Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! We’ve entered a world of war and warriors, 30:35-37:18 on the Blu-ray.
It’s morning at the Daikini crossroads, and Willow, Meegosh, and the baby are asleep by their campfire. A man approaches on horseback, galloping a high speed. The horse wakes them up as it races by. Madmartigan is already awake, and watching them from inside his cage. Note that Madmartigan is cleaning his teeth with what looks like a piece of leather. In the previous scene, his teeth were all yellow and gross when he meant to appear threatening. Now that we’ve seen him be less of a threat and more humorous, there’s no more gross yellow teeth.
Meegosh asks “What was that?” But Madmartigan doesn’t answer. He says “Morning boys. Rough night last night, wasn’t it?” Then he decides to introduce himself, stating his name is Madmartigan. He asks the Nelwyn their names. Meegosh gets a dopey smile on his face and walks forward to shake Madmartigan’s hand, but Willow stops him. Willow says not to go near Madmartigan, that he’s dangerous. “I am not,” Madmartigan says.
Another rider on horseback approaches. There’s a little bit of slapstick as Willow tries to get the rider to stop, only to have to jump to the side as the rider speeds past. Willow asks what’s going on, and Madmartigan says “Smells like a battle.” Is he speaking metaphorically, or there the actual smell of blood and sword metal in the air? I’m thinking it’s a metaphor because we don’t see this battle.
Willow says he doubts Madmartigan is a warrior. Madmartigan says, “I am the greatest swordsman who ever lived.” This line is spoken with absolute seriousness, in sharp contrast with his jokey wheeling and dealing in the previous scene. This is not Madmartigan saying whatever he can think of to get out of the cage, but instead this is something he truly believes. He then asks once more for some water, politely this time. Coldly, Willow sips his own water, giving Madmartigan nothing but an intense stare.
The tone then shifts from serious back to comedic, as Madmartigan breaks down in overly-phony crying, doing that thing where he covers his face with his hands, but peeks through his fingers to get Willow’s reaction. Willow shows some sympathy and walks over to the cage with the cup of water and says, “Here.” Madmartigan stops the fake crying and casually says “Thanks, man.” But Willow is distracted by something and steps away, leaving Madmartigan high and dry (heh).
We then see a whole fleet of soldiers on horseback marching in their direction. (No CGI here, that really is a couple hundred extras on horses, all in full battle armor.) Madmartigan does the math, saying it’s two to three hundred horses, five or six wagons, “and about a thousand fools.” He keeps reaching for the water as he says this, for a little more slapstick. Distracted, Willow tries to hand Madmartigan the water, but drops it. Only a few drops of water hit Madmartigan’s fingers. Then there’s an odd beat with him desperately licking the water off his hand, to show just how dire his circumstance is.
Willow and Meegosh take the baby out of her travel pack, which I guess doubles as a sort of crib. Then there’s another shot of the soldiers getting closer. They’re wearing black and brown, with shiny silver helmets. There’s also a shot of several of them carrying large banners, with many of them ripped and torn. There are some symbols on the banners, but it’s hard to tell what they are.
Willow tries to get the attention of the man in the lead, but he says “Out of the way, peck.” This is a joke (a mean one) but it also establishes that these soldiers come from a similar place as Madmartigan. There’s a shot from Willow’s point of view, looking up at the horses, making them seem gigantic, as Willow continues trying to get their attention.
One of the soldiers stops, eyeing Madmartigan, who just glares back at him. Willow explains to the man that they found the baby in his village. “Will you please take care of her?” The soldier takes off his helmet to reveal a gruff figure with red hair and a red beard. In full tough-guy mode, he says, “We’re going into battle, little ones. Find a woman to take care of her.” Madmartigan shoots back with an insult, “I thought you were a woman, Airk.” (“Airk” is pronounced like “Eric.”)
This character is Airk Thaughbaer, a knight of Galladoorn. The tie-in books have surprisingly little background about Airk, except to emphasize his loyalty to the kingdom of Galladoorn. Airk asks Madmartigan “What did you do this time?” and Madmartigan answers, “Nothing you wouldn’t have done in my place.” “I always knew you’d end up in a crow’s cage,” Airk says. “At least I’m not down there herding sheep,” Madmartigan answers. Several more soldiers cross by on horseback as he says this, illustrating his point.
Once again, the jokey tone switches to something more serious, as Airk says “The NockMaar army destroyed Galladoorn.” Madmartigan asks, “The castle?” and Airk answers, “Bavmorda’s troops are crushing everything in sight.” Madmartigan asks to be let out of the cage, and then says one of the movie’s most famous lines, “Give me a sword, I’ll win this war for you.”
