The following recap contains spoilers for Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 5, “The Way Out” (written by Amanda Overton and directed by Mairzee Almas) & Episode 6 “Terrifying Miracles” (written by Karl Greenfeld and directed by Mairzee Almas). Some elements of the Monsterverse series of movies are also discussed in this recap.
When any television show has multiple timelines being showcased simultaneously—think shows like Lost, Dark, This Is Us, Westworld, and many others—it’s always a difficult experience when one of the storylines is much more interesting, entertaining, and engaging than the other. If you’re like me, you find yourself wanting much more of the story you are invested in, and much less of its partner.
Such is the case with the last three episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. When I wrote about Episodes 3 and 4 a couple of weeks ago, I noted the break with tradition in Episode 4. Each of the first three in the series spent equal amounts of time in the 2015 timeline in Japan and Alaska and the 1950s timeline which travels to various parts of the world as the early version of Monarch tracks monster signals and sightings. Episode 4, however, does not spend any time in the 1950s, which was a real shame since that is far and away the more compelling timeline of the show.
I was almost distraught when, moving on to the next two episodes, I discovered that Episode 5 also spends no time in 1950s. Instead, the 2015 timeline is featured, though we also spend some of the episode flashing back to events of 2014 just before G-Day (the day Godzilla attacked) in San Francisco. More on why they might have chosen to do that later, but suffice it to say I was physically and verbally relieved when young Lee Shaw, Bill Randa, and Dr. Keiko Miura finally reappeared for half of Episode 6.
Maybe Wyatt Russell needed a break to do some filming on Thunderbolts, maybe Anders Holm had more Muppets Mayhem to voice, but this show is better when it is balanced between the two timelines, focusing on how decisions made 60 years earlier impact the journey the 2015 characters find themselves on.
With four episodes left in a strong, albeit uneven, first season, here’s hoping we spend just as much time looking at the “cause” in the 1950s as we do the “effect” in 2015.
2014–2015: San Francisco, Alaska, and Algeria
Just one day before G-Day (2014) in San Francisco, Cate Randa is going about her normal life, making plans with her girlfriend, Dani, and teaching science at a middle school in the heart of the city. When she arrives at school, however, she discovers a half-empty classroom and wonders why so many are absent. The few remaining students in the class show her footage of the Titan battle that happened in Las Vegas (as shown in 2014’s Godzilla) the night before.
Parents are scared and have kept their kids home, which OF COURSE THEY HAVE. As a parent of two children, let me speak for a moment to the parents who sent their kids to school one day after three gigantic city-destroying monsters battled just 416 miles away. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? I’m firmly against truancy, but I promise you when Godzilla attacks one state over from where I live, my kids are not going to school for quite some time.
If these parents had any brains, the PTSD that Cate suffers from throughout this series could have been avoided. After leaving Dani behind on G-Day to evacuate kids who are STILL coming to school, we know from her previous flashbacks that these kids eventually lose their lives on the Golden Gate Bridge when Godzilla attacks. Cate’s episodes of pure panic and dread ramp up as Cate, May, and Kentaro return to San Francisco so Cate can reunite with her mother, Caroline.
Still looking for answers while Lee Shaw is in Monarch captivity in Alaska, Cate convinces her mother to smuggle Cate, May, and Kentaro into the quarantined area of San Francisco so they can continue their hunt for clues about Hiroshi. Somehow, her mother agrees this is a good idea. What little is left behind in his office informs the group that Hiroshi was tracking signals in Algeria so these young adults with no passports, money, or local knowledge decide that’s the best place for them to head next. Sure.
Conveniently, Agent Duvall has had a change of heart about Monarch in just a matter of days (at most) after tracking them across the globe to capture them and shut them all up. She agrees to break out Shaw, find his young apprentices, and aide in their quest to find Hiroshi and unveil all that Monarch has been up to. They connect back in San Francisco before traveling to Algeria together.
In Algeria, using Hiroshi’s coordinates, they are actually able to track him down and he is using a modern version of a “Titan lure” that Monarch could use to call or summon the monsters. Why he is doing this just one year after the world was ravaged by three of them will never make sense to me, but Cate, Kentaro, Shaw, and May get to him right before the lure does what it was built to do: summon a monster.
