AppleTV+ Original Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is off to a great start, taking time to develop the human as much as the monstrous. Effortlessly moving between past and present, this Godzilla story told across generations digs deep in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 3 as it seizes the themes of the franchise in the past and develops adventure in the present (or, 2014).
Last episode, we got to see how the trio Bill Randa (Anders Holm), Lt. Lee Shaw (Wyatt Russell), and Dr. Keiko Miura (Mari Yamamoto) formed, learning about how they all respond to the reality of kaiju in the process. In 2014, Cate (Anna Sawai) and Kentaro (Ren Watabe) are running away from Monarch agents and heading toward the only person who knows their father’s past. Now, with Shaw, they all escape in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 3 and they start to learn more about monsters, their father’s work, and the larger story they’re all connected to.
The series so far has offered up compelling characters with Cate and Kentaro, but for this episode, the narrative gravitas comes from the past—and I’m starting to think that that is where it will live. Here, Bill, Keiko, and Shaw petition the U.S. Military for help in their research on the island. That said, requesting uranium really only has one outcome: the increased militarization of their project under the guise of national defense. On the island, the U.S. military meets them, a gorgeous rendition of Godzilla appears, and the Americans drop a nuclear bomb on him, watching and celebrating in lawn chairs on the beach.
On the surface, the scene builds the ground for the clandestine nature of Monarch and harkens back to the origins of Godzilla. But as you watch Keiko scream and plead, the weight is shifted. A Japanese woman watching Americans drop a bomb, wiping out a life, is devastating to see, even with how short the scene is. It’s also isolating to see how little people understand the weight that this holds. Initially, Godzilla was created as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. The series’ choice to show the selfishness and power-hungry nature of the U.S. military system reflects the past, something that the Monsterverse iterations of the kaiju have largely ignored.
This heartbreaking scene puts Keiko at odds with the project and research she loves. Her eyes full of wonder from the end of the last episode, as she looked on at a new monster, are replaced with sadness and fear. The two layers of her pain are beautifully captured. On one end, by making her screams to stop in Japanese, the series looks at her identity through history and the United States’ crime against humanity. But Keieko’s anger and sadness also radiate from being a scientist who wanted answers from a beautiful creator who has watched her discovery be whipped from existence. It’s dynamic, and Mari Yamamoto as Keiko continues to be the best part of the television show.
In the present, Cate and Kentaro, accompanied by May (Kiersey Clemons), are on the run with Shaw. As Shaw explains, the Hiroshi (Takehiro Hira) that he knew, who was more like a nephew to him than a friend, the Randa siblings struggle to grasp the situation. While Kentaro is more empathetic, wanting to learn more, Cate is filled with anger. This is the third episode where Hiroshi’s infidelity and secrets take the focus, only this time, an elder Shaw is navigating it. That said, outside of offering some amazing scene transitions between daddy Russell and son, there isn’t much meat to chew on in 2014, complicated even more by how May seems to just be there.
While the series as a whole has balanced the past against the present, everything in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 3 is at its best when we’re exploring the founding of Monarch and the ills that the trio tied themselves to in order to secure funding. I am not bored with the Randa siblings. I just need more power behind their journey and narrative, especially when stacked up against the emotional powerhouse of a set piece in the past.
That said, this episode does begin the Randa sibling’s adventure into Alaska, attempting to find their dad’s last known location and maybe him. Only, they find an ice-breathing kaiju that makes the present all the more intriguing. The series has been able to show that this is a story that showcases a world of many monsters, not just one. But more importantly, it does so without devaluing Godzilla as a part of the narrative.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 3 yields a close-up of the iconic monster, highlighting the stellar production of the series. Gorgeously rendered, emerging from the water, waves falling from his body, Godzilla is a king. He’s majestic and wonderous, curious, and not dangerous as we’re expected to believe from the General’s stance. From the details on the ridges of Godzilla’s back to the size and shape of his snout, everything is perfect. Instead of hiding Godzilla like the mythic figure he has become, the series embraces his stature and has shown him more than once—and not just as a mindless monster.
There is so much to love about Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 3 and how it’s embracing the history of the franchise, its origins, and more. Keiko is the series’ heart and soul, but with an episode where the past takes focus, she makes the rest of the stories shrink in comparison. Hopefully, 2014 will become less concerned with Hiroshi’s past and more concerned with the adventure, and at this episode’s close, it looks like it’s trending that way.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 3 is streaming now, exclusively on AppleTV+.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 3 — "Secrets & Lies"
There is so much to love about Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 3 and how it’s embracing the history of the franchise, its origins, and more. Keiko is the series’ heart and soul, but with an episode where the past takes focus she makes the rest of the stories shrink in comparison.