Caitlyn from Arcane: Complete Character Analysis
Caitlyn Kiramman is the privileged daughter of a Piltover Council member. Throughout the series, she comes to understand that her privilege comes with responsibilities, which she tries to live up to.
Caitlyn Kiramman is a supporting character whom viewers mostly understand through her interplay with Arcane’s leads. She’s an antagonist to Silco, playing Sherlock to Silco’s Moriarty. She’s a supportive childhood friend to Jayce, one of the early believers in Jayce’s lofty dreams. She’s a love interest to Vi, although some viewers see this relationship through the lens of “Sappho and her friend.” In her own right, Caitlyn from Arcane is an interesting character whose struggle against herself can be just as fascinating as her relationships with others.
Caitlyn is driven to differentiate herself from the people who surround and suffocate her. She is disgusted by the excesses of her peers, Piltover’s ruling class. Another high born girl would have cultivated these social connections, amassing wealth and power fit for a Councilwoman’s daughter. However, Caitlyn takes the opposite path, shunning many of the advantages her parents try to give her. She seeks meaning through being useful to her society.
Caitlyn has many outside resources that she chooses not to use: her wealth, her status, and her parents’ social connections. Instead, she relies on her inborn gifts: perceptiveness, equanimity, and athleticism. She hones the last of these gifts into an incredible talent as a sharp-shooter.
Caitlyn tends to project her own noble intentions onto authority figures, such as Marcus and the Council, to her peril.
In addition, by focusing on sharp-shooting, Caitlyn remains weak in close-range fighting.
Finally, Caitlyn’s keen mind can be misled when fed incomplete or untrue information. Her parents’ attempt to shelter Caitlyn has left her lacking insight into the world beyond their privileged sphere. At the beginning of Arcane, Caitlyn’s view of the Undercity is similar to Sheriff Marcus’s: the place full of criminals and rabble rousers. It is only after Caitlyn meets Vi in Arcane and explores the Undercity with her, that she comes to a more nuanced perception of the place. She begins to see that many of the social ills that plague it are the fault of people like herself.
“This city needs healing. More than I ever realized.”
The earliest glimpse viewers see of Caitlyn’s life is a sharpshooting competition she competed in as n adolescent. In a posh-looking uniform, she happily bounded through a vast estate, taking out targets with effortless accuracy. An older woman, Sheriff Grayson, competed at her side. At the last target, the older woman seems to pull her shot, giving the younger girl a kindly look. As a result, Caitlyn nominally won the competition. Later, Caitlyn angrily confronted Grayson. “Did my parents pay you to you pull your shot?” she asks.
Grayson answered that the physical trophy was not important to her. “I’m an enforcer. For me, knowing how to handle this weapon means being able to protect people. To be of service to the city. That’s trophy enough. Which begs the question, young Kiramman, what are you shooting for?” This conversation had a lasting impact on Caitlyn. Grayson stood in stark contrast to the elites that Caitlyn was usually surrounded by, who were mostly parasitic rather than useful. She ended up emulating the older woman, becoming an enforcer herself.
Caitlyn’s parents were the patrons of a leading character in Arcane, Jayce Talis. This allowed Caitlyn to become quite close with Jayce. Caitlyn was with Jayce when his penthouse exploded, figuratively and literally blowing the lid off his secret research. Caitlyn’s mother, protective of Caitlyn to the point of being stifling, was outraged that Jayce had put her in danger. However, Caitlyn convinced her to speak on Jayce’s behalf regardless.
Jayce was tried before the council for his illegal research, and was barely granted the mercy of expulsion from university instead of exile. He was remanded to his mother’s care, like a mentally incompetent person. Caitlyn was disappointed in the outcome. An even more bitter pill for her was her parents’ refusal to allow her to continue her association with her disgraced friend.
Caitlyn was allowed to resume their friendship when Jayce and his partner, Victor, produced a scientific breakthrough: the creation of Hex Tech. Caitlyn’s mother publicly fawned over the man, calling him “our most famous protégé.”
Caitlyn didn’t follow her parents’ footsteps into a prestigious career, becoming a low-ranking enforcer against their wishes. She seems the odd man out of her squad, being resented for her privileged upbringing. As an enforcer, she developed a talent for tracking and crime scene analysis. When she encountered the scene where Jinx had battled the Firefly Gang to protect a shipment of Shimmer, she began to suspect that a single force or person was behind the crimes of most urgent interest to Piltover.
She investigated this scene without orders to do so, and began to question one of Silco’s subordinates. She was interrupted by Sheriff Marcus. Unbeknownst to Caitlyn, Sheriff Grayson’s replacement is Silco’s reluctant collaborator, a double agent.