From the floor of the Algerian desert, Godzilla emerges. Hiroshi flees, Monarch agents are killed, and somehow the kids and, like, 85-year-old Shaw survive. Godzilla storms off in one direction and it seems Hiroshi has gone in another. Shaw and Duvall want to follow Godzilla and “help” him while Cate, Kentaro, and May go their own way to try and find Hiroshi so they can get answers from him once and for all. If I were Shaw, and this just happened, I think it would be time to sit the three down and say, “Guys, listen. Hiroshi had a secret life in San Francisco and Japan. He worked for Monarch. He was never around and just fled even though he saw all of you. I don’t actually think this guy wants to be found.”
But the trio still go off in search of him, without the knowledge that there are apparently four more episodes left in the season and they may be searching a while longer. At the same time, the audience already has the beginning of Godzilla: King of the Monsters in our memory. In that movie, set in 2019, Monarch is under intense public scrutiny after the events of G-Day. They are under so much heat that everyone involved is called to a Senate judiciary hearing, and the intent of that meeting is to completely expose Monarch and bring them back under military control.
Do the actions of Cate, Kentaro, and May indirectly lead to this exposure and level of government involvement? Perhaps, but it’s awfully hard to keep playing this cat-and-mouse game with them and Hiroshi when we know how the game inevitably ends.
1955: United States and Japan
When we last saw the trio from the early days of Monarch, they had been deceived by the U.S. Army after submitting their findings that Godzilla could be attracted to radioactive material. Promised uranium to lure Godzilla out of hiding, what Shaw, Randa, and Miura found when they reached Bikini Atoll was a trap set for Godzilla with a massive hydrogen bomb attached to the end of it. Miura tried unsuccessfully to stop it, but Godzilla was caught in the explosion anyway and was presumed dead by anyone who witnessed it.
Fast forward to a year later and Shaw, Randa, and Miura are still fighting the good fight, searching for traces of other Titans, while at the same time balancing what they say and don’t say to the military at risk of them deciding to attack other monsters. Over this past year, Shaw apparently decided he would try to fill that monster-sized hole in Miura’s heart after they watched Godzilla (presumably) die and he cozies up to her at a military ball.
Before they can make it up to Shaw’s room, news of a spike in radioactive isotopes in Japan is delivered to Shaw, and Miura (much to Shaw’s dismay) decides it would be more prudent to go check it out than have an intimate night. If I had a nickel for every time a monster sighting got in between me and a girl I liked…
Randa and Kiura travel to Japan and Shaw stays behind to present a budget proposal and potentially get more funding from the U.S. Army. In Japan, Randa and Miura meet Suzuki, a precocious and funny scientist who has learned how to make a “Titan lure” using captured isotopic signatures. How this random scientist knows about one Titan, much less multiple ones, remains unclear, but his discovery seems to work because one Titan’s signature is headed straight for them.
Shaw, realizing he let a woman he loves go off to Japan and potential danger, goes after her and abandons the military meeting he was supposed to attend. The upside (?) to leaving his superiors behind was he made it to Japan in time to see Godzilla reappear and learn he wasn’t dead after all. Miura and Randa seem genuinely thrilled at the prospect of a world-destroying monsters back in their lives again, and Shaw’s heart sinks as he learns that size apparently does matter.
Upon returning to the States, Shaw discovers that his absence at the budget meeting has had serious consequences. General Puckett, Shaw’s superior officer, transferred command of Monarch to the U.S. Navy and a new superior officer who has no affinity for monster culture or those who appreciate it. It sounds like the free trips to Japan and the budget for monster-hunting supplies may be about to dry up, as has Miura’s affection for Shaw as her parting words of “What have you done?!” show they are unlikely to have many more intimate moments together in the future.
Those who have followed the Monsterverse know that Monarch was an organization that was, at some point, forced underground. While it appears there was military backing up until this point in 1955, my prediction is that without the money (but still with the burning desire to learn more about these creatures), Monarch is forced to start working in secret. That secrecy would eventually come under much scrutiny when Titans start attacking the world six decades later and Monarch failed to share what information they had with the world.
Those secrets would start to be uncovered by the other characters we know from 2015, but as has been the case since Episode 1 in this first season, the questions being raised and the secrets being kept in the 1950s are much more interesting than the answers being found 60 years later.