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Netflix’s 3Below gets political as Tales of Arcadia goes full Avengers

The animated series gets its due independence in its second season

Three blue-skinned extraterrestrials leap in front of a colorful background on 3Below Netflix

The second season of Guillermo del Toro’s 3Below, which hit Netflix on Friday, is gloriously funny and deeply emotional. The series, which focuses on a pair of extraterrestrial royal siblings who crash land on Earth following a coup on their whole planet, tackles high school life, xenophobia, and familial bonds. This final season not only wrapped up the Tarron’s storyline but included nods both to its predecessor, Trollhunters, and its eventual successor series, Wizards.

This is unavoidable: all three series are part of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s all-ages fantasy trilogy, Tales of Arcadia. While 3Below carries the same fantastic mark of its creator, its bent is decidedly more science fiction over fantasy. The series’ second season, which was released on Netflix on Friday, July 12, is stronger than its first, a fact that can largely be attributed to the fact that it is no longer tied to the Trollhunters timeline.

[Ed. note: Major spoilers for 3Below … below.]

Season 1 of 3Below took place concurrently with the final season of Trollhunters — while Jim worked to defeat Gunmar and Morgana once and for all, Aja and Krel prepared to depart Arcadia and fought off the first of General Morando’s hyper-durable “Omen” robot soldiers. The first season features two major crossover episodes that heavily feature Jim, Claire, and Toby, and in the early game of 3Below, this was welcome. It felt like seeing old friends again and didn’t create as much of a pacing issue as Aja and Krel’s appearance did in the third season of Trollhunters.

A group of creatures and humans stands in front of a model of the sun.
The Trollhunters and 3Below crews, briefly united.
Netflix

No longer held up by frequent Trollhunters parallels and references, season 2 of 3Below manages to dig into some political subtext. The series’ central conceit that Aja, Krel, and Varvatos disguise themselves as humans considered to be “invisible” on Earth — “a girl … a Latino … a senior citizen,” respectively — has gone mostly uninterrogated over the course of the series. However, season 2’s narrative freedom allows it to give more significant weight to political subplots.

Krel and Aja are relentlessly pursued by Colonel Kubritz, the poster child for military corruption and leader of Area 49B (basically Area 51 — think alien captivity and experimentation). The colonel’s rhetoric is unmistakably xenophobic: she frequently refers to the protagonists as “aliens” and constantly reifies her need to protect Earth from invaders. The messaging is overt, but it doesn’t feel like it fully connects and ultimately takes a backseat to Aja and Krel’s fight against Morando.

While season 2 is fairly focused on the conflict at hand, it still gives due diligence to the characters. Aja remains just as brash as ever with plenty of opportunities to flex her fighting skills, and Krel gets to lean a bit more into his goofy (and sometimes egoistic) side while constantly performing unbelievable technological feats. No longer tied to Jim and Claire, Toby plays a major role in the season, serving as as a connection to the troll world. The “Creepslayerz,” Eli and Steve, also get their due diligence, with Steve’s goofy, sometimes-awkward relationship with Aja proving to be a lighthearted highlight of the season.

At the end of 3Below, we get a fairly direct set-up for Wizards, the third installment of the Tales of Arcadia trilogy. A wizard’s familiar — in this case, an eyeglass-wearing, talking cat — appears before Toby, Steve, and AAARRRGGHH!!!, warning them of yet another apocalyptic threat (Steve laments, “Ugh, not again!”). Per Netflix, Wizards will bring together the trilogy’s full cast of creatures as humans, trolls, aliens, and wizards fight for control of their magical world. The series currently does not have an official release date, but is supposed to hit Netflix sometime before the end of the year.

a black cat with a white mark on its chest and round glasses stands on scaffolding
What a nice, proper cat.
Netflix

We may have gotten a nod to this future threat in 3Below during a scene in which Toby video calls Jim and Blinky, who are on a mission below Hoboken, New Jersey. We catch them mid-confrontation with a mysterious, white-armored, humanoid creature, but don’t see much else. Given that Wizards will likely bring Jim and Blinky back into the fold, it’s possible that their assailant will feature in the series as well.

A figure in white armor with a sword is pictured on a grainy television screen. Netflix

On the more out-there side, there’s speculation that Toby’s grandmother, Nancy Domzalski, may have a certain role to play in Wizards. Nancy tells Varvatos in the penultimate episode of the series that she was a spy during World War I — a fact that would make her over 100 years old. It’s possible that she’s just straight up lying, but fans speculate that the comment may be a nod to the possibility that Nancy is a magical creature.

Despite the numerous hints at what’s to come, 3Below’s final season gave the series some well-deserved breathing room away from the trilogy’s other installments. While it’s impossible to divorce the series from the trilogy as a whole, season 2 makes it a bit easier to lean into Aja and Krel’s story without the distraction of other familiar characters or plot elements. Even with nods to Arcadia’s final chapter, 3Below fully prioritizes the characters at hand. The time we’ve spent with Aja, Krel, and the rest of the crew feels complete and rewarding — and luckily, we’ll get to see most of them again soon.