Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 1, titled "Aftermath," marks a daring foray into the well-trodden paths of the MonsterVerse, a domain ruled by the likes of Godzilla and King Kong. With the backdrop of a franchise that oscillates between awe-inspiring visuals and narrative missteps, this episode attempts to tread a new path under the stewardship of showrunner Chris Black and scriptwriter Matt Shakman.
At the heart of 'Aftermath' lies a story that diverges from its cinematic predecessors, choosing to invest heavily in the human element. The narrative revolves around Anna Sawai's character, Cate, a Japanese-American grappling with the fallout of Godzilla's San Francisco rampage. Her journey back to Japan uncovers familial secrets and a tangled web of Monarch's clandestine activities.
The script, balancing between intricate human drama and the grandeur of kaiju, offers a fresh perspective to the MonsterVerse.
However, the episode, in its pursuit of establishing a human-centric storyline, often sidelines its most significant assets - the colossal titans themselves. While there are glimpses of the expected monster-on-monster clashes, they feel more like fleeting treats rather than the main course.
Kurt and Wyatt Russell, though curiously underutilized in this episode, promise a compelling dynamic in future installments. Sawai's portrayal of Cate is nuanced, capturing the trauma and determination of her character. The introduction of a complex family drama, involving a secret second family, adds a layer of depth but risks overshadowing the more fantastical elements that fans of the genre crave.
The episode shines in its brief monster encounters. A vividly portrayed battle between a giant spider and crab harks back to the thrilling creature conflicts of "Skull Island." The destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge, while harrowing, injects a dose of stark realism reminiscent of darker kaiju narratives like "Shin Godzilla." However, the CGI, particularly in the 1959 Kazakhstan flashback, leaves something to be desired, undermining the show's potential to awe.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 1, "Aftermath," presents a mixed bag. Its emphasis on human drama is a bold choice that could pay off, but not without risks. The episode teases enough of the MonsterVerse's hallmarks to keep the audience hooked, but it needs to find a better balance between its human and monster elements to truly stand out. For fans of Godzilla, King Kong, and the overarching kaiju lore, this series opens a new chapter worth watching, albeit with tempered expectations.