It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Godzilla is one of the most popular monsters of our time, and the same could be said for King Kong. Their recent popularity can be attributed to the MonsterVerse series being made in the USA and the films that Toho is making in Japan. Since the topic of today’s discussion is Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, let’s limit our focus to the Monsterverse. This franchise was inaugurated by the 2014 film Godzilla and was followed up by the 2017 film Kong: Skull Island. Then we got King of the Monsters, which featured classic Godzilla monsters like Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. And after that, we finally got the highly anticipated Godzilla vs. Kong. While it’s true that we are getting another big screen release featuring Godzilla and Kong next year, the makers of MonsterVerse have started to stuff these Titans into our small screens with Netflix’s Skull Island animated series and now with Apple TV’s Monarch series. The only thing worse than that, by the looks of it, is that Monarch: Legacy of Monsters doesn’t even take the story forward or bridge the gap between Godzilla vs. Kong and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. It takes things back to a time before Kong: Skull Island and after the 2014 film Godzilla. Well, let’s talk about the first episode of the show.
Lee Shaw, Bill Randa, and Keiko Head to an Abandoned Factory
Episode 1 of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters opens during the events of Kong: Skull Island in the ’70s, where John Goodman’s version of Bill Randa is being chased around by a giant spider. He records a video stating that even though he doesn’t know if his message will reach his “buddy,” he is sending it out there in the hopes that he gets it and tells the truth about Skull Island to the world. He puts all of his findings in a waterproof bag and throws it into the ocean. He nearly survives a fight between a giant lobster and a giant spider. Of course, he doesn’t die in the process because, according to Kong: Skull Island, he is killed by a Skullcrawler. However, the show tries very hard to make it seem like Randa went solo for a bit in order to record a video, even though we saw in the movie that he was with Preston Packard’s team all the time. By the way, those who criticized Peter Jackson’s King Kong for its not-so-seamless integration of live-action and CGI elements should do the same for this scene because it’s absolutely horrendous. Anyway, Randa’s bag is fished out of the sea by a fishing boat. The narrative cuts to a post-”attack on San Francisco by Godzilla” world—the day of the emergence of Godzilla is known as G-Day—and we see Cate arriving in Japan to take care of some family business after the death of her father, Hiroshi.
Japan is armed to the teeth to fight Godzilla, but their people believe that what was shown in San Francisco was a hoax and some sort of CGI manipulation. I think this is a joke about how much Japan hates the 1998 Hollywood film Godzilla, whose CGI hasn’t aged very well. That said, this insinuation is insulting to Cate because she was there when Godzilla attacked San Francisco, saw the Titan with her own eyes, and lived to tell the tale. Cate reaches Hiroshi’s apartment after finding the keys to it in his office in the USA, and when she enters it, she comes to the startling realization that it’s inhabited by Hiroshi’s second family, Kentaro (the son) and Emiko (the wife). Going by their reactions, either party is just learning about each other’s existence and that Hiroshi was a cheater. The narrative shifts to 1959 in Kazakhstan, where a young Bill Randa (Hiroshi’s father), Dr. Keiko (Hiroshi’s mother), and a young Lee Shaw are traveling to a site possibly occupied by MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) on behalf of the agency called Monarch, which “specializes” in hunting down massive organisms. They do find the site, which is an abandoned factory, but the odd thing about it is that while the area surrounding the factory has signs of radiation (which indicates that a MUTO is there), the factory itself shows none. This piques the interest of the scientists, and they head over to analyze the factory.
Cate and Kentaro Find a Safe in Their Father’s Office
Cate and Kentaro have a big argument because they are having an identity crisis while doubting the faithfulness of their father. I haven’t seen the whole show, and I want to make a prediction here: one of them is Hiroshi’s actual family, and the other one isn’t. I am willing to bet that Hiroshi had rescued Kentaro and Emiko from a MUTO attack, and he was treating them as his own family because he had made some kind of promise to Emiko’s actual husband. Cate is probably related to Hiroshi by blood. When Cate storms out of the house because she knows that an argument isn’t going to solve things, Cate’s mother calls her, and the way she talks about whether Cate has found something in Japan makes it seem like she knows about Hiroshi’s charitable nature. Or maybe Hiroshi was actually cheating with two women and handling two families at once, even though I don’t see the reason why that’ll be an actual subplot in a Godzilla show. I mean, a Godzilla show focusing on humans seems like a bad idea, to begin with, but a Godzilla show with soap opera levels of writing sounds straight-up bizarre.
