The Media Man Reviews: The Owl House Season 2 (Pride Month Special)
It still feels like yesterday when I first discovered this show.
Created by Dana Terrace and released on January the 10th 2020, The Owl House has recently become one of Disney's biggest and most popular shows alongside Gravity Falls, DuckTales and Amphibia. The show has been a critical hit with both critics and audiences thanks to its smart writing, witty and sharp dialogue, complex characterisations, hilarious humour and deep story-telling with fascinating world-building and has become a sensation for everyone everywhere. But of course, the biggest praise the show has gotten and one of the reasons why it's become such a hit is its LGBT representation. Dana herself is a bisexual woman and in her own words, wanted to write a bi character. The show naturally has struck a chord with the LGBT community with the relationship between Luz and Amity constantly ranking high as one of, if not THE most intriguing thing about the show that people were invested in. It also helps that unlike previous shows that have tried to have LGBT rep only for the gay couple to become a couple right at the end of the show like The Legend of Korra and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, The Owl House actually got to show the gay couple as a couple while it was still running. Unfortunately, because Disney has become a corrupted mess of its former self, some idiot in the company thought the show "didn't fit their brand" and they've ended up cutting it short, leaving us with only three specials to conclude the show instead of a proper Season 3. I remind you guys that Disney has a streaming service that owns stuff like NCIS, The Walking Dead, The Simpsons and Family Guy, so they can't dare say The Owl House "doesn't fit the brand" when they own stuff like that!
Anyway, I first discovered the show only last year thanks to a friend of mine producing fan-art for the series and talking about it. He got me interested and thus I had to see it for myself. After the first season...well, to quote King himself: "I have been sucked into your awful fandom!" In all seriousness, the show grabbed me for very much the same reasons as everyone else and of course, I wanted to see more. And thus here we are with Season 2 of the show. Also how appropriate that this review just happens to be coming out on Pride Month, isn't it? XD
Did the residents of the Boiling Isles make lightning strike twice with this season, or should we let Emperor Belos sweep it away with the Day of Unity? Grab your Palismans folks for we're casting a review spell on The Owl House Season 2...
Section 1: The Story
Following on from Season 1, this season sees our heroine Luz Noceda (voiced by Sarah-Nicole Robles) trying to find a way back home after the portal to the human realm was destroyed while also focusing on her training to be a witch and also finding a way to stop the villainous Emperor Belos (voiced by Matthew Rhys) from carrying out what he calls "The Day of Unity". With her friends King & Hooty (both voiced by Alex Hirsch), mother/mentor figure Eda (voiced by Wendie Malick) and girlfriend Amity Blight (voiced by Mae Whitman), the Owl House crew find that they may be in for something bigger than any of them could've imagined...
Season 2 is a more plot-driven season in comparison to Season 1, which reflects perfectly on the rising stakes of the season and how there's a lot more going on compared to last time. Season 1 was very story-driven too of course, but Season 2 really ups the ante by giving us fewer filler episodes and more emphasis on the over-arching plot of the season, which is to stop the Day of Unity from happening. There's even heavier focus on character development too with some notoriously character-focused episodes that ended up being the highlights of the season for many fans such as Echoes of the Past, Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Hooty's Door, Reaching Out and Hollow Mind especially diving deep into the characters of this show and revealing so much about them. I give particular praise to Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Hooty's Door especially as EVERY SINGLE OWL HOUSE FAN thought it was going to be a filler episode, yet it ended up being one of the best episodes of the entire series by impacting the plot in ways we couldn't imagine! Only a show like this can take a filler-y sounding concept and actually make it plot-relevant! XD
Another thing to note is that this season has less subplots in its episodes than last time. While a few might have subplots, they're fewer and further in-between here and that's a good thing as this show was never the best at having subplots. This goes into what I said about this season having less filler as a result and shows the series knows what to focus on. To give you an idea on how much more story-driven this is than last time, there are practically no episodes that you can skip here and the second half of Season 2 practically has one episode follow on from the other to give us a neat pattern of events that flow from one to the next. It really shows how much more seriously they were focusing on the story this time around and it gives us a really engaging season to watch as a result. Also, it won't surprise anyone when I say the tone is a little darker than last time. Of course it still has that Owl House style of humour and not every episode is emotionally weighty, but there are more emotional episodes and some heavier moments that give this season a lot more meat to its bones and shows us how things are much bigger than they were before. Thankfully, the season never got too dark and it still feels like it's part of The Owl House, unlike some shows where the tone will change so drastically that the seasons no longer feel like they're from the same show (looking at YOU Young Justice, TMNT Fast Forward and RWBY!). They do give us breather episodes from time-to-time so it never feels overwhelming and even during the darker moments, they still give us the odd bit of comedy to keep things from feeling too bleak.
