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How ‘Dragons: The Nine Realms’ Stacks Up

We wanted to love Hulu’s ‘Dragons: The Nine Realms.’ We really did. Sadly, it fell short of our expectations.
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Over the holidays, I found the time to watch Dragons: The Nine Realms. And while it was a fun watch, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. That’s saying something since I had lowered my expectations a little bit already. I knew it would have a smaller budget than the other How to Train Your Dragon movies. You could tell from the trailer. But even with that, I just kept feeling like it was missing something. Here’s your spoiler warning if you haven’t watched all six episodes yet.

What Is ‘Dragons: The Nine Realms’?

The Nine Realms takes place over 1,000 years after How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Tom Kullerson and his mom move to a science base on the edge of Kullerson Fissure. It’s named after Tom’s mom because she’s the one that predicted it.

On his first day there, he and the three other teenagers get a tour of the facilities. After the tour, he sneaks onto the hangar, a place forbidden for any non-personnel. An earthquake breaks part of the deck, sending a scientist over the edge. Tom is able to save her but is still reprimanded for being there.

Later, he loses his drone in the fissure and takes off to retrieve it alone. That’s when things get more interesting. Tom rescues and bonds with Thunder, a Night Light. The following episodes introduce other dragons that bond with the teenagers. In the finale, the teens and their dragons battle the bad guy together.

There were many close calls with the parents almost seeing the dragons, but the group manages to keep them a secret. Tom’s mom technically sees him riding Thunder in the finale. However, she thinks she hallucinated it, so the secret is still safe. For now, at least.

The Main Characters: Great or Just Okay?

When it comes to television shows, I need characters to draw me in. And this show did that. Most of the teen characters displayed growth, and there were quite a few lines that made me chuckle.

D'Angelo, Jun, Alexandra, and Tom from Hulu's Dragons: The Nine Realms
Hulu | Peacock | Dreamworks Animation Television

While they’re not yet on the same level as the original Dragon Riders, I can see them getting close later on. Especially with the budding love story between two of the main characters, which I’m hoping is a lot like Astrid and Hiccup.

Tom Kullerson, voiced by Jeremy Shada (one of my favorite actors), is the first to come across dragons in the modern world. He seems to be a lot like Hiccup was in the first movie – the major difference being Tom doesn’t lose a leg. I’m excited to see him bond with his dragon, Thunder.

Jun Wong (Ashley Liao) is one of my favorite characters from the series. She’s got interests we don’t usually see in shows marketed to children, like tarot reading and astrology, and she’s got that same spunk Astrid had that I’ve been missing. She even echoes one of Astrid’s iconic lines in the season finale.

D’Angelo Baker, voiced by Marcus Scribner, is hilarious. We didn’t see anyone like him in the original movies and shows, and I like his personality. You can tell he cares about animals, his friends and family, and his new home. He’s definitely a “soft boi” with a tough façade.

And last but not least, the character I surprisingly related to: Alexandra Gonzales, voiced by the amazing Aimee Garcia. Alexandra is an outsider when we first meet her. But when she meets her dragon and bonds with the group, she really comes out of her shell. She has the most character growth in the show.

The Parents Were a Little Off

The teens are all right, but their parents are a bit of another story. We didn’t see them grow as characters, and I blame that on the season being so short. I didn’t see enough of them to actually like most of them.

Wu and Wei and Jun from Hulu's Dragons: The Nine Realms
Hulu | Peacock | Dreamworks Animation Television

Out of all the parents and scientists at the fissure, Tom’s mom, Olivia, has to be my favorite. And it’s not just because Julia Stiles voices her. She seemed like a fun mom who could be stern at times. That said, she’s not very observant regarding Tom’s antics.

In the first episode, she grounds Tom. But after that, she doesn’t keep tabs on him and just trusts he’s home. Tom is a teenage boy, and teenage boys sneak out sometimes. Did Olivia just not get the memo?

D’Angelo’s mom is a sweet lady, from what I could tell of her minimal screentime. His dad, on the other hand, might be a nice guy, but he’s a drill sergeant for sure. But all in all, you can tell the couple loves each other and loves their son even more.

Jun’s mom, May, is probably my least favorite of the bunch. She doesn’t seem supportive of any of her daughter’s interests and constantly puts them down. She’s even rude to another scientist, making her feel as if problems at the fissure are her fault.

