The Media Man Reviews: The Owl House Season 3
Updated: May 14
We've truly reached the end of an incredible era in terms of TV animation.
On the 8th of April 2023, we've sadly had to say goodbye to The Owl House as its third season concluded with a finale that saw the end of a three year run for a cartoon that truly broke all kinds of new ground for TV animation. The Owl House was a show that was daring and not afraid to take risks and it became all the more beloved as a result of this. Wearing its LGBT themes on its sleeves and spitting in the face of those who would discriminate against it, the show was ground-breaking like you wouldn't believe and has been hailed as a champion amongst animation fans and the LGBT community for its inclusive themes and for being able to prominently display its LGBT themes for most of the series and not save it for the end like other shows before it did. All this combined with a compelling story that had strong writing, complex character arcs and gorgeous animation made the show truly special and like nothing we've ever seen before.
So you can imagine that the show coming to an end was always going to be a hard pill to swallow, no matter how good it was. But it was made worse by Disney's idiotic decision to end the show prematurely under the delusional belief it "didn't fit their brand". Yes, I'm still going to give them grief for that because it really was a dumb thing for them to say. I remind you, they're OK with dark alternate What If stories of their films existing in novel form and they have stuff on Disney+ that most definitely DOES NOT fit their brand, yet that gets to stay and The Owl House gets cut short? Knickers to that I say!
Still, they at least allowed The Owl House to have a conclusion at all so let's not be too ungrateful. Season 3 as a result of Disney's confusing decision to cut it short was trimmed down to three double-length specials instead of a full season. So does the show end on a high note or did Disney really screw them over by cutting it short? Let's dive in and find out...
Section 1: The Writing
Following on from Season 2's cliffhanger ending, Luz and her friends from the Boiling Isles have to spend some time together in the human realm with Luz's loving mother Camila acting as a foster parent to her friends. Over time, they must band together to find a way back into the Boiling Isles so they can stop The Collector and restore normality (or at least what counts as normality in the Boiling Isles) once and for all. Unfortunately, Emperor Belos has other plans...
OK, let's get the main issue out the way first. Yes, I agree with everybody else that while Season 3 is pretty strong overall, you can tell that it was clearly meant to be a full season and not just three double-length specials. There are a lot of cases where character moments or interactions that should happen aren't able to because they don't have the time for it such as Willow's grief over missing her dads or especially Hunter getting no chance to play a part in Belos's ultimate defeat despite having such a strong connection to him. We don't even get to see Caleb and his witch lover getting some closure as Belos dies in the end. Even the montage of our heroes in the human realm, while sweet, feels like they could've had their own episodes out of it instead of being just a montage. It's so clear that they had to make some sacrifices in order to make use of what little time they had left, and all because of Disney's idiotic decision to cut the season short. So while it is an issue with the writing, I'm NOT going to give these criticisms to Dana Terrace or her writing team as it obviously wasn't their fault. This is solely the fault of executive meddling and nothing else.
Also due to this truncated length, the Season 3 finale isn't able to properly utilize everybody in it. Luz, Eda and King have all the fun while Amity, Gus, Willow, Hunter and Camila are stuck on the side-lines with a pretty inconsequential subplot to themselves and miss out on the big conclusion to the battle against Belos. It especially feels sad that they had to be side-lined like so. And of course, I'd be doing a disservice if I didn't bring up how wasted Vee was in this season. She and Luz don't get to interact with each other despite Vee essentially being her adopted sister now, she makes one attempt to fight Belos that fails...and then just gets written off for the reminder of the series. That especially felt rough because it felt like they were building Vee up for something, like maybe making her a secret weapon they use against Belos or she's even the one who along with Luz gets to beat him in the end. But nope, she essentially does absolutely nothing this season. Again, that's not the writing team's fault. They had to prioritize what's the most important thing to focus on and make use of the limited runtime they had so sadly, Vee ended up being a victim of this season's slashed down runtime. I imagine if we'd gotten a full Season 3, the plots would've been more fleshed out and the characters would've had more space to breathe and be utilized to their fullest.
