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Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Arcadia and Wizards - But Were Afraid to Ask
August 31, 2020  | By Monique Nazareth
 



"If I've learned anything, it's that we don't draw strength from magic artifacts like amulets and swords. Our strength is something far less enchanted, but no less special -- our friends.
 We are the protectors of this world..."

Those are the words of Douxie (voiced by Colin O'Donohue), the hero of Guillermo del Toro's new Netflix animated series, Wizards

Wizards is the last of del Toro's Tales of Arcadia trilogy (the first two parts are Trollhunters and 3Below). But while those two series had multiple seasons, Wizards has just one. And unlike the other two, the finale leaves us with almost more questions than it answers. But more on that later.

Tales of Arcadia started as a book series by del Toro and co-author Daniel Kraus. Del Toro is best known for his feature films The Shape of WaterPan's Labyrinth, and Hellboy. His imagination, and his ability to weave together fantastic stories, are what make this a great book-to-TV trilogy. 

On TV, the saga begins with the three-season 2016-18 animated series Trollhunters, following Arcadia, California high school student James Lake Jr. (Anton Yelchin). Jim finds a mysterious amulet that turns him into the Trollhunter, protector of a hidden underground realm of trolls and magical creatures. The legendary wizard, Merlin (David Bradley), created the amulet. When Jim holds it up and says the words, "For the glory of Merlin, daylight is mine to command," he summons magical armor and sword. What makes him different from the centuries of past Trollhunters is that Jim is the first one who is human. 

Besides saving the world from the creatures of the dark realm, Jim has to deal with high school. There's Claire (Lexi Medrano), the girl he has a crush on; a bully named Steve Palchuk (The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun); the various quirky teachers; and his overworked single mom, Barbara (Amy Landecker), a doctor who is dating his school principal, Walter Strickler (Jonathan Hyde). Strickler also happens to be a changeling (part troll/part human) trying to kill Jim. But like all del Toro's stories, characters are not always what they seem, and bad guys can turn good – just as good guys can turn bad. 

If this sounds a lot like Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it certainly has elements of that show, all the way down to the single mom trying to understand why her child has been chosen to be a hero. And like the slayer, this particular Trollhunter fights his battles with his friends by his side. That said, del Toro has a unique style and artistic imagination when it comes to the fantastical worlds that his heroes live in, and many of his references go back to his classic Hellboy series.

So who are the members of the Scooby gang that fights along with Jim? There's his crush, Claire; his best friend Toby (Charlie Saxton), a chubby orphan living with his grandmother; a burly troll named AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore); and the Trollhunter's mentor Blinkous "Blinky" Galadrigal, a six-eyed, four-armed troll. Frasier's Kelsey Grammer lends his voice and personality to Blinky, who is a mix of wisdom, anxiety, and pretentiousness. Later additions to the gang include school bully Palchuk and the school nerd, Eli Pepperjack (Cole Sand).

It's hard to how long Trollhunters might have gone had it not been for the unexpected death of its star, Anton Yelchin, in 2016. Yelchin had completed all the voice work for Jim Lake for the first two seasons and part of Season 3 before his death. Actor Emile Hirsch took over the role to wrap up the show. Perhaps it is why a decision was made to have Merlin turn Jim into a troll. The transformation supposedly evens the odds for the heroes in the final battle against a powerful troll –the evil Morgana (Game of Thrones' Lena Headey.) 

Jim is joined by the Scoobies, students, trolls, and the townspeople to defeat the bad guys. This includes Arcadia's two new foreign exchange students, Aja and Krel, who are the protagonists of the second chapter of the Tales of Arcadia

A victorious Jim, Claire, and Blinky decide to join Merlin on his new quest to find a heart stone in New Jersey, leaving Toby, AAARRRGGHH, Palchuk, and Pepperjack behind to protect Arcadia, opening the door for the next chapter, 3Below. 

In part two of his trilogytelevised in 2018-19, del Toro looks to the skies for his heroes and villains. After the evil General Val Morando (Alon Aboutboul) attacks the planet Akiridion-5, Princess Aja (Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany), and Prince Krel (Rogue One's Diego Luna) of the House Tarron, their bodyguard Varvatos Vex (Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman), and pet Luug all escape to earth. They land in Arcadia, and their ship, which is powered by the artificial intelligence "Mother" (Glenn Close), turns into a fully active house. 

