Media Essays: Emperor Belos vs. Aaravos: The Better Villain
Written by The Wandering Fox
Hey everyone, it’s me, and the Media Man has allowed me to write a blog entry that I think both fans of The Owl House and The Dragon Prince best read and come away with and think about who truly is the better villain.
I want to add I love both of these shows, but season 4 of The Dragon Prince was a letdown for me and others and one of the letdowns was Aaravos, the mysterious Startouch elf who the heroes have to stop. I’ll go into why I think he was a letdown with the letdown of season 4, but first we have to talk about him and his rival, Emperor Belos.
Exactly who are Emperor Belos and Aaravos?
Both of these characters are quite intriguing villains in their own way, at least they were as their stories are mostly complete now. The couple of them share many traits, they are powerful, they are trapped, they are horrid manipulators who abuse their powers to get what they want, and enjoy murdering people.
Emperor Belos, or better known as Philip Wittebane, is a human from the 1600s, being the imperial ruler of the Boiling Isles, having lived there for centuries plotting to escape the isles and murder every witch and demon.
Aaravos is a Startouch elf, one of the very first elves, having been on Xadia for centuries, witnessing many things including the exile of humans to the west, the many dragons that ruled over Xadia. Trapped in a dimension he can only be seen in through a mirror, Aaravos desires to escape and so far wants Callum on his side.
Both descriptions are basic, however, you then go further and you discover there’s more to both of these characters, yet I looked at this myself and I think Emperor Belos is the better villain. Why?
The Hero and The Villain
One of what makes a complex villain so interesting in a animated show is the time dedicated to building him or her up and their relationship to the main hero. The saying goes, every good hero needs a good villain. I think The Owl House succeeded at that with Luz and Belos, the main heroine developed her relationship with Belos as far back as season 1’s two part finale. Callum has only had one scene with Aaravos and as traumatising as it was, we don’t get enough of relationship between them….unless you count the books. You’ll be back to that.
Luz finally meets Belos in the season one finale. Her and us know little of Belos other than he’s the ruler of the Boiling Isles. We haven’t seen him do much aside from sucking a Palisman of their soul, and electrocute Eda before they meet each other. Once Luz finally meets him, he’s laid a trap for her, Lilith and King. Luz tries fighting him, but Belos then shows what he’s capable of, he can easily reduce himself to goop and appear behind Luz, then treats her as if she’s a mere cushion he can throw around, keeping Luz on her toes and the young girl has little to offer in response. She only manages to chip his mask. Belos throughout this is calm but brutal, beginning the fight with “Okay. I’ll play”.
Belos stops the fight himself. He tells Luz he will let her go, as well as Eda, if she gives him the portal door Eda has to go to Earth. He tells Luz he’s not interested in conquering Earth yet given he lied to Lilith, Luz isn’t gonna let him keep it in good shape, hence she blows up the door after she gives it to him. Keep in mind, Belos had desired to turn Eda to stone and Luz had felt guilty as she felt it was her fault Eda was going to be turned. Facing the guy who was going to do this was enough to make Luz really hate him. By the end of this fight you know Luz is gonna be trying to stop him, and you know Belos is keen about Luz.
Then we get to season 2 where things become a lot darker between them. Luz finds the diary of Philip Wittebane to learn from him and takes a lot of delight in this, then she travels back in time to meet him. Luz at first is so happy to meet Philip and helps him take something that will help him, but as she discovers, Philip is a backstabber, making her and Lilith almost get eaten, and he’s so callous about it he isn’t even bothered they’re unhappy. Luz doesn’t learn the truth about him until later. But in hindsight this makes their first fight more interesting as Belos knew Luz would go back to meet him, hence he was toying with her in their first fight, he was holding back and still had her on her toes! Luz then learns the truth, Philip is Belos. It horrifies her BAD. Luz realises she helped him become the emperor and killed and enslaved thousands of innocent people. He casually reveals this to her, being as charming as he can be. Even more is how he tricked her into thinking his inner self was helping her. Belos’ comments “I will do anything to save humanity from evil” with Luz’s “No! You’re evil!” Is the very thing that finally tightens the knot, these two are foes to each other.
Luz’s guilt and trauma at realising she helped Belos drives her to bring more desperate and reckless, arguing with Eda, hiding this from Amity, Willow and Gus, and going to fight Belos alone to desperately make up for what she did. Yet even then, Belos still tries making Luz believe he’s a good guy, he doesn’t want to “lose another human soul to this world”.
