Harry, Buffy, Kal-El, Lyra, Aang, Jon, Neo, Anakin: I think we can agree that the “Chosen One” trope has been overdone across pop culture.
And yet, fantasy and science-fiction enthusiasts can’t get enough of stories featuring a messianic underdog saving the day — or a prophesied and legendary figure that’s built to tear everything down, à la The Lord of The Rings’ Sauron.
Willow, Disney+ and Lucasfilm’s latest original series based on the ‘80s cult fantasy flick of the same name, is no exception to the long-running Chosen One trend. But unlike previous outputs, Willow offers a fresh twist to the trite narrative device.
Major spoilers ahead for Willow the series on Disney+
Willow (2022) picks up about 20 years after the events of the film it is based on. Willow (1988) begins with the birth of Elora Danan, a baby with a rune birthmark who is prophesied to take down the evil sorceress Queen Bavmorda of Nockmaar, and become the next princess of Tir Asleen. When Elora is smuggled out of the castle and set adrift on a river raft to escape Bavmorda’s massacre of all newborns, she is found by aspiring sorcerer and humble farmer Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis), a little person from the village of Nelwyn. With the help of various unlikely friends — Bavmorda’s daughter, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), and Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) — Willow is able to boot Tir Asleen’s tyrant and leave Elora in the care of Madmartigan and Queen Sorsha. It’s the end of darkness in Willow’s world... Or so we thought.
The “Chosen One” of the Mother World, the messianic, red-headed sorceress Elora Danan is an integral ingredient in the spell (so to speak) that’ll rid Bavmorda’s stain for good. By the middle of Episode 1, it becomes apparent that not only is Elora’s identity reveal of the upmost importance in order to save Prince Airk (Dempsey Bryk) from uncertain doom, but also the aid of Willow Ufgood and friends, old and new to the franchise.
Willow the series could have spent episodes — or even seasons — teasing who among the adventurous rescue party was Elora Danan hiding in plain sight. But instead, Willow went ahead and fast-forwarded through the tedious “Chosen One” drama, and got straight to the point: by the end of Episode 1, we know that “Dove” (Ellie Bamber), Airk’s flavor of the week and a kitchen maid at Tir Asleen’s castle, is actually Elora.
Though this journalist has, admittedly, seen seven episodes into Willow’s future and knows the exact answer to this, it can already be ascertained by the end of Episode 1 that the “Chosen One” question won’t be keeping fans up at night, frantically coming up with conspiracy theories on who the show’s ultimate savior (or downfall) will be. This is an astronomical departure from this year’s other bigger fantasy outputs, House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power — the former still has people guessing if there’s another “Prince That Was Promised” in Game of Thrones lore, while the latter had viewers pulling their hairs out trying to guess who among the ensemble cast was the dark lord Sauron.
While some watchers may have found this riddle-solving component of Amazon Prime’s The Rings of Power, a prequel to the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, exciting, others found it to be a distraction from more pressing matters that were slung to the background to make space for Sauron speculation: the relationships between the Southlands Men and the Elves, the Orcs and Adar, the Númenóreans’ Faithful and not faithful factions, and the Dwarves and Elves, received far less spotlight than the Sauron guessing game.
By the end of Season 1, in the final minutes of its eighth episode, we’re finally told that Sauron was Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), the dashing rogue that Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) had convinced herself was a prophesied king. Once this story’s biggest secret was finally divulged, Season 2 no longer had the same lustrous sheen of anticipation.
Had The Rings of Power not been so fixated on amassing the hype for Sauron’s unmasking, perhaps other developments throughout its first season could have been given more room to become as titillating as the “Chosen One” detective work.
In this way, Willow outperforms The Rings of Power. Sure, it may not be considered as “highbrow” fantasy, nor is it as visually breathtaking or as compellingly written, but at least the show now has seven more episodes to make viewers care more about the Elora Danan disclosure. Each of the leads in Willow is equal parts fascinating, with inner turmoils and muddled backgrounds that begin to be detangled throughout the show’s run.
Elora’s past, present, and future as the “Chosen One” of the Mother World, destined to unite all its realms, is crucial for the audience to familiarize themselves with, but she’s not the only character worth drawing all of our attention on. Since Frodo, the Lord of the Rings’ conclusive champion, isn’t set to make an appearance at all during the events of the prequel series, the same can’t be said about The Rings of Power. We’ve got Sauron, our story’s spawn of Satan. Now what?
Willow Episodes 1-2 are streaming now on Disney+