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The 'title card' from The First Day.

if you're reading these as they come - i'm sorry that it's been a minute! as you might be able to trace through a bit of backtracking, i ran into a few technical hurdles and, more importantly, between the last overview and now, we've found out the actual date of The Owl House's incoming finale, and it's close enough that even if i had written at double speed without fail i don't think i would have been able to hit my initial target of lining up the end of this long-form recap with the actual end of the show. i don't want to linger on this point too long, because i want these overviews to stand more-or-less without all this boring site upkeep context, but i figure i'd touch on it here just to say that, regardless of falling off the schedule or the schedule just being outright wrong in the first place, i'm still looking to keep at this and hopefully get it back up to a reasonable pace.

it doesn't help, then, that our next daunting task is an especially unpackable episode. The First Day, as promised in both versions of the ninth episode's overview, is our first instance of Luz attending as a full-fledged student at Hexside, a subject which i (hopefully - i can't decide how you receive my writing!) signalled towards having some mixed feelings about. no matter how well the show segues into this, it's something that's going to inspire a lot of takes out of me, and a lot of dragging my feet on finding the best way to convey those takes.

A screenshot from The First Day, with Luz pulling off a theatrical reveal.

we open on Luz getting to display some fun theatrics through self-narration as she takes... some sort of entrance exam, i guess, but given how slipping off the stage entirely just gets a shrug and an 'I've seen worse' out of Principal Bump, the bar seems to be set fairly low, although i suppose the reasoning here is that her glyph magic is novel enough to help smooth over any mistakes in execution. like i said back in Something Ventured, Someone Framed, it does feel like Bump needs to be pretty malleable for the sake of the plot sometimes, but i don't hate it.

on her way to her titular first day, Luz expresses her worries over attending Hexside pretty flat-out when Eda asks, saying that she didn't make a good first impression at her human school, which fits into what we know about why she fled to the demon realm in the first place. it's an understandable worry, but as demonstrated by Amity approaching on some pretty shockingly friendly terms the second Eda's out of earshot, Luz has already, at the very least, secured some companionship within the school through her previous misadventures. also, King is here, hitching a ride to eat lots of free food from the trash!

we get a bit of fun world-building here as Willow explains the banners outside the school's entrance to be depictions of the nine head witches of the main covens - all of whom have some very enticing designs - which segues us nicely into Bump's office. after taking the time to relish in the fact that some kind of magic-draining monster is terrorizing their rival school, the principal insists Luz needs to make a quick decision on which coven she intends to join, especially since the Emperor's Coven is coming for an inspection and Hexside could really use the empire's money after all of the previous incidents we've seen Luz get tangled up in. as the writers put it, much more cleverly than i ever could, 'a good witch needs to hocus-focus'.

A screenshot from The First Day, with the Choosy Hat menacing a Hexside student.

Luz, of course, isn't quite so sold on the whole 'one coven' thing, wanting to dabble in all sorts of magic in the same way Eda has shown to be possible. she asks if there's 'some sort of enchanted article of clothing that could sort this out for me', and we get a cutaway gag to Hexside's Choosy Hat, which tried to eat students' heads and got locked away for it. normally, i try not to get too hung up on quick jokes where possible - keeps the pace up, gives you maybe a reason to go watch the show and chuckle and come back here for the meaty character analysis bits - but this one does stand out as the first example of something we're going to see pop up at least semi-frequently going forward. The Owl House, unavoidably, exists in the same media landscape as... y'know, other fiction about teenagers finding out magic is real and going to wizard school. some kind of trademarked proper-noun Wizarding World, if you will.

i have lots of reading and listening to recommend to people, to understand why that other wizard fiction isn't all it's cracked up to be even if it hadn't been written by a TERF scumbag, but i'll try my hardest not to let that suddenly dominate the whole direction of this overview. suffice to say, i think the creative team behind The Owl House always had a lot to say about the kinds of 'magic school' tropes we've seen codified over the last 25-ish years. i think the very premise of this show, without any of this Hexside stuff, already exists in conversation and contrast to those works. being required to tell stories inside Hexside, though, does seem to bring out a certain unavoidable directness to some things these writers are striving to avoid, and to make my stance clear, i think it's absolutely deserved and i wish there was a 265 million dollar theme park for this show instead of those books.

