After 10 episodes of Vagrant Queen, the concepts of family, trust and redemption have been fairly well implanted into the DNA of this show – as has fun. In part 2 of the season finale, “All Old Things Must Pass,” we are delightfully reminded that family, power and duty often make very uncomfortable bed-fellows. Treachery, it would seem, can come from any number of places, including the family you thought you’d never see again – then probably wish you hadn’t.
And with that short little teaser, it’s time to talk about the final episode of season 1 of Vagrant Queen – a fun ride that showed some bite. But before we get into it, you need to be forewarned that there are SPOILERS ahead. So, if you haven’t seen it, you should know that we’ll talk some talk that will give things away. SPOILERS ahead, I tell you. And with that, let’s roll into some thoughts on episode 110 of Vagrant Queen.
For me, it’s important to note that I felt Vagrant Queen got stronger as the season progressed, from uneasy early steps that sometimes left me a bit confused as to just what the vibe of the show was supposed to be, to a much better rhythm through the middle part of the season, then ending with a bang on three wonderfully entertaining episodes to close it out. Along the way, the vibe of the show really found a unique groove and Vagrant Queen came to fill its own niche in the sci-fi/adventure genre.
The work of creator and show runner Jem Garrard really blossomed as the show found its footing. Her deft touch helped bring definition to this show’s overall aesthetic as it went along. The work of Paul du Toit, Adriyan Rae, Alex McGregor and Tim Rozon was splendid and by the mid-point of the season, as I was finding a real sweet spot with viewing the show, I was also finding myself deeply interested in each character and their motivations.
In short, I was invested in them as people and in the story each was telling and a part of. You drew me in and made me care, which is a sure sign that your considerable talents hit the mark – and continued to do so to the finish. There’s a lot of like about Vagrant Queen and I think it’s look at relationships was always so interesting and informative, particularly for this time we are living in. There was sci-fi in a very “today” kind of way that I think was pretty important overall. Some nice messaging throughout season 1.
Look, Vagrant Queen is not going to be for every sci-fi taste. It’s much lighter than The Expanse and even Killjoys, tending to be a little closer to The Orville in flavor and tone. But I think it’s got more than enough differences to make the comparison less than definitive. I mentioned earlier that it was a show with some nice bite and I liked that tremendously. I like a diverse sci-fi/fantasy adventure entertainment landscape, so it should come as no surprise that although it took me a few episodes to kind of wrap my head around what Vagrant Queen was, once I got there I enjoyed the hell out of it. Hope you did, too.
So, to Jem, the cast and crew, I think you put up something that’s unique and fun, but with some viable messages, elements of darkness and the occasional gratuitous blood splatter that is a winner in my book (Stop action…go!). Well done, all. So, let’s talk about it.
Okay, right out of the box, there were two things that jumped out at me in this episode. At about the 16:05 mark of this episode, Elida and her mom, who have been reunited (I told you those eyes and forehead looked very familiar in the last episode), begin to talk about the future. It’s here that Elida and her mom’s ideas about the Sterzaad go off in wildly divergent paths.
And it’s here I got the sense that given the chance, mom was going to go rogue. If you watched the episode, you no doubt noticed the furtive glances the queen exchanged with some of her followers whenever the subject of the Sterzaad was broached. Mom and Elida view the power of that gem far differently and in the end, that view proved divisive. It’s interesting to kind of realize that mom continued to view the kingdom through a prism that her daughter, gone all these years and now grown up into her own woman, simply didn’t possess. Elida was okay with the monarchy being a thing of the past, while mom was somewhat hopelessly trapped in that past – good or bad. Interesting to see Xevelyn’s wheels turning with each mention of the Sterzaad.
Secondly, I really didn’t expect Elida to blow a hole in Lazaro’s brain big enough to put a fist through. Honestly, I thought they would engage, duke it out, and Lazaro would scurry away and live to fight another day. Nope! Their throw-down was a fun and action-packed battle that left both of them bloodied and somewhat bowed. But I didn’t see the Lazaro death coming, to be honest. Thought he’d escape and be the nemesis for season 2. As we saw, that won’t happen.
Jem Garrard told me that the fight scene was filmed in a day, which I find kind of amazing. I feel very strongly that Paul du Toit and Adriyan Rae gave us a joyfully realistic fight scene that oozed intensity. I also liked that both gave as well as they got. Just gritty and determined stuff that ended with Lazaro’s head exploding like a watermelon in a Gallagher routine. We didn’t get to see a whole lot of Lazaro and Elida together on screen, but what we did see what fabulous, to my eyes.
