The Dragon Prince’s first season was all about setting up the core conflict between humans and the magical kingdoms of Xadia. Humans were the ones who invented dark magic, humans were the ones who killed the dragon king, and now the human kingdoms and Xadia are a powder keg ready to go off at any time. There are a few standout moments that reflect how humans can be fundamentally decent, like General Amaya, but it seems as though the human kingdoms are far more corrupt. Even King Harrow, who seems like a very decent dude, spends his screentime in season one reflecting on the mistakes he’s made and the person he wanted to be.
In The Dragon Prince season 2, the show shines much more of a spotlight on the five human kingdoms, and we learn a lot more about their motivations. It adds new dimensions to the conflict of the show, and makes the world feel much deeper as a result.
[Ed. note: the rest of this post contains spoilers for season 2 of The Dragon Prince]
“We’re exploring the backstory and seeing some characters who have been dead for many years,” Aaron Ehasz, co-creator of the show, tells Polygon. This includes Queen Sarai, the warrior queen who we only saw through statues and memories in season 1. Sarai, the sister to Amaya and mother to Callum and Ezran, is a major part of the flashbacks in season 2, and she provides an empathetic and understanding perspective to Harrow as he struggles with the pressure of being king. It’s not as simplistic as Viren being the devil on his shoulder and Surai being the angel in opposition, but it’s fascinating to see how the humans of Katolis interact. It sets the groundwork effectively for the Harrow — and the Viren — we end up seeing in season 2.
Those flashbacks also include a pair of queens from the nation of Duran. Duran is now led by their daughter, and we’re told the story of Duran’s past: a great famine, an alliance between Duran and Katolis, a solution, and a diplomatic impasse. The story makes the humans much more sympathetic as a whole, partly because these two queens are paragons of virtue and partly because it’s hard to hate a people who are struggling and starving. Relying on dark magic makes much more sense in these circumstances; of course humanity would seek out any tool it could get its hands on!
Duran and Katolis are just two among the five human kingdoms, and we get to meet the leaders of each. These places don’t map to real life locations. Justin Richmond, co-creator of the show, talks about the process of creating each kingdom. “They’re not directly like ‘oh, this is Paris’, or whatever. We got some references in terms of what we thought each kingdom was represented by, what they’re good at. We designed their symbology, like flags and all those different things.”
Moments in season 2 suggest that we’ll be seeing more of those kingdoms in the future. “We looked at tons of different architectural references, Bardel, our animation company sent us tons of different version of how things could look.”
Richmond notes that the human kingdoms have a history of conflict of their own, along with their war with Xadia. “We wanted to have a feeling with these human kingdoms and for a long time, they weren’t at peace with each other after the dividing of the continent. They’ve finally figured it out, and there’s five of them trying to work together.”
Xadia and the elven threat — especially since the Moonshadow elves assassinated King Harrow in season one — make for a compelling common enemy for the kingdoms. For now, the human political drama is limited to the Pentarchy, a special diplomatic center for all of the kingdoms to meet.
After a first season that made Callum and Ezran seem exceptionally empathetic and kind for humans, the second season returns to their homeland to bring more nuance to the rest of their people. It ends up working wonderfully well. The mission to return the dragon prince home remains as dramatic as ever, but now the viewer finds themselves becoming just as invested in success as Callum and Ezran are. The political emphasis also makes Lord Viren even more of a commanding, compelling villain.