Tales of Arcadia: 3Below (Courtesy of Netflix)
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Courtesy of Netflix

Hail the del Toro-verse: How 3Below: Tales of Arcadia connects to Trollhunters

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Jul 10, 2019

Seklos and Gaylen, Part 2 of 3Below: Tales of Arcadia is almost upon us! The Netflix animated series from Guillermo del Toro and Rodrigo Blaas is a wild sci-fi romp, and Part 1 was an insanely fun ride. I, for one, am wildly excited for more "lively" adventures — I find that the show has (like the Arcadia series that came before it) been a little underappreciated since its debut. Not on my watch!

As the "Tales of Arcadia" part of the title suggests, the show is a direct spin-off of Tales of Arcadia: Trollhunters. Though 3Below tells its own tale and features its own unique set of characters, there is a lot of crossover with the events of the third (incredible) season of Trollhunters.

It's time to boot up the Daxial Array and journey through all the various ways in which these two shows connect.

ARCADIA ITSELF (A TOWN WITH PEP)

The most obvious connection is that 3Below also takes place (mostly) in the weird little town of Arcadia, the central location of Trollhunters. The intergalactic heirs of House Tarron, Aja and Krel (Tatiana Maslany and Diego Luna, respectively), are forced to flee their home of Akiridion 5 after a coup takes place, and their sentient mothership (Glenn Close) hides them in the town that we know is already full of trolls and magic. Why not throw aliens into the mix? Sorry, not aliens — Akiridions. They do not like the word "aliens."

Over the course of Part 1, we visit many familiar locations. Arcadia Oaks High School is a major one, and we also see the canal and bridge that often plays a major role in the Trollhunting adventures of Jim Lake.

TEACHERS, STUDENTS, AND BURRITOS

If you're hiding in Arcadia, you've also gotta deal with the nutso denizens of Arcadia. Aja and Krel have barely touched down for six macrons before Trollhunters mainstay Eli Pepperjack spots them and becomes suspicious. He remains a part of their journey for the rest of the first season, determined to figure out what their truth really is.

Aja, Krel, and their bodyguard Varvatos Vex (Nick Offerman) are able to camouflage themselves into human form, so they can venture outside their ship while keeping their Akiridion secrets. One of their first outings has them crossing paths with Jim Lake's best friend Toby, who pops up around the taco truck that makes his beloved "Diablo Maximus" Breakfast Burrito. It's a food item that Toby mentions nonstop over on his own show.

Toby is impressed after Aja houses one of the burritos in one gulp, going on to ask for another. This is the burrito that we once saw give intestinal damage to a living volcano, after all. We finally meet the guy who makes them, Stuart (Nick Frost), and we discover that he is also an intergalactic refugee of the slimy variety.

Arcadia's Detective Scott shows up a few times, and he is always wary of the newcomers. Aja and Krel are eventually forced to attend high school, so naturally, they come across Interim Principal Uhl, Miss Janeth, and Coach Lawrence. None of them are impressed with the royals at first, but they gradually come to appreciate them. We even see a softer side of Uhl and learn that he's very passionate about Barry Manilow.

Claire Nunez' pack of friends is around, including Toby's girlfriend Darci. Krel takes a while to make an impression (it takes the whole season), but most of the students love Aja immediately. One familiar student likes her the most out of all of them.

STEVE PALCHUK IN LOVE

What a journey we've been on with Steve (Steven Yeun). He began his role on Trollhunters as the school bully, but that gradually changed as he made friends with Eli and started helping Jim and his friends. Steve is a supporting player on that series, but he really steps up on 3Below.

He tries his tired bully routine with the newly arrived royals, but all it takes is a kick in the face from Aja for him to fall in love with her. He's just a "lumbering oaf with golden hair" as far as she's concerned, but Aja is an angel to him.

Steve eventually learns the intergalactic truth about Aja. Instead of being revolted by it, though, he's totally into it. He loves her even more when he sees her in her true Akiridion form. Again, I'm not saying "alien." They don't like that term.

SMALL CONNECTIONS

Steve's favorite insult of "buttsnack" is heard fairly often, with the first utterance coming when an old man in the park says it to Vex, whose camouflaged form is that of a senior citizen. Varvatos responds to the insult with, "Your butt shall be mine to snack!"

A mass mind-reading sequence features Claire's voice, Steve's beloved prom king scepter makes an appearance, and a random goblin is seen watching a crashing spaceship in a flashback. One of Claire's friends gets a lucky call from her when the school becomes infested with alien bugs. And also of note? Vex (in senior citizen form) becomes enamored with Toby's grandmother.

Are those connections not big enough for you? Good, because the show features three full-on crossovers with Trollhunters where the two shows almost become one.

