This recap contains spoilers for the Onyx Equinox episode “Thicker Than Water.”
Onyx Equinox‘s third episode, “Thicker Than Water,” is a transitional one. Episodes like this are traditional to the genre. Here, the hero (Izel) acquires some companion (or two, in this case) as he continues to grow into his role as a leader. That growth is very incremental here. The two companions, meanwhile, add some much-needed color to the still generally hostile interactions between Izel and Yaotl. Getting to that point is a bit of a task. “Thicker Than Water” is unfortunately also the diciest episode of the show so far, but we’ll get to that.
“Thicker Than Water” opens on a flashback, a device Onyx Equinox has been averse to until now. We briefly get the broad strokes of Izel’s life before he and his sister were, as this episode confirms, sold. His father was a monster hunter, and if your immediate assumption is that we will meet Izel’s father again soon, you’re quite right. First though, we meet his own new sons: the twins K’in and Yun. K’in and Yun are a pretty classic character archetype in and of themselves. One is snarky and abrasive while the other is comparatively caring.
They’re Mesoamerican ballgame players, and their shared goal in life is to eventually play in a “real” ball game, one where the losers are sacrificed to the gods. Doing so would also grant them possession of a mystical artifact ball. That artifact, naturally, also happens to be what Izel is in the city searching for. Their (and Izel’s) father is less than enthused about his sons playing in a professional game and possibly losing fatally. This sows the seeds of the conflict between the twins and their father. The conflict between Izel and their father is, of course, a lot simpler.
Despite Yaotl warning him to not get distracted, it doesn’t take long for Izel to coincidentally run into his father and for the conflict to naturally flow out from there. To Onyx Equinox‘s credit, the actual relationships in “Thicker Than Water” don’t ever feel strained. Izel naturally doesn’t trust their father after he literally sold them away. His father feels remorseful but his attempts to simultaneously justify himself and reassure Izel that he’s changed don’t work. The twins, meanwhile, mostly pick on Izel (one checking the other when he goes too far), as siblings tend to do.
Something that detracts a bit from all this is, frankly, the voice acting. I still think the occasionally-patchy VA work in Onyx Equinox is likely the simple result of having to record everything from home. Consequently, I’ve tried not to hold it against the show too much. Still, with the boys’ father, the result is especially noticeable and it dampens the emotional impact of his scenes. The extensive swearing present in the dialogue in “Thicker Than Water” is a little odd too. It doesn’t detract from the writing, but it doesn’t add anything either.
Demons in the Dark
Still, Onyx Equinox is still Onyx Equinox. Izel and his newfound more-or-less brothers eventually end up in the city temple. He steals the magic ball which ends up “bonding” to them instead of him, and the temple comes down around them. Then, demons show up, as they’re wont to do. The usual Onyx Equinox routine, in as much as a show only three episodes in can have one. The fight at the end of “Thicker Than Water” isn’t as dynamic or arresting as those in the last two episodes, but it’s still solid. Here, Yaotl battles some of the show’s usual mishmash demon creatures. I might describe these particular baddies as looking like a cross between fire belly toads and wolves? Regardless, it’s a solid end to “Thicker Than Water.”
My ongoing concern is if “solid” is where Onyx Equinox tops out. But I’m certainly not willing to be dismissive this early on. Onyx Equinox has a lot of ground left to cover and plenty of time to do it. My hope is that this is just one more stop along the way.