Now the royals must figure out a way to save their planet and parents, who barely survived the attack, while trying to fit in with the "hoo-mans." They start by transforming themselves into teenagers, while Varvatos Vex turns into their feeble old grandfather. The two end up in high school, where they face battles with extraterrestrial hunters, federal agents who want to capture them, and the ups and downs of high school life. They get help from some of the remaining Scoobies from Trollhunters. Aja even starts dating Steve Palchuk, who becomes an unlikely hero. In a particularly clever move, del Toro includes a different version of the finale of Trollhunters, told from Aja and Krel's perspective. 

3Below's two seasons comprise 26 episodes, and the finale, called “A Glorious End,” lives up to its name. 

Finally, we get to 2020’s new entry in the DreamWorks animated trilogy, called simply Wizards. It begins in a familiar magical realm from long ago: late 12th-century Camelot. That's where we see our hero, Merlin's apprentice, Hisirdoux, unhappily stuck sweeping up his wizard's room and doing other menial chores. He's complaining to his companion Archie, a shape-shifting dragon who's opted to remain a black cat. Archie flies, and talks, and offers words of wisdom to his friend. When Merlin arrives, Hisirdoux tells him how he longs to be a wizard with a staff, but Merlin responds, "Staffs are for those with mastery over magic, and magic is mastery over life. So first, you must learn how to live."

Flash-forward to modern-day Arcadia. Douxie, as Hisirdoux is now known, is still pushing a broom, but now in a coffee shop. We should note we've met Douxie before (he was a relatively minor character in both Trollhunters and 3Below). Archie is still with him as a familiar and instructor. Douxie is a musician and practices magic on the side.

On this particular day, Douxie is hunting a mythical creature in Arcadia when Merlin returns. He tells Douxie he needs him to gather the remaining "guardians of Arcadia." Currently, that includes Toby, AAARRRGGHH, and Palchuk. Merlin has been traveling with Claire, Jim, and Blinky. He tells the others that an evil knight attacked them, leaving Jim on the verge of death, with an onyx shard slowly piercing his chest. 

Merlin takes everyone to Camelot, which in this era is now a flying castle. But a new battle with the evil knight results in Douxie, Jim, Claire, and Palchuk going back in time to the original 12th-century Camelot. It is there we learn the origins of the trollhunter, Morgana, and the hidden troll world. 

The group tries not to meddle with time, but time is key to the show. We get the history of why and how Merlin created the Trollhunter amulet, how the alliance between AAARRRGGHH and Blinky was formed, and what pushed Morgana to become powerful and evil. It also reveals that much of the trouble was caused by the Arcane Order, a group of three powerful dark sorcerer siblings. The Order wanted to protect the balance between magic and mortals, but eventually gives up on humanity, opting to destroy it. However, one of their members, Nari, decides she can no longer go along with them, and escapes.  

When the group returns the present-day world, Merlin tells Douxie his mission is to protect Nari at all costs. If all this sounds complicated, it is. In some ways, time works against Wizards. It's the shortest of the trilogy, with just ten episodes. Though it's full of humor and heart, at times it feels like it's packing too much information into a short time. And while it wraps up some elements of the Tales of Arcadia story, the last episode, titled “Our Final Act,” leaves many unanswered questions: What's next for Jim? Will there be a trollhunter? Will someone wield Excalibur? And can Douxie and Nari really escape the Order? 

When Douxie is faced with the tough decision of saving his friends or saving the world, and Krel tells him, "We're out of time!" He responds, "Or maybe… time is all we have."

Apparently, like Douxie, del Toro has one more trick up his sleeve. Right after Wizards premiered on Netflix earlier this month, he announced that the Tales of Arcadia saga would conclude with a full-length animated film, Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans. That movie is scheduled to premiere on Netflix in 2021.

So if you haven't watched the various chapters in theTales of Arcadia series, you still have time to make your escape into this enchanted world before del Toro concludes his lengthy, complicated, entertaining story. 

 
 
 
 
 
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