By Juan Calvillo
After a three-year hiatus, Netflix’s “The Dragon Prince” returned with an underwhelming season four that seemed solely like a setup for season five.
Despite the disappointing season as a whole, each episode is interesting enough to keep viewers engaged throughout the nine-episode season.
“The Dragon Prince” series tells the story of a group of four heroes: the Moonshadow elf Rayla, voiced by Paula Burrows, the prince turned king Ezran, voiced by Sasha Rojen, the king’s guard Soren, voiced by Jesse Inocalla and the primal mage Callum, voiced by Jack De Sena.
Their quest is to protect Zim the dragon and the world from an ancient evil threatening to return to the human and elf lands of Katolis and Xadia respectively.
The fourth season of the show starts with a time skip of two years from the end of season three, and many of the characters are in different places and situations.
Since the beginning of season one, the saving grace of this show has always been its interesting storytelling.
Creators and writers Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond have a hit-and-miss situation for the fourth season.
The storyline for this season builds off the events of the season three finale.
This season is the beginning of a much longer multiple-season arc it seems.
The main villain Aaravos, voiced by Erik Dellums, goes from being the shadowy threat he was in seasons one through three, to being much more important.
The story arc in this season is really the first volley for what seems like a long story that will be told over other seasons.
This is one of the reasons the show is a bit off-kilter. The show isn’t creating a full narrative this time around.
Previous seasons were linked, but they told a more focused story for their seasons.
This time around the show feels like it’s leaning toward telling a much more long-form story.
Things start to move in an interesting direction, then suddenly, the season is over and viewers will have to wait for season five.
It seems like the season doesn’t have a real end due to so many details still needing to be fleshed out.
This ultimately affects how some of the characters grow during the season.
After a two-year time skip, some characters have developed more than others. For example, the night elf Rayla has very little character development during the season.
There is a moment that teases that much more is coming for the character, but it is something that will likely be explored in season five.
Other characters fare much better, with one example being Soren.
Soren is finally a fully developed character in season four. His emotional range follows more than just impulsive decisions and jokes.
He tries valiantly to save his sister from following the orders of the main elf villain Aaravos. His sister Claudia, voiced by Racquel Belmonte, is another character who has received special attention this season.
Claudia’s character is a slow-burn, hero-to-villain story. The fourth season fully cements Claudia as a villain through her use of dark magic and her lack of qualms in manipulating other characters.
“The Dragon Prince” does a good job of making sure characterization is never cut and dry. Each main character is multifaceted and consistently shows doubt in decisions made.
While Claudia does evil things in the name of her family, she also finds a connection with an innocent new character named Terry, an Earthblood elf.
Season four retains a high level of storytelling and adds to it gorgeous visuals.
The show’s animation in the first season wasn’t as impressive as it is in this fourth season. The show’s introduction to each episode is truly beautiful.
The mixture of color and a higher level of animation shows a level of detail that hasn’t always been there.
Scenes inside a crystal-laden cave show how otherworldly the land of Xadia can be. While on the human side, the Katolis Capital is a beautifully painted backdrop.
Each main character has received an upgrade in the visual department as well.
Rayla’s costume shows off intricate golden embroidery and hushed tones of blue and green that are covered by a new cape.
A group of new dragons, owned by Earthblood elves, shows off a different style of character design and coloring than has been revealed in the show up to this point.
The awesome visuals however, can’t make up for sporadic character development and a season-long story that seems to be the first chapter of a longer multi-seasonal arc.
A portion of the good faith “The Dragon Prince” has garnered over the years takes a hit with season four. The show is streaming now on Netflix and is rated TV-Y7.