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So after watching the first episode of Netflix's The Dragon Prince, I had a lot of thoughts (see my previous post), but ultimately my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to see where the rest of the season would go.
I am happy to say what I thought would take the entire season they accomplished in the first 3 episodes so that's more progression than I thought we'd get this season. Though if you compare overall progression to Avatar: The Last Airbender we're still only about at the end of The Boy in the Iceberg, so meh. Alternatively, we're probably at about the Prancing Pony in The Lord of the Rings, so that's pretty good. And it's hard to tell but I think we are at the end of season one of Game of Thrones. There's a graph below to help understand what I'm talking about.
My point is that I'm not about wasting time, and when it takes longer than usual to get to a certain beat in a story, it makes me hesitant to keep watching.
So what's the story? Our main trio of heroes has to take the important plot device item across the continent, and you know what that means: Walking! Lots and lots of walking. I know I sound sarcastic, but I actually love this portion of stories, and it's usually my favourite part, because it leaves you with so much room for character development. And so that's the bulk of the show: developing these characters as they walk to a place.
Is the storytelling as effective as something like ATLA? No, not really. There are a few episodes that kinda drag, where it takes them several episodes to complete side quests which makes overall progression feel slow. You may think this is similar to something like ATLA, where there are a lot of stand alone episodes that don't always advance the overall plot dramatically (especially in season 1), but these episodes still work because they have smaller character arcs within the episodes themselves, so it still feels like the characters are growing. With The Dragon Prince, there aren't really arcs within each episode since the season operates as one long story, so the character development feels like it takes much longer.
Without a good transition, I wanna talk about my favourite character of the show: General Amaya. As the cool aunt to our main characters, General Amaya is this badass warrior woman with a cool design and a unique fighting style—also she's deaf. Talk about the strong and silent type, am I right? (*cough, cough* bad joke *cough* sarcasm) But seriously, that's like the best thing about her. Amaya's character and personality has nothing to do with the fact that she has a disability. She's a fully fleshed out character who just happens to have a disability. And it's really cool to see this type of character in a fantasy setting, because of how they integrate her into the world. She has this lieutenant that follows her around and acts as her translator for people that can't sign. And these two together have a cool dynamic in their own right.
There are a couple scenes with Amaya where she's signing with people that already understand what she's saying, and they don't provide subtitles for the audience, but you can still understand the emotion of the scene through the context. It's really cool, and makes me want to learn sign language just so I can understand this character better. Plus, it shows the audience what it's like to not be able to understand someone, which is literally how Amaya feels all the time. What a unique inverse way to get inside a character's head.
One theme that I really like in this series is how characters with disabilities are handled. They are treated like there is nothing wrong with them and it's the world that needs to change. I think this a great message and an important one for kids. With this show, A Quiet Place, and Creed II, it's been a great year for deaf characters.
I'm happy to say that most of the problems I had with the first episode got resolved once I actually gave the show a chance. Stuff like how the magic system works actually gets explained naturally through the story once it becomes relevant, around episode 5. Which makes me wonder why they bothered telling us about it in the prologue, if they were just gonna cover the same info organically later.
And maybe it just takes some time to get used to, but I feel like the animation got better over time.
So is The Dragon Prince the next Avatar? No, but that's not really a fair standard to judge it by. The show doesn't really do anything brand new with the fantasy genre, but I think it has potential now that the first season is out of the way. I will be checking out the next season if for the very least to get more of General Amaya, and my boy Jack DeSena (voice of Sokka) always brings his A-game. But I do commend the show for being an action adventure cartoon that isn't a reboot or based on anything, and I hope that we get more shows like it. The Dragon Prince may not be the best, but hopefully it paves the way for new material, as opposed to the over saturation of edgy reboots.