The Dragon Prince Creators Unravel the Mystery of Aaravos, Promise Shorter Wait for Season 5 (Exclusive)

After a three-year wait, The Dragon Prince finally returns to Netflix this week with its fourth season and a new subtitle, The Mystery of Aaravos. In the new season, two years have passed since the battle of the Storm Spire, and Ezren and Callum have returned home. However, the mysterious Aaravos remains a threat to the world of Xadia. As Aaravos continues to push his pieces around, enacting his plans, the heroes -- now a little older and a little wiser -- must begin to investigate his doings and how to stop them. The new season debuts on Thursday (the first episode is already available online), and it keeps up the series' high level of quality. had the opportunity to chat with The Dragon Prince's creators, Justin Richmond and Aaron Ehasz, about the new season and the future of the series. As a word of caution, this conversation took place after watching the first four episodes of the new season. While we've tried to keep things vague, some minor SPOILERS may follow. If you're worried, maybe bookmark this page and come back to it after watching the fourth episode of the new season.

(Photo: Netflix)

Let's start with, what can you tell me about the big picture of what The Mystery of Aaravos is all about. What's the story you're looking to tell? What are the themes you're looking to play with, in this part of The Dragon Prince?

Justin Richmond: I think Aaravos has always been a really interesting character and we had lots of plans for him when we were writing seasons one through three. We got really lucky that the fans turned out in a big way and we had really good numbers, and we got more seasons. We always knew we wanted to dig more into what makes Aaravos tick and what is he up to and what is his plan. He's been this mysterious figure for a very long time in Xadia.

I think it was one morning we were just talking about what the title could be of this next batch here. I don't remember, I think Aaron came up with it and he was like, "Let's do it." I was like, "Yeah, it's great." The writers really liked it. I think that was where that overall title came from. Then we knew, going into Season 4, that we were going to do Earth as the next book in the saga because, we had a bunch of plans around Terry, Claudia's new boyfriend, who's an Earthblood elf. There's more Earth stuff coming up. More dragons, more Earth characters, places, and stuff. So, we leaned pretty heavily into that. Then the next few books obviously will continue from there as other Primals. But yeah, I think Aaravos is the guy behind the guy behind the guy situation. I'm excited for fans to get to see that, for sure.

Having seen the first four episodes, I'm interested in the tone of this season. Usually, with these younger-skewing cartoon adventures, there might be something dark that kicks things off, like the king's death for this series, but usually, after that, the characters aren't going to get murdered a whole lot on their journey. However, in these first four episodes, someone does get murdered and I was a little surprised by that. Can you talk to me a little bit about the tone you were looking to strike? Are you trying to age up the content, as the presumed audience ages, similar to something like Harry Potter?

JR: That's what it is. There's this time jump. You find out that it's two years later, and the characters have aged up, and we started talking about it when we first started writing Season 4. It was like, "Well, what if we do what Harry Potter did, where every year it gets a little more mature and a little more adult?" We're never going to be R-rated, right? But, we're definitely aging up the characters, more mature themes, a little more serious consequences to what's happening. We'll continue to do that as the seasons go on, moving forward. Hopefully, people like it, like they did in Harry Potter, where by the fifth year, he is doing stuff he never could have done in the first year. We're definitely playing with that as well. It gives us a lot of leeway to do really fun stuff with the characters and put them in interesting scenarios. 

I was also struck by that, while we do eventually get to the point where we've got an adventuring party together to go on a journey, the first few episodes are really focused on internal stuff, the pains of change, of growth, all this internal strife. Can you tell me a bit about what the idea there was, and what you were trying to do by focusing on those conflicts?

JR: First of all, I think that's really interesting stuff. It's interesting character stuff to get into. What does it mean if the ruler of this one country is in love with and going to marry the ruler of another country that, up until two years ago, were at each other's throats? A lot of the people on both sides aren't going to be particularly happy about that, or worried about it, or whatever. I think that's really interesting stuff.

Setting the stage for future events, we had to make sure that people understood that yes, the characters have moved forward and they won the battle of the Storm Spire, but that doesn't mean that everything is just hunky-dory now. It doesn't mean that the world is back to normal, whatever normal is for Xadia. But, it means that there's an imbalance, and they're going to be figuring it out. So, getting to dig into that early in this season has been really fun. Then that continues forward. A lot of those events that happen early on are setting a stage for stuff that will happen over the next few seasons.

There's a lot of relationship stuff in these first few episodes. There's Callum and Rayla's stuff, there's Amaya and Janai, and there's Claudia and Terry. Was that a conscious thing, that you wanted to talk about relationships here? Or, did it just happen that these various storylines wound up in that direction?

JR: We're always fascinated by characters, right? I think great stories always revolve around characters and so, naturally, you fall into that, oh, we should be talking about relationships and stuff. Obviously, we want to have magic, and dragons, and fighting, and all kinds of fun stuff also, but I think getting into where we were with the characters, it was really interesting that again, we had to explain where they were. There was a lot of stuff that's happened over the last few years. The way we got into that was again, we have to set the stage for where the baseline is for a lot of these characters. What's happening with Ezran and how does he feel about being king? What is Claudia and Terry's relationship, even though she's doing this dark stuff? So, we ended up having all of this stuff to get going, and then as the seasons go on, you'll now get to see, well what happened? What's happening with them, how are they evolving, and how are those relationships changing between each other as you're moving forward?

