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Arcane Episode 2 Breakdown: League of Legends Television Series

Arcane episode 2

Shining light on the upper echelon, while simultaneously moving the entire story’s narrative forward, the second episode presents a more in-depth look into Piltover and Zaun from League of Legends. Arcane episode 2 reflects the expression and strive for power. Some members of society are born into it, struggling to keep their hierarchy. Others claw forward, attempting to fight to earn their own standing. Episode 2: Some Mysteries Are Left Unsolved presents a narrative easily assumed to be dichotomous by nature. But the more the story begins to unravel, the more convoluted the prevailing issues plaguing society becomes.

Arcane Episode 2 addresses hard hitting themes, while socially commenting on flaws that very well may reflect real life predicaments. This particular episode takes its time, providing the audience a well created, slow paced episode that adds meaningful highlights to the overarching narrative.

[Related: Arcane Act 1 Overview]

This article contain heavy spoilers for Arcane episode 2 (but no spoilers beyond Arcane episode 2).

For readers who have not watched the second episode yet, avoid this breakdown.

[Click here for a breakdown of Arcane episode 1 and here for episode 3]

Beginning Scene: Caitlyn and Jayce’s Introduction

Arcane episode 2


Arcane League of Legends Caitlyn Skin

Arcane episode 2 begins with Jayce and Caitlyn sharing some friendly banter. From the initial two sentences, the audience is made aware that the characters reside in Piltover.

Caitlyn asks, “you really went to the undercity to get these? Weren’t you afraid?” To which Jayce replies, “a little danger is worth the risk, don’t you think?” These are very essential lines to the character’s portrayal and overall views. By asking Jayce if he wasn’t afraid, Caitlyn not only displays respect towards Jayce and his work, but also highlights her own fear of the “others.”

Meanwhile, Jayce is willing to dabble in the black market trade that facilitates all of the undercity. His unfettered view of the world looks not in black and white. Much rather, Jayce’s drive for the future is fueled by his ambitions.

On a surface level, Jayce’s lack of discrimination is very admirable. But as he attempts to open the door to his laboratory, the situation literally blows up in his face. As previously mentioned in Episode 1, Jayce bought the tools for his lab at Benzo’s shop. Ekko then tailed the young scientist to his laboratory, then told Vi and Powder about it. The very initial step leading up to the explosion began when Jayce decided to trust the undercity. A decision that eventually leads to Jayce’s biggest predicament yet.

Jayce passes out from the explosion, leading into a flashback.

The Introduction of Magic

The previous scene fades away, transitioning into Jayce and his mother walking through a blizzard. This scene of incredible hardship shows a different aspect of Piltover left out of the Zaun’s portrayal of them. Despite living in the uppercity, Jayce struggles to move forward. His mother collapses, suffering obvious signs of frost bite and hypothermia.

A man with a staff approaches, a bigger than life figure hidden by his hood. Jayce falls back, scared of the mysterious man. The wizard swings his staff around and around, with mystical symbols dancing around him. As he swings his staff down, a blast of lightning envelopes the scene, causing Jayce and his mother to levitate and teleport. In the wizard’s hand is the literal world, which shrinks down into Jayce’s eyes. After this point, magic is all Jayce can ever focus on. That single, brief moment takes over his life.

Jayce glorifies the mysterious hooded figure, deeming him his mother and his own savior. But the motifs around the wizard’s actions remain unknown to both him and the audience. Magic is beyond understanding.  Rather than pondering the negative consequences, because of that single instance, Jayce’s view of magic prioritizes only the endless positive possibilities.

Despite warnings from his mentor and the rest of society later in the episode, Jayce’s skewed vision allows him to move forward. No blizzard, no hardships will stop him from achieving the glorious power of magic that he saw as a child.

Leftovers of the Explosion

Jayce sits in the rubble, surrounded by authorities as they scavenge his laboratory. When questioning begins, Jayce immediately states “you have to believe me, I didn’t do this.” In other words, he does not see how the explosion could be part of his responsibility, which reflects his immaturity. His lacking of responsibility.

Responsibility is a reoccurring theme in Arcane. In episode 1, Vi takes up more responsibility than she is asked for. Witnessing the horrific scene, she matures at a young age. Jinx, on the other hand, shirked away from her responsibilities, instead forcing Vi to shoulder all the weight. Now Jayce, similar to Jinx, aka Powder, attempts to shield the responsibility away to the perpetrator. This is an important theme to keep in mind when analyzing Arcane Act 1.