So much of what Vagrant Queen is about revolves around family and trust. As we started the season, those were two things that Elida didn’t really possess. She was the ‘vagrant queen,’ roaming the galaxy as a scavenger, on her own for most of that time. When she did form a partnership of some kind, and opened the doors of trust a nudge, it fell to pieces with Isaac. And yet we saw it rebuild throughout season 1, even with tough moments when her trust was betrayed. She tried to walk away from it again, but Isaac and Amae had, by then, become something more than traveling companions. People need family, even if you have to create it as you go.
And that was, for my money, one of the great lessons of Vagrant Queen – sometimes family is where you find or create it. Blood may be thicker than water, but it often doesn’t keep the lust for power and desire to rule from making people do heinous acts. In some ways, Lazaro and Elida were different sides of the same coin early on – both had their families ripped from them and found the coldness of emotional isolation a safe harbor.
Interesting to ponder, isn’t it? Elida and Lazaro, sworn enemies, were traveling in the same isolated lane for quite a while. Each feeding off the other to some extent. And whereas Elida found purpose and warmth in a newfound family, Lazaro found those things in the power the Sterzaad gave him and the ability to utterly control everything – just as he’d always wanted. Who’s to say which was more satisfying?
So, the city is in chaos and Elida heads to the old throne room alone (the rest try to find the laboratory) to call out Lazaro once and for all. The working theory is that because she’s of royal blood, the Sterzaad won’t impact her the way it does all these other folks. Lazaro is getting ready to head out into the galaxy on his Lazaro Goodwill Tour, spreading the gospel according to Lazaro and crushing those who oppose him. He’s already done away with the leaders of many of the worlds in the galaxy, so now it’s about creating the realm he has always envisioned. Of course it’s twisted at this point, but in his mind it all makes such sense.
There’s a lot of funny in Vagrant Queen, and some of it isn’t the outright, in-your-face kind of humor. Elida’s time in the throne room is one of those subtle moments as she is filled with intensity to get it on with the bad guy, but we see that he’s not biting. Elida is left there in that empty room for a long time and occupies herself with any number of “I’m bored” activities. It’s subtle, it’s funny and it’s kind of what Vagrant Queen does so well.
I have also enjoyed the many aside comments that the guards/troops have made throughout the show. We get some more of that here and I think it’s a fun element that most shows don’t explore. The guards are just your basic Star Trek “red shirts” who do their duties and die wasteful deaths. On Vagrant Queen, we get a little more fun with the guards. I liked that. And of course, there’s the “Another Galaxy. Not Yours” tag that pops up with every new planet or installation. I find that humorous.
Eventually, Amae shows up and drags Elida down to the science facility where everyone else is, including the scientists. Again, Lazaro is fairly cunning in that he’s controlled all these people and has Amae do his dirty work for him by getting Elida down to the lab, then having Amae stab her with her own knife as she’s under Lazaro’s green-eyed spell. Look, you can hate Lazaro, but don’t think for a moment he is without intellect or intuition. He played it pretty darn well and almost made it work. The man is pretty sharp.
Lazaro does a little monologuing as Elida starts to bleed out, including revealing that ‘mom’ isn’t the paragon of virtue Elida may have thought. Turns out that mom and some other loyalists, unable to get the king to change his policy of violence on another planet years ago, plot and poison the king – with mom doing the dirty work. Yes, we (and Elida) find out that the queen mother had killed her husband to change policy. Again, that blind loyalty to the monarchy and royal rule sometimes means the ruler must die and Xevelyn feels that was the course to save them all from destructive actions.
It’s such a very royal scheme-like thing to do. We also have an interesting moment where we discover that the queen mother saved Lazaro’s life years before when he’d been rounded up with other revolutionaries and was slated to die. I thought that was an interesting little tidbit that gave this episode an intertwined little curve. Wondor if Lazaro had any idea who saved him? And if he did, would it matter?
But hey, I digress. So, we’re in the lab, Elida is bleeding, Lazaro is assessing their past and offering praises to himself for the future, then does something interesting, at least to me. He doesn’t finish Elida off. I get the feeling that he now feels he’s beyond such mundane tasks as killing her face-to-face. Lazaro has bigger, galaxy-wide fish to fry and the nuisance that Elida was at one point is no longer applicable. Maybe he thinks mom’s confession from the past is truly the final, crushing emotional blow. It’s interesting, but given his mindset and goals, perhaps understandable.
