In 2014, director Gareth Edwards reintroduced American audiences to the world of Godzilla, where monsters from the depths of the hollow earth use our home as a battlefield. This universe continued in Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Godzilla vs Kong. The mysterious scientific organization known as Monarch serves as the connecting thread through all these films (aside from the titular monsters). An organization dedicated to studying and containing Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms (MUTOs). Outside of what was present in the films, we don't know much about the organization. Until now. Monarch: Legacy of Monsters looks to blow the box open, reveal every secret, and how the organization's connection to the past, present, and future. In this weekly column, we'll recap each episode of the highly anticipated show, how it connects to the larger MonsterVerse, and offer some Kaiju knowledge. Be warned, full spoilers ahead.
The episode opens on Skull Island, 1973. William Randa (John Goodman reprising his role from Kong: Skull Island) is frantically recording a message, apologizing to an unknown recipient for his past mistakes, and hopes his message and data will improve things. Then, out of nowhere, a massive spider and Crab begin fighting in front of him as he drops his bag into the water below, lost at sea until it's discovered by a fishing boat in 2013. This scene is set during the events of Kong: Skull Island, creating some mystery around the side quest that William Randa was on.
We then jump to 2015 for a look at life in a world post-Godzilla. Though the films often focus on the monsters themselves, Monarch provides a look at day-to-day life and the precautions humans have to take to ready themselves for an attack. A "Godzilla Evacuation Route" sign is on display in the airport, and governments invest in massive weapons for protection. It's a time of confusion and unease.
It's here that we're introduced to Cate (Anna Sawai), a survivor of the 2014 San Francisco attack (also known as "G-Day"), as she travels to Japan to visit her deceased father's home. Much to her surprise, she discovers her father has a secret family, including her brother Kentaro (Ren Watabe). Cate and her father's family struggle to make sense of the entire situation, and it ultimately culminates with Cate leaving right as the emergency alarms sound for a Godzilla attack. Her trauma from G-Day begins manifesting as she flashes back to the attack.
It's revealed that Cate is a former school teacher and attempted to save her students who were in the direct path of Godzilla's attack. This scene is a real treat for long-time fans of the Monsterverse franchise, as the 2014 film was mostly from the perspective of scientists and soldiers. This scene briefly shows the common loss experienced during the 2014 attack.
Soon, the Godzilla shelter gets the all-clear, and Cate searches for answers about her father's mysterious life. Kentaro takes her to their father's office, where Cate discovers a secret safe that holds William Randa's mysterious lost package from 1973. She opens the bag and discovers tapes of data but no way to see what's on them. Upon closer inspection, Cate recognizes the same Monarch symbol the soldiers wore during the G-Day incident.
Curious for answers himself, Kentaro takes Cate to meet his old flame May (Kiersey Clemons), who reluctantly agrees to try to decode the tapes for them. Cate learns more about Kentaro, including the fact he's an artist rather than an engineer, as she had assumed. May successfully retrieves the data but sets off an alarm at Monarch headquarters, who are now attempting to track their location. The three soon learn of the existence of Monarch, but are unsure of the organization's purpose and how their father factors in. When they seem to be at a dead end, they discover a photo of Cate's grandmother standing in a Godzilla-like footprint.
An additional storyline is set in Kazakhstan in 1959. Here, we are introduced to Lee Shaw (Wyatt Russell), a military agent escorting two members of Monarch, Keiko (Cate and Kentaro's Grandmother, played by Mari Yamamoto) and Billy (Anders Holm), into a radioactive fallout site. Upon arriving, they soon discover that the site isn't radioactive but an entrance into the hollow earth explored in Godzilla vs. Kong. Exploring further into the abandoned compound, the three find a clearing filled to the brim with MUTO eggs. Keiko volunteers to go down further to collect samples, and they lower her down against Lee's better judgment. While collecting samples, the earth begins to crack, causing the eggs to hatch. They rush back up to the surface, but Keiko is overwhelmed by cockroach-like monsters and falls into the pit below, ending the episode.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters starts off with a bang. Not only are we given glimpses of a world that knows monsters exist, but we're also treated to a glimpse of how important Monarch is in the overall MonsterVerse. Though this series promises answers, this first episode leaves us with even more questions that will surely be answered this season.
Recommended Kaiju Film of the Week: Gojira (1954)
The one that started it all and helped popularize giant monster movies. Gojira is the original Japanese version of Godzilla and an allegory for post-WWII fears in Japanese culture. Though it went unseen for many years in our part of the world, often being replaced with Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956), the original stands the test of time and remains an excellent watch. Not only is it one of the greatest Godzilla films of all time, but it's one of the greatest films, period. It's a mandatory watch if you haven't gotten around to it.