Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Willow Season 1.The Disney+ series Willow has joined the ranks of fantasy shows that bring back old franchises. The show is a sequel to the 1988 film of the same name. Picking up the story a few decades later, the new show reintroduces several familiar faces, including this titular sorcerer, played by Warwick Davis, and the now queen Sorsha (Joanne Whalley). Yet one of the film’s leads is notably missing. Val Kilmer‘s Madmartigan did not appear in Season 1, though his absence was well noted. Due to health risks, Val Kilmer didn’t return for the series. But rather than recasting or explaining it away as an unremarkable death in the interim, the show used the missing character to its advantage. With the show centering on his children, Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Airk (Dempsey Bryk), Madmartigan comes up a lot. The show centers on Kit, Elora Danan (Ellie Bamber), and a small group of unlikely questers trying to find a captured Arik. But as they go on their journey, the charismatic hero is a common topic of conversation. As a legendary part of the defeat of Bavmorda (Jean Marsh), as seen in the film, everyone has heard of him. Plus, the quest includes his daughter, the child he took in, his former squire, and his old friend, Willow, so what else would they talk about on the road?
Early in their journey, Kit expresses her long-held thought that he left with Elora to protect her, but that is quickly revealed to be false when Elora’s identity is confirmed. Madmartigan left to find an artifact that would help protect Elora but never returned. Kit holds deep-seated resentment towards her father and, by extension, Elora, which she is forced to confront even in Madmartigan’s absence. Through the relationship between the two girls, Madmarigan is kept at the forefront of the series, so the fact that he isn’t present is impossible to forget.
Knowing Madmartigan’s absence from the series could not be ignored, the show wrote in two characters as a remedy, at least in part. Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), the former squire to Madmartigan, takes on a similar role in the show. A comical rogue who agrees to go on the quest as a reprieve from the prison cell Sorsha has him locked in. His relationship with Madmartigan and the similarities between the characters positions Boorman to replace him without needing to recast. But even so, something felt missing. Perhaps it’s because the characters were so focused on his absence. During the quest, the characters run into another pseudo-Madmartigan. Allagash (Christian Slater) introduces himself as Madmartigan, but the group quickly realizes his lie. Allagash’s first scene mimics Madmartigan’s first appearance in the film, as both are imprisoned in cages. The old friend and ally of Madmartigan’s is using his name to fool the trolls, allowing the real Madmartigan to escape. Allagash shows Kit where her father went, but she cannot follow. Without fully replacing him, Boorman and Allagash attempt to fill Madmartigan’s shoes, but is that enough?
Throughout the quest, Kit goes on a side mission to follow her father. With the help of Boorman, she traces his steps in his final quest. Madmartigan left his home to find a magical Kymerian Cuirass that protects the wearer from harm. Seemingly, he expected an upcoming disaster and wanted to be able to protect Elora and his family. But he never returned. After Allagash shows Kit where her father went, she discovers his sword, which she takes along. Briefly hearing his voice, Kit thinks he is alive and that she could save him, but she is prevented from going after him. As they leave, Allagash informs her that Madmartigan hoped one of his children would take up his role in protecting Elora. Boorman finds both the Kymerian Cuirass and the Lux Arcana, which is needed to activate it, but the armor won’t work for him. Nor does it work for Allagash, who tries it first. Instead, Kit uses it, jumping into her father’s shoes.
Madmartigan in the Season Finale
With Kit finally assuming the role of Elora’s protector in the season finale, Madmartigan is less essential to the series than before. Yet his impact on the other characters is as significant as ever. As a driving force in the relationship between Kit and Elora, Madmartigan’s disappearance will need to be explained in more detail, whether he ever appears. Though Madmartigan cannot be seen in the first season, his voice makes it into the finale. He speaks to Kit while she is tested by the Wyrm, but only as a disembodied voice. At this moment, he claims to always be with her as he drives her to break free of the Wyrm’s spell. But does that mean he is still alive somewhere? Only subsequent seasons will answer that question if the show is renewed.
How Could Madmartigan Be Alive?
During their quest, the characters learn that Madmartigan left to fight the Wyrm from the inside. This could mean he is alive but trapped in the beast, though it could also mean they will later discover he made the ultimate sacrifice. If the family is reunited, it will take some difficulty. The portal Madmartigan entered through was closed, but a new one seems to be open. While exactly what this creature is hasn’t been clarified, it is clearly the main enemy within the show. The Crone served the Wyrm, attempting to raise it to power, but very little is revealed about the Wyrm itself.
As the threat grows, a man on the inside could prove a powerful asset to the heroes. Or he could be in need of rescuing. It would be completely in character for Madmartigan to have finally gotten stuck in a situation that he can’t trick his way out of. After all, he was first introduced in a cage, a fact that the show emphasized with both of his stand-ins. So, yes, it is possible that the character will return if the show is renewed. The series seems to have left the possibility of Kilmer returning open, should he choose to, though there is always the option to recast if he cannot. Either way, it would still be a relief for the character to be alive and well.