Hmm, I haven’t rated any of the Dragons: Riders of Berk episodes. (Maybe I figured every one would be 5 stars. But some are better than others.) So, lets rectify that situation and give the episodes their due. Here’s a look at the first 4 episodes, complete with stars, mini-synopses and comments.
How to Start a Dragon Academy (101)
With the dragons being around all the time, they’ve created new problems for the Vikings. They’re eating all the crops and setting buildings (and sheep) on fire accidentally. Hiccup realizes the dragons can be put to good use, helping plow fields, plant seeds, and fertilize the crops. And thus, Stoic (and Gobber) bestows the teens with a Dragon Academy in which to train the dragons (with Hiccup in charge, of course).
I was a little nervous when this series began. Would it do justice to the movie? (I’d heard Kung Fu Panda didn’t transition well to the small screen.) Fortunately, I had nothing to fear. The animation is superb. (In fact, the show has been nominated for a huge number of animation awards.) The animators have given us the realistic hair movements and 3-D inferences from the movie, as well unique (and hilarious) perspectives. When Hiccup falls while chasing a sheep (that a dragon set on fire), we see the sheep from Hiccup’s view, i.e., upside down.
Viking for Hire (102)
What’s a weapon-making Viking to do when the Vikings no longer need weapons to fight dragons? That’s the situation Gobber finds himself in. Gobber tries to repurpose his weaponry as household items with disastrous results. His attempt to be Stoic’s right hand man (which, as Hiccup says, is good, ’cause that’s 0the only hand he has) and his ideas for dragon saddles cause more problems than they solve. In the end, Gobber does find a new calling, and a necessary one in the new Berk order—dragon dentist.
In a scene that sums up the sweetness of the series, and gives a wonderful nod to the movie, Hiccup tells Toothless, “You know, Gobber made this [artificial leg] for me? He taught me everything I needed to know to make your tail. I’ve gotta find some way to help him.”
Animal House (103)
The dragons are scaring the farm animals so much the hens won’t lay eggs and the yaks aren’t giving milk. With a big storm on the way, Stoic worries there won’t be enough food to last the winter. Hiccup and the teens attempt to convince the farm animals that dragons aren’t scary, but it’s not working. As they herd the animals toward shelter Hookfang acts up and the animals scatter.
As the storm worsens, Stoic, Gobber, and the teens find themselves stranded in the snow. As they huddle together for warmth, the dragons come to the rescue, using their wings to block the snow and their fire to keep everyone warm. But the farm animals are still exposed to the elements. Toothless brings a lamb into the fold, who then signals the other animals. Not only does everyone survive the storm, the animals realize the dragons are ok, and begin to provide food and milk for the winter.
The Terrible Twos (104)
Possibly my favorite episode (yes, even more so than “Animal House”), Hiccup discovers a
flaming squirrel, er, a little dragon of unknown origin. He brings it back to the Dragon Academy for the teens to discover its traits. This little dragon is so unusual, it actually eats an eel. Fishlegs names the species “Typhoomerang,” because the dragon flies in circles and then returns to its original spot. Stoic names him Torch because he beats Toothless to lighting the fire.
Toothless is not so enamored. The little dragon steals Toothless’s fish, sleeps in his bed, and bites him on the tail. Toothless discovers Typhoomerang mama in the woods. She is huge and very destructive. Toothless tries to tell Hiccup in his dragon way, but Hiccup misunderstands Toothless’s odd behavior as jealousy and” acting out.”
What endears me most to this episode, I think, is the emphasis on Toothless’s emotions. He is, in turn, curious, surprised, annoyed, frustrated, and angry. At one point, when Hiccup banishes him to the cove (bad Hiccup!), Toothless struggles unsuccessfully to climb out, then looks at his damaged tail and slaps it on the ground in exasperation. For someone who adores Toothless’s personality, this episode was a veritable smorgasbord.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, coming in the next few days.
[All screenshots are courtesy of Berk’s Grapevine, a most wonderful How to Train Your Dragon website.]