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The Media Man Reviews: The Dragon Prince Season 5


Title card for the review

Feels surprisingly soon, doesn't it?


It was only last year when I was reviewing the last season of this series. And sadly, I didn't have a good time with it. The Dragon Prince Season 4 was a poor return for the series after a three year hiatus thanks to a disorganized story that has weird priorities, unnecessary padding, forced humour and far too many moments of characters making dumb decisions in order for the plot to progress. Season 4 should've been great and yet it ended up making some fans wonder if this series should've continued. It doesn't help how a bad comic ended up messing with a lot of the story's plans and continuity and likely played a part in why it felt as disorganized as it was.


And if you think that's bad, we have the official Dragon Prince website that's trying to pull off damage control by filling in some important plot details and character moments by writing a bunch of short stories for people to read there. That's nice and all but your own website shouldn't be used as a means to make up for your shortcomings. Important plot details should be in your show, not on your website that not everyone will visit!


So with how bad Season 4 was, the fandom is practically PRAYING that Season 5 will be an improvement. And thankfully it does show plenty of promise with the trailers promising an epic adventure that continues where Season 4 left off. It also seems like the writers are taking the criticisms from last time onboard and will likely make improvements in this season.


So without further ado, let's see if our heroes of Xadia can redeem themselves after last time. Will Season 5 be as grand and powerful as The Dragon Prince himself? Or is this another trick of Claudia's dark magic? Let's find out...


Section 1: The Story


Following on from last time, our heroes are on the trail of Aaravos for they need to find his prison and prevent him from being awakened before Claudia and Terry do. At the same time, the exiled Prince Karim conspires against his sister and unleashes a terrifying Moonshadow Elf with blood powers and Viren goes through a series of nightmares that may have him thinking differently about wanting to live...


So is Season 5 an improvement from Season 4? Eh...mostly? It is DEFINITELY a better season than last time. For starters, we don't have a plot where characters have to be stupid in order for it work. The cast all seem a little smarter than last time and do come off as more competent than before. There is at least one dumb moment that I'll cover in the characters section but for the most part, the cast are much smarter here and the plot doesn't feel as dumb as a result.


There's also a lot of good and enjoyable moments that came out of this season. Callum and Rayla's relationship especially was a big highlight for me and more than made up for their awkwardness from last time. It was lovely seeing them back together, spending time together and being a couple again, even if they're still not quite kissing yet. You can tell that even if Rayla may hold some guilt over leaving Callum for two years and hurt him as a result, they still love each other deeply and seeing them just talk things out and sharing their secrets instead of holding on to them as great to see. The talks Rayla had with Amaya and Callum in The Great Bookery especially were well-done scenes and conversations and served as great character development as Rayla learns she shouldn't need to carry her burdens alone.


I also like how yet again, the world-building remains strong in this show and we see more of the world of Xadia as we follow our heroes on their quest to stop Aaravos's return. We get to see an entire port full of pirates, we're introduced to essentially an elf vampire, we see Viren's nightmares that detail more of his backstory and family history and much more. A new season of a show should expand the world some more and they did so nicely here with a lot of new places to see and lore to learn about.


The story also does a good job on raising the tension and keeping the viewers hooked. There's a ticking clock at the heart of this plot as our heroes have to find Aaravos's prison before the villains do and for both sides of the story, we get to see how much stuff gets in their way as they try to beat one another there and what obstacles they have to overcome to reach that goal. It makes for an exciting watch and has you keen to see how this'll end and who'll get there first.


But just because this season is better than the last one, doesn't mean it hasn't got problems of its own. I said it was BETTER than last time, but I'm not saying it's a great season like the first three were and all of this is down to one factor: TOO. MUCH. PLOT! This season feels like trying to watch a season of Chris Chibnall's Doctor Who again. This plot is overstuffed and full to bursting with plot, even more so than last time, that there's just far too much going off at once and it's stuck spinning way too many plates to the point it's kinda hard to keep track of everything. This season has Callum and friends trying to catch up to the villains while the villains are trying to get to Aaravos's prison. But as well that, we also have Prince Karim in exile conspiring against Queen Janai, we have an introduction to Kim'dael, we have a skirmish with Finnegrin and his crew, we have Viren's nightmares that lead to his eventual decision to die and not carry on his twisted life anymore, we have Queen Zubeia getting infected and all this is juxtaposed with the ongoing story of Aaravos's mysterious nature and the threat of his return! Just why is there so much story here? The first three seasons had a lot of plot as well but they managed to balance it out way better than these last two seasons have!


