Saturday’s conclusion to Pokémon GO Fest 2022 saw the arrival of a clutch of Ultra Beasts, the welcome end to the god-awful Rhi storyline, and most importantly, the return of Professor Willow after an ill-advised course of illegal steroids.
During June’s opening weekend of GO Fest, Willow mysteriously disappeared into an ultra-wormhole that appeared in the sky, and was replaced by Rhi, some sort of bloody robo-man from another dimension, a member of the GO Ultra Recon Squad. We then suffered three months of Community Days and Special Research with this character at the helm, where the galaxy brains at Niantic decided to have him speak in the most obfuscatory language, ensuring no child playing the game would have a clue what he was gibbering on about. But finally, Willow is back! Hoorah! Except, um, he’s had some work done, and a soul removed.
Willow has never been unpleasant on the eye. A most attractive young man, he previously always leaned into the camera, a wry grin on his face, with warm, soft, beautiful eyes. Beautiful, brown eyes, into which you could sink and sink and sink... I’m sorry. However, no matter how pretty he was, he still drivelled on the same abysmally written bullshit dialogue, making it so unbelievably hard to like him. Shhhh, Professor Willow. Shhhhhh. Just shhhhhh.
I had hoped for Prof Willow to arrive back a gibbering wreck, sunken hollow eyes, eyes that have seen horrendous sights he could never explain. We’d know wherever he’d been had broken him in a way that could never be fixed. Instead, it appears he was spending the summer at Stan’s Discount Reconstruct-U-Good, “Facial surgery and used cars for all the family.” And he’s not OK.
It’s genuinely hard to put into words why I find the new Willow so...sinister. Clearly the switch from a nice pair of glasses to some ostentatious “LOOK AT ME!” goggles isn’t a great start. (We should be grateful he isn’t wearing a steampunk top hat, I suppose.) But it’s maybe the hardening of all those features, the all-new squared off butt-chin, and, while not comedically horrifying, a lack of any expression in his eyes. He just looks bored, bored by your stupid desire to have him tell you to collect 10 fire-type Pokémon, like he’s just had enough of this shit. Too much of this shit.
That little crease that used to be beside his smile was once a hint of cheekiness, a little wryness that suggested he too knew that he should be doing better than pretending he’s never seen a Galarian Ponyta before. Now, set further left and slightly down, it looks like the beginning of a grimace, like a teacher starting their seventh new school year.
Old Willow wanted to be our friend, and was trying perhaps a little to hard. New Willow is inwardly sighing that we’re still here, wondering when he can go back to his real friends.
The internet was quick to react to this peculiar change. From my extensive research, I’d say opinion is split almost exactly down the middle, with half expressing some dehydration levels of thirst, with others (correctly) decrying the change. “Why does Professor Willow look like he’s my dad that left me as a child and has come back years later with a motorcycle and a new wife and is trying to reconnect with me in my teenage years?” asked @lilfishsong. “Excuse me, why the hell is Professor Willow a sweet biker babe flashing Blue Steel in the update?” questioned @OhSynapse.
THEORY: All is not alright. This isn’t Professor Willow. This is an imposter from the other side of the wormhole, here for nefarious purposes. Beyond just the fact that he’s staring at me like he’s wondering what my spleen might taste like, there’s another hint hidden inside the game. Go to the News tab, and click on, “Coming September 1, 2022: The Season of Light” and you’ll not get the usual summary of the story with a link to the blog, but instead a single sentence. It reads,
Keep an eye out for Professor Willow...
This then links to the YouTube video below, which is filled with astronomical clues to upcoming Pokémon in the new season, and...no mention of Willow at all.
Yeah. Keep an eye on him. Because he’s not right. He’s dead inside. He is going to kill us all.