Spoilers ahead for The Owl House Season Three
The third season of The Owl House was always going to be bittersweet. It was not just because it was the end of a beloved show, but because of how it happened. Before the second season was released back in 2021, it was announced that the show would be wrapped up with three double-length specials rather than the usual amount of episodes. While fans could agree that this was better than nothing, the series was still coming to an abrupt end, despite positive critical reception and solid viewing numbers. Creator Dana Terrace cited the reason behind the cancellation as being that one of the suits at Disney simply felt that the show didn’t fit the company’s brand, with audience members skewing older than the advertising people felt comfortable with.
The cancellation of The Owl House is particularly rough because the show has probably some of the best LGBTQ+ rep in mainstream children’s media. The main character, Luz Noceda, is bi and in a relationship with another girl, and Eda the Owl Lady tries to figure out her feelings over Raine Whispers, a nonbinary witch who uses they/them pronouns. With all the jokes that Disney unveils a new “first gay character” every couple of months (only for said character’s queerness to be non-textual or easy to scrub out of international releases), The Owl House actually delivers, thanks to Terrace and her team fighting like hell to put out something that actually matters. Every time Luz refers to Amity Blight as her “girlfriend”, I can’t help but feel proud of how far we’ve come from “Korra and Asami look longingly into each other’s eyes, cut to black”. With the growing conservative panic over queerness in the media, it’s especially important that LGBTQ+ kids are allowed to see characters that they can relate to and find comfort in.
Regardless of the show’s importance, The Owl House still only had three specials to wrap things up: a little over two hours total. This seems like a fair amount of time when you think about the length of most movies, but watching Season Three made me notice just how different the mediums of film and television are. Because television shows are usually allowed to play out over a significantly larger period of time, they have more characters and subplots to take up that time.
It didn’t really occur to me what kind of odds the team behind The Owl House were working against until the credits of the finale rolled and I realized that fan-favorite character Hooty only had around three lines in the entire season. In hindsight, it makes sense that they cut down on the screen time of the comedic relief character who’d already developed as much as he could, but it’s what made it clear that the crew had to be really economical about who they spent time on.
Despite this, the first special (“Thanks to Them”) is easily my favorite episode of the show. It’s the one that feels like it has the most room to breathe out of the three final episodes, and that’s in large part because it only focuses on the Hexside kids (Luz, Amity, Gus, Willow, and Hunter), who are stranded in the Human Realm, and doesn’t include Eda and company. The only characters the kids are joined by Camila (Luz’s mom) and Vee (the sweetest shapeshifting seal girl ever), who both try to help the witches adjust to this strange new world.
The episode is surprisingly cozy for being part of the lead-up to the series’ end. There are fish-out-of-water shenanigans, makeover montages, and even a parody of Star Trek (specifically Deep Space Nine) that Hunter and Gus bond over. There’s just something precious about these kids finally getting moments where they’re allowed to be happy- especially Hunter, who was created to serve the evil Emperor Belos and never got to have a childhood.
At the same time, there’s just enough conflict to slide the whole thing along to a dramatic finale. As much as “Thanks to Them” provides a lot of fun slice-of-life moments, it also explores some surprisingly poignant themes. Luz and Hunter are keeping secrets they worry could tear the group apart, most of the kids think they might never see their families again, and Camila has a lot of regret towards breaking down and trying to get her daughter to conform with society’s expectations. As someone who was once the weird “problem kid”, I connect a lot with Luz, and it’s interesting to see a parent’s perspective on dealing with that sort of thing. At the same time, Luz plans on staying in the Human Realm forever to please her mother, even though it will make her miserable and Camila is simultaneously learning to be more accepting of Luz’s wants… It’s heavy stuff.
There are at least five different moments in this episode that get me teary every time. The one that really guts me is when Camila is looking through Luz’s video journals, and there’s an entry where Luz describes how her family moved to a new house closer to a hospital for her father. It’s immediately followed by another entry from some time later where a depressed Luz simply says “I think this may be the worst week ever.” It’s so direct that it knocks the breath out of you, but that moment of pure grief is followed by a glimmer of hope. The whole scene is just this beautiful emotional rollercoaster that brings new context to the beginning of the series.
“Thanks to Them” culminates on a fateful Halloween night when the gang is finally confronted by Belos, who has taken over Hunter’s body in a graveyard. The fight sequence is stunningly animated and creative in the ways that the kids try to use magic to take out the cursed, decaying remains of this villain (Belos gets some really fascinating, spooky designs across these last three specials). But once the fray is over, the episode reveals that it has one last way to break your heart. I could keep on going, but you get the idea: “Thanks to Them” is The Owl House at its best.
The second special, “For the Future”, sees the gang return to the Demon Realm while also catching viewers up a bit with what Eda and King have been up to since the whole realm was taken over by the Collector. We learn that King has done a lot of maturing in trying to minimize the Collector’s damage and teach him a bit about empathy. The Collector turns out to be a very different antagonist from the serious and ruthless Belos- he’s a child from the godlike race that wiped out King’s species, the Titans, long ago.
