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Western Animation / Arcane

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Jinx: Are we... still sisters?
Vi: Nothing is ever going to change that.

Arcane is a 2021 animated series from Riot Games, and first animated series set in the League of Legends universe.

Set in the technologically-advanced, aristocratic city of Piltover, Arcane follows orphaned sisters Vi and Powder as they grow up in the Undercity, Piltover's impoverished and polluted lower levels. While the people of the Undercity struggle to survive and resist against Piltover's violent law enforcement, Silco, a ruthless crime lord with ambitions to raise the Undercity up into its own self-sufficient nation, begins to make himself known. Meanwhile, Jayce and Viktor, two gifted inventors, seek to revolutionize the city and the world itself by harnessing magic as a powerful new energy source. As tensions in Piltover and the Undercity escalate and war seems like an inevitability, Vi and Powder each find themselves at the center of the conflict as the city hurtles towards a breaking point.


The series was released on November 6, 2021 on Netflix, divided into three weekly acts of three episodes for nine in total. On November 20th, the same day as the third act, a second season was confirmed to be in production.

Previews: 2019 Announcement, "A Score To Settle", Official Trailer, Final Trailer

Not to be confused with the similarly titled video game Arcane.

Welcome to the Tropes:

  • 21-Gun Salute: Evidently Enforcer funerals are like real world police funerals, complete with volleys.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the old lore, Stanwick Pididly was a thieving cheat who stole the credit for creating Blitzcrank from Viktor. In Arcane's lore, he's a Posthumous Character remembered as an honorable and persevering (if explosion prone) scientist and good friend of Heimerdinger's.
  • Adaptation Deviation: While Arcane implicitly frames itself as canon prequel to the League of Legends universe, it significantly deviates — if not outright contradicts — from previously established backstories in favor of telling its own insular story that roughly sets itself up to the "present" shown in League. Christian Linke and Alex Yee have stated in an interview that while Arcane is "internally consistent and canon", it should not "be considered a source truth over the game".
    • Yordles are fully acknowledged and accepted throughout Piltover and Zaun, which collides significantly with how they're usually depicted in League of Legends. Following the game's 2013-14 Continuity Reboot, it was established that while yordles do interact with human civilization, usually it was incognito using magical glamour to conceal their naturenote . The comic "Paint the Town" (chronologically taking place way after Arcane) shows Heimerdinger himself operating under glamour, specifically because "Yordles are often feared, hunted, and eliminated across Runeterra", which contradicts his status in this series where he's a publicly-known councilman of Piltover, whose yordle nature does cause some problems, but not to a degree that he'd need to disguise himself.
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    • While several character backstories shown here stay true to League canon in the Broad Strokes, a few are almost completely overhauled. Vi was originally depicted as having amnesia from her past before a foggy Time Skip where she reappeared paired up with Caitlyn, but neither this nor the original story of where she got her Power Fists are represented. Ekko is also implied to be an orphan based on how his parents are never seen, which contrasts to how they're written as still being alive by the present day in League.
    • In League, while hextech is still described as a "modern" technology, it's been implied to have existed in Piltover for centuries, developed by countless engineers and craftsmen across generations, and it was even described that Zaun's very existence and modern over-industrialized look was a direct result of having to cover the manufacturing for synthesizing hextech crystals. Jayce and Viktor were seen as big names in the field, but their broader rivalries had to do with the handling of the "purest" hextech crystals rather than the slightly less potent synthetic crystals most of Piltover already ran on. This is all completely revamped in Arcane, which depicts hextech as being an invention of Jayce and Viktor in the present day.
  • Addled Addict: In the deepest pit of Zaun, a colony of addicts to Shimmer live in rags and beg for money. The incentive of more Shimmer drives Huck, who otherwise wanted to help Vi to repay Vander, to sell her location out to Silco.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Powder, the girl who would become Jinx years down the line, starts out as an adorably sweet, if somewhat naïve child.
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: Shimmer and Hextech, the two technologies explicitly held as each cities new technological edge, also follow the aesthetics and act as metaphors for the respective cities.
    • Shimmer is a neon purple Fantastic Drug that can be slurped down, breathed or injected. The effects on the user can be hideous, with bulging purple veins and grotesque muscle growth. It's addictive, with some addicts suffering permanent deformities. It's effects are entirely physical and individual, granting enormous strength and speed temporarily. It's creation was built on unethical testing by Singed. The technology is ugly, powerful in a crude way, and purposefully built on human suffering making it a lot like Zaun.
    • Hextech is built around tapping into the power of blue crystals. It's treated as an energy source and without any known side effects on users. There is no waste product or runoff to deal with, making it neat and tidy. It's flexible, capable of providing power to either transportation or weapons. Jayce and Viktor created it with earnest intentions. Though not explored in the show, the Hextech crystals canonically contain the souls of the Brackern and were stolen from their people. The technology is clean, inherently innovative and only possible from the suffering of innocents that the creators don't know or care about, much like Piltover as a whole.
  • Adult Fear: Repeatedly, your child being threatened or in harm's way and you not being able to stop it.
  • All-CGI Cartoon: Studio Fortiche reprise their animation production efforts, from the game's music videos and cinematics, for this full-length series. The French studio renders the series in their familiar stylized take on cel-shaded 3DCG animation, with a mixture of 2D effects work.
  • All for Nothing: Jayce eventually offers a deal to Silco to give him everything he wants, but only if he hands over Jinx to Piltover for her crimes, and cashes in all of his remaining political clout to make the council agree to it. Silco admits to Jinx he dismissed it out of hand because she's his daughter and he loves her.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Violet and Caitlyn’s budding friendship becomes more and more difficult to interpret platonically as time goes on.
  • Animal Motif: As the Adult Jinx, Powder gains one in the form of Creepy Crows, which constantly show up around her, including a noticeable scene where she returns to the arcade when Vander's kids hung out and gets startled by one, even mimicking it's chirpy head movements before blasting it away on a whim. They seem to be symbolic of how Jinx is a harbinger of bad luck and misfortune to those around her, intentionally or not. It gets driven home in the climax of Episode 7, in the showdown between Jinx and the leader of the firelights, Ekko. A stylised flashback to their shared youth has their younger selves playing a game where the young Poweder tries to nail Ekko with a harmless paint gun as he tries to tag her, in a twisted mockery of their current situation, with both the young Ekko depicted alongside a Firelight bug, and the young Powder have a crow flying behind her.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: Subverted, then played straight. The Last Drop is viewed as this by the Enforcers, seeing it as a den of criminals, but Vander uses it to keep the peace. When Silco takes it over, it genuinely does fit the description, becoming more like a nightclub with bouncers outside.
    Caitlyn: Well that place does look like it has bodies buried in the basement.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Zig-zagged.
    • Vi and Sevika are the two female characters who end up in hand-to-hand combat most often, and their fights commonly lead to them being bruised and bloody by the end. However, such bruises seem to be consistently limited to their cheekbones and don't swell, as opposed to a few male characters who exhibit actual black eyes and swelling.
    • Caitlyn doesn't look too bad after getting engulfed in an explosion in episode 4.
    • Vi gets generally banged up during her second fight with Sevika, but takes no specific damage from a square punch to the face from the spiked knuckledusters on Sevika's mechanical arm.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: In the intervening years between Acts I and II, several of the characters have found themselves becoming the very people they struggled against.
    • After Silco has replaced Vander as the head of Zaun's underground, he's forced to keep the peace between Zaun and Piltover, if through shadier methods than Vander used. He rages at Jinx over the indiscriminate killing of Enforcers and the mess it will bring, a stark contrast to his brutal murder of Grayson and her squad in Act I, though he at least had a man on the inside for that.