So with that aside, did this season still turn out strong in spite of its truncated length? Honestly...I think it was really good in spite of that. While some sacrifices had to be made in favour of focusing on what's most important here, they made good use of that time and gave us a final season that managed to carry what made The Owl House good to begin with and still deliver on those fronts by still being a mixture of funny, intense, exciting, emotional and heart-warming. The pacing may have suffered from this executive meddling decision but at the same time, I feel they used it well in carrying out this story. The events of these three episodes all have a natural flow to them and it never feels like it's dragging or it's too rushed. The fact the episodes are double-length especially helps in that regard. If these had been your standard 22 minute episodes, they REALLY would've struggled to make it work! And in the time they used, they managed to give us a story that truly felt gripping from episode to episode and they still had time to delve into some of these characters and flesh them out some more with Luz, Camila and The Collector being the standout examples here, but I'll get to that later.
I also felt the structure of the season played out well with "Thanks to Them" focusing on the human realm, "For the Future" focusing on the current status quo of the Boiling Isles and "Watching and Dreaming" being the conclusion to everything. It just felt right to play it out this way with this season giving us the two realms in an episode each and then concluding the show in the last season. And speaking of the conclusion, it truly did feel like an epic finale with Luz, Eda and King teaming up to defeat Belos once and for all and while the show may have some unresolved plot points (especially the Bat Queen's story), it still felt like the show ended in a satisfying way and wrapped up neatly enough to consider it a conclusion but also maybe leaving it open for any possible spin-offs in the future. The writers knew that their audience would be demanding a satisfying conclusion and they really delivered on that front.
One place they REALLY delivered on this season is the emotional aspect. Shortened length aside, they still managed to give us some heart-wrenching moments throughout the season that makes us feel for these characters and want to see them succeed. We have Luz's guilt complex over the events of Season 2, Camila's past that brings whole new context to her parenting decisions towards Luz, Hunter still feeling troubled over his connection to Belos and even Willow trying to repress her trauma despite clearly missing her dads and being troubled over everything that's been going on. These scenes not only add more depth to these characters but make the whole conflict of the series more compelling as we see how everybody's effected by what's been happening and how they're all working together to fight back against their problems. While a full season would've explored these character moments further, I think they delivered quite well with the time they had at their disposal. It goes to show with a story, good pacing can make a great story but also how you use the time you have to tell that story can also make it great. If only Disney's Star Wars shows understood this but that's another story...
While I'll always lament that we never got a full season, I'm still quite satisfied with how the season turned out overall. It used its time well, didn't waste it on anything meaningless, kept the story going well with all the great stuff that made us love the show and it all culminated together in a satisfying finale that really brought the series to a solid conclusion. The fact the biggest criticism I have of this season is "It should've been longer" only shows how good this show is. If a show leaves you wanting more, then it's a good show and The Owl House is no exception to this rule...
Section 2: The Characters
This is a show that's so good at character writing that even a shortened season couldn't stop them doing well in developing at least some of them.
We have our main heroine once more, Luz Noceda (voiced by Sarah-Nicole Robles). After the events of Season 2, Luz is suffering a SERIOUS guilt complex given she pretty much caused everything to go wrong in the Boiling Isles by unintentionally creating Emperor Belos. She feels the whole thing is her fault and it's seriously eating at her self-esteem to the point where she rants during a lesson in school and her choice of wording kinda makes it sound like she's bordering on suicidal depression. We even learn as Camila watches Luz's video diary that she intends to stay in the human realm permanently, though we later learn it's not a decision she actually wants to follow through with. With her friends and mother beside her, Luz eventually overcomes her guilt and is able to fix the problems she unwillingly caused by defeating Belos in the end, and all with an epic declaration of "NOW EAT THIS SUCKA!!!!!" Somebody put that on a t-shirt, I'd buy it in a heartbeat! :D
The next character who I feel got the biggest spotlight of the season is Luz's mother, Camila Noceda (voiced by Elizabeth Grullon). Camila was a nothing character in Season 1, then Season 2 changed all that by having her prove to be a badass and a loving person to the point she'll protect a strange creature from a conspiracy theorist and this season fully changed everyone's perspective of her. Camila ends up proving to be a surprisingly deep character as we learn from a nightmare sequence that her parenting decisions towards Luz stem from the fact she had a hard time growing up herself and had to hide her geek side in order to get by. She's not only struggling from the passing of her husband, but she has to deal with her daughter potentially going through the rough life she herself went through and now she has to deal with her daughter's guilt complex while also looking after her friends...yeah, that poor woman really had her work cut out for her by the end. XD Still, seeing more of Camila was a welcome bonus, especially as it made her more interesting and likeable as a result and it's also funny watching her beat people up with a baseball bat so that's a plus. If any character got the best end of the deal in this season, it was easily her.
