[Review] “The Owl House” S3 E1: The little things that matter

Wren Bulawin, Staff Writer, Open Canvas Manager

A little over a month ago, on October 15, 2022, the first episode of the final season of The Owl House, titled “Thanks to Them,” premiered on Disney Channel and Disney XD, and was later uploaded to YouTube. Directed by Dana Terrace, season 3 aims to close off the adventures of Luz Noceda and her witch friends from the Boiling Isles in three 44-minute specials, with the final 2 specials to release in 2023. 

Originally, The Owl House intended to have a full third season, but it had to be cut short due to Terrace’s ideals for the show not quite aligning with those of Disney’s higher management. Consequently, the plot for season 3 runs at a rapid pace—but the show’s strengths aren’t just in it’s storyline. Rather, it’s the heaps of representation and development shown throughout the show—and season 3, episode 1 is no exception.

This review contains mild spoiler for “The Owl House” seasons 2 and 3

Firstly and unfortunately for lore enthusiasts, season 3 was off to a jarring start. Plot-wise, “Thanks to Them” just manages to keep the balance between light-hearted fun and dark lore. But at times, the A and B-plotlines feel as if they’re competing against one another for the spotlight, mainly because of the chronological fluidity of the special. Unlike previous episodes, where the A and B-plots occurred simultaneously, it almost feels jarring to switch directly from a light-hearted montage to a serious, plot-heavy moment (yet that is to be expected when a chronological storyline expected to run for twenty-so episodes gets cut down into an hour and a half of content).

However, for all its weaknesses in worldbuilding and lore, the episode itself has its strengths in character development—specifically, how its main protagonists, Luz and Hunter, deal with trauma. And boy, do they have a lot of it. But the key is in how the episode tackles their trauma; even amidst their light-hearted adventures, there’s no “power of friendship” moment that suddenly makes everything better. Throughout the episode, both protagonists learn to rely on their support systems more than ever to face their own fears, and the journey is portrayed as a very rocky one. Even with support from her friends and family, Luz is still struggling to forgive herself by the end of the episode, and Hunter is still learning that he deserves love and vulnerability. Despite the rushed plot, Terrace ensures that these topics are treated with the utmost care and represented as accurately as possible; fans can relate to and feel seen in at least one part of the episode, whether it be Hunter’s parental issues, Luz’s sense of guilt, or Camilla’s struggles as a single mother. 

Additionally, per the title, the episode mainly develops interactions between characters—and it does an amazing job in representing healthy communication and genuine, unconditional love. Luz and her girlfriend Amity Blight’s relationship continues to be portrayed as open, communicative, and understanding—something incredibly rare in teenage media today, especially in queer relationships. Furthermore, much of the episode spotlights the strong, unconditional bond between Luz and her mother, Camilla—even following the show’s preceding events, the episode focuses on how the two openly communicate their emotions, their grief, and their struggles in healthy ways.

Where many shows prefer to go the unhealthy relationship route for the sake of drama and angst, The Owl House doesn’t do that, and it’s awfully refreshing to see each party clearly admit their faults, apologize, and make the strides to do better. To those who can’t experience that kind of support at home, Camilla and Luz’s mother-daughter relationship is comforting to watch, and the healthy portrayal of Amity and Luz’s relationship is a breath of fresh air amidst a media world full of relationship conflicts and communication issues. 

It’s little things like these depictions of the healing journey and the representation of healthy relationships that make The Owl House stand out, especially to its audience of queer teens and young children—and “Thanks to Them” is full of this representation, which may come as a pleasing surprise for those who search for it. Seeing the characters struggle with common traumas and overcome them through small steps can be empowering, and accurately portraying the recovery journey helps watchers realize that it’s okay to stumble, cry, and be afraid. And little details like having a canonically-bisexual protagonist or promoting healthy queer partnerships help build an inclusive world through proper media representation, allowing queer teens to feel seen and fostering diversity in younger watchers.

The Owl House has always emphasized representation since the beginning, and this still stands true even now. Even with its rushed plot, “Thanks to Them” sets a high precedent for the following two specials, tackling growth and recovery with tact as the protagonists take their next steps forward. However, for fans who haven’t yet delved into season three, or the show in general, keep in mind that many of its darker lore episodes may involve some triggering content such as the portrayal of anxiety attacks, PTSD, and emotional abuse—and due to its plot weaknesses, this first special definitely appeals more to those who prefer watching the characters grow and develop as people. But beyond its flaws, the start of season three, with all its representation, lore, and lighthearted moments, is a thrilling beginning of the end.