Arcane episode 3 recap: An unrelenting whirlwind of violence

Arcane Episode 1 Recap
(Image credit: Riot Games)

Netflix's Arcane is finally here, and we're recapping each of its episodes. Each Saturday until November 20, a new act containing three episodes will premiere on Netflix. You can read our review of Act 1, or check out our recap of episode 1 and episode 2.

Until now, Arcane has been a show about how a group of thieving street urchins have lit the fuse on a powder keg that threatens to destroy the cities of Piltover and Zaun. And for two episodes, that fuse has burned slowly as we're whisked from one location to the next to better understand the political and interpersonal drama unfolding in the wake of that fateful heist. And after all that anticipation, episode 3's explosive ending is as horrifying as it is cathartic.

But before that can happen, there's a little bit of fuse left to burn. Episode 3 opens to the eerie sounds of a woman singing before the camera fades in and we see a man floating deep underwater. "Ever wonder what it's like to drown?" Silco asks. The man is him—albeit a much younger him, without the facial scars and black eye.

It's a peaceful, if somber moment, one that is interrupted by flashes of violence as Silco is held underwater by a pair of burly hands, blood gushing from his eye. Someone tried to drown him, once, and as Silco's monologue continues, it's clear who it was: Vander.

Bad blood 

At the end of episode 2, Vi was getting ready to turn herself over to the Enforcers. But that final scene was playing a trick on us. As the door to Benzo's shop opens and Vi stands to meet her fate, it's not Enforcers that greet her but Vander and Benzo. Vander is not going to let her sacrifice herself to save everyone. "Protect the family," he says, as he shoves her through a door into a storeroom and locks her inside. Vander has decided if anyone should take the fall, it should be him.

Just then, Grayson, Marcus, and their squad of Enforcers arrive. Vander offers himself as the sacrificial lamb, but Grayson is hesitant—she knows that he's the only one keeping the Undercity from falling into chaos. "It's the only way," Vander explains. With no other option, the Enforcers arrest Vander and lead him outside.

Vi struggles to free herself from the locked store room but stops when she hears shouting from outside. Climbing up to a storm window, she's just in time to see an Enforcer reduced to a bloody paste—gore spraying across the window and blocking her view. Something is going terribly wrong. Outside, we see Grayson covered in blood. Murdered, along with the rest of the Enforcers except Marcus.

Silco emerges from the fog and Benzo tries to attack him but is instantly slaughtered by a monster. It's Deckard, mutated from the serum he ingested in episode 2. Marcus says this wasn't the deal he and Silco had made, to which Silco replies, "Deals change," and hands him a bag of coins. Deckard knocks Vander out and takes him away with Silco, leaving Vi alone in the locked storeroom.

(Image credit: Riot Games)

Magical mayhem 

Back topside, Viktor and Jayce try to complete his research but can't without more of his confiscated equipment. Viktor convinces Jayce to break into Heimerdinger's lab, explaining that he's not content with merely being the dean's assistant. Like Jayce, he wants to change the world.

Vi doesn't stay trapped in that storeroom for long. She's rescued by Echo, who saw everything and is now traumatized by the death of his own adoptive father, Benzo. Fortunately, Echo saw where Silco and Deckard took Vander—the fish market that conceals Silco's underwater lab.

Here, Silco reveals his ultimate goal: To transform the Undercity into a nation equal to Piltover in terms of power and influence. One that doesn't bow to the Council and Enforcers. To achieve that goal, he plans to use that mutant serum—called Shimmer—to "scare" Piltover into supplication. It's a dream, we discover, Vander and Silco once shared. Until Vander betrayed him by trying to drown him in one of the chemical-infused rivers of the Undercity. Silco had a cut on his face, and the river toxins are what scorched it and blackened his eye. Silco managed to stab Vander using his own knife and escape, and the two have been enemies ever since. Vander tries to persuade Silco away from war, but Silco simply believes Vander has lost his nerve.

