Dragons: Riders of Berk – “What Flies Beneath” Recap
Berk is besieged one night by a tunneling dragon, which is causing all sorts of problems as the farm animals are being dragged underground. During their investigations the following morning, Hiccup and his friends discover the dragon in question to be a Whispering Death – a very rare but extremely dangerous dragon. After a brief skirmish, it runs of after wounding Toothless, who had engaged in combat and was reluctant to listen to Hiccup’s commands. That night, while nursing his wounds, Toothless sneaks off in order to hunt the dragon down, causing Hiccup to chase after him the following morning. Without him as a rider, Toothless is incapable of flight, and will be torn to shreds by the Whispering Death. He sets off with his friends, ultimately finding a hole in the ground that belongs to the dragon, so he jumps down it in order to investigate. Fishlegs joins him, but only because Snotlout pushed him down the hole intentionally. Inside, they learn that the dragon is carrying old battle scars from a previous fight with Toothless, and conclude that the two of them must have a longstanding grudge against one another. They then make their way to the exit, as the dragon pursues them, only for Toothless to intercept the dragon right as it was about to go for a killing blow against the group. Hiccup and his friends chase after the two fighting dragons, only to see Toothless about to get killed by the Whispering Death due to his prideful refusal to accept Hiccup’s help. In order to force the issue, Hiccup jumps off of a cliff so that Toothless will be forced to pick a side, and correctly chooses to save Hiccup. After the two reunite, Hiccup helps Toothless fly his way to victory against the rogue dragon, with Toothless ultimately letting it go instead of killing it. The Whispering Death tunnels off into the distance, leaving the Riders of Berk to begin repairing all of the damage that it did.
Riders of Berk makes its return with good timing, fresh from its four victories at the Annie Awards. It was a good thing, then, that this episode was good enough to live up to that reputation, as many of its episodes have been lackluster at best up to this point. I would have liked learning more about the Whispering Death as well as why it and Toothless hated one another, but dragons tell no tales and we’ll probably have to see them fight several times over the course of the series before we figure that one out. Toothless’ behavior did strike me as kind of stupid, as I just don’t think that Toothless would be too prideful to seek out Hiccup’s help in a fight. They already got past that, after all. No matter how hard the show tries for fresh conflict, it doesn’t work if it seems to overlook the events of the movie.
The only other thing in this episode that bothered me was Snotlout’s behavior; he was being far more of a jerk than usual, and at one point even deliberately knocked Fishlegs into the hole where the dragon was. Nothing happened to him, but it’s akin to pushing somebody onto railroad tracks and it just seemed horrible of him. I also wonder why Astrid didn’t go in after them, as she usually does everything that she can to help Hiccup out. Anyway, this episode also gave us a glimpse into how Fishlegs is dealing with being Berk’s keeper of knowledge. He’s constantly being put under pressure to come up with strategies and find insight into the nature and motivations of dragons. While he has accepted that role, he has done so reluctantly, and it’ll be interesting to see if the show further explores this part of him in the future.