The last of the soldiers ride past, and Airk gives us a hint of his and Madmartigan’s history, saying “Madmartigan, I still serve Galladoorn. You serve no one. Remember. Sit in your coffin and rot.” Airk places his helmet back on and rides off. Madmartigan tells Airk “You need me,” and “I’ll be around long after you’re dead.” This part is some nice foreshadowing, but the next part is not, when Madmartigan has to add, “When I get out of here, I’m going to stick your head on a pig pole.” (Sadly, the wiki doesn’t have an entry for pig pole, but there will be plenty of talk about pigs before the movie is over.) Willow and Meegosh are shown watching this exchange with concerned looks on their faces.
Just what is the history between these two? The tie-in books inform us that Madmartigan was born into one of Galladoorn’s wealthiest and most powerful families, where he got the finest education and excelled at sword training. He joined the knights of Galladoorn, but his recklessness and troublemaking ways clashed with other, more disciplined knights. Madmartigan was booted from the knighthood after an illicit romance with a princess from Cashmere. Sometime later, Airk gave Madmartigan a second chance at knighthood by asking him to join the troops to fight Bavmorda’s army at Land’s End. For unspecified reasons, Madmartigan deserted the troops before the battle began, losing his honor. The tie-in fiction states that Madmartigan is in these cages as punishment for his desertion, but Airk is acting like Madmartigan’s predicament is new information to him. My guess is someone else arrested Madmartigan for desertion without Airk’s knowledge while Airk was off fighting the good fight.
There’s a shot of the road with only dust on it, signifying that the soldiers have moved on. Willow steps into frame, holding the baby. He and Madmartigan eye each other silently, and then Willow says he misses his family. Meegosh says they’re running out of food, and Madmartigan says there’s no one around who will take care of the baby. “You know why?” he says, “Nobody cares.” He says they want to go home and he wants out of the cage. He offers to take care of the baby as if she were his own. Meegosh says he believes Madmartigan. Or, perhaps Meegosh is just saying that because he wants to leave. Willow argues that Madmartigan knows nothing about babies. Madmartigan half-explains and half-brags that he knows a lot of women who do.
Now we shift from serious back to jokey, where Madmartigan returns to comedic wheeling and dealing, saying if he had someone to take care, perhaps he would have a reason to go on living. You’d think this tactic wouldn’t work, because he’s making it about his well-being and not the baby’s, but that also speaks to his rouge nature. “You can’t leave me in here to die,” he says. “Not when all I want to do is protect her.” Willow is shown contemplating this.
It’s hard to tell what happens next. It appears that a sword or knife strikes a lock on the on the cage, resulting in the entire bottom of the cage opening like a trap door. Madmartigan falls through it onto the ground. When the camera pulls back we see Meegosh was the one that struck the lock. First, I think we can assume this is lock Madmartigan wanted to pick in the previous scene. But then, who designed these cages so the bottom is the opening? How did Madmartigan’s captors get him in there to begin with? Did one person hold him up through the bars while another lifted the floor in place? Perhaps this opening is merely to empty out bodies after they’ve died, and there’s a separate traditional cage door among the bars that opens.
Madmartigan is immediately overjoyed to be out of the cage. He lifts Meegosh up and says “I feel better! You’ve done the right thing!” He jumps and spins around in the air with a “Whoo!” It’s interesting that although he’s dying of thirst, he’s not going straight for the water. Willow is all business, saying “You’ve got to promise to feed her.” Madmartigan appears enthusiastic about keeping his end of the deal, saying “Come to daddy.” Willow adds, “and keep her clean.” Madmartigan says “Absolutely.” Despite Madmartigan’s newfound positive attitude, Willow is deadly serious about reminding him of what’s important.
There’s a comedy bit where Madmartigan spins the baby around, followed by a reaction shot of her looking scared. He says “she likes me,” and the baby’s next reaction shot is a smile. Willow gives Madmartigan the baby’s changing rags, which look like just one rag. (I doubt that will last long) and a “milk bladder.” Madmartigan asks if there is milk in it, and Willow says it’s for her. Offended, Madmartigan says “I wouldn’t steal from a baby.” Like the greatest swordsman line earlier, this line is said with just enough seriousness that we believe it.
“You worry too much, peck,” Madmartigan says. “It’s Willow,” Meegosh says, and Madmartigan corrects himself with, “I mean, Willow.” He tells Willow that Willow worries too much, and assures him he’s done the right thing. He gives Willow a friendly pat on the shoulder and says to get home. Willow kisses the baby goodbye. Madmartigan gives a reassuring smile, and then walks off. “Please take care of her,” Willow says. Mardmartigan responds, “I give you my word of honor.”
Savvy viewers will no doubt suspect that this is not the end of the story, but there will be complications to come. They’re about to.
Next: Recipe for Brownies.
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