The scene then introduces Viktor, initially showing him admiring Jayce’s work. Although he speaks of the potential punishment Jayce face’s, Viktor is seen clearly admiring the work around him. He asks, “what happened here?” This question is asked with genuine curiosity, not anger over the damage or danger of the situation. When talking to Jayce, Viktor states “[Heimerdinger] sent me here to ensure that anything dangerous is removed safely. Which, according to my list, includes you.”

Note the wording here. Viktor states according to his list, and not according to him or his own personal views. He is performing his job as directed, but places his own thoughts and preferences out of the equation. At least, during this specific moment where other enforcers and officials are present. This detail is easily missed on the first viewing, since Viktor does a fantastic job in hiding his own angle. More on this point later.

Imprisoned

A bigger than life shadow approaches the door. Jayce tenses up, clearly anxious over the shadow’s inevitable entrance into his cell. The shadow quickly shrinks, and a tiny yordle makes his appearance. Revealed to be Heimerdinger, he states “Imprisonment. What a curious principle. We confine the physical body, yet the mind is free.”

This introduction to Heimerdinger speaks volumes of his own wisdom. Though seen as a perky, strange and almost humorous entrance, Heimerdinger’s entrance line rings as a thematic reminder throughout the episode. Without even knowing the details of the circumstance, he instinctively predicts much of the later occurrences.

Despite being locked up, despite facing limitations and regulations, Jayce’s mind is free. The mind cannot be controlled, and this eventually means that the people will continue to do as they like. All throughout Piltover, this statement rings true. The regulations and attempts to control the people and the way of life only delay the inevitable. Viktor, working directly under Heimerdinger, still disobeys direct orders. Jayce, also Heimerdinger’s protégé, ignores the wise yordle’s warnings. Events continue to transpire despite Heimerdinger’s extensive attempts to prevent future them.

The professor asks Jayce, “how old are you my boy?” Jayce replies, “I’m 24.” “Well, I am now 307 years old. All my life, I’ve pursued the mysteries of science, only to discover some are better left unsolved.” Once again, Heimer’s wisdom warns the young Jayce of the risk of his endeavors.

Back to Zaun

Arcane episode 1
Zaun courtesy of Riot

The scene starts with Vi punching a machine with a Mylo caricature. Her score rises higher, concluding with a punch that knocks the Mylo caricature out. Vi then states, “enforcers never come down here, so this is a good place as any.” This lair is clearly a safe haven for the gang.

Clagger then asks Mylo, “Oh, what’s the matter Mylo? You worried Powder’s gonna beat you again?” Mylo replies by saying, “hey, if she didn’t keep fixing these things, I wouldn’t keep missing.” Powder pops out of nowhere, with a mischievous look in her eyes. This prompts the targets to jump up, and begin the arcade game. Mylo sucks at it, and Powder follows up his attempt by absolutely smurfing on the targets.

Vi states, “you guys know I wouldn’t take you on a job you can’t handle, right?” Keep this line and this particular scene in mind.

Powder looks out, and clearly the enforcers made it down. The enforcers harass the citizens of Zaun, until eventually a citizen flies into Vi’s little base. Shattering the window alongside their normal every day lives, this moment marks a turning point in the story.

Running Once Again

The casual hang out quickly turns into a chase and escape scene, as Vi and her gang attempt to flee. The lights turn off, and a skull shines on the ground. Mylo and hopelessly attempts to fight back, but none of the enforcers are the least bit phased by his efforts. Vi throws the sign with Mylo’s caricature, hitting the enforcer in the head. The enforcer and the sign both drop lifeless to the ground.

Powder fights off an enforcer, who a decoration resembling chompers bites down on. The gang escape the building, once again with Powder directly behind Vi and the rest of the gang following up behind them. Very soon after, the enforcers flank the gang surrounding them from both sides.

This directly mirrors the scene from episode 1. When flanked by another group of kids from Zaun, they fought head on. But rather than doing what they did prior, Vi once again chooses to run from the enforcers. Ekko shows up from above, almost like a guiding light, dropping down a latter to escape. His abrupt appearance perhaps illuminating his purpose in future acts to come.

Introducing Councilor Medarda

Back in Piltover, a lady walks back and forth in a room accompanied by her help. One is clearly her assistant,  named Elora, and the other a salesman. Revealed to be Councilor Medarda, the richest person in all of Piltover, she sighs, then states “yet I remain the poorest Medarda.” Very much reflecting the constant thirst for power, Councilor Medarda’s desires and ambitions consume her. Despite being the richest in Piltover, Councilor Medarda yearns for more.