    • Jayce is becoming the very sort of politicking, backroom-dealing councilor that nearly got him banished for his experiments in the first place.
    • Marcus, whose overzealous approach to cleaning up the Undercity ultimately helped get Grayson killed, has become the new Grayson: a chief of police who looks the other way, keeps his troops in check when it comes to the underworld, and has an understanding with Zaunite leadership. The only difference is that his is not an arrangement of choice.
    • Vi was a leader figure to her little gang and the adoptive daughter of the man who basically ran the Lanes, making her as close to an insider in Zaun's slums as one can get. And of course, she despised and wanted to fight the Enforcers. She returns to Zaun helping an Enforcer and is hunted by the new Don of Zaun.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: During the final arc, Silco has to deal with a hotshot chem-baron named Finn who is trying to muscle him out of his position. Finn presents himself as a badass gangster; covered in tattoos, has a clearly prosthetic jaw that may or may not be replacing his real one, dresses very stylishly, and is clearly trying to give himself some sort of mystique with how he uses his cigarette lighter (holding it bizarrely by the lid while it's open). However despite the image he puts up (and despite the promos for the third arc displaying him as though he could be a threat), he is clearly out of his league. The first time he makes a push, Silco humiliates him. And even though his second attempt seems to be more on track to success by recruiting Sevika, it turns out Sevika is firmly loyal to Silco and slashes Finn's throat, leaving him to die pathetically.
  • Big Damn Reunion: After being separated for years Vi and Jinx get a tearful, emotional reunion. That is until first Caitlyn and then the Firelights appear, ruining the emotional moment. Vi and Caitlyn are kidnapped by the Firelights in the ensuing battle, cutting it short.
  • Big Fancy House: House Kiramman has a gated mansion in the middle of a city, showing just how wealthy and powerful they are.
    Vi: Do yourself a favor, cupcake. Go back to the big, shiny, house of yours and just forget me.
  • Big Shadow, Little Creature: Heimerdinger's introduction. Before he's seen, its established that he's the head of the Council which will decide Jayce's fate with his looming shadow making him look like an intimidating figure. And then he pops through the door frame headfirst, looking like an adorable little old grandpa.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to League of Legends's stylized cartoon violence, getting hurt is depicted much more realistically here. Characters are visibly injured on-screen, spit blood when hurt, and generally react realistically to being punched, stabbed, knocked and thrown around violently.
  • Bomb Throwing Anarchist: In an effort to hide his schemes, Silco has Marcus invoke this trope to blame the Firelights for Jynx's violence in the eyes of the Council. With the Firelights being likely the most anarchistic faction in the show, having them be scapegoated for others actors more serious violence reflects real anarchist history such as the show trials of the Haymarket Massacre.
  • Bookends:
    • Act 1 ends with Powder setting off an explosion that accidentally kills off most of her adopted family sans Vi. In Act 3 after being responsible for the death of yet another adoptive father, she sets off a very much deliberate explosion that presumably kills off the entire Piltover council, sans Jayce and Viktor.
    • In their first episode, Jayce almost kills himself by throwing himself off the ledge from his destroyed apartment after being kicked out of the Piltover academy (essentially ending any hope of being a scientist for him) but is stopped by Viktor. In the final episode, Viktor is about to kill himself by throwing himself off a high ledge out of guilt for having caused the death of his assistant Sky during his attempt to further augment his body using the hextech core despite not having any shimmer to power it the effect. This time Jayce stops him (though perhaps unwittingly, as Jayce doesn't know what Viktor had done). They both even start with the same line, "Am I interrupting something?"
    • The very first scene of the season involves Vander choosing love over revolution, abandoning his cause to become the father of Vi and Powder. The final scene of the season sees a dying Silco affirm his love for Jinx, admitting that he could never choose independence over his daughter.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: All the time. If main characters are having a disagreement, they'll have good reasons to back it up.
    • Jayce's storyline in act 2 is dominated by his conflict with Heimerdinger over when For Science! has gone too far. On Heimerdinger's side, he's right that Jayce and Viktor are toying with forces beyond their comprehension (Viktor openly admits that their research into runes is mostly random experimentation), and there are still plenty of quirks that they have to iron out, especially for potential applications as weapons. On Jayce and Viktor's side, the faster they can develop the tech the faster it can be used to save people's lives, and with Viktor's condition getting worse and tensions between Zaun and Piltover escalating, there's really no time for decades of testing.
    • Silco and Vander fell out over Vander choosing peace over revolution. Silco's not wrong that Vander has accepted the deeply unequal status quo in the name of peace. Vander is correct that the price of violent resistance would be very high in human cost for an uncertain success. Silco is proven correct that Shimmer is able to intimidate Piltover's council into granting freedom. But Vander's prophecy that he'd sacrifice Zaun's soul doing so comes true, with the flooding of the streets of Zaun with Shimmer and the rise of wealthy Chembarons critically undermining the sense of solidarity the impoverished undercity once had.
    • Mel and her mother Ambessa support weaponizing Hextech while Viktor strongly opposes it. Viktor insists their Hextech dream was for peace and helping people, not making weapons which will permanently change the nature of their discovery. But Shimmer is such a powerful weapon that without Hextech weapons, Piltover really doesn't stand a chance in a fight.
    • Jayce and Vi want direct action against Silco while the council wants to negotiate first. Vi is astonished they'd try diplomacy with a man who so deeply despises them. Allowing him to continue to pump the streets of both Piltover and Zaun with Shimmer is obviously a bad idea. And it's deeply unjust to allow his evil acts go unpunished. But as Jayce finds out painfully in person, going after Silco would mean war with Zaun. Innocent people, including children will die if they want to root him out. Jayce ultimately flips on the issue, deciding that the price in bodies is just too high.
  • Brick Joke: A somewhat dark one. During the first episode, Ekko is asked about where he learned about Jayce's apartment, and he says that Jayce came by and bought a bunch of stuff they had on display and didn't even try to haggle for it. In the final episode, Silco comes to Jayce with a list of demands for peace to be made between Piltover and the undercity (which would become Zaun). Jayce agrees to all of it with the condition that Silco hand over Jinx to be judged for her crimes. Later, Silco talks to himself/Vander's statue and notes that Jayce didn't even try to haggle in regards to Silco's demands.
  • Brutal Brawl: There are several fights where technique and strategy aren't the focus but just the aggressive violence. Throwing sand into people's eyes, smashing someone against the wall, hitting them with a piece of wood — fights in Zaun are down and dirty.
  • But Not Too Gay: One of the rare complaints against the show is that while Caitlyn and Vi become rather deeply emotionally attached to each other and various people behind the show have made it clear on social media that the two are interested in each other in a very gay way, strictly speaking everything on screen could be interpreted platonically. Meanwhile the show has no problem with showing a straight sex scene between Jayce and Mel.
  • Butt-Monkey: One of Silco's goons is a huge, heavily tattooed, muscular man. In the space of three episodes, he gets one-hit-KO'd by a teenaged Vi, gets gut-shot by Jinx during a botched smuggling operation years later, and then gets badly beaten up by a now-adult Vi in prison.
  • The Cameo: Animated avatars of Imagine Dragons show up in episode 5 to preform the show’s Theme Song, “Enemy”.
  • Central Theme:
    • "Corruption". The main cast all face it, whether in society or in themselves. The show hammers down the truth that nothing is ever pure, and that can often be for the best. However, for those willing and able to take a good look at themselves and admit their mistakes, redemption is within reach.
