Sonic Prime Asks Who Sonic is Without His Friends

Sonic in Netflix-land

Sonic Prime Asks Who Sonic is Without His Friends
Photo by Nik / Unsplash.
Spoilers ahead for Sonic Season Two and Three on Netflix.

Sonic Prime, a 2023 Netflix adaptation of the video game franchise, aired its last season in January 2024. The season three premiere resolves the devastating cliff-hanger from the second season, while creating new problems for our wayward hedgehog.

Fellow SUPERJUMP writer Harel Cohen convinced me to watch the show, as he is a long-time Sonic fan and has gifted me several of the older games. While I still need practice to master Sonic's speed on the keyboard, I hope to eventually be able to excel at it. I also got a crash course in Sonic's animation history, from the 1990s show to the comedic Sonic Boom instalments on Cartoon Network.

Sonic Prime serves as a love letter to the franchise, with gorgeous animation and homages to previous incarnations. You can tell that the crew loved working on the show, and the voice actors push the limits of what we've always seen in these familiar characters.

Too fast to stop

Sonic Prime started with typical Sonic shenanigans. Our cast hangs on Green Hill, enjoying a nice beach day before Dr. Eggman – aka Robotnik – invades. He wants to steal a Rainbow Prism from a nearby cave. Sonic and his friends prepare to defend their home and stop the latest evil plot. Shadow interrupts Sonic to warn him about rushing into this situation, and Tails does some readings on the Prism, but Sonic ignores him. After all, beating Dr. Eggman is routine.

Sonic Prime serves as a love letter to the franchise, with gorgeous animation and homages to previous incarnations.

The problem is that Sonic crashes into the Prism against Tails' warnings, accidentally creating a multiverse (the Shatterverse) by accident, a purple void that houses several universes. Sonic finds friends and enemies in each one, all of who don't recognize him. In one universe Knuckles is a clever strategist, while in another he's a bumbling egomaniac who will endanger his motley crew. Amy has to fight Sonic as a robot, but softens towards him as a forest guardian. His friends don't know who Sonic is in these worlds, and so he has to re-forge those bonds again. He's also often gently reminded that he isn't a fan of water.

Sonic has to find his way back to Green Hill, and save all these worlds from the machinations of an evil Dr. Eggman League, called the Chaos Council. No one on the Chaos Councils remembers Sonic, but they see his potential as an energy source for their home, and the other universes as prime real estate. Sonic's quest changes from returning home to saving every Shatterspace from their would-be conquerors.

Who is Sonic without his friends?

Sonic may be the fastest hedgehog on Green Hill, but he is still a softie. That's why players love him; he has the power to speed by any obstacle, but he takes time out of his day to spend a leisurely afternoon with his friends. Tails will take a break from plane repairs to share a chili dog with him, Amy will befriend the animals nearby, and Knuckles might throw down for fun. Rouge, who I know least from the games, will work on strategies for their fights.

Because of these close bonds, scenes of Sonic alone in the Shatterverse void can hurt. Nothing is familiar to him in these places. He doesn't know how he ended up in the void or what happened to his friends. The fact that he encounters five versions of Eggman, including a toddler version that will thrash anything in his path, doesn't phase Sonic. What does is finding out that in one of these universes – the Chaos Council's world – Tails is not the cheery mechanic we've always seen. Here he's a cynical recluse named Nine, who doesn't want to get close to anyone. Nine would rather hide from the Chaos Council and the Resistance in New Yoke City, in hopes that both will leave him alone. He hasn't picked a side, even though both want him for his brilliant mind.

When Sonic doesn't have a chili dog, he can get sad. When he enters a world where Tails doesn't recognize him and treats him with hostility, his heart really breaks. Sonic can't believe it, and spends episodes convincing Nine that they are friends – the best of friends, actually. Season three puts Sonic's idealism to the test, as Nine believes that no one has altruistic motives and that everyone uses each other, so you may as well strike proactively.

Sonic, despite everything, refuses to give up on Nine. And that determination leads to them finding a happy ending.

Shadow to the rescue

What happens when Sonic has no one? He has to rely on the least likely character to help him fix things: Shadow the Hedgehog. Shadow doesn't like Sonic, and "the ultimate life form" has maintained a rocky relationship with everyone on Green Hill. Yet it's Shadow who ends up saving their home in the end.

I know Shadow's backstory but haven't followed his in-game lore much. Harel has shown me videos that summarize Shadow's backstory, with particular notice of how his solo game didn't work well as a debut. The version I became fond of was the Shadow from Sonic Boom, who chides Sonic for failing to properly build a vaguely Ikea-esque sofa, after destroying it in one fell landing. (Yes, this is real.)

What happens when Sonic has no one? He has to rely on the least likely character to help him fix things: Shadow the Hedgehog.

Sonic Prime's Shadow balances a broody attitude with occasional comedic moments and sheer determination. He doesn't like Sonic's egotistical nature, and doesn't hang out much with the other Green Hill inhabitants, but Green Hill is home, and he'll fight for it. When it seems they've lost the island forever, Shadow mourns but it feels like he's repressing the intensity of his sadness. His bigger priority is helping Sonic leave before the other hedgehog gets destroyed as well.

Shadow was the only character on Green Hill to not end up in multiple Shatterspaces. He has been exploring the void, trying to contact Sonic, only to realize the latter is traveling the void as well. As soon as they connect, Shadow explains – with his fists– that it was Sonic who caused the Shatterspace to exist in the first place. By shattering the prism, he created this multiverse. Sonic is horrified by this revelation, because it means he's responsible for what happened to his friends.

Despite their mutual hostility, the two hedgehogs realize they have to trust each other to get back home. Sonic's ability to enter the Shatterspaces and Shadow's durability in it may provide the solution to their problems. Shadow, for all his dislike of him, doesn't actually want Sonic to die. He becomes a fighting wingman at the right time, and shows compassion when Sonic starts to accept the consequences of his actions. Their friendship saves Green Hill and helps Sonic make things right.

A world without Green Hill

Sonic Prime was a risky show. It took what was familiar to the players and viewers and tossed those elements into the literal void. We, like Sonic, have to rebuild our relationships with these characters and toss our preconceived notions of them out the window. The payoff is well worth the effort.

For people like me that are still learning about the franchise, the show is also a good introduction for setting up a status quo and then breaking it. We don't need to know that Tails is a mechanic, or understand why Shadow is a loner. Nor do we need to know why Sonic is occasionally willing to reason with Dr. Eggman or at least appeal to his pragmatic side. You only need to know that Sonic runs fast and has a big ego.

The show also has a great analogy for how it feels when your world is falling apart, a feeling made real for many during the pandemic. As a result, it's a perfect series to watch in the aftermath of lockdowns and COVID surges. And it's a better one to watch if you have someone who is a big Sonic fan, because they can point out Easter eggs that a newcomer may not notice on a first viewing.

I enjoyed that when Sonic finally returned home, he and his friends had to stop another chaotic problem right as he was about to treat them to chili dogs. It felt like things were finally back to normal on Green Hill, only now Sonic knows when to slow down. Sometimes you have to appreciate what's in front of you or you may lose it forever. Sonic nearly does by falling victim to his own hubris and natural speed skills, but he gives up both to get his friends back. That is the ultimate sacrifice – and it's why we love him.


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