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Dragons: Riders of Berk – “Portrait Of Hiccup As A Buff Man” Recap

Hiccup has always done his best to prove his worth to his father, and while he hasn’t always felt appreciated, he was convinced that he had succeeded in doing that. However, when their official father-son portrait was unveiled in the grand hall, Hiccup was disheartened over the fact that Stoick had arranged for Hiccup to appear bigger and stronger than he actually is. Upset over how his father didn’t appear to value him, even lamenting his name because a “hiccup” had always meant “runt” to vikings, he decided to take drastic action – he vowed to unearth the treasure of a former viking chief whose map was discovered on accident prior to the ceremony. It had been said that many vikings set out to search for that treasure before, only to lose life and limb, but Hiccup was determined to see things through. They quickly get through several of the map’s clues, which are in riddle form, thanks to Hiccup’s quick thinking. Stoick, furious at Gobber for allowing the map to fall into their hands, sets out after them, only to be lectured by Gobber about how his buff portrait of Hiccup was the cause of the whole ordeal. Several clues later, Hiccup and his friends enter a tomb full of fireworm dragons, whose very presence causes the temperature to rise in the tomb and endanger their lives. Hiccup carefully grabs the third piece of the key that he had been collecting, only for the floor to cave in beneath him, prompting Toothless to swoop down in an attempt to save him. Distraught, Astrid attempts to do the same, but Fishlegs tells her that their only chance at rescuing him comes after they rescue themselves, so she reluctantly escapes. Outside, the friends and their dragons attempt to move rocks out of the way, and when Stoick arrives, he is shattered by the news and desperately does the same in an attempt to rescue his son. Beneath them, Hiccup uses the key he formed and heads inside, finding a note that reveals the viking chief who had created the map was actually a hiccup as well – a smaller viking like him. In one final test, he is prompted to choose between a feather and a hammer, with only one bringing him true wealth as the tomb around him crumbled. Outside, Stoick is once more shocked when the earth around him caves in, making him fear for his son’s life even more, but Hiccup then emerges feather in hand. He tells his father about what he found, showing him the true portrait of the famed viking chief; Stoick tells him that he never had to do anything like that to prove himself, but Hiccup said that he needed to prove it to himself. The two of them embrace and return to Berk, where a new portrait is hung in the hall – one depicting Hiccup as he truly is.

This episode had a lot of potential because it marked the show’s first true adventure episode. I and many other people expected the show to have far more of these than it has to this point. However, I was briefly concerned because it seemed that the episode was going to go with the old tired route of having a treasure divide a group of friends, as Gobber warned them earlier in the episode that his friendship with Stoick was almost ruined because of that treasure. I was delightfully surprised when the show made no further reference to such things, except for perhaps a brief point where the kids briefly speculated about what they would do with their individual shares. I suppose the ending, with Hiccup choosing the feather and forsaking all of the gold in the tomb, was in fact cliché, but it was still a spectacular episode and it shows that the show can have some drama without hamming things up over unnecessary dragon-human tensions.

This was a far more action-oriented episode than usual, “Alvin & The Outcasts” aside, and I think it served it well. While we have yet to see a whole lot of dragon vs. dragon combat in the show, including in this episode, I was impressed with how fluidly the characters moved – particularly when Hiccup was hanging on a rope underneath Meatlug and trying to pick up a piece of the key with his foot. It gives me hope for future episodes, and once Alvin does get his dragons, I’m hoping that the show won’t shy away from long action sequences. This episode also showed the benefit of getting out of Berk, as the search for the treasure allowed them to use some more interesting settings. All in all, I was very impressed with this episode, and the next episode sounds like it will have an adventure of sorts as well.  The show can only improve as it gets away from mundane issues and starts to open up the world itself.

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