    • "Parenthood". The difficulties, personal sacrifices and imperfect decisions that come along with being a parent casts a long shadow over the show. The very first scene shows Vander choosing the path of peace and fatherhood over his own dreams of revolution. Caitlyn, Jayce and Mel's mothers choose to prioritize their own children's safety even if it costs their childrens' affections. It's used metaphorically with Jayce condemning Heimerdinger as a negligent "Father of the City". Hell, Singed of all people reveals he was once a father and mourns his daughter. Even Silco, the man set up as the Big Bad of the show, spends most of Act 3 running around trying to find his daughter Jinx or dealing with the consequences of her actions. When forced to choose between sacrificing his daughter and dream of an independent Zaun he'd spent his life sacrificing everything for, he'd rather let the world burn than give her up. Everyone wants to do right by their kids no matter who they are but the consequences of their actions, intentional or not, haunt the next generation.
  • The Chains of Commanding: One of the reoccurring themes is the messiness and difficulty of being a leader, being forced to make moral compromises. Jayce is convinced that corruption and smoozing with the elites is a necessary part of keeping his seat on the council, which he accepts as the price to pay so he can ensure the safety and future technological advancement of Piltover. Vander has a secret working relationship with the Enforcers which brutally put down the revolution he personally led because it keeps the peace. Even Silco, while more exploitative in his relationship with Marcus and planning to revolt, still has to maintain a level of peace, so his anger at Jinx killing Enforcers sounds eerily similar to Vander.
  • Childhood Memory Demolition Team: Vi topples her own childhood home so she and Caitlyn can get away from Silco and his goons.
  • Cliffhanger: Season 1 mostly ties things up between Jinx and Vi, but ends with Jinx's gem-powered missile going to hit Council headquarters.
  • The Coats Are Off: Soon after Vi attacks Sevika in episode 5, the two do this trope, Sevika with far more flourish by dramatically tossing her shawl behind her to reveal her mechanical arm with a Shimmer injector while Vi just pulls her jacket down and leaves it at her feet.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Everyone in Zaun does what it takes to win, regardless of fairness.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: While the characters are already of age, the series shows us that they still had a hard dose of reality to experience, to wit:
    • Jayce realizes that compromises have to made to ensure the greater good.
    • Viktor realizes that scientific progress is not all it's cracked up to be.
    • Caitlyn realizes that the authorities aren’t always concerned with serving the public good.
    • Most tragically, Jinx realizes that she and her sister have changed so much from the time they parted ways and things can never really go back to the way they used to be.
  • Cop Hater: Everyone in Zaun hates the Enforcers, police who take orders from Piltover, not any of the locals.
  • Corrupt Politician: The entire council, besides Heimerdinger who seems blissfully ignorant, is guilty of skirting the laws and backroom deals. Even Jayce is convinced to go along with it as the price of power by Mel.
  • Creator Cameo: The founders of Studio Fortiche are shown as cheery drunks celebrating Progress Day.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: While Vi did storm off to cool down after hitting Powder, she didn't mean to abandon her. Marcus arrested her to save her from being killed by Silco, who had already reached Powder by the time Vi tried to go back. Powder doesn't know this, however, and it's a major factor behind her becoming Jinx. Vi is only able to explain this years later after she gets out of jail, indirectly because of Jinx's violent ways, and Jinx isn't entirely convinced because Caitlyn is with her.
  • Darker and Edgier: League of Legends is a T-rated game with its fair share of darkness and maturity, but Arcane takes itself even more seriously — not only does it extensively explore the troubled backstories of many major characters with the gravity they would probably possess in real life, Fortiche and Riot aren't pulling any punches with the broader themes and the visuals.
    • The video game version of Jinx is generally portrayed pretty comically, with her generally just being interested in blowing stuff up but not really being much of a killer (with a comic she appears in showing her to actually feel guilty when she initially thinks she blew up a building full of peoplenote ). However, her portrayal in Arcane has her killing multiple people during her first adult appearance and she is heavily implied to be schizophrenic which is most definitely not played for comedy.
    • Right off the bat in episode 1, we get a brutal, realistic street fight involving kids. You have blood, swearing, children being traumatized, the explicit depiction of prostitution. And then it progressively gets turned Up to Eleven as the first act progresses.
    • Episode 2 features Jayce about to commit suicide, complete with a note.
    • Episode 3 gives us actual child (well, teenage) death. In brutal, graphic detail.
    • In Episode 8, the raid on the Shimmer factory features a stylized battle involving Vi and Jayce using their new Hextech weapons against mooks. It takes a sudden and dark turn when the stylized action gives way to very real consequences — Jayce accidentally shoots and kills a child worker in the chaos.
  • Death of a Child: Jesus Christ, this show does not hold back on killing children. Whether being crushed by debris, beheaded, or falling to their death, being a kid is no guarantee of safety.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Subverted. When Vi was kidnapped by Jinx and tied up on a chair next to a table, Jinx brings out a plate with a silver dome while mentioning she paid Vi's girlfriend a visit, and a terrorized Vi was expecting to see Caitlyn's head on a plate...Jinx opens it and Caitlyn's face briefly flashes on screen, only for it to be a cupcake with the hextech gem as the cherry.
    Jinx: Sheesh! I'm not THAT crazy.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Arcane seems to delight in taking many elements that are core aspects of the characters, lore, and even gameplay of League Of Legends and show them with gritty realism:
    • A key point in Jinx's popularity is her Mad Bomber personality. She's a funny and exciting character who merely annoys everyone around her. Except here, her violence is more realistic, and it suddenly becomes horrifying. She's dangerous, unpredictable, can't be trusted by her own associates, and her enemies are absolutely terrified of her. And her funny madness? Not so funny when we see it from her perspective.
    • Vi's "punch first and ask questions while punching" attitude is a key aspect of her character, but the show isn't kind to her methods. While not totally ineffective, her impulsive and reckless personality is depicted as a Fatal Flaw that constantly creates problems for her and leads to many things she could have avoided if she had just kept her cool.
    • Combining these two aspects is the relationship between both sisters. Before Arcane straight up said it, it was only vaguely implied that Vi and Jinx were sisters, but then...Where does that leave their relationship? Jinx causing trouble and Vi punching her into submission is the basis of said relationship. It was fine in the beginning because they were rivals and didn't really know each other, but since the show works with the idea that they are sisters, it paints their interactions in a far more tragic light. Indeed it is this very aspect of how they interact rearing its ugly head in the worst possible moment that tears the sisters apart and creates Jinx.
    • Piltover and Zaun's relationship has always been at the center of the lore for characters in both cities, but Arcane is allowed to show the horrible way Piltover treats the soon-to-be Zaun in far more graphic detail, showing exactly the kind of Grey-and-Gray Morality that lies at the center of their conflict. This also means that noble characters from Piltover (such as Jayce or Caitlyn) are left reeling when they see the atrocious conditions that the Undercity has to live with and dealing with such inequality become one of the main focuses of their stories.
    • Sadly this also leads to one of the more realistic, and heartbreaking, cases of Status Quo Is God. Just because some of the protagonists suddenly want to deal with a centuries-old problem doesn't mean that they can do much. At the end of the series the city council decides to vote for peace with the Undercity and Silco is dead... but it's too little too late, thanks in large part to Jinx, and in part to the fact that their abuse has made Zaun eager for war.
    • Finally, there's the violence itself. Violence is at the core of League of Legends; it is, after all, a game about killing your competition, but the fights there are both comical and awesome. Not so in Arcane. Nearly every fight here is played relatively realistically, and people get seriously hurt. Whenever the series starts getting too into the fights, something will inevitably make it stop to show the bloody consequences of their actions. Just ask Jayce, Ekko, Jinx and Vi.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Sheriff Grayson is willing to make backroom deals with Vander, but it's downplayed in that she doesn't outright break the law, just asks him to grease the wheels so she won't have to bring in more Enforcers which will enflame tensions in Zaun and lead to more violence, never asking him to give up someone who is innocent.