Jayce and Viktor arrive at Heimerdinger's lab in the dead of night and attempt to sneak in but are caught by Councilor Mel Medarda. She also wants in on the project, and offers to buy the duo the time they need to complete the next phase of their research and attempt to stabilize one of the mana gems. They're successful, and the mana gem activates without exploding—though nearly everyone in Piltover sees the unmistakable blue energy it radiates. Heimerdinger arrives with Enforcers and finds his lab barricaded while Jayce and Viktor complete their experiment. Just as Heimerdinger gets the door open, Jayce successfully creates a stable magical spell. "You've actually done it," Heimerdinger says, but before he can shut down the experiment, Mel Medarda arrives and says the decision isn't his to make. The Council needs to decide if Jayce's research, which he called Hextech, is now worth pursuing.

Vi arrives at The Last Drop and finds Milo, Claggor, and Powder preparing to fight the Enforcers. She tells them what happened and the group resolves to go and save Vander. All except Powder. Vi knows it's too dangerous, so she tells her to hide. Vi also gives her a flare that Powder can light if she gets into trouble, so Vi knows where to find her. Distraught and being left behind because she's too weak, Powder takes one of the mana gems and incorporates it into one of her makeshift grenades.

(Image credit: Riot Games)

Meanwhile, Vi, Milo, and Claggor infiltrate Silco's fish market and find Vander chained to a chair in a meat locker. Milo begins picking the locks, but the trio soon discover it's a trap. Silco's goons surround them. Using Vander's iron gauntlets, Vi fights to protect the group just as Powder arrives on the scene. Claggor, meanwhile, begins breaking down a ruined wall to create an escape route. After Vi shows what a badass she is by beating the shit out of several thugs, Silco sics a mutated Deckard on her and he quickly defeats her. Seeing this, Powder arms her new mana-gem grenade while an injured Vi crawls back into the meat locker. She slams the door shut just in time to keep Deckard out.

As Deckard smashes against the door, Claggor finishes clearing their escape route and Milo picks the last of Vander's locks. Just then, Powder's mana gem grenade—strapped to a mechanical walking monkey—wanders right up to Deckard and detonates multiple, violent explosions. Powder is thrown from the rooftop she was hiding on, while Silco and Deckard are caught in the blast. The explosion also ignites Silco's Shimmer manufacturing plant, starting an enormous blaze that soon engulfs the entire fish market. In the ensuing explosion, Claggor and Milo are both killed. Marcus, still in the Undercity, sees the explosion from a distance.

Not everyone died from the explosion, however. Vander and Vi are trapped under rubble, and Silco, Deckard, and several goons are still alive. Silco instructs them to kill Vander and Vi while their incapacitated, but Vander summons his last bit of strength, frees himself, and squares off against a mutant Deckard. Vi looks in horror at the corpses of her dead family, Milo and Claggor, but also sees a piece of Powder's grenade and realizes she was responsible for the explosion. As Vander continues his desperate battle against Deckard, Silco sneaks up behind him and stabs him. Vander falls from the gangplank they're fighting on and lands onto a cache of Shimmer. With his last ounce of life, he drinks one of the vials. Just as Deckard is about to kill Vi, a grotesquely mutated Vander slaughters him. As the flames intensity, Vander chooses to save Vi rather than settle the score with Silco. He smashes through the wall just as the market collapses into flames.

(Image credit: Riot Games)

Different paths 

As Vander dies, his last words to Vi are to take care of her sister. As she mourns his death, Powder shows up. She is so excited that her makeshift grenade actually worked that she doesn't realize she murdered all of her friends and adoptive father. "You did this?" Vi says, in disgust, and strikes Powder. "You're a Jinx," Vi says, as her little sister cries. "Milo was right."

Unable to cope with the situation, Vi leaves Powder sobbing next to Vander's corpse. Just then, Silco arrives with the surviving members of his gang and finds Powder. Vi sees this and tries to save her but Marcus appears from the shadows, knocks her unconscious, and drags her away. But what Vi doesn't realize is that Silco doesn't want to kill Powder. After Powder explains that Vi seemingly abandoned her, he comforts her like a father. "It's OK," he whispers. "We'll show them. We will show them all."

And that's the end of episode 3, an explosive finale to act 1 that sets the stage for Powder's transformation into Jinx. If you haven't already, be sure to check out our recaps of episode 1 and episode 2, or read our review of Arcane's first act.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.