Oh, and remember that loyalist fleet hovering above Arriopa? You know, they were going to bomb things back to the stone age? Well, Lazaro uses his Sterzaad powers to have the fleet turn on each other and blow each other to pieces. Brilliant! Through the Steerzad’s power, and his hostage scientist’s skills, a fun new weapon has been developed, as well as a ship that could whisk him around the galaxy, or to other places, at the snap of a finger. I mean, at this point Lazaro is on quite a role, right?
Of course our heroine didn’t die. She’s Elida, the Vagrant Queen. Through her own resilience and some help from our scientist friend, Elida heals enough to set off after Lazaro and eventually finds him outdoors. And that’s where the fists, knives and blasters rage, in and around the pillars of a small foyer. You knew this showdown had to happen, didn’t you? It’s a good moment, a moment nine episodes in the making and it didn’t disappoint.
In the end, Elida is bloodied and unbowed. She finds her blaster on the ground, turns and parts a begging Lazaro’s skull in a blood-splattered second. Again, I didn’t see that coming as I thought Lazaro would be around for next season to torment and confound our heroes. I”m sad to see this character go as I thought Lazaro was a fun villain, one inclined to deliver some dry humor before delivering some death and destruction. I shall miss Paul du Toit and Lazaro. You were a good baddie, Lazaro. And while your initial goal was ultimately warped by your own actions and sleights at the hands of the Admiralty, the initial dream of power to the people was a worthy one. I salute you. #TeamLazaro
And with Lazaro’s demise, the fate of the Sterzaad is once again in Elida’s hands. We get these interesting looks from her mother when they argue about the Sterzaad’s future. You can just tell mom is not on-board, though we find out she’s REALLY not on-board at episode’s end. The plan is to use Lazaro’s newly constructed, Sterzaad-powered ship to send Isaac home to Earth. It’s risky, but he’s willing to chance it.
Sometimes, in a family, if you love someone you have to set them free. Amae and Elida are prepared to do that for Isaac, in what is a wonderfully selfless act. Unfortunately, Isaac doesn’t make it. The Queen mother and her loyalist crony double-cross Elida, Amae and Isaac, taking the ship, Sterzaad and making an escape to who knows where? Earth, it would seem. And with Amae still on-board. That should be interesting to sort out down the road.
I haven’t been a fan of the queen mother from the outset. She seemed to be cold, too political, relentlessly focused and then we learn she killed her own husband to change royal policy. Yes, she saved Lazaro, which could be construed as another black mark against her, but it became very clear throughout this episode that the Sterzaad represented only one thing – restoring the monarchy and solidifying its power for the long-term future. I didn’t see her as the antagonist for season 2, but it’s beginning to look like it might be mom vs. daughter next season. And I feel for Isaac. “This close” to finally getting home and that cold-hearted woman just snatched it out of his hands. Heartbreaking stuff.
Having said that, I thought Bonnie Henna did a splendid job of creating a character you weren’t sure you should like. Xevelyn definitely created mixed emotions for me as she struggled to raise a young queen, then ultimately betrayed that daughter for her own, imperial goals. Henna dialed up a very fine turn as the queen mother.
As an aside, I enjoyed a little Indiana Jones moment with the big sword twirl before the same kind of ignominious demise, as well as seeing Chaz and the Xija Station brigade arrive to quell the uprising and chaos of the city. I like the Chaz character and would like to see more of him in season 2. With his sister snatched away, I kind of think that may be likely. Steven John Ward. And isn’t is interesting that the character we were introduced to in Ep. 2 showed up again to save Chaz at one point. She’s an interesting character that shows up at interesting times with an irreverent attitude – but she did get the blaster she’s been coveting for a while.
So where does all this leave us? Well, mom is gone off to earth is would appear, with Amae as a surprised stowaway on the ship she stole from Elida and Isaac. So, it would seem that, just perhaps, season two will see our heroes fighting to get to Earth, where one has to wonder just how the queen mother may conducting herself with the Sterzaad in her possession. Will she attempt to recreate the kingdom she lost on the shores of this new planet? I’m optimistic we’ll get some answers there with a second season.
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