Watership Down season 1, episode 2 recap: The Raid


Episode 2 of Watership Down reminds us that a rabbit’s journey is never over, and never safe. The gentlest rabbits have the most to fear!

Watership Down‘s “The Raid” begins as one might expect, with rabbits on the run. Just as in real life, these creatures don’t willingly stay in one place very long. However, in this nightmare scenario flashback, we see Holly (Freddie Fox) and others traumatized by construction equipment wrecking their burrows. In fact, Hazel is injured by other rabbits trying to escape. The lesson is clear: Avoid humans at all cost because wherever they are, death is surely not far behind. During the escape, Holly was warned by another rabbit about the “Efrafans.”

Fiver was right, but now what?

With their previous home of Sandleford clearly gone, Fiver (Nicholas Hoult) was right in his nightmare premonition about its fall. However, there’s a new issue now threatening to create disunity among the bucks: There are eight of them but just one doe. Still, Hazel (James McAvoy) firmly believes no one should head back to the human’s farm to free the encaged pet does.

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Suddenly, out of nowhere, the rabbits encounter a starving bird. After nursing it back to health they learn his name is Kehaar (Peter Capaldi). They hesitated to help it but thought he might prove useful. After all, a bird has flown, so it can see things they can’t. However, when they get done digging up worms, Kehaar is ungrateful and declines to help them find does from neighboring warrens. After two rabbits, Hawkbit (Mackenzie Crook) and Dandelion (Daniel Rigby), fight over the attention of Strawberry (Olivia Colman), Hazel’s forced to conclude that they should free the farmhouse rabbits.

However, the same Kehaar who refused to help them says he was injured by a farm cat — presumably the same one at this farm. Nevertheless, the bucks clearly want some doe action and find the risk worth it.  The rabbits of Watership Down don’t want their rabbit hole to be an endless sausage fest.

The farm (round 1) / Meet The Efrafa

Down at the farm, Hazel, Fiver, and Bigwig (John Boyega) see a dog, which already sets them on edge. As Bigwig keeps watch, Hazel meets Clover (Gemma Arterton) in a cage. They want to free her, but it’s a struggle. During the attempt, Clover says humans just lack understanding, and that they’re not all bad. Their effort is thwarted by the farm cat, who especially feasts its eyes on Bigwig. They flee the farm and the pesky cat, possibly losing the battle but not the war.

Meanwhile, Holly feels bad about encouraging everyone to stay at Sandleford. Perhaps because of this, Holly wishes to help them find more does (and presumably other useful recruits for the new warren). So, after Kehaar returns due to still being weak and injured, he tells the rabbits about another warren he saw with does. Will it be worth it? Given how bleak life can be, possibly not.

You lack animality

Taking Kehaar at his word, Holly, Blackberry, and Bluebell (Daniel Kaluuya) head for the warren the ungrateful bird told them about. They rest for a bit and Bluebell tells a story of the Black Rabbit of Inle (Rosamund Pike). However, a strange new rabbit, Captain Orchis (Jason Watkins) interrupts him. Holly leads the way to the new warren of Efrafa. When they get to their new digs, things take an ominous turn rather quickly. A prominent rabbit there, Captain Vervain (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), is told by another, “You lack animality” — a nice twist on the human expression, “You lack humanity.”  What have Holly and the others gotten into?

When they speak of their plight to find new does, the Efrafa leaders don’t like it. Why would they let them take their does? The totalitarianism encroaches further, as General Woundwort (Ben Kingsley) suggests these rabbits won’t be able to leave. A female rabbit, Hyzenthlay (Anne-Marie Duff), warns that if one rabbit escapes Efrafa, they kill everyone they leave behind. They also mark their rabbits. Holly very quickly proposes leaving with Hyzenthlay, and they spontaneously draft a plan to simply run for it. And so, just like that, Holly, Blackberry, Bluebell and Hyzenthlay flee tha dark burrows of the Efrafa. They escape Blackavar (Henry Goodman) and other Wormwort thugs, but it seems this ordeal isn’t over.

The farm (round 2)

In other news, Watership Down‘s original MVP, Fiver, has another nightmare premonition. We also learn Strawberry has victoriously dug new tunnels (calling them “the honeycomb”). Then, of course, Fiver and Bigwig don’t know where Hazel went. Well, he went back to the farm, of course! They did so well as 3 before, so why not return there by yourself, right, Hazy?

Anyway, he sneaks past the sleeping cat to free Clover and the other does. However, it’s a good thing Bigwig and Fiver show up unannounced, because Bigwig’s left facing the cat a second time. Then, when the cat stupidly knocks over a vase, the farmers wake up. Ultimately, our unlucky rabbits escape through an upstairs window, narrowly escaping the dog.

As they flee, we’re reminded that rabbit’s are hypnotized by car headlights. So, rather than totally scamper from the farmer’s car, one rabbit gets caught. As the farmer shoots at them, one gets hit by a train (after being tantalized by its lights). The farmer almost shoots Clover, but Hazel courageously saves her by charging at his foot. In retaliation, Hazel himself gets wounded, and is poised to meet Bluebell’s Black Rabbit of Inle. She beckons him to let go of his life. In rabbit heaven, perhaps there are lovely does as far as his beady little eyes can see.

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(Side note: Interestingly, Gemma Arterton didn’t play the rabbit “Strawberry” here, as she played Bond girl “Strawberry Fields” in Quantum of Solace. Perhaps she didn’t wish to be pigeonholed into playing characters named Strawberry?)

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