Netflix’s Watership Down season 1 finale recap: The Siege


In the finale of Netflix series Watership Down, we learn just how far rabbits will go to attack and/or defend their own turf, and create legends.

As this Watership Down installment begins, we get insight into the struggles faced by rabbit-kind. We see a fox scar a rabbit’s face. That rabbit is the brutal General Woundwort (Ben Kingsley), whose brutal experience in the wild transformed him into a totalitarian brute himself. Now, as his “Efrafa” rabbits are threatening the ones we know and love, they have no choice but to defend themselves against his violence.

It’s one of the contradictions of totalitarianism: It stands to eliminate threats, but will always perpetuate them. Even when one enemy is defeated, it will simply move on to create a new one.

Fortunately, while our rabbits are nervously whimpering, the bird Kehaar (Peter Capaldi) makes a surprise return, valiantly defend the rabbits from Woundwort’s goons. Because Kehaar proves his worth, he takes off for the time being. Kehaar’s defense gave the lead rabbit, Hazel (James McAvoy), a chance to head to the human warren for safety.

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It’s a risky and tricky plan, as they distrust humans, but it’s a smart move nonetheless. Hazel is able to safely return to Watership Down. However, although Woundwort and crew have retreated, there’s a plan for retaliation.

Trouble in Efrafa’s ranks

Back at Efrafa, Captain Campion (Lee Ingleby) is chastised by Captain Orchis (Jason Watkins) for defending Holly (Freddie Fox), a traitorous rabbit. Also, after Woundwort’s leadership is questioned, he holds a meeting, supposedly to hear concerns.

However, it’s ultimately intended to weed out dissenters, who are perceived as weak links in the Efrafa’s chain of command. In his demand for loyalty to his rule, Woundwort emphasizes, “We run from no elil, we are the elil.” In rabbit-speak, it’s akin to saying “We run from no enemy/evil, we are the enemy/evil”

In contrast to this, Hazel and crew desire independence and acceptance. In fact, life seems peaceful for a bit. That is until they smell outsider rabbits. Knowing it’s probably Woundwort, Hazel confronts Woundwort. When he offers peace with the conqueror, Woundwort threatens to destroy them, later telling Efrafa, “Nothing leaves this warren and lives.”

Battle ready?

When the Efrafa return to Watership Down, they start to storm the tunnels, and a battle royale ensues. Holly dies defending Bigwig (John Boyega).

Sensing the grave danger, our rabbits burrow directly beneath a tree, making it harder for Woundwort to locate them. As Hazel and Bigwig fend off the invaders, Fiver (Nicholas Hoult) has a vision, leading him to head to the farm. Despite the dangers of encountering humans, it’s clear that he has a plan.

Meanwhile, as they assault Watership Down, Captain Campion rebels against Woundwort again, saying, “I’d rather be a good rabbit than a good soldier, sir.” It’s a bold stance, but Orchis is tasked with killing him for disobedience.

As this is happening, Fiver, Hazel and Blackavar (Henry Goodman) burrow their way out and run for the farm. Their plan? They free a dog, intending to lead him to Watership Down, where he can attack the Efrafa invaders. This seemingly is at a cost, as they leave Fiver pinned down by a farm cat, and they also have a big dog after them!

Definitive moments

As Bigwig fights Woundwort, both seem evenly matched. In fact, Woundwort ultimately offers Bigwig a position in Efrafa’s leadership. It’s another strange aspect of totalitarianism — they recognize everyone else as disloyal, yet expect loyalty to themselves! Still, some Efrafa rabbits flee, sensing the danger they are in.

It turns out they are right, as Hazel leads the farm dog in, and it doesn’t discriminate between Watership Down rabbits or Efrafa. The dog makes swift work out of Orchis’s death, but Woundwort doesn’t go out like a coward. He lunges at the dog, to face his nearly inevitable fate (death, in case you couldn’t guess).

Maybe “Woundwort fears no dog” constitutes brave last words, but sometimes rabbits are dog food.

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After surviving the onslaught of the Efrafa, we see the triumphant return of Fiver. Much to everyone’s surprise, he says he was from the farm cat by a little human girl, who set him free.

Now the Watership Down rabbits are safe and tranquil. Maybe it won’t stay that way forever, but they’ve at least established themselves as survivors. As time passes, Hazel is peacefully visited by the Black Rabbit of Inlé (Rosamund Pike), symbolic of death and rebirth. In tribute, Bluebell (Daniel Kaluuya) tells the legend of “Hazel-rah and his brave band of ragtag rabbits.” The End!

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