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What the 'Willow' Premiere Reveal Means For the Season Ahead

A very special 'Willow' character is all grown up in the new series and once again playing a major role opposite the title character.

Lauren Piester
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Ellie Bamber in 'Willow'

Disney+

Warning: This story contains spoilers for the series premiere of Willow. Read at your own risk!


Thirty-four years after first debuting to mixed reviews, Willow has returned for what promises to be quite the adventure. 

The 1988 movie followed an aspiring sorcerer named Willow (Warwick Davis) who found a baby floating in a river and learned that the baby, named Elora, was prophesied to defeat the evil sorceress Bavmorda, which is why Bavmorda was trying to kill her. Willow and his family protected the baby, and the movie ended with Bavmorda accidentally banishing herself while the baby was protected and hidden until she would someday grow up and accept her destiny. 

Writer Jonathan Kasdan saw that ending as a jumping off point for a bigger story, which is how we ended up with the reveal at the end of the Willow series premiere.

A nameless kitchen maid (played by Ellie Bamber) learns that she's actually a way bigger deal than she ever imagined she might be. That's right, she is Elora, all grown up, and she now has a very big job ahead of her, beyond just trying to rescue her boyfriend, like she thought she was doing. As Kasdan tells Metacritic, "You sort of presume that she's going to rule the whole world." 

The series introduces Elora as a beautiful blonde kitchen maid who has fallen in love with Airk (Dempsey Bryk), a prince and the son of Sorsha (Joanne Whalley). Airk has a bit of a reputation as a f---boy, so even she (who he calls Dove) barely believes him when he says he loves her and wants to be with her forever. Then, just as Airk's sister Kit (Ruby Cruz) is being forced to marry Prince Graydon (Tony Revolori), bad guys arrive and kidnap Airk, which launches a quest to save him. "Dove" refuses to stay behind, and joins the quest alongside Kit, Graydon, warrior Jade (Erin Kellyman), and reformed thief Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel). The first task of the quest is to find the sorcerer Willow, who immediately spots grown Elora. 

Bamber tells Metacritic that Elora/Dove is an "unlikely hero, for sure." 

"She's not sure that she wants to even accept this truth for a long while. She doesn't totally believe in herself," Bamber explains. "She is fumbling and trying to find a way through, like most of us within life, I think. It grounds her, but I think she's an incredibly grounded individual to begin with, just because she's a kitchen maid in a castle. So, to then have this put on her shoulders is a huge amount of pressure, but I think throughout the series, she really rises to that test and comes into her own and becomes a strong, powerful kind of woman." 

The story of a random nobody learning they're destined to save the world is not a new kind of story — especially in the world of Lucasfilm — and Kasdan says this version is "not that different" from what has come before. But that doesn't mean there's not a new story to tell here. 

"What I hope with Willow is that the fact of it being a series allows us to explore some of the complexities of [those archetypes] in a way that perhaps other things don't get to do," he says. "I've always thought a great joy of these conflicts, of dark versus light, is that there'd be an opportunity to really explore the dark. And with this story, I think we have that opportunity, and we're trying to figure out how to continue it." 

But the show is not called Elora. It's called Willow, and Davis is still its star. Kasdan says Willow's journey was an "intuitive" part of putting this story together as a series because Willow reminds him of some of the greatest filmmakers in the industry. 

"Here was Willow, who was this incredibly brave, incredibly virtuous guy, but not a particularly good sorcerer. He wasn't even a really good street magician. He could barely do the illusions. He had one illusion, and that barely worked the first time he tried it. So, I loved the idea that he had this huge victory, and then we come into the story 20 years later and that victory — that success — would define him. And for me, that story seemed to resonate, because I grew up around filmmakers and known filmmakers who are defined by both their successes and their failures, and it's the failures they most want to talk about and think about, and it's the successes that bounce off of them with little acknowledgement," he explains. "Seeing someone I could equate with those filmmaker wizards I grew up with, who was struggling with their legacy and their reputation, felt like a great opportunity. And on the flip side of it, having Elora be this person who's told she's going to be great but doesn't believe it felt like an equally great match. There's something very symmetrical about those two characters being forced to work together to get somewhere great." 

