Kurt Russell's performance as the older Lee Shaw is a major highlight of the latest episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters!
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters - Godzilla Still

Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for Episodes 2 and 3 of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters mystery thickens as Kurt Russell’s presence as older Lee Shaw provides a lot of entertainment value to Episodes 2 and 3’s events. Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is the MonsterVerse’s first gigantic step into streaming, premiering on AppleTV+.

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The MonsterVerse is a kaiju-focused film franchise, depicting a shared universe inhabited by Godzilla and King Kong. The franchise began with 2014’s Godzilla. The franchise’s latest cinematic installment is Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, which will be released on April 12th, 2024.

Monarch Agents Close In on The Heroes When They Get Closer To The Truth

A major section of the second episode is dedicated to Cate attempting to avoid Monarch agents, who noticed the breach of information caused by Cate and Kentaro’s actions to find out what happened to their father. While Cate evades the agents, Kentaro discovers more secret documents in their father’s office, tipping him off to Lee Shaw’s existence.

This plotline goes out of its way to make Monarch seem like a far-shadier organization than the films suggested. While it’s cliché to make it where the government organization is obviously corrupt in some way, it’s this contrast between the ways the films and this series portray Monarch that makes it engaging. One main question from this take on the MonsterVerse’s resident monster-researching organization is how it will foreshadow the organization’s hi-tech iteration in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Older Lee Shaw’s Appearance and The Trip To Alaska

Cate’s group visits Lee Shaw, who is at a retirement home in Japan. The home comes across as idyllic but is truthfully a glorified house arrest situation, overseen by Monarch. Shaw encourages Cate, Kentaro, and May to find out the truth about Cate and Kentaro’s father and they head out of the place together, resulting in a fun car chase sequence.

Through a combination of Shaw’s friendship with a pilot named Du-Ho and what Cate and Kentaro discover regarding where their father is headed, the group journeys to Alaska. Kurt Russell’s entire performance in episode 3 is deeply reminiscent of his role as Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China. Even at an older age, Russell’s charisma just brings a lot to the cast’s dynamic at this point in the series.

The plot point of needing to travel to Alaska and encountering a giant monster feels like a deliberate reference to Russell’s performance as Macready in 1982’s The Thing. While it was simply a throwaway line, Shaw’s vague answer to a question about his age hints at something future episodes may delve into.

Both Episodes’ Flashbacks Call Back to Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla (2014)

Set in 1952, Episode 2’s flashbacks focus on young Shaw, Bill Randa, and Keiko’s discovery of the U.S.S Lawton’s remains. As the trio explore the wrecked ship, they confront a new giant monster known as the Ion Dragon, but the episode ends before we’re shown the monster’s final fate. Jumping to 1954 in the next episode, we’re shown the nuclear tests against Godzilla from the trio’s perspective. While Keiko is particularly disturbed by the decision to nuke Godzilla, the bombing secures Monarch the funding it needs.

We’re only three episodes in, but it’s seriously becoming a running gag that each episode has to explicitly reference an event from one of the mainline MonsterVerse films. Granted, this is the easiest way to connect the series to the films, since the films established a lot of backstory to further develop.

The exploration of the U.S.S Lawton calls back to Randa’s backstory with the ship from Kong: Skull Island. The bombing of Godzilla finally shows what Godzilla (2014) teased about Monarch’s history with the king of the monsters.

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Of the three episodes so far, Episode 3 was easily the best one, with its great character moments and engaging flashback sequences. Therefore, Episode 2 is more like an 8/10, and Episode 3 is a 9/10.

About Monarch: Legacy of Monsters

Monarch Legacy of Monsters key art

Release Date: November 17, 2023
Executive Producers: Chris Black, Matt Fraction, Matt Shakman, Joby Harold, Tory Tunnell, Andy Goddard, Brad Van Arragon, Andrew Colville, Hiro Matsuoka, Takemasa Arita
Cast: Kurt Russell, Wyatt Russell, Anna Sawai, Kiersey Clemons, Ren Watabe, Mari Yamamoto, Anders Holm, Joe Tippett, Elisa Lasowski

Following the thunderous battle between Godzilla and the Titans that leveled San Francisco and the shocking revelation that monsters are real, “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” tracks two siblings following in their father’s footsteps to uncover their family’s connection to the secretive organization known as Monarch. Clues lead them into the world of monsters and ultimately down the rabbit hole to Army officer Lee Shaw (played by Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell), taking place in the 1950s and half a century later when Monarch is threatened by what Shaw knows. The dramatic saga — spanning three generations — reveals buried secrets and the ways that epic, earth-shattering events can reverberate through our lives.

What are your thoughts on Monarch: Legacy of Monsters‘s second and third episodes? What was your favorite moment between both episodes? What other connections to the MonsterVerse’s films do you want to see in future episodes? Let us know by giving The Illuminerdi a shout-out on our social media, and make sure to follow us for more reviews like this, we’re always watching. 

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Valenti Govantes

Valenti Govantes is his name, entertainment journalism is his game. Growing up with a burning desire to grow and express his knowledge, Valenti decided it was best to start writing about his passions for film and comics. After success writing for the university newspaper and film blog, Valenti now muses about the important things in life, like which Friday the 13th movie is the best, through his articles on Medium. Horror is his ride or die film genre, but he loves to watch anything weird, over the top and just pure cult classic material. He is always up to talk about beloved comic runs or the complexities of DC Comics’ many reboots on his Twitter and Instagram.