The other major character to talk about here is The Collector (voiced by Fryda Wolff) I mentioned in my Season 2 review how I felt his introduction was incredibly rushed and they should've built him up some more. Here, we get more sides to his character and learn that he's from a species that has had a history with the Titans. He's not inherently evil as we also see here, he's just a kid who wants to play but he has these godly powers that makes his idea of playtime...well, less than ideal for us mortals. Because he's so powerful, nobody can really tell him off or reason with him and poor King especially has to act like he's treading on eggshells around the guy! I am glad they didn't make The Collector a straight up villain here and I'm especially glad they didn't have to "defeat him" or "eliminate him once and for all". It would've been very depressing if they went in that direction, especially as The Collector doesn't really deserve it for being just a kid who wants to have fun. Giving him a redemption arc and letting him live in the end was the perfect conclusion to his story and I'm glad they went that way with him.
And of course I have to bring up the main villain of the season, Emperor Belos/Phillip Wittebane (voiced by Matthew Rhys). Belos is at his wit's end this season with him essentially reduced to a sentient goop pile and he's desperate to find some way to return to a solid form. Sadly, the season's shortened length means we don't get to see him interact with the human world. It would've been funny to see this centuries old man interacting with the modern world and being horrified at what his world has become since his time in the Boiling Isles. Still, Belos proves to be a compelling threat as even the tiniest piece of himself is able to grow in power and corrupt others as we see him do with Hunter and Raine and it's not a pretty picture either as he leaves his mark on them, literally! He also still shows off his manipulative side well when he goads The Collector into turning on Lus and friends for a brief time. The sheer lengths he'll go to just to fulfil his duties as a witch hunter is frankly scary and INSANELY relevant in this day and age what with marginalized hate groups allowing their hate to fuel them so much that they'll commit horrible crimes because of their hatred being depressingly more common than before. Belos was an awesome villain in the past two seasons and that carries over to the last one. He was used well and his defeat at the end was immensely satisfying. Take notes Disney, this is how you make a great villain!
We also have the return of Amity Blight (voiced by Mae Whitman), Willow Park (voiced by Tati Gabrielle), Gus Proter (voiced by Issac Ryan Brown) and Hunter (voiced by Zeno Robinson). They all have their time to shine in the first two episodes of the season but as mentioned earlier, they get side-lined in the finale and it just felt a little hollow as a result that they don't even get to contribute to the final battle. If we'd had a full season, I imagine they all would've gotten more time to shine and some stronger character arcs.
We also have Eda the Owl Lady (voiced by Wendie Malick) and King (voiced by Alex Hirsch). They don't show up until Episode 2 and as we see, they're trying to make the best of a bad situation with how the Boiling Isles has been transformed by The Collector while also contemplating how best to deal with him. I love how they get to fight Belos in the end alongside Luz. How fitting that the trio that started it all was the trio that got to end it as well. While it would've been nice if we got more character moments with them, I think the season did well enough with them.
As mentioned before, Vee really got shafted in this season and it's a pity they didn't do more with her. At least letting her contribute to Belos's demise would've been nice but hey, beggars can't be choosers as they say.
While some characters got it rough with the shortened episode count, some still manage to be really compelling and well used throughout the season and it really is a shame we're now having to say goodbye to them by the end. As is, three seasons of this show truly gave us some truly unforgettable characters...
Section 3: The Animation
The Owl House has consistently delivered in terms of animation and this season shows that they were willing to go all out on this finale to gives us some impressive visuals to close out on.
The Owl House's animation can be described as cartoony yet very detailed at the same time. You have the character designs where they're mostly made up of various shapes like the mostly round heads and round or triangular ears of the Boiling Isles citizens and humans respectively and then you have the more fantastical looking creatures that have more detailed and creative designs to them to make them stand out all the more. Belos's gooey form especially looks suitably grotesque and nightmarish with its decaying body and skeletal face that shows how far Belos has fallen, a proud witch hunter reduced to nothing more than a grisly mess that's barely holding together as he is. I also have to mention Vee's human form in where it was a great middle ground of her original basilisk form while also looking human at the same time. The hair especially was a great touch and it's no wonder her human design won so many fans over. The backgrounds themselves are also rich with detail in just about anywhere you look, be it the human realm of the Boiling Isles. No matter where you look, there's always a lot of detail to take in and something to look at in the scene. The art-style has always been massively appealing and makes the show wonderful to look at whenever we see this animation in motion and Season 3 keeps it up well.
