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Vander from Arcane - Complete Character Overview

Published: April 3, 2022
Vander Arcane Character Lighting a Pipe with a Match

Netflix's Arcane presents a world full of mystery and secrets. Vander is a rock in that world for his friends and family. His unwavering loyalty and love for his family form the core of his character. Unfortunately, a loving and loyal leader who wants to live a peaceful life is not what all of the Zaunites wanted.

Warning: This article contains significant spoilers about Vander and other characters in Arcane. If you have not already watched Arcane, a League of Legends story, you should definitely check it out on Netflix before continuing.

Who is Vander in Arcane?

Vander is a former crime boss turned community leader. His failed Zaunite rebellion cost him dearly. As a result, he has taken a more nuanced and pragmatic approach to protect his people from the oppressive hand of Piltover. Vander is a shrewd leader and a formidable fighter. He is also a talented alchemist, which gives him an edge in the political and economic spheres.

What are Vander's motivations?

Vander is motivated primarily by the protection of his people and his desire for them to live a better life. He is also driven by a sense of noble justice, which leads him to want to fight for his people while at the same time, he intellectually knows that striking out at Piltover and their might may doom those he loves.

What are Vander's strengths?

  • Leadership: Vander is a shrewd leader and a formidable fighter. A combination of his charisma and his fighting ability keeps him on top of the tumultuous Undercity gangs. His cast iron gauntlets were an easily recognizable symbol of his might.
  • Strategic thinking: Vander is able to see the big picture and thinks several moves ahead. This allowed him to strike a deal with the former Piltover Sheriff in exchange for leniency and more self-governance.

What are Vander's weaknesses?

  • Deep love for his family: While this is obviously not a moral weakness, it did allow Silco and others the freedom to grow in power and strength while Vander focused on being a father figure to his family of orphaned children.
  • Fear of another Zaunite Rebellion: Vander's failed rebellion, which he caused, continued to haunt him for the rest of his life. His fear was highlighted and preyed on by his adversaries in the Underworld.

“No one wins in war.”

Vander's Story in Arcane

Vander began his story as a freedom fighter. Together with Silco, he lead the Zaunite Movement, an insurgency that fought against Piltover for Undercity independence. Piltover had established itself as the ruler of the Undercity, however, it was not ruling justly.

It both neglected and exploited the undercity. Piltover extracted wealth from Undercity mines while suffering none of the resulting pollution. As Silco put it, “The mines they Piltovers had us in. Air so sick it clogged your throat, stuck in your eyes. We came from a world where there was never enough to go around.”

Vander lead a violent rebellion against Piltover, but the human cost turned out to be more than he was willing to pay. During a battle on the bridge between Piltover and Zaun, Vander found a pair of orphaned girls. Their parents had been killed by enforcers who were responding to Vander’s attacks, and so Vander felt responsible for putting them in harm's way. Full of regret, Vander laid down his weapons and left the battlefield, carrying the girls to safety. This symbolized his permanent departure from the Zaunite movement.

Arcane Vander carrying Powder and Vi from the scene where their parents died
In the opening scene of Arcane, Vander chose to leave behind his brutal persona to raise Powder and Vi

After His Failed Rebellion

Vander went on to adopt the girls, Vi and Powder, as well as two boys, Mylo and Claggor. He continued to lead the Undercity, but now as a Piltover collaborator. He avoided violence and preserved the unequal status quo between the two cities. In exchange, his children had a relatively safer community to grow up in, one free of full-scale war.

In this capacity, he worked with The Piltover enforcer, Sherriff Grayson, and a Zaunite called Benzo who served as Vander’s lieutenant. The brawler Sevika was one of Vander’s captains.

Conflict with Silco, a Former Friend

Silco, who Vander had once seen as a brother, wanted to continue the Zaunite insurgency. He was outraged at Vander’s change of heart, seeing it as a loss of nerve. The two brothers fought in one of Zaun’s polluted rivers. Vander, the larger and stronger of the two, overpowered Silco and began to drown him. Silco’s injured eye was contaminated by the polluted water. Silco managed to get hold of Vander’s own knife and shivved Vander, causing the bigger man to loosen his grip.

Still wielding the knife, Silco was able to slip away. The encounter left Silco both emotionally and physically scarred. He considered this moment a personal rebirth. Ever after, he talked about his former brother as a traitor. Vander later described the fight as, “What I did to you, I never forgave myself.”

