The Season 1 finale of Willow, "Children of the Wyrm," closed out with a huge sorceress battle between Elora (Ellie Bamber) and the Crone (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers); Kit (Ruby Cruz) finding her purpose via the magical voice of her father, Madmartigan (Jack Kilmer); and the gutting "loss" of a core character. There were magic lasers, tears, twists and a cliffhanger that opens the door for some very specific stories to pursue.
SYFY WIRE spoke with executive producer/showrunner Jonathan Kasdan today to grill him about some very specific story turns that will test our patience until Disney+ announces if the series will be picked up for a hopeful Volume II and Volume III.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers below for Willow Season 1!**
First up, as a fan of the Willow mythology since you saw the movie as a kid, what was the most personally satisfying thing that you got to bring to life in Season 1 of Willow the series?
I think that the idea for me from the very get-go, and from seeing the movie as a kid, was that I thought it suggested very clearly that Willow was going to have to train this kid in magic. I thought it was beautifully set up by George [Lucas] and Ron [Howard]. And that was really the thing I wanted to see happen. So the training montage in Episode 7 is really the cathartic moment for me of just realizing exactly what I hoped this could be.
Well, you certainly one-up that in "Children of the Wyrm" with Elora and the Crone going at it with green and red magic battles.
We were ambitious in what we wanted. There's a lot of things you want to do that you can't. There's a lot of things you get to do that you didn't think you could. What we wanted was an incredibly visual and satisfying battle in the end; one that felt like the meat and potatoes of a franchise like this and that we were delivering on the promise of the movie, and of the posters, and of everything, you know?
And that [battle] was a hard fought sequence to make because we shot it outside in the middle of November. Ellie is the toughest person I've ever met; the Lee Marvin of sorceresses. [Laughs.] She was just so game and ready to go. I worried she was gonna get hypothermia out there. And she's like, "Can I do one more take?" There was nothing but energy and sort of exhilaration in the making of it. And then following it, you get a year of the visual effects side which is fun and satisfying. But the most satisfying moment of that final battle is that Ellie was doing all this ridiculous stuff and she had total faith in me, and in the operation, that it wouldn't look ridiculous when it finally aired. So getting her to see the show and see that this is really cool — even as recently as this week, where she's seeing pictures of Elora online with the magic going between her hands — that's very satisfying and makes me smile.
You cast Val Kilmer's son, Jack, as Madmartigan's voice twice this season, including the season finale. He voiced his dad in the documentary Val (2022). Did that inspire your casting of him?
Yes. We were looking for a way to do it. The documentary came out right at the moment when we were shooting Episode 6. We were considering this idea, and it was a revelatory moment. They really successfully captured Val's voice and spirit in Jack's performance. And Jack is one of the loveliest people in the world. He was someone I had met before and knew because Joanne is his mother. It just felt so natural that he would fit into this thing. It was lovely.
Let's talk about the ending to "Children of the Wyrm," because it does have closure, but then also has a jaw-dropping epilogue that feels like a traditional cliffhanger. Was that always the case, or is the ending more of a compromise to give audiences both in case there is no series pick-up?
It's something I worked through a lot of because my natural inclination, frankly, is to go much further and to leave things much more unresolved. I debated a lot with my producers, Michelle Rejwan and Max Taylor, about just how far we could go in terms of not satisfying the audience. I wanted to leave them so unsatisfied that they would march on the building. [Laughs.] Max and Michelle, as my right brain and sort of conscience, were like, "You need to provide some conclusion to this story that feels meaningful and satisfying and doesn't leave the audience totally like, "What?" Then the argument they made to me, and I think it's a good one, is you don't want people thinking that they're streaming just cut out at some point. [Laughs.] And that was compelling to me because I would have gone just that far in terms of leaving it open-ended. My instinct with these stories is that once you build out these characters, you want the promise of more. As excruciating as it can often be to wait a year for a season of like Game of Thrones, that's part of the pleasure when it finally does come back.
In that epilogue, Graydon (Tony Revolori) wakes up but he's in some liminal place where Dark Elora tries to compel him to join her side. Is that a manifestation of Graydon's own inner darkness as a burgeoning sorcerer, or a manifestation of the wyrm's realm?
It's a statement of the wyrm's intention. It's a future that the wyrm can see happening, and can make happen. It's sort of promising Graydon this could be his future if he allies with these dark forces. One of the reasons that I'm so gratified by the reaction to [Graydon/Elora] is that I relate so strongly to Graydon. I relate to Elora as well, but Graydon certainly. To see people want those characters together and root for them, it's very personal and moving. And a testament really to Tony in a huge way. He brings so much pathos, originality, humor and relatability to that very complicated character. To see people really care, it's satisfying. And it feels like it has enormous potential to continue on.
Should we assume Graydon is dead and to be resurrected?
Well, I think an answer to that is forthcoming. Wherever that space is that the wedding and the wyrm's psychic powers embrace you and envelop you, that is where he is, very much so. Hopefully we'll see him again.
A lot of viewers were really feeling the vibe of a Dark Elora, almost like it could be the Dark Rey storyline Star Wars didn't give them?
I feel the same way. It's been forefront in all of our minds that one of the things that Star Wars has never gotten the chance to do quite to the extent that I would like to see it — and it's possible that they will this very year do this — but explore why the dark side is so irresistible to so many people. And that's something we really wanted to talk about and delve into in our world.
You have Willow Volume II and Volume III on a bookshelf as the last shot of the season. Where does a pick-up order stand right now?
I don't know. It's funny because we went into the holiday and the moment right before the show premiered, there was seismic change at Disney. The only thing I'm absolutely certain of is that I'm not at the top of the list of Bob Iger's concerns right at the moment. We're continuing to get ready and be ready for Season 2. These things take a long time to write. We'll be going at it until someone tells us not to. Hopefully, we'll be giving you more. And the one thing I would add is that I think that Disney understands that audiences, while they will be patient for a little while, don't want to wait forever for these stories.
Season 1 of Willow is available exclusively on Disney+.
Looking for more fantasy adventures? Stream the Harry Potter films on Peacock.