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Arcane: A masterclass in character-based storytelling

Posted on April 21, 2022 by Vauxhall Advance

By Kenyon Stronski
Vauxhall Advance

I’m not a fan of animated TV shows, and I’ll admit in some cases I’ve refused to watch a show just because they’ve used that particular form of media. That fact put me off of Riot Games’ Arcane at first – along with the fact that it’s a series based on a game I don’t like and frankly don’t care about.

Then, after some coercing from friends and seeing how much of a staple of popular culture it became for a time; I decided why not? Let’s jump in and see how it goes. Well, queue me binging the entire season in two days and loving absolutely every second I watched.

I don’t believe I’ve ever quite consumed a show like Arcane in the past. The believability of the characters, the story, the visuals and the effects are just stunning – even through an animated medium every single character felt real.

Their expressions, dialogue, reactions and motives were all based heavily in reality and honestly there were times I’m glad it was animated. It wouldn’t have been nearly as good live-action and that is a hill I’ll happily die on. Warning: Many spoilers follow.

I was hooked instantly by the characters, their depth and the fact that it felt like we were just dropped into their lives. All the characters are imperfect, some have experienced trauma that has changed them more than others – and they have motives that make you like or hate them. I think the main ‘bad guy’ of the first season, Silco, is the best representation of this.

The writers make you hate Silco early-on. He kills Powder’s (Jinx) and Violet’s (Vi) adopted family and then takes a young Powder under his wing while her name becomes Jinx. A ‘jinx’ was what her adopted family used to always refer to her as.

Keeping with the writer’s plans, I hated Silco at first. He was slimy, unapologetically evil, and willing to do absolutely anything in his pursuit of creating the independent state of Zaun.

He was an anarchist, and bombs and fires were his orchestra. However after Jinx grew up it was revealed that he treated her like a daughter, showcasing the soft sides of an otherwise terrible person; my heart softened for him.

Then there’s Jinx herself. Over the years Jinx went insane, developing a love of bombs, guns and most types of ordanace that she makes herself. She’s a wildcard and Silco’s closest allies made it known. She still ‘jinxed’ things, but it was nothing Silco couldn’t handle, and nothing Jinx couldn’t handle. However when Vi is reintroduced into her life, it creates a mental battle where she had trouble deciding on whether or not she wanted to return to being Powder or keep her life as Jinx. This line of story climaxes in the last episode.

Before exploring that, I want to talk about the musical score because I think that’s part of what made the series so impactful for me – especially the last episode. All the songs fit perfectly, filling a plethora of different genres while invoking a slew of different emotions.

From fights, to love, to quarrels to tears they had a perfect track to fit everything.

To me, the final episode of Arcane will be the reason I recommend it to anyone that asks. After following so many characters, learning their inner workings and falling in love with them all in different ways. You have an episode that ties them all in.

Jinx captures her sister, Vi, friend Caitlyn and Silco. She’s mad at Silco because she sees him as a liar and believes he tried to keep Vi a secret from her while also potentially giving Jinx up for the future of Zaun – although Silco didn’t even know Vi was alive and only in jail. Caitlyn is captured because she was spending a lot of time around Vi and it made Jinx jealous. She didn’t want to be replaced as the little sister and wanted Vi’s love while Vi was captured because Jinx wanted to see if she was still accepted by her big sister while being a completely different young woman than the Powder Vi remembered.

In the end, Jinx ends up shooting and killing Silco in a fit of rage, and breaks down when she realizes just what she did.

But, Silco wasn’t mad – instead referred to Jinx as ‘perfect’ before passing. Jinx then chose to stay as Jinx, quoting that she thought Vi “Could still love me like you used to even though I’m different. But you changed, too.” The song that begins during this scene makes it so much more powerful and I’m not scared to admit that being so invested in these characters that I was nearly moved to tears.

‘What Could Have Been’ by Sting featuring Ray Chen is an absolute masterpiece and fits the scene perfectly. There is nothing I would have changed, and I think everyone that was involved in creating the masterpiece of a season finale should have some sort of award. It’s just. That. Good.

So, whenever you’re sitting around bored, wondering what to watch and are a little put off by animated shows. I’d urge you to give Arcane a try.

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