This recap contains spoilers for the Onyx Equinox episode “Jaws of The Jaguar.”
Onyx Equinox gets its main plot underway this week in “Jaws of The Jaguar.” The show’s second episode serves two functions: to kick off the central narrative, and secondarily to introduce deuteragonist Yaotl.
Izel and Yaotl are perfect foils for each other. Izel begins the episode distraught beyond belief at the death of his sister, unwilling to even consider taking up the destiny that the gods have thrust upon him. He is an archetypal reluctant hero, someone for whom The Hero’s Journey does not come easily. He’s at his lowest point here, having lost everything that matters to him. Yaotl, by contrast, is the loyal emissary of the god Tezcatlipoca. His only concern is that Izel fulfills his duty, which Yaotl himself has been dispatched to ensure. Consequently, he has little regard for Izel himself. Their first interactions here are downright hostile. Yaotl’s harsh words toward Izel, and Izel’s initial refusal of destiny’s call, create a push-and-pull dynamic that continues over the course of “Jaws of The Jaguar.” It’s a solid setup.
More directly, “Jaws of The Jaguar” sees Izel trapped at the bottom of the sacrificial pit he threw himself into at the end of last week’s episode. Here lies a secret world of daggers that ask for blood, pits of glowing turquoise fluid and, of course, monsters. Izel’s task, though he doesn’t initially accept it, is to close the five gates of the underworld. One of those gates lies here, and Izel’s first trial is a pretty darn direct one.
Onyx Equinox has always had the good sense to put its monsters front and center (And why not? The cool factor is undeniable.). Here, between his pleas to be left to die so that he might join his sister, Izel is confronted by one. I always struggle to describe Onyx Equinox‘s creatures. They’re wonderfully creative, and the monster who shows up here looks like a particularly nasty minion of Samurai Jack‘s Aku crossed with something out of the Alien franchise. It’s a huge multi-legged thing with a red skull poking out of its mouth. It really is quite delightfully nasty.
But of course, that would only mean so much if Izel wasn’t threatened by it. It’s a mean creature, and it’s through fighting it that Izel comes to realize he doesn’t really want to die. (Much to Yaotl’s bemusement.) Through sheer determination, Izel manages to close the first of the underworld gates as he defeats the creature, completing one-fifth of his task before he even accepts it.
Not everything is all well and good, of course. Izel is still shell-shocked from the loss of his only real family. It takes the townspeople running him out of the city — his eyes have become a jade green, marking him as touched by the underworld — for him to well and truly accept that he can’t go back to how things were. His reluctance even here to help humanity is pretty understandable. I have certainly known people affected by loss for whom acting for the benefit of an entire community can suddenly seem foreign. When you’re kicked down like this, it’s hard to imagine things ever looking right again.
What actually convinces Izel to take up his destiny is a question he asks Yaotl. He wants to know if the gods will bring back his sister if he fulfills their task. Yaotl’s response is pointedly evasive: “The gods can do anything.” He leaves out any mention of “will,” but it’s enough for Izel, at least for now. “Jaws of The Jaguar” ends on this note — the two now-companions leaving the city and into the forest. Many details from “Jaws of The Jaguar,” big and small, seem like they’ll come up again even besides the question of Izel’s sister. There’s a noblewoman in the city who’s the focus of a visual aside, a green-eyed bird that stalks Izel and Yaotl as they leave the city, and so on.
Early in the episode, Tezcatlipoca makes the observation that there are pieces of the game that have yet to reveal themselves. He’s referring to his wager with Quetzalcoatl, but the same is true for Onyx Equinox itself.