The Owl House Review: Hunting Palismen

“Hunting Palismen” might be my favorite episode of The Owl House so far. It had a fantastic balance of showcasing Luz and her journey, introducing the backstory for a new character, continuing to build the lore of the world, and gave us some stunning moments for both the heroes and the villains. Let’s get into it.

The cold opening has so much to go over!

We finally got to see the coven leaders. I was surprised that they all seem to be in on Emperor Belos’ plan for the Day of Unity. I should have seen it coming because they’re pretty much government officials holding positions of power. They’re more than likely just as corrupt. But part of me figured there would be some decenters in Belos’ ranks. I think that could still be possible with the coven leaders. None of them spoke so we don’t know their thoughts or motivations. We’ll just have to wait and see.

They were some A+ character designs though! I want to know about all of them!

“Hunting Palismen” revealed that the Day of Unity involves the human world is not surprising from what we know of Luz’s confrontation with Belos in season one. What stuck out to me was he called it a utopia for magic. We know that Luz can’t use magic in the human world. Also, Belos provided the Golden Guard his staff which is made from technology. Is Belos trying to do away with all magic by bringing the Boiling Isles into the human world? We, the audience, know that won’t work because Lilith could still use magic in Luz’s world. Maybe Belos isn’t aware of this? Or maybe he wants to subjugate the human realm despite what he told Luz that he had no urge to conquer her realm. Belos is a known liar. The season one finale could have been a red herring.

Belos also said his plan is about uniting “our realms” being the human world and the Boiling Isles. If the Boiling Isles is the coven leaders’ realm, then the theories that Belos is either the human Phillip Wittebane or a descendant is looking more likely. Especially with the Golden Guard’s back story which I’ll get into in a moment.

I am also really digging the Amphibia season two finale vibes as it’s The Owl House’s sister show.

To continue with the cold opening for “Hunting Palismen,” Belos is actually a horrific goo, deer monster under that mask! In the season two trailer when we glimpsed this scene, that was not what I was expecting. Palismen magic must help Belos keep somewhat of a human form and hold himself together. It does make me question Belos being related to Phillip. He could be a demon playing up being a human leader. Or possibly dark magic has twisted him into this demonic form. I can’t emphasize enough that Belos is a confirmed liar. I truly think with everything he says, the opposite is actually the truth.

This makes me think Phillip Wittebane’s true descendant is the Golden Guard and that Belos is lying about being his family.

Man, the Golden Guard is quickly becoming my favorite character of the series along with Amity. We find out his name is Hunter, and we’re told he’s Belos’ nephew. Though, he also says that Belos took him in, so “uncle” might just be a placeholder title. Or Belos could have adopted him after something happened to Hunter’s family. There’s still so much mystery wrapped up in that relationship.

In my review for “Separate Tides,” I mentioned that I loved Hunter’s character trait that he was lazy and entitled. While that trait was prominent in show creator Dana Terrace’s promotional artwork, we see that Hunter is quite capable when he needs to be. He’s a witch without magic. Like Luz, he must compensate for his abilities using a magic staff that wields technology or by his physical prowess. Hunter’s a fantastic fighter as he faced off against Kikimora.

Being a witch without magic makes me think he’s the true descendant of Phillip Wittebane while Belos is lying to him. Hunter explains to Luz that members of his family for generations were magicless witches. We know Phillip came in the 1600s to the Boiling Isles. I have to believe that if Belos isn’t Phillip or part of his family, then the Emperor must want Hunter for some greater purpose. I’m really scared for this sad boy.

Hunter’s a tragic character too, having similar qualities to Eda and Lilith. He’s clearly a child raised in propaganda and struggles with it. Like Lilith, he wants to think Belos’ ways are correct. It leads to him feeling trapped and having a secret interest in wild magic. I loved watching him bond with Luz over glyph magic. This also shows that he’s not an idiot. Hunter is very smart and well-read despite how others perceive him. That’s a nice character trait to slide in there.

