We’re Halfway Through Monarch: Legacy of Monsters – Is It Living Up To The Hype?

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Thomas Richards
| December 10, 2023
hello world!

Episode 5 of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters has arrived, meaning we’re halfway through this monster-filled season. Within these first five episodes, we’ve had ups and downs: Godzilla, Tim (I’m keeping my eye on you), and double Russell’s! Taking this all into consideration, has the series met our expectations? Has the story built upon the MonsterVerse films? Have the characters been engaging and not dick heads? Does it look like it belongs next to other Godzilla projects? Continuing Godzilla Week, let’s dive into the first five episodes and see if Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is on track to be an excellent show or if it is falling into the pitfalls many others have before.

Sequel, Prequel, and Flashback Rolled Into One

Godzilla is roaring in the rain. Cate is looking at Godzilla. A yellow school bus with its back door open is in front of Cate.
He just wants to know if his breath stinks. (Legendary)

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters takes place in multiple periods. The “modern” day takes place in 2015 and focuses on the grandkids of Billy Randa from Kong: Skull Island (John Goodman’s character). Cate (Anna Sawai) traveled to Japan to learn about her father’s disappearance only to discover her Dad had a second family, and she has a half-brother named Kentaro (Ren Watabe). After finding some top-secret files from their Grandpop and meeting May (Kiersey Clemons), the trio is targeted by Monarch. Shenanigans ensue, and they eventually find their way to Lee Shaw, played by the amazing Kurt Russell. Now, the group is tracking down Cate and Kentaro’s father, Hiroshi (Takehiro Hira), and uncovering the mystery of the Titans.

It’s an interesting premise that the show has been executing rather well so far. I’m enjoying the mystery aspect; not knowing who our main cast can trust and them flying by the seat of their pants has kept me interested. But the family drama has kept me coming back week after week because it has progressively gotten better, episode 5 in particular. And yeah, there are a few monsters here and there, but I’d be fine if the rest of the show had minimal monster appearances.

But that’s not all, because this show is set in various time periods. For the first three episodes, we get a flashback to the 1950s, when we saw Monarch’s early years. This is where we are first introduced to a younger Shaw, who is played by Wyatt Russell. We’re also introduced to Keiko (Mari Yamamoto) and a young Billy Randa (Anders Holm), who founded Monarch. Having Kurt and Wyatt play the same character was a genius move because it allowed the creators to do some pretty cool stuff with transitions. My only issue with these flashback sections is that they are out of order and were left on massive cliffhangers that weren’t resolved in the following episode (I’m still salty about the dragon one). Aside from these flashbacks, we’ve also looked into Kentaro’s past in Episode 4 and Cate’s in Episode 5. These added more depth to their characters and made me like them more than I already did (even made me do a 180 on Kentaro).

Double the Russell, Double the Trouble

May, Cate, and Kentaro are standing in a line. They all look confused. They are standing in a garden with trees everywhere
Trio shot it trio-ing. (Legendary)

Contrary to what I thought before starting this show, I’m way more invested in the characters than I thought I’d be. I thought that I’d only be interested in the overall story, lore implications, and seeing some monster-fighting action, but the characters are so damn good. The main trio of Cate, Kentaro, and May are all great and flawed, which makes them even better. Being a survivor of G-Day (the day Godzilla attacked San Francisco), Cate has PTSD, and seeing her deal with that has been interesting to see. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kentaro at the beginning (I said as much on the Watching Now: The Monarch Files podcast, which you can check out here), but after these most recent episodes, I’ve come around, and he’s slowly creeping up my favourite character rankings. May is the most mysterious one, with her past mostly hidden. But after the end of Episode 5, she’s on some mighty thin ice. Overall, I enjoy the trio dynamic they’ve got going, and I hope it continues to evolve in the second half of the season.

I can’t talk about characters without mentioning one of the best aspects of this show: Kurt and Wyatt Russell as Lee Shaw. The father and son duo do an excellent job bringing this character to life and keeping him consistent across performances. I believe that the past version of Shaw is the same as the present day, not just because they look the same (enough so that their facial structure matches) but because they bring the same energy to the role. While I’ve enjoyed seeing more of Kurt in the recent episodes, I hope Wyatt gets more screen time. Can never have too much of the Russell’s.

Big Movie Feel

Godzilla is standing and staring at an atomic bomb. The bomb is on a metal tower. The sky is clear behind Godzilla.
He just curious. (Legendary)

Often, spin-off shows that spawn from films don’t always look just like their film counterparts (for budgetary reasons more often than not). Legacy of Monsters has surprised me in this regard, though, because the whole show looks very close to the films it’s spinning off from. Every aspect of this show looks film quality and could be mistaken for a film if you aren’t paying attention. Everything looks and feels professional, from the sets, the costumes, the lighting, and even the camera shots.

This also extends to the monsters they’ve shown so far. I thought they’d have to downgrade how these monsters looked because of the smaller budget, but they’ve managed to keep that quality high. Godzilla, for example, looks almost identical to his theatrical counterpart, which is very impressive. The new monsters they’ve introduced, the dragon and freeze mole thing, have also looked phenomenal. I have high hopes that these last five episodes will maintain the high bar of quality set by the first five.

Shaw, Keiko, and Billy are lying down on the grass. They all have concerned/surprised loosk on their faces. The jungle can be seen behind them.
Touching grass. (Legendary)

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters has been a banger of a show so far. The overarching plot has hooked me, the characters are engaging, and it looks fantastic. I’m enjoying seeing how the story and characters progress over the first five episodes and hope they continue this momentum into the back half of the season. All doubts from before the show started are gone, and I’m excited to see how well they can stick the landing (please don’t fumble right at the end). You can check out the first five episodes on Apple TV and keep it locked to Couch Soup for even more Godzilla goodness during Godzilla Week.

And don’t forget to catch Watching Now: The Monarch Files Tuesdays at 4pm CST right here on Couch Soup and wherever you listen to podcasts.

Have you been watching Monarch: Legacy of Monsters? What do you think? Who is your favourite Russell? Let us know in the comments where we can discuss everything Monarch.

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