The second entry in Guillermo Del Toro’s world of Arcadia is a sci-fi series that has a lot of familiar feels.
Princess Aja (Tatiana Maslany) and Prince Krel (Diego Luna) are the heirs to the throne of House Tarron, the ruling house of Akiridion-5. However, on the day of their coronation, a mad dictator named Val Morando (Alon Aboutboul) takes over the planet, resulting in Aja and Krel, and their “dog” Luug (Frank Welker), being carried away from the planet by their guardian, the great warrior Varvatos Vex (Nick f*cking Offerman). They manage to collect the greatly wounded bodies of their parents and put them in stasis as they head for the nearest planet that might provide safety, which happens to be Earth. After crash-landing in Arcadia, California, the ship’s computer (Glenn Close) cloaks the group by making Aja, Krel, and Varvatos look like humans and the ship look like a suburban home. The three must find a way to avoid the bounty hunters sent by Val Morando and fix the ship so that they can fix their parents and make it back home.
This is the Sci-Fi to the Fantasy of Trollhunters, but, admittedly, it doesn’t create the worlds quite as well as the former did. While we are introduced to interesting alien species in the form of the bounty hunters and a few of Earth’s secret resident aliens, most of the actions take place in the city of Arcadia, populated by most of the same characters from Trollhunters. While those characters are, for the most part, great and some of them are expanded upon well, we only get a handful of new characters created for this show that get the same kind of care. We also don’t get much time in other locations, despite the fact that we are doing an alien-centric sci-fi show. That said, Arcadia is still pretty awesome and the characters are still very enjoyable, particularly when interacting with the abnormal behavior of the aliens.
The biggest plus for me is Nick Offerman as Varvatos Vex. In the beginning, you’ll find his character annoying and overblown, because that’s what he’s supposed to be. By the end, though, you discover why he acts the way he does, and it retroactively makes everything seem so much more interesting and deeper than could have been predicted up front. That said, the main reason his character is even tolerable is that he’s played by Nick Offerman who is completely dedicated to his performance. Much like with Offerman’s Ron Swanson, this character’s exaggerated elements move from “tough to deal with” to “lovable” as time goes on.
Aja and Krel’s journeys are a little cliche nowadays, because Aja is trying to avoid being a princess while Krel is more comfortable being a prince. I get that we are trying to make up for the fact that women were only allowed to be princesses in most of Western Fiction for pretty much all of history until very recently, but her method of refusing to take the throne is similar to how most modern female characters try to reject the archetype, which is now itself becoming an archetype. Fortunately, the show seems to realize that and, a few episodes in, she starts to break from the mold a little bit more in her pursuit of being a warrior. Krel, for the most part, is the tech genius who wants to both be normal at school and also get the parts of his life back that he enjoyed.
The crossovers with Trollhunters actually make for pretty good episodes, too. The season finale takes place at the same time as the series finale of that series, which makes for some interesting parallel action.
The show’s humor definitely saves it at some points. The fish-out-of-water story of the aliens trying to blend in with humanity is pretty well done, but it’s better when combined with the goofy and somewhat off-kilter residents of Arcadia.
Overall, I look forward to seeing more of this series if there is more to see. If not, I look forward to seeing what Wizards does to tie the whole universe together.
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