    • Marcus is a straight example, taking bribe money from Silco to look the other way and going after Silco's enemies regardless of actual guilt. After Grayson is killed by Silco and Marcus is promoted, Silco blackmails him with both his unintentional involvement in Grayson's death and threats to his daughter.
  • Dramatic Irony: The show as an Origin Story delights in juxtaposing characters origins with their eventual state as Champions in League of Legends.
    • Vi who is introduced despising Piltover Enforcers for killing her parents literally has the title of the Piltover Enforcer as a Champion.
    • Powder is a comparatively timid child, who has an emotional need to tag along and can't get her grenades to work when Jinx is infamous as the Loose Canon, utterly wild and free with a habit of blowing up entire buildings.
    • Jayce is introduced as a humble researcher who happily works with Viktor when as a Champion he's known as an arrogant hero with a rivalry against Viktor.
    • Caitlyn is shown to be a young rookie whose an outsider amongst the Enforcers when as a Champion she's the Sheriff.
    • Ekko is introduced asking for a few more seconds to work on a clock when as Champion he's able to rewind time.
  • Dramatic Drop: In an Establishing Character Moment, Vander drops his cast-iron gauntlets so he can pick up and carry Vi and Powder to safety, literally and symbolically choosing protecting children over weapons. He is revealed to eventually have gone back and retrieved them to hang in his bar.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The scene where Vi and Caitlyn go through Caitlyn's bedroom window only to be confronted by Caitlyn's parents, one of whom has a scattergun, plays out a lot like someone sneaking a boyfriend/girlfriend their parents disapprove of into their house. The fact that Caitlyn's mother is clearly displeased she's made friends with a girl from the slums only adds to the subtext.
  • Doomed by Canon: Powder is doomed to become the mentally unstable Jinx no matter how happy she seems in the moment.
  • Downer Ending: The single good thing that happens in the end of season 1 is simply that some characters live. Other than that, it's all downhill. Powder embraces her identity as Jinx and cuts ties with her sister for good. Caitlyn fails to retrieve the lost hextech core nor bringing Silco to justice. And despite Jayce, Mel and Viktor managing to agree to a peaceful solution, Jinx fires a missile powered by the stolen hextech core on the Council's chambers, shattering any potential for peace there may have been. Singed is also shown briefly experimenting in his lab with a hanged muscular man who somehow resembles Vander (see Foreshadowing below. About the only ones depicted with a positive ending are Heimerdinger and Ekko, the former taking Jayce's words to heart about how ineffectual he'd been to visit the lower streets and see the conditions for himself, and finding a kindred spirit in the jaded but still idealistic Ekko, with their meeting being framed in a master-student relationship as Ekko shows Heimerdinger the firelights' hideout and Heimerdinger finds hope after his previous relationship with his students soured. Of course the ending above overshadows that, but it's still the best-depicted outcome for the characters shown.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • One of the signs that Marcus isn't a complete Jerkass is him visiting the grave of Grayson and telling his daughter she was a good person. He's visibly still guilty about being partly responsible for her death.
    • Amazingly, Silco allowed a statue of Vander to be built in Zaun. He pours out part of his drink while commiserating about the difficulties of being a father.
  • Dynamic Entry: Vi begins her attack on Sevika by jumping in from the left to knee her in the head while Sevika's about to grab her gambling winnings.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: Though the show is generally willing to show the grungy, dingy and dirty side of Zaun, most of its residents still have perfectly white teeth.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Silco's ruthless ways, especially the unethical creation and mass manufacture of Shimmer, successfully convince the Piltover Council that a violent crackdown would be too costly and negotiation is the best solution. Silco's absolute willingness to resort to violence ultimately convinces the Council to accept a deal that would see the people of the underground get their own nation of Zaun. If anything, he ultimately can't take the deal that would free the people of Zaun of Piltover's boot on their backs because he's not extreme enough to throw away his most normal, sympathetic trait: love for his daughter. Of course it's also not so clear cut, since as Vander warned he sacrificed Zaun's soul by flooding the streets with Shimmer as a recreational drug meaning Zaun would be independent but ruled by a ruthless drug king pin whose raising of the Chembarons to power also undermined the ethos of loyalty Silco himself harped on.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Standard procedure for Silco's gang is to mix the implied threat of violence with a nice little bag of coins. Laws melt away easily.
  • Eye Scream: Episode 4 sees Silco having Jinx inject Shimmer right into his scarred eye.
  • Faceless Goons: Played straight by the Enforcers with only Marcus, Grayson, and Caitlyn shown not wearing a full-on mask.
  • Fantastic Drug: Not only is Shimmer a powerful Psycho Serum, it's eventually refined into a party drug capable of being taken by patrons at a night club without the same Body Horror.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • There are several hints in the first three episodes that Vander will possibly become Warwick, the Uncaged Wrath of Zaun:
      • Vander's nickname is The Hound of the Underground. Warwick is a mutated werewolf.
      • When he is mutated by Singed's chemtech, Vander lets out a bestial wolflike howl while attacking.
      • Warwick remembers he was a bearded man with scarred arms, a description that matches Vander's. Furthermore, Warwick's character biography describes him as a man who left his life of crime to be a better man but who could never escape his past before being kidnapped and experimented on by Singed.
      • Warwick remembers a little girl's screams. If he is in a game with Jinx, he will howl that "she was there", or beg to be allowed to forget. If faced with an enemy Vi, he taunts her by asking who taught her how to punch (Vander did).
      • The final catalyst for the change in Warwick only took place after his death as well, though in the written backstory he had already been long experimented on by Singed by this point, time will tell how things go.
      • In the finale, a brief scene shows Singed experimenting in his lab, with a muscular bearded man hanging on the ceiling in the foreground whose side profile resembles Vander.
    • Look closely at what Jinx is working on when Silco confronts her about her Hextech heist in episode four. It is one of the mechanical lightning bugs she uses to bomb the Enforcers on the bridge to Piltover in episode seven.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Enforcers going into Zaun wear full-face masks on their heads (unless they're a speaking character, who instead wear a smaller respirator over their mouth while not obscuring the rest of their face and take the respirator off to talk). While serving in Piltover, they do not wear masks. This just highlights the disparity between the cities, with the Enforcers wearing masks to avoid breathing in the toxic air the people of Zaun have to breathe every minute of every day.
  • Gender Is No Object: Whether in Piltover or Zaun, men and women seem to serve in equal capacity, if not necessarily in equal numbers. The city council, the Enforcers, Vi and Silco's groups... all contain a mix of male and female members, often with women in high positions. Some details of the setting further imply this, such as that Stillwater Hold seems to be gender-integrated or that Vi's boxing skill goes unremarked-on as unusual, suggesting organized boxing is common among women as well as men.
  • Generation Xerox: As of Episode 3, this seems to be forming with Vi and Powder, and Vander and Silco: a pair of siblings, with the younger one idolizing the older until they experience what they perceive as a betrayal and abandonment by their sibling, with the incident dividing them onto opposite sides of a conflict. In addition, the older sibling is a physically-powerful hand-to-hand fighter, with the younger being weaker and requiring weapons and pragmatism to be an effective fighter.
