Recently, I’ve been watching a good amount of animated Western fantasy TV shows/films, like “Arcane,” “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf” and “The Legend of Vox Machina”, which all started with Studio Mir’s “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” Book 1, which was a show that I enjoyed but never reviewed.
There’s a reason for that — for me, it was one of those shows that you binge in a day and then barely remember months later. “Dragon’s Blood” Book 1 was a fine enough season of television, as it had a fun premise (its main character, Davion [Yuri Lowenthal] the Dragon Knight, merges with Slyrak [Tony Todd] the Ember Eldewyrm Dragon and can subsequently turn into a dragon when need be), likeable characters, and a decently-engaging story, just nothing in it is particularly exceptional. It has an art style almost identical to “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf” (another Studio Mir project), and while most of its characters have arcs, they’re very small; they mostly stand out in terms of what they can do in the show’s action scenes rather than what they do as characters.
Book 2 picks up where Book 1 left off, with Mirana (Lara Pulver) and Luna (Kari Wahlgren) and company on the run from the elves of Coedwig, with the group nearing certain destruction until Mirana single-handedly creates an opening for them to escape. They find refuge in a village, but their peace is not to last, as it turns out they were wrong to trust their hosts; it was an intentional trap laid out by her uncle, Emperor Shabharra (Toby Schmitz) of the Helio Imperium (a huge empire in the show), Shabharra is alluded to have had something to do with the killing of Mirana’s parents, but has been a poor leader that has failed to gain the support of all of the Imperium’s factions, and he hopes that Mirana can lend him some legitimacy.
Davion and his squire, Bram (Josh Keaton), meanwhile find themselves in the Dragon Knight’s mountain fortress, where they meet Davion’s mentor, Kaden (Anson Mount). The Dragon Knights are at a loss of what to do with Davion, as he’s one of their own, but also bonded with their mortal enemy. Brutal experiments by the group’s elder that aimed to extract his blood and weaponize it backfires, as it allows Terrorblade (JB Blanc), a demon stuck in another dimension and the series’ main antagonist, to infiltrate his mind and summon a horde of dragons to wipe them out, and he almost succeeds (the show does say that, other than our main heroes, the Dragon Knights that were on patrol offscreen survived).
Faced with the almost certain death of his friends, Davion lets Slyrak take over, and Bram is hastily deputized as a Dragon Knight. They are saved by Auroth (Tara Platt), an intelligent dragon who can change into human form, who forms an attachment to Bram.
If you’ve seen “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf”, the fall of the Dragon Knight fortress is pretty much identical to the fall of the Witcher’s hold in that film, though it lacks the same emotional depth because, beyond Davion and Kaden, we don’t really know any of the Dragon Knights, and as a result, their deaths feel cheap and unearned, like they were only included for shock value. And this sequence also highlights a constant flaw of this show: Random characters who weren’t set up constantly come out of nowhere for an important scene or two but barely have arcs.
For the record, I enjoyed Auroth’s character and she is by far not the worst example of this. But this show already suffers from having too many characters and not knowing what to do with them, and it just gets worse as the show goes on.
Case and point: Lina (Victoria Atkin), who is known as “the slayer” for her impressive fire magic abilities, that just shows up for four episodes before being disposed of. Davion befriends her when Auroth leads them to the Helio Imperium capitol, not knowing that Mirana is close by, or even survived the events of Book 1.
Without spoiling too much (but I will have to post a spoiler warning here), a power vacuum forms in the Helio Imperium, in which Davion talks Lina into running for regent. The only problem is that Mirana is finally ready to step up as a leader for her people, and Lina’s rise clips her moment.
The whole plot thread serves as an unnecessary layer of convolution, and a waste of what could have been an entertaining character in Lina.
“Dragon’s Blood” Book 2, while having competent action, an uninspiring yet functional art style and standard quality of animation, suffers from having too much going on for it to properly flesh out and develop on its own. Like “Arcane”, I watched “Dragon’s Blood” never having played the game it was based on, and Book 1 was easy enough to follow, but Book 2 was a little too all over the place. I have no doubt Dota players will get a better understanding and appreciation out of characters like Auroth and Lina that were just thrown into this season than I was able to.
Book 2 is not a complete loss; Davion, Mirana and Luna are all great characters that are easy to root for, and Mirana’s mute bodyguard, Marci, also has moments where she shines in this. But it feels like they tried to cram a few seasons’ worth of story into one, as if there was some doubt the show would be renewed for a Book 3, and the showrunners felt like they had to wrap it up quickly.
It’s a shame, because almost every episode of Book 2 feels rushed, but it still manages to be a fun and engaging watch at its core. But like Book 1, I expect to forget about it in a few months.
“Dota: Dragon’s Blood” Book 2 gets a 6.5/10