anyways, two paragraphs spent on a five-second gag aside, Bump chooses for Luz at random and puts her into potions classes (as denoted by a yellow uniform, the same we've seen Eda wear in our brief glimpses of her time at Hexside - parallels!). she doesn't hate it, but she does realize pretty much immediately that the idea of studying only potions is shutting her off from all other kinds of interesting magic, and in its own way stifling her ability to even remain passionate about the cool aspects of the potions class right in front of her.

a glimpse at an impromptu duel between Willow and an oracle track student outside is enough to fully distract her and ultimately tempt Luz into taking a look at a spare crystal ball, which quickly catches Bump's ire and gets her sent to detention. not detention as in the giant fanged pit from a while back - the pit's still busted. no, this is fairly normal detention. worth noting here is that Luz's response to being told she can apply for another track next year is to give us a reminder of the fact that she'll be back home in the human realm by next year. i noted just last episode that the show has pretty consciously avoided putting this time limit front and center so far, so seeing the text itself bring that up is interesting and makes Bump's retort of 'Maybe you'll do better in human school' sting even more.

A screenshot from The First Day, with Luz meeting her fellow 'detention track' students.

in detention, we see a few interesting new faces (one of which being a dog. with a face. like a person face, but on a dog.) who give Luz the cold shoulder at first, but warm up to her quickly when she takes the heat for not remaining silent. in the interim, Luz manages to get in touch with Willow and Gus through a window, requesting their help with an escape, but her fellow troublemakers pull her aside to reveal their hidden passageway, summoned up via chalk sketch. this hall of magical shortcuts weaving throughout Hexside is, again, drawing from a long history of magical school fiction, and we see it deployed in two pretty interesting ways - first, to stumble into a very normal talk that Amity is having to herself about if being classmates with Luz 'changes anything', and secondly, to enrich the learning potential of the detention kids.

the detention gang - Viney, Jerbo, and Barcus - are an interesting bunch, all of whom are here for the same reason as Luz. the trouble they've made, as they put it, is 'liking school too much' and trying to mix various tracks of magic (with my favorite of the three being Viney, who's merged healing and beast keeping into 'healing, but with a griffin for a nurse'). i have some mixed feelings on them, overall, in the sense that it feels like they're being thrown into the mix rather late. Luz already has her friend circle at Hexside, via various school-adjacent adventures. that isn't to say that i think a character should only have so many friends, but one of the many oddities that Luz attending Hexside herself requires is that this plot needs new tertiary characters who share her interest in mixing magic. they're all interesting, but they're not the primary friend group, so all those interesting traits only get to run so deep.

not helping with that lack of depth is that, just as quickly as they've decided Luz is a kindred spirit, a pretty contrived misunderstanding splits the group apart as Willow and Gus arrive to help and repeat back Luz's own words about how she was 'too good for this place'. Luz's new friends immediately take this as a very personal affront, which is... not the worst, i get why these outcast kids would be sensitive to that type of talk, but it happens very fast. what's more interesting to unpack is Luz's own reaction to feeling as though she's hurt people, quickly becoming despondent and resigning herself to a garbage can disguise with a 'Yeah, that's where I belong'. this might be a quick and dirty low-stakes version of it, but make no mistake, Luz's own intense response towards failing others is an important character trait - and, if you're willing to do a bit of searching and homework about a fun little phenomenon called 'rejection-sensitive dysphoria', maybe another window into reading her as someone with ADHD?

A screenshot from The First Day, with the inspector revealing her true form as a basilisk.

meanwhile, the inspector from the Emperor's Coven has arrived, and since we're already closing in on the third act of this plot, it's revealed pretty quickly that she's also the monster that attacked Glandus High earlier in that quick gag, some kind of shapeshifting serpent that can literally drain the magic out of witches and leave them incapacitated. the monster quickly crosses paths with Luz and her friends, cluing us in to a potential weakness when it turns out that she can't eat Luz's glyph magic without spitting up shreds of paper but managing to drain Gus and Willow of their energy. just as quickly as she was cast out, Luz brings her friends to the hall of shortcuts as a safe haven and earns at least a temporary truce with her detention buddies, who manage to identify the inspector as a 'greater basilisk', with the added wrinkle that basilisks were thought to be extinct on the Boiling Isles. intriguing!

