Freeze Framed: ‘Monarch’ gives us Cold Opens and Cool Runnings…

A mostly 'modern' episode for in which we inch forward with the story but give the VFX department its due...

Having survived the first attack by the Arctic Titan, Shaw and his companions still have to contend with falling temperatures and the inhospitable conditions. With differing ideas on where survival lies, Kentaro decides to follow his instincts, driven by memories of his first meeting with May… while the others head towards a distant light , only to find themselves back where they started. With monsters and the environment itself against them, how can the team survive a single night in their surroundings?



Most episodes have largely ignored the peril in which the previous chapter has placed key characters and jumped elsewhere and while that’s also true here – with an opening scene now placed in the desert plains of Utah (circa 2015) as Outpost 47’s Operative Barnes is distracted from reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer and reports a strange set of signals on her antiquated rig – it’s thankfully only an interlude before we’re back to the Arctic and our heroes are continuing to face the icy wrath of a Titan-sized snow-monster that we saw last time.  Once again the ‘doom’ is conveniently averted, by Shaw (Russell Snr.) and his companions, diving inside an ice-cave and avoiding certain death, coming out frazzled and shivering but still intact. Now they have to survive an already hostile environment made doubly dangerous by the creature that senses their presence and body temperature (and, yes, the idea of Russell fighting amongst the snowy scenery against a monster that may be attracted to his body heat should by a knowing wink to all discerning sf-genre fans)

So far Monarch has divided its time pretty equally between the 1950s and the 2010s, but this week, we mostly stick to one era: 2015 (The only flashback is to a year earlier where Kentaro and May first meet – he’s struggling artist on the verge of his first major exhibition and she’s unexpectedly charmed by his pretensions and tales of expensive whiskey). Their current relationship status may be frosty, but those memories keep them both warm to some extent as they independently struggle to survive.  Truth be told, there’s very little story progress this week – it’s mostly one-long, freezing chase with lots of momentary internal struggles and insights into Kentaro and May’s relationship. There’s some machinations behind the scenes as the signals from the Arctic are detected by the team’s pursuers, visions of the past and somewhat impossibly convenient hallucinations and a nice philosophical moment where the icebound team have to decide between the secrets that may be contained in papers and their use as pure fuel for fire. However, this fourth episode Parallels and Interiors – is fun enough to keep watching and still a good example of quality control… though it largely marks narrative time as much as the VFX department works overtime for the most monster footage in a single episode thus far.

While never falling in to ‘filler’ territory- and despite the monster machinations – this does feel like a slowing of the pace.

'Monarch: Legacy of Monsters  S01 EP04 - Parallels and Interiors'  (appletv+ review)
'Monarch: Legacy of Monsters S01 EP04 - Parallels and Interiors' (appletv+ review)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Direction
  • Production Design / VFX