Author’s note: This review contains spoilers, but I don’t recommend watching this show, so I am not holding anything back.
I don’t write negative reviews very often, so it’s a big deal that I’m reviewing something I didn’t like. After finishing “The Owl House, I watched this show because I had heard a few ads for it on Spotify and thought it was worth a watch, especially for the reported queer content. I quickly discovered “The Dragon Prince” was not “The Two Princes”, the show that I had heard advertised and believed I was watching at first and was disappointed when I realized how straight the show was, but I watched on. The plot was generic, and the characters weren’t drawing me in, but some of the jokes were good, and I recognized the voice of “Avatar”’s Sokka, so I felt like it had to be at least decent. And it was decent.
But then the Internet discovered I had seen the show, as it always does, and started recommending “Dragon Prince” content to me on YouTube. It was then that I discovered that people adore this show, leaving me truly puzzled.
I then realized that the show was so popular that it has been renewed for four more seasons. Four! There are so many good Netflix shows that have been canceled, like “Santa Clarita Diet” and “Tucca and Bertie”, so I was genuinely angry to discover that this generic quest fic is getting seven seasons.
I have gotten over my anger (bring back “Santa Clarita Diet”, Netflix, I’m begging you) but am still confused about what fans see in this show. People are calling it the next “Avatar” and I cannot believe it. I’m not “Avatar”’s biggest fan (“The Legend of Korra” is better), but I can understand why people adore it so much.
“Avatar” has excellent writing, phenomenal characters, a unique premise grounded in Eastern culture, and one of the best redemption arcs in fiction, cartoon or otherwise. Although overhyped by some people, it is a really great show that is genuinely deserving of its accolades.
This show is not “Avatar”. “Dragon Prince” will have seven seasons to surprise me and become excellent in the upcoming seasons, but for right now, it is just the same generic piece of quest fiction that I’ve been unimpressed by dozens of times.
“The Dragon Prince” is a Netflix original animated series that stars Ezran and Callum, the young prince and older step-prince in the kingdom of Katolis. Many years before the story begins, humans started using dark magic and were cast out of the kingdom of Xadia, where the magical beings lived, forming their own land in the magic-less section of the world. This is a decent backstory, but it is very generic and portrays humans and elves as equally biased, which I don’t mind because it is a little more realistic than the “humans evil, magic good” we often see. However, it taps into both-sides-ism, which makes this backstory somewhat dated in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Despite the generic plot, there are some things I liked. I like Rayla, an assassin elf; she’s generic but fun and she definitely has the best lines in the show. I also liked many side-characters, such as the 11-year-old queen, most sun-elves, the human baker, the blind pirate, and one illusion elf whose name is a pun. These are good characters not ruined by overexposure and writing quality. I’m especially fond of General Amaya, the deaf sister of Katolis’s dead queen, and her captor-turned-likely-girlfriend, the sun-elf general and princess. Amaya being deaf is one of the only diverse aspects of the show, which is unfortunate, but it is really cool to see a deaf person in a cartoon, without subtitles on her all the time, and being a bad**s, all at once.
However, the main characters aren’t interesting or compelling. They have random plot arcs that spawn from nowhere and only are relevant for one or two episodes before fading like they never existed. One example is that Ezran suddenly can speak to animals, a plot point seemingly added so he can talk to a wolf who is in two episodes. There’s also a very sudden and not-well-written romance between Callum and Rayla that sprung from nowhere and is so generic that I actively dislike it. Stop writing that any boy and girl who are friends must automatically date. It’s a tired premise that perpetuates unfair expectations on children.
The writing is also very uneven and took a very sudden dive in the middle of season 2. It was strange and largely unexplained, and I had to pause the show and run it back to make sure I wasn’t missing a major plotline. With bad writing quality and in-story issues, “The Dragon Prince” doesn’t have much to offer. It isn’t saved by its groundbreaking nature, like “Steven Universe” or subversiveness, like “Phineas and Ferb”. The show has very little diversity to offer viewers, with three black characters (one of which is dead) and three out of four of their queer characters dying in the same episode they’re introduced. They took a big step back from “She-Ra” and “Kipo” here, so I’m now disappointed in Netflix again.
There are so many good cartoons to watch right now, and you don’t need to watch this one. Instead, watch “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” or “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” or “BoJack Horseman”.
“The Owl House” on network TV has my unprecedented support. It’s amazing, and there’s a second season coming soon. “Infinity Train” is a good choice as well, whose future is up in the air right now, and it needs support. So, even if you have more time than ever to watch TV right now, use that time wisely and watch shows that are worth watching. “The Dragon Prince” should not be one of them.