I really enjoyed seeing Hunter question the system he’s in. It raises the big ethical question of how at fault are people stuck and perpetuating horrible propaganda. Willow and Amity clearly bought into Belos’ doctrine back in season one, but now are actively pushing back against it. Lilith was the main villain of the first season but is now working on her redemption arc. Hunter’s interest in wild magic is promising, but he’s also hurt so many people prior to this. He sees Belos as his family. “Hunting Palismen” was the cracks in the armor. Whether Hunter sheds that armor to free himself or chooses to stay with the baddies will define his character in this series.

This episode also shifted a lot of story expectations and turned them on its head. I wasn’t expecting the cardinal palisman to choose Hunter. Everything set it up that Luz was going to get her witch’s staff, but the cardinal chooses Hunter instead. That also ups the stakes for Hunter as a person. He knows that Belos kills palismen to consume their magic. What will Hunter do now that he has a Palisman of his own? The answer is pretty obvious that in a Disney show, Hunter is more than likely going to protect his new palisman. It’s going to lead to some fantastic narrative drama down the line. But The Owl House has surprised me before so I’m not ruling any tragedy out!

I must give a big shoutout to Zeno Robinson’s portrayal of Hunter. He gives so much depth to that performance. Robinson’s ability to move from humor to threatening to pulling sympathy from the audience is so impressive. Just in “Hunting Palismen,” he brought so much range to Hunter. Robinson is such a fantastic addition to an already stellar cast. I really adored his performance.

If I had any gripes, I feel like Hunter’s change is a bit fast. He’s barely been in the season and he’s already on a big character arc. I wish they had peppered him in just a bit more earlier on to make this change rewarding. But this is the smallest of nitpicks.

To round out the villains’ stories because boy this was a fantastic episode for them, Kikimora’s power grab is a wonderful gambit for her character. I loved her feud with Lilith in season one as they both sought Belos’ attention and praise. With Lilith gone, Kiki only has one more person in her way being Hunter. I’ve wanted Kiki to have a much bigger role, and this episode set that up. She knows Hunter attacked her, but he’s the emperor’s “nephew” (I’m quoting that because I still don’t believe it). Kiki can’t just out him easily, because she tried to have Hunter killed with her pet hand dragon (I have no idea what else to call a dragon made of hands). She is in a fascinating position which sets her up as a big player for the rest of the season if not the rest of the show.

Gosh, I love villains. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good villain, and “Hunting Palismen” gave me so much this week!

 

To me, Luz so far this season felt like a supporting character in her own show while the rest of the cast was getting up to speed with their development. I’m so happy she got an episode to not only shine with what makes her the best protagonist but also coming to terms with some personal flaws. “Hunting Palismen” is one of her best episodes so far.

Luz’s best character trait is also her biggest flaw. That go-getting, positive attitude is what gets her into trouble most of the time. This was prominently featured last season in “Wing it Like Witches” when she voluntold everyone to play in a Grudgby match to settle their differences. Her friends got hurt in the process. Heck, this attitude is actually how she came to the Boiling Isles in the first place. She barged into a new world and decided to stay without thinking about the consequences of her actions.

Luz’s journey in season two is about facing consequences. In “Separate Tides,” she struggled knowing she destroyed her only way home which put her on her path to find Phillip’s journal. She’s worried her mom is missing her, not knowing Camila is in danger with Creepy Luz. Her guilt over Eda losing her magic was addressed. Now here in “Hunting Palismen,” she is accidentally teamed up with Hunter after storming in to save the Palismen. Luz throws herself into situations without thinking them through.

This episode forced Luz to slow down and actually start considering her future, which is exactly what her mom wanted her to do in the first episode. Coming face to face with a group of Palismen who didn’t pick her as a partner was an eye-opener. Luz doesn’t have a long-term plan of who she wants to be. I love that Luz is always in the present moment, but she doesn’t actually know what she wants to do with her magical abilities. She can’t do magic in the human realm. What’s at the end of the journey if it will all go away when she goes home? What is the point of the journey then? What does all this mean for Luz? This is a great way to write a character who doesn’t actually know what they want. The show can fold that extra layer into Luz’s development. It’s brilliantly done here.

