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Dota Dragon’s Blood Diaries Season 2 – I want to get off Studio Mir’s wild ride (Season Review)

One bingewatch later, I once again sit in front of the screen waiting for the next season. Here is our review of season 2 of Netflix series Dota: Dragon's Blood.

Would you look at that. To the surprise of none I binged the rest of Dota Dragon’s Blood Season 2 yesterday evening and am happy to share my impressions of Book 2 in our Dragon’s Blood Diaries.

There will be unmarked spoilers for the entire second season in this article, so turn away now, if you have not finished all eight episodes already.

If you are looking for my first impression on episode one, head over here:

Dota Dragon’s Blood Diaries Season 2 – Here We Go Again (Episode 1)

It always gets worse

Remember when I said how accurate Kaden was in the first episode by saying it will get worse before getting better? That might just be the best quote to summarize the plot of the entire season. Let me take stock of the situation at the end of season 2.

The Dragon Knights are basically obliterated with few exceptions and Dragon Hold has been razed. The Helios Imperium’s capital lies in ruins and does not seem to be in any shape to deal with whoever emerges victorious from the Nightsilver Woods. Speaking of the forest, the Elves were last seen indiscriminately slaughtering humans but now have to content with a vengeful Selemene, who has been restored to power. Oh, and Terrorblade is still out there continuing his multi-dimensional chess match with Invoker. At least Davion is no longer fused to Slyrak as the Father of Fire departs to hunt for Terrorblade.

And that was just the political situation. Our protagonists did not escape all the havoc unscathed as Studio Mir also killed off Lina, Marci and Winter Wyvern in one fell swoop.

Bram (and the viewers) have had a rough day in the office man | Image Credits: Netflix/Studio Mir
Bram (and the viewers) have had a rough day in the office. | Image Credits: Netflix/Studio Mir

To make matters even worse, we see Fymryn apparently appealing to Selemene for aid in the post-credits stinger. Well, Book 3 (when and if it comes) will be off to a great start!

Why are we speedrunning the plot?

All that aside, the plot does continue to be one of Dragon’s Blood strenghts as a series. But in season 2 the pacing issues that first emerged towards the last third of season 1 are back with a vengeance. It is just one big plot moment after the other and you barely have time to acknowledge the changed situation before the next wham moment hits you.

While it does make for a entertaining ride with plenty of twists and turns, the overall series feels incredibly rushed as Studio Mir keeps cramming more into 25-minute episodes. There is barely time for larger world-building or letting the characters breath and develop outside their moments. Scenes like last season’s trip to the shopkeeper or Davion wandering around in a city trying to gamble are sorely missing in season 2. Aspects of newly introduced characters, like Lina’s backstory, were just glossed over instead of explored and fleshed out. Even the season’s primary antagonist barely gets enough screentime to be built up.

Dragon’s Blood really needed to have either more episodes or a runtime closer to 30 to 40 minutes per episode to solve the pacing issues.

Where did the budget go?

Moving on to the production value of the series, to me the second season seems to have struggled with that more. The first season had stunning moments and fights but also staggering low points but overall the quality held up well. For season two this pattern continues, but with less eye-candy to go around.

Some scenes like Invoker and Terrorblade’s verbal chess match in episode 4 or Lina’s fight against Slyrak/Davion are great. Seeing spells like Sunstrike or Laguna Blade animated was phenomenal as a Dota player, but in-between those peaks we have stillshots, rough animation and cuts to black used in abundance.

Most of Lina's fight scenes in Dragon's Blood were stunning composition | Image Credits: Netflix/Studio Mir
Most of Lina’s fight scenes in Dragon’s Blood were absolutely amazing. | Image Credits: Netflix/Studio Mir

One of the most glaring issues is the massive re-use of models. Prominently showcased in the second episode’s Dragon attack on Dragon Hold where almost all the dragons looked the same. It got a bit absurd when Kasharra’s Dragon form reused Byssrak’s model, although he explicitly is not the Void Eldwyrm. More time (or more money) for the animators to polish up the series would have done a lot to make the experience a lot better.

Heroes are still the best part of Dragon’s Blood

For a Dota player the best part of Dragon’s Blood still remains the Heroes interacting with each other and the rest of the cast. Season 2 had a couple of amazing additions to the characters, especially Pangolier, Lina and Winter Wyvern all endeared themselves to the fans.

The breakneck speed at which the plot progressed made some developments a bit harder to swallow, but seeing Luna defy Selemene or Lina’s rise to her (short-lived) emperorship were fun to follow and hit the right spots for Dota players. One cannot help but feel like Studio Mir wasted a bit of potential by killing off 2 of the new additions at the season finale before we could really get to know them better. Don’t even get me started on the gut punch of killing off Marci after we had her entire backstory revealed earlier in the season.

Marci dying in Mirana's arms in Dragon Blood season 2
This was not okay. | Image Credits: Netflix/Studio Mir

Narratively it is a good way to remind us that apparently no one (not even fan-favourite Marci) is safe. It also fits seamlessly into the greater lore of countless parallel dimensions in Dota 2, that can all have wildly different stories. But the three deaths in quick succession at the season finale still feel rushed.

Was it a good watch?

All in all, Dragon’s Blood Book 2 was an entertaining watch and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Unsurprisingly it shares many of the strenghts and weaknesses of the first season. Seeing the heroes and lore of Dota come alive remains its biggest selling point, but pacing and animation quality are in dire need of improvement.

While it is unfair to compare to League of Legends’ Arcane series (due to likely higher budget and most certainly more time to polish), Dragon’s Blood falls a bit short and remains a good effort but not what the best a company like Valve could help produce. It does not really improve on the first season and if you are not invested enough into Dota, it might be difficult to overlook the issues.

As it stands now I would recommend it to others, but with the caveat that some things might just not make enough sense if you are not invested in Dota lore. With the plot hooks and cliffhangers in place I would be very surprised to not get a Season 3 to wrap up the main Slyrak vs. Terrorblade storyline as well as the still smoldering Selemene conflict.

Hopes for season 3

I really hope Studio Mir gets more time and more budget for the third season, but considering the same issues were seen after season one, we might have to settle for less. That is not to say that Dragon’s Blood was “bad”, I just feel like its potential was not fully realized due to its constraints in time and money.

Regardless of that I am looking forward to a third season and hopefully we will have news on it soon.

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Image Credits: Netflix/Studio Mir

 

 

 

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