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Willow On Disney+ Accomplishes Something That Star Wars Keeps Missing

*Contains "Willow" spoilers*

On the gift list of properties Disney could choose from in the Lucasfilm treasure trove following the merger, "Willow" feels like the one that not many people would ask for, if at all. A hybrid of "Star Wars" and "The Lord of the Rings," Ron Howard's George Lucas-produced dip into fantasy holds a place in far fewer hearts than those that would know Ben Kenobi from Bilbo Baggins. But sitting as a cult classic in the same realm as "The Dark Crystal," which also got revisited in television form (before its cancellation), actually works in "Willow's" favor.

The unassuming legacyquel series doesn't have as big a fanbase as the galaxy far, far away and, as a result, can play around with and tweak its limited lore with little risk of upsetting those with love for the Warwick Davis-starring film. Its story and the stars telling it aren't under as bright a spotlight, even going as far as embracing this in its marketing with the cast themselves on Twitter. By doing so, though, this new series, in its first episode, does something that not even "Star Wars" succeeded in its first return to star destroyers, lightsabers, and lots and lots of sand. It just took a real hero-in-hiding to do it.

Elora Danan succeeds to surprise in Willow the way Rey Skywalker couldn't in Star Wars

Like J.J. Abrams' "The Force Awakens," Disney+'s first "Willow" episode spends little time with the hero we hope to see. Instead, time is spent getting to know the younger generation in a world from three decades ago. Every character type makes it on the guest list — the noble knight with the best intentions (Erin Kellyman's Jade), the hero hungry to test her mettle (Ruby Cruz's Kit), and the non-believer rogue that has seen it all (Amar Chadha-Patel's Thraxus). By establishing this new fellowship, it becomes a shock when the last-minute addition Dove turns out to be the prophesied world-saver we met years before — Elora Danan (Ellie Bamber). 

It's a tremendous rug-pulling moment from show creator Jonathan Kasdan and the kind of earned twist Abrams didn't master when it came to Daisy Ridley's stranded loner, Rey. Seeing her catch that lightsaber the first time was great but unsurprising, no matter how much the trailers tried to hide it. In contrast, Dove/Elora's reveal works so well because the teen romance element of her story with the now missing Prince Airk (Dempsey Bryk) works like a cliched cover-up. The show sells the idea that Dove is besotted by love and totally out of her depth so that when the low-level cook is revealed to be the land's savior, it is earned and adds an extra dynamic to an already interesting ensemble.

Willow is setting up some heroes journeys in a hero's journey

As much as it tried through the trilogy revival, the newest chapters of the "Star Wars" movies may have had supporting characters in their own stories, but they were nowhere near as balanced as the original section of the Skywalker Saga. Sure it was Luke's (Mark Hamill) journey, but the blooming love between Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) was just as compelling. They all mattered, which just couldn't be said about the following trilogy, which felt woefully rounded off with "The Rise of Skywalker" with all eyes on Rey and no one else.

While it might unfold in a different format every week, "Willow" is returning to a franchise and providing a perfectly even level of attention to the ones on its journey. Sure, Elora might be attracting much of the focus now she's been revealed, but she's one of many heroes on this quest that are also on the road to discovering themselves. For Kit, it's going against tradition and embracing her love for Jade, while also accepting there may be someone meant for greater things than her. How that will work out has yet to be revealed, but with a dangerous trip to The Shattered Sea and six more episodes to do it in, "Willow" might end up being a force to be reckoned with, after all.