Watership Down season 1, episode 3 recap: The Escape


Episode 3 of Netflix series Watership Down sees rabbits on the verge of a rebellion. Can they be liberated from the dictatorial Efrafa?

This Watership Down episode begins with a vision by the rabbit named Fiver (Nicholas Hoult). Looking for Hazel (James McAvoy) amidst moving construction equipment, an unknown man tells him that Hazel’s “in the hole.” He then throws Fiver down and says, “Now you get back to that path.” Like Fiver’s original vision, this one is cryptic, vivid and accurate.

Meanwhile, in the despotic warren of Efrafa, General Woundwort (Ben Kingsley) makes clear his intentions of mentally breaking the rebellious Hyzenthlay (Anne-Marie Duff). Indeed, the rabbits who managed to flee Efrafa know all too well how damaging the place is — bearing physical and psychological scars alike. Now, quite understandably, familiar rabbits are worried that Efrafa is too dangerous to live by.  In fact, it doesn’t even allow for a gentler perception.  Also, of course, Hazel is missing, and Bigwig (John Boyega) wants to travel with Clover (Gemma Arterton) to find him. However, Clover heads out on her own, quickly enveloped by an ethereal fog.

Before long, she finds a wounded Hazel in a hole. They mention his wound, caused by one of man’s “black branches that shoot.” The message is preached: Destroying things is the easiest thing in the world. Hazel is not wounded in spirit, however. He tells her that, from now on, they will face everything together. However, when she leaves Hazel for a brief moment, Efrafan Sergeant Sainfoin kidnaps her (or should I say “rabbit-naps” her?).

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The plan

Kehaar the seabird (Peter Capaldi) makes himself useful, picking out buckshot from Hazel. They quickly formulate a plan to liberate rabbits from Efrafa. Bigwig is to infiltrate them, posing as a non-threatening rabbit. Then, by a certain time, Kehaar is to provide support from above. However, as luck would have it, they are rudely interrupted by an invading fox, who chases Bigwig.

Bigwig (either accidentally or strategically) leads the fox to attack some Efrafra operatives, and few if any of them seem to survive.  Meanwhile, in Efrafra itself, Hyzenthlay is now given a choice: Become a spy or be put to death! It leads to one of the most alarming possible truths from Watership Down: “Don’t speak to anyone you don’t trust.”

Things go relatively smoothly at first, as Bigwig is arrested and ultimately initiated into their group. However, Efrafra never lets up on being oppressive. General Woundwort gets a little creepy with Clover, essentially commanding her to become his queen. However, Bigwig, Hyzenthlay and her are already plotting to liberate themselves, and all the other oppressed rabbits. Unfortunately, despite Bigwig’s belief that “a great bird will come to help us escape,” Kehaar doesn’t bother to show. The plan is a failed attempt, and the bad rabbits plan to tell captain Orchis (Jason Watkins) about their potential for insurrection.

Stop fighting, they will always win

The pleasant rabbits of Watership Down seem dispirited. Hyzenthlay even tells the other does, “Stop fighting. They will always win.” Indeed, things seem bleak. When Clover offers to be Woundwort’s queen if he lets Hyzenthlay live, he replies, “I am not a rabbit who makes deals.” In other words, Hyzenthlay is to be no more by morning!

Much ado about hrududu

At first, it seems like a side-story, but Fiver has another vision of a hrududu (or what we call a car)keeping them safe. Unfortunately, when they investigate the validity of the vision, most of the rabbits present almost get run over. While it’s tempting to say Watership Down merely bashes humans and their infernal machines, it’s also clear that the rabbits create their own hell, as well as the rest of nature.

The point is, a rabbit (or any living creature) will never be totally safe. On that note, we learn that Nettle (Charlotte Spencer) had shamefully acted as a spy, which got Hyzenthlay and Bigwig in trouble.

The time is nigh

Bigwig is interrogated at Efrafra and also doubted as a storyteller. Due to his size, they believe him to be a fighter. They also believe he led the fox in to kill their rabbits (it’s implied that it may not have even been intentional). Still, they offer him a chance to prove his loyalty: He must be the rabbit who slays Hysenthlay. Of course, if Bigwig hesitates during the moment of head-lopping truth, Sainfoin is to kill him, too.  What’s a rabbit to do?

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Fortunately, Bigwig has reached his breaking point and refuses to hold back anymore. He beats up another rabbit who repeatedly ridiculed and slapped him and a pretty good number of other rabbits rebel. Hazel is reunited with bigwig, and it seems like they’ve got the upper hand. However, as they make their leave, Woundwort and his entourage emerge, threatening a showdown during a thunderstorm. Menacing as the weather itself, it seems we’re going to see some more rabbit-on-rabbit action.

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