CROSSOVER 1 — "D'Aja Vu"

This episode puts both teams together, as Aja, Krel, and Vex join with Jim, Claire, Toby, Blinky, and ARRRGGGHHHH. In terms of the timeline, it happens early on in Trollhunters Part 3.

A "trickster troll" gets his hands on some Akiridion tech, and they use it to continue resetting the day's timeline in some wacky Groundhog Day style. In trying to stop this troll, the two teams end up clashing — only Aja and Jim remember it at first. Eventually, they are able to get everyone on the same page every time that the day resets, and the teams fully join forces to defeat the troll.

The two casts of characters work insanely well with each other, and though the characters all come from different genres, it is a seamless fit. When Aja tells Jim who she really is, his reaction is not based in fear — he thinks it's amazing, and we remember how much we love Jim. Jim's companions think that it is equally "awesomesauce" when they find out.

Once they realize that the troll is mixing magic with the alien tech, they figure out a way to defeat it — this, unfortunately, means that the two groups will not remember that they've met. Never fear, because Blinky tells them all, "Fate will no doubt reunite us in due course." He must be aware that the upcoming show, Tales of Arcadia: Wizards, is set to bring everyone in the Arcadia-verse together.

CROSSOVER 2 — "Lightning in a Bottle"

Turns out that we don't need to wait for Wizards, because another crossover happens very soon after the first one. When Aja attends a bonfire "group hang thing," someone asks Darci where Toby is. She says that he went off to visit Jim's "Uncle Merlin or whatever" and we get a very brief flash of the Merlin quest from Trollhunters.

This crossover episode happens right after that quest. Specifically, it takes place at the exact same time as the Trollhunters episode "In Good Hands," which was technically the first time that we met Aja and Krel. We didn't know who these two weird kids were in that episode, but we certainly know now. "Lightning in a Bottle" is the same story, but it is told from Aja and Krel's perspective.

It starts the same way, with Jim Lake having to atone for his constant absences (such as leaving to go and find Merlin, etc), by caring for the socially inept Aja and Krel. Jim, Claire, Toby, and oh yes, Gnome Chompsky, are all in for the ride.

It's revealed that Aja is going along with all of the Trollhunting business because she thinks that Jim has her multi-purpose energy weapon, which she lost in the previous episode. Eventually she discovers that it's not her weapon he has, it's his own magical amulet... this leads both she and Krel towards being fairly certain that there's more to this group than meets the eye. They help them capture some lightning, and after a chase that involves Steve, Chompsky, and Vex, Aja gets her energy weapon back.

Before they part (remembering each other this time), Jim says, "Maybe we'll see you around this summer." Oh how prophetic that boy is!

CROSSOVER 3 — "Last Night on Earth" and "Bad Omen"

Towards the end of Part 1, Arcadia starts getting little earthquakes. They cause Eli to think that something is "going on with Jim and his troll buddies." He's right. Those earthquakes are the buildup to the finale of Trollhunters Part 3.

The last two episodes of 3Below's Part 1 happen during that finale, with the culmination of Aja and Krel's journey going down around (and sometimes directly inside) the havoc caused by Gunmar and Morgana during the two-part "The Eternal Knight." Things kick off with the Battle of the Bands, and we see Krel finally having a moment of popularity before the armored Claire arrives and gives her Trollhunters finale speech.

Cue Morgana's eclipse and Gunmar's troops rising from under the ground. Aja, Krel, Vex, and the newly arrived Zadra (Hayley Atwell) are a bit puzzled, but they battle some of Gunmar's lackeys anyway. We get glimpses of Claire, Toby, Strickler, and even the Troll-turned Jim.

It's not long before our new cast goes back to dealing with their own problems, but they do so under the backdrop of Gunmar and Morgana's attack. Aja sees Steve and Eli batting goblins with baseball bats, and soon "Staja" (their shipping name) has their first kiss — Aja dips Steve, the camera circles around them as they kiss, and goblin slime flies all about courtesy of Eli and Krel continuing the assault.

In all of the different ways that the shows connect, this moment is probably my favorite.

Might we expect more overlapping in Part 2 of 3Below? Not like this, because we're going into uncharted territory in terms of the story of Arcadia. Jim, Claire, and Blinky will still be off on their quest, but Toby and ARRGGHHH will be around, as will Steve, Eli, and the rest of the High School gang. 3Below is no longer beholden to the timeline or events of any other series — it is now leading the way.

The overlaps and crossovers were lively, and yes, GLORIOUS — but now it's time for 3Below to fly free and take the Tales of Arcadia series forward on its own neon energy.

Tales of Arcadia: 3Below returns to Netflix on July 12.


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