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Willow - The Gales & The High Aldwin - Review

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So it begins, an adventure more than thirty years in the making. If you read my movie review or better yet watched the movie Willow then you have a pretty good idea of the backstory. If you didn't do either then the very begining of the tv series Willow gives you all the basics you need as narrated by Queen Sorsha. Here we go, back to Tir Asleen.

In the opening episode, The Gales, the begining is somewhat slow though it gets the point across pretty well. Our newest chapter begins with Queen Sorsha appearing to epitomize the phrase "heavy is the head that wears the crown." We've learned our future Empress and symbol of peace Elora Danen has been hidden away for fear of coming darkness. Meanwhile Queen Sorsha has traded the dangers of the battefield for the treachery of politics, keeping together a loose alliance of kingdoms waiting for the day of Elora's prophesized return. Sorsha's son Arik, apparently a bit of a disappointment, appears to have more of the Casanova side of his father rather than the warrior side. Her daughter, the headstrong Kit, she plans to marry off to Prince Graydon, a somewhat meek looking Princeling of a nearby kingdom. Sorsha herself is plagued with the knowledge that darkness is coming. Rouding out our cast at the begining is Dove, a young chambermaid who is Arik's love interest of the week and by all accounts is a phenomenal cook. Jade, Kit's secret (sort of) love interest, who desires above all to be a knight to serve the Queen and the realm. And Boorman, a wise cracking mercenary/thief with some allegiance to Queen Sorsha, skill with a cleaver, and an apparent fondness for velvet.

Kit dreams of a life of adventure and of course angered by her mother's choice to marry her off, is about to flee her responsibilities for an adventure beyond The Barrier when Tir Asleen is attacked by dark servants known as The Gales. In the attack Arik is kidnapped. Sorsha grants Kit her wish to explore beyond the barrier protecting the kingdoms and tells her the only way to track Airk's wherabouts is to first find the sorceror Willow. Jade pledges to follow her out of loyalty, Graydon is forced to join by his father (whispering some possible secret to him), and Boorman joins in order to pay off a debt to Sorsha and to be released from prison. O, and there's an aged knight who dies quickly in a somewhat humorous dark note. Last but not least, Dove sneaks along to find her lost love.

The party takes off to the Nelwyn village beyond the barrier... which by the way, why aren't the Nelwyn under protection of the barrier? But I digress, after some adventurous stuff and plot driving moments including finding a dark message at the abandoned barrier gates and getting some interesting interactions between Boorman and a Bone Reaver (Yay! Skull masks are still in fashion), our party reaches Willow. Willow informs them he knows what's going on, Airk has been kidnapped by The Crone. He suddenly stops his explanations and we learn about the truth about Elora Danen. It is revealed that Dove, despite not having curly red hair, is Elora. While I did think it was a little predictable, at least the writers didn't drag it out and it's still a nice little story twist for all of us fans who have been asking for months "What happened to Elora Danen?"

The second episode, The High Aldwin, starts with some more fleshed out back story. We learn that despite Kit implying her father Madmartigan abandoned his family, he may have disappeared on a quest to find a magical artifact with Boorman as his squire. Sorsha meanwhile shielded Elora from all possible harm, including Willow by not allowing him to train Elora for the fight to come which caused a serious rift between them. Willow in the meantime has become the High Aldwin of the Nelwyn, taking on the role played by Billy Barty in the original movie. And like Billy Barty's character he appears to publically be more charlatan than anything else. But hey, even in a fantasy world politicians never change.

After Willow fails to convince Elora to stay and train with him, Willow's daughter tells him the only true way to protect Elora and the Nelwyn is to accompany her on the mission to save Arik. Willow relents when it becomes clear that Elora will not stay and agrees to travel with her on the condition that he can teach her magic. Willow once again bids his family goodbye, which is now just his daughter begging the question of what happened to his wife and son? Sorsha meanwhile, on discovering Elora has disappeared from Tir Asleen dispatches her guard Captain, Commander Ballantine, to return Elora to safety. Unfortunately, she does not know that a wound Ballantine suffered in the attack by The Gales has left him possessed by evil.

On the road, Willow attempts to teach Elora with little to show for it frustrating both. Willow begins to doubt himself and reveals to his aide that his vision of the future was not of Elora saving the world from The Crone, but of Elora's death which may be the only way to save the world from darkness. Elora questions whether she really is the mystical Elora Danen or just the kitchen girl and we find that it is Graydon who tries to encourages her thus giving his character some purpose besides being able to translate. Elora makes a final frustrated attempt to use magic but before she can see the results she's knocked out by a grinning Ballantine and carried off. In the final moments before the credits roll we see Elora's magic has not only worked but has shown she is truly powerful.

So far the show Willow follows the spirit of the movie. It mixes a decent amount of light humor in a fantasy story about good versus evil. Take for instance Amar Chadha-Patel's Boorman who quickly steals the scenes he's in as he evokes the memories of Val Kilmer's Madmartigan with his rough mannerisms, skill with a blade, and short witty comments. And I really want to know about that story about the haberdashery and the velvet. While overall it's been a nice start though not without it's problems.

On the other side of things we have Ruby Cruz's Kit. I came into this show wanting to like her character. While we do get to see her show some badass-ery as a warrior princess right away and one has to cheer her rebellious side at not wanting to married off, she really comes off as little more than a petulant child. Between Kit pouting about Jade leaving her to become a knight and her clear irritation that the former "muffin girl" is going to be Empress, well she just seems more annoying than anything else right away. At least Erin Kellyman's Jade is someone you can find likeable... when you remember her character is part of the show. At least Tony Revolori's Graydon is showing up as useful at key moments though he's also been more in the background so far.

Which brings us, of course, to the two main players on the stage, Ellie Bamber as Elora Danen and Warwick Davis returning as the titular Willow. Bamber and Davis contrast with each other nicely, Bamber as the the eager young apprentice to Davis's tired wise elder. A rocky start for the whole student/apprentice relationship but also with it's own humorous moments and plenty of potential for growth for the two together. In the same fashion as the movie Elora stays a down to earth and likeable character which stands as a stark relief to Kit. Warwick Davis steps back into the role of Willow with great ease. We see the man he once was, still doubting his ability to be a catalyst of change for good in the world. But we also see the hero that he is and the fatherly love he still has for Elora. He still represents the dream standard in most fantasy stories that even the lowliest with a good heart can be a hero.

What I can say about the first two episodes of Willow is above all else it's left me wanting more which is always a good sign for the start of a new series. I look forward to seeing how Elora and Willow will continue to grow and learn together, being amused by Boorman, and hopefully finding a reason to finally like Kit. So tune in Wednesday December 7th to see the story continue.

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