By Gabriela Taveras
Dragon Prince Season Four is coming. For some people, 2019 feels like a lifetime ago. The pre-COVID 19 world we were accustomed to back then is significantly different from the post-pandemic recovery context we are currently immersed in. 2019 was also the last year we had a new Dragon Prince season to look forward to – until now. After what felt like an endless three year hiatus, the fan-favorite animated series is back for a fourth season, and The Beat was thrilled to sit down with show creators Aaron Ehasz (also known for his writing credentials on Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Justin Richmond (co-director of Uncharted 3). During our conversation, we went over the trials and tribulations of character development, what kinds of magic to look forward to and where we will find the cast after the three year timeskip between seasons.
Gabriela Taveras: Thank you so much Aaron and Justin for being here. You have legions of fans across the world due to the legendary creative projects that you have both undertaken. What themes are you excited to explore in season four that you were unable to explore in the show’s first three seasons?
Justin Richmond: There’s a time skip, so we have a little bit of room to play in terms of what’s happening in the world, and what we’re going to tell people about. What does it mean for Ezran to be a young king and for his brother to be his closest adviser? What does that mean in a world where we’ve just ended kind of a big fight? There was this huge fight at the end of season three where the good guys won! What does that mean? There’s still bad feelings on both sides, because you can’t just win one fight and then have generational conflict end. Getting into those themes of deeper generational conflict, how do you get over them? And how is it even possible, working on both sides of the border in terms of Xadia? What does that mean to all the different kinds of peoples that are in the world? I think it’s really interesting.
Aaron Ehasz: Yeah, I liked the way you put that. In the first three seasons the idea is, to some degree, that these elves and humans from different sides of a conflict that involves dragons, and the murder of a great dragon king, the theft of his egg – what if together, they traveled across the world and return this egg to its mother, and maybe they could change the world? That’s the whole story, and they do it and it has a huge positive impact, it’s something that will ripple and resonate – but it’s not that simple. A big part of season four is, even though they’re kind of embarking into this world with a new chance of hope and reinvention, these ancient conflicts are really baked in and repeated and it’s layered. It’s more than just returning an egg to its mom – that’s great, but it’s still complicated. We’re gonna see our characters mature and understand the deeper conflicts and try to figure out how to change things and how to still be heroes.
Taveras: You said it yourselves: we see Viren’s divisive war come to a head in season three, and the good guys win. I’d like to know, what can we expect this newly divided, post-conflict Xadia to look like, considering that the wounds from the previous conflict have not fully healed?
Ehasz: If it’s a realistic world, there are going to be some people who will think: “oh, I’m so thankful that something’s changing and we’re finding a way to have peace, live with each other and move forward,” and some people who will think: “no. Actually, my dad died in a battle when humans tried to come across the border and he never came home when I was a kid. Screw that, we’re not just friends all of a sudden for nothing.” It’s gonna be a mix, and there’s gonna be people struggling with how to move forward. In the mystery of Aravos, we’ll also see this ancient twisted influence start to return and exert influence again.
Taveras: There were so many things that reached a turning point towards the end of season three. That season’s climax saw Claudia, a beloved character, make a disturbing decision. What was the most difficult part for you of writing this part of her character arc? What emotions will we see her go through in the aftermath of the choices she made in season three?
Ehasz: Raquel [Claudia’s voice actress] is a genius. She’s a brilliant performer who brings so much to Claudia, like, the texture and range of this character, and the ability to go from funny and quirky to so deeply emotional and driven to do what she needs to do, and understanding the difference between good and evil, but also being so compelled to do what she needs to do for those she loves.
Claudia is a fantastic character, and she’s struggling with good and evil and figuring out what’s the right thing to do, who she is and how far she’s willing to go to protect and care for the people she loves. What we’ve learned in the time skip is she’s gone pretty far already. We saw what she did with Viren when he was injured, and she did something pretty horrible: she used dark magic to help him, but we also have no idea of what she’s been through in the last three years, so she’s been tested emotionally, she’s been through a ton. She’s also met this amazing person, Terry, who’s her boyfriend, and there’s an interesting, really wonderful dynamic between the two of them that we enjoyed exploring. He brings out so much in her that makes her character richer. She’s also become much more powerful – her actual abilities are much stronger.
