In the studio-wide franchise business, episodic live-action TV series have taken center stage, replacing movies, and reasonably so, as not only does it provide the makers with more area to explore in the narrative and greater scope for characterization through a longer runtime, but it has also become a fan favorite medium in no time. Taking a cue from that, Legendary’s Monsterverse is the latest franchise to expand their arena through series, and the first step in that direction is Apple TV+’s latest release Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.
Revolving around Godzilla and other primordial behemoths known as Titans, their impact on the world populated by humans, and the role of secretive Titans tracking titular organizations in all this, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters spans generations worth of storytelling to uncover secrets about the world unknown. Monsterverse as a franchise was initiated with Gareth Edward’s much-acclaimed Godzilla (2014), which left its mark through a grounded, relatable approach to depicting Titans and how their appearances left a devastating impact on Earth’s human populace. However, the latter movies of the series totally deviated to adopt a more mainstream, action-packed outlook, much to the fans’ dismay. After going through the first two episodes of Monarch, it can be stated that fans can expect a return to the story-based approach once again, and hopefully, it will do justice to the legacy of Monsterverse paved by the best American Godzilla entry.
Back To Skull Island: What Happened To Bill Randa’s Findings?
The pilot episode of the series takes viewers back to 1973 on Skull Island, home of the giant ape Kong and other unique monstrosities that are part of the island’s unique megafauna. Fans will surely remember that, at that point in time, Monarch researcher Bill Randa took his expedition team to ‘explore’ the uncharted territories of the island, whose bombings triggered a vicious response from Kong as he decimated a significant portion of the army assisting Randa in the mission. As the episode begins, a first-person perspective of the attack initiates the introductory scene, which soon focuses on Bill, who is shown to be recording his last message considering the possibilities of his demise. Soon after, he gets chased by a Scylla (spider Titan) up to the edge of a cliff, and with no way to move forward, he throws his classified Monarch inventory into the sea. However, Randa is saved at the nick of time from the Scylla by the intervention of a trapdoor crab (crab titan), and the two gigantic beasts fall into the sea while fighting each other. The Monarch inventory gets recovered half a century later by a fishing trawler in the Japan Sea.
Beginning the series through monster mayhem, Monarch makes it clear early on that it will strike a balance between the human elements and monster spectacle, which remains consistent through the course of the first two episodes.
A Family Affair: What Did Cate And Kentaro Learn About Their Father?
The scene moves to 2015, a year after the momentous ‘G-‘Day’—the appearance of two M.U.T.O.s, Godzilla and their vicious clash, which rocked the very foundation of human existence on Earth. The event marked the period when the world populace first came to know about the existence of these gigantic primeval beasts and also the kind of death and destruction they left in their wake. The episode follows Cate, a survivor of the San Francisco carnage, who is visiting Tokyo to settle her recently deceased father – Hiroshi’s property, and other related affairs. Scars of the G-Day are still fresh on Cate’s mind, who occasionally gets haunted by the memories of the fateful day when Godzilla’s appearance destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge and she was unable to save a bus full of children from falling to their deaths. The rest of the world has moved on in their own ways; while some try to cope with the horrible reality, for some conspiracy theorists and people in denial, the ordeal was an elaborate set-up. For example, the cabbie who drives Cate to her father’s apartment considers the G-Day event to be a massive hoax fabricated by advanced VFX.
After informing her concerned mother back in SF about her arrival, Cate proceeds to check out Hiroshi’s apartment when she gets the shock of her lifetime—that Hiroshi had cheated on her mother and raised another family with wife Emiko and their son, Kentaro. The initial shock turns into a feeling of disgust pretty soon, as Cate recalls her father having a secret life professionally as well, which he didn’t want to share with Cate and her mother. However, just as Cate is about to take leave, an evacuation alert rattles up the people of the city, prompted either by Godzilla’s appearance or the usual drill, and she has to take shelter in the subway along with Kentaro and Emiko. Emiko asks whether Hiroshi was with his other family in San Francisco during his demise, which triggers a PTSD-induced anxiety attack in Cate. She reveals the truth: Hiroshi met with Cate in the aftermath of the G-Day event in San Francisco, but after ensuring her and her mother’s safe evacuation, he took his leave, never to return again as the bush plane he was boarding went missing a week later.
The alert turns out to be a drill, and Cate finally proceeds to leave when Kentaro offers to show a side of their father she probably didn’t know. Cate already knew that Hiroshi’s job as a software designer was a ruse to cover up a much more secretive vocation, but as Kentaro takes her to visit their father’s office, it is revealed that he might be involved in the tragedy of G-Day in more ways than she had imagined. From a secret vault of Hiroshi, Cate recovers the aforementioned Monarch inventory, and she instantly recognizes the emblem of the secretive organization as they were present during the catastrophic event, sweeping the ground for clues and samples while people mourned their loss. They find vintage hard drives inside the inventory, and Cate pleads with Kentaro to find a way to access the stored information, which might help them know more about Hiroshi.
Monster Trackers: What Did The Monarch Members Find In Kazakhstan?
The scene moves to the past, during 1959 in Kazakhstan, where Monarch colleagues, young cryptozoologist Bill Randa, scientist Dr. Keiko Miuro, and their common friend, Lieutenant Lee Shaw, are following the increasing readings of their Geiger counter to track down a Titan. As they follow the readings inside an abandoned Russian nuclear plant, they are surprised to learn that the area is not radioactive at all, as they initially assumed—in fact, it was a ruse to keep curious minds from finding out what really inhabits the plant. As the team ventures inside, they find the plant to be on the verge of collapse, as something subterranean has hollowed out the underground structure completely.