“We need something revolutionary, Elora. Something to put Piltover on the map.” She then picks up a child’s toy, deciding to purchase the product for another member of the council. The fact that Councilor Medarda’s first scene shows her surrounded by servile members of society, while shopping in a well lit room throws a direct contrast with the leaders of Zaun. Vander serves his own people in his bar, while others serve Medarda. The sense of privilege burns from the scene.

The Caitlyn Family

Introducing Caitlyn’s family for the first time, the scene in Arcane episode 2 begins with a still shot of a family portrait. While discussing Jayce’s predicament, the voice over plays as the shot zooms in on the portrait. A boy’s entire future lies in the balance, but the conversation feels stifled and posed. The severity and compassion that should be prevalent in such a conversation is lost.

“The boys got ambition. It’s why we supported him in the first place.”

“Ambition? Darling, he nearly blew up our daughter”

“Jayce had nothing to do with that. He was robbed. We need to help him.”

As Caitlyn finishes her statement, she quickly repositions herself on her chair and fixes her posture. Despite positioning so close to each other in the family portrait, the scene shows the family standing in completely separate corners of the room.

This shot symbolizes the distance they place even between themselves. The members of Zaun, on the other hand, always sit directly next to each other when conversing. Holding hands, hugging, touching foreheads, affectionate displays are a common thing in the undercity. A first look at a family of Piltover shows the aspect of basic human connection that they are missing. Rather than prioritizing empathy, the Caitlyn family focuses on cold hard calculations when considering the life of another.

“Besides, we’re his patrons. If anyone is meant to speak up for him, it’s us.”

Rather than emphasizing Jayce’s life, Caitlyn’s mother concludes her decision based on social obligation.

Back to the Bar

Members of Zaun crowd around, frustrated with the predicament and harassments they have undergone. Eager to fight, they rally, only to be shut down by Vander. The children watch from the side, also eager to reengage.

The scene shows Vander’s attempt of nonviolence. An attempt that, despite his best efforts, remains futile. Similar to the warnings of Heimerdinger, Vander shares his wisdom and experience, only to get shut down. Despite the rules that Vander dedicated his life to implementing into all of the underground, once again, the minds were free. As stated by Heimerdinger, this is an interesting conundrum.

Jayce’s Trial

On the elevator going up to reach the stage of the trial, Jayce’s shoulders droop. Similar to Vi’s drooping shoulders in episode 1, Jayce prepares to accept the responsibilities of his actions.  Councilor Medarda hands another councilor the toy she bought as a birthday gift.

“I’m told it was built only for the sharpest mind.” Very clearly a sarcastic comment insulting the councilor, the bearded bald man ignorantly accepts the gift. This portrays Medarda’s sharp political mind, while also insulting the system in place.

When the council begins questioning Jayce, Medarda states “so you’re saying your study was meaningless?” To which Jayce replies “It was revolutionary!” This wording is essential. Councilor Medarda stated prior that she yearned for something revolutionary, and therefore the audience knows that she’s interested. But rather than blatantly expressing interest, she goads Jayce without revealing her true intent to the rest of the council.

“Revolutionary how? All I see is a boy meddling with things he doesn’t understand.”

This sets the council off, as they begin berating Jayce with criticism. Councilor Medarda understands how to manipulate the rest of the council and Jayce as well. Making them all dance to her tune with short conversation, she successfully navigates the trial to her own favor. Jayce bursts out, “I was trying to create magic.”

Heimerdinger’s Exert

The scene zooms into the wise yordle. He yells, “Enough! You don’t understand what’s at stake. But how can you? That’s a burden only I here carry. Time.” Heimerdinger narrates, as a painting of a wizard floating in air zooms out. Revealed are people flinching in anguish and fear, with even the weather bending to the powerful wizard’s hands.

The wizard, similarly to the one who saved Jayce, dons a hood and staff. Screaming fills Heimerdinger’s mind, as he recalls the horrors.

Jayce’s Mother

The trial shows Jayce’s mother, who pleads for Jayce’s forgiveness. She states that he is not right of mind, and that he has been chasing an impossible dream. His mother continues to contradict Jayce’s statements, and says “but he has a good heart. Please, let him come home.”

Despite being a 24 year old man, Jayce is very much still a child. His mother babies him, and Jayce’s view of the world remains immature. Starkly contrasting with Vi, who holds the burden of the world on her shoulders. No parents to do so for her, the clearly adolescent Vi is more mature than the grown Jayce.