Other shows wish they were written as well as The Owl House (looks at Hunter from Star Wars: The Bad Batch).

Even as she faced her flaws, Luz never lost who she is as a person even when she’s teamed up with Hunter. She refuses to let the hand dragon eat him despite the fact he’s a villain. Last season, I discussed how Luz is the voice of change. Her ability to break down emotional and social walls is amazing. Luz believes in the value of life and that people can change. Eda, Amity, King, Lilith, Willow, Gus, and now Hunter are all better individuals with Luz’s impact in their lives. The defining moment was Luz giving Hunter back his staff. That was a test for both of them. Luz put her faith in him by asking him to be a good person. Hunter rewarded her faith by proving just that.

This also led to the best humor in “Hunting Palismen” with Luz and Hunter having a very sibling relationship. These creators are doing such important work for queer stories. Most media would have Luz, who is bisexual, falter at the hot new boy character to become a love triangle with Amity. It was a great fake-out setting up the scene like Luz would kiss awake the hot boy. But NOPE, she slaps the hell out of him instead. He grossly licks her hand when she covers his mouth. It said right away this wasn’t going to be a romance. The Owl House crew knows better. Luz has chosen Amity, a woman, and that’s not going to go away for horrible love triangle tropes. I continue to be impressed with this crew and their work.

 

Principal Bump really confirmed what I was saying last week about the differences between Glandus High and Hexside Academy. He really wants what’s best for his students versus the bully mentality of Glandus. Wanting to let his pupils experience the important step of becoming a witch, he went to extra lengths to team up with Eda and the Bat Queen for them. I bet this behavior wouldn’t be approved by the emperor or his coven. Bump doesn’t care as he continues to break down social norms and rules for his kids. I can’t shake the feeling that Bump is going to be so important when it comes to the final battle.

Also, there was a bit of lore dropped in this scene. Bump said that Palismen are made from palistrum trees but they’re almost gone. It made me realize that very few witches on the Boiling Isles actually use a witch’s staff. Is this part of Belos’ plan for the Day of Unity? It also puts him in charge of the market to consume the Palismen he needs for survival.

I have to talk a moment about one of my personal favorite characters who popped up in “Hunting Palismen.” THE BAT QUEEN IS BACK! She is walking, breathing lore and I adore her. Bat Queen balances being a wise protector of Palismen with the quirky charm of being a single mother. Every moment she’s on-screen, I’m so engaged with this person. Keep in mind she’s only been in three episodes, but every time she appears, it’s going to change something in the world, characters, or narrative. I can’t wait to get the story of how she met Eda. I love her, love her design, love Isabella Rossellini voicing her, love her story, love her tragedy, love her humor, UGH I LOVE THE BAT QUEEN!

 

Some random thoughts to round out Hunting Palismen:

-Principal Bump’s hair reveal was GLORIOUS. I literally screamed, “HE HAS HAIR!?”

-The baby Palismen are so cute! Also, I see you goose palisman with a bell in your mouth. I see you nod to Untitled Goose Game. These creators are such precious nerds.

-The Amphibia, Big City Greens, and other Disney show easter eggs in the background are always a treat. It was fun to spot Sprig and Remy in Hunter’s room, especially since Zeno Robinson also voices Remy.

-I’m really missing Owlbert this season. In an episode about Palismen, it was odd to not see him. Technically, he’s been in every episode, but he’s been in his staff form. I miss our cute little owl boy!

-It was nice briefly seeing Viney and Jerbo again from the Detention Track. BUT WHERE WAS MY BOY BARCUS!? Barcus, a dog with magical abilities, receiving a Palisman is just the right amount of nonsense this show is usually so good at. JUSTICE FOR BARCUS!

-Eda and King’s love for Luz by getting her some palistrum wood was such a touching scene. Eda is a fantastic mentor who always goes above and beyond for Luz. Their found family is one of the best on television.

 

“Hunting Palismen” might just be my favorite episode of The Owl House. It has a little bit of everything that makes the show great.

 

This article was originally posted on The Geeky Waffle and has been reposted here with permission.

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