Photo Courtesy of Netflix
Then, Everything Changed when the Moon Elves Attacked
October 22, 2018
When creating a TV show, it can sometimes be difficult getting people excited for the finished product. Some shows just don’t sound interesting, fade to obsolescence, or fall flat before they’ve even been released. Netflix’s new animated original, “The Dragon Prince,” is definitely not one of those shows.
Though it has since generated a fanbase of its own, “The Dragon Prince” owed much of its initial excitement to the legendary animated classic: “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Ever since its conclusion in 2008, A:TLA has been hailed as possibly the best animated series of all time; its highly developed lore and unparalleled character writing has landed it a spot in virtually every cartoon viewer’s list of favorite shows. So when Netflix announced that “The Dragon Prince” would be co-written by Aaron Ehasz, head writer of A:TLA, hundreds of fans who had grown up watching the show began to come out of the woodwork.
On a distant continent, humans and magic creatures have been long split by a war that tore the continent into two kingdoms: the human kingdoms and the magical land called Xadia. After discovering a strange egg in their castle, two young human princes, Prince Callum and Prince Ezran, are forced to embark on a dangerous quest with an elven assassin named Rayla who was originally sent to kill them. It turns out that the war’s cataclysmic event, the destruction of the Dragon Prince’s egg, never actually happened and the egg had actually been stolen and hidden away. Together, Rayla and the princes are tasked with returning the egg to the land of magic and ending the bloody fighting. The unlikely trio must dodge soldiers, mythic monsters, and former friends to avoid being captured by human forces on their quest to restore peace to the realm.
Really, all “The Dragon Prince” needed to do to score some viewers was nail down the Avatar nostalgia and give us the same colorful feeling and sense of depth as the legendary classic. But when it was finally released on Netflix on last Sunday, many fans found that while the Avatar callbacks were certainly there, “The Dragon Prince” has a very distinct charm separate from the predecessor. While A:TLA was a primarily a children’s show with some serious undercurrents, “The Dragon Prince” is targeted towards an older audience and brings the serious discussions of war to the surface.
One of the best things that “The Dragon Prince” did was using the whole “there is no villain” trope to introduce the antagonists. Crazy supervillain overlords can make for a great story device, but when you can understand the reasoning of the antagonist, it makes the entire story seem more realistic rather than just a good vs. bad dichotomy. The antagonists are introduced as friends, and are driven apart from the protagonists by the plot rather than simply being evil from the get-go. Though Rayla, the assassin, is currently doing the right thing, it doesn’t change that her choices ended up setting many of the conflicts in motion.
Speaking of which, the characterization in “The Dragon Prince” is definitely the most enjoyable part of the show. It steers away from overdone clichés and towards more interesting character concepts and relationships. There is a deaf commander who uses sign language and her translator to speak, canonically LGBTQ+ characters, and the main characters are of mixed races. Also, instead of giving the moon elves smooth, “Lord of the Rings”-esque British voices, “The Dragon Prince” opts for hardcore, heavy Scottish accents and it is both hilarious and interesting to listen to.
The slightly shaky, 3D animation can take some time to get used to, but “The Dragon Prince” is definitely worth the watch. The pacing of the show is a bit slow, but it allows for the viewers to actually get a sense of what kind of world the story is taking place in. The plot hasn’t gone very far since it’s still only the first season, but the characters carry the story in interesting and unexpected ways that both callback to A:TLA and create a totally different charm unique to the show.