HOOT HOOT! We’re back! The Owl House returned this October with its first series finale special, “Thanks to Them.” The 45-minute special is the first of three (the remaining two will be released in 2023) that will serve as The Owl House Season 3 and are intended to wrap up the show. Fans –myself included – met the news that The Owl House would end like this with an uproar and a demand that Disney give creator Dana Terrace and the rest of the team more time. The show has grown to mean so much Disney Channel audiences old and new alike, and many of us felt as though The Owl House, one of the network’s most popular and beloved shows, was coming to an unnecessary end. (Another possible reason for its unnecessary end: alleged homophobia within the Disney machine by one of the corporation’s higher-ups.)
Alas, what’s done is done. Only five months after Season 2B concluded, we now have “Thanks to Them” – and it destroyed me entirely.
“Thanks to Them” is, in the simplest way, a filler episode. But not in the way you’d expect. While it does take a step back from the main storyline to give us a fix before The Owl House Season 3 concludes and literally destroys us. (Let’s be honest – Dana Terrace will have us sobbing like babies in 2023 and we’ll love her for it.) The episode serves as one big therapy session, with character revealing (and healing) moments, showing the part usually glossed over in YA fantasy novels: the aftermath of losing a life-threatening battle and how heroes deal with it.
Spoilers ahead for The Owl House Season 3 episode “Thanks to Them,” duh.
At the center of the episode are Luz (Sarah-Nicole Robles) and Hunter (Zeno Robinson), both suffering with the burden of carrying each other’s secrets, plus PTSD. Luz, in contrasting with her usual excited and charismatic self, becomes moody with time. The effects of always trying to be positive and looking on the bright side begin to fail her; the dark side of hope making itself evident as months pass by; and she’s unable to return to Bonesborough to help her friends fight the terrible evil that she helped unleash. She’s spent her entire life wanting to be a hero: powerful; skilled; beloved by all; and, above all else, a fixture people (and demons) can look up to and count on to be just and fair: always on the right side of conflict.
The longer Luz is left alone with her thoughts, the more she hyper-focuses on her mistakes, how she’s failed not only those around her, but herself. Or, at least, the idea she had of the hero she would be and the impossible standards to which she’s been holding herself. (Because, as we all know, fantasy heroes are also war criminals.) Luz believes that everything that’s been happening to this point is her fault – that if she tells someone how she feels, she is then responsible for how they react and the choices they make as a result.
It gets to the point where Luz decides to stay in the human realm indefinitely because she doesn’t believe she deserves a second chance to set her wrongs right. This decision gets beautifully vetoed by Camila (Elizabeth Grullon), Luz’s mother, who reminds her daughter that it’s important to continue showing up for those we love and always have their back.
Paralleling Luz’s journey, Hunter is dealing with the aftermath of learning he’s a Grimwalker. This basically means a clone of his uncle (and abuser) Emperor Belos (Matthew Rhys), aka Philip Wittebane (Alex Lawther) – a secret that could change everything between him and his found family. In his conscious and exhausting efforts to not be like Belos, Hunter has inadvertently become him, even before accidentally touching Belos’ goo and becoming possessed. The stress and anxiety of hiding have made him paranoid, prone to bouts of anger, and self-destructive.
And while I don’t think any of us should condone Hunter’s paranoia, he was 100% correct in fearing the worst – because Belos is back and needs to use Hunter as a vessel to get back to the Demon Realm. This act isn’t lost on me: for the entirety of the show, Belos’ goal has been to return to the human realm and essentially conquer it; but the second that he’s back, he’s too weak to do anything about it. His actions thus it don’t serve his revenge fantasy, and so he quickly pivots to revenge against the Collector instead. The most beautiful part of the fight sequence in the cemetery (aside from how smooth the animation is) is just how much the gang loves and believes in Hunter, especially Flapjack (rest in peace).
