Willow episode 3 review: “The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb”

The third episode of the Disney+ series Willow was released today, titled “The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb.”

It picks up with the hunt for Elora Danan, who has been kidnapped by the hero-turned-villain Ballantine, and in the process we get several moments that feel like very important developments for this series as a whole.

Let’s dive in to our review of the episode, and as always, full spoilers are ahead!

SUMMARY:

The episode begins with Boorman telling Kit the history of the Kymerian Cuirass, an ancient artifact that he and Madmartigan set out to find – and Boorman suggests they did indeed find it. The story is interrupted by the heroes looking for Elora Danan, and they find Ballantine before he can leave with the kidnapped girl. A fight ensues, but Ballantine is able to escape with Elora. The heroes set off in search of her, as a storm begins to gather and the threat deepening. They set off in two directions, with Boorman and Kit heading to an inn, the Slaughtered Lamb, where Boorman and Madmartigan hid the Cuirass.

Elora, however, is able to escape Ballantine and run into a forest. There she encounters two woodswomen, Hubert and Anne. When the women learn who the girl speaking to them really is, they pledge themselves to aid and protect her. Tragically, Hubert is killed by Ballantine trying to fight him off, while Anne is killed by one of Ballantine’s men. Elora is once again taken captive, but far away, Willow seems to suddenly realize where they’re taking her. But Willow confesses to Silas that he can’t use his magic, as he needs to save it and not drain his strength since there is a greater evil looming ahead.

Meanwhile, at the ruins of the inn, Boorman finds the Kymerian Cuirass but doesn’t tell Kit about it. Instead, they face some were-rats. Outside, Elora pretends to use her magic to scare the infected men, and as luck would have it, right on cue Jade, Willow, and the other heroes arrive. A fight ensues, with Jade and Ballantine at the center of it. In the fight, Silas is badly wounded, prompting Willow to use his magic to defeat the infected soldiers. He comforts Silas as his friend dies. Ballantine tells Jade that it’s up to her to must make sure that Elora makes it to the Imemmorial City, as she is the only one the Crone fears. Jade then reluctantly obliges Ballantine’s request to end his suffering, killing him.

The heroes head off in the storm along a treacherous path, and as they do they discover that Grayden has been infected by one of the men. He needs immediate care, and Willow realizes where they are: Nockmaar.

REVIEW:

This feels like a very important installment in the series, one containing some very significant developments, but it all came through an episode with inconsistent pacing and progression.

For a group of heroes in search of the girl on whose shoulders the whole world depends, they sure seemed to take their time going in search of her, and Willow is a strange character right now, seeming to get in the way and slow things down more than anything. Yet perhaps that’s intentional. Because there are many years that have passed since we last saw him, so there should be some differences to his character. Warwick Davis told The Hollywood Reporter that Mark Hamill’s performance in The Last Jedi was the inspiration for his return to the role of Willow: “The one thing I took note of in particular was Mark Hamill returning to Luke Skywalker and how he went about the approach for that. I thought he was really interesting, and it wasn’t the expected approach, certainly. He came at it from quite a different angle, and I also did the same. I noticed that Mark didn’t try to play the character younger. He just leaned into his more mature years, and that’s really what I did as Willow.” Hamill’s portrayal of Luke in The Last Jedi was simply brilliant, and while I’m not sure this version of Willow is quite there yet, I think it’s all very intentional. We’ve seen already in this series, including through the flashbacks, that Willow is haunted by the fear of what will happen. While Luke was haunted by the failure in the past, Willow is haunted by the failure he sees ahead.

But there’s another clue given in this episode as to what’s going on, and it seems significant. The other characters are beginning to doubt Willow’s powers as a great sorcerer, just like in the flashback in episode two Sorsha doubted it as well. But Willow confesses to Silas that he can’t drain his power yet, because he knows there’s a greater evil lying ahead and that he needs to be ready for that. He says that he must remain level-headed and not let his emotions get control of it. Yet later in the episode, it’s precisely his emotional reaction that taps into his magic and defeats the enemy, in response to Silas’s mortal wounding. It’s a demonstration to all those present that this sorcerer is more than meets the eye, but could it also have drained Willow of some power that he’ll need later? Perhaps, like Luke Skywalker, Willow’s greatest impact will not come by overthrowing the enemy himself but by rallying, training, and protecting the others who will actually do it.