  • Genre Shift: The show masterfully adopts and sheds genres starting as a Goonies style kid adventure story only to brutally swerve into political crime drama while dabbling into Horror Tropes for some scenes with Jinx and sticks the landing with Magitek Gaslamp Fantasy action. All kept together and in service of telling the story of how one cute little girl named Powder becomes the infamous Bomb Throwing Anarchist Jinx.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Vander smokes from a rustic-looking pipe, lighting it with matches. It only adds to his fatherly look and him growing to love the "vile" taste neatly summarizes him becoming comfortable with his new role as peacekeeping bartender. Silco on the hand smokes cigars, complementing his well put together outfits to show his expensive tastes and fundamental desire to live like the wealthy in Piltover.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: While there is a clear Black-and-White Morality revenge story of Vi against Silco, the larger political struggle is all grey. An utterly ruthless drug dealer crime lord with revolutionary goals to have the oppressed people of Zaun achieve independence arrayed against the highly corrupt Council of Piltover interested in innovation only when it profits them. Silco would murder a child for the cause without flinching while the members of the Council would be horrified at the idea, but they condemn countless children every day to starvation, poverty and violence with their current status quo. Yet Silco and some members of the council are also shown sympathetically caring for their loved ones. It can be hard to see A Lighter Shade of Grey between the leaders.
  • Gun Twirling: While the mentally unstable Jinx doing this is par for course, even Caitlyn, a trained Enforcer, twirls her pistol while thinking.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Characters from Zaun wear more eclectic outfits, clearly cobbled together in sharp contrast to the neat symmetry of Piltover.
  • Female Groin Invincibility: Averted. During their first fight, Vi kicks Sevika in the crotch, and it's clearly very painful.
  • Fictional Holiday: Piltover's Progress Day which celebrates the city's scientific spirit with a festival showcasing the newest innovations and traditionally finished with a keynote speech by Heimerdinger.
  • Fish People: Some of the characters in background shots or very minor characters are unremarked upon fish people. Jericho the food vendor is the most prominent and one of the thugs Vi beats up for their outfit is another.
  • Foreign Queasine: A fantasy spin on it. Jericho the giant fish man serves up various seafood dishes at his street food stall and doesn't speak English. The denizens of the Undercity enjoy it but for people from Piltover like Caitlyn, tentacles in orange slop is rather unappealing.
  • Frame-Up: Silco has Marcus frame the Firelights as being responsible for Jinx's attack on Jayce's workshop both to take heat off himself and to give the Enforcers an excuse to go after the Firelights.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: After Caitlyn gives Vi a potion, Vi panics from system shock, and Caitlyn calms her down with their faces really close to one another, Caitlyn’s eyes are on Vi’s eyes, but Vi’s eyes are on Caitlyn’s lips.
  • Happily Adopted: Vi and Powder are adopted by Vander at the very beginning of the show, as he sees them crying at the sight of their dead parents, with him opting to take them to safety over continuing the uprising he led that had gotten their parents killed in the first place. Mylo and Claggor are also adopted by Vander off-screen. All of Vander's adopted children would risk their lives to save him, and he returns the favor. Vi is astonished that Silco adopted Powder and helped mold her into Jinx. Silco's treatment of Jinx is of an understanding father-figure and Jinx acts like his wild-child daughter.
  • Harmful to Minors: The show starts out with two children seeing their dead parents and goes from there. Powder in particular as the younger sibling gets it bad. Powder watching and flinching from a Brutal Brawl is the least messed up thing she has to deal with. Being blamed for her bombing (correctly even) which killed both her adoptive brothers and her adoptive father by her biological sister who then walks away from her and vanishes breaks her mentally.
  • Hellhole Prison: Stillwater Hold is a place one can be dumped into without any criminal charges and locked away for years without anybody caring. Vi is implied to have been beaten by the warden himself countless times, such that she treats it as normal. Oh and the food is disgusting.
  • Hide Your Gays: Downplayed example. In China, Jinx calling Caitlyn Vi's girlfriend was instead censored to Jinx calling Caitlyn Vi's "dear sister", making Caitlyn and Vi's relationship sound more sisterly than in English. However, "dear sister" is sometimes used as slang for a lesbian relationship in China regardless, keeping the intent even if not outwardly.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Episode 3 has Silco lay a trap for the kids coming over to save Vander...and he unveils this trap with his goons on the opposite end of a bridge who are without ranged weapons, preventing them from making full use of their numbers against the four kids and allows Vi to hold off most of his thugs alone on that bridge. If they just brought a bunch of rocks to the trap, Vi would have been in a lot more trouble. As well, the door to the room Vander's in still closes and locks effectively which allows Vi to close it and keep out Deckard for a while.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Compared to the game it's based on, Arcane is definitely this. There's explicit mention of prostitution, an on-screen depiction of a brothel, and in episode 5, an actual animated sex scene.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Implied with Caitlyn and Vi. They're close partners in the game this show is a prequel to, and while they're a bit too busy during the course of the story to become an Official Couple, their relationship during it is clearly framed as a burgeoning romance (making it pretty obvious just what kind of 'close partners' they'll actually end up as).
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: The old prostitute yordle Babette which Claggor was scared of turns out to be one. In Act 2, she's become a Madame and is willing to update Vi about what's happened since Silco's rise despite the risk. Notably she doesn't sell Vi out unlike another old friend of Vander.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Both young Powder and Caitlyn are excellent shots, nailing targets with almost contemptuous ease. Once Powder becomes Jinx, her wild usage of a minigun means accuracy goes out the window in favor of firepower.
  • Incest Subtext: Jinx's fixation on Caitlyn, and her relationship to Vi, occasionally comes off as closer to a scorned lover than an upset sibling. Notably, her rationalising their hug as a "goodbye hug" that she doesn't need to worry about, and the entire fact of Jinx involving Caitlyn in their family dinner scene in the finale at all; where she refers to Caitlyn as Vi's "girlfriend" before attempting to force Vi to choose between both girls.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: A distressingly realistic and dramatic example occurs in episode 3. After being left behind by Vi and the rest of the gang to sit out the rescue mission for Vander, Powder has a heartbreakingly accurate tantrum in her room, complete with saliva and snot running down her face.
  • Instant Sedation:
    • Done by Marcus to Vi before the time skip.
    • Singed makes sure to knock out Silco before operating on Jinx, knowing the painful nature of the operation will cause them to interfere.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. Vi's hand wraps often have bloody knuckles after punching things, once even after she was wearing boxing gloves to spar an arcade robot.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: In the opening scene, Powder sings a song about being poor and asking a friend across the river for a penny, promising not to envy. This as she covers her eyes to hide from the violence and dead bodies from Enforcers of Piltover gunning down an uprising by the people of Zaun furious at the wealth disparity.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: The young, idealistic Jayce (and his cohort Viktor) have begun developing "hextech" that could potentially revolutionize the future, fix many societal problems of today, and save countless lives (including the deathly-ill Viktor), but old, wisened Heimerdinger is extremely wary of magic's potential to also destroy everything, and that once hextech falls into the wrong hands, society will have even bigger problems to worry about.
  • Le Parkour: All the street rat kids in Zaun are shown to be able to make it across the urban jungle by leaping roof to roof from as young as seven. Caitlyn, less so.
  • Libation for the Dead: Silco, of all people, pours one out for Vander while wryly commenting on their similarities.
  • Liberty Over Prosperity: Some members of the Zaun underclass, including Vi feel Vander has gotten too comfortable with choosing to keep the peace over fighting back against their Piltover oppressors. Vander is unwilling to pay the price war with topside would bring, especially as a father of four.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: This is Silco's darkly cynical take. He scorned Vander for betraying their shared revolutionary ideals and putting peace first. Yet when offered everything he wanted, independence for the oppressed people of Zaun, in return for giving up Jinx, someone who he himself admits causes nothing but problems for him, Silco can't take the deal because he loves her as his daughter, the exact same motivations (for one of the same girls even) that drove Vander's actions. Silco's wry expression as he commiserates to Vander's statue shows that despite being frustrated with himself, thinking the rational decision for a man who believes in doing anything for power would be to prioritize the greater good, he's accepted that he could never take it.
