The first episode of The Owl House’s final season doesn’t hold back against the audience. Within its extended 45-minute runtime, the episode manages to balance character growth, adventure, and heartbreak while simultaneously providing animation and storytelling that exceeds the standards of what Disney seems to aim for.
Let’s go face some teen angst!
Season three of The Owl House starts its first episode off immediately with a bang. Near literally. Following the dramatic, traumatic, and gut-wrenching end of season two, we watch as our main cast of friends—Luz Noceda (Sarah Nicole Robles), Amity Blight (Mae Whitman), Gus Porter (Issac Ryan Brown), Willow Park (Tati Gabrielle), and Hunter (Zeno Robinson)—are thrown through the closing portal which takes them to the Human Realm, only for the portal to close immediately after. Luz, the main protagonist, scrambles to the ragged door which the portal took the form of and tries to open it, but is met face to face with the ruins of the building it was connected to behind it. Sorrow fills the hearts of the friends as they realize they have no way back to the Demon Realm, unable to help stop the consequences of the chaos of The Collector.
Now faced with the knowledge that they are stuck, Luz leads them to her home, a place she had been away from for over three months with no contact with her mother since she fled. And now, coming face to face with her mother once again, she begins to feel the weight of her actions and now faces the consequences of them. Her friends—and girlfriend—are stuck in a place they know little about with no way home and no way to contact their families who were caught in the Day of Unity. But time continues to pass and we see the diligence and persistence of the group to get back to the Demon Realm. But at the same time, Amity, Willow, Gus, Hunter, and Vee have to adapt to living in the Human Realm. They begin to try learning Spanish and do their best to learn how everything works there.
But Luz is burdened by her guilt, she had led Belos (Matthew Rhys), formerly known as Phillip Wittebane, to The Collector (Fryda Wolff). She feels responsible for why people were hurt during the Day of Unity and why her friends have no way home. This guilt drives her actions throughout the entire episode and leads to some very heartfelt moments between characters. Due to how obvious she is with her guilt, the Demon Crew (Amity, Gus, Willow, Hunter, and Vee) decide to take it upon themselves to traverse the town of Gravesfield in search of any clues that could help them build a new portal to the Demon Realm as other witches had traveled to the Human Realm before. Luckily, the Demon Crew didn’t have to look far as Flapjack, Hunter’s palisman found a mysterious box which contained a rebus puzzle which showed directions to Titan’s Blood, the main ingredient in order to build a portal to the Demon Realm.
But trouble lurks in the shadows as Hunter finds a slimy substance trail that is identical to the substance Belos turned into at the end of season two. And we see as Belos, in the form of this small amount of goop begins taking over different creatures in the search for an inhabitable body. Hunter immediately tells Luz about his discovery and they begin to try and hunt Belos, planning to deal with him once and for all. But their searches come up in vain. Though, ever since Hunter touched the substance, he has been hearing and seeing Belos lurking in the dark, and his actions have changed. He has become more aggravated, bossy, and self-reliant. And Luz begins to notice this.
The episode starts to come to a close as the main group of friends, minus Vee, all go to a costumed Halloween festival. While there, the Demon crew plans to surprise Luz with the Titan’s Blood though Luz seemed to have a surprise of her own. As they wander around, the group goes on a hayride in which they are told of the brothers Wittebane, Caleb and Phillip, two witch hunters from years past. The former of which denounced his ways after falling in love with a witch named Edalyn (Wendie Malick) who often crossed into the Human Realm. But after the ride, Hunter feels Belos and immediately tells Luz, ruining the surprise of the Titan’s Blood in order to ensure Belos doesn’t get ahold of it.
Finally, after finding Hunter standing beneath the arch of a graveyard after him splitting away from her, she sees that Flapjack is terrified of him, something it had never done before. So, she turns back to Hunter and sees that Belos has taken over his body, having been able to since Hunter was a Grimwalker and had touched the substance before. Belos, having control over Hunter, found the Titan’s Blood, but Luz was quick to react and began to fight him in order to ensure he didn’t harm anyone else. Soon after, the rest of the Demon Crew, alongside Luz’s mother Camilla (Elizabeth Grullon) and Vee (Michaela Dietz) join the fray and begin to fight. Unfortunately, they are quickly overpowered and unable to do anything. But Flapjack soon begins to peck and try to fight as well, only for Belos to grab them and begin crushing them, revealing that Edalyn had created Flapjack for Caleb, the brother of whom Hunter is meant to be a copy of. Hunter, doing his best to control his body once more, throws himself into the lake along with the Titan’s Blood, only for Camilla to jump in after and save him. But Hunter remains unconscious and unmoving and Belos is quick to leave his body in order to finally open the portal back to Demon Realm and step through it.
