After a grueling week, “Arcane” Act 2 has finally delivered the next set of three episodes detailing what happened after the chaos of Episode 3.
Everyone is grown up now and much has changed in Piltover and Zaun as a result. Jayce’s Hextech made him the city’s golden boy while Vander’s absence has put Silco in charge of the undercity with Jinx at his side.
But what did everyone at Upcomer think of the developments in Act 2? Read on to find out.
How did you like the time skip? Who had the best glow-up?
Tyler “Fionn” Erzberger: I thought it was a seamless transition following the opening trio of episodes and continued the strong form established in Act 1.
Jinx becomes some sort of fusion of the Joker and Jigsaw; Vi is a hardened prisoner, distraught over her lost sister; Caitlyn is looking for something to fight for after a manicured upbringing; Jayce is trying to walk the tightrope between being a dreamer and a politician; and, finally, my man Viktor is just trying to survive while everyone else around him treats his words like white noise.
The key to any engaging drama with an ensemble cast, such as “Succession” or “Game of Thrones” (before the final season), is that the viewers know the motivations of each main character so no one gets lost in the shuffle. Even with Marcus, more of a minor character on the entire chessboard that is “Arcane,” you leave the second batch of episodes understanding his struggles, motivations and how he fits into this ever-evolving war between Piltover and Zaun.
For who had the biggest glow-up, I’ll go with Jayce. He went from getting exiled from the Academy to becoming the golden boy of Piltover (and possibly Runterra as a whole).
Taha Zaidi: The time jump was obviously something we were all expecting and I thought it was executed very well. I know some fans were upset while watching the first episode that too much of Jinx’s transition from tortured child to deranged murderer got skipped over, but I think they actually did a great job of going back and fleshing that out over the three episodes.
The biggest glow-up for me was Caitlyn. She went from what felt like a bystander in the first act to a pretty central player in the second. I’m a sucker for the “highborn child rebelling against the family legacy to get their hands dirty” character arc (see: Arya Stark) and Caitlyn really fulfills that. Everything about her is admirable.
Jason Krell: I am going to put on my critical hat and say that while the time jump was necessary, it put us in an awkward spot for Act 2. In many ways, it either created a need to reintroduce us to the cast or brought us back to characters who hadn’t changed much in years. And honestly, the only people who really changed significantly were Jinx and maybe Caitlyn — though that’s just because she was hardly a character before.
Yes, Vi spent time in prison, but we didn’t really get to see what that was like for her. Personality-wise, she’s the same street-tough kid all grown up. Jayce may be part of Piltover’s new dawn, but he is still the brash scientist doubted by Heimerdinger and supported by everyone else at every turn. I guess Viktor’s deteriorating health also makes him a little different, too, by necessity. And Heimer is still just wagging his finger instead of treating Jayce like a peer.
Glow up wise, though, I’m giving it to Jinx. Just because she’s a bit unstable doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the confidence and competence she discovered after growing up. Once she gets away from Silco and into therapy, she’ll be an uncomplicated fave for sure.
Nick Ray: It’s embarrassing to say, but as more of a “tell, don’t show” guy, the time skip fell a bit flat for me. I really wish we got more flashbacks or glimpses of what happened in between Vi and Powder’s initial separation. Can’t really complain, though, because Riot did an excellent job of tying those events together in a way that’s natural.
Jayce and Viktor didn’t show any super noticeable differences after the time skip, I mean, aside from Jayce turning into a certified asshole and Viktor being an inch away from death. My vote for best glow-up has to be Caitlyn. I think we all knew the prim and proper child we saw in Act 1 would eventually grow tougher, but I wanted to see how it happened. She’s fun and shows a lot of grit.
How did Act 1 compare to Act 2?
Fionn: If I had to pick between the two, I’d say that Act 1 had higher highs but Act 2 was more consistent in terms of storytelling. I don’t think anything in the second act could match the emotional turmoil and spectacle that was the closing episode of Act 1, but the second batch of episodes felt consistent throughout where there wasn’t a single moment that I felt like getting up or pausing.
This show is marketed as the story of Jinx and Vi, but “Arcane” has done a fantastic job of making the Piltover thread of the story with Jayce, Viktor and all the political intrigue on the topside of things just as interesting as the chaos going on below the surface.
Zaidi: Nothing in “Arcane’s” Act 2 really touched the “Red Wedding” style magnitude that was the end of Episode 3, but that’s OK. Not every batch of episodes needs an epic cliffhanger.