This season DOES fix one problem with Season 4 though. The plots of this season do tie-in better with one another and the subplots don't feel too separate from the main plot (except for Karim's plot, that one still feels disconnected from the main story but not as much as the subplot from last time). But it still feels like they're trying to do too much at once here and it's not doing it any favours. You have episodes that focus more on some plots than others and some episodes will have no updates on one plot and leave you waiting until the next one to see where that plot's going. It just makes the story a little frustrating to watch because there's so much happening at once. They really need to slow down and not try to cram so much stuff in. It's to the point where the official website gave us a bunch of one-shot stories that LITERALLY exist just to provide context for what we're going to see in this series! Even the staff clearly know they're biting off more than they can chew here because the show's own website has to fill in the gaps for them!


And what's worse is that this plot is overstuffed and overcrowded, yet the show still feels the need to pad itself for some reason. What, did they think they didn't have enough story? Some scenes just exist and serve no real purpose with the most damning examples for me being Rayla getting arrested in Episode 1, Ezran and Soren's poo joke and Claudia and Terry dancing together. If they got rid of some of those scenes and focused on the more important stuff then the pacing would've been a lot better and we could've devoted more time to stuff like Kim'dael's introduction and maybe given more devotion to Viren's story to further explain his decision not to live in the end. Thankfully this season still has its priorities straighter than Season 4 did, but it still needs some work before it can be as great as the first three seasons.


Also the humour continues to be as annoyingly forced as ever here. It literally feels like nobody can last five seconds without telling a joke in this season and it's SO. DAMN! ANNOYING! I get that this show is by the head writer of Avatar: The Last Airbender and it has a quirky tone but even Avatar wasn't forcing the characters to be funny all the time and the first three seasons of The Dragon Prince balanced it just fine so why these later seasons keep piling it on, I don't understand. And some of these jokes are just downright childish. I mean who actually thought Ezran and Soren's poo joke was funny? Or who was demanding we see Terry and Claudia shake their bums at a comatose Viren? And was it really that hilarious to have those cartoonish moments of Ezran and Soren naming the "baitlings"? Was it really that funny to the writers that they had to keep those in? It's especially annoying because this show's supposed to be getting darker and more serious now we have Aaravos's imminent return hanging over everyone's heads and yet the writers seem to keep treating everything like a joke. Stop thinking you're an MCU movie Dragon Prince and tone down the humour because it's not working!


So yeah, this season is flawed and I do mean FLAWED, but it's not all bad at least and some of the stuff we get here is some of the best stuff we've seen in this show so far so Season 5 has merit to it. If the story was less cluttered and more focused with less forced humour and a smaller cast, it would've been even better. As is, I'm glad with what we got for the most part and at least it wasn't as bad as Season 4...


Section 2: The Characters


You might want to grab a sandwich or something because we're going to be here a while. This plot is overcrowded with characters and while they're not as dumb as they were last time, there's still too many to juggle here and it does hurt their chances a bit.


We have Prince Callum once more (voiced by Jack DeSena). Callum is hyper-focused on his mission to stop Aaravos's arrival and it's clear that he's really taking it seriously to the point he's devoting most of his research on just trying to find out about him and how to prevent his return. But he also holds his friends's best interests at heart, especially when he promises to find a way to free Runaan and Rayla's parents from their coin prisons, further showing how his dedication to the job doesn't take away his kind heart. The fact he even willingly used Dark Magic again just to save Rayla from becoming a Leviathan's lunch is further proof of this. Callum was great this season and I enjoyed his time with Rayla and learning more about Startouch Elves. I will admit that him learning the Ocean Arcanum kinda felt sudden but I blame that on the overstuffed plot not letting the writers devote more time to that.


