While The Dragon Prince Season 2 slowed down the pace of the overall story to focus on developing its secondary cast, with Season 3, things have really picked up speed. Battle lines are drawn, and it’s clear early on that we’re in for a dramatic and (at least for now) conclusive conflict. Although it feels rushed compared with Season 2, this season manages to stay true to the characters we know (some more than others), continues to impress with its beautiful art style, and ends the original story gracefully, while keeping the door open for more if the opportunity presents itself.
At the end of Season 2, the humans and elves were on the verge of war, while Ezran, Rayla, and Callum continued their journey to deliver Zym, the titular dragon prince, back to his mother in the Elven half of the continent, Xadia. However, when Ezran learned what had been happening back in Katolis without him on the throne, he chose to fulfill his obligation as king over his responsibility to Zym, entrusting Rayla and Callum to finish their journey. Season 3 picks up immediately after their departure, with Callum and Rayla finally entering Xadia, and Ezran taking the throne.
More than ever in The Dragon Prince, almost every character has a sense of urgency to their actions this season. Ezran most of all, who is confronted by the difficult choices a king must face when the nation he leads wants a war with the elves. As a child with no experience as a leader, he’s got a lot of ground to make up, and the writers do an effective job showing how his good heart informs his decisions. Yet just when this storyline is reaching its climax, when he goes up against up-and-comer Prince Kasef, things take a surprising turn. Given how significant his decision to go back home was at the end of Season 2, it's a letdown.
With the increased pace of the story, many characters jump around from place to place too often. The three heroes journey across the continent took two seasons of harrowing travel, so it comes across as a little too convenient that a bunch of winged creatures appear to transport characters to where they’re needed at that moment in the story. I had some real flashbacks to the last season of Game of Thrones and a certain Dragon Queen crossing the kingdom in record time. Maybe fast traveling is just a perk of being dragon-themed royalty adjacent.
While Ezran's story is going on, Callum and Rayla race against the clock in an unfamiliar land to deliver Zym back to his mother. There are a couple of scenes dedicated to showing off the beauty of the Elven kingdom, with some absolutely adorable creatures contrasted by some truly terrifying snakes, but overall, it was disappointing how little time was spent showcasing the magic of Xadia. The eastern half of the continent has been built up as this mystical wonderland, and I was excited to see how Callum would react to it being the curious Human he is, but we only spend a handful of episodes experiencing it from his eyes. Much of this season takes place in a singular location, and given how important it is to the story, I wish there was a little more time building up to the payoff of finally reaching it.
Last season, Rayla’s character development was sidelined so that supporting characters like Soren and Claudia had more time in the spotlight, leading to a stall in her story arc. This season, we’re given much more insight into what drives her to see this mission through, and how her clan of Moonshadow Elves played a part in the history of this world. Unfortunately, this focus on Rayla detracts from Callum, and he's given very little to do on this go-around, with most of his growth tied to helping Rayla further her own. It’s missed potential to not put a focus on Callum’s burgeoning magical pursuits, or how it feels for him to be a Human in a place where people despise you and look down upon your abilities. His flirtatious back and forths with Rayla are as entertaining as ever, but it’s nothing compared to hers, or even Soren’s personal agency this season.
Speaking of flirting, as it ages, The Dragon Prince continues to dance with darker moments and themes. There are some truly evil characters on this show that have no qualms with manipulating, plotting mutinies against, mutating, and even murdering children. Unlike other animated shows, you never get the feeling that any of your favorites possess that untouchable plot armor either, that can plague shows aimed toward younger audiences. There are still plenty of light and fun moments between characters in Season 3, but the humor isn’t quite on the level of the previous seasons (save for one incredible callback to Avatar: The Last Airbender, which this show's co-creator worked on previously). Some characters are presented as unbelievably unintelligent just for a single joke, and the show has a tendency to devolve into 'meme-like' humor a little too often (you’ll know it when you see it).
However, despite those grievances, the tone overall is one of maturity, and as tension increases, characters who have danced with the dark side before (or vice versa) seem to finally pick what side they’ll be fighting for once and for all. Thankfully, The Dragon Prince manages to make these decisions feel earned and genuine with each character.
One consistency throughout every season that deserves continuous praise is the show's incredible art direction. We're treated to the best showcases of this team's talent in terms of its creatures, world design, and the landscapes in particular. The animation seems to have reached a similar level of quality this season as well, with some beautifully choreographed fights between humans, elves, monsters, and mages alike. Season 1’s sometimes stilty, janky animations (even during a simple conversation with two characters) feels like a distant memory.
Season 1 of The Dragon Prince presented what I thought would be a long, magical journey, so it’s a little disappointing that we’ve already arrived at the destination. Season 3 does end on a high note, it just would have been better if it had taken a little longer to get there. As slow as Season 2 sometimes felt, Season 3 swings a bit too far in the other direction. Without spoiling anything, the story definitely isn’t over, despite conclusively ending its current arc, so, for now, it’s time to sit back and wait patiently for the next big adventure.
The Dragon Prince Season 3 hits Netflix November 22.
Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot's parent company