Season 2 also expands on the world-building of what came before and reveals a lot more about not just the characters, but the Boiling Isles itself. We get to see more of the world at large and learn a lot of new history that we never got before, namely the origin of the Owl Beast that makes up Eda's curse, the origins of Emperor Belos and also the fact there's a greater threat than even Belos himself that we never knew about before... All this adds further intrigue to the season as now the fans can enjoy watching the episodes to learn something new about the characters or the world they're living in as well as see what stories they're going to get in each new episode.
Another thing this season stays true to from last time is of course, the heart of the series. The show is still very touching to watch at times and really knows how to pull on your heartstrings with episodes like Keeping Up A-Fear-Ances, Yesterday's Lie and especially Reaching Out being really heart-warming episodes that may also get the audience a little teary-eyed. The romance between Luz and Amity is another high point as they really feel like close girlfriends and that they truly love each other so much. I don't care what anyone says, those sweet potatoes deserve their love and must be protected at all costs! In all seriousness, the show really plays up the heart of their relationship and really gives us an adorable, believable romance that also stands as some truly wonderful LGBT representation as it depicts this romance as no different and just as wonderful as any other romance. If this season does anything for you, it'll definitely make you feel good during the show's more touching moments.
Also, some viewers may have noticed this season has a bit of a theme surrounding fatherhood. We have Eda who has to reconcile with her father whom she accidentally maimed when the curse broke out, we have King who's trying to find out who his father really was, we have Alador Blight who is a father who sees he's not been the best father to his kids and then we have Emperor Belos who essentially acts like an abusive father figure to Hunter (despite him referring to him as uncle). Considering Dana Terrace lost her own father at the age of 11 in a car crash, it's easy to see how this thing around dads has become such a big theme surrounding this season and it's rather interesting to see as a result.
Season 2 is a solid season for The Owl House and improves on some aspects from its predecessors...but it does have a curse of its own in some areas. I know I'm gonna get hated for criticizing the show in any way, but it has to be said. First of all, the season opener Separate Tides has a subplot where Eda and Lilith make a scrying spell to spy on the Emperor and it somewhat implies that the Emperor is able to use it back on them...and then nothing ever comes out of it. The scrying spell is NEVER mentioned or seen again for the rest of the season and Belos doesn't even remotely hint that he's been using it against them in any way. I initially assumed that in the finale, King's Tide, it would turn out the scrying spell backfired and that's why he's been one step ahead the whole time. But no, Terra Snapdragon just guesses the plan (somehow) and the scrying spell had nothing to do with it. Why set up this whole subplot if it doesn't go anywhere? You see why I say this show can't handle subplots well? In fact, other subplots that fall flat in this show include Through the Looking Glass Ruins and Any Sport In A Storm. The former has a subplot that should've been the main plot of the episode and the latter has a subplot that is ultimately a waste of time. Like was it REALLY that important to know Mr. Tibbles was behind the Good Witch Azura books in the Boiling Isles? We didn't need a whole subplot devoted to that!
Also a few of the new characters feel like they should've had more time devoted to them as it doesn't feel like we got much out of them. Most of the coven heads aren't even characterized, Eda's parents really should've been used more, Odalia was really underused as a potential recurring antagonist for the season and The Collector is barely even foreshadowed before he's suddenly introduced as the new villain of the show. He ESPECIALLY needed a lot more build-up than what he got. I feel the only new character who ever got utilized to the fullest is Hunter and that's because he's a big part of the story surrounding Emperor Belos and the Day of Unity.
And finally, Eda and King get big new power-ups only to barely ever use them throughout the season. Eda has this new Harpy form that doesn't really accomplish much and she doesn't even get a chance to use it in the finale and King has this sonic scream ability that he barely even uses, even in a battle. It just feels like if they're gonna have big new powers like this, they should get the chance to use them more instead of them just being there and that's it.
Regardless, Season 2 is a work of magic only The Owl House could pull off. With its greater focus on story, character development and raising of the stakes while also keeping true to the heart and humour of itself, this season was just what Owl House fans asked for and more...
Section 2: The Characters
There's a few characters to talk about so I might be a while here.
We have our main heroine of course, Luz Noceda. Luz is still the quirky, fun-loving, wide-eyed nerd we know and love from last time, but it's clear that Season 1 has changed her in a few ways. She displays more moments of intelligence, gets more creative in using her magic glyphs and even takes things a little more seriously compared to the previous season. It really doesn't help that as the season goes on, she's desperate to reunite with her mother thanks to the destruction of the portal door and come the second half of Season 2, she kinda creates Emperor Belos through some time travel shenanigans gone wrong. Imagine having to live with THAT on your conscience?! All that plus her developing romance with Amity Blight gives her a lot to deal with and I really like how the show handled her this season, especially with her big character flaw of shouldering the blame too much when things go wrong and she has a need to fix everything, even by herself if necessary.
