When it comes to games going to the big screen there has been a lot of series that left a lackluster impression. Major studios from all over the world have tried their hands in one way or another to bring the games people love to another platform in hopes people, will love it more. But even with the general flop that has occurred time and time again Riot teaming up with Netflix decided to give it a shot with none other than their massive online hit League Of Legends. What followed was a firestorm of praise, critical approval, and record-breaking watches as Arcane was streamed all 9 episodes straight into people’s homes. Though late to the party I decided to sit down and immerse myself into what many called a modern masterpiece, and well, I disagree.
I do want to mention I hate Imagine Dragons and I don’t know who at Riot keeps tapping into them to make League-based songs but please for the love of god stop it.
Arcane takes place in one of the city-states known as Piltover, and honestly if you know nothing about League lore it doesn’t really matter, just make a note it is a place that is known for its technological advancement. So like many cities, some reap the benefits of the advancement then there are the slums. Poor forgotten souls left to rout under some drug lord’s thumb. This is where the story starts out as we are taking on a heist job following Violet and her sister Powder, then they blow up a building which is something Powder in due time gets very good at.
So here is the deal, I played League a lot back around season 2-5 and main the ADC role, to be blunt Jinx carried me to Diamond 3 and I’ve always enjoyed playing her even as I grew out of the game. I will talk about what I like and dislike critically about the show and what it does but also personally, so there will be major spoilers from here on out.
First off one of the things I saw was a lot of praise for how the show was produced and animated. To be blunt, I hated it. The fight scenes were basic, most still shots of past flashbacks and the scenes seemed cookie cutter at best. The lighting overall I enjoyed, conveying harsh lines between Piltover above and the slums across the bridge. The story is nothing new really, the poor getting tired of being beaten and forgotten to try to get their shot at a better life and the way they go about it differs by which slum lord you talk to. My impressions of the show as far as sound, animation, and the overall story is meh, it was enjoyable enough for me to sit down for 9 hours and watch it but I hardly felt a deep connection to most things that were going on screen.
But if you asked me what made this show blow up as it did well that would be simple, it’s the same reason I even watched it and the only thing I cared about. What happened to Vi and Powder, and how would Powder, seemingly to love her older sister more than anything, become a ruthless murder known as Jinx?
Setting this up the show makes it clear that they are both orphaned, their parents getting killed by Enforcers which are more or less just cops. They are then taken under the wing of Vander, who runs the place. Vander was once a fiery revolutionist turned father figure who just wants the best for the people around him. Making some sort of alliance with the Enforcers he makes an uneasy peace between the two worlds but one that Vi and her merry band want nothing more than destroy. This alliance is put to the test when Vi and her crew pull off a job resulting in a building blowing up and eventually Powder throwing the loot into the river to save her own butt. This causes tension in the group, others stating that Powder is a jinx, and throws every job. Little did they know what they stole was a very unstable, very dangerous material that would have doomed them if evidence was found. Oddly enough it was Powder who found the gems, threw away the gems, and in the end, would use the gems to blow a bunch of stuff up.
Anyways, with added attention from the Enforcers and deep-seated unrest, Vander finds himself along with his daughters at the will of Silco. Once a brother in arms Silco feels Vander has betrayed his people, and he will do anything in his power to gain their independence from the city and sees Vander as something in his way. What follows is the death of Vander though at the mishap of Powder more than anything. Trapped in Silco’s lab Vi, her crew, and Vander are close to escaping when Powder throws in one of her bombs that actually works, killing all of them but Vi.
Shell shocked, upset, and confused when Vi learns of Powder’s actions she hits her, calling her a jinx stating she should have stayed home before walking away. This allowed a brief window for Silco to come to Powder’s side, asking her where her sister is. Her response simply, she isn’t her sister anymore.
Honestly, this whole bit felt forced and unnatural. It all happened within a window of 3 minutes and even if it was nothing more than an emotionally fueled rant it just felt weird. Vi gets arrested, Silco tells Powder she is dead, and just like that Jinx, as we know her, is born.
Fast forward a little bit, Silco runs the town Jinx is virtually a daughter to him Vi is in prison and everyone is terrified of the short-fused on a whim antics of Jinx who seems to be able to do no wrong when it comes to Silco and his empire. Caitlyn becomes a newly minted Enforcer, starts investigating Silco’s smuggling ring, gets Vi out of prison to help her only for Vi to discover her dear, young sister has become a hardened bit of a maniac. It is at this point again I feel the series falls short in properly telling a story that seems authentic. During her absence, we are led to believe Silco has been filling Jinx’s head with all sorts of lies, a point that never really works. Even outside of Silco’s clear affection for Jinx it doesn’t really explain the delusions and mania Jinx is experiencing, something that never seemed to happen when she was Powder.
This was just weird to me. There is no evidence to show she had any type of mental illness, and the trauma bit makes little sense because once she learns Vi is alive it just complicates her already troubled mind. Also, no one really seems to want to help her in this regard, she has a mental breakdown in front of Cait, Vi, and Silco on different occasions but most of them just ignore her as she yells into the void waving pow pow around. It was a lackluster narrative and one I feel really sells Jinx short of her full potential. As well as the potential of two bitter sisters torn from each other. As time goes on it doesn’t really seem to be about the sisters at all, mostly Jinx trying to keep her very mind intact.
And I’m sure whatever Singed did, didn’t help.
None of this was cleared up by the final act either, though the notion that Jinx may be cut up Caitlyn had me there for a second.
And I gotta say, the part where Cait gets out of the shower to see the monkey graffiti on the bathroom mirror had me audibly say ‘oh shit’. But in the end, I have to give the most morbid scene to Viktor evaporating his assistant.
All and all my thoughts on Arcane come down to this. It was fine, that’s it, okay, worth the watch? Sure. Would I go to my buddies and scream its good graces? Hardly. I am not sure non-League fans would enjoy it though I’ve read a lot of people stating you don’t have to know the game to enjoy the show. Maybe that is true, maybe my affection for the game and specifically Jinx is why I didn’t enjoy it as much as many people. There is a lot more that could be said about it, Jayce, Ekko, but honestly it was only ever about Vi and Jinx for me and no matter how well the rest of the story goes how I felt about it was always going to come back to that.
I do plan on watching the second season and we will see how my feelings change. Outside of that most of my free time has been spent reading and playing ESO but I do plan on finishing season two of Jobless Reincarnation so keep posted. As always thanks for the read!