So, I don't think it was a conscious decision to be like, "Well, these episodes are all going to be about character." Obviously, we want to make great characters. But this is the right setup here. We're starting to frame the whole next part of the saga in these first four episodes, and there would be more of that as we go on, but, I think that was why we got to that place. 

I wanted to ask specifically about Callum and Rayla, but there's something interesting about them. Usually, in stories like this, you get a couple of characters giving each other glances, and then at the end, they kiss in the final episode, and it's happily ever after and that's it. Aang and Katara in Avatar: The Last Airbender is a good examples of that kind of thing (The Legend of Korra and comics notwithstanding). But Callum and Rayla kind of finished that arc in the first three seasons, and now we're getting into the less common territory of "What's next for this couple and their relationship?" outside of the typical TV "Will they? Won't they?" Can you talk a bit about that?

Aaron Ehasz: We try not to be writing a love story and doing, "will they, won't they", or making a romance. It's more for us, we follow the characters. We're trying to follow their epic story, and their adventure, and their interactions as people. If we start to see them develop a relationship, we follow through on that, and what does that mean?

That's what happened with Callum and Rayla. Justin and I didn't plan on that happening at the beginning when we started Dragon Prince, and we found their connection when everyone else did, and when they found it. We do our best to be almost discoverers of our character's paths in those ways. So, we were applying that same thing to where they are now.

So, you say, you got to the end of season three, and this beautiful thing happened and they're together, and all this. But, at the end of season three, Callum's ready to go back and have a more normal life and learn some magic, and support Ezran, and all those things. Rayla is obsessed. She's afraid Viren is still out there. She's got to go hunt him. She has to do it, and so she leaves him. So, that happens between the seasons, everyone knows that now. So, from Callum's perspective, well that's like you wake up one day and the person you're in love with has left you this very sweet letter, but they just left you cold on your birthday, and you got to process that. If you imagine the two years that went on, I'm sure there were a lot of tears, there's probably anger, there's probably hope, and then despair. He went through everything. Then at some point, as you start to try to recover emotional stability and a lot of us, we've all been through versions of this, you block off. You wall off that part of yourself, because it's vulnerable and because it hurts.

I think, to some degree, that's what Callum has done. He's walled that off and he's focused on being a High Mage, on magic, on mastering the Sky arcanum, which he has a connection to, but also expanding his knowledge of the other types of magic. That's been a great path of growth for him. But, it's also leading to new vulnerabilities. We're learning that the path of being obsessed with magic is also a path that leads close to Aaravos.

So, that's the setup for Callum. In terms of whether that wall stays where it is, whether he allows himself to be vulnerable again, and when and if he encounters Rayla, those are things we let ourselves discover as we told the story. Hopefully, it'll feel very natural and very organic, but we're not playing around. We're not doing a, "Will they, won't they." We're trying to follow these characters in a true way if that makes sense.

That touches on something else that I touched on earlier. Between what Callum's dealing with, what Rayla's dealing with, and what Claudia is dealing with, Viren coming back from being mostly dead, there seems to be a theme of dealing with trauma in this season. That goes for societal trauma too, because a lot of it is internal strife, people struggling with the changes, and things like that. Should we expect to see more of that as a continuing theme going forward in this season, and potentially the next one?

AE: It's really interesting that you phrase it that way because trauma is a really strong word and it captures this sense of long-lasting damage. But, trauma's not quite a scar, right? It's really painful, but you have some hope of processing it and healing it, but it's going to be challenging. I think that's a really great way of capturing almost poetically not just what some of the characters are going through, but what the world is going through. There's a deep historic trauma that has to be processed here.

Switching to some big-picture questions, there was a bit of a wait between Season 3 and Season 4. Lots of stuff happened. The pandemic happened. I'm sure fans are going to want to know, should they expect a similar wait between Season 4 and Season 5, or are things moving at a steadier pace now?

JR: It will be much, much faster with the coming seasons for sure.

AE: It'll be much more like the pace of the first three, for the next few seasons, for all four.

What can you tell me about the state of The Dragon Prince as a franchise? We've talked before and touched on the video game that's in the work. I've got my copy of the Tales of Xadia nearby. You've put out some books, and some comics. Can you say anything about what big plans you have coming up? Are there more comics on the way? Future expansions for Tales of Xadia? How's the game coming along?

AE: Certainly the biggest thing is going to be, there will be game announcements coming relatively soon, and in this period. So, that's the biggest thing, part of the franchise expanding and growing that we're ready to bring to The Dragon Prince community soon. Can't give you too much information now, but that will be the thing with the biggest impact coming in the next period.

Along with that, our partnerships with Scholastic are going to continue to produce cool stuff. I think we have other board game things happening, and development on some interesting toy and plush things will probably be coming out. We have a lot of partnerships on a lot of fun things, but the game announcement will be the biggest thing in the coming months, hopefully.

JR: We do have more comics coming, more books, more board games, all that stuff. We have a lot of stuff in the pipeline right now, for sure.

Circling back to this season, I'm going to ask one more thing because after watching those first four I'm sure people will be wondering. We learn a bit about Aaravos, including that he likes to prey on mages. Callum is currently obsessed with magic. How much danger is Callum in right now? Should we be worried?

AE: What do you think? How worried are you?

I'm concerned. I'm at a pretty steady "Uh-oh" at this point, waiting to see what happens next.

AE: It's a big thing for Callum. This is a real complication in his life.

JR: You should be worried.

The Dragon Prince: The Mystery of Aaravos debuts on Netflix on November 3rd.