Luz struggles against him and she resorts to tricking him. It’s a good way of paying him back for all the lies that he told her and the others, but it’s a good bit of development between them, Luz knows she can’t beat Belos through brute force, she has to trick him, and even then it gets a lot worse once he’s out of control and still escapes to Earth. There, Belos continued to hurt Luz in many ways, like possessing Hunter, killing Flapjack and escaping back to the Boiling Isles. By this, Luz is almost defeated by Belos through their shared history, she’s almost giving up on returning to the isles, thinking it’s all her fault Belos got what he wanted. Amity and the others tell Luz it’s not her fault but even then, Luz is deeply traumatised by Belos.
You then look and realise how similar the two of them are. Both lost a relative, Luz lost her dad, Belos lost his mum and dad, both found joy in their fantasy, Philip in his games with Caleb in witch hunting and turned that fantasy in reality, Luz with her magic fantasy and geek stuff becoming reality in going to the Boiling Isles, both desiring to bring about their own touch, Belos in trying to kill the witches, Luz turning everyone’s lives around for the better. The trauma and psychological agony Philip done to Luz with these similarities is really disturbing, giving us a interesting Hero and villain.
But what about Callum and Aaravos?
Here’s the thing. Callum does learn about Aaravos through the letter Harrow wrote for him. This was interesting as it built intrigue in Aaravos, his connection to Harrow’s family and his meeting with him all to the Key of Aaravos. It’s like how Luz’s interest in Philip began by taking his diary and gathering intel on what he did and how he survived. Imagine if we saw Callum investigate more of the Key of Aaravos….he did….in a book. A book called Callum’s Spellbook. Yeah, our hero does his investigation in a book. This would be fine if this was on the actual animated series, not in a book.
And the Key of Aaravos moves on its own sometimes according to Callum, it’s moving closer to the east of Xadia….why didn’t we get to see it or why didn’t we get to see Callum investigate it?
But hey, at least Callum begins taking a more interest in Aaravos with the mirror. How did he get the mirror? He found it in Viren’s basement in an online web story. Yeah….how many of us are actually gonna read that?
Or better yet, Aaravos has taken a interest in him. Where? In a online story, he has him as his chess piece….how many of us are going to read that?
In season 4 we do have the mirror being investigated by him, translating the runes on the mirror. We all thought Aaravos would try seducing Callum like how he seduced Viren. What could this do to him? He’s more shut off, he’s sad, imagine if Aaravos began sinking his teeth into him in giving him twisted stories of the past? Taught him other magic? What happens? Rayla suddenly returns and interrupts the entire thing, thus throwing him off the investigation because the dumbass of a girlfriend comes back after two years of looking for Viren.
Oh, but Callum does finally meet Aaravos….in what I can say is the best and worst scene of season 4.
I’ll say this, I was so excited at them meeting. The main hero meeting the main villain, it’s something to be excited about. Exactly what happens between them? Does Aaravos try to seduce him? Make him think of things? No, he straight up possesses him.
The best I can say is that it goes with Callum being strangled, its a recurring theme in the series. Viren stolen his breath in season 1, he was struggling to breathe in season 2, Kasef tries strangling him in season 3, Aaravos first possesses him by choking him and steals his freedom. Aaravos gives everyone a verbal “You suck” moment, but says Callum is his favourite, he wants him on his side, he will help him escape.
It does leave Callum traumatised enough that he even begs Rayla to kill him if it happens again. In context, yes, it brought back those moments he was struggling to breathe, he couldn’t call his dad, he was dying after using Dark Magic, and Kasef was strangling him and get through to Zym. It made him feel weak, scared and helpless. It is sad to have him go through this and he’s only just having to deal with Rayla showing up once more. There’s a few problems though.
This is their only meeting. Obviously they’ll meet again, but for this being their first meeting it’s far from enough to form a relationship as complex as Luz and Belos. Aaravos drops any hint of a charm and shows he’s evil. Belos at least lied to Luz even as he battled her. And we don’t see Callum’s immediate reaction once he’s been freed from Aaravos. Falls to the floor, unconscious, then we see him the next day in tears, and Soren ruins the moment with a dumb joke. We don’t see how scared he was, if he ran away from everyone, i mean we could’ve had him go into a shower in the spire and wash himself off in disgust. But no. All we get is Ezran misunderstanding his misery and isn’t bothered much, and Rayla, his love interest and the girl he’s shown a lot of compassion for and helped her up if she was knocked, is insensitive of it and says “He can’t make you do anything!” Ugh….you saw him take over your love, right!?