Unlike Luz, Hunter knows he’s not a hero and has spent his entire life being an enforcer instead. He’s no stranger to committing war crimes in the name of the greater good. But now, for the first time in his life, he’s thrust into a loving, nurturing community of demons (and humans) who care for him, who show him he can do better, who are helping him unlearn what he’s been fed all his life about who he should be. They allow Hunter to find himself and choose who he wants to be. Flapjack’s sacrifice is a testament to that – one last push to show him he deserves to break free from Belos and the Golden Guard and allow himself, finally, to stand for what (and who) he believes in: himself.
And now that the soul-destroying, tear-jerking part of the analysis is out of the way, let’s talk about the B-plot! While Luz and Hunter are being sad bois, Amity; Willow; Gus; and Vee find themselves exploring the human world after discovering an old rebus that they believe will lead them to more Titan’s Blood. They go all over town, from witchy shops to the library to the zoo to ask the giraffes for help, and then finally to the evil Gravesfield Historical Society. Inside, after Vee meets the cute, nonbinary volunteer Masha (Grey DeLisle), the crew finds a map of old Gravesfield, one that points them directly to the path they need gather the things that will get them back home.
I adored this scene. Partly because of how it moved the plot along, but mostly because it allowed the friendship between Amity, Willow, and Vee to shine through. Vee has spent the majority of her life running. Seeing her make friends, get comfortable around people, and open herself up to a love she hasn’t gotten but deeply deserves brought tears to my eyes. She is this group’s voice of reason, its grown-up, and The Owl House Season 3 gives her the perfect excuse to be a child again: to have fun with her friends without having to worry about anything bad happening because now she’s surrounded by people who love her and won’t allow it.
After decoding the rebus, the crew decides to keep it all a secret and surprise Luz with the news, since she’s still feeling awful about not being able to fix everything for her friends. And so, on the fateful Halloween night, Hunter begins to see things again, ruining the surprise for Luz when he tells her they have to use the rebus to find Belos because he’ll be at “the pot of gold (Titan’s blood) at the end of the rainbow” (i.e., the treasure map).
Luz, eager to help her friend, doesn’t find this odd at all. Together. they steal the rebus from Amity and head off into the night. Hunter becomes erratic and Luz loses him in the forest, but is able to track him down using rune magic; according to magic law, the closer she is to the Titan’s blood, the stronger her runes get.
But when she gets there, it isn’t Hunter who she finds. Belos has returned. And this time around, the kids are holding back because they don’t want to hurt Hunter. In a dynamic and super fun fight sequence, the gang gives it their all, but are still losing against their friend. The final straw snaps when Flapjack, Hunter’s palisman, enters the fight, showing Hunter that he’s still worthy of defending, and gets injured in the process. Hunter is able to regain control of his body and sacrifices himself to stop Belos. Nonetheless, things don’t go according to plan: the Emperor is still able to open the portal back to Bonesborough, leaving behind an injured Hunter on the verge of death.
And in the saddest animated TV death ever (totally exaggerating but I’m still in mourning, okay?). Flapjack gives his life force to Hunter, ensuring him one more shot at redemption.
This is it: the start of their final battle. The portal is open; the stage has been set; the heroes have been saved; and the flame of hope has been reignited. But Luz remains determined to stay behind. That is, until her mother stops her. She knows what Luz is about to say and announces she’s also coming with.
In the end, “Thanks to Them” is all about forgiving ourselves for the things we can’t control and preparing for those we can. Life is the choices we make and the people with whom we choose to surround ourselves. Like Hunter says, it’s their job to show up for those that can’t and fight back against oppression. Together.
“Thanks to Them” is available to stream (for free) on the Disney Channel’s YouTube channel (for the US, Canada, and Australia). The second episode of The Owl House Season 3, “For the Future,” will premiere on January 21, 2023.
My Favorite Easter Eggs and Moments
- Luz’s adorable laptop desktop and the video game names.
- Eda for sure knowing more than she’s letting on. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s revealed that one of the brothers was her ex.
- Every reference to Amphibia.
- THE GIRAFFE
- I seriously can’t believe they let them do this and I LOVE IT.
- Luz’s palisman is gonna be a snake. I have been convinced.