At Outcast Island, Hiccup is being lead through a passageway. He notices a Changewing, a Scauldron and a Whispering Death all being held captive by the Outcasts, but their lack of dragon knowledge is causing them no shortage of problems. Alvin informs him that it’s going to be Hiccup’s job to change all of that, or he’s going to have Toothless killed. Hiccup is then escorted to his cell and the scene changes to show Stoick and the Riders of Berk flying to the Isle of Night, where they expect to find Hiccup and a bunch of Night Furies. After a brief search, they discover the decoy Night Fury that the Outcasts left behind, and deduce that it was made by the Outcasts due to the particular way in which it was made. They fly off towards Outcast Island. The scene changes back to Hiccup’s cell, where a protesting Mildew is imprisoned next to him and his beloved sheep, Fungus, is taken away to be slaughtered. He cries out in anguish while Hiccup looks on, unable to do anything about what’s happening. Some time later, Hiccup attempts to dig his way out of the cell, only to be lectured by Mildew and told that he should play along with Alvin’s requests to get an opportunity to escape. Sure enough, his plan works and a guard opens the gate, but when he hits the guard with his artificial leg, it only stuns him and Mildew has to knock the guard out for good. Grateful for the help and convinced that Mildew wants to change, Hiccup lets him out of his cell and the two of them head off to rescue Toothless. Unbeknownst to them, Toothless had an escape plan of his own; he played dead to cause the guards to remove his muzzle and then broke free, running off in search of Hiccup. Meanwhile Hiccup and Mildew notice a swarm of assorted dragons that are blocking the route to where Toothless was being held captive, so Hiccup decides to tame one of them to speed up his rescue efforts. He demonstrates to Mildew how it is done, and Mildew climbs aboard the dragon alongside him. They fly off, while Toothless shows up moments after, barely missing the two of them. Meanwhile, the Riders of Berk – on route to Outcast Island – spot Trader Johann’s ship and decide to hide onboard, as the Outcasts would no doubt have scouts observing the skies. As Johann pulls into port, the Outcasts gleefully begin to scour his supplies, only to be ambushed by Stoick and forced to tell him where Hiccup and Toothless are. Elsewhere on the island, Hiccup and Mildew arrive at Toothless’ cell, only to find that he’s missing. Worse, Alvin has released the three rare dragons that Hiccup noticed earlier, and the two of them barely escape after a few close calls. They fly off and run into Stoick and the other Riders, at which point Astrid encourages Hiccup to perform a Night Fury call in hopes of finding Toothless. The plan works and the two are quickly reunited, but the plan goes awry when Alvin shows up and taunts Hiccup into launching an assault. He is recaptured, and the Riders of Berk are without their dragons. But just when all hope seems lost the dragons arrive on their own and save them all, causing Astrid to remark that the dragon training has gone very well. As the Riders try to escape the island, Mildew is barely able to hold onto the dragon and instructs Gobber to give his apologies to Hiccup. He falls back to the island, getting captured by the Outcasts. Hiccup attempts to save him one last time, but is encouraged to save himself and reluctantly agrees to do so. After they leave, Alvin removes Mildew’s chains and congratulates him on a job well done, asking him if he learned anything from the Hiccup. He says he has, and is then reunited with his beloved sheep. Back at Berk, Hiccup comments on the value of friendship and what a true family is: people who will always have your back and be there alongside you in the battles yet to come. We’re left with a scene of Alvin successfully taming a Whispering Death and laughing maniacally, with Mildew doing the same right beside him.
With that, Riders of Berk comes to an end. The show will continue, but promotional material from a DreamWorks event showed that the second season will be called Defenders of Berk. That should be a good thing, as for all of the potential that this series had, it spent too much time early on dealing with mundane plots and the dynamics of human-dragon relations. I appreciated their efforts for a few episodes, but the show lost so much of its momentum because it just didn’t know how to move on. Fortunately, we’ve reached a point where there are now two angry clans that are at odds with Berk, one of which has access to dragons, and I’m hoping that Defenders of Berk will be a far better season.
This two-part finale was alright, but it had problems being subtle. I’ve complained about that far too often, but it is what it is. In the first part, it was obvious that Mildew was going to betray Hiccup, but I give them credit for trying to throw in a red herring in the form of the dagger. In part two, however, there was no red herring. They made it too obvious that Mildew was going to betray Hiccup for a second time, with his extremely bad acting when his sheep was taken away and Hiccup’s repeated lines about trust. I know this is primarily a kids’ show, but kids deserve a lot more credit than the industry tends to give them. Mildew’s second betrayal could have – and should have – come as a complete surprise. One more knife to be twisted into Berk as he shows his true colors. Instead, all I could really do was shrug and say good riddance. I am at least grateful that the show didn’t try to pull a redemption scenario and have Alvin learn how to train dragons through some other means, as Mildew was too far gone. Hiccup should have known not to trust him, especially considering how he’s been betrayed before, but he’ll always be a bit naïve.
I’m still not sure how I feel about Alvin as a villain. He hasn’t done anything too villainous, which is sad because the show is obviously trying to make him look villainous. He just doesn’t have the bloodthirsty zeal that Dagur the Deranged has, and he hasn’t done much of anything to damage Berk. One of the heroes, Snotlout, has done more to damage Berk than he has. I’m hoping and expecting that he’s just been limited by his lack of dragons, and will seriously step up his game now that he has them. The show can’t afford to have a do-nothing villain, and season two better be full of dragon vs. dragon battles. I’d also like to see the rest of Berk get dragons, as it’s getting kind of ridiculous to see Stoick rallying the kids to go into life-threatening situations. I know they’ve proven themselves, but Berk does have an army. Let’s see it from time to time.
All in all, I’d give the first season a 6.5 out of 10. It was better than I feared it would be, but worse than I hoped. I appreciate what Cartoon Network and DreamWorks have tried to do, and the production value of the show is miles above that of the other DreamWorks TV cartoons, but they really need to work on the writing and direction. I have faith that if they make a concerted effort to fix the many problems that I’ve addressed over the course of these recaps, Defenders of Berk could be a brilliant show. They’ve got all of the boring stuff out of the way and the next season is ripe for the taking. It’s all up to them to deliver.