Like many others, I absolutely loved Arcane, Netflix’s new League of Legends-based animated hit. It does so many things nearly perfectly. The animation might be the best example of its style that I have ever seen, with a genius in the facial expressions unlike anything I’ve ever seen in animation. The characters are effortlessly deep and complex. The plot is not anything groundbreaking, but it generally works in service to those characters, with plenty of emotional moments grounded in the type of believable decisions that invest you fully in those moments.
I would say that after 7 episodes, I was ready to come here and rant about how perfect Arcane is. And I am still here to rant about how you should watch it because it is very, very good. It is almost good enough to make me forget how toxic League of Legends is, which is saying a lot. But I do have one bone to pick about the last couple episodes.
The most consequential arc with the most attention throughout the season is obviously the relationship between Violet and Jinx. Their split at the end of episode 3 is the narrative climax of the first three episodes and the plot point driving much of what follows for the rest of the season. Jinx’s abandonment issues both help and hurt Silco’s efforts to fight Piltover, and those efforts cause Caitlyn to free Vi and enlist her in the effort to investigate and stop Silco.
I think everything up to the first reunion between Vi and Jinx is basically perfect. Their actions and insecurities play perfectly into their histories with each other and the world around them. The reunion itself is one of the best moments of the entire season. I was ready for a devastating batch of final episodes based around these two, especially when the Firelights swooped in to take Vi and Caitlyn away.
While those episodes were devastating, I also have just one major problem. Vi. What the hell is Vi doing?
When Caitlyn and Vi return to Piltover with Ekko, Vi says she cannot just leave Jinx again and decides to return to the Lanes rather than go to Piltover. Then she literally does exactly that after the ambush that leaves many Enforcers dead, Caitlyn hurt, Ekko with a broken leg, and Jinx on the brink of death.
In the final episode, Jinx ambushes and kidnaps Vi, Caitlyn, and Silco for a twisted dinner where she eventually kills Silco. Throughout this dinner, Jinx struggles heavily with who she is and who she will be moving forward. It is a key moment for both Vi and Silco to make their case for Jinx’s support. Silco acts desperately to keep her on his side. He never shuts up. He makes desperate pleas of his love and support for her.
Meanwhile Vi, who is never shy about speaking her mind to ANYONE, just kind of…sits there. Weirdly accepting of her sister being stolen away from her. In general, Vi’s desperation up through episode 7 to find and help her sister just sort of wanes awkwardly in the last couple episodes.
Now I understand the idea. These moments of sudden hesitance to be there unconditionally for Jinx all center around Caitlyn. She leaves a dying Jinx on that bridge because Caitlyn is also hurt and she wants to help her. Then at the dinner party she is trying not to say anything to get Caitlyn killed and clearly wants to protect her from Jinx’s worst impulses. There’s an element of acceptance of what Jinx has become and a desire to protect someone else she cares about.
Arcane needed to do a better job establishing how Vi reached this point. Maybe it needed another episode or two. As is, the change in Vi’s behavior is somewhat abrupt and a decline in the completely organic storytelling Arcane managed up to that point. The intention behind this plotting runs into the one real noticeable flaw in Arcane’s otherwise terrific character arcs for all these characters:
Vi and Caitlyn simply did not have enough time together, and it makes it hard to believe Vi would care more about protecting her than helping Jinx.
I would never deny the obvious connection Arcane develops between Vi and Caitlyn, or Vi’s natural goodness that would cause her to want to protect someone she cares about. But really, in the grand scheme of things, they had what, a few days together? Maybe a week or two? It is not nearly enough to convince me that Vi would even come close to choosing Caitlyn over Jinx, in any situation.
Literally the first thing Vi does when she is free is try to find her sister. This search is a single-minded focus for her that she later says was her domineering thought while in prison. Like Jinx, Vi has lost everything and everyone as well. She lost her parents and Vander just the same. Finding Jinx SHOULD be her primary motivation. And it is, up to that first reunion with Jinx.
It would be one thing if Arcane made said reunion awkward or uncomfortable or suggested Jinx was too far gone already, but that is not what happened. Jinx chose to take a chance on Vi still caring for her and Vi rewarded her for her faith. Vi also got a glimpse of the girl her sister used to be, which should have encouraged her to go right back to Jinx as soon as she could.
Which, of course, she does choose. She hugs Caitlyn goodbye after the incident with the Firelights and leaves to find her sister again. Then she changes her mind 5 minutes later. As chilling as the bridge incident is, it is not enough for Vi to give up on Jinx or choose to take Caitlyn home rather than find her freaking sister, and not so suddenly after she insisted she could not leave Jinx behind.
Add in that Vi has 99 reasons to never like any Enforcer that much, and that quickly, and I just struggle to buy into Vi’s choices. Absolutely nothing that happens makes me think she would just walk away while Jinx and Ekko, two people she loved and cared about for YEARS, who helped form her foundational childhood relationships, while they try to kill each other.
Would she get Caitlyn out of the way? Sure. But she should not just walk away entirely.
The dinner scene had a bit more to work with. Vi and Caitlyn had a few more moments together beforehand and were that bit closer. Is it enough to explain Vi’s unusual quietness in that moment? I do not think so, mainly because it was so obviously a make-or-break moment for Jinx. This was it. Her sister’s soul is on the line. Again, Silco recognized the moment for what it was and gave it everything he had. Vi should have put up the same kind of fight, and instead seemed to worry more about what would happen to Caitlyn than what was happening to her sister.
One or both of two things needed to happen before this dinner scene. Either the Vi/Caitlyn plotline needed more time and development, or the Vi/Jinx split needed more time and development. As is, neither was enough to explain the other, when both were meant to explain each other. I get that Vi’s natural goodness and similarities to Vander push her away from Jinx and towards Caitlyn. I know that Jinx’s childhood traumas of loss and abandonment, along with Silco’s influence, finally pushes her away from Vi and makes her Silco’s successor. It all makes sense on paper and should have worked a bit better than it did for me.
Jinx works great. Caitlyn works great. I do not believe Silco like so many others, but he works great. Vi… just flabbergasts me.
Does this mean both plotlines totally failed? No, definitely not. The dinner scene is chilling, tense, shocking, and an amazing cap for Jinx’s heartbreaking character arc. Arcane just set such a high bar for itself that even a slight decline stands out more than it would on a worse show.
This is the kind of misstep you make in the first season of your great new show. Maybe they just could not make more than 9 episodes, maybe they miscalculated, maybe I am a lone voice and 99% of the fans think there was nothing wrong with any of this. Whatever the case, these are easily correctable blemishes most great shows work through and eventually eliminate entirely.
I hope Arcane does as well. It has all the potential in the world.
Images Courtesy of Netflix
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