Elora and Willow are, of course, not the only adventurers on this quest to rescue Airk, though. Here, the cast fills Metacritic in on what to expect from their journeys across the rest of the series, including that budding romance between two best friends. 


Kit and Jade 

The romantic vibes are obvious with these two gal pals from the first present-day scene of the series, so it's no surprise when Kit shuns the prince she's supposed to marry and gets upset when Jade tells her she's leaving to become a knight. Then, just in case you thought this was going to be a slow burn, they share a kiss in Episode 1, right after Kit declares that she's leaving to figure out what it is she's looking for in life. Kit's plans are dashed as soon as the castle is attacked and her brother is kidnapped, but the sentiment remains, and their shared adventure means there is time for this relationship to fully play out. 

"This was a really cool opportunity to represent friendships and queerness in an authentic and real way," Cruz says. "That can get complicated and that can get confusing, and Jade and Kit have this incredible connection and they mean so much to each other, and it was really cool to get to build that relationship with Erin." 

Kellyman says she wants to keep their budding relationship a surprise for the audience. "I think it's something so special and so beautiful, and me and Ruby worked really hard on creating this realistic dynamic between the two characters." 

While their love is part of their story, they also each have to figure out who they are individually. Kit, as the daughter of royalty, is looking for her destiny, while Jade already thinks she has hers figured out. 

"Jade starts off pretty focused," Kellyman says. "She remains focused throughout, but she's very focused and honed in on becoming a knight. She's trained her entire life to become this. I think she thinks that's her only option and she's quite happy there, though she suppresses a lot of her emotions and her feelings." 


Airk 

While Kit longs for adventure and a life outside of the castle, Airk is pretty unbothered by his status as a prince. He's unbothered by most things, until Dove tells him she doesn't believe he's really committing to her. 

"Airk is very light-hearted," Bryk says. "He's an optimist. Everything feels okay. He's gonna be okay, even if it's denial. He's very much a romantic. I don't know if Kit feels like everything's OK." 

"There's a lot to not be OK about!" Cruz adds, which is an understatement. 

By the end of the premiere, Airk's been kidnapped, and his sister and girlfriend have to go on a dangerous journey to save him. But even while he's been kidnapped, Airk still has some time to go on his own journey of self discovery. 

"Sometimes as children, what you are is a reaction to your parents," he says. "I think that's where it's always interesting to go at this pivotal point in coming of age is finding who you are genuinely, not as a reaction, but as an individual." 


Graydon and Boorman

Graydon and Boorman are two opposite outliers in the group. Graydon is a studious, bookish prince who just got out of marrying a girl he barely knows, and Boorman is an experienced thief and swordsman who is only on this trip to get himself out of prison. They start as archetypes, but end the season as very different men. 

Chadha-Patel says Boorman starts as the kind of thief we're "all quite familiar with, and he has fun doing it." 

"He goes on a real journey of self-reflection by the end, and that is really a satisfying arc for him and all the characters," he continues. "They're all flawed and figuring out who they are and where they're going. That's the real world. It's just a big reflective lens, but with magic and swords." 

Meanwhile, Revolori says Graydon's journey is more about "self-forgiveness, and moving through past trauma." 

He also relates to Elora in more ways than you might expect. 

"Of all the characters in the show, hers and mine are the most similar and have similar emotional journeys," Revolori says. "Graydon doesn't really believe in himself and believe that he can be anything more than what his past has taught him. He really has to go on a journey of being okay with who he is as a human being. I think that's why [he and Elora] get along. They both might not be the most physically strong individuals, but they have resourcefulness and knowledge and just a lot of emotional awareness. That's something that you don't usually see in a ragtag group like this, and I think the others learn from that." 


Willow streams new episodes Wednesdays

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