by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Radiant takes a break from Seth and company this week to check in on Dragunov and his crew of Inquisition soldiers. As they float around aimlessly waiting for orders, a new recruit wonders if the easygoing Dragunov deserves his reputation as a tough and tenacious officer. After weathering a nasty storm, the crew is ordered to help repair a fellow Inquisition ship that was damaged in a clash with a giant Nemesis. Edmund, the ship's corrupt captain, has no interest in tracking down the monster, even when it heads for a populated area, but Dragunov has other ideas. Between facing the Nemesis and exposing Edmund's underhanded tactics, Dragunov manages to win over his reluctant subordinate.
For all the time we spend with the Inquisition this week, it's still Seth and Yaga who spell out the episode's key message. As usual, it's a simple but relevant idea: regardless of a group's overall reputation, you're likely to find both good and bad people among its members. We've heard Radiant teach this lesson before in the context of people's prejudice against sorcerers, but the tables are turned this time as Yaga warns Seth not to assume that everyone in the Inquisition is a bad guy. Conveniently, we then get to spend some time with Dragunov, who continues to be a surprisingly “good” antagonist. He's competent, he takes care of (and apparently cooks for) his crew, and he seems more interested in protecting people than in advancing his own career. In short, he comes across as an actual person doing his job instead of a disposable baddie of the week. If someone's going to get in Seth's way, I'd much rather it be a character like Dragunov than a one-dimensional villain with no redeeming qualities.
Speaking of which, let's talk about Edmund. He's far and away the weakest part of this episode, and that's mostly due to his overly simplified characterization. Where Dragunov deals in shades of gray, Edmund is a cartoonish buffoon who exists purely to be defeated. There's just no nuance or subtlety here; even younger viewers will likely have an easy time figuring out that Edmund is up to no good, and older viewers will be bored by the predictability of his character arc. It's hardly a surprise when we find out that none of his prisoners are actually sorcerers, and I can't quite tell if his terrified reaction to the Nemesis is meant to be serious or just a weak attempt at comedy. If Radiant really wanted to double down on this episode's theme, it might have been better off painting Edmund as a cruel but effective leader until the big reveal at the end.
That certainly would have added a little more spice to the rookie soldier's side of the story, although the unnamed new guy does at least play his own part competently. As the only one on the crew who hasn't yet figured out how Dragunov works, he provides the audience an easy window into this narrative. As the starts to understand things, we're able to follow along with him. The payoff moment of having the whole crew standing proudly after fighting the Nemesis is reasonably satisfying, and it ties the episode up nicely. The Nemesis itself is big enough to sell the idea that it's a major threat, and Dragunov's inability to kill it drives the point home even further. I'm sure we'll see both this Nemesis and the mysterious bandaged sorcerer again, though the next episode preview suggests we may have to wait a while.
Honestly, I like the idea of this episode more than I like the episode itself. A little more nuance, particularly in terms of Edmund's character, would have gone a long way towards making both the story and the message more interesting. On the upside, Dragunov continues to be a strong member of Radiant's core cast, and this storyline reinforces the notion that he's more than just a tough guy with an eyepatch. As long as he continues to play a significant role in the overall narrative, I'll call this episode a worthwhile detour. Still, as the end of the season begins to loom ominously in the distance, it's increasingly vital that Radiant wraps up Seth's training quickly and gets him out into the world with enough time to have at least one proper adventure. Even the most patient viewers will eventually grow tired of watching Doc drink coffee.
Radiant is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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