High Schoolers and 'Stranger Things' - A Review of '3Below'
Another Satisfying Show with Crispy Animation!
Last Friday, Netflix released the second season of 3Below, the second show in Guillermo del Toro's Tales of Arcadia trilogy. While the first show, Trollhunters (which is required viewing before watching this show), had three seasons, 3Below has two seasons, the second of which ended in a way that feels like a series finale. No spoilers (yet), but 3Below Part 2 was better than Part 1. The series as a whole has felt like a natural continuation from Trollhunters, utilizing some familiar characters and providing little updates on others. Below are broad comments regarding the show overall, followed by a spoiler section
Aja and Krel are royal siblings from the planet Akiridion-5, which is being taken over by General Val Morando. As they disguise themselves as human foreign exchange students in Arcadia Oaks, California, they befriend the human characters who have been present in Trollhunters. Aja even starts a romantic relationship with Steve Palchuk, and their bodyguard Vervatos Vex develops romantic feelings for Toby's grandmother, Nancy. There seems to be this sentiment that they should be allowed on Earth despite their alien origin. This could be perceived as an allegory for immigration, though it's not depicted in a heavy-handed way like other shows have done. At its core, the show is about relationships and acceptance of different people.
3Below has a very sci-fi adventure feel to it. The July release of Part 2 is an opportune time when other high school sci-fi stories Stranger Things 3 and Spider-Man: Far From Home are on people's minds. Since Stranger Things 3 is another Netflix property, one cannot help but wonder whether there was some sort of corporate synergy. Like Steve Harrington from Stranger Things, Steve Palchuk started off as a bully (in Trollhunters) and has evolved into a nicer and more heroic character. Both 3Below and Stranger Things have even included Terminator references in their latest seasons. The Tales of Arcadia shows as a whole sometimes have a 1980s nostalgia feel to them, even though they take place in modern times. Trollhunters had an episode recreating The Breakfast Club, and it's hard not to think of Biff Tannen when hearing Thomas F. Wilson's voice coming from Coach Lawrence. Other nostalgic references do not feel as overt as Stranger Things, much to the benefit of 3Below, and the humor works better because the show does not try to be more dramatic than it needs to be, even though there are some emotional moments.
The Ending and the Future
Aja and Krel's parents sacrificing themselves to defeat Morando is a very emotionally poignant moment. And it seemed as though Vervatos would die as well, which might have worked well. But when Aja asserts that she is queen and commands him not to die, he chooses to hang on, and it is a very satisfying moment.
After the conflict ends and the time comes to say goodbyes, the main characters of the show split up. Aja and Vervatos decide to return to their homeworld. And Nancy promises the latter that she will join him once Toby leaves for college. (Also, if she's telling the truth of having been a spy during World War I, how old is she?!) Eli Pepperjack decides to join Aja and Vervatos as an Earthen ambassador. It's been entertaining seeing him and Steve Palchuk become friends and bond as the Creepslayerz, so this feels a bit sad.
Meanwhile, Krel decides that Earth is his home now and wishes to stay with his friends Toby and Steve, the latter having decided that his place is Earth and that he and Aja can do long distance. Not long after the goodbyes, there’s an encounter with a talking cat who is actually a familiar. (And it's humorous how Steve is more curious about the glasses than how it can talk, having witnessed a lot of strange things over the course of the two shows.) This sets up the next Tales of Arcadia show Wizards. It might not be as entertaining with certain characters (especially Eli) absent. But then again, it could end up surprising the fans. Tales of Arcadia has had a good track record, and there's room for more stories to tell.