorsha’s trip to the dungeons gives us a peek at the imprisoned ex-squire of Madmartigan, Boorman, before returning to the party, which is falling apart because Kit is furious about getting married and about Jade’s departure to become a knight. This leads to a falling out between Kit and Sorsha, which Airk tries to mitigate and kind of succeeds at. That’s also when we get a hint at the underlying animosity between Airk and Kit, which stems from the fact that Airk has this air of irresponsibility, due to which nobody expects anything from him. So, naturally, Kit is forced to be more responsible, thereby burdening her with everything that the kingdom and the realm require and robbing her of the opportunity to lead a normal life. This is why she decides to ditch the wedding, kiss Jade goodbye, and then make a run for it. However, that plan is ruined by the Gales (four mysterious creatures with almost boundless, dark powers) as they descend upon Tir Asleen, infect Ballantine, and kidnap Airk.
The following day, the show has its “Fellowship of the Ring” moment as Kit, Kase, Jade, Graydon, and Boorman are appointed to travel west, go beyond the Barrier, and rescue Airk. But before that, they are tasked with meeting Willow so that he can join the gang and chart a map to the lost prince’s location. Before embarking on the mission, though, Kit has a conversation with Sorsha in which she learns about the Queen’s plan to hide Elora so that the evil can’t return. And how Willow countered that idea by stating that Bavmorda’s spirit lives in Airk, Kit, and Sorsha, and hence, her return is sort of inevitable. So, my best guess is that the Gales’ plan (or whoever they are serving) is to extract Airk’s blood and use some kind of magical ritual to bring Bavmorda back again. Anyway, during the rescue party’s journey to the Barrier, they find out that Dove has been tailing them all this time because, well, she’s in love with Airk and wants to do her bit to save him.
Well, like or dislike Dove, amidst all the existential bickering, she asks the important question: What is the Barrier? As explained by Jade, it’s a magical force field forged by Raziel and Cherlindrea to protect the realm. Apparently, when Jade’s family approached the “Mother’s Gate” (the entry point of the realm), her parents were killed, and she was the only one who made it through and was fathered by Ballantine. Boorman and Kase refute the claim that the Barrier is supposed to “protect the realm.” As per Kase, it’s for Elora’s protection only and to keep away the forces that are after her, which furthers the notion that the Gales aren’t after Elora because she isn’t pivotal to Bavmorda’s return and Airk is. Near the Barrier, we get two hints: a potential villainous entity called the Wyrm and the fact that Dove is actually Elora because she walks right through the Barrier. The Bone Reavers kill Kase and drive the rest of the rescue party over a ledge. Unhurt and in walking condition, they make their way to the village of Nelwyn and meet Willow (who confirms that Dove is Elora by revealing the mark on her hand) and Silas.
See More: ‘Willow’ Season 1: Review – A Beautifully Crafted & Well Acted Sequel To The Underappreciated 1988 Classic
Episode 2: Recap – The Dilemma Of Rescuing Airk And Letting Elora Perfect Her Magical Skills
During a flashback sequence, we see a young Willow meeting a younger Sorsha to discuss Elora’s training because she’s the only thing standing between the realm and eternal oblivion. Willow says that if she doesn’t start practicing magic at a young age, it’s going to fade away. Sorsha wants that to happen because she thinks that if she’s not a threat, then maybe the dark forces will stop their attacks. She also hints at Madmartigan’s whereabouts, as she says that he hasn’t returned from his mission to find the Kymerian Cuirass and is presumed to be dead. Willow counters that he’s still alive, but whatever he brings back isn’t going to be enough to stop the Crone (which is essentially the evil sect that Bavmorda served or Bavmorda herself, I guess). Sorsha confirms that Raziel and Cherlindrea are, in fact, dead. This means that Willow is the only powerful sorcerer in the realm. Sorsha says that stuff like the process of elimination and Willow’s “goodness quotient” isn’t enough to make him powerful enough to protect Elora.
In the present timeline, we see the gang grappling with the notion that Dove is actually Elora (actually, I’ll be referring to the muffin-making girl as Elora because that’s who she is and for the sake of clarity). Willow takes the lot into his village, where we meet Mims, i.e., Willow’s daughter. Willow spews some nonsense about Elora being the one and how that indicates that those worried about the realm can calm down because she’s going to master her magical abilities and defeat every and any source of darkness. But he quickly learns that that’s not even remotely a possibility because, as predicted by him, the years of not practicing magic have robbed her of her ability to do anything that’s borderline magical. One of the Gales, The Lich, while referring to “the teacher,” says that “the child” has revealed herself, which is a reference to Elora. That means she is still integral to the villains’ master plan. When Sorsha learns about this, she allows the sick Ballantine to travel across the realm with a small team and bring her back safely (without revealing Elora’s identity).
