It’s been over two years since the season three finale of The Dragon Prince reset the playing field. To recap, Lord Viren and his possessed Sunfire Elf army was defeated. The baby dragon Zym has been returned to his mother, Rayla and Callum are a thing now and Ezran is recognized as a great king. But we were left with the cliffhanger that Claudia resurrected her father, and the worm that was Aaravos’ physical connection to world, grew and created a cocoon for itself.
Season four premieres on Netflix November 3 and there has been changes since we last left our heroes. Much time has passed, and Callum is the high mage to King Ezran. Zym has tripled in size and lives with Zubeia. The Sunfire Elves are trying to rebuild their kingdom but have no home to return to. Also, Rayla has been missing. We have an exclusive interview with The Dragon Prince co-executive producers Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond to preview the fourth season.
AIPT: Let’s first get into the title of the season: The Mystery of Aaravos. Have we done away with the elemental sub titles like Sky, Water, etc.?
Aaron Ehasz: Mystery of Aaravos is the next arc in the saga. The first three (seasons) are like Star Wars: A New Hope, this grouping is more like Empire Strikes Back. There’s a time skip, characters are more evolved and changed. It’s still the same universe, and same ultimate threat, and big picture story, but this is the next stage in that.
Justin Richmond: The first three seasons had an arc to it, and this is a new beginning. We wanted to keep the book theme going so Earth continues as a sub-title. Thematically, I think there’s a lot of stuff that’s different about the next four seasons than what we did in the first three.
Ehasz: To me that’s what makes it a saga, not just a sequence of seasons that tell this long story. There are sub arcs within all of time within the massive arc of Xadia and the story has a kind of scale when you tell it that way, that I think you can only get when you allow yourself to evolve it the way we’re trying to evolve it.
AIPT: Could you talk about the time skip at all and the reason to move ahead?
Richmond: Technically it’s not a time jump because we showed you in the credits of season three [grins] Two years passed in the credits. We always knew there would be a time skip but we also knew it would take time to run the show and make the new episodes.
It would’ve felt weird to say, “The Next Day…” but I do think it’s nice to mirror the fact that time has passed. The characters are getting older, the audience is getting older, they’re ready for new stuff, it might be a little darker and more mature. It made sense to do it this way.
Ehasz: I’ll say one other thing about the time skip. I was really affected by watching the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, where spoiler alert, there’s a point between two episodes where a year goes by. I was so shaken by it and so thrown by it, but then the feelings and chances to re-understand everything. I ended up really enjoying that scale of that story moment. That influenced the conversations we were having.
Richmond: I felt that way about Avengers: Endgame, I didn’t know anything about that going in, like holy s***, there’s a five-year time gap in the middle of the movie. Wow, that was really impactful.
AIPT: What will we learn about Aaravos?
Richmond: I hope people come along on the journey and see where this is heading. You’re going to learn a bunch of stuff, this season but there are new things hinted at or in some cases, explicitly stated in some cases as well.
Ehasz: What questions do you have?
AIPT: I want to know more about his origin, his motives and his endgame. What’s the thing that’s driving him besides the manipulation of Viren? He’s imprisoned it seems, so what put him there?
Richmond: There’s a hard, good answer to that but you will get pieces of it over time.
Ehasz: Now we’ve said in the past, that Aaravos has aspects that are biblical Lucifer, and aspects that are mythical Prometheus. You have a character who literally could be the manipulative deceiver, who is taking everyone down the path of destruction or the self-sacrificing giver who only wants humanity to have a chance. If you’re on that line, I don’t know, that’s complicated.
Richmond: Maybe he just wants his liver pecked out. [Laughs]
Ehasz: He’s been a character we’ve spent a lot of time about and a character who has been critical in influencing the course of history in Xadia and everything that’s happened we will find out that Aaravos is connected to it in complicated ways.
AIPT: In breaking the episodes, how much of Aaravos has been fleshed out in just the last two years as compared to when he was introduced in season two?
Richmond: We knew a lot five years ago. We knew where he was headed, we knew what he was trying to do. We knew a lot. One of the nice things knowing we have four more seasons; we knew how much we could tell and we knew how much more we could tell about it roughly when we started it. The writing team was able to dig in and start making specific episodes and hint at things.
Ehasz: I think that’s part of the pleasure and details and information as we go, but one of the pleasures of a well told epic, if you know some things really a far ahead of time, you can give them to the audience without them knowing they’ve been given them.
There are little secrets about Aaravos that everyone who has seen The Dragon Prince already knows but they don’t understand them. It’ll be a pleasure to hear them say, OH MY GOD THAT’S WHAT WE NEED! We find out that Claudia’s spell to revive her father is only temporary. Essentially, we have 30 days of Viren.
Richmond: Like 54 dates of Viren? [Laughs] Who’s to say he’ll make it through all 30 days?
Ehasz: She’s brought him back but the magic she’s used is not deep and permanent enough to keep him here. Part of what connects her and Viren to Aaravos, is the need to find the solution.
AIPT: You’ve taken one of the beloved characters in Rayla and put her on her own. She’s missing. What was the thinking behind that plot choice?
Ehasz: We often follow our characters, no matter what they’re telling us. There are times when we listen to their needs and motive above and beyond whatever our plans were for the story. One example for the first couple of seasons was when Rayla, Ezran and Callum were traveling the world and about to enter Xadia and that’s when Ezran finds out that his father died, and he becomes the king.
We sat there and thought, he’s not going to Xadia. Even though he loves Zym, and he wants to take the rest of this journey, he’s going to feel the weight of responsibility and go home. So, we had to reconfigure and follow Ezran and figure out where his story was leading us.