It’s not only that, the trauma is covered up by jokes, whetherit’s Soren being stupid on the spire, or we have Rayla grabbing his nose and moving his fear aside. Luz’s trauma, involving both Belos and her father, was handled with Eda sending her away to keep her safe, her own mother trying to stop her from giving up on her dream, and her father’s death had Amity help plant a flower for him. Its not only that but the trauma of Luz had developed her into a more guilty person, even saying it’d be better if she wasn’t born, yet it’s thanks to the help of her mother that Luz gets back to a more braver and hopeful girl. With Callum, we don’t get that.
It doesn’t help that they’ve tried drawing comparisons to Viren and Aaravos for him, but the problem is that we don’t know enough of Aaravos to compare him to our favourite hero of the series.
More testing is how Aaravos says Callum is his favourite, and he wants him on his side. What does he want from him? Why does he like him? The closest we get is seeing Cal on a chess board next to Viren. Yes, is it likely Aaravos watched him through the mirror in two years? Yes, but we never get to actually see that, his fascination with him is entirely new, and we never got to have much of a fascination in Aaravos for Callum.
Mystery takes Time
Both Aaravos and Belos are interesting by the mystery about them. Belos’ s story is almost done but we don’t know everything about him, like how he got to the Boiling Isles, how he and Evelyn fought each other, but we know enough of him now in grasping his character. That came with mystery. Mystery they uncovered with a mix of background imagery and you think back and realise how much more connected it is. Aaravos gets seasons 4-7 named after him yet the mystery is mostly solved.
First of all, let’s take a look. Emperor Belos is from the 1600s, he and Caleb were orphaned and Caleb was forced to do things he likely didn’t like doing to keep a roof over his and Philip’s heads, but Philip was younger and believed most of what he was told by the adults, distrusting any women that could be a witch. Growing up he becomes a loyal witch Hunter, but still close to Caleb, who took very good care of him. Then Caleb vanishes, and Philip only has his coat. Philip tried looking for him, afraid of being alone, then he gets to the Boiling Isles, he is disgusted to find a world entirely of witches….then he finds Caleb is married to a witch and is having a baby with her. Philip believed either Caleb had been brainwashed or betrayed humanity. And this led to him killing him. Then he began to take over the Boiling Isles, kept resurrecting Caleb as a grim Walker and then killing him of he showed any hint he liked witches. Belos is a monster, a obsessive monster who keeps repeating his desire to have Caleb be “himself”, but at the end of the day, Belos is a kid who is angry he isn’t getting what he wants, blaming others for his faults, killing Flapjack to get close to feeling like he’s killing Evelyn.
And this was done in either background or narration.
Those are a couple of examples, then Masha later brings us more info, these being done towards the end of the series.
Aaravos….has a info dump.
“The Fallen Star” | Season 4 Official Clip | The Dragon Princewww.youtube.com › watch
We don’t have the characters learn through different things of Aaravos, we get a info dump on him. Yes, we don’t know everything, yes he wants revenge on the Startouch elves, but they gone over a big amount of the story in this info dump. If Aaravos’s end goals are at least interesting, I’ll give them a W for that, but we’ve got three seasons left with nine episodes each and other story arcs involved, how are we gonna have the space to tell Aaravos’s story?
Both Aaravos and Emperor Belos are kinda similar. They have a fascination with the main hero, they are both powerful beings, they lie and manipulate, kill anyone who bothers them yet have a very charming side. But Emperor Belos is the better villain in my opinion thanks to having more episodes, not relying on other media to go with his character, and has a relationship with Luz that is just right for the hero and villain. Aaravos doesn’t have that. Yeah, he’s gorgeous and his voice is awesome, and he did some cool stuff, but the info dump on him and his relationship with Callum damaged his role as a villain. They could make him better along with the rest of The Dragon Prince, but I don’t know.
Thanks for letting me do this, Media Man.
Media Man: Any time pal. Thanks for writing this for the blog. If any of you want to guest write for this blogat all, feel free to ask me. I'm open for any guest writers. ^^
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