We have Rayla again (voiced by Paula Burrows). Unlike last time where she felt like an afterthought, Rayla was MUCH better handled here. This time, the plot was written with her in mind from start to finish and it's great to see her getting the lion's share of character development here. Her reconciliation with Amaya and her finally sharing the burden with Callum were great moments for her and I loved the conversations she had with those too in the bookery. Sadly, it feels like Rayla got shafted a little in terms of battle skills for she gets caught and needs saving a few too many times for my tastes. But she got to chop Claudia's leg off at least. That was satisfying. XD And seeing her use Runaan's bow to fight off a threat was also really neat to see. It had been used to kill her boyfriend's stepdad, now she gets to use it to fight off enemies and save the world.


King Ezran (voiced by Sasha Rojen) and Soren (voiced by Jesse Inocalla) are back too. Honestly, this season could've done without them because they really didn't contribute a whole lot. Granted Ezran was given information on the whereabouts of Aaravos's prison but you could've had Callum or Rayla get that information and the plot would be exactly the same. In fact, dropping Ezran out of the plot would've saved them a load of bother because then they wouldn't have had Finnegrin chasing them because Ezran stole from him! Soren does have that cool moment where he gets Deadwood to turn on Finnegrin but again, that's his biggest contribution. He does nothing else for the story. These two should've been left out entirely if you ask me and the plot would've been way less cluttered as a result.


We have our villains again including Lord Viren (voiced by Jason Simpson), Claudia (voiced by Raquel Belmonte) and Terry (voiced by Benjamin Callins). Claudia and Terry have no development whatsoever and their relationship is painful to watch because Terry is so misguided and naïve that we the audience can only pity him for being led along by this evil woman in her wicked schemes. They also have a cringeworthy moment where they...shake their bums at Viren to try and communicate with him. Ha. Ha. (sarcasm) Also Claudia continues to show she's the most evil thing in this series and yet the writers still try to make her sympathetic with how desperate she is to save her dad. At this point, I'm enjoying her misery as her life falls apart all around her because she's that detestable! I'm like "Aww, your dad's gonna die all over again and you've lost one of your legs? GOOD! You brought this on yourself you dumbass so deal with the consequences of your stupidity!" I'm NEVER going to feel sorry for this evil creature so the show can pack it in trying to ignite any sympathy out of me for her. She's not getting it.


Viren on the other hand is a breath of fresh air because finally, FINALLY, he develops and realizes the problem. Dark magic has only brought him pain, misery and eventually his own death and he's dragged his daughter into it so now he doesn't want any part of it anymore. He's content to just die and accept his fate now. It took him long enough but hey, at least he proved he's not a lost cause like his daughter is anymore. The nightmare scenes with him was a fascinating character study of what made him tick and I like how it led to him eventually deciding what he wanted in the end. If this is the end of Viren, I'll be satisfied but I bet Claudia will somehow ruin it for him next season...


We have Prince Karim again (voiced by Luc Roderique). He's just as loathsome as he was last time and the fact he hasn't learned anything after his treasonous actions led to him being exiled makes me groan in annoyance. Dude, what happened to you was your own fault, nobody else's. Why don't you get that? It's especially annoying because he wins in the end thanks to an out-of-nowhere sudden betrayal at the end because...this season needed a cliffhanger I guess? Janai should've had him executed instead and then she could've avoided this whole plot.


