“The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb” leans effectively into humor, but it also raises the stakes surprisingly well and teases a much wider world still to explore.
This recap of Willow season 1, episode 3, “The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb”, contains spoilers.
When you revive an old cult franchise like Willow, it’s always going to be a balance between old and new. Years have elapsed both in reality and within the show’s fiction, actors have aged out of roles, the story needs to be continued in a way that feels logical, and so on, and so forth. These things aren’t easy to do, and while Willow hasn’t been perfect in all aspects, it has managed to more or less feel like a worthwhile and sensible continuation.
The return of Warwick Davis has helped, obviously, and Joanne Whalley’s presence in the premiere was a nice bit of connective tissue to graft new characters like Kit and Airk onto the old setting and story. The Elora Danan reveal was also fun, if a little predictable. But one absence has been felt especially strongly, that of Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan, at least in part because the way he has been referenced thus far suggests that his whereabouts are building to a cameo or plot point.
Willow season 1, episode 3 recap
In “The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb”, we learn that Madmartigan had a kind of swashbuckling relationship with Boorman and that the latter is convinced of his demise despite not having seen it first-hand (in fantasy stories no death counts unless it happens on-screen.) His disappearance relates to a magical cuirass that Boorman tells Kit about, and that will surely come up again later. And while Boorman is adamant that we won’t see Madmartigan, I think the likelihood is that we probably will.
Anyway, you’ll recall that the double-bill premiere ended with Elora being kidnapped by Ballantine, and after a bit of a kerfuffle here she finds herself alone in the woods, where she makes a couple of allies in Anne and Hubert, ladies of the forest with thick regional English accents. These two are unashamedly comic relief characters, but they also fulfill an important function in two other respects: 1) they highlight how meaningful the name Elora Danan is to the ordinary folks of Tir Asleen, since as soon as they learn who Elora is they immediately pledge their unswerving allegiance to her, and 2) they get killed off by Ballantine and his goons to raise the stakes and give Elora something else to feel guilty about, which is obviously going to be central to her arc throughout the season.
Speaking of arcs, Willow’s really comes to the fore here too. Thus far, it has been difficult to see what the High Aldwyn of the Nelwyn had to offer beyond exposition and plot-convenient visions. Stuff like “the finger trick” made him seem like… well, a bit of a grifter, while flashbacks to Sorsha telling him he’ll never be a great sorcerer, and his fruitless attempts at teaching Elora to control her magic, have hardly created the impression of a fearsome mage. His “distraction” at the top of the episode is actually what leads to Elora being alone in the first place since, by the time the smoke clears, she has already been taken.
But through snippets of dialogue, we see that Willow is scared. Unlike the others, he has some sense of the journey and the fight ahead, and he knows that he’ll need all his strength for that. He’s deliberately trying not to use magic, for fear of running out before he needs it the most.
In the titular “Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb”, though, Willow finds himself in the midst of a losing fight and sees his best friend, Silas, take a fatal blow, so he loses it and murks Ballantine’s entire squad with one almighty spell. The evil is forcibly wrenched from the soldiers, leaving Ballantine uncorrupted for his final farewell to Jade, who is forced to put him out of his misery in a sad scene.
That’s, like, three deaths, two of them pretty significant, in the space of one episode, which shows Willow isn’t pulling its punches in some respects. This episode also has a lot of effective humor; I found it much funnier than the first two installments, perhaps because we’re a little more familiar with the characters now and the script isn’t having to introduce so many people and plot elements. Hopefully, that persists as the journey continues. And perhaps we’ll see Madmartigan sooner rather than later.
You can stream Willow season 1, episode 3, “The Battle of the Slaughtered Lamb”, exclusively on Disney+.