On Progress Day, she unwittingly led her squad into an explosive trap set by Jinx in Arcane. She was the only survivor. After the attack, her parents leaned on Sheriff Marcus to get her fired, and he, not wanting her to discover his treachery, was only too happy to do so. Her friend Jayce offered her a new job, but she rejected it as unwanted charity. She told him of her theory that all the crime in the Undercity was orchestrated by one man. She told him that the attack on Piltover could be a breakthrough she needed to locate him. Caitlyn had no proof, and Jayce doubted her, thoughtlessly mirroring how people once doubted him and his Hex Tech dreams.
Although Caitlyn rejected Jayce’s job offer, she used his paperwork to gain access to Stillwater Prison in an attempt to continue the interrogation Marcus had cut short. There, she met Vi.
When Caitlyn first met Vi, their first impressions were mutually disgusted. Vi called Caitlyn’s profession one of “criminals in fancy uniforms,” while Caitlyn derided Vi for wasting her time. She took a second look at Vi when she mentioned Silco by name. She began to believe that Vi could lead her to the man at the heart of Piltover’s organized crime. Caitlyn showed Vi one of Powder’s distinctive drawings, sparking hope in Vi that her sister yet lived. She convinced Caitlyn to free her in exchange for helping her investigate Silco on Vi’s home turf.
After being released from prison, Vi guided Caitlyn through the Undercity. Caitlyn was shocked by what she saw. Evidence of poverty was everywhere, and addicts languished around every corner. She began to understand that Vi’s grudge against Piltover in general, and enforcers in particular, might have some merit. Piltover had established itself as the ruler of the Undercity, but it failed to provide its subjects either peace or justice.
Vi took Caitlyn to a brothel, which made the sheltered girl immensely uncomfortable. Vi encouraged Caitlyn to gather information there by pretending to be a prostitute. This unwelcome suggestion was bundled with a compliment: “You’re hot, Cupcake.” This may have been a busywork assignment, since Vi used the opportunity to do her own reconnaissance and leave Caitlyn in the dust.
When Caitlyn next caught up with Vi, she was losing a grudge match to the cyborg, Sevika. Caitlyn saved Vi’s life by shooting Sevika from a distance.
This rescue was a turning point between Vi and Caitlyn. Vi went from reviling her as a member of the group that had killed her parents, to becoming fond of her. Later, after supporting each other through shared hardships, their feelings grew into the beginnings of a romantic relationship.
Caitlyn helped the wounded Vi to an out-of-the-way ghetto where she could hide and recover. While there, they grew closer, butting heads over philosophy and learning about their separate histories. Caitlyn complimented Vi in Vander’s words: “You’ve got a good heart.”
Caitlyn was approached by Shimmer addict, Huck, who recognized Vi as Vander’s daughter. Huck had once been helped by Vander when a group of gangsters tried to bully him out of a rightful payment. They had done this at Vander’s bar, The Last Drop, and so Vander stepped in. The addict had fallen on hard times since then, but he retained some good intentions. He led Caitlyn to an apothecary who could brew up a cure for Vi’s wound. The Apothecary demanded steep payment. Without hesitation, Caitlyn turned over her most valued possession: her gun. Not only was it of practical use in the dangerous Undercity, but it was also a sentimental object, the same gun she’d won the sharpshooting competition with in her youth.
Vi recovered, but the cure carried an unexpected cost. The addict who had helped them turned against them in exchange for Shimmer, telling their location to Silco.
Silco had learned of Vi’s return and perceived it as a threat to his relationship with Jinx. Vi’s sister had become important to him, in fact, she had become the only person whom he loved and trusted. His mistrustful and jealous nature led him to believe that if Jinx reunited with Vi, she might abandon him. Silco’s normally calm demeanor cracked at this prospect, and Vi became the one person who could enrage him beyond restraint.
Silco and several henchmen arrived at the dilapidated structure where Vi and Caitlyn were hiding. He had every intention of murdering them both. He sicced several Shimmer-mutated monsters on them. Caitlyn and Vi ended the fight by bringing the building down on all their heads. The collapse nearly killed Silco, and in the confusion, Caitlyn and Vi escaped.
Shortly after, Vi caught sight of a signal flare she had once given to her sister. She took Caitlyn with her to meet up with Powder, now called Jinx. Caitlyn watched their reunion with some confusion. She hadn’t known that Vi’s sister was the same terrorist who had killed her enforcer squad, injured her, and precipitated the end of her career.
