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Jade Claymore (Erin Kellyman) and Kit (Ruby Cruz) stand romantically close to each other in a forest in Willow Image: Lucasfilm

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Willow has become what all queer fantasy love stories should feel like

The fifth episode recasts how queerness can fit with fantasy tropes

Willow’s Kit Tanthalos does not look or act like your typical princess. Actor Ruby Cruz imbues Kit with a brash, roguish charm that would put Madmartigan himself to shame. Kit is stubborn and often petulant to a fault, prefers leather armor to ball gowns, is quick with her sword, and — as was pointed out in episode 4 — has it bad for her best friend and self-appointed protector, Jade Claymore (Erin Kellyman). As it happens, levelheaded and loyal Jade is also head over heels for Kit.

For years now fans have been clamoring for a queer Disney Princess, and in some way, Willow has delivered. Jade and Kit’s story has all of the beats of a traditional fantasy romance, but with a modern sensibility to it, making it feel fresh and new in a genre that often teases queerness but steers away from it in the end. The result here is an organic and utterly charming plotline that doesn’t feel like it was devised just to include token representation.

The lady and the knight is a chivalric — if somewhat overwrought — trope that most fantasy fans will be familiar with. The lady is portrayed as a beautiful and dignified, if somewhat helpless, young woman who needs saving. The knight is the strong and handsome man who has sworn to protect her. As their relationship grows, they often become romantically entangled. Willow takes this trope and gleefully flips the entire thing on its head. Instead of a young man, a young woman is determined to become a knight in shining armor and the beautiful lady in question isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and is perfectly capable of taking care of herself.

It’s been an absolute delight to watch both Kit and Jade embody the roles of the lady and the knight, respectively, as they navigate their feelings for one another while trying to save Kit’s brother and, on a much larger scale, the world. While the characters themselves have repeatedly tried to deny their romantic feelings for one another, the romantic tension between them has only grown since their sword fight and stolen kiss in episode 1. Being heroes hasn’t afforded them much time to process those feelings, but the tension between them has been undeniable in the private moments that they’ve shared together.

Rather than shy away from queerness, or make a spectacle of it, Willow joyously celebrates it in a way that is still missing from so many fantasy and sci-fi shows. Often queerness becomes a complication within the story; a character might feel like they have to hide who they are or come out to their companions before their adventure can progress, but that’s not the case here. And Willow isn’t just a show about swashbuckling adventurers. It’s a show about love and how to take care of one another. Over the course of the series, Willow and his companions have become a found family; they might not be related by blood, but they’ve come together to form a unit based on their shared experiences and understanding of one another despite occasionally butting heads.

It’s yet another trope Willow weds the couple’s story to, but it’s used with purpose. Their love isn’t simple or pat; it’s integral to, and integrated with, the whole world around them.

Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) and Jade (Erin Kellyman) stand in a fighting pose in a misty forest in Willow Photo: Amanda Searle/Lucasfilm

Many fantasy fans are also familiar with the concept of a dark, mysterious stretch of forest with the power to show those who enter it what they desire most. “The Wildwood is seductive,” Boorman says. “It lures you in with its sights and sounds. Next thing you know, you’re officiating weddings and dog-sitting for casual acquaintances.” He’s not entirely wrong, either. Throughout the course of the episode, Elora, Graydon, and Boorman are all faced with something that they want, but it’s Kit and Jade who truly take center stage.

Almost immediately after entering the Wildwood, Willow and company are captured by bloodthirsty Bone Reavers and separated from one another. Kit, much to her dismay, is locked up with Elora, leaving her to worry about Jade’s safety. Elora, clearly as fed up with their mutual pining as Boorman is, proceeds to tell Kit, “I believe that love is the most powerful force in the universe.”

Elora is, of course, talking about her relationship with Airk, but the sentiment applies to Kit and Jade too. What ensues is a brilliant, if somewhat brief, moment between two characters who have otherwise spent most of this season at each other’s throats. It’s also incredibly refreshing to watch. Kit’s feelings for Jade aren’t trivialized, used against her, or turned into a shocking reveal. Instead, it’s made clear that Elora and everyone else in their band of adventurers are truly rooting for Kit and Jade.

Eventually, with the help of some truth plums, Kit and Jade are able to confess their feelings for one another in the depths of the Wildwood. It’s aided with the help of another well-worn fantasy trope. But it’s a heartfelt confession of love that’s been slowly building over five episodes, and presumably for much longer than that. For the first time since the beginning of the show they’re able to put aside their respective titles and just be two young women who are hopelessly in love with each other.

Of course, things don’t go entirely to plan — there are more episodes in this season, after all. Before they can kiss, Jade and Kit are interrupted by a band of trolls. Kit is consequently pulled from Jade’s grasp and abruptly whisked away, leaving Jade to be the knight she’s always wanted to be. While Willow successfully puts a new spin on the lady and the knight trope, it also cleverly acknowledges that Jade and Kit still have parts to play in it.

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