The Collector doesn’t necessarily want to cause suffering, he just treats everyone else as his playthings because no one is powerful enough to ensure there are consequences to his actions. He’s a bit like the kid from the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life”, only King seems to genuinely care about the celestial nightmare child rather than just fear him. That’s not to say that King doesn’t fear the Collector, but rather he’s grown enough that he’s willing to help someone else out even if they might hurt him. The dynamic between King and the Collector is probably the most interesting thing to come out of the episode.
It feels like the bulk of the episode is spent on the kids revisiting Hexside School and learning that it’s secretly being ruled by Belos’ disgraced second-in-command, Kikimora. If I’m being entirely honest, we probably didn’t need another Kikimora story after Belos betrayed her in the Season Two finale. This whole “Scouring of the Shire” beat with lower-tier antagonist Kikimora trying to fill a power vacuum would’ve been fine if The Owl House had a full-length Season Three, but that simply isn’t the case here. It feels like that time could’ve been spent better elsewhere.
While I think that “For the Future” is the weakest of the three episodes, I feel like it’s important to note that I still think it’s pretty good overall. There’s a really good subplot about Willow putting the needs of others before her own, and it culminates in a really sweet moment where Hunter and Gus convince her that “it’s okay to not be okay”. There are also some emotional bits with Luz and Camila reconciling and discovering that they have a lot in common.
The episode is mostly just strained by being a transition point between the beginning and the end of the season: it needs to set up Belos’ return to power as the primary antagonist and the Collector’s change of heart in the finale. It succeeds at that, though you can’t help but wonder if the episode could have been stronger if there were more character bonding moments and fewer of Kikimora’s schemes.
The series finale, “Watching and Dreaming”, is the big showdown between Emperor Belos and the reunited trio of Luz, Eda, and King. At least, it is after the three have some quick shenanigans with The Collector to show him the error of his ways. Meanwhile, Belos merges with the heart of the Titan and becomes a massive freaking kaiju.
Inspired by what Luz and King taught him about forgiveness and understanding, The Collector appears before Belos and naively tries to talk him down. From here, the writers do something that I applaud: the power of friendship doesn’t work and Belos immediately attempts to annihilate the Collector with his newfound power. I think there’s a really important message in there for kids about how sometimes seemingly bad people (like the Collector) can change if you give them empathy, compassion, and a second chance, but sometimes people are just… bad (like Belos). We live in a world where people write think-pieces about how we should learn to “agree to disagree” with literal fascists, and I think it’s critical that young people learn that kindness can go a long way, but sometimes people are beyond redemption and there’s nothing you can do to fix that.
The episode even returns to this theme after Belos has been defeated and his weakened form is melting in the boiling rain. Belos tries to pull the old “if you let me die, you’re the evil one” card on Luz, and she simply steps back to let her friends stomp on his disintegrating remains. The show makes it very clear that Luz is in the right on this one, and it’s immensely satisfying to watch.
The other Hexside kids are sort of sidelined for this episode, but it’s alright considering they already got their time to shine in “Thanks to Them”. As mentioned before, “Watching and Dreaming” is primarily focused on the clash between the core three characters of the series and the evil-emperor-turned-giant-monster. We get some very exciting action, and things get shaken up a bit once Luz returns from the dead with a new set of powers, courtesy of the Titan themself. The pacing and angles of the fight are frenetic in a way that I can’t say I’ve seen much in Western animation, let alone a kids’ show, and it’s all very gripping. Like with “For the Future”, it doesn’t feel like this episode covers as much ground as “Thanks to Them” (despite being 10 minutes longer), but it feels very focused on delivering what you expect out of it: a final battle of epic proportions.
With the fight against Belos won, everyone gets their happy ending. There’s a very sweet epilogue that shows where every character ended up years after their victory, and it’s just so heartwarming. Unfortunately, it happens while the episode’s credits are playing over it. This feels very representative of how the team behind The Owl House was forced to do their best with very little to work with. The credits aren’t just the credits- they become a space for necessary finality. Shortly after the episode’s release, I remember hearing that Disney dropped a version of the epilogue without the credits over it, but as of writing this, I can’t seem to find that. Regardless, the scene is no less touching with words on it, and it gives us strong hints that Willow and Hunter are a couple, so I can’t complain.
Overall, The Owl House had a beautiful and moving last season. While it obviously could have been sturdier if the team had been given more time to work with, the reality of the situation is that they didn’t have that luxury. They were given an unfair hand, and they came out of the whole ordeal triumphant anyways. There is so much love and care packed into “Thanks to Them”, “For the Future”, and “Watching and Dreaming” that the message to fans is clear even if you didn’t notice it spread across the first words of each title: “Thanks for watching”. We’re all going to miss Luz, King, Eda, Hootie, and the rest, but this has been an immensely satisfying “goodbye”.