I thought Act 2 was incredibly well-written, and it felt like there was much more time spent on fleshing out each character’s story and motivation. We’re really getting to know these characters. We’re seeing the pain Vi carries from abandoning Powder in Act 1. We’re experiencing Jinx becoming a tortured blend of the Joker and Harley Quinn. We’re watching, in what literally feels like real-time, Viktor’s body break down and betray him.
I don’t have enough of a word count to express how many character arcs were built upon brilliantly in Act 2. But each of these stories needs to pay off in the final three episodes or it’ll all have been for nothing.
Krell: Stories are always a little chunky around the middle. Beginnings are exciting because we’re seeing new faces for the first time and endings are the same because all the narrative tension gets cashed in. There were good moments in this portion of the story, and Tyler is right that it was more consistent, but I don’t expect it to set Twitter aflame like Act 1 did and the way I imagine Act 3 will. I am more excited than ever about the finale, though.
Still, shoutout to the bona fide sex scene Riot Games put into the show. I’m not sure if we had confirmation before, but now we know that at least some champions f***.
Ray: Jason puts it very nicely. Compared to how tight and fast-paced Act 1 was, Act 2 is definitely a slower, but just as interesting, burn. There’s a lot going on in the world of “Arcane” and we get to take a closer look at what that means for its story.
It can’t be all wild cameos, high stakes and big finales. Sometimes you have to learn a little bit first, and that’s OK. I will say that Riot pulled out all the stops this time around. We got baby Viktor, a sex scene, Singed and, of course, plenty of Vi and Caitlyn moments.
What do you think of what Jayce did to Heimerdinger?
Fionn: Heimerdinger got what he deserved. Aside from the Vi and Powder scene to end Episode 3, the biggest gut-punch moment so far for me in “Arcane” was when Heimerdinger’s arrogant ass overlooked Viktor’s obvious cries for help throughout Act 2. The fact that Heimerdinger just brushes off Viktor and Jayce’s evolution of combining magic and technology as something they could maybe finish in a decade while Viktor’s body is breaking right in front of him was haunting.
We get it, Heimer, you’re immortal and you saw some bad stuff go down centuries ago. Either help out these younger kids, sit them down and explain to them in full why this fusion can’t be rushed or let them try to push the world forward with the risk that everything could go sideways.
He’s a genius but doesn’t understand humanity, which also points to how he’s neglected the people from Zaun and their desperation. His passivity has led to the underground revolting and taking shortcuts to get ahead, and with how he dismissed Viktor, that desperation to be seen is only going to cause worse problems for Piltover.
Zaidi: Man, that hurt. Fortiche has done an excellent job so far with the animations of “Arcane,” and this Act 2 scene was no different. The heartbreak on Heimerdinger’s face when he realized he was being ousted by his favorite pupil and the dip in his adorable Yordle ears as each council member cast their vote made this a genuinely tough scene to watch.
Heimer isn’t perfect and could stand to be a bit more empathetic toward Viktor, but it’s never easy seeing a beloved mentor experience the betrayal of a cherished student. As we were watching it unfold for the first time, I told my wife that it felt like seeing Yoda get voted out of the Jedi Council.
Krell: There are two reasonable sides to this issue. Jayce did what he felt he must to use Hextech to save Viktor’s life and help Piltover. Heimerdinger also didn’t deserve to be ousted from the council because I don’t think that city exists without him. The man isn’t holding the City of Progress back — he’s protecting it.
The other thing to consider is Jayce did this so he can learn to regret it later as a matter of character development. I also liked the way he suggested it first but was the last one to vote, and he even hesitated for a moment. It is a perfect example of the act first, think later personality that put him in his situation.
Still, Heimer is right. Hextech will do a lot of good, but it will do just as much bad because they rushed its production. The problem is he communicated it in a condescending and stupid manner. I get that everyone must look like a child when you’re hundreds of years old, and I know Viktor’s life may not be worth the potential casualties caused by rushing Hextech out, but you have to treat these two like equals here. They did something you couldn’t, after all, and deserved that level of respect. I’m not surprised by the result based on Heimer’s behavior, but I still don’t like it.
Ray: Fionn understands! It’s about time somebody put Heimerdinger in his place. He’s more annoying in the show than he is in-game. First he flaunts his centuries old age in the first three episodes, acting like he knows more than anybody. Then, he doesn’t even explicitly share his knowledge of the dangers of magic. And now, he apparently doesn’t care about poor people. As a founder of Piltover, he only ever took accountability for its successes and never its failures.
