This Saturday saw the release of “Thanks to Them,” the first of the three specials comprising season 3 of The Owl House. The creative team behind this show has a lot to wrap up in approximately two hours, but I think they can do it. This episode is Halloween-themed, which seems appropriate for a fantasy-horror series. Let’s dive in.
“Thanks to Them” picks up where “King’s Tide” ended season 2, with Luz and her friends thrust back into the human world. Camila is thrilled to have her daughter back and welcomes Luz’s companions with open arms. However, Luz struggles with survivor’s guilt and fear of her previous encounter with Philip being discovered. Several months pass, with Luz returning to school as her friends try to acclimate to human customs and tools. Flapjack hunts down a box with the same emblem as the old portal door. On Halloween, the kids go to a local festival, and Amity plans to present Luz with the box. However, Hunter is convinced he keeps seeing Belos, so he and Luz take the box and investigate. Camila discovers Luz’s video diary and, realizing she plans to stay in the human realm forever, goes after the kids. Hunter’s visions finally manifest as he is possessed by the Emperor, thanks to the drop that fell on him at the end of “King’s Tide.” A fight ensues, the witches’ power fueled by the proximity of Titan’s blood. Ultimately, Belos reassumes his corporeal form, leaving Hunter and returning to the Demon Realm. Camila insists on taking Luz back to help her friends, and Flapjack sacrifices himself for Hunter. Vee agrees to hold down the fort at home while the others return to make things right.
Since this entire special is set in the human realm, most of my favorite characters are absent. This wouldn’t be such a big deal with a full 20-episode season, but it’s somewhat disappointing when this episode is a third of season 3. This is 100% on Disney and their TV animation executives, not Dana Terrace or the artists. However, I think it’s worth mentioning because it gives this short season yet another bittersweet twinge. In fact, bittersweet describes “Thanks to Them” quite well in general. Of course, Luz is conflicted over being reunited with her mother but separate from Eda. Likewise, Hunter is torn between the warmth of this makeshift family and his fear of Belos. Gus, Amity, and Willow miss their own families. This tone works exceptionally well in light of the trauma and anxiety the group experienced in “King’s Tide.” The animation in “Thanks to Them” is crisp and bright, and I like the new character designs post-time skip. You can also call them old character designs; these were the main cast’s original looks before Disney picked up the show. The music is also particularly strong in this episode, and I love the new, extended intro sequence. It gives us some nice slice-of-life moments with the kids before the real drama begins. I miss the epic, magical feel of the season 1 and 2 intros, but this also adds to the different tone of season 3 (thus far) and accomplishes a lot in a short amount of time.
I’ve always liked Luz’s mom Camila; she’s a loving, supportive parental figure they rarely include in shows like this. We learn a lot about her in “Thanks to Them,” such as her own past being bullied in school. She was also a nerd, reading the pseudo-Star Trek books that become the basis for Gus and Hunter’s costumes. I found this all very sweet, both the two boys bonding and Camila’s surprisingly sad past. It’s amazing for this woman to have gone through so much (including losing her husband so young) and become such a strong, caring mother not only to Luz but all of her friends and Vee. One of my favorite scenes in the episode is her nightmare, in which we relive some of Luz’s darker moments through her mother’s eyes. The show has previously implied that Camila sent Luz to camp to help her cope with the loss of her father and fit in better with her peers. “Thanks to Them” makes this explicit, showing how Luz’s principal intimidated Camila and drove her attention to her own troubled past. Everyone in “Thanks to Them” is suffering, but their strength is the support they offer one another. Some other moments I loved with Camila involved embracing Amity and Luz’s relationship with her and when Luz asks to sleep with her mom. This search for comfort, even asking Camila to kiss her palisman, is very sweet and would seem perfectly normal coming from a younger child. But Luz isn’t normal, and she’s suffered a lot lately.
It’s inevitable that season 3 would feel somewhat rushed. Montages like the extended intro help “Thanks to Them” minimize this issue, but I’d be lying if I said the episode was perfectly paced. This issue is felt especially in developing relationships, especially between Camila and the kids, aside from Vee and Luz. The reveal of Luz’s powers working in the woods also could have been set up a little better, but I understand the time constraints in place. I’m reminded of Legend of Korra in that pacing issues are essentially being forced by the studio, but I think it’s important to recognize them nonetheless. For what it’s worth, I think the characters and relationships in The Owl House have been better written than in the first two seasons of LoK. Aside from pacing and set-up/pay-off, I think “Thanks to Them” is outstanding and feels very Halloween-y.
“Thanks to Them” is a bittersweet kickoff to a too-short final season. The tone is perfect for the subject matter and the situation Luz finds herself in. The episode looks and sounds great, and my only major issue, unsurprisingly, involves pacing. What should have been 20 half-hour episodes has been forcibly squashed into the runtime of a feature film, so I’m not sure what Dana Terrace and her crew could have done to lessen this issue. Regardless, I loved this episode, and as an animal lover, I cried over poor Flapjack. I can’t wait for the final two specials, which will air in 2023.
"Thanks to Them" is a bittersweet kickoff to a too-short final season. The tone is perfect for the subject matter and the situation Luz finds herself in.