Disclaimer: In this “Arcane” review series, I’ll be diving into every single episode of the show and dissecting themes, critiquing style and fanboying over every single League of Legends cameo. I want to avoid being overly explicit whenever I can but, obviously, some spoilers lie ahead for Episode 2 of “Arcane.”
While Episode 1 was a chaotic and energized showcase of the blood, sweat and tears poured into the show since its development, “Arcane” Episode 2 slowed things down a bit to give us some time to take everything in. In “Some Mysteries are Better Left Unsolved,” we’re invited into the broader world of “Arcane,” with premium tickets and a bitter taste of what’s to come.
In this review, I’ll be looking at what could potentially be the two most important character introductions of the series so far, and how the continuation of Vi and Powder’s arc has laid the foundation for some of the stakes at play in the show.
Jayce and Viktor
We’re actually calling the ship Vayce now, but I digress.
“Arcane” Episode 2 cuts right to the chase by revealing that the room Vi, Powder and co. broke into in Episode 1. This apartment belonged to Jayce, a young scientist at “the academy” sponsored by the wealthy Kiramman family. From that alone, we know that the little girl with him at the beginning of the episode (Caitlyn!) is a member of this family. We also know that those explosive blue crystals that caught Powder’s eye were his all along.
In “Arcane,” Jayce is only 24 and looks like a budget Clark Kent. He comes from a moderately distinguished house of toolmakers and has quite the chip on his shoulder. More importantly, he’s stumbled onto a discovery that could change the natural world. He believes he’s figured out how to create and harness magic. Why does he want to do this? Because Jayce and his mother were saved from freezing in a snowstorm by a mysterious mage when he was a child.
When the Enforcers arrive, we find out that Jayce is going to be put on trial because of all of the dangerous knicknacks he owns. We’re also introduced to Viktor, the assistant to the dean of the academy. You can tell from the get-go that Riot poured all of their love into this character. Let me explain why that is, in League of Legends terms.
One of the most exciting parts of “Arcane” are all the little cameos League fans get to witness. (We might’ve watched Ryze use Realm Warp on Netflix! That’s wild). Out of all the potential appearances I was excited for, Viktor’s was not one of them.
He’s not fun to play against, hard to pick up and has an edgy design that’s not very approachable. In League, Viktor is your stereotypical evil magic scientist with shady ambitions. So, how on Earth did Riot take a character like that and give him so much personality?
At this point in the show, we don’t know much about Viktor except that he walks with a cane. But there’s so much more to him than that. His slight accent is charming and humanizing, and his delicate yet dignified demeanor is complimented by his wit. That small conversation he has with Jayce in his apartment of shambles completely changed my mind about one of my least favorite champions in League of Legends. Right now, he’s my favorite character.
Kudos to Riot for pulling that character introduction off in “Arcane” Episode 2.
Planting seeds in “Arcane” Episode 2
Two things happen simultaneously in Episode 2 that set up what could be at play in Episode 3; and a glimpse at what’s going on in the world of “Arcane.” The first is that Jayce’s trial is in front of the Piltover Council.
Who is the Piltover Council? Well, it’s composed of Mel Medarda, a charming elite with dubious motives. Then, there’s Heimerdinger — we know him! And there’s the person with the collar that looks like a gear that moves on its own — neat. The last remaining members are two stuck-up nobles and a robot that looks like what would happen if General Grievous had a kid with a penny whistle. I love all of their character designs, but that is the coolest.
This is our first look at what everyone in The Lanes was talking about last episode: the proud and wealthy Topsiders. To save himself from getting canned, Jayce admits to the Council that he was trying to create magic, and only then do they listen to him. Of course they do, because if he’s telling the truth, it’s the kind of technology that Piltover would want to get hands on in order to stay ahead of competing cities.
Heimerdinger hates this idea, because he’s a million years old or something and has seen how destructive magic can be. But, here’s my thing: if it’s that bad, why not just tell Jayce what happened? The whole time Heimerdinger goes on about how he’s seen what meddling with magic can do to a person, he never explicitly tells Jayce what he should be so afraid of. He probably could have prevented a few things if he wasn’t so worried about flexing his age on the kid, am I right?
So, the audience has seen firsthand how dangerous magic can be, since Powder’s nearly killed everyone with it twice now. Speaking of Powder, she and the rest of the kids have been laying low since the incident in Topside. We get two cute scenes (that definitely aren’t foreshadowing anything) of Vi boxing and Powder having killer aim during some target practice.
In the back half of the episode, two things happen that set us up for the Act 1 finale, prepping for a dramatic finish. The shady mad scientist Silco strikes a deal with Marcus — you know, that one asshole cop — to bring Vander to him, but it’s not entirely certain why or what their relationship is. Then, we have Vander, who’s finally decided to message Greyson (the still shady, but nicer, Enforcer) with the name of the person he’s going to turn in for the crime.
Episode 2 of “Arcane” is where Riot dotted their I’s and crossed their T’s. It added some much-needed color to the world of “Arcane” by showing us how it works and the different types of people that reside in it, all with their own motivations. It also showed us that its characters’ actions always have consequences. Consequences that will definitely play out in Episode 3.