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The 'title card' from The Intruder.

as i mention in my last overview, The Intruder was so good that it sort of gravitationally pulled my attention in even while i was writing about other stuff. when i started doing these overviews, i had a conversation with friends about this whole first season of The Owl House, and how it's a lot more uneven than the later parts of the show, trying to ease us into this world and the broader thematic elements that the writers seem interested in exploring. in that conversation, i pinpointed the show's twelfth episode as perhaps the moment where it solidly 'becomes' the show i so enthusiastically went to bat for in the introduction to this project. i'm not going to say i was fully wrong, necessarily, but i will say i was definitely overlooking this one as another major turning point even this early on.

it might not seem like it early on, but honestly, even the first scene is doing a lot of fun legwork to introduce us to important aspects of this show's world. though she is, quite relatably, distracted by his adorableness, Luz is getting a lesson in demonology from King. i had forgotten how much King tried to establish himself as a sort of alternative mentor figure early on, but it's a really fun character trait, following up on his B-plot from last time, and he takes his teaching quite seriously, insisting it'll save Luz's life one day. we also get a bit of worldbuilding as we figure out how the Boiling Isles got its name, with the cast rained in by, well, boiling rain. bottle episode time!

we get a pretty cute glimpse of characters like Willow and Tiny Nose dealing with the rain in Bonesborough, but back in the actual plot, with a gorgeously animated forcefield protecting Hooty's 'precious stucco', Luz correctly identifies that being stuck inside is a great opportunity to ask some questions. for starters, we finally broach what the deal is with Eda and owls - Eda insisting the title of 'Owl Lady' is a sign of respect for her wisdom, while King says it's 'because she coughs up rat bones' - and it's clearly a bit more than an aesthetic touch or a metaphor, as King easily distracts her with a shiny object and she mentions having a nest. unable to pin down an answer, Luz instead shifts to a more pressing question, asking to learn her first spell.

A screenshot from The Intruder, with Eda tempted by a shiny pen.

at first, Eda declares herself too tired to teach, but through the cunning power of shiny objects, Luz manages to get a quick lesson out of her. it is here, for the first time, that we get to talk about the rules of magic in the world of The Owl House! this type of stuff is a tough needle to thread right, equally easy to overexplain or to underdevelop, but when you find that balance, it adds a lot of texture to the world. as Eda describes it, a witch's staff is imbued with power, but there are certain fundamentals that any aspiring witch needs to know how to cast manually. this form of magic quite literally comes from the heart, in the form of a bile sac. in her own words, 'humans think magic is made out of thin air, but that's stupid'. can you tell this is also a very quotable episode yet? sorry if it's a bit much.

Eda admits she hadn't really considered these biological logistics when agreeing to teach a human pupil, but she does mention that there are different ways witches have done magic in the past, and assures Luz everything will work out somehow. Luz insists on knowing more, though, and Eda ends up conking out cold after trying to demonstrate a simple light spell again. in trying to get her put somewhere more comfortable than the living room floor, we get a look at Eda's nest, complete with shrew bones!

A screenshot from The Intruder, with King trying to get Luz's attention for his demon lessons.

even with Eda out for the count, Luz is still more dedicated to her witchcraft studies than King's teachings, trying to replay a video she recorded of Eda drawing a spell circle and figure out what she needs to do. King's getting more and more visibly distraught over how Luz brushes his interests off, but agrees to lend a hand anyways if it means she can take the time afterwards to learn more about demons. King, having lived with Eda longer than we as viewers are privy to, has a theory about what might give Luz the ability to do magic - a mysterious golden elixir that Eda takes every day, which he's willing to steal for Luz to try. the two inadvertedly break the bottle, though, and the episode takes a turn from 'fun bottle' to 'Nostromo bottle' as the lights go out and Hooty turns up seeming potentially dead. i would be be remiss to not point out the way the animation team captures this shift in tone, too, with the Owl House trading its warm reds and golds for a menacing palette of faded greens.

King insists this is all the handiwork of the dangerous Snaggleback he's been trying to teach Luz about, a potent demon trying to take shelter from the boiling rain, and quickly takes the opportunity to turn this ordeal into a crash course in demonology, with the two gearing up in bandages and rubber gloves to figure things out. the first place they check is Eda's nest, where she's gone missing - i'm curious, is this another 'this one's real obvious' one to you? because it was to me, although that might be due to some extent of having seen fanart here and there. whatever, this site currently operates on pre-school television rules where you're just going to have to yell your answer at the screen and i'll continue on like i heard you.

that's right, they are leaving a pretty clever trail of clues that we can probably piece together!

Luz and King quickly get separated, and King ends up making his way to confront the Snaggleback, who's actually just about King's size, cowering and insisting he snuck in through a window. if i have any nits to pick in this episode, it's probably around this beat, mostly because it diffuses a lot of the tense pacing and feels like a weird writing manuever where it'd be 'too mean' for King to be outright wrong about his demon studies but the actual answer just raises more questions about how the Snaggleback has become such a mythologized thing.

