Due to the history of movie and TV adaptations of video games, no one expected much from a League of Legends TV show like Arcane aside from the visual spectacle displayed by the marketing. It turns out, Arcane is not just a League of Legends TV adaptation, it is a league of its own. The greatest video game adaptation beyond a reason of a doubt. One of the best TV series of 2021. More than great animation, but the most ambitious animation on TV, indistinguishable from the great animated feature films. Season 2 cannot come any sooner.
Before that time will come, all that can be done is to gather the top 10 best of the best moments of what makes Arcane season 1 great.
Vi and Jayce Fights With Their Signature Weapons
When Vi convinced Jayce to attack Silco's Shimmer factory together, it becomes a monumental event where Vi and Jayce unleash their signature weapons from League of Legends. Vi uses her gauntlets, and Jayce uses his hammer to take on the Chemtanks together. Because everyone involved in the fight is either enhanced by advancing technology or chemical boosts, this fight is unlike other fights in the season. It is the type of anime action where people move at unimaginable speed Where when someone hits someone, they go flying across the room. Where energy blasts and shockwaves are fired everywhere - A tease of escalations once most of the characters get their signature abilities in later seasons.
Arcane has a consistent theme that violence is not pretty. It is ugly, bloody, and random that gives misery to anyone. So this scene got into close danger of being a celebratory spectacle opposite of that important theme... Then Jayce killed a child. Suddenly we are all snapped back to reality and it becomes clear this is not just fan service. Like any action in the series, it is making a point.Advertisement
Jinx Enters Act Two
What a re-introduction. After the magnificent cliffhanger of act 1 and a time skip for act 2, we see that Powder has changed become Jinx. She appears in an action scene, and while it is expert fight choreography, it is also an intentional character-revealing moment for the audience to catch up on who Jinx is and what Powder has become.
Everything in how she fights is informed by how we know her in the past. When in the past, she is a scared little girl, now she is the one to be feared. Where she was helpless in the past, she can now move quickly in life or death situations. Her bombs are now more sophisticated and dangerous, so we know she perfected her craft. She throws them on people with reckless abandon as if she is embracing the name "Jinx" instead of rejecting it unlike before.
All of who she has become is as if she is doubling down on what she hates about herself and lashing out to the sister that rejected her who wants her to be the exact opposite of a jinx.
It is tragic, but there is also a pride in seeing her make the weaknesses people perceive her to have, be a strength. It is clear though, her mental state is barely hanging together when she sees a Firelight member who looks like Vi, and she goes out of control, firing her mini-gun all over the place. As said before, it might be an action spectacle, but all character-driven.
Vander’s Last Stand
In most of Vander's appearance in Arcane's act 1, Vander is presented as a peaceful and charismatic man who puts Undercity under his protection. Beneath the kind exterior though, belies a man who murdered many men with his own hands. Although he is a legend among Undercity with his skill in violence, he is not violent in the present timeline... That is until towards the end of act 1 when Vander sees the dead bodies of Mylo and Claggor under the wreckage due to a bomb he has every reason to believe came from Silco and his men.
With his rage and make-shift metal knuckles, Vander beats down on every man Silco puts in front of him. No matter how many bruises he gets and the blood he loses, the conviction in his eyes does not die down. Just when we thought he is down for the count, all he has to hear is the hint that Vi is in danger for him to try and get back in the fight. With an injection of shimmer, he powers himself back up. He becomes the literal embodiment of the savage hulking animal he always tries to control. It is only when he sees Vi that he forces himself to come back to his senses.
It turns out, this is his last stand, after protecting Vi, the injuries and the effects of shimmer finally catch up to his body. A worthy death to a great character.
Vi Explodes on Powder
Vander just died, and Vi is there crying over his death. Enter Powder who is shouting in excitement that her monkey bomb finally worked, and believes that she has saved everyone. We see from the look of Vi's face the realization that Powder is the reason that Vander, Mylo, and Claggor are dead. In turn, Powder realized what her bomb has done, as she looks at Vander's dead body on the floor.
Despite this being the sister that Vi loves more than anything in the world, Vi lashes out at Powder. Aside from the amazingly expressive animation on Vi and Powder's faces, the voice acting of Hailee Steinfield and Mia Sinclair Jenness are equally amazing. The way Powder's voice cracks as she cries in despair is haunting. And we feel the rage as Vi screams at her, slapping Powder's face hard and telling her that the nickname "Jinx" is true to how useless and recklessness she is.
Vi walks away in tears, and Powder begs her not to leave. Powder is left crying in the rain. Vi tries to return to Powder, but Marcus captures Vi. When Silco finds Powder, instead of killing her, he comforts her. He whispers her ominous words saying, "We'll show them all.", and we see Powder's eyes, Just like Silco's, filled with anger and conviction. Act 1 closes in its best possible form. And the moniker, "Jinx" which every League of Legends player recognizes finds a proper origin story.
Enter the World of Arcane
Our introduction to this series is the sight of crimson smoke as far as the eyes can see. The smoke makes it almost impossible to see, and what can barely be seen are fire, destroyed wreckages, and dead bodies. A hint of what happened is the silhouette of armed soldiers called Enforcers are firing their guns. Walking across the wreckage are two children, Vi and Powder, who seem lost and confused about what is happening.
Without any explaining, the series makes it clear that senseless war is the cause here. It is planting its flag that this series, despite being animated will not tone the dark themes down. When Vi sees his parents dead on the streets, the scream of sadness is not heard, but the silence is deafening.