Because Willow isn’t the only one in this episode to seemingly win over some doubters: Elora Danan is a major focus here, and we see both her and the others come to a deeper understanding of her true nature. That starts near the beginning of the episode, when Kit stumbles upon the spell that Elora was trying to cast, now seeing a budding tree, and begrudgingly realizes that perhaps this really is the promised empress. Yet the biggest person who needs convincing in this episode isn’t Kit; it’s Elora. She’s trying to figure out who she really is, and that happens through her conversation with the woodswomen. The conversation feels a bit odd and out of place in the episode, but in the end we realize the importance of the interaction: as these two women are told Elora’s story, and shown the mark to prove it, they pledge their allegiance to her. They know that the empress will need an army to win the day, and they pledge to follow her even unto their deaths. Tragically, that event would happen mere moments later, and Ballantine tells Elora it’s her fault they’re dead.

But while Elora has to come to process that, she’s also learned a crucial truth through the encounter with Hubert and Anne: people will follow her. And it wasn’t because of her magical powers, but because of her mere presence. With Elora in front of them, these two women became committed to serve her and fight for the cause, even unto death. We know that Elora does have magical abilities, but maybe her greatest strength doesn’t lie in her own abilities but in her ability to inspire others to rise up against evil. That’s seen in her attempt to startle the infected men with her magic. They’ve seen the heroes’ horses and wonder if it’s a trap, and Elora decides to use that; Ballantine previously had said that her weakness was her ignorance of her surroundings, but now she uses it to her advantage, trusting that her friends really are nearby and waiting. Fortunately for her, it’s true, but it’s a sign of her beginning to come to terms with her true identity.

After all, this is a young girl whose reputation far proceeds her, and whose very name manages to spark the kind of courage and hope that can rally a nation to fight and survive. She can be a great sorcerer, yes, but maybe the greatest need is for her to spur on her friends – just like Willow did. Those friends aren’t all fully committed to her and the cause, but their mission is now resolutely clear: they must get Elora to the Immemorial City. The enemy’s power is growing, but Elora Danan has emerged onto the scene.

But that cause is not without difficulty. Silas is dead, and it could reasonably be said that Willow is to blame (for waiting and not getting involved until it’s too late). The woodswomen are dead, and it could reasonably be said that Elora is to blame. And even though Ballantine was turned evil by the Crone, his death is still tragic, as Jade must kill her mentor. There is much loss, and the episode doesn’t exactly end on a higher note, because now Graydon seems to have been infected. They must get him help, and it just so happens that they’re right by Nockmaar, the headquarters of the evil queen Bavmorda (Kit’s grandmother) and the site of the battle where she, trying to rid the world of a baby Elora, was defeated. That will surely lead to some interesting developments in next week’s episode.

There’s one more thing worth noting from this week, however, and it’s the situation with Boorman and the Kymerian Cuirass. There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding Boorman and his true history and intentions, as he even admits to Kit that he hasn’t been telling the whole truth. He does find the Cuirass – so he wasn’t lying about that – but he doesn’t tell Kit about it, which is curious. Plus, the fact that he was imprisoned when we first met him suggests that his adventure with Madmartigan wasn’t as wholesome as he suggests. It feels like a very important development that Boorman now has this Cuirass, and there’s a mystery pertaining to what his true intentions are with all of this.

Overall, then, this episode was filled with plenty of significant developments, even though I thought it failed to hit the same highs that the first two episodes did. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it; it was a good episode, and these new characters just continued to absolutely shine. They’re the best part of this series, by far, and it’s a joy to see the development with them. I can’t wait to see where this series continues to go.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s