By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Sadly, all good Trolls must come to an end. No, the species are not going extinct in the finale of DreamWorks Trollhunters on Netflix but instead, Jim Lake Jr’s rite of passage into manhood is. Minimal spoilers will be revealed as this series has become a definitive hero’s journey for viewers of all ages to appreciate.
Most of the main characters are richly developed and Richard Hamilton’s books (The Way of the Wizard takes place after “For the Glory of Merlin” and Welcome to the Darklands in between seasons and two) fills in the blanks. The mythology takes a few cues from Arthurian tradition and this latest season does a triumphant job at exploring the virtues of what defines the knight. Traditionally, they should be on generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety. This animation sees valour, justice and courage just as important.
More detail about the hate going on in Morgana (le Fay) would have given this series more oomph. She’s rather flat in her motivations and is not the one from literary history. Her desire to outpace a patriarchal world was not necessarily an evil one and for some, she is regarded as a beneficiary until Sir Thomas Malory made her a challenger to the throne of Camelot. The war between her and Merlin is outside the literary realm and more Celtic / Welsh in origin. She is a harbinger of war. In Trollhunters, she is more like Sauron from the film version of Lord of the Rings.
This series assumes we know everything needed about Merlin. He’s needed by Jim and crew to repair a certain amulet and his appearance is more akin to bringing back Arthur than a sage. His motivations are more like that of a charge to ensure world survival than to guide the young Jim to knighthood. As “A House Divided” shows, he has to make the ultimate choice if this team is to defeat Morgana.
A few details of why Merlin is misanthropic are missing. He also intones history is created by the victors than those who were there. These details may not get revealed until Wizards, the third arc in the Tales of Arcadia.
Hopefully, this new series will draw more on details from King Arthur’s time and Celtic traditions to make up for the fairy tale shortcoming of the series. I really wanted to see the introduction of another magical species, but sadly, there are no signs they will appear. I am hopeful in the third arc of Tales of Arcadia will see the magic world expanded upon and that a certain mystical realm will see light. The Staff of Avalon which imprisoned Morgan must have come from there, and it had to be forged by other hands other than Merlin! Since only humans can weld it, this object may well be a product of faerie kind. To explain why it landed in America assumes either the Celts or Vikings brought it over instead of when the humans and trolls landed in Plymouth.
When the next part of the saga deals with science fiction elements, the idea of Krel and Aja (introduced in the episode “In Good Hands” ) finding a portal to the stars hidden in the woods or in what’s left of Troll Market is not too far fetched. I’m looking forward to the next chapter of this three-part series, Three Below, and hope it will not be a let down due to the shift in genre. The focus will on the siblings than Toby. He will eventually discover Krel and Aja’s secret and indoctrinate them to the team.
The official synopsis for this next chapter describes the brother, sister and guardian adjusting to Earth life until they can repair their spaceship. They landed on this planet because they were fleeing from their oppressors. Their strangeness is not too odd; the music Krel has seen DJing are the song of dolphins in the episode “The Eternal Knight” hints at a familiarity with this world. While it’s doubtful they have ancient alien connections to Atlantis or the Lemurians, that’s just wishful thinking on my part. Until the series airs, this chapter is an X-Files mystery.
If del Toro is looking for a classical ending, it would have to be in a Ragnarok type of scale which not only sees the destruction of the world that Morgan le Fay wants but also a rebirth where trolls, aliens and mortal man live together in harmony.