The same thing happened at the end of season three with Rayla. We understood, given what she knows of her parents, what happened to them, and what was certainly not the case, that no one found Viren’s body, that Rayla would become obsessed and stop at nothing to find him. So how is that going to impact Callum?
It’s going to impact him massively and emotionally. You can only imagine that his heart is broken, he must rebuild some version of his stuff. So, he’s focused on magic and that part of him. There are costs to that, to obsessively changing your drive. Part of what’s interesting to me in Rayla’s disappearance is how it’s affected Callum and his character arc. Part of it is what has happened to her.
AIPT: Both characters put themselves out there, and left themselves completely vulnerable, so pulling them apart is–
Richmond: A-Hah! Is what I say to that!
AIPT: But it also makes it easier to not have to start off the season addressing the budding relationship between these two characters and have that be the centerpiece of the story, and both characters can step back.
Richmond: It’s more about going into the fourth season, breaking stories and thinking about the stories that would be comics, it became obvious that this is how it would go. Of course, as (head writer) Devon (Giehl) said, “it’s the saddest show for children, so we have to break people’s hearts” [laughs].
AIPT: This season aims to focus on other civilizations like the Sun Elves and introducing the Earthblood Elves with Terry.
Richmond: The Sunfire Elves were always going to be a big part of it because they had the most numerous factions. There are a lot of them, they’re hugely important because they have power, and they’re super cool. Also, the relationship between Janai and General Amaya are an interesting pair.
There are a ton of stuff about Sunfire Elves that you’ll find out, lots of new characters introduced and interesting stories. It’s also where the rubber hits the road in terms of humans and elves interacting with each other. That’s where those two civilizations are coming together for real.
As for the Earthblood Elves, I don’t want to say too much about them because you’ll meet them for the first time. They’re fun and a very different type of elf. Especially in their designs, I think they’re neat. There’s a bunch of different personalities and there’s a lot of them. You’ll meet Terry of course, but more Earthbloods that will show up.
AIPT: Is there a hierarchy amongst the different types of elves? Aaravos is a Startouch Elf for example.
Ehasz: There’s not a hierarchy. We will find that Startouch Elves are the first elves. They’re rarer, they’re nearly immortal, while the other five kinds of elves are more of this world in some way.
Richmond: Yes, there are some additional limitations that the Startouch Elves have that other elves don’t have but there are also some advantages too. Is there a reason why the design of Aaravos is…Super-hot? [laughs]
AIPT: Yes, he is hot and comes off as being very kind, but Erik Dellums is voicing him–
Ehasz: What do you mean “but”? Erik is very kind. [Both laugh]
AIPT: It’s more of the design, the look and performance of Aaravos is an interesting choice. He’s not a character that’s grotesque looking or is a moustache-twirling villain?
Ehasz: He’s complicated, he’s mysterious, captivating–
Richmond: Some of it is that Erik brings a certain amount of gravitas. Erik gives a lot of nuances to the lines and so some of it is that, and some of the design is beautiful that C.T. (Concept Designer Caleb Thomas) and others worked on. He’s a very different kind of character and very different elf than you see on the show. So, it’s a combination of all those things, AND he’s super-hot.
Ehasz: You’re supposed to not know how you feel about him. You’re attracted but scared. He’s confusing in a great way, he’s very compelling.
AIPT: As we see characters get older, like King Ezran, I’m wondering about Zym and at some point, he will learn how to talk. Have you thought about who is going to voice him? Or do you have a voice in mind when you’re writing out his arc?
Ehasz: There’s a joke we say that Zubeia would say, ‘Oh in my family they would speak very young, like in 50 years!’ [laughs] Yes, eventually Zym will speak but we have not talked about when or who would play him. Why, are you auditioning?
AIPT: Perhaps… I probably have too nasal of a voice. A dynamic that interests me is King Ezran and his Crown Guard of Soren and Corvus.
Richmond: Corvus and Soren together are some of my favorite pairings in terms of the voice actors. Jesse (Inocalla) and Omari (Newton) are both awesome. Omari is about as dry as Corvus is in real life, Jesse is a nut. Between the two of them you get some great runs, many of which are unusable because everyone is laughing.
Soren has always been the Crown Guard, but shifted his views on what that means, what does it mean to be a crown guard and what does it mean to protect Ezran? What does that mean for his life and what does it mean about Claudia and her goals in comparison to him? I think there’s some interesting stuff there. Corvus is a nice foil to offset some of that stuff for him. It is fun to see those three together.
AIPT: Soren made a big leap in season three to kill what he thought was his father. That’s a big leap to make to see your father and step into action, that you must kill him for the good of the humans. Now ultimately, it was a visual trick, it was magic–
Richmond: But he didn’t know that right?
AIPT: Right, which to me is fascinating.
Richmond: There’s a lot of unresolved stuff there. Maybe we’ll see in season four…
AIPT: How important is that for you and the writers to explore these deeper aspects of a character?
Richmond: Soren is a very important character on the show, and he gets time to be both hilarious and serious and grow up a little bit. He is changed for sure. He’s got a lot of different feelings.
Ehasz: You’ve touched on something that is very interesting to me. Everyone assumes Viren is dead. BECAUSE HE IS DEAD! HE WAS DEAD! None of them know he’s returned. Soren has made peace with that or come to understand that was what was necessary. When or if he learns different, you can only imagine how that’s going to affect him. But you don’t have to imagine that, just watch season four of The Dragon Prince and find out!
Richmond: Tune in!
Stream season four of The Dragon Prince, The Dragon Prince: Mystery of Aarovos, on Netflix.
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