Wrapped this up this morning instead of doing my job. As is my way.
Definitely a rocky start. As always, I find silly kiddie antics a little tiresome, but mercifully, Callum straddles the line and Ezran spends a lot of time backgrounded. But the combination of terrible accents, eerie animation choices (the artificially lowered framerate made zoomed-in conversations creepily stilted), and what felt like might develop into an aimless plot turned me off a couple of years ago when I gave this a try for the first time, but on recommendation from many and having run through a bunch of similar shows recently, I decided to try to push through and made it to The Good Bits™.
I’ll say first and foremost that I’m a sucker for sappy love-y bits in my YA fantasy, so the various relationships that burgeon throughout were great. I also adore wacked-out bizarre twists on fantasy tropes and mind-bending visuals, and the series delivers pretty well there, too. The #WholesomeContent rating was high, too, even if Callum could be a little too cheeseball in his absurd sincerity. And the plot train eventually left the station, with a notable swiftness. (It was easier for me to ignore the in-universe pacing issues others above caught; those aren’t the details that usually draw my notice)
The show wound up surprising me with Soren’s arc, even though I knew it was coming from one of the architects of ATLA. I was a little saddened by the fairly absolute turn Viren took and the complete abandonment of subtlety by the end of S3 with his plotline, and I’ll admit I was disappointed by where Claudia wound up, just because I’m terribly fond of her and had hoped for better.
Rayla was a great female lead and a ton of fun throughout (the actress’s Magically Disappearing Accent notwithstanding) – “Human Rayla” was always hilarious, in particulary – but the Best Lady award goes to Amaya by a country mile. Her wry smirk and age-rating-skirting ASL antics were a constant highlight, and she was an absolute badass in every fight scene she had. If Ehasz and co announced tomorrow they were premiering a spinoff entitled Amaya: Shieldmaiden of the Breach, I’d be in for 20 seasons in a heartbeat.
The little twists on standard fantasy, like the myriad elemental flavors of Elves, the divided world, the wildly different spellcasting for humans, etc., were nice. I dunno if any of it was fully original, but there were enough little novel bits stuck together that the setting felt well-defined and unique enough to enchant.
The ending felt like it wobbled a little off the tracks as stakes and pacing mounted to unsupportable levels and the plot’s demands kept increasing the speed (the absurd “get help!” style gag Claudia and Viren pull in the last ep out on the battlefield to capture Ezran is especially painful), and the show definitely tried a little hard to recapture some of the various bottled flavors of lightning ATLA quaffed so well before it, e.g., Adorable and Lovable Magical Critters, but all in all, it was a good journey, and I’m excited to see where we’ll go next with the vastly different political state of the world and the evolving threat posed by Aravos.
edit: Also, if Harrow’s soul doesn’t wind up being in that fucking bird, I’m going to riot.