Spoilers for Willow Episode 1’s ending ahead!
One of the most exciting things about Disney+‘s new series Willow is that it’s a fantasy show that doesn’t taunt the audience with its mysteries. By the end of Willow Episode 1, we know who Elora Danan is in the present day. There’s no belabored puzzle for the audience to theorize over. We aren’t teased that Erin Kellyman‘s red-haired warrior Jade is a modern version of the ginger-haired infant Willow (Warwick Davis) and friends protected in the film. We never are led to think Kit (Ruby Cruz) is secretly the child destined to become Empress. We don’t have to wait until the season finale to learn that
Halbrand is Sauron kitchen maid “Dove” (Ellie Bamber) is really Elora Danan.
Let’s back up for a minute. Disney+’s Willow is the long-awaited sequel to the 1988 cult classic film about a magical infant destined to save the world by defeating the evil witch queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). The baby, named Elora Danan, is secreted out of Bavmorda’s castle before the queen can kill her and set adrift down a river. When she is discovered by the children of Nelwyn Willow Ufgood, the aspiring sorcerer embarks on an epic journey to bring the baby to safety. He eventually defeats Bavmorda with a clever trick and it seems all is well. The baby will grow up to become a great sorceress and empress of all the lands.
Because the new Disney+ series is set 20 years after the film, it’s time to meet this grown up version of Elora Danan. We are initially told that no one knows what happened to her. In Episode 2, we’re told that Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) hid her away for her safety and happiness. Elora grew up as Brunhilde, nicknamed Dove, and eventually became a talented kitchen maid in the castle. When she falls hard for Sorsha’s son Airk (Dempsey Bryk), “Dove” is pulled into the quest to save the prince from his evil kidnappers. This is how she eventually crosses paths with Willow and discovers her true identity. At the end of Willow Episode 1.
Yeah, unlike some other major fantasy series — *cough* The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power *cough* —Willow doesn’t wait until the season finale to reveal its biggest bit of casting. “Not us!” Willow showrunner Jonathan Kasdan laughed when Decider asked about this.
“Well, for me so much of the DNA of the show was built into the fact that we thought that the movie suggested a sequel in a way that almost very few things these days do so clearly indicate that,” Kasdan said. “To have a baby at the center of a story like this, to tell us, the audience, that she has this enormous power, that was the story that we felt the movie was promising and that was the story we wanted to tell.”
Elora Danan might not be aware of her true identity, but actress Ellie Bamber told Decider that she knew “towards the beginning” of the casting process that she was in the running to play the legendary character.
“Dove/Elora in the show goes through this incredible journey of self discovery. At the end of Episode 1, there’s this total shock because she just could never, ever conceive that that would ever be her destiny or anything like that,” Bamber said. “Then I think throughout the show she goes on a path of acceptance and figuring out what that means and how she’s going to move forward with that knowledge and how she’s going to help the people around her.”
“Because, you know, I think she has this incredible heart and she always sees people wit a beautiful kind of vision of each person, you know? She sees real good in people. So, I think she immediately wants to help the people around her and she realizes that that is her destiny and that’s what she’s going to have to do.”
Kasdan added that they also wanted to get right to the Elora Danan reveal so they could tell the story of how she would grow into the sorceress she was destined to be. “We loved the idea that she would be not aware of who she was, that we could experience this whole journey with her. But we wanted to get to that journey and we wanted to get there badly. We wanted to get to that meat and bones of what it’s like when she starts to learn sorcery,” Kasdan said.
“The way that Ellie threw herself into that and that character and that fun was inspiring. And when we saw Warwick and Ellie sparring on our sets and in our shattered sea locations [in future episodes], you got a chill. I absolutely looked over at my producer and said, ‘See, this is why we made this thing.’ And he agreed.”
Warwick Davis told Decider that “Ellie did a wonderful job of capturing the kind of innocence and spirit of definitely who [I] thought Elora Danan should be as a character.”
“I mean, she’s got the lovely innocence, the charm that, you know, we saw that baby growing up to have. Also, that kind of specialness about her. You know, Elora is a special kind of character with abilities that are beyond most people’s abilities and they just kind of need to be nurtured out and brought out. Like, Ellie really captured that brilliantly in her performance.”
Elora Danan: baby no more.