The following recap contains spoilers for Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Episode 9, “Axis Mundi” (written by Matt Fraction and directed by Andy Goddard) & Episode 10 “Beyond Logic” (written by Chris Black and directed by Andy Goddard). Some elements of the Monsterverse series of movies are also discussed in this recap.
As the Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse prepares to spend a lot of time in the mysterious and unexplored Hollow Earth in the upcoming Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire movie hitting theaters on March 29, it’s no surprise that the end of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters spent huge chunks of time there to conclude its first season.
What was surprising, however, is how central this intra-planetary home to all of the Titans would be to uncovering some of the biggest mysteries of Monarch as well as some of the head-scratching questions that have percolated since the first episode of the season.
But what might be the biggest surprise has nothing to do with Titans or Hollow Earth or Kaiju lore, but rather that a show entitled Monarch: Legacy of Monsters ends with all of its main characters no longer affiliated with the titular monster-hunting organization. Is this a clue from Apple TV that this is a one-and-done show and that the remaining threads will be pulled in upcoming movies?
Considering the timeline shenanigans of Episodes 9 and 10 and the multi-layered stories interwoven in the films, it’s highly likely that the last two episodes of this inaugural season created just as many questions as it answered.
1962: Hollow Earth
Three years after Keiko Miura fell into a rift created by Titans in Kazakhstan (at the end of Episode 1), Lee Shaw and Bill Randa are both still searching for answers about the monsters’ origins and where they might be hiding. Following the theory Randa introduced in Episode 8, the two have convinced their superiors (and according to the attending audience, the entire U.S. military and governmental institution) to initiate Operation Hourglass.
Operation Hourglass is sold as being as important as the mission to go to the Moon, but without the danger or unknown of space travel. The two men believe that answers relevant to Titan life and perhaps human history exist in Hollow Earth, and Shaw is going to lead a group of scientists to find them.
To the surprise of no one who has watched a science-fiction show or ever consumed any kind of science-fiction content, the mission goes horribly wrong and the rift that brought them to Hollow Earth closes, leaving Shaw and his crew abandoned for several days and helpless when the Ion Dragon Titan attacks.
The appearance of another Titan creates a new rift that manages to kill everyone else but sends Shaw back to Earth. After awakening in a Monarch facility, understandably disoriented and confused, Shaw is desperate to find Randa so he can share the Hollow Earth confirmation. But all he finds is a television playing a space shuttle launch and a grown-up Hiroshi Randa who tells him he reappeared not a couple of days after the launch, but rather a couple of decades later.
1982: Monarch Holding Facility
I can’t imagine how I would react if I woke up one day and it was 20 years later than I thought it was, my best friend was dead, and all the work I had done in the past was abandoned, but I imagine it would be a lot like Lee Shaw reacts.
He holds a nurse hostage (who ends up being Emiko, the Japanese wife of Hiroshi who would eventually become Kentaro’s mother). He has immense trouble accepting that Bill Randa died hunting for Hollow Earth (during the 1973 events of Kong: Skull Island). And he has so much trouble accepting his new reality that Monarch places him under surveillance and house arrest at the facility we saw at the beginning of the season. Shaw, having lost everything—including his purpose that Keiko and Bill fought for him to believe in—wastes away until the events of G-Day in 2014 and when Cate and Kentaro show up one year later.
More time explanations are coming to justify why Shaw came back so many years later than it felt for him, but I at least want to give the show credit for finding some way to explain what was one of the biggest criticisms or reality-stretches of the first season. Specifically, how would a 90-year-old Lee Shaw a) look about 20 years younger, and b) be able to globe-trot and battle monsters with the same exuberance and energy as his partners who were one-third his age?
I’m still not convinced that a 70-year-old Shaw could survive all the adventures they encountered this season, but losing 20 years of his life at least makes it more plausible. (Kurt Russell is 72 in real life, so props to him for any and all stunt/action work he did this season.)
2015: Tokyo and Hollow Earth
After Lee, Cate, and May fell through the reopened rift in Kazakhstan at the end of Episode 7, something caused Cate to be separated from the group. In Cate’s desperation to figure out where she is and how to get home, she is first chased by some kind of Titan boars and then saved by a mysterious figure who turns out to be none other than Dr. Keiko Miura, who fell down that same rift (and was presumed dead) 56 years earlier. She doesn’t appear to have aged at all.
If Lee Shaw was floored by the fact that his few days in the realm between Earth and Hollow Earth caused him to skip 20 years into the future, just wait until Keiko discovers that while she thinks she has been down there for 57 days, it has been more than five decades. This new reality becomes more of a “show, don’t tell” situation, however, because when Keiko and Miura meet up with Lee and May, Lee appears looking more than 50 years older and tells Keiko the truth that the life she knew up top doesn’t exist anymore.
Lee, understanding that the longer they all stay down there, the faster time will pass by exponentially on Earth (something about the gravitational direction and its pull being slower away from Earth’s surfaces, so, sure…), knows they need a way out and they need it now. He and Keiko devise a plan to find the Operation Hourglass ship, reactivate it, and use a Titan-created rift to ride back to Earth.
After activating the Titan beacon, the Ion Dragon emerges and begins to attack, only to be stopped by Godzilla (who increasingly looks like one of the only redeeming characters in the Monsterverse). As the ship is pulled up through the rift, Lee attempts a quick repair outside. He can’t make it back inside in time before they are pulled back to Earth and sacrifices his return home so the rest of the group can make it back.
2017: Skull Island
When Keiko, Cate, and May re-emerge back on terrestrial Earth, even their few hours in Hollow Earth have caused a time-jump of two years. Kentaro, Hiroshi, and Tim had a falling out with Monarch and have been searching for them all this time, receiving Keiko’s signal that gave them hope they could still be alive.
Tracking down the signal that Shaw and Keiko pumped up through Hollow Earth, Tim, Kentaro, and Hiroshi partner with their new employers—APEX—to find a place where a Titan rift was likely, and they found that place at King Kong’s home of Skull Island.
As the series ends, we glimpse King Kong for the first time all season roaming the island, which does fit into the timeline since the Monsterverse doesn’t have him battling Godzilla until 2024. Our characters all finally reunite, which created an unexpected emotional reunion between Keiko, who everyone assumed was dead since 1959, and her son Hiroshi, who had not seen his mother in 58 years.
It was a pleasant about-face from all the action of the back half of the season, as it returned to some of the trauma and emotional depth from earlier in the season that we learned the characters were carrying after events in the early 1950s and the events of G-Day in 2014.
But their reappearance, no matter how emotionally resonant, does present a larger question. Why did the show have them appear on Skull Island in 2017? G-Day was three years earlier, and the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters will not happen until 2019. Godzilla vs. Kong is not until 2024 in the timeline of the Monsterverse, so what is important (and also unknown) about this time and place that they would emerge here? And where were these suddenly important figures in the Titan stories during those two films?
My primary theory at this point is that this show might pivot to something like APEX: Legacy of Monsters, showing how the morally corrupt technology company came to harness the neural powers of Titans. The story of Monarch and its origins has been told, and its fate was decided in the opening scenes of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. But as we know from the events of that film, monsters, and monster-hunting, are big business for those who can profit from it.
Is it possible a potential Season 2 of this show spins off to focus on APEX and King Kong instead of Monarch and Godzilla? It seems possible, but for now, all of our questions will have to wait to be answered on the big screen until confirmation of anything continuing from Apple TV.