Taveras: They were already impressive in the first three seasons! You did mention we are going to see a lot of things in this time skip, including Ezran being a young king, and we can also assume that we will see Zim in some sort of royal capacity, given the humongous legacy that he was left with. A big theme throughout Dragon Prince is reconnecting with our loved ones. Where will we see this young dragon in the context of this legacy that he has to fulfill and his friendship with Ezran?
Ehasz: So many of our voice cast are such incredible performers. The challenges of writing these arcs have been such a privilege, because we know that when they get the scripts, the way they respond, the questions they ask, the way they elevate things or even change them as we’re moving – it’s a dynamic process, and watching these characters go through this next arc is going to be incredible. I think our audience is going to really be on board!
Richmond: Zim is not an orphan yet, and we’ll see him and Zubeia reconnect. As the season goes on, we will see how they both have similar struggles with how both their fathers are gone, they’re both royals. Ezran’s struggles are much more immediate, because he’s running a kingdom, as opposed to Zim, who still has a protective figure over them, but as time goes on, you’ll see them bonding closer.
Taveras: I’m really happy that we’re now on the topic of dragons. We’ve seen four dragons so far in the show – what dragons can we expect to see this season?
Ehasz: We’ll see Rex Igneous and we’ll learn more about his history. There’s interesting places where he has intersected with Aravos and Zubeia, and we’ll get into some of the dragon politics.
Richmond: He’s in the trailer, he’s in the very last shot. There are dragons you will see that we have not talked about yet, which will be a surprise for people, such as totally new types of dragons to dig into.
Taveras: My final question is a two parter: Xadia is built on different systems of magic. What forms of magic are you excited to delve into this season? What can we expect from Aravos this season given his ominous but clearly important role in expanding worldbuilding?
Ehasz: We’re gonna see some earth magic, which I’m excited about, and we’re gonna see more dark magic. I don’t want to spoil anything, and Aravos plays into that, and we’ll see some fire magic as well.
Richmond; Callum has a bunch of new stuff that he’s gonna do, so we’re gonna see a lot of different primal types, and that’s a theme that ran between seasons one through three: the struggle that humans have with the kinds of magic they can do, and I think that’s interesting on an intellectual level. Callum has advanced his skills and so has Claudia so that’ll be really cool.
Ehasz: This is sort of silly, but we’re gonna see Soren sort of pretend to do some magic – it’s a delightful moment, and a lot of it was improvised by Jesse.
Richmond As for Aaravos: the one word answer is shenanigans.
Taveras: He did send an interdimensional caterpillar so anything is possible. A lot of us were looking at each other, questioning ourselves and saying, “we’re not supposed to be sympathizing with this character, are we?”
Ehasz: Aravos is terrific, and he is the second character I’ve had the honor to create with Eric [Aaaravos’ voice actor] in mind after Koh the Face Stealer in Avatar [The Last Airbender]. Eric is going to be bringing this character to life, and the next few seasons are going to be a journey into Aaravos’ mind and heart and hopefully, the audience can resist being seduced by this incredible, powerful, beautiful man.
Richmond: Hopefully you’ll start to realize, as time goes, more and more about his motivations.
Taveras: There’s dimensions and some people do morally questionable things to attain certain ends, and there’s really no one or two ways of doing things. Also, I have a final bonus question: what type of magic would you like to wield from your world?
Richmond: I really like the sky stuff that we get into.
Ehasz: It changes day to day for some reason. Right now, I’m thinking of sun magic as some mages are capable of healing and using light to bring warmth to people.
Richmond: I thought you were going to say that because you’re cold.
Ehasz: I’m cold! What about you, what kind of magic would you wield?
Taveras: I think fire or sky, those are the two that I gravitate towards. I’ve always had an affinity for flying, and there’s something so liberating about those elements, you have a direct connection to the sky and the air, and then you have a direct connection to the sun, as well as other forms of energy. Thanks for your time, and best of luck with today’s panel!