REVIEW: ‘3 Below’ is a Great Continuation of Arcadia

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3 Below - But Why Tho?

3 Below is the second series by Dreamworks in the Tales of Arcadia franchise which began with Trollhunters. Created, written, and directed by Guillermo del Toro, 3 Below follows two alien siblings who after they flee their home planet and settle on Earth.

In Trollhunters, del Toro was able to build a world based on Arthurian lore. He constructed a world of trolls and in 3 seasons we were able to understand every piece of it. 3 Below is no different. On a base of traditional science fiction tropes, del Toro builds out the world Akaridion-5 and it’s royal family. The siblings we follow are Prince Krel (Diego Luna) and Princess Aja (Tatiana Maslany), first introduced in season three of Trollhunters.

As the king and queen-in-waiting, the pair must adjust to a new life on earth all while working to fix their damaged mothership and save their parents. They are helped by their guardian, the glorious warrior Barvatos Vex (Nick Offerman). Throughout the season, we learn more about their world and in the same vein as the series before them, go on adventures. Not to mention, they’re accompanied by the best boy in existence Luug (Frank Welker,) their Akaridion dog-like pet who takes the form of a corgi while on Earth.

It’s always difficult to create a joint universe for multiple properties, even harder when they have to adhere to a strict and established timeline of events. A couple of episodes in, I was worried about how it would fit into the franchise. Aja and Krel go to the same high school as the Trollhunters crew, share the same town, and would most certainly be affected by big events that have already happened.

Although it isn’t clear from the get-go, as the season progresses you understand that 3 Below lines up to season three of Trollhunters. We see many familiar faces throughout the season but beyond that, we get to experience events from the other series but from Krel and Aja’s perspective. We see their introduction to the world of Arcadia from their side, previously shown Jim’s, and even see the final battle from the season finale of Trollhunters.

The bridge between the two shows and timelines is mainly from Trollhunters secondary characters like Toby’s grandma, Eli Pepperjack (Cole Sand), and most importantly Steve Palchuck (Steven Yeun). The last of these three grew over 3 seasons of Trollhunters. Steve went from bully to friend and in 3 Below, he is in his final form as a caring individual. Seeing his personality change and connect the two series is extremely well done.

Beyond nailing continuity, the show also manages to tackle some real issues, or at least acknowledge them throughout the series. Krel is a tech genius. Aja is a fighter. Vex is their protector and the greatest warrior in Akaridion-5. When they crash on Earth and they are given forms to walk around in, they’re given ones that are invisible to the world. A Latino, a girl, and a senior citizen, respectively.

It’s a small moment but one that speaks loudly for those who are from marginalized communities. There is also an episode where Krel faces racism from the parent of a student. He is belittled and called a cheater because he excels in math. The parent says a foreigner couldn’t possibly smarter than his child. Not going to lie, I’ve heard that before. “You can’t possibly better than X because you’re not X.” The series is able to present this in a way that is authentic, normal, and without much ado.

While the show highlights some real-world issues, it exclusively lives in a world of science fiction and fantasy. With shadow government agents, other stranded aliens, and a universe attempting to bring the brother and sister back to their home planet, 3 Below is an amazing children’s show that will be a gateway into the genre for many. The strong story and world-building are accented by amazing voice performances from Luna, Malsany, Offerman, Yeun, Nick Frost, and Glenn Close.

My only critique of the season is also an area I think del Toro and his team nailed: creature designs. Designing creatures and fantastical beings are something that del Toro is known for, and something that was extremely strong in his first series for Dreamworks. In 3 Below, the world of Akaridion-5 is bright blue, purple, and entirely based around energy, with its inhabitants glowing blue.

The Akaridions are not of this world but they are anthropocentric. While they glow and have more limbs, at the end of the day, they are humanoid. The big bad of the series, the military General Val Morando isn’t unique. In fact, as one of the early people you meet in the series, his stalky build, multiple eyes and horned head resemble the trolls we’ve come to know in Trollhunters. As an intergalactic being, this was a little bit of a letdown.

That being said, as the season progressed we were introduced into new species and their designs are perfect. While this closeness to humans and the existing series was a little safe, the design of Luug was out of this world. As a dog-like creature, Luug is bright purple and blue. His tongue is actually multiple strands of lights and his mouth opens in signature del Toro monster fashion. He’s adorable, different, and a highlight of design.

There are also strong influences from Ancient Egyptian art in the designs of the hunters chasing the siblings. In addition, the use of light as weaponry is also designed extremely well and highlights many of the fight scenes.

Overall, 3 Below is a great follow-up to Trollhunters. It is a strong science fiction story and builds out a world that I want to return to. The show makes me excited for Wizards, the next series in the franchise. Unfortunately, there is a lot of carryover from Trollhunter which can be a little distracting since I was in love with that series and I know it has completely ended. That being said, as a continuation of the tales of Arcadia, and as a science fiction tale, 3 Below is a great addition to the animation line-up that Netflix has offered this year.

3 Below is now streaming on Netflix.

3 Below
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Overall, 3 Below is a great follow-up to Trollhunters. It is a strong science fiction story and builds out a world that I want to return to. The show makes me excited for Wizards, the next series in the franchise. Unfortunately, there is a lot of carryover from Trollhunter which can be a little distracting since I was in love with that series and I know it has completely ended. That being said, as a continuation of the tales of Arcadia, and as a science fiction tale, 3 Below is a great addition to the animation line-up that Netflix has offered this year.