    Silco Is there anything so undoing as a daughter?
  • Lower-Class Lout: This is the default view of people from Piltover on the people of the Undercity. The assumption is that everyone down there is a criminal.
  • MacGuffin: The Hextech Gem, a stabilized version of the highly explosive hextech crystals, takes on this role throughout the second and third arcs. Jinx steals it from the Progress Day presentation, causing the Council to cut of Zaun and inflaming tensions. The theft also motivates Caytlin to go into Zaun, bringing Vi as her guide. In the final arc, Ekko, Vi and Caytlin try to bring it to Piltover to stop a potential war, but Jinx steals it back. It is finally used for its intended purpose as a power source in the final episode... to power Jinx' rocket that destroys the city council.
  • Magic Versus Science: Piltover is firmly on the side of science, believing that magic is too dangerous to be controlled safely. This makes Jayce an outlier, since he believes the arcane can be harnessed through scientific means. Once Jayce proves he can safely harness magic via Hextech science, they quickly change their tune once the monetary implications become obvious.
  • Magitek: Or Hextech, as Jayce calls it, which involves drawing specific magic from crystals through technology instead of through innate skill.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Crows keep appearing during climactic arcs involving Jinx/Powder, but whether they're actually magical in nature or just pure coincidence is not made clear by the end of the series.
  • Merchant City: Piltover, even more so once the Hexgate is created. Airships from all over flock to take advantage of the reduction in transit time, massively boosting trade to the city.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: A double whammy. The first scene features a very young Vi and Powder. One Time Skip later, the rest of Act 1 follows a teenage Vi and Caitlyn while Powder and Ekko are still kids and they all spend Act 2 and Act 3 as adults.
  • Mook Chivalry: A Downplayed and Justified example. The terrain of a narrow catwalk over a factory forces the Mooks to come one by one. They're also not taking the threat of a teenage girl too seriously at first. When Vi is attacked by two mooks at the same time, whether from behind or squeezing together in front, she noticeably struggles more.
  • Motherly Side Plait: As is tradition, Vi and Powder's dead mother has one.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • At one point, Jinx is shown listening to her own Image Song, “Get Jinxed!” and answers someone right after the song ends with "That's me!"
    • Shimmer shares a name with a drug from very early, 2009-2010-ish lore about Zaun, well before the Continuity Reboot that led to the current form of the League IP.
    • While Vi and Caitlyn are visiting the Brothel, Caitlyn notices two patrons wearing Lamb and Wolf’s masks.
  • Neon City: The streets of Zaun are almost entirely bathed in neon light, mostly green or purple.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The trailers present Vander's "don't threaten the guy who pours the drinks" line as being said to the Enforcers, along with the followup Death Glare from the bar patrons. He actually says it to a pair of shady traders who are trying to stiff another patron out of what they owe him; the same Death Glare is directed at those two, as well. The way the trailer presents the line makes Vander seem more at odds with the Enforcers than he actually is.
    • One of the trailers makes the story out to be about the bond of two sisters who will always be there for each other no matter what. A passing knowledge of their characters lets you know the story is about how they became bitter enemies.
    • The "Enemy" music video implies that Vi's crew is larger than it really is. In the brief shots of her shadowboxing, Deckard and one of his gang members are watching her along with Powder, Mylo and Claggor, and doing nothing antagonistic. Three unknown people are watching as well (two women and a man), and at least two of them are actually part of the group Sevika leads to join Silco. Ekko is also there; while he's friendly with Vi's group, he's not technically a part of it.
    • The Sneak Peek for Act II misrepresents how Jinx and Vi meet again. It implies it occurs during a fight where Vi is disguised and Jinx doesn't know who it is beforehand, but in the actual scene "Vi" is actually a similar-looking Firelighter whom Jinx hallucinates is her sister. The actual meeting is the result of Jinx summoning Vi, not a happenstance encounter, and isn't initially violent.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing:
    • In episode 3, Powder tries for a Big Damn Heroes moment. If she hadn't intervened, her comrades would probably have escaped by the skin of their teeth. Instead, they get blown up by her uncontrolled bomb.
    • Also in episode 3 a livid Vi hits and blames Powder for the bomb that killed their foster family, which she immediately regrets. When she leaves to calm down and avoid hurting Powder more, this only breaks her sister further because of the perceived abandonment. Silco winds up taking in the resentful Powder himself and Vi is drugged and dragged away by Marcus, confirming Powder's belief that Vi abandoned her and destroying their relationship for good.
  • One-Winged Angel: An interesting inversion of this trope occurs in episode 3. Vander, having been stabbed twice and thrown off a catwalk, resorts to using Silco's Shimmer serum to fight off the hulked-out Deckard and protect Vi. Unlike Deckard, Vander can mostly control himself and saves Vi's life, though at the cost of his own.
  • Opposites Attract: Vi and Caitlyn have almost nothing in common and could not be more different from each other if you tried, but from the moment they lay eyes on each other there is a very strong mutual attraction between them that only gets stronger as the show goes on, and despite them both slowly realizing how different they are from one another.
  • Origin Story: For several characters.
    • For Vi and Jinx, revealing how the two went from sisters to mortal enemies on opposite sides of the law.
    • For Vi and Caitlyn, revealing how the two came to work together (and how Caitlyn rose up through the Enforcers).
    • For Jayce and Viktor, showing how they went from partners unlocking the mysteries of Hextech, to rivals on different sides of science.
    • A notable one for the enigmatic Singed, showing his life during his early years of being outcast by Piltover and deeply tying him to Viktor's eventual downward spiral.
  • Parting Words Regret: Vi seriously comes to regret that her final words to Powder are saying she really is a jinx while blaming her for the death of their family. Jinx becoming her new name is the least of the damage inflicted.
  • Pet the Dog: Silco after some of his worst villainy than shows a surprising amount of empathy with a distraught Powder. And while he's hardly the best mentor/father figure by helping to mold her into Jinx, he does continuously reassure her, put up with her antics even when it costs him, and even seems genuinely touched by her actions once.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me!: Powder begs Vi not to abandon her after accidentally killing the rest of their adoptive family and that she needs her. Vi was going to return to save her from Silco but gets arrested before she can.
  • Police Brutality: The Enforcers are not gentle to the people of Zaun, to say the least. Spit on their boot and you'll get thrown through a window.
  • Portal Crossroad World: With the creation of the Hexgate, Piltover essentially becomes this, with it being "merely" the rest of the continent rather than other worlds. The Hexgate can accelerate an airship across massive distances, meaning its fastest for every airship to travel first to Piltover to be sent to their destination. This has been a major economic boon for the city.
  • Power Fist:
    • Vander wielded two home-made looking cast-iron fists in his rebellion against Piltover, but hung them up when he adopted Vi and Powder. Vi wields Vander's gloves to defend him against a small army of Mooks, only being driven back by a Shimmer-boosted Deckard.
    • Jayce also shows off a prototype mining glove capable of crushing a boulder with ease. No points on guessing who will end up wielding them.
  • Precision F-Strike: Vi lets one out during the final episode of the second arc while talking to Silco.
    Vi: I'm going to find her and erase whatever fucked up delusions you put in her head. But first, I'm going to bring your bullshit empire down all around you.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Downplayed to a degree since Vi was already fairly muscular as a teenager and capable of beating up a small army of goons by herself. But in a Hellhole Prison she becomes even more muscular, capable of punching holes into concrete walls.
  • Properly Paranoid: Mylo complains about the door on Jayce's balcony being locked in a "Who locks their balcony doors?" kind of way. Considering he's trying to break in, evidently it was a good decision. If anything, Jayce should have been more paranoid and locked up his hextech crystals.
