By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The six month wait is over. Hiccup and his team have new dangers to face and they are not serpentine in this latest release of Dragons: Race to the Edge episodes. They are a trio of war mongers wanting to own the Dragon Eye, a tube capable of displaying images carved inside (on a crystal) and whoever possesses it can use the secrets it contains to threaten everyone living in the Archipelago. Under Hiccup’s care, it can aid. The narrative slowly moves in an engaging direction to show that this series is not based on a simple idea: to train dragons all the time.
Dagur pales in comparison to the new threats coming up. After his failed attempts to conquer Berk and best Hiccup, his standing fell. While he remains the leader of the Berserker tribe because that’s his birthright, his attempts to still command the Outcast tribe in an uneasy treaty died at the end of season two, Defenders of Berk. Alvin presumably regained leadership. Subsequently, he was imprisoned and lost his position. After his escape in the early part of the season in Race to the Edge, he has to rebuild. Now, he’s allied with Ryker, the leader of a bandit crew of Dragon Hunters. Their commander, a mysterious Viggo Grimborn, is an individual his subordinates fear. Not only is he cold and calculating, he brings a James Bond style of villainy into a Viking tale.
One big question fans of this DreamWorks series may wonder about is in how all these layers of mounting threats tie with the second movie? The team behind this saga may not necessarily be consulting with Dean DeBlois (show runner of the movie series) to make sure a continuity exists. Viggo is like Drago because they share similar goals. While Viggo is suave and cunning in his strikes, Drago is simply ruthless, preferring a show of force. It’s curious to notice that, in the film, Hiccup shows no experience in having met Dragon Hunters before or in dealing with other crazed world conquers. After dealing with Viggo, shouldn’t this young man be better prepared?
The idea presented in this Netflix series is very familiar: Hiccup wants to explore the Archipelago. The Dragon Eye is very useful in showing the homes of different species. He knows he can not leave his home of Berk just yet, and his new home The Edge at least allows him to spread his wings. But as more raids upon Berk are happening, this young man develops responsibility — a trait Stoick the Vast recognizes. He’s no doubt proud of his actions of assuming the role of leader and he will no doubt teach his son further ways of maintaining order. He knows his son will indeed be the once and future king, perhaps much like how Cressida Cowell‘s novel series ends.
The series continues to show Hiccup attempting diplomacy, keeping council and maintaining discipline. Throughout the series, the writing emphasizes Hiccup and gang; sometimes, a tale outside the box keeps the saga fresh. In “Astrid’s Team,” a support group of Dragon Riders are formed and strangely, they are not significantly mentioned again in later episodes. This tale mentions Astrid’s parents, but yet they are never seen. It also shows how Gustav has grown throughout the series; he’s proven himself to the Dragon Riders and even given the reigns of leading and training the A-Team, Berk’s backup defenders. Hopefully there will be more of him to be seen in later seasons when Hiccup can not deal with every threat that comes along.
“Night of the Hunters” brings back supporting characters, and Heather is seen working with Dagur. In the first half of the season, he revealed to her that he is her long-lost brother. Their relationship is complex and it comes into play when allegiances are challenged. Surprisingly, he protects her even when he’s ordered by Viggo to dispose of her. Ever since this character’s introduction, David Faustino has developed fun nuances to voicing this crazed warrior. He’s very clearly having fun with the role and to see him play up this character’s unnerving personality makes him a fun rival to watch on television.
The narrative is hardly wasted in focussing in on small adventures. Snotlout even gets some much-needed character development in his relationship with his father, Spitelout. David Tennant shines as the elder Jorgenson and the producers must have spent a lot of money to get three episodes made to spotlight his talent.
Even Ruffnut and Tuffnut continues to get some attention, showing off their street smarts which started early in this season. Just what they get up to next shows the writing team is not forgetting about them. “The Zippleback Experience” shows how Ruff can hold her own, and even when captured, she can find ways to escape in “Night of the Hunters.” There’s more to these terrible twins. While they seem created for comic relief, their role is important in helping Hiccup out in clandestine ways.
The writing has improved and the story feels more adult than simply tailored for children to enjoy and sell merchandise. Spin Master is not producing as much since the series went streaming, but there are a few items that can be found in stores, like the packaged Toothless & Hiccup Vs. Armoured Dragon playset.
After three seasons, this animated television series holds it own when compared to the theatrical juggernauts. Nothing will be missed if the series is not seen, especially now that it’s on Netflix. Even getting a simple subscription to this streaming service for the continuing adventures of DreamWorks characters (The Adventures of Puss in Boots, Turbo, and King Julien) is worth the price alone. But where are the Penguins?