The first season of the Willow series on Disney+ has some not-so-subtle parallels to the Star Wars sequel trilogy, and it’s better for it.
The season begins with a new generation of characters getting started on a quest that begins with them searching for the legendary sorcerer, Willow Ufgood. Sounds a bit like The Force Awakens and the search for Luke Skywalker. Then when they find Willow, they discover an older version of the character who is a bit different, worn down by time and afraid of the harm his failures could do. Sounds a bit like The Last Jedi and Luke’s journey. And the main character is a heroine of promise, the grandchild of an ancient evil, who must embrace her destiny and face off against the enemy. Sounds a bit like The Rise of Skywalker with Rey.
But it’s particularly Warwick Davis’s portrayal of Willow that reminded me of Star Wars, having plenty of parallels to Mark Hamill’s performance of Luke in the sequel trilogy. We see the beloved hero of the previous film, now decades later. In-between, we come to learn that there were mistakes made, and we especially focus on Willow’s doubts about whether he’s really a great sorcerer. That is, in my opinion, the perfect direction to go after the events of the original film, in which Willow’s heroics were rather lucky and hard to repeat. The legend of this great sorcerer has, in the years since, grown far beyond what Willow actually is, so now he’s forced to almost keep up what he thinks is a lie and hopes that no one catches on. He feels like he’s failed his family, and because he was off on some adventure his wife died and his son left. But he can use that as an excuse to not get involved any longer, or train the new generation who can finish what he started, in Elora Danan.
That’s reminiscent of Luke Skywalker’s arc in the sequel trilogy, as we first meet him as a broken old Jedi Master whose failures – particularly with his family – have caused him to give up, but who eventually embraces training the new generation, in Rey. That parallelism was intentional, at least as far as Davis was concerned. He told The Hollywood Reporter back when the show was premiering that it was Hamill’s performance in The Last Jedi that inspired his own in this series.
“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,” Davis said. “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. I’m 52 now. The first time I played the character, I was only 17. So I thought, “Well, let’s not deny the fact that you’re 52. Let’s use that to make this character more interesting, more grounded and more well-rounded as well.” Within this series, the world that we find Willow in is a different one than we last saw him in. He’s quite troubled. He’s had a lot of dark experiences in his own life, so he has to take all that on. And as an actor, I have to add all of that knowledge into the character’s situation and use that to reflect out in my performance.”
And both Willow and The Last Jedi are because of it.