  • Psycho Serum: Shimmer, a drug developed by Silco and Singed. It enhances the user's strength and durability at the cost of turning them into monstrous and violent hulking giants. Notably, those affected by the drug gain pinkish-purple irises under its influence, with the exception of Deckard, who gains blue irises instead. After the Time Skip, further experimentation has allowed them to moderate the dosage and limit the mutations, only producing monsters when they want to.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Those affected by Shimmer usually have their grunts and yells underscored by a set of these, emphasizing the dehumanizing and unsettling effects the serum.
  • Rabid Cop: The average Enforcer is very quick to commit violence against the people of Zaun. Up in Piltover they only have non-lethal tools, down in Zaun they're packing pistols.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Caitlyn treats being assigned to guard her family's tent at the Progress Day festival as this since she wants to be out there solving crimes, not herding drunks.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Marcus punishes Caitlyn for leaving her post at her family's tent and getting involved in a crime scene without permission by sending her to the graveyard shift guarding the fairgrounds. Her narrow survival of Jinx's bombing that night only drives her on even more to investigate the crimes, convinced of a criminal conspiracy.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: Caitlyn forges orders to free Vi to get her help at solving the criminal conspiracy she's working on. She initially scoffs at Vi's offer but when Vi casually reveals Silco's name as the underworld Don when Caitlyn only knew him as a wealthy industrialist, she realizes Vi's parting sting that Caitlyn wouldn't survive Zaun without insider help is right.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Everyone assumed Vi had died with the rest of her family, not secretly locked up in jail. When she returns to the Undercity, people are appropriately shocked to see someone back from the dead.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Caitlyn actually has a somewhat important impact on Vi years before they ever meet. In hindsight, it's her dropping a piece of equipment that alerted Vi to pay attention to the door and thus hear Jayce approaching and lock him out.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter:
    • Heimerdinger's pet poro. Imagine a furry sphere slightly smaller than a basketball with tiny eyes, ram's horns, stubby legs, and a fur mustache. It appears to be blind in its left eye, and also makes high-pitched squeaks and barks like a lap dog.
    • Rio, the giant white pink salamander is an unconventional example but it's large eyes make it darn cute. No wonder why young Viktor quickly offers to help save its life.
  • Riddle for the Ages: It's easy to assume Vander and Silco's falling out was over Vander choosing peace as a result of becoming a father. But Vander doesn't have the facial hair he has when leading the rebellion on the bridge in Silco's flashback to Vander trying to drown him. So why did these two men close enough to call each other brother become so murderous to each other? With both men dead, we'll never know.
  • Saved by Canon: Since the series acts as a prequel explaining how several characters end up the way they are, none of the eventual champions can permanently die. Being horribly traumatized on the other hand....
  • Second Episode Introduction: With the first episode focusing entirely on Vi, Powder and their family in Zaun, it's up to the second episode to introduce major characters in Piltover like Jayce, Viktor, Caitlyn, or Heimerdinger.
  • Sequel Hook: As the series comes to a close Singed looks at heavy-set furred figure, heavily implied to be Warwick.
    • Also, conflict between Piltover and Zaun looks all but inevitable given Jinx's firing of the missile to the Council's Tower. Not to mention one of those councilors is the daughter of a powerful warlord just looking for an excuse to invade.
    • Ambessa tells Mel that her brother was killed by a man in Noxus he should not have crossed, who does not necessarily consider the score settled. Just who precisely this man is is left unanswered.
  • Sherlock Scan: An unusually silent one. Caitlyn's investigating the crime scene doesn't have a Watson-figure but the show still successfully convey Caitlyn's deductions as she makes them.
  • Shining City: Piltover looks like this, but there's definitely an element of Bread and Circuses with the Piltover Enforcers acting as oppressors to the lower-class of Zaun and having to pacify the upper-class with a fall guy after Jayce's apartment accidentally gets blown up by Vi and her gang.
  • Ship Tease: Vi and Caitlyn's budding relationship drips with Homoerotic Subtext with all of their interactions having increasingly romantic undertones as the show progresses.
    • Caitlyn and Vi’s dynamic is very Slap-Slap-Kiss, especially during the scene where they head to the brothel in Episode 5. At one point Vi even tells Caitlyn "You're hot, Cupcake" before getting very close and asking if she's interested in men or women. Later in the same episode, as Vi is leaving the brothel, she becomes very pleased to see Caitlyn flirting with a female prostitute.
    • After Caitlyn saves Vi from Sevika we get more intimate scenes such as Vi saying she calls Caitlyn "Cupcake" because she's so sweet. Later when it becomes obvious that Vi's injuries are life threatening Caitlyn goes to find a doctor, when the "doctor" demands a trade for her cure Caitlyn doesn't hesitate to trade her rifle (her only weapon) for the cure. Once back with Vi Caitlyn helps her calm down after the cure hits her system, with the the two staring into each others eyes their lips not even an inch apart.
    • When the two are captured by the firelights and despite being angry with each other, Caitlyn demands they let Vi go and that she is the one they want. When Vi reveals she's fine, Caitlyn is flustered and says she was worried about her. Later in the episode when Vi decides to return to the Undercity, she and Caitlyn share a hug, and as they part Vi strokes Caitlyn's cheek. When things go bad and a shot rings out, Vi immediately turns around yelling for Caitlyn (even though her Childhood Friend Ekko was also there).
    • When they have a very intimate talk on Caitlyn's bed with a soul-splitting Held Gaze and tender face caress (seriously, the sexual tension is insane).
    • When they part ways in the rain after failing to get the help they need from the council, both of them are obviously feeling anguish, especially after Caitlyn asks if their relationship is really impossible, followed by Caitlyn feeling tormented about it in the shower.
    • In the final episode of Season 1, for the first time in the entire season we see Vi absolutely terrified, all by the idea that Caitlyn might have become one of Jinx's victims, and just before The Reveal Vi's mind flashes to that intimate moment they had on Cait's bed.
  • Shoot Your Mate: A rather jealous Jinx demands Vi shoot Caitlyn in return for Powder coming back and being siblings again. Vi of course can't accept that trade off.
  • Shout-Out: One of the Firelights's masks is very similar to that of Corvo Attano from Dishonored.
  • Shower of Angst: Caitlyn does this after being rejected by Vi, after they couldn't convince the council to take action. And her leg is still bleeding into the water.
  • Sky Surfing: The Firelights are a masked gang that ride around on rocket-powered boards. They're a problem for both Silco and the Enforcers.
  • Solar Punk: The Firelight's base is built around an enormous tree thriving in the depths of the city. A symbol of resilience in the dark of the underground. Building joyful, technological communities intertwined with nature is at the heart of the aesthetics of Solarpunk. The fact that their communities focus on art, mutual aid, and community defense against Silco and the encroaching shimmer epidemic speaks to the somewhat anarchistic social side of solar punk sensibilities.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Happens in episode three. After blowing up the warehouse with her improvised hextech explosive monkey, Powder and the rest of characters in the scene are thrown back by the resulting explosion. The soundtrack that accompanies the entire sequence is a hauntingly beautiful set of strings and a choir singing as the scene unfolds in slow-motion, underscoring Powder's subtle wonder and admiration for the sheer destructive power of what she's unleashed, and Foreshadowing Jinx's own love of explosions and mayhem.
  • Spirit Advisor: During one of Vi's vital fights just before she loses consciousness, a vision of her deceased adoptive father Vander appears before her, reminding her to keep fighting for the people who still need her.
  • Spoiler Cover: Though it lacks meaningful context, the poster for the Secret Cinema live event spoils the season 1 finale regarding which chair Jinx ends up choosing to determine who the "real" her is from then on.