Anyway, the narrative cuts back to 1959, when Randa, Shaw, and Keiko are planting explosives all around the factory in order to get a read on what lies underneath. They do get to a spot inside the factory, which is filled with these glowing eggs. Keiko wants to go down there and check it out. Shaw doesn’t like the idea. Randa is okay with it. Hence, Shaw decides to go down into the pit of eggs with Keiko while Randa stays on the balcony as a backup. I have to point out something here. The actor playing a young Randa in 1959, Anders Holm, is in his 40s. John Goodman looked his age (he was around 65 at the time of shooting Kong: Skull Island). How does Randa go from looking like Holm to Goodman in a span of 14 years? It is the biggest mystery in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. I think we can blame it on all the radiation that he soaks up while searching for MUTOs. Coming back to the 2015 end of the show, a false Kaiju attack alarm goes off in Japan, but that not only galvanizes Cate, Kentaro, and Emiko’s whole dynamic, but also gives us a glimpse of Cate’s perspective during Godzilla’s San Francisco attack. I understand what the show is trying to do. It’s trying to silence all the critics who have talked about poor human characters. I think the franchise has gone way past that point, especially with Godzilla vs. Kong. It’s futile to go back in time and try to place “nuanced” characters in the franchise. But if this is what Godzilla fans want, well, this is the perfect show for you. Kentaro takes Cate to Hiroshi’s office, and while checking out a highly detailed map, Cate finds a hidden safe in there. After a couple of permutations and combinations, Cate types in Kentaro’s birth month, her own birthday, Emiko’s birth month, and Cate’s mother’s birthday, and that opens the safe. In it lies the bag that the older Randa had thrown into the ocean, and it’s filled with encrypted files.
Did Keiko die?
Kentaro takes the files in Hiroshi’s safe, along with Cate, and goes to May because she knows how to decrypt them. May and Kentaro evidently have a history between them, and Kentaro is responsible for the breakup. Cate’s hatred for Kentaro lightens up May’s mood, and she agrees to decrypt Hiroshi’s files. Of course, those files are connected to Monarch, and that alerts one of the Monarch offices situated in an undisclosed location. One of the operatives, named Tim, calls up his partner, Duvall, and decides to go to Japan to look further into this attempt at accessing Monarch’s files. Cate, May, and Kentaro start talking about what Monarch possibly is, and this is all redundant information because we, the audience, have been through four MonsterVerse movies, and we have seen what Monarch is. Yes, their origins and the way they function are vague, but that’s a good kind of vagueness. We don’t need to know everything about everything. We are here for the monsters. But we are getting the opposite of that. So, when Kentaro asks why Cate keeps saying that Hiroshi wasn’t with her on G-Day, we see Hiroshi meeting Cate for a brief moment, giving passes for Cate and her mother, and then going away without any real explanation. Cate says that after one week since their last meeting, Hiroshi went missing. They start to go through the files again and come across a photo of Keiko standing in Godzilla’s footprint. That confirms that Hiroshi is Keiko and Randa’s son, thereby making Cate and Kentaro the grandchildren of Keiko and Randa.
At the end of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters episode 1, we see things going very wrong for Keiko and Shaw. The eggs inside the pit begin to hatch, and they specifically go after Keiko. Randa tries to pull Keiko up, but the creatures start to pull Keiko down. Shaw tries to grab Keiko’s hand and get her out. Unfortunately, the weight of the creatures tugging on Keiko causes Randa to let go of the rope, and Keiko falls into the abyss along with the creatures. Yes, we are supposed to assume that Keiko is, in fact, dead, but I highly doubt it. The creatures are probably going to break her fall, and she’ll stumble upon something interesting lying underneath the factory. My theory is that she’ll get a hint at the Hollow Earth thing, i.e., tunnels and passageways underneath the planet that allow Kaijus to travel without being noticed and also give them access to an ecosystem at the center of the planet, which is the home of these monsters. On a side note, it’s cool to see Pachinko alumni Mari Yamamoto (Keiko) and Anna Sawai (Cate) in the same show again and separated by timelines, again. You should check out Pachinko on Apple TV+, by the way. It’s a great show.