As for the character designs, we get some new looks for just about everybody in this season with Luz and friends all wearing new costumes to reflect the changes that are going on in their lives and how time has passed since their days in the human realm. It was especially fun to see the witches and wizards of the Isles in more human attire and I imagine the animators had a lot of fun drawing some of these up. We especially see how creative they can get with the costumes when they dress up for Halloween at the end of "Thanks To Them". How suitable was it that Luz goes back to the Boiling Isles while dressed up in a Good Witch Luzara cosplay? And then they go even further by giving us this awesome design when she gets empowered by the Titan:
Seriously, this might be the coolest design to come out of this show and I loved watching it in action. :D
And as expected from this show's animation, they make a great use of colour in many scenes too. We get the human realm that looks relatively ordinary but still with a brighter colour palette compared to real life with nothing too unusual about it while the Boiling Isles gets more creative with the colours, especially when it's under The Collector's control. The highly colourful imagery of this godly powered child's wonderland is so appropriate for a world conjured up by a childlike entity and just hides the fact that it may seem bright and fun on the surface, but it's still the work of an omniscient figure whose idea of fun doesn't exactly appeal to everybody. Then we get the nightmare sequences in where they play up how surreal they are with the colour palette. Camila's for example starts off with muted colours and then when we get to the talk with the principal, everything's mostly red to further enhance the feeling of dread that she and the viewers are feeling as they watch the nightmare. And then we have the nightmare sequence conjured up by The Collector with Luz in Belos's outfit and her friends all mad with her for her unintentional part in his creation where the colours are once again muted to show this is a dark and unsettling nightmare scenario that Luz has found herself in. The animators really knew how to use colour to make the show look either really flashy and pretty or really scary and unsettling to look at and it adds that extra air of beauty to the visuals overall.
When it comes to the character animation, that's another plus too. The animators go all out in showing off the powers and abilities of the cast such as Amity's abomination magic, Gus's illusion tricks, Willow's plant powers or especially The Collector's godly abilities. They really go nuts with The Collector in particular with how creative and insane the visuals can get with his crazy utopia he weaves for himself. The montage of him battling Luz, Eda and King especially gets crazy with him growing giant size and playing with them like marbles or the whole environment and himself becoming a giant game of Pac-Man. And then you get Emperor Belos possessing people which leads to him possessing the Titan's heart and he becomes this monstrous abomination that looks impossible to defeat. The variety of powers on display here gives the visuals something unique and interesting to look at every time and thus the show never gets dull to look at for a second. The action scenes take full advantage of the creative visuals and the feel suitably epic at times, especially the final clash between Luz and Belos and the times the animation gets a bump to make it smoother and more fluid during the action.
I've never had anything to criticize regarding The Owl House's animation because there's nothing wrong with it whatsoever. It's expressive, detailed, creative, appealing and gorgeous to watch and at times I have to remind myself "This was done for television!" because these visuals I feel could be on par with animated movies due to how good the animation is. If there's one thing I'll miss the most now this show is over, it's probably going to be the animation because that made the show for me just as much as the writing did. At least the animators got to go all out and finish the show in one spectacular flashy finish by the fantastic work they did for these three episodes...
The Owl House Season 3 is the quintessential example of a season that's good but it's biggest problem was that it was too short. The episode count does hold it back from its full potential and yet it still managed to be a compelling watch from beginning to end despite that. The story is still very engaging, the characters are enjoyable even if not all of them get their time to shine, the animation is still gorgeous to watch and the finale was a truly epic conclusion to the series. While I wish we could've gotten a full season, I'm satisfied enough with what we got. In just three episodes, they gave us a worthwhile finale that wrapped up the series in a neat little bow and brought The Owl House to a premature but lovely close. I'll miss this show but I'll cherish the memories I have of watching it forever. Well done to Dana Terrace and her team for their hard work on this show and may it inspire other show creators in the future to create something as special and enjoyable as this series...
And that's it for my review of The Owl House Season 3. I hope you enjoyed it and I'd love to hear your thoughts down below. Do you like Season 3? Do you not like it? Do tell. ^^
Next time we celebrate Star Wars Day with my Top 5 Best and Worst Star Wars Villains. See you then everyone! :D