  • Start of Darkness: For Jinx, showing how she went from a sweet, innocent girl to a deranged nationalistic terrorist.
  • Steampunk: The general aesthetics and technology level of the series, with Hextech as the setting's take on Magitek. Fashions are reminiscent of those from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Airships are a common mode of transport, cars are primitive, and personal weapons are usually knives or fairly standard (if cool-looking) firearms. Most tech is purely mechanical and analog, with electronics existing as a rarity at best.
  • Symbolic Baptism: In Episode 5, Silco describes his attempted drowning by Vander as one in hindsight, resulting in the death of his old self and the birth of his current one. He then gives Jinx her own while explaining that she needs to let her old "Powder" persona go.
  • Take Me Instead:
    • A serious example where first Vi and then Vander offer themselves as scapegoats so Piltover will withdraw it's Enforcers from Zaun to prevent violence from breaking out by the increasingly frustrated people of Zaun.
    • A comedic example where Caitlyn begs Ekko to let Vi go and punish her instead. Vi is actually fine and listening in pure amusement.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Viktor talks down a suicidal Jayce by telling him believes in his vision of Hextech and offering to help him complete it. Viktor's offering to Jayce his childhood crystal and Jayce's acceptance visibly see Jayce deciding to live on.
  • Tattooed Crook: Something that Vi and Jinx share as adults are their prominent tattoos; Vi's signature VI tattoo on her right cheek as well as her arms, back and neck, while Jinx's are in her right arm and the right side of her abdomen. Then there's Silco's unnamed Giant Mook and chemlord Finn, who are also covered in tattoos.
  • The Teaser: Before every episode, with 7 out of 9 of them showing flashbacks of the main characters in a formative moment, usually as kids.
  • Time Skip: After the very first scene shows Vi and Powder as young children, the rest of Act 1 skips forward to Vi as a teenager. Act 2 jumps forward again, with Vi as an adult and Jinx as somewhere between teenager and adult.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Whenever a scene switches to Jinx’s perspective in Act 2 onwards, her hallucinations begin to affect the show itself, there are constant quick cuts, flashbacks have crude and distorted faces drawn over them, inaudible whispers can be occasionally heard in the background, and Mylo and Claggor’s ghosts appear to haunt Jinx.
  • Transformation Horror: The effects of early Shimmer on the body are not pretty with grotesquely bulging muscles and purple veins all over the body. It's also incredibly painful.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Over the course of Season 1 we have basically two story lines, the story of Jayce and Viktor, two young scientist out to prove themselves and change the world, and the story of Vi and Powder/Jinx two young girls from the slums dealing with their lot in life. The two stories have barely any on screen interaction, but in the end are heavily tied to one another.
  • Uncatty Resemblance: Heimerdinger and his pet poro in Act 2, who both have a very furry head (well, in the poro's case, so is his entire body...) with a big mustache too.
  • Undercity: The Undercity of Piltover is a classic inhabited example. Its horribly polluted with fissures poisoning the air and rife with crime and poverty.
  • Urban Segregation: Though by the time of the game's canon, the undercity of Piltover has seceded to become the nation of Zaun, during the show, it plays this to a T. The upper city of Piltover is shining bright, very clean, and very upperclass while the undercity at first looks like the worst Charles Dickinson novel depiction of London and even after Silco takes over, it upgrades more to a very neon-tinged slum of crime and poverty.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: The explosively insane Jinx was once the sweet Tag Along Kid Powder who just wanted to help. Sadly, her idea of 'helping' was using her Gadgeteer Genius skills towards building a number of bombs in the hopes of eventually building a working one to help her family in a fight. She succeeded in the first part, not so much the second.
  • Vague Age: While Heimerdinger and Jayce outright state their ages, every other character has to be guessed. Word of God is that Caitlyn and Vi are around 14-16 and Powder is 11-12ish in Act 1. The Timeskip to Act 3 ages them 6-7 years.
  • Villain Has a Point: Silco may resort to some horrifically extreme methods wanting to start war with Piltover, but he does have a point on how Piltover needlessly antagonizes and oppresses the people living underside. There is also the genuine question of whether violent resistance is justified over accepting being the underclass.
  • Wall Pin of Love: Vi pins Caitlyn while "convincing" her to pretend to be a prostitute inside a brothel they've entered looking for information on Silco's operations and how things have changed since Vi's been locked up, asking if she'd prefer male or female customers. Caitlyn is too flustered to get a response out before Vi just grabs a random (male) customer walking by. It's also Played With, in that Vi has known Caitlyn for less than a day and looks down on her as a topsider and an Enforcer, and is heavily implied to be doing it mainly to Troll Caitlyn whilst she goes straight to the brothel's Matron to get the information they need. However, on her way back, she takes note of Caitlyn appearing to be much more relaxed and comfortable chatting to a female patron, and seems to be pleasantly surprised by the sight.
  • The Watson: Averted. Caitlyn investigates alone without someone to ask what deductions or how she's making them. The strong visual language of the show conveys her thought process without one.
  • We Need a Distraction: Oh sure, Jinx could just set a fire to draw away the Enforcers so she can steal from Jayce's laboratory. But where would be the fun in that? Luring Enforcers into a burning building rigged to blow with fake cries of help from what sounds like a little girl, now that's properly hilarious to her.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Childhood friends, even. Flashbacks to Ekko and Powder happily playing as children with wooden sword and paintball gun play right before Ekko attacks Jinx with a metal pipe while she's trying to nail him with bullets. He ultimately can't finish the beating because of his memories.
  • Wham Episode: Episode 3: Powder, trying to help Vi rescue Vander from Silco, ends up causing a massive explosion that kills Mylo and Claggor, forcing Vander to sacrifice his life to save Vi. Vi then snaps at Powder and blames her for everything, and while Vi is taken away by Marcus, Powder, now on her way to become Jinx, is taken in by Silco and his gang.
  • Where It All Began: Season 1's finale occurs at the same location as Act 1 in the burned out ruin of the cannery factory where Powder accidentally killed most of her adoptive family, Vi's seeming abandonment of her, and the birth of Jinx. There Jinx offers Vi the return of Powder in return for her killing Caitlyn. There Jinx shoots Silco in the heat of the moment to protect Vi, killing him at the same location where he adopted her. And its there that Jinx realizes that she and Vi cannot go back to their past relationship and chooses to blow up the Piltover Council with a weapon powered by Hextech crystal, the same item that she accidentally killed her family with.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Rather cruelly used by Jinx, luring Enforcers into a burning building full of bombs by modulating her voice to sound like a little girl begging for help from the fire.
  • Wretched Hive: In contrast to the shining beacon on the hill that is Piltover, Zaun is depicted as this, with rampant crime, exploitation of the lower-class, prostitution, and oppression of the masses. It becomes even worse after Silco takes over.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Or wrong side of the strait. On one end of the bridge lies gleaming buildings, technology and innovation. On the other side is poverty, pollution, and crime.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Twice over. Vi destroys her first childhood home in the Pit to escape from Silco and his goons. She's also pissed to see that he's taken over her 2nd childhood home, the Last Drop bar. Armed with Hextech gauntlets she storms it, but before she can properly retake it, she's knocked out by Jinx.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Piltover's steampunk aesthetic means its lousy with airships especially once the Hexgate is built, making the city a hub of airship transportation. Powder dreams of riding one someday while Mylo boasts he'll shoot one down one day. Mylo never gets to accomplish his dream but at least Jinx got to have a shootout in an airship.


Video Example(s):


Ekko and Jinx

While fending off Jinx, Ekko remembers a game the two of them used to play as kids.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / WeUsedToBeFriends

Media sources:

Main / WeUsedToBeFriends