The team finds a nursery of M.U.T.O. eggs inside the depths of the plant, which excites Bill and Keiko, who rush to get biosamples from them. It should be mentioned that the term doesn’t refer to the ‘M.U.T.O.’ viewers were introduced in “Godzilla” (2014). Previously, Monarch referred to every Titan as a Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism (M.U.T.O.), as they hadn’t started naming them just yet.
Shaw offers to descend to the M.U.T.O. nursery along with Keiko to ensure her safety, and as soon as the duo starts collecting samples, the collapsing situation aggravates. To make matters worse, the eggs hatch, resulting in the release of giant insectoids who start chasing the team. Keiko and Shaw rush to climb their way out, but Keiko gets taken by the swarm of insectoid Titans, despite Shaw and Bill’s best efforts to rescue her.
What’s Shaw’s Relationship With Hiroshi?
In 2015, Kentaro takes Cate to his ex-girlfriend, May, a game developer and freelance coder who is able to decrypt the classified Monarch files from the hard drive. However, her initial attempt to use an online tool to do so sends an alert to Monarch HQ, and two agents, Tim and Duvall, are sent to seize Bill Randa’s case files and to apprehend the people responsible for discovering them.
Cate and Kentaro find out that their grandmother, Keiko, who passed away when Hiroshi was young, was involved in the Monarch situation as well, as from Bill Randa’s drive they find out a photograph of her standing atop of what seems to be footprint of Godzilla. Later, as Cate is about to leave Japan, Tim and Duvall try to abduct her but fail to do so. Cate reaches out to the authorities for help, but it is revealed they are in cahoots with the monarch as well. Having her passport, money, and credentials left behind while escaping, Cate decides to return to Maya and ask for help.
On the other hand, Kentaro, who is struggling with the realization that his father’s reality differs from his expectations, discovers about Lee Shaw, a close friend of his grandfather Billy Randa, and the fact that both of them were involved with Monarch. As he relays this information to his mother, Emiko, she states that Hiroshi had a great relationship with his uncle Shaw, which kind of deteriorated as the years went by. Later that day, Tim and Duvall pay a visit to Kentaro’s place, demanding Randa’s case files, and Emiko stalls them for long enough to help her son escape. Maya finds Cate, and the duo secretively meets with Kentaro to discuss a possible way to get away from Monarch’s grip. May has the necessary credentials to settle elsewhere and hide from the organization’s reach, but Kentaro is of the opinion that visiting Lee Shaw, whose address in a Japanese countryside resort he had previously located from the brochures stashed in Hiroshi’s office, might help them get a better understanding of things.
As planned, the trio reaches the resort to discover that Shaw is living under house arrest under Monarch’s observation. Kentaro and Cate ask Shaw about the possible reason for Hiroshi’s disappearance and Monarch’s role in that, an answer to which Shaw doesn’t have at the moment. However, having met Billy’s grandchildren, Cate and Kentaro, Shaw decides to have another shot at life, ditches his radio tracking collar, and proposes that they flee together to find the answers they are looking for. Needless to say, the upcoming episodes will showcase the team embarking on their own adventures filled with governmental cover-ups, Titans, and mysteries of antiquities, and will serve as a perfect link up to the entire Monsterverse.
What Did Shaw And Co. Find In USS Lawton?
In another return to the past timeline, viewers are taken to seven years before the Kazakhstan incident, during 1952 in the Philippines, when Shaw first met Keiko Miura as he was assigned by the Army to serve as her security in her expeditions. Although the duo had a rocky start thanks to their first impression of each other being a bit marred by contemporary prejudices, they decided to roll with it. Shaw and Keiko ventured inside the wilderness of the Philippines while tracking a radioactive signal pattern and met Billy, who was on his way to find out the truth about a local legend—a literal fire-breathing dragon that has been migrating the skies since time immemorial.
Shaw is extremely skeptical about Billy’s intentions and disagrees with teaming up with him, despite Keiko’s intentions to do so. Keiko dismisses him and decides to continue her expedition with Billy instead. After learning that the migrating path of this creature was mapped perfectly by Billy and the radioactive sign pattern charted by her match, Keiko gets even more convinced that they are tracking the same target, and eventually the duo witnesses the most unexpected sight: a US army warship, the USS Lawton, in the midst of the wilderness.
It is revealed that Billy, a former Navy member, was the last surviving member of USS Lawton, which collapsed under mysterious circumstances near Pearl Harbor in 1943 and miraculously ended up 5000 miles away here, in the jungles of the Philippines. Billy was convinced that some sort of inconceivable force was responsible for the warship’s collapse, and witnessing its presence in the most unlikely place they could have imagined solidified his suspicion. Meanwhile, while returning to the mainland, Shaw notices strange particle patterns on the horizon, and concerned about Keiko’s safety, he rushes back to the jungle to locate her. At the same time, an unseen gigantic beast attacks the warship by detecting Cate and Billy’s presence inside it, and Shaw reaches just in time to rescue the duo and take them outside. For the first time, they witness a gigantic primeval creature—almost a mythical creature—a black dragon-like Titan in front of them. As the second episode ends, the creature is seen sitting atop the broken-down warship, and the monster tracker team of the trio is seen to be dazed with a mix of curiosity, wonder, and fear.
The first two episodes of Monarch do an excellent job of forming an intriguing human story, making the monster adventures mysterious and amazing at the same time, and shifting Monarch’s role as a rather heinous, controlling organization. Monsterverse fans are well aware of the modus operandi of Monarch, which worked in the shadows in tracking and occasionally instigating the Titans to collide, but thanks to the presence of individuals like the late Dr. Serizawa, Monarch’s appearance seemed much more benevolent than it is in reality. Strengthening the monster spectacle with a strong narrative structure, the beginning of Monarch promises a rather memorable journey for the fans.