Half of Arcane’s audience couldn’t care less about seeing more established characters from League of Legends enter the story in season 2. They’ve never played the game and are content to follow Vi, Jinx, and others they’ve already met, and characters like Viktor and Ekko still have plenty of origin story left to tell. But it’s inevitable that Riot Games will want to introduce new champions and that players will want to see them, and how they are integrated into the existing narrative will be a crucial factor in the show’s continued success among both gamers and non-gamers alike.
The good news is that Arcane has already excelled at pacing itself when it comes to revealing champions in their full power, allowing its main characters to be featured using recognizable in-game weapons while keeping its supporting cast in earlier stages of backstory development. The show has also localized its narrative to the twin cities of Piltover and Zaun with only hints of the expansionist nation of Noxus, and as such, only League of Legends champions from these locations have been explored (with the exception of that initial glimpse of Ryze, the mage who saved Jayce and his mother).
Arcane season 2 should probably continue this trend before widening its scope, and certain hints indicate it probably will. League of Legends players spotted the silhouette of a wolf creature known as Warwick in the shimmer laboratory run by the shrouded character known to gamers (but only called “doctor” in the show) as Singed, who created the beast in the lore of the game. There’s even speculation that Warwick is Vander, Vi and Jinx’s adoptive father, transformed further rather than killed by his sacrifice in the opening chapter.
Singed himself might even invite further development, given that he was seen gazing longingly at a woman’s portrait inside a locket. Based solely on her hairdo, some have guessed this woman might be Orianna, a champion of Zaun made entirely of clockwork that Arcane may choose to introduce, but more importantly, it hints at a deeper, more emotional motivation for the alchemist’s single-minded, somewhat amoral experimentation. Since the Vander-as-Warwick angle ties more into the season 1 arc, that storyline might be the safer bet.
Then there are characters like Caitlyn and Ekko, who deserve their time in the limelight before too many new champions show up. Sure, we saw a sharpshooting drill from Caitlyn, and Ekko had a stopwatch in his showdown with Jinx; but they haven’t become the master sniper and the time manipulater from the game yet. It’s almost as though Arcane has been staggering the development of champions so that they each have their own moment, alone or in pairs. Not a bad way to operate!
After all, if Arcane goes too far with the introduction of new champions, it could dilute its existing story. For example, let’s say Viktor is fully transformed in season 2 and starts following his “glorious evolution” storyline from the games, in which he seeks to help the downtrodden of Zaun by replacing their damaged parts with cybernetic prosthetics. This would be much more preferable than, say, introducing Janna, a wind spirit champion from League of Legends who also protects the less fortunate of the undercity, before finishing with Viktor.
Supernatural creatures like Janna don’t yet fit into Arcane, which has had its magic tempered somewhat by the steampunk setting, and non-gaming fans may be unwilling to embrace the more fantasy-oriented champions League of Legends has to offer, even those located in Piltover such as Ezreal with his magical gauntlet. And that’s not even considering heroes associated with Noxus, another Runeterra location added to the show, which could further muddy the waters.
The fearsome champions of Noxus may someday make their way to Piltover in order to appear in Arcane, but they would likely be reserved for a season 3 and beyond. And before Katarina the Noxian assassin or Draven the pompous gladiator make their debut, viewers will be more interested to see who fills the power vacuum left by Silko’s death and who survives Jinx’s attack on the council chamber. In this respect, the fewer new champions the better until the current conflict plays out.
So how many champions should Arcane introduce each season to please League of Legends fans while avoiding the alienation of non-gaming viewers? Is two enough? Three too many? Do new heroes and villains have to wait until the conflict expands beyond the social divisions between Piltover and Zaun, if it ever does? Will viewers be content to stick with the current central characters, and is there room to shift focus as needed?
It’s easy to envision a path by which Arcane could navigate its own lore separate from League of Legends, using the existing worldbuilding as a guide rather than a bible. Knowing that it couldn’t possibly include even half of the champion lineup (nor would it want to), the show may choose to have them flit along the periphery in a series of recurring guest spots season to season. Given its excellent track record so far, confidence is high that the Netflix series can achieve the balance required even though season 1 set the bar very high, leaving the final verdict in the hands of the fans.