TV Review: Arcane Season 1, Episodes 7-9

By Matthew Moorcroft

Episode 7 (The Boy Saviour) – Highest Recommendation
Episode 8 (Oil and Water) – Highest Recommendation
Episode 9 (The Monster You Created) – Highest Recommendation

  • Directed by Pascal Charrue & Arnaud Delord
  • Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Ella Purnell, Kevin Alejandro, Katie Leung
  • TV-14

When Ekko first shows himself again after an entire act of disappearance, spotting a brand new look and cool new tech (which you can buy now on League of Legends, free to play on PC!), there are two things going through the audiences head. First of all, Ekko is back, that’s cool! One of the standout characters from Act 1 despite his lack of screentime and he gets a beefy side role in this act which really cements him as one of the best characters in the show. But the second thing, which is a smaller reaction but equally as important is the recontextualization of the Firelights, and thus the entire class war of the show.

Arcane has consistently been about two things and two things only – familial relationships and the exploitation of the poor by the rich. These things were mostly separate but here they collide in a furious, high-octane finale that’s hard to look away from. It’s bold stylistic presentation gets even more bold and stylized, prioritizing experimentation and abstraction over standard storytelling conventions. For the better, Arcane has embraced it’s madness like Jinx, fully engulfing itself in a fiery presentation.

That mix of themes is there thanks to the complicated presence of Silco, whose torment over having to choose between peace and his father-daughter bond with Jinx is genuinely compelling. Silco was always a stellar antagonist, especially from a design perspective, but over the course of all nine episodes of the season he’s evolved into one of the most complex characters in the show. And his inevitable defeat – not at the hands of Piltover, but the accidental rage of Jinx – is oddly tragic. In the end, what makes Silco and his actions different from the council is that while both do terrible things in the name of their progress, the council throw their own aside like nothing. Silco doesn’t. Good antagonists are not simply there as a force to fight against, but are there to show the protagonist a different viewpoint or be their opposite. Killmonger in Black Panther, The Joker in the The Dark Knight, Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and now Silco in Arcane.

And yeah, that final scene! Just incredible stuff – the Texas Chainsaw inspired final sequence is nothing short of a nail biter, with fantastic reveals, stellar attention to detail, and a whallop of a final shot. While Vi is mostly an onlooker for much of this act, mainly due to the needs of the story, her onlooking works as we see Jinx’s transformation in real time with her. Arcane has turned out to be Jinx’s story first and foremost and her embracing her new identity of both a moment of sad reflection but odd triumph. No longer bound by her own shackles, her ties to those she cares about. Powder is dead and buried.

But even outside of the final stretch of the show, there is still a lot to love here. The show’s best action sequences are featured here, as clearly they have saved the best for last with the clear winner of the entire show being the wickedly cool and surreal fight between Ekko and Jinx that’s one of the most visually stunning things ever put on American television. While Jayce’s character himself peaked in Act 2 leaving him as mostly a secondary figure here, he does end up in a place that leaves him as a more interesting figure then before – one conflicted between his own ideals and the ideals of the people around him. Sure enough, it’s Viktor who ends up with meatiest parts of the Plitover storyline, and the bittersweet nature of his storyline, while clearly not over, ends in a place where his character is forever changed in a way that feels uniquely meaningful.

But the best thing about this final stretch of episodes is not that it hints at more, though I will be seated day one for it. No, it’s the fact that, even with it’s cliffhanger ending, Arcane‘s story is still complete as it is stands and feels like a whole narrative. It’s a difficult thing to pull off yet Arcane does it with such an ease that it makes everything else look embarrassing by comparison. In an age of neverending storytelling thanks to reboots, cinematic universes, and spin-offs, it’s nice that Arcane, while clearly a part of a bigger story, still manages to feel contained and personal, and most of all, complete. Sure, it will get more and I’m very excited for all of that, but as it stands, I’m incredibly satisfied by what I’ve seen of Arcane and the work that it’s writers and directors Pascal Charrue & Arnaud Delord put into this.

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