While Vi was unreservedly happy to see her sister again, Jinx displayed mixed feelings towards Vi.
One half of her longed to be reunited with Vi and be her eager little tagalong again. Her other half was loyal to Silco, yet was furious at him for keeping secrets from her. Jinx also interrupted herself to speak to unseen voices and delusions, confusing her listeners. When Jinx caught sight of Caitlyn, she became jealous and unhinged, pointing her weapon at them. . “Did you only come here for this stupid stone?” she asked, referring to the stolen Hex Gemstone in her possession. Vi had no idea what the stone was, but Caitlyn knew it to be the crux of the latest conflict between Piltover and the Undercity.
The meeting was interrupted when the Firelight gang attacked. While Jinx was distracted by the fight, Caitlyn grabbed the Hex Gemstone. She was then knocked out by a Firelight, who took the stone from her open palm. The Firelights then injured Jinx and abducted both Caitlyn and Vi.
When the women came to, they bickered with each other like an old married couple. Caitlyn had been secretive about the Hex Gemstone, and Vi had been secretive about her sister, and neither was happy. When the Firelights separated them, Caitlyn called out with worry in her voice, saying “leave her alone!” Later, when Caitlyn is offered water, her first thoughts are still concern for Vi. “Let her go. I brought her here. It’s me you want,” she bargains, not knowing that the leader of the Firelights in Arcane is actually Ekko, one of Vi’s childhood friends. “My hero,” Vi mocks in a flirtatious manner.
After they shared information, Caitlyn tried to convince Ekko to disarm the Firelights of the Hex Gemstone and return it topside. Caitlyn urged, “The city needs healing, more than I ever realized.” She believed that there could be peace between Piltover and the Firelights, and that they could unite against a common enemy, Silco. Ekko reluctantly agreed, with the caveat that he personally be allowed to negotiate with Piltover authorities.
Vi, Caitlyn, and Ekko began to carry their precious cargo over the bridge to Piltover. However, Vi hung back. She told her companions that she could go no further and would not leave the Undercity without her sister. She and Caitlyn exchanged a tender goodbye. Caitlyn and Ekko went on without Vi, and found the bridge blockaded by many enforcers, including treacherous Sheriff Marcus. Caitlyn, unaware of his complicity, told him that she’d uncovered Silco’s plots. Marcus, needing to silence Caitlyn to save his own skin, attacked. “I told you to leave this alone,” he said, pointing his gun unsteadily at Caitlyn. Vi rushed to Caitlyn’s defense.
Jinx had been secretly watching the events unfold. When she saw Vi in danger, she joined the fight as well. She sent a swarm of explosive robots resembling fireflies. Just as Marcus seemed to be gathering his nerve to shoot his ex employee, a firefly detonated in his face. More explosions rocked the bridge, killing many enforcers and injuring Caitlyn. Marcus desperately tried to impart some last words to Caitlyn about his daughter, but passed away before he could finish.
Jinx took back the Hex Gemstone. Seeing the wounded Caitlyn leaning on Vi for support, Jinx flew into a jealous rage. She hallucinated that Caitlyn smirked at her, gloating over taking Powder’s place in Vi’s heart.
Jinx became disoriented and fired upon Vi and Caitlyn. Ekko flew to the rescue. He urged Vi and Caitlyn to retreat to Piltover as he stayed behind to stall Jinx. He believed he was sending the two women with the Hex Gemstone, his hope for peace, but Jinx had palmed it.
Caitlyn and Vi knew that they had lost the Gemstone, but with Silco’s forces and more enforcers arriving, they had no choice but to retreat. Vi brought her to her mother’s estate, where Councilman Kiramman treated Vi with thinly-veiled disgust.
Caitlyn angrily confronted her mother on the poor conditions of the Undercity. “You know what reflects on the council? It’s citizens living on the streets. Being poisoned. Having to choose between a kingpin who wants to exploit them and a government that doesn’t give a shit.“ Councilwoman Kiramman agreed to let her daughter and Vi have an audience with the Council.
Before the audience, Caitlyn and Vi had a moment to unwind and breathe together in Caitlyn’s bedroom. Vi complimented Caitlyn’s investigation board, a detailed representation of her theory that she had assembled before even visiting the Undercity. Vi shared her fears and guilt about Powder, and Caitlyn comforted her.
At the audience, Caitlyn told the Council all about Silco’s organization and his goal: the kingpin wanted the nation of Zaun to be independent. Caitlyn’s old friend, Councilor Jayce Talis, seemed eager to go to war against Silco. Counselor Medarda cautioned him against it. She suggested negotiating first. This sent Vi into a rage, and she stormed out of the audience.
