A Dragon Fan’s Commentary: Finding more than a Human in a Race to Fireworm Island

21 Oct

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Hiccup & Snotlout

Not since “Thawfest” has there been another episode that looks at the home life of Snotlout Jorgenson, Berk’s most egotistical dragon rider. His rivalry and hostility towards Hiccup came to a head in the episode “Defiant One” and there were times where he tried to prove himself to be better than the boy who will one day be king. Snotlout’s candor is less than noble. Quite often, he just wants recognition for his achievements but what he gets is not quite what he’s hoping for.

In “Race to Fireworm Island,” his demeanor is explored. For the most part, maybe his attitude is simply a show. Interestingly, he does have affection for his dragon companion. When Hookfang shows signs of being worn out, everyone immediately takes notice but him. But when he finally shows that he has a kind heart, perhaps the surprise is in what kind of sacrifices he’s willing to make to keep his comrade alive.

To see him tear up is highly unusual, and he will not ever admit to it. He calls his tears dust, and that’s an example of him trying to be manly. Interestingly, despite all his past attempts to get close to Astrid, he does not accept her sympathy. The character dynamics between him and her have often been that of a childish than manly affection for her. Usually, the episodes show him saying something goofy to win her attention and that has failed. The one time where he can win her affection, he actually acts afraid.

The only unfortunate aspect of this episode’s production is that the animators did not pull out all the stops to get the expression right to sell this subplot. The first moment where Snotlout grew concerned for his dragon was hardly conveyed. Because of the weekly format of this show, maybe this episode was rushed to meet broadcast deadlines. Either bits of the animation is not on par with its theatrical counterpart or more time was spent to make certain episodes better than others,  like in the production of the episode, “How To Pick Your Dragon.” That episode deserves high praise.

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When Snotlout has a sordid relationship with Hookfang, some viewers may well have to wonder just how much respect the two have for each other. To see Snotlout always tossed about is funny, but just what is Hookfang thinking about? The dragon’s intelligence has never been in question, but some viewers might want to know what is he thinking about whenever Snotlout berates him, and just what keeps them together? With this episode, the bond between them finally gets understood. A begrudging mutual respect exists between the two and the way Hookfang enjoys playing with Snotlout is just the dragon’s way of displaying affection.

But the key defining detail in this episode is in further showing what Snotlout’s relationship is like with his dad, Spitelout (nicely voiced by David Tennant). The sequence showing the type of communication they share is no different than in “Thawfest,” where the pedestals that the father hopes his son will sit on get easily achieved. Unlike the previous season where Hiccup reiterates the lessons learned, this one is left for the viewer to interpret. If Hiccup had some words to say he might have said, “Sometimes its okay to follow your parent’s expectations, but you should also realize your own limitations. Just do your best and they will still love you.”

That is what it is like between Hiccup and his dad. The question of whether or not Snotlout will do so with his father remains to be seen. At least by the episode’s end, this character learns that the father is not always right and he does not always have to abide by his father’s rules.

Hopefully future episodes will reveal what the home life is like for the other characters. A fair bit of Fishleg’s life with Meatlug is understood. But very little is known about Astrid, Ruffnut and Tuffnut. The next episode will give fans a look into Astrid’s home life. The big question some people may ask is if anyone really wants to know what goes on at home with Ruffnut and Tuffnut?

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