A Biased Jury System

Heimerdinger states that perhaps Jayce should be returned to his parents, and expelled from school. They advocate for a light punishment, and make the decision based off of a majority vote from the council. Medarda votes in favor, then shoots a glare at the bearded bald councilor to force his hand as well.

In the end of the day, Medarda continues to manipulate the council, and therefore Piltover, to move to her own personal will. Being the richest, most powerful person in the entire region, she single handedly decides the tides of the future. This highly likely comments on the real life issues plaguing the justice system prevalent in today’s day and age.

A Bunch of Quick Scenes

Arcane episode 2 then gets into a quick sequence of scenes. Marcus, the anger driven enforcer, plans with Silco in the shadows. Jayce and his mother talk, making the JaYcE iS BaBy even more prevalent in the scenario, and Viktor discusses Jayce’s case with Heimerdinger. Silco forces his underling to drink the purple steroid liquid, and the plot thickens. Not that there is not anything substantial here, but greater analysis to be had in other sections.

Jayce and Caitlyn Talk Again

The scene starts with Jayce futilely pulling on the gates, trapped outside. Caitlyn more or less states that she still believes in Jayce, and expresses her concerns. At this point, Jayce’s hands remain planted on the gate as if trapped in a prison. He talks about becoming a hammer smith, trapping his mind into the walls created by the society. But as Heimerdinger stated prior, the mind is always free.

Without any sense of empathy, Caitlyn’s mother enters the scene and commands her daughter to come inside.

Vander and Vi’s Heart to Heart

After avoiding the enforcers yet again, Vi confronts Vander and asks him why he doesn’t fight back.

“I grew up knowing that I’m less than them, that my place is down there. I want Powder to have more than that, and I’m willing to fight for it.”

“So was I. I was angry, just like you. […] I know you wanna hurt the topsiders for wat they’ve done to us. But who are you willing to lose?”

This conversation hits hard. Both Vander and Vi are leaders, walking their own path yet doing what they feel is best for their people. Unlike the people of Piltover, obsessed over their selfish ambitions, Vander and Vi want better for their family, their community. Addressing topics much too heavy for a child, Vi understands the weight of Vander’s words. She saw firsthand the results of his decisions, and respect his words of wisdom to the utmost degree. Unlike Jayce, who steps all over Heimerdinger’s advice.

In the more technologically evolved society of Piltover, respect and manners are superficial facades for selfish means to an end. In the deemed savage society of Zaun, holds a different power.

Vander moves positions and sits next to Vi.

“Nobody wins in war, Vi.”

Vi’s head falls onto Vander’s shoulder, both looking destitute from their desperate situation. For the first time, Vi displays her vulnerable helplessness.

Once again, differing drastically from the distanced “family” of Caitlyn and their conversations, two non-blood related friends share a far deeper, more connected bond.

Viktor Saves Jayce’s Life

The immature Jayce attempts to take responsibility for his actions by jumping off the building he blew up. This is his way of burdening the weight, committing to a decision made by the weak. Rather than stepping up and holding the responsibility, he would rather step down and fall to his death.

Viktor walks in, and interrupts the suicide attempt. Validating Jayce’s views, the moral support from his words grant Jayce the strength to live on. The irony is Vi shoulders the burden on her own. Her family was killed, her entire community oppressed by the topsiders, yet she chooses to fight on. Jayce runs into issues, and decides killing himself is the best course of action.

Powder Sits at the Bar

Enforcers storm the undercity, as Vander and Powder sit at the bar. He pours her a juice, as she holds tightly and plays with stuffed bunny Vi gave her in a previous scene. The same bunny that Vi stated was left on top of a structure after one of her mess ups. Vi had waited for the wind or anything else to knock it down. Her handing Powder the doll represents Vi’s decision to take matters into her own hands.

Vander even adds in a cute little straw, which is his good hearted attempt to cheer Powder up. He picks up the doll, and comes to a realization. Vi sits up at Benzo’s shop, determined to pave the future.


In Conclusion

Arcane Episode 2

Arcane episode 2 takes its time in performing its primary function: setting up the pretense of Act 1. By introducing characters from Piltover, adding different levels and dimensions to each one, the audience better understands the world and moral dilemmas in place. Extending and growing different character arcs, Arcane episode 2 paints an interesting dichotomy between the two cities. From Jayce’s immature demeanor, to Vi’s overly responsible role in the story, each character undergoes different plights that reflect a different aspect of their personality.

Since the episode ends on a cliffhanger, Arcane episode 2 clearly serves to set up a bigger event to take place, leaving viewers wanting more.


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