The Owl House crew are back again too with Eda, Hooty and King. Eda has to deal with the loss of her magic and also has a lot of other things weighing on her mind such as unresolved past incidents with her parents and the return of her old friend from her days in Hexside School, Raine Whispers. While Eda isn't quite as important as last time, she still gets her fair share of development regarding those things I mentioned and of course, the big change with her and the Owl Beast curse where now she gets to use a Harpy form as a result of working with the curse instead of against it. She also gets to display her more emotional side like when reconciling with her father or when expressing sorrow to Lilith other how unfair it is that a kid like Luz has to be put under so much pressure with the Day of Unity.
But if anyone gets the biggest amount of change and new development of the crew, it's EASILY King. Without spoiling too much, I'm just gonna say you will NEVER see the little wannabe tyrant the same way again. XD Needless to say, I can't wait to see what they'll do with him next in Season 3...
And naturally, I have to talk about Amity this season. She has grown so much since Season 1 and it's sweet to watch her grow ever further. Not only does she finally muster up the courage to ask Luz out, but she goes out of her way to constantly prove herself to be an awesome girlfriend and becomes braver still in being able to finally stand up to her abusive mother. Watching her outright disown that miserable excuse for a parent was easily her most awesome moment, as well as finally getting to kiss Luz before the finale.
And then we have the villain of the series, Emperor Belos. Without spoiling too much, I'm just gonna say that we learn a lot more about him too and that he's far more than he seems. He remains as threatening as he does last time while also showing to be a far scummier villain than we initially thought. It's kinda sad isn't it how this show has given us a better and more memorable Disney Villain than any of Disney's recent movies have given us, eh?
Gus (voiced by Issac Ryan Brown but with a noticeable change in his voice thanks to puberty) and Willow (voiced by Tati Gabrielle) are back too but they don't really get that many episodes devoted to them, although what episodes they DO get at least give them some new development and uses them rather well, especially Gus's two episodes devoted to him. Willow especially plays a big role in Hunter's story, but we'll cover that later.
Lilith (voiced by Cissy Jones) also returns and I have to say, she's surprisingly adorable as a good girl. Who knew a heel-turn could change you that much for the better? XD It looks as if she's the new member of the crew at first but then gets written out for a while and just appears sporadically throughout the rest of the season. I would've preferred her being a mainstay but I guess it prevented the show feeling overcrowded at least. Her and Hooty's friendship was surprisingly cute so I'll give them that. ^^
In terms of new characters this season, the only major ones worth mentioning are Hunter, Raine and Amity's parents Odalia (voiced by Rachel McFarlane) and Alador (voiced by Jim Perri) (both of whom we see in person for the first time). Odalia's just your standard abusive parent with nothing redeemable about her and I really hope The Collector reduces her to a stain on the wall in Season 3. Alador on the other hand actually has a heart and has some sweet development where he grows to desire the chance to be a better parent to his children in the future. We also meet Eda's parents too, Gwendolyn and Dell Clawthorne. They only appear in a couple of episodes tops but their appearances are at least used well, especially Dell's. You have to see it for yourself, it's so wholesome.
Raine Whispers (voiced by Avi Roque) is Eda's old friend (and possible love interest) who is notorious for being another big deal for the show its LGBT rep as they're the first EVER Disney character in history to be non-binary. Much like Luz and Amity's romance being treated as normal, the show doesn't make a big deal about Raine being non-binary and treats that as normal too, which is another example of how solid this show's LGBT representation is. It also helps that Raine is pretty endearing with their meek and adorkable personality while also showing a much tougher side to them as time goes on.
And then we have Hunter (voiced by Zeno Robinson). Hunter is easily the best new character introduced this season. He's the Emperor's Golden Guard but as we learn, there's a lot more to him than we initially thought and his history with the emperor goes way back and is nothing like what we could've guessed. While some might find his character arc predictable, I thought he was well-handled and manages to be an engaging and sympathetic character with how his story goes and his backstory that we learn along the way.
And I can't talk about the new characters without bringing up the new villain that was introduced this season, The Collector (voiced by Fryda Wolff). The Collector wastes NO time at all making an intimidating first impression and setting the stage for things to come next time. He's intriguing by his mysterious nature and scary for the amount of power he wields despite his small size and resembling a small boy in a onesie. The only issue I have with him is that it feels like we didn't get enough build-up to him and his introduction is a little rushed, pretty much a case of "Oh here's a new character. He's the new villain now." and that's it. Still, I'm keen to see more of this character in Season 3...
