When you are done with season 4 of race to edge what do you think are the pro and cons of the season and what do you hope for season 5?
Alright! I’ve just finished RTTE S4, and I would looooove to discuss pros and cons. I’ll make a list of some favorite small moments later, but here I will talk about big overarching pros and cons. Heads up to people that, because I’m talking pros and cons, I will get into both celebrations and constructive criticism. I’m not intending to rain on anyone’s parade by giving my comments on what I think could be better; I’m just being honest about the things that aren’t my favorite, and which I think are important to recognize… and I can at the same time recognize the show’s weaknesses and be a celebrating fan of the strengths.
Big Pros of RTTE S4
Book References Galore. I am always a fan of book references in the HTTYD show. This season contained a lot of instances which reminded me of the books. Whether or not that was intentional from the writers, it still gives book lovers a means of identify with elements they find familiar. In this season, we got book-like things including but not limited to:
- A dragon which can only be birthed in the middle of a volcano.
- Bat-like dragons.
- Fishlegs calling Hiccup his best friend.
- Snotlout feeling threatened by Hiccup’s role as a leader and trying to subvert it and become a great leader himself - be it king, or at least the leader over the other youths. Snotlout pretends to deliberate about killing Hiccup. He gets to be a little more antagonistic than usual when he’s trying so desperately to show that he’s great leader material, hoping so much that he won’t be overshadowed by the others. But in the end, he charges out and risks his life to save Hiccup.
- An oft-used phrase in the book, “Easy peasy lemon squeezy,” came right out of Snotlout’s mouth.
Viggo and Ryker’s Relationship Splintering. I was hoping as early as S2 that the writers were setting up a fracturing between Ryker and Viggo. Ryker, after all, tells Heather that he listens to Viggo because they’re family. However, Viggo’s treatment of Ryker is poor. That’s good material for a set-up and character development… and we got it! We started to see hints of it in S3.
It explodes in S4.
Ryker and Viggo, and their character developments, were probably my favorite thing about this season.
As early as the first episode, we see Ryker smiling when Viggo’s plans are thwarted. Ryker sticks by Viggo, but with increasingly-seen ill treatment on Viggo’s part, and increasingly irritated responses from Ryker, we at last get a split in Shell Shocked. Ryker has had enough of Viggo, and Viggo doesn’t have enough respect for Ryker for this to end well. Of course we still don’t know all the details about what all was planned and what was staged, but it seems Ryker did go rogue against his brother. It was nice to see this character, who was often overshadowed by Viggo, take charge and have this development.
Not to mention how both of the characters ended in Shell Shocked Part 2? Me likey. That was really cool. These appear to be both real deaths, and they are “fitting” for what the characters were. Ryker was a man of violence and strength; he got pulled underwater in the midst of a battle he waged himself. Viggo sought to gain profits and control dragons through the Dragon Eye; him diving to try to save the Dragon Eye shows his own motivations leading to his end.
It’s also very fitting that the Dragon Eye got destroyed. I was talking about how the Dragon Eye had to become inaccessible to both the dragon riders and the dragon hunters at some point in time. There’s no way for the story to get resolved otherwise. And it happened! I was happy to see the Dragon Eye finally return to the plot, and for us to see why it won’t be in Hiccup’s hands by the time of HTTYD 2.
Hiccstrid. I’m not an active Hiccstrid shipper myself (as you guys probably have heard me say many times, I almost never ship anything, and I prefer to focus on platonic and familial bonds), so I’m listing this one mostly for you guys, haha. XD I know that Hiccstrid shippers are probably going to be happy with what happened in this season! Flirtations, words of devotion, multiple kisses, all that happened. Haha, Snotlout even said “Hiccstrid” on screen! The slow boil toward their relationship has finally come to fruit, and it’s quite relieving to see.