Caitlyn followed Vi, trying to placate her, but Vi would not hear it. “What about us?” Caitlyn asked, hinting at the unspoken romance that was beginning between them. Vi bitterly told her to “Go back to that big, shiny house of yours and just forget me.”
Forlorn, Caitlyn went home and brooded about Vi’s departure. Suddenly, she found a threatening message in Powder’s distinctive scrawl.
Powder kidnapped Caitlyn and forced her to attend a mad parody of a child’s tea party. Also in attendance were the bound Vi and Silco, in addition to totem dolls that Caitlyn did not recognize.
The madwoman had set two places at the table for herself. She told them that this moment would decide her fate: would she be Vi’s Powder, or Silco’s Jinx?
Before revealing that Caitlyn was alive and well, Jinx taunted Vi with a covered dish, hinting that Caitlyn’s remains lay within. Vi had always spoken of her sister full of hope, insisting to both Jinx and to others that Powder was not beyond saving. However, in this moment, the viewers first see Vi’s ironclad faith in Powder has cracks. Just before Powder lifted the lid, Vi remembered a vision of Caitlyn as she was in her bedroom, sharing an unguarded moment. Vi feared the worst. The dish held nothing but the Hex Gemstone, and Jinx produced Caitlyn, unharmed, a punchline to a twisted joke.
“Powder, leave her out of this!” Vi begged, as Caitlyn looked into her eyes, unable to speak past her gag. The madwoman put a gun in Vi’s bound hands and urged her to kill Caitlyn. “Send her on her way, and you can have Powder back,” she promised. Vi, of course, refused. She offered to take Powder away from the city and put everything behind them, including Silco. Silco, bound and gagged, let out a muffled objection. The madwoman finally ungagged him, and he made his case: “Powder” was dead, and “Jinx” was his. She was Silco’s perfect daughter whom he would never betray.
While Silco waxed poetic, Caitlyn was busy freeing herself with a piece of broken glass. She sprang up and threatened Powder with a weapon. Vi, still bound, begged them both to stop. After feigning contrition and weakness, Powder viciously disarmed Caitlyn and knocked her out.
When Caitlyn came to, Jinx had already made her choice. She rejected Vi’s attempts at reconciliation. Silco was dead, and in her grief, Jinx aimed a homemade Hex Tech weapon at the Piltover Council chambers.
Caitlyn shrieked in despair as she watched the rocket careen towards her mother’s location. Unbeknownst to the attendants of the mad tea party, the Piltover Council had just voted to pursue peace and set the Undercity free. Whether any of the Council survived Jinx’s attack remains unclear, but it is obvious that her actions have undermined the peace that Caitlyn had worked towards.
Caitlyn is paired with Vi in an almost buddy-comedy, odd couple style that brings some levity to an otherwise dark series. She is Vi’s foil on many counts:
- Caitlyn is a cop, while Vi is a criminal.
- Caitlyn presents as femme, while Vi presents as tomboyish.
- Caitlyn grew up in the lap of luxury and rejected it, while Vi grew up in a slum and envied the rich.
- Caitlyn is Jayce’s friend, while Vi steals from him and brings his life to crisis.
- Caitlin specializes in long range fighting, while Vi is a close range brawler.
- Caitlyn’s parents are overbearing towards their adult daughter, while Vi lost hers as a child. Vander, who stepped into Vi’s parents’ shoes, trusted Vi well enough to lead his other children and handle dangerous situations. He guided her and occasionally reigned her in, but he trusted her. In contrast, Caitlyn’s parents infantilized her and overrode her decisions.
- Caitlyn has a remarkably immobile face, bearing a strong resemblance to her restrained and inexpressive mother. Vi is so expressive, her emotions often come out as violence.
Overall, Caitlyn’s motivation is to serve a noble cause. As Grayson put it, she wants to be of service to the city. Caitlyn’s character arc expands her definition of “the city” to include the Undercity as well.
Caitlyn and Vi act out the trope, “Uptown Girl.” In this trope, lovers come from different worlds, one wealthy, and one not.
In episode two, the Kiramman family is introduced in a peculiar way. The camera focuses on a static family portrait, moving from one face to another as the family discusses Jayce’s fate. The portrait, a symbol of wealth itself, depicts the family wearing expensive clothes and jewelry in front of a lush landscape. Classical music plays in the background, another index signal of wealth. This leaves the viewer with little doubt of their lifestyle. Also of note, Caitlyn is painted with the prized gun that she later trades away to save Vi.
Images Courtesy of Riot Games and Netflix.