It has been observed time and again how important the balance between the narrative correlation of human-monster elements really is to make any monster-oriented story work well, and Apple TV+’s Monsterverse series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters has gained traction by duly exemplifying that. In the penultimate episode of the first season, the series once again doubles down on the narrative balance as we get to see Lee Shaw in a new light, especially through his relationship with Keiko’s son, Hiroshi.
In the previous episode, it was revealed that in the past timeline, after the power shift in Monarch, the military-minded Lieutenant Hatch had started calling the shots and brought the organization to the verge of being decommissioned by discrediting the scientific endeavors of Bill and Keiko. To counter Hatch’s report, Shaw instructed Bill and Keiko to chart out a Titan map, which led to Bill’s speculation about the existence of Hollow Earth as the dwelling place of the Titans. Bill and Keiko grew closer, and upon learning that, as a widow, Keiko left her country to provide a better life for her son Hiroshi, Bill expressed his willingness to share her burden, which eventually led to their marriage. In the present timeline, Shaw and the renegade Monarch team led by Duvall go to the nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan (where Keiko died all those years ago) to close another Hollow Earth rift, and the band gets intercepted by a team sent by Monarch including the Randa siblings Tim and May. Cate tries to reason with Shaw but gets interrupted by the emergence of an insectoid Titan. As Shaw triggers an explosion in the rift, the ensuing collapse drags May, Cate, and Shaw inside, along with the Titan, and sets the stage for an exploration of Hollow Earth. The present episode, aptly titled “Axis Mundi,” takes viewers to the Hollow Earth, in the center of the planet, both in the past and present timeline, which creates a holistic experience as the episode explores relationship dynamics between the characters.
What Is Operation Hourglass?
Monarch Episode 9 begins in the past timeline, in 1962 in Kansas, three years after the presumed death of Keiko Randa. In his mother’s absence, little Hiroshi has his stepfather, Bill, and uncle Shaw by his side, who are trying their best to fill the emotional void inside him.
Previously, it was revealed that Lee had managed to save Monarch from getting decommissioned by revealing information about Godzilla’s survival to General Puckett. As a result of that, Monarch had received lucrative government funding and political backing, which has, by this point, culminated in the first daring expedition into the Hollow Earth—Project Hourglass. The goal of the initiative is to study the nature of the world of Titans and open a gateway to an entirely unknown section of the ecosystem. Thankfully for the army, a Hollow Earth rift has been found right in the heartland of Kansas, allowing the operation to be as covert as possible. Along with the three other explorers assigned to the project, Shaw himself will embark on the journey in order to lead from the front. However, he has his own hidden intention, as he still has this sliver of hope that Keiko might have survived her fall into the Hollow Earth rift, and he considers their journey another chance to save her. Before taking his leave, Shaw visits Hiroshi one last time, and as a token of remembrance, he gives him a pocket knife of his own—the same one that Hiroshi has kept by his side all the time through the rest of his life. Promising the little kid his timely return, Shaw goes on to prepare for his descent into the rift. Dressed in specialized suits, the explorers are welcomed by the nation’s topmost defense authorities with applause, lofty speeches, pomp, and grandeur. The visual similarities with the Lunar Expedition are pretty on point in this scene, and the makers deserve credit for establishing the Titans’ lore in such a unique way.
However, the vastly unique, cosmic nature of the rift doesn’t allow regular objects to enter and pass through to the other side. Therefore, in order to let the explorers enter through the rift, Dr. Suzuki’s gamma-ray mimicking device and a nuclear bait are being used to trigger a Titan emergence, which will create an opening, and allow a pod containing the explorers to drop right through. Things start going south as, right after the entry, the rift starts going through a vicious turbulence, followed by a large-scale vortex that destroys the rift at once. Bill watches in horror as he is hit with the realization that he has lost both Keiko and Lee in the pursuit of exploring this unknown. In the aftermath of the disastrous outcome of Operation Hourglass, Puckett lets Bill know that Monarch is officially done for, and even though he too mourns the loss of Shaw, he is unable to help Bill anymore. The Hollow Earth, appropriately symbolized as Hell, has taken the people who were closest to Bill, and his obsession with the very thing ultimately led to his demise, as seen in “Kong: Skull Island.”