I think what I appreciate the most was Hiccup supporting Astrid in Blindsided. The words of support he gave her were wonderful, thoughtful, deep, considerate. We have often seen throughout the franchise Astrid supporting Hiccup emotionally. This is a key moment in which we see Hiccup demonstrate great love, devotion, and support to Astrid in turn. The words he chose were nicely done. I appreciated that a lot.
Big Cons of RTTE S4
Recurring Plot Devices. I know the creators were excited about some of their planned plot twists, but the truth of the matter is that they tend to reuse the same plot devices repeatedly.
Especially, one plot device they love is when Hiccup has to ally himself with the enemy. This has been done with:
- Mildew in “We Are Family Part 2″
- Alvin the Treacherous in “Cast Out Part 2″
- Dagur the Deranged in “Enemy of My Enemy” and “Family on the Edge”
- Krogan, soooooooort of, in “Midnight Scrum”
- And now Viggo Grimborn in “Shell Shocked Part 2″
It is to note that the multiple redemption arcs - as with Alvin and Dagur - show repetition, too. I will say, though, it was nice for Viggo to not be completely redeemed. He still betrayed Hiccup in the end, and I appreciated that. But as far as the ally-with-the-enemy arc is concerned… that is starting to feel a little worn out, now.
Other recurring plot devices include Dragon’s Edge being attacked by dragon hunters; one of the youths being captured or kidnapped by the enemy; and, of course, a new dragon being first dangerous but then tamed.
Weak Character Motivations. It’s not that motivations are absent. It’s that they’re not neatly connected together or expounded upon to any realistic level. Character motivations move in sudden jerks forward rather than smooth progressions. Lots of the time the character motivations are explained weakly enough that they seem extremely unrealistic toward how a person would actually react in that situation.
Dagur goes from being an enemy with ASPD symptoms… to being a tentative ally with regrets… to being a genuinely good guy who cares deeply for his sister, the other riders, and endangered dragons. They do rudimentarily explain why he goes from one mental state to the next, but it never feels convincing. Part of that is that no one just magically drops an antisocial personality. Another part of it is that we don’t see a good, smooth progression from one phase to the next. The writers put in a little bit of transition material, but never enough.
Another example is Heather and her relationship with Dagur. There was not enough material for her switching from loathing Dagur… to being uncomfortable with his “death”… to being completely comfortable around him and welcome to deep physical touch. While we get the gist of why it happened, the way in which it is presented is very unconvincing and doesn’t at all feel like how people psychologically function. It’s pushing it at best. I’m not a fan of these sorts of things being misconstrued because it can have consequences for how we handle the dangerous and toxic people in our own lives.
We have other inconsistent character motivations on top of that, along with lots of weak plot devices arising out of this, but yeah. Character motivations are not as well progressed as they should be.
Sexism. This is nothing new to the show; it’s been present since Riders of Berk and onward. It’s been bothering me increasingly more with each new season released, likely because it hasn’t gotten better (the only thing that’s gotten better is no longer using “girl” as an insult). Especially for RTTE S3 and S4, I’ve felt distinctly uncomfortable with DreamWorks Dragons’ treatment of gender. It’s just come to a point that they should have fixed their mistakes by now, except they keep perpetuating.
Default gender in the show is undeniably male. The rule of how everything works in this show is “male until proven otherwise.” Seriously though. Essentially every single individual we meet is a man, be it human or dragon. Somehow every single new introduced dragon in the show is called a “he,” despite that being highly statistically unlikely. There are even several cases in which an obvious female has been called “he.” Given as we see no other Eruptodons around, it seems likely the egg had to have been laid by the dragon on the island. Sure, we can finagle around and give decently-conjured explanations for how this dragon could still be male, but by all accounts, it’s weird. We shouldn’t, in Defenders of the Wing Part 1, call THAT dragon a “he.” Even more clearly, Chicken is a chicken - a female member of that species, obviously so by the bird’s physical features. Tuffnut even hallucinates the chicken speaking to him in a female voice. Aaaaand yet both Stoick - and in this latest season, Tuffnut himself - call Chicken “he.” No. The chicken is female. That’s literally as bad as animating a cow with an udder and calling it a “he.” It’s that obviously female. How are we messing this up? Because the default gender of anything is male in this show.
