Monarch: Legacy of Monsters: Grade the Premiere of Apple TV+’s ‘Godzilla Series’

Apple TV+ on Friday unleashed Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, a live-action drama set in the same big-screen Monsterverse that Godzilla, Kong et al call home. After sampling the first of two episodes now streaming, will you keep watching?

Monarch: LoM (let’s make that shorthand happen, people!) opened with a “flashback” to Skull Island circa 1973, where we saw John Goodman’s Bill Randa film a message to an unnamed “buddy,” cryptically saying, “You may never forgive me for what I took from you,” but in the end, “you will realize it was all worth it.” Later, after being chased through the jungle to a cliff by Mother Longlegs, a panicked Bill hurled into the sea a watertight satchel bearing the bowtie-like Monarch logo. Bill would live another day (well, at least until this happens), while that bag would be dredged out of the Sea of Japan by fishermen some 40 years later.

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We then leap to the “present” (OK, 2015), where San Francisco resident Cate Randa (played by Anna Sawai) arrives in Tokyo to settle the affairs of her recently passed father. There, Cate — who, flashbacks tell us, was on hand for Godzilla’s trashing of the Golden Gate Bridge years prior — clocks “Godzilla Evacuation Routes” as well as missile launchers stationed throughout the city. One cabbie even suggests that “G-Day” was a CGI-created “hoax,” and he can explain further on his podcast.

Cate uses a set of keys to access her late father’s apartment, inside of which she finds… a woman, Emiko, very frightened by the stranger who just stepped into her home! When Emiko’s son Kentaro (Ren Watabe) races into the room, Cate explains that the man in many of their framed family photos is her dad, Hiroshi. Meaning, he apparently had two families, including one with Cate and her mom in San Francisco. Cate convinces her hosts a bit, but when Emiko asks for an update on Hiroshi, Cate can’t bring herself to drop that bomb and instead leaves. Outside, Cate is introduced to Tokyo’s post-G-Day society when an early warning signal blares on everyone’s phones. Kentaro arrives to lead a confused Cate to a bunker, with his mom. There, Cate privately flashes back to more of G-Day, where she was a school teacher aboard a bus full of students that, after she and a few others safely exited onto the Godzilla-thrashed bridge, plunged into the bay.

When an “all clear” signal chimes, Emiko invites Cate up for tea/conversation, but Cate declines and starts to dart off again. Kentaro suggests that Cate did not get the answers she traveled so far for, so he invites her to go with him — to their father’s private office space. Kentaro, Cate realizes, believed that their dad simply created “software for satellites,” but she seems to know quite different. Before Cate can say more, she discovers a safe hidden behind a wall map, its combination a mish-mash of her, Kentaro and their moms’ birthdates. Inside is the watertight satchel from the cold open, and inside that are several data storage tapes. Clocking on the bag the same Monarch logo she saw on the uniforms of “soldiers” at G-Day, Cate beseeches Kentaro to help her learn what’s on the tapes.

Kentaro takes them to May (Kiersey Clemons), a hacker with whom he clearly has a messy romantic history. May eventually agrees to help with the data tapes, but the instant she decrypts some of one, an “alert” sounds on the desktop computer of a Monarch staffer, somewhere. The Monarch staffer apprises a supervisor, Tim (Joe Tippett), and he conspicuously tells her not to kick this issue up the chain any further, but to let him deal with it.

Cate, Kentaro and May, meanwhile, find among the first tape’s data a curious map (but of what?), lotsa memos, photos…. When Kentaro demands to know if his father was with Cate at G-Day, she flashes back to days after that event, when she finally reached her father on the phone; moments later, she saw him rushing toward her. Hiroshi handed Cate bus tickets, for her and her mom to take to Reno. “I need you to take care of your mother,” he sorta-explained. “There is something I must do.” One week later, Cate shares with Kentaro and May, she got a call from the Alaska state police saying that her dad’s bush plane disappeared in a storm, its wreckage never found. As Kentaro suggests that their father had “reasons” for what he did, Cate recognizes a 20something woman in one of the data drive’s photos — it’s her grandmother, standing in the middle of a gigantic footprint in a jungle….

Said grandmother is Dr. Keiko Mira (Mari Yamamoto), whom we first meet in Kazakhstan circa 1959, riding in a Jeep with fellow researcher and husband Bill Randa (Anders Holm), and Army lieutenant Lee Shaw (Wyatt Russell). It’s Lee’s job to keep Keiko and Bill “alive,” while they attempt to “prove the network is real” and that their “theory is not a conspiracy.” To that end, they follow a trail of detectable radiation, until at its peak they get out of the Jeep, mask up and head into a forest. When they encounter an unmasked teen with a rifle, Keiko, Bill and Lee learn that the radioactive “contamination” threat is but “a fairytale to keep away the curious.”

An unmasked Keiko, Bill and Lee make tracks for a nearby, abandoned facility, where they detect zero radiation and around which they plant and detonate charges. That triggers a readout that suggests a deep chamber within — exactly what they were looking for! Venturing inside the facility, the trio find a chamber, at the bottom of which is a MUTO egg “nursery.”

Deciding that the luminescent eggs look “dormant” (though full aware that “mom can’t be far away”), Bill and Lee begrudgingly agree to let Keiko rappel into the chasm, to extract genetic matter from one of the embryos. Lee accompanies her, but when he takes one wrong step and triggers some sort of fault, buggy critters began clambering out of their eggs! Lee and Keiko race for and begin to climb the ropes whence they came. When the giant bugs latch onto Keiko’s legs and weigh her down, Lee does his best to shoot them with his firearm, to little avail. Bill does his best to belay Keiko to safety, but the wee MUTOs offer too much resistance, and then men can only gasp as the rope slips from Bill’s hands and Keiko’s plummets into the dark, buggy abyss…..

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