And onto something we didn’t get in the original movies and shows, Alexandra’s moms. They’re so cute, supportive, and have one of my favorite non-Dragon-related scenes in the show. Most of what we see of them is going firefly hunting and being goofy over their daughter having friends.

It Needed More Dragons

D'Angelo and Plowhorn from Hulu's Dragons: The Nine Realms
Hulu | Peacock | Dreamworks Animation Television

One of my favorite things about How to Train Your Dragon was all of the different kinds of dragons. I even downloaded the Rise of Berk iOS game to learn more about them and collect them like a lunatic. So when I only saw five different kinds of dragons, I was disappointed.

If Hulu and Peacock decide to make more seasons of this show, we better get to see more dragons, specifically other Night Lights (descendants of Toothless and the Light Fury). I also want to see more of the dragon’s home since we only explored the same three places, one of which gets destroyed.

The first dragon we ever meet is Tom’s dragon, Thunder, a Night Light. He might have a similar personality to Toothless, but you can tell he was modeled after a dog instead of a cat, like his ancestor.

The next dragon – dragons? What do you use to describe a two-headed dragon? – is Wu and Wei. Jun bonded with the creature in episode three, and you can tell they were meant for each other. Jun had been obsessed with the legend of the Chinese water dragon, and that’s precisely what the Mist Twister is. Wu is the blue head that can breathe ice, while Wei is the yellow side that breathes fire. When they use their powers simultaneously, they can create mist. That comes in handy quite a few times, especially when we meet the last dragon of the group.

Alexandra and Feathers from Hulu's Dragons: The Nine Realms
Hulu | Peacock | Dreamworks Animation Television

Speaking of the last dragon, let’s skip ahead to Feathers, my favorite of the series. Feathers bonded with Alexandra immediately. Feathers can turn invisible and also hide people under her wings. She can also mimic sounds and voices and has a sonic scream that comes in handy during the finale.

Back to the dragon I skipped, though. D’Angelo’s bonded dragon is Plowhorn, a Gembreaker that the group saved from bully dragons. When we meet Plowhorn, she has trouble flying, and D’Angelo manages to treat her despite her distrusting humans. She reminds me of a beetle, but cuter.

The last dragon we meet is the Fault Ripper. And when I say meet, I mean the group briefly battles this creature in the finale. It has horrible eyesight, as it’s a burrower (like a mole), but its hearing is impressive. Fault Ripper was the cause of the “earthquakes” throughout the show, but now that it’s gone, those have stopped.

See related: Ranking ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ Movies and Shows

Why Were There Only Six Episodes?

My biggest gripe is that we only got six episodes. It didn’t allow me and other watchers to get to know the characters as we did with How to Train Your Dragon. For me, a proper television show has about ten to 13 episodes per season.

The pacing wasn’t awful, but I wish it had been drawn out a bit more to get some of those more touching moments. I’m hoping that if there’s a season two, they give us more episodes. Even Dragons: Race to the Edge had 13 episodes each season.

We Get Many References to ‘HTTYD’

Tom and Jun on Thunder from Hulu's Dragons: The Nine Realms
Hulu | Peacock | Dreamworks Animation Television

When I first saw Olivia Kullerson, I noted that she looked a lot like Ruffnut. Then, we find out the Kullersons are descended from Vikings, which made me think they might be the descendants of the twins. I only wish the Viking helmet Tom had was Ruffnut or Tuffnut’s.

Speaking of the helmet, the finale shows us that the helmet is from the original movies. It looks a lot like the one Hiccup got in the first movie. But even more, it has the HTTYD dragon symbol that is plastered all over the merchandise on the back.

Now to my favorite callback, the iconic Astrid and Hiccup punch. After he almost dies in the finale, Jun hits Tom’s shoulder and says, “That’s for scaring me.” I did a little happy dance because I had been waiting for that in every episode.

And for everyone who’s watched it already, the sheep! The sheep just can’t catch a break. They were hunted, tossed around, and had horrible luck in HTTYD. And they still can’t catch a break in The Nine Realms. One was literally half-shaved at the beginning of the show, poor guy.

Overall, the first season of The Nine Realms was enjoyable but not nearly as good as the rest of the franchise. I’ll definitely tune in for future seasons if there are any. Still, I won’t be rewatching the first season until that happens. I’m crossing my fingers we get better animation and more episodes in the future.