Arcane Act 1 & 2 (TV series) review
The fan base of the popular MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) video game from Riot Games, League of Legends, along with myself, were all tired of what a TV series could bring to Netflix. I was concerned that it would face a lot of backlash for being a poorly executed show for fans of the game, or that it would become too specialized for players of the game. In my opinion, Riot Games and Netflix did not present a great spectacular show; he gave audiences a masterpiece and a pioneer for a TV series adaptation with Esoteric.
I initially loved that they focused on the game’s sibling champions with similar names, Vi and Jinx. I knew from their story that one of them is a criminal and one of them works in law enforcement, so it was fascinating to see how the creators of the series were going to create this rift between the sisters. After seeing two of the three acts, I enjoyed the format of having three episode acts because I think it provides a great place to give a pseudo-cinematic experience with each part.
I also like the addition of other characters from the game: inventors Jayce and Viktor, aspiring detective Caitlyn, time traveler Ekko, and Professor Heimerdinger. More importantly, it is within the framework of Piltover and Zaun that these people of diverse backgrounds can flourish as they relate their stories to me.
The first act begins with a bright, action-packed opening. As young Vi, Powder and their rag tag, Goonies-As a team attempt to steal valuable items from a nobleman’s science lab, seeing the world of Piltover was beautiful. The artwork of the steampunk town and its airships mixed with scenes of children roaming European rooftops and clay brick streets were exciting and breathtaking.
“Riot Games and Netflix haven’t put on a big, spectacular show; he gave audiences a masterpiece and a pioneer for a TV series adaptation with Esoteric. “
Then the dark underground city and slum of Zaun (more precisely, The Lanes) makes up for the radiant city of Piltover well as it immediately introduces the warring class conflict between the two cities coexisting with each other. I have to point out that the storytelling and pacing is something that rarely finds fault with in Act 1. Each episode is associated with combat, world-building and suspense, which makes me want the next episode.
Esoteric‘s Act 1 does a great job establishing its characters, both from the previous canon in League of Captions and the new ones. I actually felt an instant connection with Vi and Powder’s father figure, Vander. I’m curious if we will ever know more about him before he adopts Vi and Powder, as we only get clues to his past as the leader of a violent uprising through the conversations that ‘he’s got acquaintances like the store owner, Benzo, and his former partner, Silco.
Speaking of Silco, what a lousy, gooey dude! From the moment they introduced this man I knew he was going to be some kind of crime boss race between Batman‘s Penguin and Grima Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It’s just the way he talks to people and the way he influences them to obey his orders – you can smell his poisonous words.
“Esoteric‘s Act 1 does a great job establishing its characters, both from the previous canon in League of Captions and the new ones.
It’s interesting because he expands in the second act to be more like Batman’s Joker, who uses his newfound wealth of being The Lanes’ crime boss to gain power from both Zaun and Piltover. I found it an odd choice that Silco suddenly became Jinx’s (formerly Powder) weird new father figure since Vi was hunting her at the end of Act 1. Their interactions got a bit too close to calling Jinx. Silco “Papa”, but not in a family way (yikes!).
As I erased that image from my mind, the climax of Act 1 told me a lot. It showed me that the creators of TV weren’t afraid to make it a more mature show because of all the gruesome deaths that escalated in the second half of the first act. I wouldn’t say the show tries to be a gore festival, but rather, it doesn’t shy away from showing the brutality and impact of death to add more gravity to the tense situations. Esoteric is definitely not as bloody as other mature animated shows like Netflix’s Castlevania or Prime Video’s Invincible.
It’s not just the physical deaths that are more mature, but the themes too – no, I’m not talking about the sex scene and the spicy language of Act 2. One of the saddest issues of maturity which this series indirectly deals with is suicide and trauma. When Jayce is caught up with the Unstable Arcane Crystals (later called Hextech Crystals by Jayce and Viktor) and is no longer allowed to practice science in his academy, he plans to leave the ledge of his destroyed lab.
The young demographic might not quite get what they were about to do, but I got that feeling too well, and it made a lot of realistic sense – when you’re told you can’t not do what you are passionate about and studying all your life. .
“I wouldn’t say the show tries to be a gore festival, but rather, it doesn’t shy away from showing the brutality and impact of death to add more gravity to tense situations.”
As far as trauma goes, we see Powder / Jinx struggling a lot with this one. As her sister deals with the trauma of her childhood through unarmed fighters, Powder tries to create gadgets to help Vi. However, when everything she does is synonymous with ruin (a “spell”) for her family and friends, Vi leaves and turns her trauma into a complex of abandonment. When she becomes Jinx in Act 2, we see how the voices in her head are those of all of her deceased friends, which helps her make decisions, rarely the right ones.
I respected seeing the grown-up, fleshed-out themes posed to Jayce, Jinx, and even other supporting actors like Marcus, who tries to be an outright Enforcer but inevitably ends up on Silco’s payroll. in act 2. I really hope to see how these different personalities, with their past baggage and scars, find a conclusion in act 3 (the final act). And I’d better see more of Poros because Heimerdinger’s one is so cute!
Act 2 skips a few years later after the events of Act 1 and gets a lot more political, when it comes to the emphasis on Jayce being on the board, as Anakin Skywalker did in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. I was amazed at how Hextech was used to create a super-fast trip from Piltover to other parts of the world – it works a lot like “back to basics” in the video game. I would say the only interesting thing to see was the teasing of Vi’s future gauntlets and Viktor’s laser beam that he uses in the video game.
“Act 2 jumps a few years later after the events of Act 1 and becomes much more political, in terms of the emphasis on Jayce becoming a board member…”
Other than seeing Jinx become more like Jinx from League of Legends, I thought it was a great act to see Caitlyn’s story develop since she was sort of eclipsed in Act 1. Caitlyn and Vi’s team is perfect because they build the Bad Boys Where Deadly weapon dynamic buddy-cop.
I couldn’t have asked for a better show to express my love of the game. I hope EsotericThe third act of s ends with a bigger bang, and we can see all of the League of Legends champions with their iconic looks and weapons. There are still surprises in store, even for those familiar with the history of the game. For example, the identity of the mysterious leader of the Firelights gang.
Personally, I think it was Ekko, who was one of the few champions of the game who didn’t reappear in Act 2. To see Ekko fight in the series would be an incredible treat as he is known to have his blade and time travel capabilities to use. I’m not sure if he will have these abilities for the show, however.
I also hope we’ll see if Vi and Jinx can reconcile like their father figures, Vander and Silco, couldn’t. As for Jayce and Viktor’s relationship, it really defines the tension between the Twin Cities: upper class versus lower class, Jayce thrives in politics as Viktor’s health deteriorates with his obsession with magic, and Piltover advances as Zaun collapses.
Hopefully all of these relationships can be mended by Act 3, but I feel like there must be a catalyst that separates them if it comes close to the established tradition. On the other hand, Esoteric is in uncharted waters and the show has the power to change and build on a new canon.
These first two acts show me that the creators know exactly what chords to pull, and they don’t just milk the already established fanbase; instead, they’re trying to make a show that extends the lore of these in-game characters and invites new fans to see that this world is worth paying attention to. Esoteric is going super strong right now, and I hope the last three episodes are well worth the wait!