Watership Down season 1 premiere recap: The Journey


In part 1 of the Watership Down Netflix miniseries, we meet Fiver and the other rabbits. His apocalyptic visions send them all on a remarkable journey.

Watership Down begins with some insight into the rabbit’s mythology. It’s said that the god Frith made the world, including El-ahrairah, the prince of rabbits. Because rabbits multiplied so vastly and freely, they devoured practically all of the food. In response, Frith created animals called the Elil, who naturally set out to slay children of El-ahrairah, making a thousand enemies of the rabbits (these enemies include, owls, wolves and plenty of other natural predators). However, Frith wasn’t totally unjust, as he granted the rabbits speed, cunning and a capacity for tricks.


Now, in the rabbit warren of Sandleford, we see Hazel (James McAvoy) looking for his brother Fiver (Nicholas Hoult). When he finds him, Fiver tells Hazel about is a nightmare about the man-made digging machine, culminating in visions of fields filled with blood. They tell another rabbit, Threarah (Tom Wilkinson) about it, but Threarah is skeptical. Fiver is insistent, saying he can feel the anger “like a wire around my neck.”

Hazel is told his brother just needs to rest for a while, but they move on to tell some other rabbits,
Bluebell (Daniel Kaluuya) and Blackberry (Miles Jupp). Catching wind of this upsetting trend, Captain Holly (Freddie Fox) threatens to arrest them for treason. Another rabbit, Bigwig (John Boyega) says he’s sick of the Owsla (or the rabbit police) and threatens Captain Holly.

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Fleeing the Owsla

Due to the sincerity in his panic, the other rabbits are promptly convinced of Fiver’s vision and decide to flee their present warren into a greater world of uncertainty. Along the way, they have to cross a river, escape raging rabbits among the Owsla, then make their way through raging rapids. Along the way, Hazel is called Hazel-rah, the chief rabbit. We also see how the rabbits interact with “Hrududil” (what we call cars or trucks).

It’s been a perilous journey, but the intrepid rabbits are resourceful. When faced with a thunderstorm they take refuge in what looks like an old, abandoned human church. Still, even there they can’t find rest.   A “corvil” (crow) attacks them, then another one, and yet some more try to force the rabbits out. Yes, they face a whole murder of crows! The beaked ones dive-bomb a fleeing rabbit named Dandelion (Daniel Rigby), and a vicious battle ensues between our rabbits and the crows. Bigwig defends Dandelion by tackling one to the ground. After that ugliness is over, the rabbits start heading down to the down (a hill).

The great burrow and beyond

On a brighter, cheerier new day, a stranger rabbit, Cowslip (Rory Kinnear) invites them to his warren, or the great burrow. They meet a jovial sort named Strawberry (Olivia Colman) who is quick to be pals with the visitors. The new rabbits get a reasonably warm reception otherwise, and we get to see a special place of worship, complete with shiny rocks and chanting (Watership Down starts to get more into belief systems here, obviously).

Later the rabbits set out for fresh flayrah, or lettuce, and all but fall in love with carrots (though, in reality, rabbits apparently don’t tend to eat carrots, and lettuce is potentially dangerous for their diet).  Fiver doesn’t want to join the rabbits, which doesn’t sit well with Hazel. Hazel even threatens to drag Fiver back to the new warren. Meanwhile, although Blackberry calls Bluebell a great storyteller, his story of El-ahrairah seems to annoy new rabbits. If that’s not enough, Fiver doesn’t trust a new rabbit named Silverweed (Peter Guinness), adding that “this place is death.” Hazel and Fiver decide to leave, and Bigwig threatens to kill them if they come back to the new warren

Not long after that, Bigwig gets caught in a snare, barely escaping with his life. While the rabbit was ensnared, Cowslip expresses no concern, saying “A day less for one means a day more for everyone else.” It turns out this Warren traps rabbits for a local farmer, in return for a special food. Dreading what happened, Strawberry joins the Fiver, Hazel, Bigwig and the others on their ongoing journey.

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Soon they find lush new fields and Hazel-rah is commended. However, much to everyone’s surprise, old Captain Holly finds them, telling them that Sandleford is now gone and Fiver was right! It turns out that, close to the Watership Down is another warren, the Efrafa, in an abandoned coal mine. A spy returns to this place with information on the new rabbits for General Woundwort (Ben Kingsley), who we see has a likely battle scar on his face. Will our rabbits be safe? Probably not, as this is a 4-part series.

That’s it for this Watership Down recap! What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!