Season one of The Dragon Prince ended on a big cliffhanger as we saw the sacred egg Callum, Ezra and Rayla were transporting back to Arcadia hatch into a baby dragon named Zym. With two human princes and a moon elf on the run, we also saw the ongoing conflict between the human and elven kingdom grow even more volatile.
The second season starts off by returning its focus on the feud between the human and elven factions, as we see General Amaya having a fierce sword fight with three opposing elves in the crater of a volcano. Being a project from the same creators as Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, you will notice similarities in some of the styles and approaches in The Dragon Prince. Despite being a kids’ programme, the fight sequences are stunning to behold just as they were in Avatar and it even implements the same technique of starting each season under the name of a book. The first season was entitled Moon and the second is Sky, making for a satisfying blend of familiar and new. The story, characters and world are different, but there are small nuances that make the show feel very much in the vein of Avatar.
After a dramatic and exciting intro, the attention switches to Callum, Ezra and Rayla as they take a moment to rest and recuperate in Lujanne’s dwelling. With room to breathe the trio have time to reflect on their journey so far and the next stop forward. There is some good humour in the first three episodes, in particular the sequences where we see Ezra trying to teach Zym how to fly. However, it is quite a slow start, and if it wasn’t for the sudden arrival of Claudia and Soren, the opening of The Dragon Prince would have been a bit uneventful.
Fortunately, the long-standing animosity between Soren and Rayla allows for some good confrontation and tension and Lujanne’s revelation to Callum that he will not be able to harness primal magic adds a significant amount of drama to the show. Additionally, Viren’s own storyline is intriguing, providing an air of mysteriousness to his character and the narrative. The big shock moment comes in the third episode when a certain truth comes to light, dealing with quite a mature and serious subject matter. It is important that The Dragon Prince doesn’t shy away from these heavier themes but still has enough light-hearted humour, resulting in a good balance of drama and comedy.
The dalliance between Claudia and Callum is a little nauseating, as we see the two in the deepest throes of adolescence, but it does show the complexity of both characters. With Claudia in particular you can see how she isn’t an inherently bad person but her use of dark magic does leave her motives and methods questionable to say the least. It is also a very clever way of challenging the whole dark magic trope. It is commonly associated with evil people, but Claudia isn’t that easy to define, and is more a product of her upbringing and environment than her individual personality. At the same time, it is difficult to be able to like her when she is up against Rayla, a character who is so inexplicably honour bound and decent that you can’t help but love her.
Episode four is where The Dragon Prince really starts to get interesting. Seeing through their plan to capture them, Callum, Ezra, Rayla and Zym make a daring escape and set their sights on Arcadia. The remainder of the season is full of interesting plot developments, character arcs and cool concepts. The focus on the war politics between the kingdoms of men and elves returns once more, allowing for some epic battles, heated debates and long lasting ramifications to the characters and the world they inhabit.
Episode six is one of the most intriguing episodes as it sees Viren tell a important story involving the late King Harrow, his late wife Queen Sarai and the Queens of the kingdom of Duren. Not only does the flashback contain a truly epic fight involving a magma rock monster and a dragon, but it provides crucial history and backstory of the world and narrative. It not only reveals the reason behind Sarai’s unfortunate fate but also further explores and explains how Harrow and Viren’s close friendship slowly began to degrade and how their difference in opinions caused significant changes to Viren’s character and personality.
The Dragon Prince has an extremely diverse cast of characters and includes important groups which have been marginalised. The whole conflict between the humans and the elves although fantasy represents prejudices and assumptions that can be related to topical issues present in our current society. Going further than that it chooses to include a deaf General, a lesbian couple and several black characters. It doesn’t make a big deal out of this and if anything the fact that it doesn’t bring attention to it highlights how this kind of inclusion doesn’t have to be to the detriment of the programme.
Much like Avatar there is a focus on the characters’ and creatures’ connection with the elements around them. In The Dragon Prince it is referred to as primal magic. The cube Callum owns has the potential to harness these primal sources and as he learns how to use the magic cube, the potential for what he will be able to learn if he masters them is exciting and thrilling. As well as this idea of primal sources there is also a big focus on parallels, and that whole yin and yang-style idea of duality. There is light and dark magic, moon and sun elves, water and fire, good and bad. It all provides for a fascinating interplay, sometimes allowing for a satisfying connection and at other times a fraught conflict.
The animation is beautiful with some gorgeous settings, landscapes and environments and although I have still not quite come round to the more 3D style of animation The Dragon Prince employs, I must admit it is very pretty and polished. The fight sequences are slick and smooth and have that epic fantasy feel to them with intense sword fights and impressive showdowns between humans and mythical creatures.
Although certain aspects such as the humour and some of the voice acting are fairly modern, the storyline, characters and world play out like a classic fantasy adventure. The quest Callum, Ezra and Rayla have undertaken is full of unexpected dangers, oddball characters and stunning mythical creatures. Dragons are a staple of the fantasy genre, as is the idea of a small ragtag group of adventures venturing forth to a perilous and dangerous land full of threats and hidden dangers. Certain elements seem very Tolkienesque, such as the fact that their destination is a fiery volcano which feels extremely similar to The Lord of The Rings and the inclusion of a dragon akin to Smaug from The Hobbit. The different races, mythical creatures, political landscape and inclusion of magic have been a huge part of fantasy for a incredibly long time. Authors such as Raymond E. Fest, Robert Jordan, and Brandon Sanderson to name but a few are renowned for their rich world building with an emphasis on kingdom and realm politics, character’s understanding and learning of magic and incredibly detailed and inventive creature designs. The Dragon Prince is influenced by all these classic fantasy styles whilst adding its own unique spin on it.
There are some really nice little touches in the second season which work very well. The dream sequence with Callum is extremely trippy and bizarre and echoes classic scenes such as Luke’s dream in Empire Strikes Back. It is a good way of getting the protagonist to confront their inner demons and is necessary for Callum to be able to further continue his journey. It also means that the animators and writers can have a little fun by implementing some strange and surreal content, mixing things up a bit. Near the end of the season, certain incidents explain Soren’s and Claudia’s reasons for doing certain immoral things. It doesn’t excuse their actions but it does identify how their relationship with their father, Viren, is a contributing factor.
The second season of The Dragon Prince is an epic fantasy adventure with a plethora of interesting content to chomp down on. The first few episodes are a teeny bit slow, but the rest of the season is absolutely brilliant. It is a perfect family programme as it will appeal to both adults and children. It is filled with a lot of light-hearted humour but isn’t afraid to shy away from heavier topics, which serves to educated children as well as entertain them. The quest revolving around Callum, Ezra and Rayla is exciting and gripping and gives the show a good momentum and pace. The backdrop of the kingdoms of the world and their political interplay provides for interesting world and societal development. The focus on magic, primal energy and connection to the elements is fascinating and will appeal to fans of Avatar and Korra alike.
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With an original story, engaging characters and stunning imagery the second season of The Dragon Prince is one to watch.
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