The Collector is a bad character and I hate them
Ach ja, The Owl House is great. It fantastically combines the episodic and moral-driven structure of a “normal” children’s cartoon with a more epic large-scale story and characters, while also ruling on almost all fronts in general. It was, however, also unfortunately cut short by The Mouse™ and not only had to skip on a good chunk of its planned story, but also wrap itself up in record time. The result is honestly fine and the epilogue in the last episode is very cute and serves as a satisfying endpoint for it all, but I wouldn’t be me, if I weren’t to brutally talk smack about a single aspect that rubbed me the wrong way. Alas, to the further annoyance of the person watching it alongside me, let’s talk about The Collector.
The general concept of The Collector’s character is rather simple: A several hundred year old celestial and incredibly powerful being that is also simultaneously just an obnoxious child wanting to play. This might just be my general trope knowledge talking, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see what ground this character is supposed to treat over the course of the story. Essentially being a small child, all they want to do is to play and given their immense power, there initially isn’t any way to stop them from doing so. The logical next step is that, combined with the fact, that they are both emotionally a child and more powerful than all the other characters, it makes it hard for The Collector to actually relate to the other characters in the series, thus establishing drama and a potential flaw to overcome in a character arc.
So far so nothing wrong. This setup for a character archetype is not inherently bad and as already said, the direction for said character basically writes itself by how safe the process of “hitting them with the friendship bonk” is. There is, of course, the “Realizing your own faults”-approach, but this predisposes some amount of self-awareness, a quality these types of characters typically tend to lack. However while such a character can be build and developed just like any other character, I am mostly not a fan of such an archetype, as they mostly tick all the boxes of characteristics I find exhausting with no good qualities to balance the scales and fall back as a plot device first and a character second. It also doesn’t help, that being unable to relate to the characters in-universe very easily extends to being unrelatable to the characters outside of the screen, aka. the audience (of which I am the most important member, obviously).
Now, The Collector comes with a lot more baggage than just what defines their archetype. Being the only collector left and stuck in another dimension for several years, they are justifiably lonely and being just recently betrayed by Belos, whom they considered a friend, The Collector suffers some good ol' abandonment issues and handles them about as good as one might expect. Another aspect is their indifferent alignment. Sure, they trusted Belos, but only worked for him under a false assumption. Similarly, they don’t quite belong to the rest of the collectors and speaking for them self, there also isn’t much going on in terms of an agenda. They are not a bad person per se, in fact, I think the series makes it pretty clear, that we are supposed to, if not empathize with the Collector, at least pity them, as they are fundamentally just another victim. At the very least, The Collector isn’t your garden variety of “crazy evil”. They don’t lick the blood of their knife while laughing maniacally or showing any signs of sadism and malignant intent. At best, they are misunderstood and genuinely “just want to play” in a way, that just so happens to bring problems for everyone else.
Here is, in my honest opinion, the thing, though: Problems arise, if the execution kind of sucks. Big problems arise, if the execution not only sucks, but I also still wouldn’t be a fan, even if it were actually handled well. It is not that I just dislike The Collector as its own character, but more so the role they occupy in the series overall. The Collector is introduced as this big twist at the end of the second season, that severely influences the course of the rest of series and they honestly shouldn’t have been. Characters like The Collector take time. You can’t just pull a “I learned the errors of my way” and make them fully change in such a short amount time, without loosing any potential impact the actual journey would have provided, especially if their arc revolves around such a fundamental aspect of their character as their disability to connect to and trust others and then doubling down by also making them a secondary antagonist turned ally last minute.
I have almost no doubts that this was a direct result of the amount of episodes being cut down, but The Collector should have been more akin to a reoccurring character, clashing with Luz and the others on several smaller occasions, each time rediscovering a part of themselves and slowly coming to their own conclusion and realization of what differentiates his possessiveness in contrast to Luz’s genuine friendship with Eda and King, which would also feel a lot more like a natural development towards their redemption, than them going back to space for a few years and doing some soul searching. Instead, we are unfortunately stuck with a rather long and direct confrontation of the two parties, in which Luz and the gang have to endure The Collector’s tantrum, while also acting as armchair psychologists on the side, while also also uncomfortably navigating around them, as there is still another (the actual) plot and their own character arcs to resolve.
I am also forced to ask what The Collector actually contributes. If there is one actively bad scene in The Owl House, it would be shortly after The Collector joined the gang in the fight against Belos. The Collector perfectly displays that they have not actually understood the lesson Luz tried to teach them just minutes ago by asking Belos to be friends, leading Luz to succumb to the goo… for what? To further hammer home the point, that they are not just toys to be simply repaired when broken? The series itself is very self-aware that The Collector’s action was kinda cringe, so why include it, if it is essentially redundant for anyone, except The Collector?
Another question I have to ask is what the point of The Collector is in general. Sure, the idea of the collectors is pretty nifty, but what does The Collector specifically bring to the table? The obvious answer is for them to be a parallel to King, with them both being left alone, abandoned and the only one of their kind. It could have been used to show how even seemingly evil villains fundamentally suffer from the same problems as our protagonists deep down and that there is a fine line between between becoming good and bad, mainly in the way they are treated. It is just that this whole ordeal falls fairly flat, if there are barely any scenes showing this connection between the two characters.
It also doesn’t help, that this parallel feels a bit redundant. While not at all a clear 1-to-1 mapping, Hunter essentially fulfills similar ideas, even if they are more applicable to Luz and the other witches specifically, and less towards King. Hunter eventually redeems himself over the stretch of an entire season, fighting against the influences of Belos and own inner angst and finds his place in the world next to everyone else. This eventually also applies to The Collector, but sans the whole nuance to make it their own. This is especially egregious, as The Owl House otherwise has a very good grasp of understanding its characters problems and flaws and that solving them is not as simple as ending an episode on a good note or hoping it all goes well going forwards. Standing alongside Amity, Hunter or Lilith, I can’t help but feel that The Collector is the odd one out in terms of character writing.
This all culminates in the end of the third season with The Collector occupying the biggest chunk of the run time with stuff that either benefits other characters' development or is simply there for the plot to roll out, with only a few scenes building their own character. Their role as a secondary antagonist also greatly diminishes the involvement of Belos, the actual antagonist and big bad of the series, who is now reduced to a character in the background, which is in stark contrast to the last episodes he played a role in. Needless to say, I blame The Collector for the lackluster final confrontation of Belos, regardless how metal his death is.
In the end, I simply fail to see the appeal of The Collector as a character. I appreciate the series' take of making them redeemable, a characteristic that fundamentally differentiate them from Belos, but I simply do not think they are deserving of being redeemed. Like, at all. Every second The Collector is on screen, I was just filled with exhaustion, as we now have to deal wit their shenanigans again, when we could spend our time on literally anything else. I envy anyone that actually got something out of their involvement in the series. Genuinely, all power to you.
This post was sponsored by not knowing how to conjugate “to be” when referring to a singular character that I normally refer to by “them”, but also in third form singular without the appropriate pronoun. The Collector is, but they are, or are The Collector?
The Owl House is available on Disney+.
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