Netflix’s Arcane has been gaining the recognition it deserved this year with awards like an Outstanding Animated Program being granted to it at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. It follows the stories of League of Legends most iconic characters as they go from regular people to the villains and heroes players know them to be today. Now if you’ve watched the series, there’s no question that Powder, who later renames herself Jinx, gets most of the spotlight in terms of being a complicated but sympathetic character.
Yet there’s one character whose motivations rival hers in complexity and that’s Viktor, the scientist extraordinaire who joins Jayce Talis in his journey to recreate and harness magic. Where Jinx’s motivations are purely personal – and ultimately, amoral – Viktor’s concerns venture into the larger picture. Driven on by the discrimination and suffering he goes through earlier in life, his ultimate mission is to create a better world where people don’t have to go through what he’s gone through.
His contentious methods and noble goal make him the true anti-hero of Arcane so when it comes to him, expect a rollercoaster of perspectives and emotional shifts in the coming seasons of the show.
Who Really Is Viktor?: Viktor’s Background and Motivations
Viktor is introduced in Arcane as an assistant of Cecil Heimerdinger who he helps with administrative duties as a council member and as an academic dean. He is quiet and reserved, preferring his work to the company of other people. While it’s definitely to do with his personality, another aspect of why Viktor shies away from the spotlight comes from his own experiences of being discriminated against.
Viktor grew up in Zaun where he witnessed unparalleled violence and poverty that people in Piltover, even Jayce and Caitlyn Kiramman, are mostly ignorant of. Living in these squalid and difficult conditions wasn’t easy, especially since Viktor was born disabled and had to walk with a cane.
So much of his worldview and motivations are shaped by this experience that it becomes his driving force in life. As he grows up, Viktor hones his scientific knowledge and mechanical skills in hopes of finding a way to “fix” his body.
In League of Legends’ lore, Viktor was originally set to go to Zaun’s Academy of Techmaturgy but a professor from Piltover offered him a chance to study there instead. In Arcane, it’s implied that Heimerdinger was the one to give him an opportunity to move out of Zaun.
Despite his cold demeanor, we’re shown that Viktor is actually a big softie who is sensitive to how his friends feel and act toward him. Ultimately, it’s this kindness that pushes him over the edge of what’s morally acceptable. Viktor strives to do real, lasting good for the people of Zaun and he’s more than willing to break a few eggs (and bones) on his way to accomplishing his goals.
Viktor’s Relationship With Others Gives Us A Look Into His Values
Viktor’s values come into conflict with how other people around him think about and view morality. While for Viktor the ends can justify the means, other characters see the means as just important as the goal. There’s also the issue of playing it safe. Viktor noticeably chaffes under any suggestion that he slow down to consider the ethical and safety implications of his work. He also doesn’t care about how his actions affect people on a personal level because he thinks the bigger picture is all that truly matters.
Jayce Talis was originally a League of Legends character who is enemies with Viktor, however in the Netflix series, the two begin as close friends. Viktor gains an interest in Jayce after the latter presents his Hextech project to the council. The council’s rejection and Heimerdinger’s adamant attitude against utilizing Hex cores make Viktor feel as if he’s found a kindred spirit – someone who also dreams of innovation that helps make the world a better place.
While Jayce and Viktor end up becoming fast friends and almost like brothers, the realities of being a council member and the face of Hextech eventually drive the two apart. Jayce, like Viktor, becomes invested in making sure that Hextech doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The only difference is that Jayce develops an us vs. them mentality between Piltover and Zaun which, understandably, hurts Viktor.
Viktor also starts to see Jayce’s politicking and consideration of others, which become near-inseparable later in the series, as a betrayal of their mission and their friendship. As far a she’s concerned, Jayce has already chosen a side – and it’s not with Viktor.
Cecil B. Heimerdinger
Heimerdinger serves as a mentor and foil to the two young inventors. Though he’s the one who encourages and nurtures their inquisitive spirit, he also holds them back out of fear that Hextech will destroy the world and for good reason. As a yordle, Heimerdinger is all too aware of the dangers that magic can wreck on the world which is why he hopes to keep Piltover free of it.
We can see that there’s genuine concern and care between Heimerdinger and Viktor because while the two disagree on how far the limits of science and Hextech can be pushed, Heimerdinger continues to ask about his well-being and Viktor, despite his reserved personality, doesn’t act distant towards him.
Sky Young is a research assistant working with Jayce and Viktor. Though most people and Piltover are enamored with the charming and handsome Jayce, she finds Viktor’s unwavering and single-minded focus on work attractive. This ends up being the cause of her death. When one of the Hextech experiments go wrong and almost destroy Viktor, she jumps in to help him only to be disintegrated herself.
It’s only after this that Viktor realizes that Sky cared about him as a person. Sure, they didn’t know each other as well as Viktor and Jayce knew each other, but she broke through his perception of himself as someone who is outcasted.
Sky’s death also forces Viktor to recognize how his work can harm other people and his reaction to her feelings about him becomes a pivotal point where he chooses between whether to continue down the path of glorious evolution or abandon the project as too dangerous.
Singed doesn’t form a parallel with Sky, but it’s his “pet” Rio that does. Viktor stumbles into Singed’s lab in Zaun as a child and finds Rio, an experiment that Singed is working on. As a pioneer of biotechnology, Singed was keeping Rio alive for the rare genetic mutation that it had but Viktor quickly caught on that his methods were causing Rio constant agony. Unable to accept this, Viktor runs away.
Years later, Viktor returns to Singed claiming that he now understood why Singed experimented on Rio and, as the interaction implies, the sacrifices that must be made at the altar of progress. The two share a lot of similarities as Singed was also driven to mad scientist territory by the death of his daughter. It’s why he takes pity on Viktor and Silco.
Viktor Is Set Up To Be the Most Clear-Cut Anti-Hero In Arcane
There are no real heroes or villains in Arcane as even the best of them use shady measures to achieve their goals, no matter how well-intentioned. The show has been criticized for its moderate politics and desire to present all sides of the story as empathetic. That said, it’s really this different perspective, one noble goal attitude that shapes most of Arcane. Everyone in its world has good intentions and conflicting methods of achieving what they see as best for everybody.
Well, except Jinx who is mostly just in it for herself. In fact, both Jinx and Vi have very few goals that extend beyond themselves, making them not much of an anti-hero.
Characters like Mel Medarda and Jayce have less morally questionable approaches to achieving their goals, even if Mel engages in shady politics since this is later revealed to be a better alternative to the violence she’s raised with in Noxus.
It’s really Viktor, who is torn between his goals and his tenderness, who is the most clear-cut anti-hero in the series. Everything he does is questionable but utterly selfless. His desire to innovate isn’t about personal glory and power but to improve the world. His sphere of concern extends so far out of himself that it takes on an inhuman utilitarianism. Viktor’s strong moral stance and big-picture approach to helping the world, no matter the cost, make it no surprise that he’s pegged as one of the most obvious INTJ characters in media.