A Strong Father Figure to His Adopted Children

As Vander’s adopted children grew up, they became entangled with the Piltover/Zaun conflict. They caused an explosion in Piltover, which led to Piltover enforcers harassing their community. Vi angrily told Vander that she would fight to protect Zaun if Vander refused to do so. To explain his motivations, Vander returned with Vi to the bridge where she had lost her parents, and where he had had his change of heart.

Vi and Vander on Bridge at Night in Arcane

He did everything he could to emphasize the human cost of war. As he explained it, “Nobody wins in war.” Vi became convinced of his point of view when he pointed out that fighting Piltover might cost Powder’s life. Vi secretly resolved to turn herself over to the enforcers as the one responsible for the explosion. She saw this as the only peaceful way to protect her family and community.

Vander stepped in to stop her, offering himself up to Sheriff Grayson in Vi’s place. Sheriff Grayson was reluctant to remove the lynchpin that held the peace together, but Vander insisted.

Silco's Revenge on Vander in Arcane

The point became moot when Silco arrived, seizing his chance for revenge. He intercepted them with Deckard, a Shimmer-mutated monster at his side. On Silco’s orders, Deckard murdered Benzo, Sheriff Grayson, and most of the enforcers. Deckard overcame them easily, to the horror of Vi and Ekko in Arcane, who watched nearby. Vander was carried away, captive.

Silco brought Vander to his hideout, a warehouse with a growing supply of Shimmer. Sevika was there, having betrayed Vander in favor of Silco. Silco crowed over his captive audience, telling Vander that fighting Piltover with Shimmer-transformed monsters was “the base violence necessary for change.” He revealed his plans to use the monsters as a way of terrorizing the Piltovers, keeping them out of the nation of Zaun and earning their respect.

He condemned Vander for acting like a ”lapdog” to the Piltovers, keeping Undercity crime local in exchange for peace. He then obliquely offered his brother a second chance to join Zaunite insurgency, but Vander turned him down.

Silco still had the misconception that Vander had lost his nerve, not understanding that Vander’s passivity came from a desire to protect the orphaned Zaunites and Zaun as a whole. Silco threatened to show Vander who he really was, meaning that he would drive his brother back to violence, whether he liked it or not.

Vander as the Bait in Silco's Trap

Silco then lured Vander’s adopted family to his lair, using Vander as bait. Silco seemed to be motivated by revenge, enjoying Vander’s pain of watching his children fail to rescue him. The would-be rescuers did fail, but caused quite a lot of damage in the process. Vi, Vander’s prodigy, went head to head with many of Silco’s adult henchmen and won. The tide turned when monstrous Deckard entered the fight. As Deckard brutalized Vi, Vander begged Silco to keep the fight between the brothers. Silco refused.

Vander escaped from his restraints with the help of his lock-picking adopted son, Mylo. His other adopted son, Claggor, had created an escape route through a wall. However, before they could use it, the good intentions of his youngest adopted child, Powder, interfered.

Powder sent in an explosive device, which detonated, causing a series of explosions in the warehouse. The first of these explosions killed both Mylo and Claggor, and trapped Vi under the wreckage. It nearly killed Silco, but Sevika pushed him out of the way, losing her arm in the process.

Silco ordered Deckard and his surviving henchmen to kill Vander and Vi. This finally prompted Vander to fight in earnest. Silco watched Vander’s return to animalistic violence with rapt attention.

When his back was turned, Silco stabbed Vander with a knife similar to the one he had used in their parting fight years ago. Vander turned and choked Silco, just as he had before. Finally, just as before, Silco shivved Vander with the knife. Vander passed out and slumped off the bridge they were fighting on. ”I knew you still had it in you,” Silco whispred. And so his promise to show Vander who he was had come to pass.

Vander with his hands around Silco's Throat with Flames Behind Them

The fight was not yet over, however. On hearing that Vi was still in danger, the barely conscious Vander took a vial of Shimmer. Like Deckard, he transformed into a terrifying monster. Unlike Deckard, he didn’t go berserk or attack his own allies. he used his new strength to stop Deckard from killing Vi.

When Silco saw the powerhouse Vander had become, he looked frightened, and he retreated. Enraged, Vander almost followed him, but, true to Vander’s character, love won out over hate. He chose to save Vi instead. Secondary explosions rocked the warehouse, and Vander died while bringing Vi to safety. His last words were “Take care of Powder.”

