“The Dragon Prince,” the spiritual successor to the massively popular “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” finally hit Netflix after months of buildup. Not only does the new animated adventure live up to the hype, but it also somehow manages to surpass its predecessor with its rich world and instantly interesting characters.
In only a single season, “The Dragon Prince” manages to display the combined prowess of the show’s many seasoned writers. Considering the show is headed by Aaron Ehasz, a writer and director on “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and Justin Richmond, there was a lot of hope in the new Netflix original series. From the moment its first episode begins, it’s immediately evident that “The Dragon Prince” is aiming to become something special.
Set in a fantastic world ravaged by a never-ending war between humans and magic-wielding elves, “The Dragon Prince” follows two young princes on the very edge of survival. The Dragon King who once kept the border between humans and elves has been slain by humans, and his heir, the Dragon Prince, has been presumably killed.
Years later, Callum and Ezran stumble upon the iridescent egg that contains the Dragon Prince, and it’s up to them to deliver the egg to the elves in hopes of ending the centuries of senseless bloodshed. As one could guess from the brilliant minds of Ehasz and Richmond, the quest ultimately entangles the princes into a world of underlying secrets and earth-shattering conspiracies.
From episode one, “The Dragon Prince” flaunts its expensive budget with incredibly animated scenes of war and carnage that demands its viewers’ attention and entices audiences to delve into this fantastical world. The episode begins with a very brief history of the once-peaceful Xadia before humans managed to fabricate the chaotic dark magic that tore the continent apart. From there, the show very much follows the “Avatar” example of show don’t tell.
Rather than cramming years of the land’s rich, developed history into the first episode, the show trusts its viewers to simply envelop themselves in this strange world. Each episode serves to further unfold the rich politics of the human realm while providing glances into the magical land of the elves through the lens of the show’s female elven lead, Rayla. The show’s writers also do an excellent job at giving viewers a taste of what they can expect in later seasons and other world-building projects they have planned.
Like the HBO fantasy epic “Game of Thrones,” Ehasz and Richmond plan on expanding “The Dragon Prince” into a spiraling franchise of spinoff shows, movies and possibly even video games. Considering this, it would be foolish to give every bit of information on this world in just one six-episode season, and like “Avatar” the showrunners clearly plan on expanding on the world’s seemingly complex magic and dense number of creatures through the sheltered Callum and Ezran.
World-building aside, the show’s characters are incredibly lifelike, boasting well-written dialogue that’s both insightful and hilarious. While the boy princes provide a bit of fun, the actual star of the show is Rayla with her quick jabs and amazing prowess in combat. It is also unsurprising to see the boys’ deaf aunt quickly become the standout secondary character considering her larger-than-life stature and her impact on the ever-growing push for representation in the media.
The show never feels quite safe or makes viewers think they can let their guards down. Until the very end of the season, each character’s fate is questioned as the throne is practically usurped and the human realms are quickly thrown into chaos. Though the protagonists may hold a key to stopping this war, the writers are diligent in showing that nothing is certain in this world. Lies and deceit are the only things holding together the traveling trio, and once the threshold severs, Xadia’s final hope will be lost.
“The Dragon Prince” fully displays the very height that Netflix allows its creators to reach with its creative freedoms and hands-off approach. The show really nails a rarely seen animation style and pushes it to its very limit, which is evident in the amount of choppy scenes on certain handheld devices and television screens. Its writing is also nothing less than world-class and begs for its viewers to fall in love with every aspect that the show presents.
With a second season, video games and so much more in terms of expanding this universe underway, it will be exciting to see just how far the show’s creators plan on pushing this marvelous new series.