My Thoughts on TALES OF ARCADIA: Wizards


Wizards, the third installment of the Tales of Arcadia trilogy, dropped on Netflix yesterday. There are already a plethora of reviews.  This is not one of them.

Instead, this is my opinion of a few events and twists found within the new series. Some were awesome. Others were a let-down.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Let's get the first bit out of the way. No, Wizards is not the end of the franchise. The original Netflix film, Rise of the Titan, is supposed to drop in 2021. In addition to del Toro's tweet, you can browse this article from Report Door.

I'm certainly hoping "EVERYBODY" includes Barbara Lake. 

Trollhunters didn't treat Barbara as a stereotypical mom figure. She added depth, grounding the series in a bit of our own reality even as her son took us to a new world. Like her son, she was fierce when necessary and tenderhearted when needed. Wizards pretty much robbed us of an emotional reunion between Jim and Barbara. We fade to credits without ever seeing her. 

Speaking of Jim, we can't overlook one of the most badass moments in this trilogy: Jim's transformation into a troll. 

I honestly didn't think del Toro would go there. Not only was I pleasantly surprised, but I also thought his team did a fantastic job with the character design. 

Fangirls will squee! until they realize that Jim doesn't remain a troll or even a half-troll.

And that, my friends, is my biggest disappointment. It actually pissed me off.

I've run into more than a few ToA fans. Many of them point to season 3, episodes 10 ("A House Divided") and 11 ("Jimhunters") as containing potent moments not usually present in kids' cartoons. 

People found encouragement in Jim's transformation into a half-troll/half-hunter: A young black kid holding his head high even while being tormented because his mom is white; An autistic girl feeling more part of the world because Jim, Toby, and Claire showed her that she can be loved and autistic at the same time; A suicidal young man that came to realize how much his death would impact his family (referencing the characters frantically pounding on the bathroom door).

We saw Jim's human form die before returning to us as more than just a teenage boy. Stripping Jim of that unique form also stripped away the message's potency. Everything's back to normal and that's nice. However, we can't make an autistic girl un-autistic; we can't tell the tormented kid that he'll "revert" to just being black (or white). Jim reverting to human form stung.

Fans would have liked to see Jim go back to a half-form for this reason. He would have had to live with his decision to take that plunge into the tub. I agree with them on this.

Thank God Jim didn't pull Excalibur from the ground. That would have been another spot of contention for fans. Like the amulet, the sword gets to choose. Unlike the amulet, the sword is mute. We have no clue who the next King of Camelot will be.

Which brings us to Steve Palchuk, the Spring Fling King.

Let's put aside the annoying theory that Krax the Changeling is Steve's birth father, and the plausible theory that Lancelot might be part of Steve's lineage. 

Steve is one of the few characters with a full narrative arc spanning all three shows. We see him evolve from a bully 

into a hero. His surrounds and the events season him. He still screams like a girl but has the determination of a champion and an ego that rivals Lancelot's own.

Like many, I speculated that the magical sword might choose Steve. Perhaps he's not ready, or perhaps Excalibur will to go another character. Time will tell.

Charlemagne the Dragon is another talking point. People seem divided. Either he's liked or he's not.

I...didn't fancy his design. It's possible that my love of lore clashed with the story told. King Charlemagne and King Arthur do intertwine

Del Toro has always added kisses of world lore to his work. Bular and Anger Rot are two examples - if you haven't seen my commentary on that yet, you can find it here: "Words and Elements". Surely he would sprinkle a bit of Celtic love into the mix? After all, the dragon is symbolic of the Celtic Britons. 

I realize that the potential to error on the side of full-on Smaug is too great when trying to come up with an Arthurian design. Sadly, Charlemagne's fur-infused rendering seemed too reminiscent of a certain "luckdragon".

The dragon's "dad personality", however, is spot on. It works for the story.

Dads, or the lack of them, place a crucial role throughout the series. It was a treat seeing Bular and Gunmar fighting side-by-side. 

I'm reminded of the rooftop moment in Trollhunters S3 E11. Arrrgh peers over the rooftop at Jim and pronounces him "Troll brother". It is the same scene in which Blinky tells Jim that he's like a son. Tumble back in time a few hundred years and we see Blinky taking on a patron's role with Arrrgh.

(Now go watch Trollhunters with that notion in mind. Arrrgh choosing to leave after the tournament, and choosing to stay in Arcadia after Morgana is defeated, becomes so much more poignant.)

The last trolls to round out the story are Vendel and Callista/Deya. I loved them both though Callista's shape somewhat killed the mystery. It was obvious that she was the same stature as the carvings and images of Deya. Those chubby little legs!

The first Trollhunter and the last Trollhunter aiding each other at their weakest point. That, too, lent some poignancy to the tale.

Likewise, the relationship between King Arthur and his sister, Morgana, was fantastic. It was difficult to telegraph the direction it was going. That made it all the more enjoyable. And the best plot twist was discovering Arthur's new role with the Ancient Order. Was NOT expecting that. (I was almost afraid they would bring in Mordred the Bastard instead. Good luck explaining his origins to the kiddies.) 

I absolutely loved the design of the Ancient Order. Nari stands out due to her movement. Holy cow, the team did an excellent job with her. Her movement is otherworldly fluid, especially when she squats and slips about using her hands as well as legs.

Except for Bellroc over there. At first glance, I thought the roving eyes were tits. (What has been seen can not be unseen!)

I've been asked my opinion on the Ancient Order itself. Are they the fae defeated by pixies? In truth, I haven't drawn any conclusions yet.

As for Merlin? I've said it ever since the character was introduced in Trollhunters: Wizards are dicks. Douxie is the exception. He's awesome.

I absolutely wish they had expanded Wizards into a two or three-season story. Toby came across as a bit player. Though Claire was a major character in this, her role felt rushed. There was so much potential baggage to unpack with these two.

Morgana's story is fantastic but too brief. 

The Genesis Seals quest also felt rushed, especially when compared to the amount of effort needed to acquire the Triumbric stones to destroy Gunmar.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the writers didn't give us much time to emotionally invest in the story nor allow us to fully inhale the world they built. We had that in Trollhunters. In comparison, Wizards moves along at warp speed.  Narration propels us.

 "Show, Don't Tell", people.

Wizards has a lot of story to cover in only 10 episodes. Each episode is 23 minutes, thus the entire series is roughly 3.8 hours long. We have a lot of dialog thrown our way.

How fast will Rise of the Titan move in order to tell an epic last tale in under 2 hours without resorting to narration? Again, time will tell.

When all is said and done, del Toro and his team delivered another binge-worthy delight for our imaginations. In the spirit of the Destiny Monologue,

 What has been seen cannot be unseen, what has been learned cannot be unknown. You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it. You can grow from it. You can be made stronger. You can use that strength to change your life, to change your future. - CA Woolf

(It certainly was better than the last "Wizards" movie I saw.)




Photo Credit: Netflix for all but the Bakshi poster and warning sign