And now, the end is near. Netflix’s Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is heading into its third and final season on the promise of global unity or Mute-ually assured destruction. The series does a beautiful job of bringing our beloved heroes’ story to a close, but gets weighed down by a villain who fails to earn the title of “final boss.”
The third season of Dreamworks’ Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts sees the titular character (Karen Fukuhara) and her friends trying to bring all the animal cliques together to fight back against Dr. Emilia (Amy Landecker), who’s working on a cure that would revert the talking animals to their pre-apocalypse state. It turns out that a fun group name and a secret handshake don’t easily fix two centuries of mistrust, and Kipo ends up with more work than she bargained for.
Much like previous seasons, this final run of Kipo looks and sounds fantastic. The music is pumping, the environments are popping with color, and the animals are larger-than-life. We even get some new Mutes to fall in love with—like the K-Pop Narwhals, who everybody is going to fall in love with. Look, I don’t make the rules, I just know when life is going to enforce them.
The series does a great job of showing the work it takes to bring the different groups together—not because any of the animal cliques are “bad,” but because they’re all individuals with their own needs that don’t easily mesh with one another. It takes work to get them on the same side, and even then some choose to keep their distance. Kipo goes into it as optimistic as ever, but eventually their interpersonal conflicts, and Dr. Emilia’s (Amy Landecker) scheming, start to take a toll. Sure, Kipo might have control of her Mute abilities, but eventually, she begins to lose control of herself—and for awhile it’s unclear what person she’ll be at the end of it all.
Those tensions are also reflected in her relationships; Kipo and Wolf’s (Sydney Mikayla) friendship strains as the two of them choose different approaches to similar problems, Kipo and Benson (Coy Stewart) drift apart as she embraces her “dark side.” Then there’s Kipo’s relationship with her mom, who’s trapped inside a mega baboon. In short: It’s complicated.
Sadly, the same complexities aren’t extended to Dr. Emilia and her fellow humans. Season two ended with the doctor convincing the burrow survivors to abandon Kipo and join her. It was a strange decision that didn’t make a lot of sense at the time, and it continued to not make sense through all of season three. There are moments where select human characters cast doubt on Dr. Emilia’s actions, but for the most part, they’re background extras doing her bidding until the moment the plot decides they won’t anymore.
The whole Dr. Emilia storyline is, by far, the weakest part of season three—just as it was in season two. One of the most interesting things about Scarlemagne (Dan Stevens) was that his rise to power pointed to a larger issue among the Mutes—in that they had a lot of trust issues that extended not only to humans but also to each other. It was a problem that took a lot of time to resolve and was handled really well. In Dr. Emilia’s case, Kipo went with the “bad apple” approach. She wasn’t a reflection of larger systemic problems among the humans—she was an obsessed and ultimately irredeemable monster that the others were blindly following. Even her backstory alluded to this, focusing on how her father raised her to hate Mutes.
Don’t get me wrong: I like that the final villain was a human. It made sense that the worst monsters of this world would be our own damn selves, but making it all the machinations of one evildoer was just too convenient. It failed to match the complexities the show has otherwise shown. The series pinned everything on her, which absolved the other humans of wrongdoing, giving them a “get out of jail free” card that most of them didn’t earn.
If there’s any good we can glean from the Dr. Emilia storyline, it did a good job at highlighting just how amazing Scarlemagne’s was and how great his journey continued to be through the end of the series. Season three sees Kipo and Scarlemagne spending a lot of time together as she tries to rehabilitate him. It was great to see him come out of his shell and embrace his sister, who probably knows him better than anyone else, and wonderful to see his interactions with his surrogate parents, as it gave his tragic backstory the closure he desperately needed. I know there are some people who may not agree with the choice to give Scarlemagne a redemption arc after everything he did, and I can understand that, but above all things, Kipo is about the power of forgiveness. Scarlemagne does work for it, in the end.
The final confrontation with Dr. Emilia wrapped up in a way I didn’t agree with, but the actual ending of the series more than made up for it. It gave us the closure I was hoping to see from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power but ultimately never got. Kipo may have had some ups and downs, but overall it was an amazing adventure that I’m glad we got to experience. It looked beautiful, it sounded great, and it was a lively, energetic take on the apocalypse. If this is the way the world is going to end, I say we hug our pets close and welcome them to the future.
All three seasons of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts are now available on Netflix.
- Benson and Troy’s relationship is perfect and we must protect it at all costs.
- This season gave Dave (Deon Cole) a lot more to do than he’s normally had. Not only do we see him and Kipo’s dad Lio (Sterling K. Brown) having (possibly drunken) fun on a “guy’s night out,” but we also learn about his backstory and how he met Benson. That storyline was definitely a trip into the weird, and I’m still not sure if I liked it. But it was great to learn more about Dave and where he came from...even if it turned him into an ever-evolving tragedy.
- That said, we still never found out why animals started talking. At this point, I guess we never will.
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