How Did Shaw Escape The Hollow Earth In The Past?
On the other hand, after falling through the rift in a tumultuous condition, the exploration pod gets severely damaged during landfall as Shaw and his fellow explorers enter the Hollow Earth. The crew set foot on the phantasmagorical landscape, which is different than the inverted mountain valleys of Hollow Earth as seen in Godzilla vs. Kong and resembles more of a hellish wasteland. With communication systems all shot, the crew starts gathering samples and pictures as evidence, and all of a sudden, they get attacked by the Ion Dragon. Needless to say, the group gets brutally decimated by the Titan, and Shaw, the only survivor of the assault, gets miraculously saved as he gets sucked back into the surface world.
However, a curious case of time dilation inside the Hollow Earth has sent Shaw twenty years into the future in the surface world within the span of a few hours. This explains why, in the present timeline, he appears to be much younger than he should be. Shaw wakes up in a quarantined ward of a hospital in Japan, and as his plea to communicate with Bill Randa constantly gets ignored, in his terrified, confused state, he starts threatening the hospital staff, holding a nurse hostage. A Monarch agent defuses the situation by calming Shaw down, and to his utmost surprise, he learns his identity to be Hiroshi Randa. The shock of the revelation sends Shaw into a seizure-like state, and he gets admitted into the quarantine once again.
The identity of the nurse is revealed to be Matsumoto, the mother of Kentaro. After having a brief conversation with her, an estranged Hiroshi decides to rekindle his bond with the only surviving family he has left, Uncle Shaw. Unfortunately, the truth about Bill’s findings regarding Titans proves too painful to handle for Hiroshi, and much like how Kentaro and Cate initially reacted regarding Shaw’s request to uphold their family legacy, Hiroshi too rejects the world that took his parents away. Shaw was sent to remain under Monarch’s observation and had to helplessly watch the horrors of G-Day from his confinement. At least we know that Hiroshi comes around eventually, and adhering to his uncle’s request, he starts digging through the findings of his parents while hopping across the world.
Who Rescued Cate Inside The Hollow Earth?
In the present timeline, an injured Kentaro wakes up in a hospital in Tokyo and finds himself in front of Tim and Verdugo, who bring him up to date with everything that transpired during the nuclear plant collapse. Devastated with grief, Kentaro pleads with the Monarch operatives to help him rescue his stepsister but gets rejected as they believe Shaw, May, and Cate have breathed their last while falling through the rift along with the insectoid Titan.
Matsumoto takes her son back home, and upon learning of Kentaro’s dejected state over losing Cate, whom he had finally grown to accept as a part of his family, she encourages him to pursue the impossible endeavor in any way he can deem possible. Kentaro goes to Hiroshi’s office, and as he searches through the files to find a possible waypoint, he is shocked to see his father return. Kentaro confronts Hiroshi about his abandonment issues, which have led to a crisis such as this, and blames him for Cate’s death. Initially in disbelief, Hiroshi breaks down as the realization dawns upon him that Cate has met the same fate as his parents, and this time he has nobody to put the blame on but himself.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that May and Shaw have survived the fall to Hollow Earth as they band together to search for Cate. Shaw leads May through the perilous tracks of the Hollow Earth and reveals details about his previous escapade to May, shocking her out of her wits. On the other hand, Cate wakes up on a different side of the Hollow Earth jungle and faces a warthog variety Titan, which charges at her. Just as the possibility of Cate’s survival seems to be slipping lower than ever, an arrow injures the Titan and sends it fleeing. Cate stares in disbelief as her rescuer turns out to be none other than her grandmother, Keiko Randa herself, who had seemingly survived the fall into Hollow Earth in 1959 and has barely aged a day due to the time dilation acting crazily in her case. With this revelation, it is quite clear that the season finale will consist of a number of emotional reunions and reconciliations, as both worlds will eventually meet. Falling inside the rift along with Titan seems to be the reason Keiko survived in the past, and the trio of May, Cate, and Shaw were able to do the same in the present. A Titan airlift will once again be necessary to take them back home, and here’s wishing Godzilla is the one who gets to unwittingly shoulder that responsibility.