New dragons, new characters, good show? I think so


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A soaring blast from the past flies its way into the future with a surprising Hulu exclusive show, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Nine Realms.”

A good story never truly ends. “How to Train Your Dragon” came out in 2010 and was followed by two sequels, along with two shows set between each film. These shows depicted how the characters grew and arrived at the next film. They also expanded on world-building, and were just fun shows for children to enjoy as Saturday morning cartoons.

With the end of the trilogy, a short film, “How to Train Your Dragon: Homecoming,” told us the story of life after the dragons left Berk. We got to see how Hiccup and Astrid were adjusting to marriage and their new life with two adorable children. It was a fun follow-up to the last scene we see in the final movie. 

As adorable and heartbreaking as those final moments were, the story of the dragons did not end there. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Nine Realms,” a Hulu exclusive show that started in 2021, took the story in a whole new direction, adding new characters, new lore and, most excitingly, new dragons to its lineup.  I want to stress that, like the original films and subsequent TV shows, this is a show for kids. That said, I do think it captures a lot of the charm of the original films while doing something entirely new, which is hard for shows like this to do.

With its modern twist, “The Nine Realms” managed to capture the whimsical nature of the original films and create fun characters. I think the biggest problem that these shows tend to have is that they make carbon copies of the original characters, but somehow make them worse. 

As of now, the series has four seasons, ranging from six to seven episodes per season. I think that this works to the show’s advantage in a lot of ways because the creators aren’t trying to cram 20 episodes’ worth of content into one season. In fact, 90 percent of the first season introduces the human characters, pairs them with their dragons and introduces us to this idea of dragons in the modern world.

The first season was my favorite of the four seasons I watched. In the first episode we’re introduced to a set of kids on an island with waterfalls of lava, mysterious electrical failures  and odd earthquakes. The parents of these children are employees of Project I.C.A.R.I.S, a research station designed to explore this new world.

Our first teen character is Thomas, and the best way to describe him is actually through a quote from the show: “Still looking before you leap?” Thomas is a good kid with a curious and slightly reckless heart. His curiosity leads him to his dragon, Thunder, who is a Night Light and a descendant of Toothless and the Light Fury from the original series of movies. They develop a quick bond and complement each other so well that they become the leaders of the newly named Dragon Club.

Next, we have Jun, who has an interest in all things mystical and fantastical. She is a strong-spirited, kind and responsible individual, and her ties to folklore and heritage help the group in multiple ways throughout the series and act as her driving force. Her dragon is a visually stunning Asian-inspired water dragon with two heads; this is a new type of dragon with the ability to boil and freeze water. To bond with her dragon, Jun has to exert what she calls “effortless action with maximum effort,” so she names the dragon Wu and Wei after a Chinese concept meaning “inaction.”  

After this, the secret Dragon Club is born, despite stickler D’Angelo’s initial hesitation. While D’Angelo believes in following rules and wants to tell his parents about the dragons, he decides to keep the secret after meeting his dragon, Plowhorn, who needs medical attention. Another new type of dragon, known as a Gembreaker, Plowhorn is much kinder and more gentle than most other Gembreakers. With the duo’s combined efforts, they tend to a lot of hurt dragons. Plowhorn sometimes has a slightly mischievous side, especially when D’Angelo’s ego gets a little too big.

To complete our foursome of main characters we have our tech wiz, the dry-humored yet surprisingly compassionate Alex. For the first half of the first season, Alex keeps to herself, occasionally giving Thomas a hand in sneaking past security fences. I found her dragon, Feathers, the most interesting. All of the dragons complement their riders, and this case is no different. 

Feathers is a new type of dragon known as a Featherhide. This dragon type is unique because they’re able to go completely invisible as well as mimic sounds. Feathers seems to be the youngest of all the dragons. She is almost puppy-like, with a lot of curiosity, but much like Alex, she also is extremely shy. 

The show used its first season to properly build on unique characters and dragons, paving the way for a likable series. There are some episodes that feel a little too kid-focused, especially in season two with the unicorn-dragon hybrid, but I think the ongoing questions they added throughout the series keep fans of the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise returning. 

The reveal that Thomas was a descendant of Hiccup was fun lore, and added a lot of depth to the future of the series. The discovery of Thunder’s family, who had previously been absent, was interesting because we got to see how Toothless’s family turned out. 

With a new season arriving on March 2, I would highly recommend this show to any fan of the franchise. It’s not perfect by any means, but with all the shows we have surrounding Hiccup and the original group, it’s nice to see a new generation of humans and dragons.