This Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts review contains no spoilers.
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is one of the most hopeful, cheerful, friend-centric post-apocalyptic stories on television. While the stakes are higher in season three, and the team of characters experiences some losses and set-backs, the sheer amount of faith in a better future packed into these 10 episodes is exactly the kind of story viewers need in the world amidst pandemic and political turmoil.
The conceit behind the series is that 200 years ago, an apocalypse happened that created Mutes, intelligent, giant humanoid animals, who dominated the surface, pushing humans underground. Since then, some groups of humans have been trying to “cure” Mutes, restoring them to their normal, animal-level forms and intelligences, so that humans can once again live on and rule the surface world.
The first two seasons of the show focus on Kipo’s fight against Scarlemagne, a Mute mandrill, who she discovers was given intelligence in the lab by her parents. Kipo also discovers that, like Scarlemagne, she is an experiment: her parents mixed up her DNA in utero, and when she was born, she was already part Mute. She learns to control her Mega Jaguar form to confront Scarlemagne—but she discovers that he’s a mirror of her, and although she wins the day, she’s convinced that Scarlemagne can change his ways.
Especially because there’s a new villain in town: Dr. Emilia, a human determined to wipe out Mutes forever. By the end of season 2, this is a major threat to Kipo. She’s discovered that the Mutes on the surface have as much potential to become friends as they have to be enemies. For Kipo, everyone is a possible friend, and she won’t lose them all to an evil scientist.
The third season revolves around Kipo’s struggle to keep her friends safe—human, and Mute. She knows war is brewing, and she’s ready to make sacrifices. Luckily, her friends all understand that Kipo’s hope and her ability to form even the most unlikely friendship is her greatest strength, and the show continues to center that hope and optimism—and acknowledge that those traits have critical value—throughout. Even when things take a turn for the worse, the story knows that hope is its greatest strength.
Viewers who have been eager for more of their favorite characters will not be disappointed. The core group of characters—Kipo, her human surface friends Wolf and Benson, and her Mute companions Dave and Mandu—all have plenty of time in the spotlight. One episode returns to Wolf’s history with her abusive Mute family. Another reveals the story behind how Benson and Dave became friends (although because that episode is narrated by Dave, the exact truth behind the tale may never be known).
Kipo’s mother, trapped inside the form of the Mega Monkey, also gets further development to great effect. The sweet-as-maple-syrup romance between Benson and his boyfriend, Troy, gets some delightful feature time. Yumyan, leader of the Timbercats (and a clear fan favorite), becomes a more pivotal character in season 3. Even Scarlemagne plays an important role in how the story progresses. And Emilia, with her exclusionary practices and her human-supremacist attitude, is a villain viewers can love to hate.
While there are some sillier notes in season 3, the show itself seems to acknowledge them; it knows when things are silly and it embraces that. For a show about adorable monsters, where friendship is the most pivotal tool in winning conflict, that fits the tone perfectly. This is a whole series worth bingeing as a family, and you might just come away from it with hope that tomorrow—and all the days after—have the potential to be better. Maybe they could even be an Age of Wonder.
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts season 3 premieres Oct. 12 on Netflix.