Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the latest installment of Legendary’s MonsterVerse franchise, has finally arrived on Apple TV+ after months of anticipation. The mystery thriller series aims to explore the titanic spectacle of the films from a more grounded and human perspective; showcasing the fallout and consequences of monster battles on everyday people while also giving further insight into the secret organization Monarch from which the series gets its title.
With so much to establish and set up for the series as a whole and so much to draw from previous installments in the MonsterVerse, how does Episode 1, fittingly titled “Aftermath,” juggle all that while still working as compelling television in its own right? Well, let’s dive in and find out. Please keep in mind that there will be full spoilers for “Aftermath,” so tread lightly if you haven’t seen it yet.
Monarch Episode 1 Plot
After a brief cold open featuring John Goodman reprising his Kong: Skull Island role, we cut to 2015 where Cate Randa, played by Anne Sawai, is traveling to Japan to settle the affairs of her recently deceased father. Upon entering his apartment, Cate discovers that her father was cheating on her mother and even had a son; her half-brother Kentaro, played by Ren Watabe.
Cate, still reeling from this revelation, her father’s death in general, and the trauma from the San Francisco Godzilla attacks one year prior, is ready to head home when she and Kentaro discover secret files in their father’s old office; which according to Kentaro’s ex-girlfriend May, played by Kiersey Clemons, link him directly to Monarch and by extension Godzilla.
Meanwhile, in flashbacks, Cate and Kentaro’s grandfather William, played by Anders Holm, works alongside Mari Yamamoto’s Keiko and Wyatt Russell’s Lee Shaw in an early incarnation of Monarch. The trio are investigating a supposed radiation anomaly only to discover that the area in question isn’t irradiated at all. They track the readings back to an underground cave filled with Titan eggs, which hatch into a swarm of monsters that chase them down, ending the episode.
Naturally, “Aftermath” is a very exposition-heavy episode. As the series premiere, it needs to firmly establish the main character across two separate storylines within two different timelines. Who these people are, what their goals are, what the stakes are in general, and so on. Despite this, the episode never feels like it needs to stop to introduce people, instead weaving the exposition organically into the storytelling.
Cate meeting Kentaro because she walked into their home without realizing, May being called in as a tech expert because they need answers, even stuff like the Godzilla warning signs around the city help make the world feel organic while firmly establishing the stakes. By contrast, the flashback story feels a bit weaker in terms of worldbuilding, but makes up for it with strong character work, as the dynamic between Keiko, Bill, and Shaw feels a lot more natural and snappy than the one with Cate, Kentaro, and May at this point in time.
“Aftermath” also manages to find a healthy balance between the human mystery at its core and the monster action that fans of the MonsterVerse have come to expect. The giant spider vs. giant crab battle in the opening, the swarm chase towards the end, and the brief glimpses of Godzilla himself throughout are extremely well-done in terms of action and VFX work, adding an extra bit of flair to the proceedings.
If there’s a weak link to “Aftermath,” it would be, ironically enough, the present-day Monarch plot. They work fine for what little role they have in the episode, but as antagonists, they’re not all that compelling and Joe Tippett’s Phil doesn’t have enough character at this point to really stand out. Still, as far as pilots go, “Aftermath” is a strong start to the series with compelling interwoven storylines and tantalizing set-ups for what’s to come.