Next, there are some stereotypes and unflattering tropes of women that sneak into the show. In so many movies, television shows, and novels, a woman is often only introduced when she has a romantic relationship with one of the male characters. While there are plenty of male characters who are not in a romantic relationship in media, it is much harder to find a woman who doesn’t at least flirt with a man and have that be a major point of her time on screen. It means that, as humorous as some people might find the Snotlout x Mala (Snala? Snotla? Malout???) dynamics, it’s not the most fun thing to see yet another female character’s role being heavily centered around whether or not she’s in a non-platonic relationship with someone.
Damselstrid happens a little too often for comfort. I know that many Hiccstrid shippers probably enjoy seeing Hiccup and Astrid caring for one another in precarious situations. I do admit that there were some good lines especially in Blindsided. Nevertheless, it is awkward to see the disparity between Astrid saving Hiccup versus Hiccup saving Astrid. This also have been around since forever, but it’s increasingly obvious with S3 and S4.
Astrid will save Hiccup in very short, quick minor moments in combat, such as by blocking enemy fire. But it’s never played up for drama. They’re gone before you know they’ve happened. In the one episode where Hiccup really needed saving because he’s kidnapped, it’s to note that the entire team (Stoick at the forefront) - not Astrid - save him. The other time Hiccup majorly needed saving because he was drowning… he was saved by a dragon. Astrid never gets the big save when Hiccup is most vulnerable.
By contrast, Astrid will constantly be in precarious positions in which she seems more desperate and in greater, longer danger. There have been two episodes dedicated entirely to Astrid being in a helpless situation and Hiccup needing to save her - Buffalord Soldier and Blindsided. Additionally, we can add several more instances of Astrid being in danger, like the very end of Shell Shocked Part 2, or when she’s about to burn up in Out of the Frying Pan. And when she is in these extremely vulnerable situations, we’ll often hear her murmur, “Hiccup.” It’s a suggestion that Hiccup is what is important and Hiccup is what’s going to save her. Even though Astrid is the best warrior of the youths, she is put into far more vulnerable positions than most of the other riders, and Hiccup almost always is the specific individual who gallantly saves her.
I could keep going about how there were also some outdated notions of gender sneaked in the show dialogue, too, but I’ll stop here. Essentially, sexism. It’s definitely in RTTE.
Season 5 Hopes
I don’t have too many thoughts on what I want for season 5 currently. Maybe ask me in a few months. At the moment, all I can think about is that we’re going to have to address that exploding volcano on Dragon’s Edge, and we’re definitely not done with Krogan.
In many ways, the end of S4 is the end of the big plot arc we got starting in S1. Seasons 1 through 4 are a unit, it looks like. It’s the story of Hiccup going against the dragon hunters. That ending has got to be the ending of the plot arc with Ryker and Viggo. So where season 5 turns? It’ll be a little bit of a new direction.
We’ve got some seeds planted with Krogan, I suppose, but really not much to work on. You could almost just completely end the show with S4. We got Hiccstrid together. Viggo, Dagur, and Ryker are no longer threats. The Dragon Eye is no longer around to investigate. It’s just that volcano blast and the fact the creators said there would be more episodes that means this is going to continue.
There’s a weird small part of me that wants Savage to come back. I don’t think they’ll do it, but I suddenly saw potential, and actually relished the small moment of Savage’s return. He had a wonderful return with great motivation. I’m assuming they’re just going to ride him off as inept, and this is the last we see of him. But there’s also a lot of potential for him to try to do something big. But I suspect we won’t see him, that it would detract from other plot stuff they would want to do, and so on and so forth.
So they’re likely going to keep sneaking toward Krogan and stuff with plot development? But how they’re going to do that without interfering with the plotline of HTTYD 2, I am not sure.