*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for episode three of Willow*
With a title like The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb, you’d think Willow would finally deliver on the action. Alas, they don’t. Yet again, the action sequences are the weakest part of the episode, shrouded in murky fog, clunky editing, and shoddy visual effects. When Willow (Warwick Davis) finally uses his magic, this would theoretically be where the audience goes nuts because the show has been logically building up toward that scene. Unfortunately, it falls flat, not because of Warwick Davis’ emotional performance but due to the lack of clear visual language.
Shooting on location does help; the landscapes feel lush, vivid, and authentic. However, with Andor and Willow, Lucasfilm should genuinely go back to the basics of filmmaking to create an epic sense of scope and scale, compared to Jon Favreau’s work with The Mandalorian. That’s not to say that The Volume is terrible, and it was beneficial for films like The Batman, where the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from shooting in suitable locations, but nothing beats the real thing.
What I especially enjoyed about this episode was how Jade (Erin Kellyman) reacts when she sees a possessed version of Commander Ballantine (Ralph Ineson), her best friend and mentor. He has been corrupted by dark magic and slowly transforms into a Zombie-like creature. Ineson’s performance is terrifying enough, but when Jade is forced to kill him during the episode’s climactic battle, the emotional tension runs at its highest. After Willow uses his magic to disassociate the infection from Ballantine’s body, he knows that he has been thoroughly corrupted and will never return to his usual self. So he asks Jade to kill her as a final request.
That means Ineson is out of the picture, which is a shame because he is a genuinely talented actor, and his character was one of the most compelling. Still, he had a lasting impact on the show, and the repercussions from that battle will likely fall into Jade in the next episode. She may even be haunted by what she has done.
As for Elora Danan (Ellie Bamber), let’s say she hasn’t perfected her magic. After escaping the clutches of Ballantine, she meets Hubert (Hannah Waddingham), and you can already tell she will not last long. It’s excellent that Waddingham appears in an extended cameo, but I feel her role is as wasted as it was at the beginning of Hocus Pocus 2, where she seemed to give a lesson or two to the Sanderson Sisters and then dip until the end. There may be more cameos that the show has kept hidden from his marketing materials, and Waddingham could be the first of many.
Her presence was a welcomed change of pace for the show, but, unfortunately, her arc ends in a rather gratuitously abrupt way, as she is slain by Ballantine, having believed that she killed him with her axe. Sorry, but you cannot kill the undead (or, in this case, the possessed) unless you go for the head. That’s always how it works.
Even if Bamber performs well, I’m still not a fan of Elora’s arc. I can’t fault her for the screenwriting inconsistencies, but her arc is riddled with clichés. I’ll be surprised if the show ends differently than I had imagined because it feels written in the stars. The action scenes are about the weakest part of the show and make it falter so that it won’t be able to recover fully, even if the show itself moves at a breezy pace, going from one setpiece to the next.
At the end of the battle, Graydon (Tony Revolori) is infected by what cursed Ballantine, and Silas (Graham Hughes) tragically dies. It puts the heroes in a precarious position as they head to their next chapter in Nockmaar. Time will tell what will occur then or if Graydon will become the show’s primary antagonist, helping The Gales succeed by taking over Tir Asleen and Galladoorn. One thing’s for sure; Willow seems to rely heavily on Elora, as he can’t do magic the way he used to. But that could be problematic since she has not learned anything meaningful in battle, though we do know that, in fantasy films, the most potent magical spells usually arise at moments when the characters are in an impossible situation, which looks to be the case now…let’s wait and see.
The third episode of Willow is now available to stream on Disney+.