Previously on Watership Down:
General Woundwort captured Pipkin, with sexy consequences
Blackberry bought a new hat.
And Vervain announced that unless Bigwig, Fiver and Hazel surrendered themselves before the next full moon Pipkin would be executed, with sexy consequences.
Now for tonight’s episode Prisoner of Efrafa.
In the great Watership Down tradition of having meetings the Downers are having a meeting to discuss what to do about Pipkin and all the extras are their, Blacklavar, Strawberry, even General Holly. None of them talk.
Everybody but Hannah agrees that Fiver, Bigwig and Hazel are more important then Pipkin and should not turn themselves in. Hannah says they can’t abandon Pipkin but Blackberry rightfully points out that Watership Down can’t survive without Fiver Bigwig and Hazel. They’re the only three that ever do anything important.
In Efrafa Pipkin is getting fed some bitching carrots and lettuce. They are treating Pipkin well in order to win him over for some reason. Sexy consequences? Pipkin asks Woundwort when he can leave, which makes Woundwort ask if Pipkin misses his parents. Pipkin reveals he is an orphan as a weasel killed his parents. This triggers a flashback in Woundwort shows he and his mother being trapped between a fire and a weasle. It ends with his mother jumping at the weasel. Woundwort tells Pipkin he also lost his parents.
At Watership Down the main characters minus Blackberry are having another meeting to discuss how to save Pipkin. Hannah is feeling left out because she isn’t part of the meeting, although I’m not sure why she can’t join. She is like a foot away complaining loudly, that has to be more of a distraction then her presence at the meeting would be. Hannah convinces Keehar that they should go save Pipkin. I predict this not ending well.
Pipkin and Woundwort are having a grand old time on pride rock commanding Vervain to do humiliating things. Woundwort suggests to Pipkin that perhaps he would one day want to be in his Owsla like Campion and Vervain but Pipkin says he would rather be like Hazel and Bigwin, pointing out people are only loyal to Woundwort out of fear. Woundwort asks Pipkin why he isn’t afraid and Pipkin says he is, afraid Woundwort will find his friends, but that Bigwig says to use fear to make yourself stronger, which is what he does. Pipkin proposes that this is why Woundwort is so strong. Woundwort agrees, saying fear is a part of every rabbit’s life “it makes us who we are”
Another flashback, Woundwort in a cage with a cat outside reaching in with her claws. A human comes in and puts some crumbled leaves of cabbage inside. Woundwort’s expression turns from fear to rage before trying to chew his way out. Woundwort says “My fear of man made me strong enough to do anything I dreamed of. Man has the power to shape the world, but here I am the power. I rule.”
Pipkin asks if Woundwort really wants to be feared. Woundwort doesn’t answer, just tells Pipkin to go to his chamber.
Surprisingly Hannah did something useful. She went around spreading the word Pipkin was in trouble and because Pipkin is Fluttershy he has a bunch of animal friends who all want to help.
Hazel goes to meet with Campion leaving Bigwig back to organize the other animals. Hazel doesn’t want to take on this task because he’s racist. He instructs Campion that when they go to the meeting place for the exchange that Woundwort must walk through a certain hole in a wall and Pipkin needs to be ready to run. He doesn’t give anymore details then that. Campion agrees, but expresses that he doesn’t know who he is anymore, he has never been a traitor. Vervain who has been trying to follow Campion is heard calling out so Hazel has to hide, and Campion covers saying he has found tacks, but they are old.
Woundwort is getting his daily exercise. For his work out he beats up several of his guards. Check out Woundwort hulking out. The other rabbits jumped on him but he wasn’t having any of that. Afterwords Woundwort asks Pipkin if Hazel could win a fight like that. Pipkin says that no, Hazel couldn’t, but he wouldn’t need to because Hazel thinks his way through problems and wouldn’t let himself get caught in that situation.
Woundwort tells Pipkin how Efrafa was once weak, with few rabbits and elil everywhere. Then he came, gave them discipline, order, and safety. Woundwort says he could do it for Watership Down. Pipkin however isn’t talking the bait. Woundwort takes of the kid gloves and tells Pipkin about the exchange, giving the offer that if he gives up the location of Watership Down he won’t take Fiver, Bigwig and Hazel prisoner. Pipkin tries running but Campion captures him. Pipkin tells Woundwort he doesn’t need to keep fighting, that he isn’t in a cage anymore. Campion takes Pipkin inside, but gives him the message that Hazel has a plan.
Vervain says that if the Downers don’t show up he wants the honor of killing Pipkin. “That would be like killing a part of myself” Woundwort says.
That night Woundwort sets out with a large patrol. Pipkin is freed. Hazel tells him to follow their tracks exactly across the field. The plan is then set into motion. Bats, blue jays and Keehar dive down from the sky to attack the rabbits. They fight them off and Woundwort gives the command to attack, however his soldiers fall into pit traps as they cross the field. Woundwort himself tries to pursue and some moles uproot a fucking tree which falls on him. Despite trees normally killing things they fall on because they are large and made out of wood Woundwort is merely incapacitated underneath it.
Bigwig steps up for the killing blow but Pipkin jumps between the rabbits. Bigwig commands Pipkin to move but he won’t let Bigwig kill in cold blood. With the Efrafans getting out of their holes The Downers flee.
“War isn’t the way general” Pipkin says to Woundwort
“it’s the only way I know” Woundwort responds.
When they are safely away Bigwig asks Pipkin why he stopped him from killing Woundwort. Hazel chimes in that Woundwort would gladly kill any of them if given the chance. Pipkin says he knows but they aren’t like Woundwort, to which the rabbits all agree. Unlike Woundwort they follow the way of Watership Down, they are not Prisoners of Efrafa.
You aren’t going to find many people who will argue that Watership Down the series is better then the book or movie, what with all of its inane plots, logical inconsistencies, catering to a younger audience and Primrose, but the one part of the series that shines is the handling of Woundwort. In the other works you get an idea of his past, how the loss of his mother and being cared for by a human shaped his world view and desire for safety through power at all costs, but the series really takes time to explore this idea and give Woundwort more dimensions then the other works are able to. The way he interacts with Pipkin throughout the episode is as if he is trying to justify his ways by getting Pipkin to agree that the path he is chosen is the best. Pipkin rebukes Woundwort every time but instead of getting mad it just seems to deepen his desire for validation from the one person in Efrafa that doesn’t blindly follow him. Woundwort being willing to kill Pipkin despite seeing the rabbit as a part of himself shows how cold hearted he is. The other versions of Woundwort have an other worldly mystique that makes him seem more like a mythological entity then another rabbit. The animated series on the other hand humanizes him. While he is less mysterious by showing more of his emotions and motivations it shows how deranged he really is. Woundwort isn’t a monster, he is a product of abuse, loss and fear.
Outside of Woundwort the episode still delivers. Campion’s game of double agent and Vervain’s suspicion continues to entertain. Pipkin’s conversations with Woundwort and the final gambit illustrates the difference between the two sides. Woundwort uses military strategy, strength and fear. The Downers utilize friendship and cleverness. This is how they are able to keep facing against Woundwort despite Efrafa having far greater strength in numbers and military might.
Overall one of the best episodes of the series. Kicks off season two with vigor. It won’t stay going strong, but that’s the sort of thing that happens when you fill a cartoon series with filler episodes. This is the sort of episode that shows everything that is right with Watership Down the animated series and justifies why it exists.