Episode 5

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Radiant ?

This week, our heroes get a harsh lesson in why you should never trust talking animals. Seth and company arrive at Artemis Academy, which is known as a sort of paradise for sorcerers where they can practice magic without fear of discrimination. Doc “encourages” Seth to become an official resident of the city, which means attending a ceremony officiated by Master Lord Majesty, a big yellow cat who happens to be the headmaster of Artemis. There's plenty of glitz and fanfare, but the fine print in the contract leaves Seth saddled with a massive amount of debt. After wandering around the city (and adding a considerable amount to Seth's debt), they eventually meet the sorcerer Yaga, who appears to know a great deal about Radiant and the Nemesis.

Appropriately enough for its younger target demographic, this episode starts off with a simple but worthwhile theme. Most viewers will likely figure out pretty quickly that something is fishy about Artemis, and the almost cult-like nature of the ceremony is a particularly big red flag. Seth, on the other hand, remains oblivious until it's too late, completely wrapped up in the showmanship and pressure of being on stage. There's a clear message here about not getting lured in by too-good-to-be-true promises, and it's echoed in the various conveniences that Seth ends up paying for while exploring the city. That idea is hardly a revelation for older viewers, but it's a good thing to communicate in a kids' show.

Unfortunately, that theme gets muddled and even undermined as the episode plays out. For starters, there's never really a moment where the burden of financial debt becomes clear to Seth; he remains pretty nonchalant about the situation from start to finish, and only Doc seems to grasp the scope of the problem. In fact, aside from Doc, nobody seems sufficiently bothered by this residency scam, and the same goes for the exorbitant pricing throughout Artemis. If the characters don't recognize the severity of a problem, you can't expect the audience to recognize it either. The messaging gets even weaker when Radiant tries to justify Majesty's actions by having him shoo Dragunov away with the power of money. Sure, we get to see last week's scary bad guy get sent packing, but that's not enough for me to buy into the idea that Majesty has the best interests of his citizens at heart, especially when he himself seems largely apathetic about the situation. The whole thing feels strangely contradictory, as if the script was aiming for moral ambiguity but couldn't make a compelling case for either side of the argument.

Radiant also seems uncertain of exactly what it wants to do with Melie and Doc at this point in the story. Melie in particular looks like she's just along for the ride, with her own goals and motivations ranging from vaguely defined to completely nonexistent. Doc, on the other hand, continues to suffer from the same problem that plagued him last week; there's just no compelling reason for us to like the guy. Once again, he spends the majority of his screen time either complaining or bringing trouble onto his companions. Heck, judging by Seth's initial disinterest in becoming a resident, you could argue that the blame for his newly acquired debt falls primarily on Doc. If we're going to be stuck with this dude all season long, he needs to display some kind of redeeming quality as soon as possible. Otherwise, I may have to start rooting for the Inquisition.

In previous weeks, Radiant's saving grace had been its solid grasp of the genre fundamentals, but that reliable baseline is a little shaky this time around. As an introduction to an important new location, this episode is largely underwhelming. While it starts off with a good idea and some of the incidental comedy is amusing, the messaging is too uncertain and the character development is too weak. I'm also not feeling much urgency in Seth's encounter with Yaga, and that means the show is left without much momentum to carry into next week. Radiant will need to conjure up a more compelling story if it wants to hold viewers' attention.

Rating: C+

Radiant is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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