Willow – the TV Series

Given that Disney announced they would purge this series from their streaming platform, I figured I should give it a watch while I could. I’m not entirely sure it was time well spent.

Willow, the TV series takes place 20+ years after the events of the movie. Sorsha and Madmartigan have been ruling Tir Asleen all this time. They have two children: a son, named Airk, obviously, and a daughter named Kit. Madmartigan has spent much of his time off adventuring, leaving Sorsha to run the kingdom and raise the kids. While she hasn’t quite turned into her mother, she has become a parent weighed down with responsibility. Meanwhile, Elora Danan, for her own protection, is being raised as a servant girl.

As the story begins, Sorsha has decided that Kit must be married to Graydon, the prince of a neighbouring kingdom. Kit, who takes after her mother, is deeply unhappy about this. Besides, she is in love with an orphan warrior woman called Jade. In the credits, Jade’s last name is given as Claymore, which should tell you who her father was. As the wedding feast begins, the forces of Evil kidnap Airk. Kit, Jade, Graydon and a chap called Boorman who might once have been Madmartigan’s squire, are sent off to rescue him. They are told to find a great sorcerer called Willow who can aid their quest.

So far so good, in that the TV series builds on the film in interesting ways. Warwick Davies and Joanne Whalley reprise their roles, and there’s also a guest appearance by Kevin Pollack as Rool the Brownie. Val Kilmer was unavailable because he’s dealing with throat cancer, but he appears in a few flashbacks from the movie and his son, Jack, provides his ghostly voice in couple of episodes.

If only the series had lived up to the promise. Like the film, it is shot in Wales, so the locations are beautiful. Little else is good. The sound is muddy, as is usual for modern TV drama. Much of the action is shot in low light, presumably as a cost saver. The costume selections are bizarre. The continuity is weird – I’d love to know how Elora managed to dye her hair red and acquire a new denim jacket while trekking through the wilderness. The plot is often cookie-cutter fantasy. And worst of all, it isn’t funny.

By the last couple of episodes (there are 8), the cast have finally settled in to their roles and their story arcs are starting to come to the fore. Also the bad guys have interesting tactics. It is clear from the ending that the writing team have some good ideas for Season 2. And we know that TV series often take a season or so to find their feet.

Unfortunately Disney seems to have decided against continuing it. One of the reasons is probably because of the lesbian relationship between Kit and Jade. In the “making of” documentary, Erin Kellyman, who plays Jade (and who you may remember as Karli Morgenthau in The Falcon and the Winter Solider), makes a big thing about being a lesbian actor playing a lesbian character. There’s also a cameo appearance by a lesbian couple who live in the forest, one of whom is played by Hannah Waddingham.

I won’t shed too many tears. After all, the original film was made in the days when people still thought it was a good idea to let George Lucas make movies. We know better now. But I do worry about what is happening with TV drama these days. It seems like the creative folks are working very hard on limited budgets, and with the ever-present threat of some senior executive ordering them to do something stupid, and then the inevitable sub-par product gets canned. It is no way to run a business, Hollywood.