The Crone says that Elora Danan still holds the ability to destroy her, which is why she shouldn’t reach “the city.” The Lich assures her that “his disciple,” i.e., the infected Ballantine, is going to do the needful. Meanwhile, in the village of Nelwyn, Elora, Willow, and the rest have an argument over whether they should stay and perfect magic or head west and get to Airk. Elora rejects Willow’s proposal to stay because she thinks assisting the fellowship and rescuing Airk are her top priorities. While conversing with Mims about this dilemma of going versus staying, we see Willow’s apocalyptic vision while he says that if anything happens to Elora, the world will burn. So, Mims urges Willow to go with Elora on her expedition, teach her the route to Airk’s prison, protect her from every kind of harm, and then hand over his magic wand to her when the time is right. The first step of that process begins with finding Elora in the forest as she hides near a river, contemplating what the hell she is doing.
Willow says that he’ll take the hapless lot to the Immemorial City (which is where Airk possibly is) if Elora agrees to learn magic properly. Of course, Elora agrees to Willow’s demands, and Willow joins the fellowship on their journey. This air of positivity is punctured by Ballantine as he goes into evil beast mode and turns his entire platoon into mindless monsters that are doing the Lich’s bidding. We return to the gang to hear Boorman claim that Madmartigan apparently found the Cuirass and is, therefore, sitting with it somewhere out there. Elora begins her magic lessons, and they go as well as you can imagine. But Willow soldiers on by trying to make her grow a bush out of eckleberry seeds, and even that seems to go horribly. And while Elora practices her spells, a remorseful Willow admits to Silas that he shouldn’t have parted ways with Sorsha just because she forbade him from teaching a young Elora about who she is. Silas tells him to rest up because, realistically speaking, thinking about the mistakes one has made in the past rarely fixes them. Instead, unnecessary overthinking makes people commit mistakes in the present.
‘Willow’ Episode 2 Ending Explained: Who Kidnaps Elora Danan? What Lies In Her Future?
Ballantine and his platoon arrive at Nelwyn first. Mims tries not to give away the fellowship’s whereabouts. But since the platoon’s instincts are still functional, they find out the general direction in which Elora and the rest have headed and march on. Willow and Elora have a big argument about her inability to perfect a simple spell that can make a plant grow, and she disappears into the forest just like she did earlier in the episode. Jade and Kit have an argument about leaving the pack and going on their own over the Shattering Seas and into Immemorial City to rescue Airk because Kit doesn’t see an inkling of helpful magic happening there. Boorman’s arrival prompts Graydon to look for Elora while he pesters Silas about the dog-shaped toys he’s making for Libby. Graydon does give Elora a pep talks but leaves her alone, thereby making her vulnerable to an attack by Ballantine, who then proceeds to kidnap her. We do see that she has mastered the ability to grow a plant. However, will that be enough to beat a juiced-up Ballantine and his infected soldiers? Well, we have to wait until Episode 3 to find out.
By the way, in terms of what we can expect from the end of Season 1 of “Willow” or the finale of the series, it is embedded in a conversation between Willow and Silas. The former clearly admits that this whole saga is going to conclude with Elora’s death. He says that he has tried a lot to avoid that scenario and ensure that she survives. However, it’s technically inevitable. If she doesn’t master her powers, she’s going to die because there won’t be anyone to assist him in stopping the Crone, the Gales, the Wyrm, or whoever is behind every evil thing that’s going on. If Elora does master her powers, she is going to lead the fight, and, going by Willow’s vision, she is going to use every ounce of her strength to obliterate the villains. And the knowledge that you are leading an evidently innocent person to her death because that’s what is written in her fate is a heavy burden to carry. Now, if we have learned anything from the fantasy genre, in scenarios like this, the characters’ journeys become about defying fate and writing their own destiny. Since they are a little preoccupied with saving Airk, it’s possible they’ll take a lot of time to come around to that notion. But, hopefully, they will.
See More: ‘Willow’ Episode 3: Recap & Ending, Explained – Did Kit & Her Team Find Elora Danan? Why Did Jade Kill Ballantine?