The penultimate episode of Willow premiered yesterday, and though my review is a day late since we got new Star Wars on the same day, it was one of the strongest episodes of the season yet, setting up what figures to be an epic finale next week.
Even the title of the episode conveys that we’re nearing the endgame: “Beyond the Shattered Sea.” In the first episode, Willow said that they needed to travel beyond the Shattered Sea to the Immemorial City, so the title suggests that our heroes are getting very close to their mission. But before they get there, we must set the characters up for it, and it leads to some fantastic moments in this one.
Let’s dive in to our review, and as always, full spoilers are ahead!
In the Immemorial City, Arik talks with the strange young woman he met last week, but he’s interrupted by Kit and he dives into the pool to rescue her. Back underneath Skellin, Kit sinks further while almost touching Arik, but Elora uses magic to rescue her. The heroes make their way out of Skellin and reach the Shattered Sea. Needing to stop to allow Kit to rest, they find an old man living in an old shack. It provides a brief respite, but the Gales are soon upon them. They take off across the sea on a raft, pulled by a mudmander, but the Crone pursues them. The good guys fight them off, thanks to some nifty magic by Graydon, but not before Elora sees a vision shown to her by the Crone.
Driven by this, she determines to train with Willow. A training montage follows, with Elora training in magic (alongside both Willow and Graydon) and Kit and Jade sparring in swordfighting (after which Kit confesses her love for Jade), all while they continue across the sea. Arik, meanwhile, is in more danger than he realized, and he comes to learn that this young woman is actually the one who brought him there. He refuses to join her, but eventually comes crawling back, desperate for water, and says he’ll do whatever she wants.
The heroes are also in a precarious spot. Willow sees a vision of his daughter, Mim, in trouble, and he wants to leave and go back to help her. Boorman tries the lex arcana, but it doesn’t work. Kit and Elora have a heart-to-heart about Madmartigan, fears, and dreams. And Graydon lets the mudmander go, to save him. Elora says they must walk, so they do… until they come to the edge of a waterfall, seemingly having reached the edge of the world. Everyone else wants to turn back, but Elora can’t believe it. She comes clean, saying it wasn’t supposed to end this way – as it was instead supposed to end with her dead after facing the Crone. That’s why Sorsha didn’t want Willow training her, and Willow confesses that he thought he could save her but isn’t strong enough.
But just when all hope seems lost, Kit is the one to speak up. She tells Elora that she’s never believed in anything – but she believes in her. They know what they must do, and the two of them embrace and plunge over the waterfall together, as the others look on in shock. Surviving the fall, Elora and Kit see the Immemorial City in view. They enter the city together, and there they find Arik – though he looks far different than when they last saw him. It’s not a good sign.
I found this to be one of the strongest episodes of the season, and it might just be my favorite of them all. Sure, there’s a sense in which their season-long journey toward the Immemorial City continues to just stretch on rather incrementally, but while this episode is setting the stage for the finale, it’s more focused on setting up the characters for the finale. Contrast these characters with where we found them at the beginning of the season and it becomes obvious how much growth has happened.
The episode contains some significant revelations. Lucasfilm mainstay Julian Glover showed up as the strange old man, marking the third different franchise for the company he’s appeared in. Graydon can do magic now, apparently. And we learn what happened to the rest of Willow’s family: he was off on another adventure when his wife needed him, and she died… and in the wake of that, his son left. Now his daughter is all he has left, and he can’t let her down. Willow continues to be a broken hero, one who carries around the weight of expectations and the failure to live up to them, but that doesn’t need to be the end of his story. He can choose to keep going, to be better, to embrace the legend and bring a spark of hope.
But the biggest development of this episode happened with the relationship between Elora and Kit, which is something the whole season has been leading up to. In many ways they are the two most prominent leads of this ensemble cast, the child of promise and the princess. Their relationship has been uneasy, to say the least, and Kit has been filled with jealousy and anger toward Elora. But Elora’s belief in her, and her actions in saving Kit from the waters, begin to change things. Kit comes clean to Elora, confessing that she’s been jealous and that nothing comes easy for her. Elora, in turn, tells her that Madmartigan surely loved her deeply. We’ve seen Kit come through her darkest moments, but soon we see Elora reach hers. In despair over the journey seemingly ending, and letting the others in on the secret that she knows she’s heading to her death, Elora is greatly troubled. And, in a beautiful moment, it’s Kit who goes to her. It’s Kit who tells Elora that she believes in her. And it’s Kit who journeys with Elora beyond the edge of the known world, over the waterfall, and to the Immemorial City.
It’s no coincidence that it’s these two young heroines, all alone, who march into the city to rescue Arik. It’s been the two of them driving the search for the lost prince, and it’s been the two of them who have the uneasiest relationship. But it’s also the two of them who come to embrace their shared destiny, to trust one another, in many ways to save one another, and no matte what lies ahead, they’ll face it together. Surely the others will be joining them, but it’s an intentional moment to end this episode with it being just the two of them. It marks a completion of the arc that began all the way back in episode one, and we’ve seen them grow all the way up to this point such that it feels greatly satisfying.
Ruby Cruz explained the growth seen by Kit that leads to this point, telling Entertainment Weekly:
“It took her losing all faith and all hope, in the world and in herself, at the end of 6. This person, [Elora], who she thought she knew everything about defied all odds and saved Kit when she thought she was going to die. That really shook everything into perspective. In the beginning she has such a strong idea of who she is and who she’s going to be and how she’s going to go out and have this big adventure like her father. Everything is not how she expected it to be. She’s very selfish in the beginning, and she finally accepts that it isn’t all about her and that her purpose is to protect Elora like her father wanted. She’s seen over and over again how her faith in Elora and Elora’s faith in her have ended up really helping each other. She finally accepts that.”
And with her finally accepting that, we’re all set for a finale that promises to be epic. They’ve reached their destination and found Arik, but he seems to be under the control of the Crone (because, as I suspected, this young woman is probably actually the Crone in disguise). And looming over the coming encounter – an encounter that fans of Willow have been waiting three decades to see – is the ominous vision that in order for them to win, Elora must die. What will come of that? We’ll find out next week.
But in the meantime, the heroes need to be prepared for the fight of their lives, and that led to an awesome training montage in this episode. It was complete with some beautiful visuals, especially accompanying the magic used by Willow and Elora as they dueled one another. This show looks great, and this episode that was especially true. The cinematography and effects are superb, the music fits really, the performances continue to be strong, and the development of these characters leads to some truly satisfying moments. I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up next week.