Netflix's Arcane, the Steampunk animated series with an emphasis on the "Punk", returns for its 2nd act with another batch of 3 episodes that make up a single story. Once again, it's a lot of spinning parts with characters and situations all intertwined without them necessarily knowing it. It's still scene-setting for a big reveal that's still not here yet, which is a bit frustrating. It knows what we all want to see and it's not letting us see it yet.
There's a time-jump of a few years where the characters in the Science city of Piltover and the underworld city of Zaud. Idealist Jayce has given his Piltover the Hextech portals that caused a booming trade with other cities. He and Viktor are desperate to use the Hextech create tools that benefit working people but Professor Heimerdinger still objects on the grounds that Hextech is still unstable and mysterious. Caitlyn is now a junior cop to the embarrassment of her family, then their horror when a bomb leaves six officers dead and nearly kills her. Silco now rules Zaud as its crime boss and trades in shimmer, the pink substance that transforms people into rampaging monsters. His only soft spot is for Jinx, who's no longer a little kid but a gangly teen genius still trying to figure out how to use the hextech globe she stumbled upon as a kid back in Act 1. The former Powder is now a full-on murderous sociopath with a taste for bullets and blowing things up. Anything that looks at her funny, she shoots. Caitlyn is eager to catch the Zaud terrorist blowing up buildings in PIltover and enlists a prisoner for help – Vi, as angry as ever over her adopted father Vander's death and her missing sister.
If you know the League of Legends game, Arcane so far is a lot of wheel-spinning for an origin story that's telling where its main characters are going to end up, which is as the distinct player characters. It's still better-written than any other video game spinoff or adaptation since there's a strong emphasis on the characters' psychology. Jinx is less the cheerfully violent manic pixie murder-girl who became the face of the game here. She's mentally ill. Her big eyes display pools of trauma, guilty, and psychosis, both missing and hating the sister she thinks abandoned her. Her murder sprees aren't played for comedy. Silco adopted her as a surrogate daughter because he identified with her grief and abandonment but doesn't realise how unstable she is. Virtually everything that happens is from ripple effects from her actions with Hextech, even back in Act 1. And Silco underestimating Jinx's mental illness might bite him in the ass.
The last third of Act 2 slows down too much to delay what we really want to see: the reunion between Vi and Jinx. It ends on a cliffhanger just as that happens, interrupting the sisters by having them get attacked and giving us a predictable action scene that ends on a cliffhanger. Vi hasn't gotten Hextech-powered battle gloves yet nor has she and Jinx become rivals or frenemies yet. Presumably, the third act will see all the key characters become the ones fans of the game are familiar with and waiting for, but this is becoming an exercise in delayed gratification. We haven't even mentioned the other characters yet. The animation is gorgeous and far beyond any other out there, and that's what keeps us watching.
Arcane Acts 1 and 2 are now streaming on Netflix. Act 3 premieres next Saturday.