The episode ends with Flapjack, who is injured, flying over to rest upon Hunter’s chest in order to sacrifice themself to save him. And as Hunter reawakens, Luz begins to reveal what her surprise was; she was going to remain in the Human Realm and never go back to the Demon Realm, especially after the fact that she was tricked into effectively setting off the events of the show. But Camilla was quick to stop her and announced that the group would not be returning to the Demon Realm and face Belos without her. And so, following that announcement, Camilla, Luz, Amity, Gus, Willow, and Hunter—Vee chose to stay in the Human Realm due to basilisks being hunted in the Demon Realm—enter through the portal as it closes behind them.
It sparkles and shimmers. It shines and delights.
Despite the nature in which Disney is treating The Owl House, the show continues to be a beacon of excellent storytelling in the cartoon medium. Within the first six minutes of the episode we are immediately reimmersed in the world and the characters while we get an understanding of the two months spent in the Human Realm through a montage. But contained inside the montage was a brilliant scene in which we see Luz reveal her sexuality to her mother, and all around the board there is an abundance of LGBTQ+ representation and acceptance in the show.
And while Camilla accepting Luz and her girlfriend, Amity, is a huge step and excellent subtle character-building for Camilla, it is far from the only character building we get. A bit later in the episode we see Camilla doing her best to be the best mother and guardian she can be for everyone, but she soon falls asleep and we see her dreams play out. During which we find out that Camilla never truly wanted to stunt and stop Luz’s imaginative exploits, but an ununderstanding society around her pressured her to stop Luz and send her away to a camp where she would be taught to think "inside the box."
The episode also foreshadowed parts of relevance that would come later in fashions that felt very natural and convincing. One such scene is when Luz is in the break room of her mother’s workplace, using a heating lamp to warm up the palisman egg she carved towards the end of season two and drawing in her notebook. In earlier scenes of the episode we have seen some of her doodles and how she likes to draw the people she cares about and the glyphs she used as magic, of which we had seen do not work in the Human Realm. But when she rests her hand upon the symbol on accident, it singes slightly, allowing the audience to question whether her time in the Demon Realm truly affected her body or if something else is allowing her to cast glyphs. These questions are answered towards the end of the episode.
The Owl House, especially in recent episodes, has been showing an increase in its production value. And the first episode of season three was no different. In various scenes we see fluid animations for the characters, the most obvious example being the fight scene in the graveyard. In the scene, we see quick actions that, while normally conveyed with blur lines are now drawn out, allowing us to see a greater detail at what is truly happening in the fight. It gives the scene a greater tension than before because we begin to worry that something may quickly swing out and hit our favorite characters. And this works excellently in favor of the episode.
These scenes are sorrowful, but so is watching them fail.
While The Owl House manages to do a lot of good and even manage to cram a ton into a 45-minute episode while still making it feel like it was only 25 minutes, it can’t do everything right. Which it isn’t supposed to.
The most obvious offense is one that the internet has been talking about since the episode first aired; the change in art style for some of the characters. This affront is concerned with Amity. Her face has become more angular and squared than previous seasons. While some don’t like it, I found myself not bothered by it. I prefer to see it as the growth and change of the character, especially since they were hardly teenagers.
One scene in the episode, in my opinion, felt a bit too convenient for what was going on. And this scene was when the Demon Crew decided they needed to go out into the town and begin searching for answers. And before they could even get up and leave to actually act on this idea, Flapjack immediately finds exactly what they are looking for. While I don’t enjoy how convenient this scene feels, I understand that due to the restraints Disney put on the show and season three in general, some things had to be rushed and pushed up more than they wished.
The episode also appeared to have a bit of a rough time properly balancing its multi-plotline scenarios within a timely manner. Which, while not easy to spot at first, can be a bit confusing upon a rewatch. The episode seems to quickly brush through the emotional growth of the Demon Crew and even the epicenter of Luz’s whole plan. Yet, upon watching without critical view, the show matches well to what a lot of cartoons find themselves doing.
Contact Aaron Picklesimer with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ambitionless_aaron on Instagram.