Is Vander from Arcane Dead?

On the surface, Vander appears to have died at the end of the first act of the animated series. However, in the final scene of the first season, there does appear to be a body that closely resembles Vander being attended to by the mad alchemist, Singed.

Will Vander become Warwick from League of Legends?

Some fans theorize that Vander is not truly dead. In the final scene of the final Arcane act, the mad scientist, Singed, is depicted near a body that resembles Vander’s. This suggests to some that Vander will be resurrected as Warwick, a wolf-like monster from League of Legends lore.

We were intrigued by this possibility, so we researched it and have prepared for you a separate in-depth analysis on if we should expect to see Vander become Warwick in Season 2 of Arcane.

Analysis of Vander's Character and Actions

In Arcane, Vander is a character conveyed to the audience mostly through the eyes of others. To his former brother Silco, Vander is a traitor of the worst kind. To his daughter Vi, Vander is a kindly father, a pillar of strength, patience, and wisdom.

Vander’s father-daughter relationship with Vi serves as a foil to Silco’s father-daughter relationship with Jinx from Arcane.

Contrasting Vander and Silco as a Fatherly Figure

The morality that the fathers imparted to their respective daughters was quite different. When Vander guided Vi, he spoke from a place of love and a desire to protect Zaunite lives. Silco’s guidance was grounded more in personal grievance than any sense of right or wrong. He desired retribution against Piltover, even at the cost of the Zaunite’s lives.

The strength of their father-daughter bond is showcased in the scene wherein Vander scolds Vi for leading her siblings astray, telling her that she is their leader and therefore responsible for their safety. This confrontation shows more than Vander’s disappointment with Vi; it shows his continued esteem for her as the children’s leader, and his tender feelings towards her. It shows they could have difficult conversations, and yet still love each other afterward.

Contrast this to the father-daughter bond between Silco and Jinx. Silco never says “no” to Jinx, enabling her to continue to make the same mistakes. When she shows herself too mentally unstable to fight alongside his henchmen, he continues to put weapons in her hands and tell her to fight, saying that she is “perfect.” Silco staunchly denies Jinx’s flaws to others. He does not correct her or reign her in. If he did, Jinx’s insecure nature would take it as a rejection. Their father-daughter bond, while intense, is fragile and tumultuous.

The Failed Zaunite Rebellion Changed Vander and Silco in Profoundly Different Ways

Vander’s complicity with the unequal status quo between Piltover and Zaun was not just. At times, it was not even dignity. However, it was a strategy that save the most Zaunite lives, at least in the short term. These lives Vander valued more than either justice or dignity. The scenes of so many dead bodies buried beneath the rubble of their city during his rebellion haunted Vander in Arcane.

This philosophy cost him his brother, Silco, in a confrontation that Vander could never forgive himself for. Silco’s revenge ultimately cost Vander his life, in a move that did not feel entirely undeserved.

Tropes for Vander

Vander is a shining example of the “Positive Father Archetype.” This Father protects and cares for those around him, and they look up to him in turn. He is a wise, guiding force and a strong male presence in the lives of his children .

After the war, Vander comes to embody the “Gentle Giant” and “Retired badass” tropes. While everyone knows he has a terrific talent violence, he avoids it, making people feel safe in his presence.

As a dead father character, Vander exerts a pressure on his children typical of these stories. This pressure can be an example to draw inspiration from, or a shackle to the past. Consider Luke Skywalker when he believed that Anakin Skywalker had truly died. Luke wanted to live up to his father’s greatness. He took up his father’s lightsaber and his father’s responsibilities. Similarly, Vi took up her father’s gauntlets. She tried and failed to fulfil her father’s responsibilities. “Take care of Powder,” Vander told her, an impossible task that nearly claimed her life.

Interesting Cinematic Moment in Arcane for Vander

The first scene Vander appears in is entirely without dialog. However, it thoroughly sets up his relationship with Vi and Powder, as well as Piltover’s relationship with the Undercity.

Final Thoughts

Vander is one of our favorite Arcane characters in this fantastic League of Legends television adaptation. He is consistent, loyal, and pragmatic. He is what many of us wish our own leaders were. Yet, as in real life, emotional outrage and the ambitions of others ultimately supplanted him and led to the fall of his own people.

Images Courtesy of Riot Games and Netflix.