A screenshot from The Intruder, with Eda transformed by her curse.

with the 'real' demon snatching away the Snaggleback, King gets reunited with Luz just as quickly, and the two piece together the torn tag on Eda's elixir, which reveals the true nature of what they're dealing with - Eda is suffering from some kind of curse that, if left untreated, causes her to transform into a four-legged owl beast. it's an absolutely fantastic design too, incorporating Eda's facial features while still not shying away from making her look utterly terrifying. there's even a fun biology note to be had, because her massive black eyes are actually enlarged pupils that give her a sensitivity to light, with a camera flash giving Luz and King a window to escape her attacks.

just barely keeping Eda at bay and huddled up without the house's main mentor, Luz and King have a heart-to-heart where he admits he's been trying so hard to teach her because he's lonely and doesn't get taken seriously a lot. it's a surprising bit of emotional depth for King this early on in the show, and i really appreciate this entire episode as an opportunity to explore his character just as much as it is an opportunity to learn all sorts of juicy lore about the Demon Realm. drawing on King's demon expertise and lifting his spirits, Luz tries to figure out more ways to generate enough light to stun Eda, now that her phone's busted up.

in giving the spell circle video one more shot, Luz finds that whatever way her phone is broken, it's revealing something she didn't see in the pristine version of the video - a glyph within the spell circle. this might seem like a slightly contrived way to have the information - pardon the wordplay - come to light, but i honestly like it a lot. there's a lot i'll have to say about Luz's general progress with magic throughout the series, but i'll just say the part i can say right now, which is that i appreciate the idea of the phone and photography as a sort of 'symbol' for light magic in this episode, in the same way one might think of the seed last time representing the potential of plant magic or something. what is photography, after all, but using light to capture a moment in time? sounds a bit magic to me.

A screenshot from The Intruder, with Luz celebrating her first spell.

tracing the glyph and tapping it allows Luz to cast her first spell, creating a small orb of light. if you've been paying attention, this is something she also does in the intro animation every episode, but the show still breaks out some noticeably fluid animation for her elation at this first step into the world of magic. it's great.

the use of the glyph only gets more impressive when Luz takes Eda's advice about larger spell circles equalling greater output, drawing a massive version of the glyph on a wall once King has her lured into a trap. the resulting burst of light is enough to not just stop Eda in her tracks, but revert her back to her regular form, albeit with the need to top off on elixir and spit the Snaggleback out as an owl pellet. she's understandably upset at King for taking her elixir, but he fully owns up to his mistakes with no hesitation and points her attention towards the magical moment - i mean, literally magical but also sentimentally magical - of Luz sitting in a corner, endlessly fascinated as she draws glyph after glyph, filling the room with orbs of light.

as i said, this episode can really be argued as a major stepping stone in how this show becomes the show i love so much. even more strongly than on a first watch, i think this moment with Luz stood out to me, because it's something very potent, as someone who relates pretty deeply to her struggles. the resourceful use of magic to solve a problem is one big character moment, sure, but there's something so sweet about watching her so completely happy with even the simplest of spells to the point of, well... hyperfixation might be the term?

as if all this wasn't enough, the episode also isn't content to wrap up without giving us a bit more to chew on. Eda decides there's no point in hiding the curse any longer, and explains that she doesn't know how it happened, just that she was young and that the elixir is enough to keep it under control. the way she talks about the curse - saying things like 'no one likes having a curse, but if you take the right steps, it's manageable' - reads pretty strongly to me as a metaphor for chronic illness, whether that's physical or mental, requiring vigilant medication and evoking a 'don't worry about me, i'll get by' response out of Eda.

A screenshot from The Intruder, with a mysterious figure in Eda's dream.

Luz and King leave Eda to rest, and she slips into a dream, seemingly some kind of recurring nightmare where a shadowy figure stands silently through a doorway. Eda knows this must be who cursed her, but she can't quite tell who it is. this all feels like a really smart move by the writers - it could have been easy to leave these pieces scattered throughout the season, but Eda's been as upfront as she can about her affliction, and knowing that their audience would assuredly start wondering who did it, the show highlights this mystery ASAP. if you like big-picture plot stuff, this is all going to be really important, and as someone who's watching this show for the second time, i found myself even more enticed by the slight hints being left here.

oh, and don't worry, Hooty is okay. thank god.

when i talk about how good this episode is, i hope it doesn't seem like i'm only in this show for the parts where big plot elements move around. that's part of it, without a doubt - it's satisfying to get new information, to see big mysteries slide into place, to have burning questions that keep me watching - but for every bit of pure plot in this episode, there's just as much character depth being doled out. much like last week gave us our first instance of Eda and King being played off each other in a B-plot, this episode is the first time Luz and King get to really buddy up for an adventure, and the amount of new perspective you gain on King's regal demeanor when he admits he doesn't have many friends and wants to be taken more seriously is just as satisfying to me as learning about Eda's curse or seeing Luz's first spell.

even for the best of shows, the first few episodes can be an awkward growing phase, and The Owl House isn't even necessarily out of that phase quite yet. there will be clunkers between now and that twelfth episode that my mind went to as a sort of turning point. i won't even rule out that there might be clunkers after that, too! but sometimes, even this early on, you watch an episode and you can just feel the vision coming together, bit by bit. it might not be all the way there yet, but the passion of the entire team is coming through on this one, and i can gladly assure you as a second-time viewer that if you want the show to be more like this more often, it's only going to keep getting better.

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

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