Karim's story does however give us something very cool and scary that has me intrigued to see more of at least. And that is Kim'dael (voiced by Laara Sadiq). This vampiric Moonshadow Elf is absolutely TERRIFYING and she steals the show when she's onscreen. Her creepy nature, lack of dialogue and blood-powered abilities make her one threatening villain and one that oozes menace and horror with every second we see her. The only problem with her is that she's kinda pointless in this season. Really think about it: what did Kim'dael actually accomplish here? Um...she murdered a bunch of Sunfire Elves. That's it. She didn't even get the Sunfire Seed like Karim asked her too. She needed someone else to randomly betray Janai out of nowhere to do the job for her! So why is she even here? Just so we can have another villain running around causing havoc for our heroes? I think we've got enough with Claudia, Karim and Aaravos guys! It also doesn't help how her presence feels out of nowhere unless you've read the Bloodmoon Huntress graphic novel or The Queen's Mercy short story over on the show's website. Thus she's just there and it feels like she really didn't need to be. Again, if this show had less characters to juggle, we could've developed her more and given her more of a purpose to be here.


Another new villain in this season is Finnegrin (voiced by Tariq Leslie). He was a pretty damn menacing villain who has obsessed with control and wants nothing more than to feel in control of everything. He gives our heroes a tough time and even unintentionally gives Callum an idea on how to use the Ocean Arcanum. Sadly, he gets killed off after only three episodes of appearances which was a shame as he set a great impression and could've been a great recurring enemy for our heroes to face. But maybe it was for the best they killed him off as the plot's got enough characters as it is and just dragging him along for the ride would've only made things more crowded. His defeat was pretty lame though. I mean come on, Deadwood proves to be utterly loyal to him until he's...not anymore and throws him into the Leviathan's mouth? It should've taken more than some words from Soren to convince Deadwood to betray him like that.


The rest don't have that much else to talk about. General Amaya is as cool as ever and she had that great scene with Rayla but that's about it, Zubeia gets bitten by a corrupted bantha and seems like she'll turn evil later on only for her to be cured (I think) at the end so that plot went nowhere quickly, Corvus is even more pointless than Ezran and Soren are, Villads was kinda fun to have around again, Nyx was the most pointless return in the entire season and could've been left out completely, Domina Profundis only shows up to get the plot started and then never appears again, Sol Regem essentially tells the plot not to bother him because he's sleeping, Tidebound Tina is confusing with her rattling on about how she'd die before telling anyone where Aaravos's prison is...and yet she's still alive after telling Callum and friends where it is and Aaravos (voiced by Erik Todd Dellums) doesn't show up until the last episode but yet again, he makes the most out of his screen time whenever he does show up.


The cast was just way too large for this season and some characters should've been dropped entirely if you ask me. But the ones that have a point are well-handled and I'm satisfied with how they at least handled Callum, Rayla and Viren here.


Section 3: The Animation


There's not much else to say compared to last time as the animation is still as lovely to watch as ever.


The Dragon Prince's animation had a rocky start in Season 1 with a choppy framerate being a blemish on some really good looking visuals but the framerate has since improved and the show is just a treat for the eyes with every episode. Season 5 continues this with yet more great animation to watch. The story maybe haphazardly paced and full of too much plot, but the animators are still able to make it look good at least.


The character designs are as great as they ever were with a highly appealing art-style and a lot of details in their clothing and hair to make them look as impressive as possible. This also applies to the new characters we meet here such as Tidebound Tina who's short stature and wrinkled features emphasize how old she is, Kim'dael who has this beautiful but deadly vibe going on with her, Deadwood looks like this giant wooden golem that could flatten your face in with a single punch if you made him mad and Finnegrin who has a very suitably aquatic appearance for a sea-fearing, fearsome pirate like himself. They all look like they fit right into the world of The Dragon Prince with none of the new characters looking out of place. The character designs also allow for the characters to be very expressive with their movements and emotions just like before with a lot of character being shown in the way these characters move. Kim'dael is another worthy mention is this case for watching her in action is suitably creepy for a vampiric elf like herself. She drinks a drop of blood and that allows her to become a swirling red mist that can teleport from place to place at will and she has extendable red claws that she uses to deadly effect. Her scenes are like watching a horror movie villain mow down her unfortunate victims, which does brilliantly at selling to the audience what a terrifying force of nature she is.


