Netflixing: Trollhunters, Season 3

May 31, 2018 | Netflixing, TV, Writing

This post was originally published at my account on


Huh. I didn’t know they were in such a rush to end the series.

Regardless, the time has come to talk about Trollhunters, Season 3. And what a season it was. After a long wait and a lot of speculation, all questions were answered and all mysteries revealed.

So let’s examine what made this season so interesting.

The Joys of Being a Netflix Show

Trollhunters would not have been possible on a broadcast television channel, even on a cable station.

This was made particularly clear in Season 3, but it applies to the whole series. As a cartoon show tooled towards children, it would not have been allowed to have its characters so casually and intentionally kill other characters, or even mention the word “kill”, had it been a show on network or cable TV.

The entire buildup of season 3 is Jim’s training to kill the series’ villain with extreme prejudice. And, while I don’t want to trespass into spoiler territory, I must say that this particular season did something absolutely extraordinary.

Early on, Jim (the hero) is being trained by Strickler (a former villain) to fight Gunmar (the primary villain). Strickler does not play nice, showing his sparring partner no mercy, and insisting that Jim will have to become just as merciless.

Now, an ordinary cartoon show would have Jim rejecting this philosophy, only to discover that retaining his humanity is the real key to victory.

Well, Trollhunters is not an ordinary cartoon show.

By season’s end, it is revealed that Strickler is exactly right: Jim’s humanity is what keeps him from being strong enough to kill Gunmar, and only by becoming absolutely merciless is he able to put an end to that which threatens his home, family, and friends.

I don’t doubt many people will be upset by this development. But taking this controversial road is what prevents Trollhunters from being a cookie-cutter, moralistic, platitude spewing, saccharine, Saturday-morning experience. I don’t have enough clairvoyance to know whether this show will be remembered in a hundred years, but if it is, it will only be because it didn’t take the easy or obvious road.

And I’m not going to say that the message was wrong, either. Because in the real world there are some real evil people—people who will use whatever mercy you show them as a means to destroy you. Thankfully, most of us don’t have to deal with such people, but if you are, say, a soldier or a police officer or anyone whose job requires them to go to dark places, you will encounter at least a few of them in your lifetime.

That Trollhunters has the cajones to embrace such realism (and that realism, oddly, coming out of a fantasy story) is testament to how well written the series is.

And it never would have been possible in the highly regulated environment of broadcast TV.

This is What Happens When a Cartoon Takes its Writing Seriously

I already extolled the virtues of the show in my previous review. But in season 3, the story came into crisper focus, as a lot of the side plots had already been wrapped up, and there were less distractions from the central conflict.

And it feels like I’ve already spoiled too much. I don’t want to give away any important plot details, except to say that in this season we get a new uber-baddie, as well as the return of some familiar faces. Certain characters are called upon to make sacrifices, and those sacrifices are both real and lasting. That the show dared to take these risks is a little mind boggling, but I can’t deny that it pays off in a big way.

I will also say that certain romantic subplots were cultivated, though, interestingly, none were culminated. The audience was allowed to imagine how each couple ends up. Though I was certainly glad to see that the Strickler/Barbara subplot was not neglected.

The Show Speaks for Itself

Once again, I find myself without anything to say. The details are best experienced firsthand. But I can confirm that the action is fun and engaging, the humor is well timed and distributed, and I was actually sad to see it end.

Because, apparently, this is the end. While at least two spinoffs are in production, Trollhunters itself ends with this season, leaving us with a mostly wrapped up story and some teary goodbyes. And I was actually touched by the way it ended. That’s the thing I wish I could put into words here—the exact feeling of bittersweet satisfaction I got as all the storylines ended exactly where they should have. It was a graceful landing and a truly touching finale to a truly great series…that I experienced in full over the space of a single month.

It’s kind of weird to get so attached to a show, watching it from start to finish, in only a month. It distorts my sense of time.

My Judgment

It’s simple: if you watched the first two seasons of Trollhunters, then you’re going to watch season 3.

And if you haven’t watched the first two seasons, then what are you waiting for? I can promise you that every setup is paid off with a solid conclusion. This series might not be explosive, but it is never weak. Looking back on its short run, I can see why the writers kept the show so concentrated, realizing that they only had so many episodes to work with.

I am delighted to recommend Trollhunters to anyone with a Netflix account, and I can promise that I will be watching 3 Below and Wizards when each of those series is released.

My hat’s off to Guillermo del Toro, Dreamworks Animation, and all the people who made Trollhunters a reality. I hope other shows will take note of, and learn from, the risks that were taken here.