the solution, then, is to use their unique styles of magic to try and fight back against the basilisk with the advantage of knowing Hexside's various shortcuts, and it's a fine little action sequence - although i will say that the trade-off of giving these characters pretty quirky pairings of magic is that it's a little obtuse to really convey action, like when Barcus uses his expertise in oracle and potion spells to... see that the basilisk is about to be hit by a bunch of sandbags the rest of the team is already cutting down anyways...? weird questions about Barcus's powers of pre-determination aside, the four of them manage to make the basilisk spit all that drained magic back out, bringing the crisis to a close but also awakening Bump, who's ready to start dishing out punishments for mixed magic right away.

the ensuing confrontation between Luz and Bump is an interesting one to unpack, if perhaps a little bit condensed like a lot of the back half of this episode has been. Luz is quick to come to her new friends' defense by pointing out that, yeah, they have a secret hideout, but maybe it's worth interrogating what kind of system makes people feel like they need secret hideouts, too. this, i can absolutely get down with! "why do people become outcasts and how responsible is the system for casting them aside" is a theme that i find interesting in lots of fiction and it feels like a good question to be asking. her further elaboration that 'you need coven money, but if you have to hurt your students to get it, what's the point' is... i mean, she's right, and i don't think it's unrealistic for her to have some opinions about this (i certainly already knew this kind of thing at her age), but it also cuts to the core of the issue a little quickly and i think maybe i'd like this beat a little more if it was Bump getting to be a little introspective instead of, apparently, getting called out on this for the first time by a new pupil. and, y'know, all this coming after proving he wasn't a narc for the Emperor last time we saw him.

A screenshot from The First Day, with Luz 'transformed' into her multi-track Hexside uniform.

maybe i'm just overthinking things and expecting too much interiority out of Principal Bump, but i feel like i remember liking him more than this on an initial viewing? whatever the case, he's as malleable as ever as he quickly shrugs things off and allows Viney, Jerbo, and Barcus to enroll in multiple classes, granting them some two-toned Hexside uniforms to denote their magic studies of choice. any complaints i've had about this whole plotline are also made at least somewhat worthwhile by the fact that, when Luz expresses that she wants to study in all nine tracks, she gets a full-blown magical girl transformation sequence for her new uniform. it's rad. we also get the reveal that the only other student in Hexside history to pursue so much learning, and the creator of the hall of shortcuts, was none other than Eda herself, which feels like a pretty obvious connection to make, but whatever, this is ultimately a show that airs on Disney Channel and i won't begrudge it for occasionally having a thing i can see coming.

we end on Principal Bump noting to himself that 'the coven denies knowing about the basilisk, but that won't stop me from writing a very stern letter', and happening upon King. King's been here the whole time doing a fun little running joke where he's playing substitute teacher after one of Hexside's professors leaves in a huff over donuts! i haven't really mentioned it, which is a shame, because it's a fun joke and i love King's internal logic that a teacher is just 'a king of children'. that's really about all there is to it, though, and i can only comment on these fun "King finds authority in weird places" subplots so much, especially when the episode itself is so tightly packed and doesn't put a lot of focus on King.

so, The First Day is... an episode of The Owl House, for sure. i don't hate it, but much like with previous Hexside episodes, i get a sense that the material is being stretched a little thin, and being put under some pretty clear requirements that might have been tacked onto the show after the fact. i think a pretty major factor of Luz's character is the way she interacts in a school setting - it's why she ran away to the Demon Realm to begin with, after all - but ironically, by putting her inside an actual school, it can sometimes feel like the show is spinning its wheels in reinforcing what we already know about her relationship to education and the writers' broad opinions about how these systems can let students down. this isn't exactly helped by this episode needing to establish a new set of companions for Luz, all of whom engage with this theme on the same basic level and don't really get to receive the kind of depth we'll be seeing out of the main cast. i'm here for what The Owl House is trying to say, but i can only watch it being said so many ways before i start craving some new layers to these characters and this world.

next time on The Owl House - Luz goes to a carnival!

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