On Friday, we get to return to the intergalactic adventures of House Tarron, when 3Below: Tales of Arcadia returns to Netflix for Part 2. When we last left Aja, Krel, Varvatos Vex, and the rest of the Arcadia gang in Part 1, they had fought off the devious Zeron Brotherhood as well as a murderous super-bot sent by the usurping General Morando. This time, the General himself may be paying a visit to Earth.
Guillermo del Toro and Rodrigo Blass' spin-off series from Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia, finds the royal Aja (Tatiana Maslany) and Krel (Diego Luna) of Akiridion 5 hiding out on Earth within a sentient mothership (Glenn Close). Part 1 contained many crossovers with the world of Trollhunters, but the next season of 3Below is set to continue our new Arcadian adventures into unknown territory.
While we wait to wolf down the entire new season faster than Aja would wolf down a Diablo Maximus Breakfast Burrito, let's go back over some of the most "lively" moments from Part 1. It would be very easy to list the entire season and be done with it, but that's not really fair. Still, some moments from our inaugural ride with the Akiridions (not aliens, they do not like that term) have us shouting "GLORIOUS" at our televisions, much like Varvatos Vex (Nick Offerman) often does.
Let us fly through the best moments that Part 1 of 3Below gave us as our journey began on a floating ball of mud and water... whose inhabitants named it after dirt. Mother's words, not ours. Time to hit it, buckaroo!
Chase on Akiridion 5
Right from the start, the first episode blessed us with the spacey-wacey beauty of the neon paradise of Akiridion 5. It's not long before Morando's coup takes place, and Aja and Krel are forced to find safety.
This includes a kinetic and furious chase across the planet, with the royals flying for their lives. It is the stuff that sci-fi dreams are made of — besides being incredibly well staged, the chase also lets us know more about our main characters: Aja is the capable warrior, Krel is the brilliant scientist, and Vex is a battle-crazed lord of battle who either longs for victory or glorious death. It's a beautiful, high-octane start to a series that never skimps on imaginative action.
We thought that we may have seen the end of the formidable Zadra when she was overcome by Morando's troops in the pilot. Thankfully, we find out a few episodes later that she wasn't dead — she was very much alive, thanks to a member of the resistance, and this was a great thing to learn. For one thing, Zadra is voiced by Hayley Atwell, and who doesn't want more of her? That's easy: nobody. The answer is nobody.
Zadra also has a fighting style that is great fun to watch— she wields a double-bladed staff of energy scythes. Furthermore, her continuing to appear in the tale let us know that we would continue to follow her on Akiridion 5, and that the show would let us take little visits back to that beautiful place from time to time. We'd also meet the resistance that is going up again the General, and that proves to be important as well. By the end of the season, Zadra is not only alive, she has joined the royals on the floating ball of water and mud. Thank Seklos and Gaylen that she survived!
In order for Aja, Krel, and Vex to be able to travel out into Arcadia, Mother camouflages them into the human forms of three beings that are completely ignored on Earth: a girl, a Latino, and a senior citizen. The first time that they venture out, all three of them marvel at the weirdness of the planet, and they cause quite a bit of mayhem in the process.
The sequence is hilarious (especially the bit with Krel and the little rocketship) and setting it to the song "How Bizarre" makes it even better. We wish that we could take such pure delight in Earth as the royals do in this montage.
When Aja is having nightmares about the coup back on Akiridion, she makes a late night visit to Mother's main chamber. The usually business-like Mother doesn't send her back to bed in a cold, computer-like way as expected. She behaves like an actual mother.
She soothes Aja, lets her curl up with their Akiridion dog, Luug, and plays her some beautiful Earth music from her database. It's a soft and tender moment, and it really endears us to both Aja and Mother.
The cast of 3Below crosses over with the cast of Trollhunters a couple of times in Part 1, but the first time that the teams join forces (in "D'Aja Vu") is probably the best. Seeing the two casts interact is great in and of itself (Vex trading blows with ARRRGGGHHHH is wonderful), but when they come together to fight a trickster troll, the casts merge together magically.
Seeing Jim's enchanted armor and Aja's energy weapon in action at the same time is a treat, and so is seeing Vex and ARRRGGGHHHH matching each other blow for blow. Scenes like this that make us very eager for Tales of Arcadia: Wizards, when the whole Arcadia-verse is going to come together once more.
Birdie Flanagan is really a dangerous bounty hunter, but she takes human form (with an on-the-nose human name) so she can stalk the royals. She is voiced by the legendary Fiona Shaw, she's fantastically written, and she is perfectly animated.
