The Disney+ sequel series to the 1980s Ron Howard film Willow, also called Willow, has finally premiered, with two episodes dropping early Wednesday morning. The original film was a magical story about subverting expectations and being who you want to be and not who people tell you you are. This series seems to be bringing those same ideas into focus. So did the Willow series premiere episodes capture the magic of the original film, or it did fall victim to the trap most sequels do?
[Warning: spoilers from the first two episodes of Willow are below!]
Marriage and traps in the Willow series premiere
At the center of this sequel series is Kit Tanthalos (Ruby Cruz), the daughter of Madmartigan and Sorsha (Joanne Sorsha) and the princess of Tir Asleen.
When we find her, she is a day away from being forced into a marriage with Graydon Hastur (Tony Revolori). The marriage is being planned to bridge the gap between their two kingdoms – Tir Asleen and Galladoorn – to strengthen their forces and stand a fighting chance against whatever evil might come their way.
Unfortunately, the Willow series quickly falls into a trap that its predecessor so masterfully avoided. In the original film, Willow (Warwick Davis) was Elora’s caretaker, and he takes that job very seriously. That means he might occasionally scold Madmartigan for doing something irresponsible, but he always knew what was right and I always believed that. Unlike other fantasy protagonists, particularly and infamously Luke Skywalker, Willow was never a whiner. I was always excited to root for him to get the job done and his attitude never faltered.
Kit falls right into the trap, and begins whining almost immediately. Her interjection at the forced marriage isn’t where my issue lies. In fact, I found most of that quite inspiring and exciting. But once the second episode comes and some bumps in the road of their quest are encountered, she not only begins pouting but she becomes hard to get along with. It makes her hard to root for, and it becomes frustrating when she had such a strong start to her story. Hopefully, this will fix itself as the series progresses.
The cast of Willow is fantastic, especially Warwick Davis
However, Willow’s cast is so broad and so good, that the weight of the series’ success doesn’t just sit on Kit’s shoulders. Graydon doesn’t have much to do in the first two episodes but he is a fascinating character, and I am curious to see what lies below the surface.
Dempsey Bryk as Airk Tanthalos plays the honorable charming role quite well, stepping into the shoes of Val Kilmer without issue. Erin Kellyman as Jade Claymore is deeply connected to Kit’s journey, but I am hoping to see her break away on her own.
Amar Chadha-Patel plays Thraxus Boorman, the comedic relief and one of the more exciting characters of the fellowship given his mysterious past as an old sidekick to Madmartigan and prisoner of Tir Asleen.
But the most important role of the series, and the one whose name happens to also be the title of the series, is Warwick Davis as Willow. I only just watched Willow for the first time this week, and it feels like Davis hasn’t missed a beat. That’s maybe the most important feat of these first two episodes. The world not only feels real, but it feels the same. I believe that Willow has become who he is, and I believe the world has changed the way they’ve shown.
It’s not often that shows and actors can return decades later without feeling drastically different. Perhaps it’s Davis’ acting talent or even those behind the scenes bringing life once again to Willow and his story. Either way, the fact that they captured the magic once again speaks volumes to this series already. I cannot wait to see how it unfolds as the series develops.
Another casting highlight that should be mentioned was Annabelle Davis who plays Willow’s daughter Mimms Ufgood. She does an admirable job, and there are some genuinely very sweet moments between her and Warwick Davis’ Willow. And in fact, I think she brings something better to his performance in some scenes, which makes sense as Davis is also her real-life father.
Final thoughts on Willow
Willow still has a long way to go, but it has earned a chance. If you’ve never experienced it, sit down, watch the movie, watch these episodes, and have a good time. It’s got heart, it’s got fantasy, and it’s got comedy. What more could you really ask for? I know I can’t wait to tune in every week to see what Willow and his friends are up to.
Willow’s first two episodes are available on Disney+, with weekly episodes dropping on the streaming service every Wednesday. Have you checked out the series yet? What are your thoughts? Let us know on Twitter and other social media platforms. And if you haven’t already, check out our review on Andor, the other latest Lucasfilm offering on Disney+!