So sure, kick him off the council. But I also think Jayce is nearly as bad for similar reasons and is being used at the moment.
What do you think of Vi and Caitlyn as partners?
Fionn: I’m OK if the second season of Arcane is just Vi and Caitlyn living as roommates dealing with daily life and occasionally going on missions across Runeterra.
Zaidi: Yes, please. This is a relationship the community has wanted to see realized for such a long time that finally seeing the seeds planted was exciting. The writers and cast for “Arcane” have done such an awesome job so far and the “on-screen” chemistry between Vi and Caitlyn (played by Hailee Steinfeld and Katie Leung, respectively) is very real.
Krell: I wish we got to spend a bit more time with them outside of the chaotic fighting. The moment where Vi had Cait pinned against the wall in The Last Drop was great, and so was when Caitlyn asked Vi if she had no parents.
Those were both more interesting than watching them run around Zaun looking for Silco and Jinx. They’re also more important because, right now, they still don’t have the fully realized relationship I know is waiting to blossom. At least Riot has me wanting to see it instead of being disinterested.
Ray: I’m so glad we got plenty of nice Vi and Caitlyn scenes, but I want to see Riot bring it all the way home. More intimate talks! Maybe some hand-holding? Either way, let me tell you: they ain’t roommates.
What do you expect for the final act?
Fionn: Jinx and Vi will have an epic duel that will turn into them joining forces once Vander-turned-Warwick shows up to remind them of what Silco took from both of them.
Viktor will go full mad scientist, teaming up with Singed to become a monster that Jayce will have to defeat.
Marcus will complete his arc and do something heroic to become the martyr he’s been imagining since becoming shackled with Silco.
Mel will be revealed to be a Noxus spy with Swain as her partner, screwing up Jayce’s world even more when he realizes his best friend has turned into a psychotic android and his girlfriend was just using him to weaken Piltover.
For a final scene to set up a season two (because we know it’s coming), I think we’re going to get a Marvel-esque tease of an iconic League champion, like Ezreal, Garen or Lux, that sets up the setting for the next arc. I think Jayce, Caitlyn and Vi will continue on as our main trio as Mel’s trickery leads them to dealing with business in Noxus and Demacia with that entire feud going on.
Zaidi: Where do you even begin? There is so much I want to see still play out that it’s almost sad that there are only about 120 minutes remaining in this season of “Arcane.” Will Vi and Jinx ever reconcile? Will Vi and Caitlyn develop a deeper relationship? Will Silco be defeated? Are we going to see the complete transformation of Viktor into the League of Legends champion we know him best as or will we only really see the process begin? What are Mel Medarda and the suspicious ravens shown all over Piltover really up to?
There are also so many Easter eggs planted in the first two acts that we want to see paid off. Will we finally see the return of Vander as Warwick? Is the Firelight Leader who we think it is? Is it possible that a certain Shimmer-infused rat has grown into something more? The possibilities of what we could see play out in Act 3 are enough to give me a twitch.
Krell: There’s a lot to get done in the final act of “Arcane,” and I actually think a lot of what fans have theorized might not fit unless Riot pulled off a perfect narrative tightrope. There are many confrontations on the docket and only three episodes left to fit them in. I imagine the last episode will be quite packed, especially.
However, the only thing I expect from the last act of “Arcane” season 1 is some set up for “Arcane” season 2. I already wrote about how many stories there are to tell, and I actually think all the talk of Noxus (plus Swain’s ravens) could be Riot planting the seeds of next season. But unlike Tyler, I don’t expect this cast of heroes to continue as the main characters. I think it’ll be more like the MCU, where things pivot to a completely new direction while all the faces we saw in these nine episodes wait in the wings for the eventual crossover bonanza.
Ray: I feel like the only person here that doesn’t have a clear idea of what the third act might bring. The story has done a great job keeping everyone’s individual character arcs up to date, so I trust we won’t get many huge cliffhangers. Here’s what I predict:
For Jayce and Viktor, Viktor wants to change the world now and Jayce doesn’t know what he wants to do. Now that he’s gone to Singed for more help, he’ll create a means to preserve his life using the Hexcore and the two will have an epic faceoff. Also, Jayce is getting played like a fiddle by Mel, who is probably a Noxian spy.
Caitlyn, Vi and Jinx will probably have a showdown with whoever the new “big bad” is. I’m assuming that it’s going to be Warwick, but it could be some other new monster. To be honest, I hope that’s not the case.
With Act 2 in the books, we look toward Act 3 of “Arcane,” which premieres Nov. 20 on Netflix.