The old characters are back with new things to offer and the new characters add more to the series and manage to make their mark on the show going forwards, just as a good new season for a show should do.
Section 3: The Animation
There are many things to love about The Owl House. The animation often ranks high on that list and in Season 2, it still continues to be a highlight for the show.
We still get that loveable Owl House style to the animation where the character designs look very shapely yet also detailed and are capable of displaying a wide array of expressions in a variety of situations be they comical or serious and all the new characters carry on that same style that makes them feel like they exist in the same universe as the old ones do. I especially take note of Hunter's youthful appearance where he looks like an average teenage boy that is clearly sleep-deprived due to how dark he looks under the eyes. That alone can have you asking a lot about Hunter and how far he pushes himself to please the Emperor. Given he looks sleep-deprived, it's almost horrific to think he keeps himself awake for that long and all for little, if any reward in the end.
But one design that stands out the most to me is the face reveal of Emperor Belos. Yes, we actually get to see what he looks like in this season and needless to say, I don't think any of us expected what we got. He looks like an old, world-weary man with long hair and a green mark over his face and when you first see him unmasked, he looks almost friendly and welcoming in contrast to his devious and cunning personality. Yet the animation still manages to make a man with a face like that look intimidating at times, like this scene here:
Seriously, how do you make THAT design look creepy?!
I also enjoy the animation on The Collector too, particularly his shadow form where he's a shadow that moves around everywhere and can only be identified by little white details on his body to make his facial expressions easy to see and while in this form, he shapeshifts a lot and it's really cool to watch. I imagine the animators were having fun drawing him in that form and I also imagine nobody was expecting his true form to look as cute and innocent as it does. Seriously, a kid in a onesie is NOT what you expect a cosmic level threat to look like! But that's a compliment to how good the character design is for The Collector's unthreatening appearance is a darkly comical contrast to how powerful he really is.
But that's just character designs. Everything else in the animation looks great too. The backgrounds are still gorgeously detailed, highly creative and fascinating to look at no matter where our characters go, the character animation is very fluid and expressive and can give us some fast-paced action and zany comedy, there's a lot of creative designs in the creatures (namely Kikkimora's finger dragon) the magic powers all look very cool to watch, the use of shading makes the animation look more three-dimensional while also being very atmospheric and the effects are spot-on. Much like Season 1, there are times where the show will get an animation bump and it looks GORGEOUS whenever that happens. I know I'm not the only one who's replayed the battle between Amity and Hunter numerous times because of how good it looks with the choreography and the smoother animation! Even Amity kissing Luz is given an animation bump as if they really felt the need to up the animation budget just to animate that kiss! Not that we mind as it looked so good. XD
But the highlight of the animation for me comes from one single episode: Hollow Mind. That episode manages to tell us an entire piece of Belos's backstory WITH NOTHING BUT BACKGROUND IMAGES! How the hell do you pull that off?! That takes insane talent from both writers and animators to give us this kind of visual storytelling that the viewer has to pause in order to find it all and piece it together! I only wish I was able to do that myself, and I'm sure many other writers feel the same way! Major kudos goes to the team that animated that episode because being able to tell us a piece of backstory with pictures in the scenery is one impressive feat.
I'm honestly running out of things to say about the animation here. What else can I say other than it's really damn impressive for a TV show and that they've really outdone themselves here? Visually pleasing to the eye while giving us new things to look at and still being creative with what it shows us, the Boiling Isles continue to look SO good...
The Owl House Season 2 is a fantastic follow on from Season 1 and a fine example of how the next season should build-on from what's been established before. The story is engaging and more exciting while also being more plot-driven, the characters have some fascinating developments, the new characters are (mostly) welcome new additions to the franchise, the voice-acting is top-notch and the animation is some of TV's finest work we've seen yet. It has its flaws, but the flaws don't take away from how good this season truly is. I had a great time with Season 2 and I cannot wait to see how the show will conclude next time when Season 3 comes. Owl House fans will certainly enjoy this season whereas more casual fans will DEFNITELY need to see Season 1 first before tuning into this one. It's been a thrill ride and is one spell that truly feels like a work of magic...
That's it for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and I encourage you all to share your thoughts on the season below. Did you like it? Did you not like it? Do you prefer Season 1 or do you think Season 2 is better? I'd love to hear about it. Oh and to all my readers reading this post: Happy Pride Month everybody! I wish everyone of all sexualities, genders and race a wonderful month and to be happy with who you are no matter what you are. There is no greater gift to the world than yourself and what makes you, you. ^^
Next week, we go back to the Jurassic age as I review the latest instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise...see you then everyone!