Setting up the Tales of Arcadia trilogy consumes much of Trollhunters season 3, but the series still manages to craft an emotionally satisfying final adventure that's as much an end as it is a new beginning.
Trollhunters season 3 is the final season of the animated Netflix series, capping off Jim Lake's journey from mild-mannered high school student to seasoned knight in the service of Merlin. He's come a long way since first discovering there was a hidden civilization of trolls beneath his hometown, Arcadia, and learning it was his destiny to wield the Amulet of Daylight as the first ever human Trollhunter. Now, it's up to Jim and his friends to once and for all defeat the evil troll, Gunmar, and stop the sorceress, Morgana, from casting all the world into an everlasting night.
Created by Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim, The Shape of Water), Trollhunters also includes Marc Guggenheim (Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow) as an executive producer. As a result, Trollhunters feels very much like a mixture of both Del Toro's and Guggenheim's sensibilities, infusing a love of monsters and fantasy with the challenges a young hero faces when he answers the call of duty. The series is animated by Dreamworks Animation and therefor looks similar to other Dreamworks productions, but there are plenty of unique elements that allow Trollhunters to stand apart. The trolls, for instance, have a definite del Toro flair in their design, and the magic and sorcery of the series leads to some exhilarating and stunning action sequences.
And though season 3 marks the end of Trollhunters, it is by no means the last we'll see of Arcadia and the mysterious, magical happenings that occur there. Trollhunters is merely part one of a three-part trilogy Del Toro has planned under the banner, Tales of Arcadia. The next series is called 3Below, a sci-fi adventure starring two alien siblings who crash land in Arcadia, followed by Wizards, in which the heroes of Arcadia join forces in a war that will decide the fate of the galaxy. Setting up those forthcoming series consumes much of Trollhunters season 3, but the series manages to still do right by the characters and the relationships they've forged, crafting an emotionally satisfying final adventure that's as much an end as it is a new beginning.
Trollhunters, like so many of today's animated series aimed at children, does mature in its storytelling and subject matter from one season to the next. It remains suitable for a family audience, but season 3 sees Jim, his girlfriend Claire, and best friend Toby taking on greater responsibilities in the war against Gunmar and Morgana. Characters face life-altering choices in this season that don't come with easy answers, and they're forced to think critically about just why they're doing the things they're doing. The lore of Trollhunters is deepened, too, with a good amount of screen time devoted to exploring the origins of the Amulet and the Trollhunting legacy. It's an interesting pivot for the series to make in its final 13 episodes, shifting away from silly adventures with little consequence to stories where the fate of the world hangs in the balance, but it's a necessary shift, delivering on the "bittersweet journey" del Toro always imagined for these characters.
The more serious tone of season 3 doesn't mean that Trollhunters is utterly devoid of humor. This is a series that doesn't shy away from a good fart joke, and the comedy helps to lighten the mood when the stakes begin to rise. The core relationships of the characters are also not forgotten as Trollhunters veers towards its climactic battle. In fact, the cast on the whole begins to really gel in these final episodes, as enemies become friends and Jim lets his two lives merge more than ever before. There are new characters introduced as well; notably the wizard Merlin, the sorceress Morgana, and two new students at Jim's school, Krel and Aja. And while they're all necessary additions in expanding the world of Arcadia, the introduction of some (Merlin, mostly) feels more natural to the story at hand than others (Krel and Aja's introduction feels forced, for instance).
The biggest change for Trollhunters season 3 is the sad fact that Anton Yelchin passed away before recording the remainder of Jim's dialogue. As a replacement, Emile Hirsch was cast and fans will be happy to know he ably steps into the role. There's even an in-universe explanation given for the change in Jim's voice, which didn't really seem necessary, but it demonstrates how cognizant the creators were of the change and the effect it'd have on the series. The rest of the returning cast are as strong as ever in their roles, with Lexi Medrano's Claire and Jonathan Hyde's Strickler getting some choice material to work from and delivering great performances as a result. Of the newcomers, David Bradley's Merlin is a definite standout, bringing a gruff and almost mean demeanor to the magical mentor, to the point he almost seems a villain but it's really just a healthy dose of tough love. Lena Headey voices Morgana and she is deliciously evil, and Diego Luna as Krel and Tatiana Maslany as Aja promise to be fun, quirky characters once their series (3Below) truly begins.
In the beginning, it would have been easy to dismiss Trollhunters as a funny action-cartoon show in the vein of Dreamworks other Netflix collaborations - amusing enough to distract the kids but otherwise forgettable. Trollhunters season 3, however, elevates the material and grows the series into something more on par with Star Wars Rebels or Voltron: Legendary Defender. As an end for Trollhunters, the final episodes have wonderful payoff for the arcs explored over the run of the series (even for minor characters), and the conclusion should be both satisfying and surprising for those who've been watching from the start. But where Trollhunters season 3 really impresses is in how it sets the stage for Tales of Arcadia to continue. If Trollhunters was a series you were unsure was worth your time, now is the perfect time to give it a chance.
Trollhunters season 3 will be available to stream Friday, May 25th on Netflix.