You'd think that all of that would be enough to make her a moment unto herself, but there's something that the show does that really puts her over the top. Every time that someone says her name, you hear the sound of a bird in the distance. Seriously, every time. Even when her name is said multiple times in rapid succession, bird noise. It gets to the point where the show doesn't even wait for the name to be said... if she's referred to in any way, you hear the sound.
It's so weird and satisfying that we have to include it. Technically this is a series of moments (or a series of bird sounds), but who cares, it counts. Apologies to Foo Foo the Destroyer.
Aja kicks Steve
Steve Palchuk (Steven Yeun) from Trollhunters is a major presence in 3Below, and he fully completes his journey from useless bully to something resembling a hero. His falling head-over-heels for Aja is a key point in this evolution, and it all kicks off (sorry) when Aja literally kicks the dude right in the stomach.
Steve has reverted a little and tries to bully Aja and Krel — Aja, a warrior-in-training and Queen-in-waiting, wastes no time in laying him out. Steve isn't upset because Aja kicked him, on the contrary — he is instantly fascinated by her and it's true love. When he finds out the truth about who she really is, he's not disgusted in the least. He falls even more for her, and we, in turn, fall a little bit for him.
All of this thanks to a kick in the chest. Well done, Aja!
Aja kisses Steve
The "Staja" relationship evolves over Part 1, and eventually Aja and Steve share a kiss during the mayhem of the finale. It is the reverse of most "hero kisses" that we are used to seeing— Aja dips the oafish Steve, they kiss, the camera spins, and all the while goblin guts are flying around them thanks to Krel and Eli.
It's as silly as it is romantic, and for this couple it is perfect. The kick to the stomach probably beats it, but who cares. We're gonna go romantic with this ranking for once. Aja is someone we constantly root for and want the best for at all costs— by the end of the series Steve has truly proved himself. Not only are we okay with the two of them together, we're happy for the both of them.
Every single moment with the Blankbot parents
Yep, this isn't fair at all, but we're doing it anyway. When the royals need some kind of parental figures to present to Interim Principal Uhl, they have Mother create a pair of parents from a couple of "blankbots." Mother's data is really out of date, so the new pair of bot parents look and sound like they are right out of the '50s. They also behave like they are constantly high on speedballs.
Every single moment with this pair (voiced by Tom Kenny and Cheryl Hines) is Christmas morning perfection. From their zany physicalities to their inane '50s catchphrases, this fast and loose duo light up the show whenever they appear. Thankfully they appear rather often. From the Dad-bot's crisis of faith, to their "help" during the heist episode, to their being heartbreakingly reprogrammed for evil purposes (temporarily) during the finale, the blankbot parents make an already great show truly something special. They are insane, and we love them, buckaroo!
Varvatos Vex and the sacrifice of the pawn
Varvatos has quite the arc in Part 1 — he loyally guards the royals, but eventually we discover that he was responsible for allowing the coup on Akiridion 5 to happen in the first place. He was promised no bloodshed, and he had his reasons for doing what he did, but still — the warrior that we have come to love is in dire need of redemption when the finale rolls around. Thankfully, Vex, in senior citizen form, has been learning chess from two other "geezers" in the park. He never quite gets the notion of sacrificing the pawn...until it comes time for him to make his own sacrifice.
To save the royals, the dishonored Vex decides to sacrifice himself by crashing a smaller spaceship into a bigger one. As he apologizes to the royals over comms, he says, "To protect the King, sometimes you have to make a sacrifice. Lose pawn to win the battle. Varvatos knows what he did was wrong, and that he...that I...am the pawn. I shall make amends, for House Tarron, for you."
One thing to keep in mind is that Vex (almost) always refers to himself in the third person. It's his thing. This is only the second time in the series that he changes that pattern, and it's the first time that he does it when speaking to the royals. It's a powerful moment in the middle of a fantastic speech, and when delivered by Nick Offerman? Come on. It's our favorite moment in Part 1.
Though Vex accomplished his goal, he didn't end up dying as a result. He was captured by what's left of the Zeron Brotherhood, and we will be seeing him again. Here's hoping that Aja and Krel will forgive him — in the meantime, they have Zadra, Mother, and each other. From the looks of it, they'll have Toby and ARRRGGHHHH also.
3Below: Tales of Arcadia returns to Netflix for Part 2 tomorrow. Quite lively!