Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina ?
Wandering Witch has, if nothing else, consistently managed to defy my expectations. When I think it's going to be a vibrant adventure series it shows up with questionable parables about moral relativism. When I start getting used to that it dumps a bucket of comedic nonsense at my feet. And after all my goodwill was slaughtered by a cackling nine-year-old who feasts on blood, the show sees fit to be genuinely good for the first time in seven weeks.
That isn't to say “The Two Teachers” is a barn burner or anything – its story beats are largely familiar and straightforward – but it's the first time since episode 2 that The Journey of Elaina hasn't left me mulling over qualifiers when trying to speak on what I liked about it. Funnily enough, it manages this by not being about Elaina at all. Instead we get a flashback story about Fran and Sheila as apprentice witches under, surprise surprise, Elaina's mother when she was traveling and writing the Adventures of Nike. That reveal isn't all that important since viewers probably guessed it by episode 5 at the latest, but the dynamic it sets up by showing us two younger, more immature versions of characters we're familiar with lets the episode quickly establish an engaging dynamic that the rest of the story can build itself off of. Plus it is pretty fun to see “Nike” wrangle her dueling proteges in a way that's never clear if she's playing Mr. Miyagi or just being irresponsible. I guess we know now where Fran got her teaching methods.
But the stars of this episode are absolutely Fran and Sheila (the Mage Association witch we met in episode 8) and they effortlessly shoulder that weight. Granted part of my affection for them comes from the ludicrous nature of Sheila's delinquent witch personality, but the way the pair's rapport demonstrates each other's brand of stubborn pride is a much more engaging application of Wandering Witch's penchant for mean and cynical dialogue. That this is an origin story also means they don't stay that way for episodes on end, and instead we get to see the positive sides of their personalities as they wind up working together to take down a den of burglars armed with magic weapons. The same stubbornness and pride that makes them clash is what allows Fran and Sheila to be such formidable mages, and to be honest it's just cool to see a witch magically stop bullets in mid-air – it just is. Then the requisite bonding moment happens between the two, and they realize their reasons for becoming witches isn't so different – both essentially took up the craft to support themselves and be independent – and they may have more in common than they first thought. It's a welcome return to the character writing that made those first two episodes so striking, and while not enough to salvage what's become of this series as a whole, it works very well as its own thing. I don't exactly trust this creative crew anymore, but if they wanted to make a spinoff miniseries about these two's adventures I'd probably still watch it.
Outside of that, this episode also sets up a mystery to lead into (presumably) the final story of this season. Before kicking off her vacation with Fran, Sheila sends Saya on an errand to deliver a mysterious old lockbox, and when something jogs her memory at the end of her trip down memory lane, the two teachers rush off to try and retrieve it. Given this show's inconsistent nature I don't see much point in speculating on what this could mean, but it is interesting that the finale will seemingly involve nearly every recurring character in the cast converging. That's certainly an odd way to close out an anthology series, but that's hardly the strangest thing about this show's approach to its own narrative gimmick. So until then, I'll just be thankful to have had a fun magical adventure without any caveats this week.
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