KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT: THE FINAL EPISODES

DRAGON KNIGHT x ONYX

Dr. Tristan of HeroPower

Well, here we are, at the end of the year-long season of “Kamen Rider Dragon Knight.” We got here a lot faster than I was expecting to, considering the show was basically cancelled only weeks before the finale would have aired. In an unanticipated move, 4Kids released the final four episodes of the series all in one shot. Which is how I chose to watch them. And as I try to separate the feeling of loss associated with ending another American toku show, from my overall critical sense of how well the episodes were made, the strongest thoughts the show has left me with are a desire for more.  

When spoilers from the spanish-language dub of the show came rolling into the fandom, I avoided all of it, but could not help but notice complaints about the show’s ending. It was assumed long before this that the series would end with a clip show chronicling the key plot points of the story while wrapping it up in an epilogue. I can’t say I was excited by the idea, but since there were so many plot elements left unresolved, I remained hopeful that they would find a way to make it work.   

And so, the true climax of the series would take place within the two-part episode just before the epilogue, titled “For Ventara and Earth.” And what a climax it was. For the first time, there were more than just a few Kamen Riders gathered in one area for a fight sequence. By the time we reached the end of the mission to storm Xaviax’s base, all thirteen of them had reappeared.

KRDK has had no shortage of quality action, but they definitely saved their best material for last, as Xaviax took on Eubulon and his Riders. Meanwhile, I thought it was clever how they used the anti-Rider shield as a means of making Trent and Maya essential to the final battle, sneaking in to give the Riders a portal through the shield.     

And just as I suspected all along, Pryce comes to Maya’s rescue, and whatever beef Maya was having with him because of his Mirror Twin JTC was squashed. I assume they’ll have a few Kamen Rider babies running around in ten years or so.

POWER DOWN.VENTARANS.

But speaking of the Mirror Twins, there was one element about the climax that I would have done quite differently, and that’s how the remaining Ventaran Riders were handled. Some of these actors had not been seen at all since their Earth counterparts were vented months earlier. A couple of these characters should have provoked a fairly major reaction from the main characters. In particular, the Ventaran Kamen Rider Sting, counterpart to Chris Ramirez, who had become good friends with Kit and Len before his eventual venting. The man doesn’t even get so much as a close-up.

And I was so excited to see these actors return. When the time came for Eubulon’s portal to open, and all the armored Riders stepped forth, it was a triumphant moment. But when it was all over, the “new guys” were treated as though they were hardly anything special. In the end, what should have been an emotional sequence of events was reduced to cameo appearances. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the black dude. Whatever his name is. I honestly have no idea.

ROBERT O'LEARY AS XAVIAXROBERT O'LEARY AS DEAD XAVIAX

That’s not to say that I wasn’t appropriately psyched about the final confrontation. Ultimately, seeing all thirteen Riders standing together in one room, with Xaviax pretty much laughing in their faces, is an awesome moment whether you know all the extra characters or not. I know Xaviax, and his final speech to all the Riders was so well performed it almost makes me regret that this will likely be the last chance we have to ever see him. William O’Leary has spent this entire season elevating every scene written for him with his performance, and I’m going to miss having a dose of his threatening, sarcastic personality every week.

What I will not miss are the clip shows.

Seriously, who makes three different recap episodes out of a single block of forty episodes? Especially considering the length of the recaps that appear at the start of every episode, including the epilogue which is meant to wrap up the whole story anyway. And the thing is, I could have found a way to still be satisfied by an epilogue story. But in order for it to really work, it would have needed to accomplish a number of things.

First and foremost, the Earth Riders. The real epilogue took about five seconds out the twenty-two in order to tell us that all the vented Earth guys were brought home and had their memories erased so they could live their lives like nothing happened………. Wait.

THAT’S IT?!

WHO?HUH?

What about Chris? For pete’s sake, he was the first real good guy to get vented, and his loss was one of the huge turning points for the series. His friendship with Kit and Len was strong enough that I expected him to return much earlier, and for it to be a fairly emotional moment. Instead, we don’t even SEE Chris meet up with his friends again. The closest we get is a brief glimpse of his nameless Ventaran twin, and a quick voiceover by Maya about how he went on to be in the military. I felt like I had just lost a contest and was being handed a consolation prize. Lifetime supply of toilet paper, anyone?

There’s also the fact that Wrath was written as Len’s mentor. The man who “taught him everything he knows.” There’s no interaction between them. Not even a throwaway line about Wrath being proud of him, or one of those “meaningful wordless nods” these shows are so fond of using.

How about showing JTC getting arrested for all his crimes (before his Rider days, I mean)? Particularly if Pryce and Maya are there to watch him get dragged off. And then there’s the Cho Brothers, whose reunion might have been nice to see, even if they were basically criminals with very little substance until one of them was vented. And I really would have liked to see a fleshed-out scene where Kit gets his father back, for real this time. I mean, the list of possible final moments between the twenty-something characters just goes on and on.

FOR VENTARA AND EARTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!HAPPY WRATH IS HAPPY

And maybe there were a few scheduling issues with some of the actors. If they were being paid as recurring characters, then I’m sure money might have also been a factor. But if you got them to do those appearances in the base set, would it really have been too expensive to at LEAST have one genuine scene with Chris instead of shunting him off into obscurity with all the others? 

I think the best parts of the epilogue were the ones taking place in present time. Obviously, Aunt Grace was never going to come back into the story, but it was amusing to find that the store had now become enormous, and that Maya was there signing books. I really enjoyed her lines about the value of telling the story, whether it be fictional or not. One of the few times where I felt like the writers were trying to get out a specific message about the show and what it might stand for. 

It was nice to see Lacey again, though I honestly don’t understand why she wasn’t involved in the last several episodes, without so much as an explanation as to what she was doing this whole time. And no, “getting some air” doesn’t count. At least it was nice to hear that Trent was now working with the No-Men, accomplishing what had been his goal the entire time. Trent got a lot of flack from certain fans who questioned his role in the series, but I enjoyed his presence, especially when he became an agent. If there was ever a sequel to KRDK (which I know isn’t likely) I’d be happy to see him return.

And the idea of returning might have been on the writers’ minds when they crafted the final scene. While I had my reservations about how quickly they did it, I did like the idea that they would discover new worlds beyond Earth or Ventara, paving the way for new adventures. Whether or not the story continues, the season ends on a good final note. With Kit, Len, and Kase all transforming for what may be the last time we see them. 

I find myself saddened that this truly may be the end, not just for those characters, but for American Kamen Rider in general. Regardless of its flaws, I was among the show’s loyal fans that would not miss an episode, and wanted it to succeed and make way for future projects. I found myself loving the action, and having a sense of wonder about the possibilities with the alternate universe and the greater mythology behind the story. 

“Kamen Rider Dragon Knight” was by no means perfect. But for a year of my life, I had an American toku show that acted as a companion piece to Power Rangers, the only other show of its kind that I could watch on my own television. It was there for me to love, or to hate. To geek out over one week, and be infuriated by the next. To speculate about, and to be surprised by. Regardless of the criticisms I’ve offered for the show, I know that as we step into the next year, I’m going to miss having the show around. Hell, I miss it already.

KAMEN RIDER!

Let’s Ride.   

 

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