A giant of a man named Vander sees the little girl's pain, picks them up, leaving the gauntlets he just used to kill an Enforcer in front of them behind. Within its first few minutes, Arcane establishes the harsh reality of its world, the main characters involved, and how they all relate to one another. With Vi looking at the beautiful city of Piltover from the distance with anger, the conflict has been set.
Jayce and Mel Make Love
Jayce and Viktor's bond is queer coded in a way. There is something intimate and personal in Jayce sharing his dream of a bright future with Hextech to Viktor and both of them working on that dream together. The difference between Jayce and Viktor is that Jayce's commitment to that dream is in question because his pride to prove himself divides his attention to political machinations, while Viktor never diverts on the dream.
One of the shock values is seeing Jayce and Mel make love. Who knew this is the type of animated series that would go there? It is a sign that Jayce is going further into the world of political machinations, given that Mel is the one pushing him to go there. As Jayce and Mel make love, the scene intercuts with Viktor working on the next evolution of Hextech. When they frame it side by side, it is framed like Jayce is doing infidelity, not to Viktor exactly, but unfaithful to their shared dream. It is proper that gorgeous visuals of Victor studying the Hexcore is Viktor literally putting his blood and sweat into their dream while Jayce and Mel exchange fluids.
Like most of Arcane, there is no ounce of dialogue in this scene. All of it is inferred by the context of the magnificent visuals presented to us. Just another round of Arcane's mastery in economic storytelling by overwhelmingly beautiful visuals.
Powder or Jinx?
Jinx ties up both Vi and Silco to a chair as Jinx contemplates if she returns to Vi and be Powder again or to remain as Jinx. What Vi and Silco have in common is that they both love Jinx, but also have hurt Jinx immensely. This is an opportunity to both talk to her with all their feelings, albeit within a tense situation where Jinx keeps pointing a gun around. And within this world where anyone can die at any moment, and Jinx's mixing emotions and deteriorating mental state, anything can happen.
At the height of Jinx's emotional turmoil, she accidentally shoots Silco. Despite her hate towards her Jinx still cries for him. Yet Silco, in his last words, with a slithering voice that should sound anything but warm still assures her he loves her and that she is perfect the ways she is. With that note, Jinx chooses to be Jinx. Because what Silco has over Vi is that everything he says to Jinx comforts her and makes her feel loved no matter who she is. While everything Vi says makes Jinx feel pain.
Ekko Vs Jinx
Ekko and Jinx's face-off starts with Ekko's smile and the swinging of his pocket watch. With a swing of the watch, Jinx smiles back and ready's her gun to shoot Ekko. Both parties seem to treat their match like it is a game and it becomes clear why when the scene transitions to their childhood where Ekko and Powder plays a game with Powder trying to shoot Ekko with a paint gun as Ekko tries to charge towards Powder to hit her helmet with his wooden sword - A game that starts with a press of a watch. Now Jinx has a real gun as Ekko comes toward her with a metal rod.
It shows how innocent the times were when they were kids and how tragic it is that their game back then has now become a duel to the death. The visual creativity on display as it crisscrosses between the playful childhood and serious present is outstandingly beautiful. The watch - the symbol of time, and a reference to Ekko's ability to rewind time in the video game become ironic. Ekko cannot rewind the clock. They can never go back to the good times. All Ekko can do is remember those days and use what he remembers in Powder's patterns to dictate how he can beat Jinx now. Where Powder wins the game back then, Ekko hits Jinx with a metal rod on the head now, and he can't even do the finishing blow.
All of this is communicated with no dialogue. No one has to tell the audience that they used to play a game, all that history is felt with both characters smiling from a swing of a watch sharing an inside joke. It is that highly concentrated visual storytelling that just so happens to also be the most visually creative even by Arcane's standards that make this the best fight of the season.
After Silco's death, the Jinx identity is cemented. What comes with the name is Jinx's propensity to solve her problems by blowing them up. Now she has the biggest explosion for the city that is the source of her biggest problems. She puts the Hextech gemstone in her rocket launcher and fires a rocket on Piltover. The tragedy is, unbeknownst to all, the council heads of Piltover are in the middle of voting to approve peace between Piltover and Zaun. Hope seems high as one by one, hands are being raised in approval. As the final hand is raised, signaling a unanimous vote, it is then that the rocket just broke the window behind them. What an ending.
One of Powder’s Gadgets Finally Worked
This is the moment Arcane becomes a must-watch. At this point during the series, the world of Arcane may be dark and seemingly unforgiving, but it still remains an adventure story about children. So when Powder finds a magical rock, we think we know what is going to happen - Powder is going to use one of her collection of homemade gadgets that keeps on failing and finally make it work with her magical rock, be a hero and save the day.
The set-up is that Vander has been kidnapped by Silco. Vi, Mylo, and Claggor go to Silco's base of operation to rescue him, and Powder is left behind because it is too dangerous. Powder finds the magic rock that can cause a big explosion and goes there alone to try and help them. She slips one of her adorable gadgets through the window with the magic rock attached to it and waits for it to explode. As she wanted, it does explode. Finally one of her plans and gadgets works and Powder smiles with joy as she watches the explosion.
Unbeknownst to her, the explosion did not just kill the bad guys but also injured Vi and Vander, while also killing Mylo and Claggor. It is a shock to the system. It turns out, this is not a series where a kid with a plucky go-do attitude means everything will suddenly be okay. This is a world where a child can have the best of intentions and everything can still go wrong beyond imagination. A bomb does not care if it is an evil man or an innocent child, they both have an equal chance of dying.
What makes it so tragic, is that Vander and the others were about to escape. If only Powder did not get in the way.