The settings and backgrounds are beautifully detailed just like in previous seasons and really sell the fantasy/medieval setting they've set up in the other four seasons. The boat ride with Claudia, Terry and Viren gives us some colourful looking forests that they sail past, Scumport looks like this derelict, dingy, unpleasant seaport town that you'd expect to see in a pirate story which is appropriate considering it's run by pirates, the Great Bookery in Lux Aurea looks like this giant, cosy library that a bookworm could get lost in for ages and we also get some lovely looking scenes underwater, particularly the battle with Claudia at the climax. They really managed to animated the scenes underwater very well I feel. They also get creative with the fantasy elements with the best example being Finnegrin's ship. It literally turns out to be a giant hermit crab encased inside a huge wooden galleon and it was pretty awesome to look at.


And of course, the animation plays with its colour palette very brilliantly to convey the scenes they show us. Case in point, Viren's nightmares. The nightmare scenes have a heavy emphasis on black to make clear the darkness of their contents and how Viren's world is becoming a dark nightmare that he's fallen in to. I also wonder if the red ocean wave sweeping towards her in his nightmare was a clever way to foreshadow Claudia losing her leg in the last episode given it could be symbolizing blood and all that? I know for a fact that one of Kim'dael's scenes meant that for there's one scene where she fights and kills a bunch of human and Starfire elf guards and the whole scene is bathed in red, an apt metaphor for how a conflict with Kim'dael ends: in a pool of blood. Scumport is mostly shown in grey lighting to emphasize its dingy and unpleasant nature. It's surrounded by grey clouds up above and there's practically no sunlight to make it through at all, as if the place is so miserable and closed off from the world that even sunlight can't make its way to it and lighten it up.


And of course, the action scenes are well-animated and are great to watch. Not only is there Kim'dael's scenes as mentioned earlier, but we also have the battle in the Great Bookery which got very intense real quick. Knowing that they can't get so much as a scratch otherwise they'll get corrupted adds extra tension to the scene for you're left wondering if anyone's going to get scratched and you're praying that the cast make it out alive in the end. Callum and friends make good use of their abilities when fighting the corrupted banthas too and the banthas set themselves up as a fearsome threat thanks to their monstrous appearances making them look like shadowy demons that will rip you apart with their bare teeth and claws. That was the action highlight for me and I enjoyed it immensely. I wouldn't say we had a lot of action scenes this season but for what we got, they did well with it.


The writing of this show is up and down lately but the animation quality remains beautifully consistent and I enjoy watching it for it's just such a great looking show. I bet the visuals will give us something great to look at next season...


Overall


The Dragon Prince Season 5 is better than last time, but it still falls short of the first three seasons in terms of quality. The story is cluttered, the pacing is all over the place, there's too many characters to juggle and the constant forced humour is really off-putting. But the characters are better written, the story doesn't have a lot of dumb moments, there's some really touching scenes and the animation is as lovely to watch as before. As is, there's still hope for this series yet and Season 5 has proven this show isn't a lost cause at least. Season 4 had me feeling massively disappointed. Season 5 however has me keen to see what's next and I have a feeling the last two seasons will deliver if they keep this up. Just trim the fat a little more and we'll have an easier time following Callum's adventures. Keep it up writers and this show may return to its former glory at last...


And that's all I have for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and I invite you all to share your thoughts on the season. Did you like The Dragon prince Season 5? Did you feel it was a let down? Let me know in the comments below. Tomorrow, my friend The Wandering Fox has a post that suggests how Season 5 could've been improved so stay tuned for that. Consider it a follow-up to this review if you will... ;)

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Guest
Aug 02, 2023

I think one of my biggest gripes with Claudia is the show doesn’t know what to do with her, wether it’s making her a goofy bad guy or a cruel, angry bad guy, then tried to make her as both, which doesn’t help her character in my opinion.


The show’s timeline doesn’t help this season as Viren is dying in the last episode, meaning we’re in August 15th. You mean to tell me almost a whole month Rayla has been back and she and Callum didn’t talk? The girl was back in Katolis, I think they would’ve had enough to talk it over. But no, instead she’s just in the room next door still acting like she didn’t do anything…


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