I wasn't sure if I was going to write reviews for episodes again, but after rewatching it I feel like I need to write a review for this one since this has by far been one of the episodes that I've been the most hyped for.
To me, the pinnacle of this episode was Iris. I feel like out of all of the returning characters in Journeys so far, Iris has received the most justice. Not only did we get a lot of continuity flashbacks to the Best Wishes anime from the BW gangs travels to Iris's battle with Drayden, but the tale of Iris's accent to the champion pedestal picks up straight from her special episode with Clair, thereby giving the relationship between the two more value as it effectively kick started Iris's progress to where she is now. Not only were we reminded of her ability to sense the hearts of Dragon types, but her ability do do so clearly accelerated since we last saw her to the point where she could seemingly do it subconsciously.
Her personality was pretty much on point, as her love of all dragon types (no matter how ugly some of them may be) remained unwavered, and I liked that she still has a sibling relationship with Ash, to the point of them bickering over what made someone a little kid (which I'll admit isn't as annoying as it is in the dub. I also thought this was a nice Ash moment as well, since the start of gen 6 onwards Ash has been way to passively accepting of criticism minus a few occasions. Seeing her nervous about destroying the roof of the gym in fear of angering Drayden was also a nice nod to their seemingly father daughter relashionship the two shared in the BW saga. Dragonite's personality was pretty much on point (with Drayden noting that it was a brawler even before Iris caught it), and I loved seeing it's and Ash's Dragonite's contrasting personalities (kinda wish we got more though), and it's reaction to seeing Dracovish is exactly what I'd expect from it. I'm also glad that Axew not only evolved all the way into a Haxorus like it always wanted, but had also become her ace, with the moment it cancelled out Dragonite's dragon dance boosted dragon claw being the highlight of its strength to me personally.
Some other things worth noting were the cute interactions between Pikachu and Emolga, and I found it fairly amusing when Dracovish yeeted Ash to the side as it charged into battle. Worth noting was that Drayden was aware of Dracovishes existence even before the events of this episode, implying that Ash's and Goh's fossil expedition for Galar fossils actually was made public to the world and giving credentials to Ash's and Goh's status as researchers. Plus it makes it feel like Dracovish isn't just some unfair secret Pokemon that will catch oppents off guard when Ash uses it. I also found Iris giving Ash the "best wishes" farewell to be one hell of a callback (I mean that in a good way).
Regarding the actual battle itself, I had pretty mixed feelings. On the plus side I found Happynite vs Angrynite to be fairly engaging, and I'm glad Ash made the decision to recall Dragonite when things were looking bad, and I found the twister-counter shield strategy to make more sense than the dragon dance counter shield, since with twister it's actually blocking incoming attacks. On Iris's part I like how she made sure to take advantage of long ranged attacks when dealing with Dracovish after what happened with Dragonite.
My first issue with this battle is probably more forgivable than the other flaws I had with it. During the World junior cup arc, Iris's Dragonite was shown to have some weird resistance to Ice type attacks, actively embracing them as opposed to other attacks which it deflected. That said since this ability was never shown outside this arc and is even overlooked by the fandom for the most part I do find it more forgivable that the directors forgot about it, even if it is still a flaw.
My biggest cons with this battle were flaws that I have with Journeys in general.
First off, Ash's Dracovish was able to physically restrain and defeat Iris's Dragonite, the same Dragonite who helped defend Unova against the Forces of Nature who were strong enough to give Cynthia's Garchomp (and no, I don't actually thing Dragonite is as strong as Garchomp, but I still find it noteworthy) and was also strong enough to keep up with and trade blows with Ash's Charizard. Now, trainers catching Pokemon that are powerhouses upon capture isn't exactly foreign in the anime, and I even find it justifiable assuming we have episodes dedicated to trainers bonding with and training said Pokemon, but Dracovish has barely been represented in the anime and has only had a single bonding-ish episode with Ash, and in it's first ever battle it defeats what has been established to be an incredibly powerful Pokemon. This is enough to put it above a lot of Ash's Pokemon who have had far more battles and training. A similar case lies with Dragonite, as even though we know it has been training and battling in offscreenland, the fact that it's so powerful comes across as jarring. It's officially the first Ash Pokemon to defeat a champion's ace. That alone is enough to put it in Ash's top 6 or even at the very top, and yet we've barely seen it battle which comes across as unsatisfactory. Overall I feels that this further exemplifies the jarring representation and screentime of Ash's team this generation.
I also found the Dracovish battles to be fairly rushed, and while Iris's and Dragonite's heart to heart was a very solid showcasing of Iris's abilities as someone who can speak to dragons, I felt it ate up screentime that make the rest of the battle feel rushed. Haxorus was taken out in a single hit, and even if it was one of the strongest Dragon type moves, we're still talking about the champions ace here.
The final detail I'd like to point out is the preview of the opponents Ash will face in the Ultra Class. The fact that we see so many silhouettes for the top 99 trainers gives me hope that battles are going to be a far greater focus moving forward I'm especially hyped for Volkner, as I can smell a Luxray vs Infernape rematch incoming! Also worth noting is that Korrina isn't among the silhouettes despite being in the new opening, and while it's possible they just chose not to show her, the fact that Bea is there makes me wonder if Korrina will fill some other role (maybe a Mega arc?)
Overall, while I feel this episode has some notable issues that Journeys as a whole is notorious for at this point, I also feel this episode delivered the level of continuity that we as the fans have been wanting ever since Journeys was first announced. If Journeys plans on returning more past traveling companions, then the Iris episode gives me hope that they'll continue giving us the level of continuity that we long term fans have wanted.