‘Sweet Magnolias’ Season 3 Recap & Ending, Explained: What Happens To Maddie, Dana Sue, And Helen?

Season three of Sweet Magnolias is out, and the viewers can’t wait to find out what happens to Cal Maddox, Maddie’s beau, and Ty’s mentor and ex-coach. The last season, just like the first one, ended in chaos, and the audience was wondering how long Cal would remain behind bars. The Netflix original created by Sheryl J. Anderson this time around will again take us through the lives of people living in the town of Serenity, South Carolina.

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Spoilers Ahead


Helen’s Big Decision

Helen is dumbstruck by the end of Sweet Magnolias Season 2 because Ryan Wingate, the so-called ‘love of her life’, proposes marriage to her. He wants to have kids and is willing to do anything to get Helen to say yes. Ryan is probably emotional now because he has lost his closest family member, and it looks like when he asked Helen the big question, he realized she was the only family he could ever hope to have. He was unaware of the miscarriage and the Erik situation, which is why he presumed Helen would not turn down his proposal.

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Helen is confused because she cannot betray the man who was by her side during her toughest times and has been emotionally available to her all this time. But since she is thinking about how to sort out this matter, it would mean that she is not sure about her commitment to Erik. Ryan and she have a history that supersedes plenty of things. She has ‘the conversation’ with Erik. Even the man was quick to conclude that if Helen had to think about who to choose, she might as well be with Ryan. Erik’s self-respect does not allow him to remain an option for her. They both split, and Helen goes back to Ryan. Viewers can see how Ryan is safeguarding his emotions by keeping Helen by his side, and soon, when all of the grief wears off, he will go right back to his old self, leaving Helen alone. Sadly, Helen’s judgment is clouded right now by the love she has for him.


Cal And Maddie Take A Step Back

Since the incident at the restaurant and Cal’s getting fired from his job at school, Maddie and Cal decide that they need to scale back on their relationship and start afresh by getting to know each other as friends. Their relationship initially began as an attraction, but this time they wanted to become friends first and understand each other step by step. The two of them decide this because they want to get to know each other emotionally and talk in detail about their fears and triggers. A couple taking such steps only proves they are mature individuals. They follow a ‘no touch for two weeks’ policy, which works because by the end of this, they came out triumphant regarding their relationship. It helped them get emotionally closer to each other, which would mean less insecurity and more trust.

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Ty’s College Woes

Tyler ‘Ty’ Townsend had only informed his father of his decision to quit baseball after his recovery from the injury. The boy seemed to have given up on his lifelong dream, and he now has a plethora of college options and courses to choose from, but he is indecisive at the moment. He will have to figure out from scratch what would interest him, and that is a tough job. He lingers over the idea of going back to baseball briefly, but he knows it is an easy way out. His mother explains to him that going back to considering baseball is a fail-safe way to fall back on his already planned-out future, but giving up on that and finding new avenues and discovering subjects that would interest him will open his eyes to new possibilities for the future. Maddie’s words come off as realistic because she wants her kids to find their path instead of following something that is already laid out for them. Discovering oneself is an exhilarating experience, and Ty will credit himself if he ever succeeds.

Ty has a crush on his statistics tutor, Olivia, and they end up spending a lot of time together studying a subject that is completely alien to him. Ty also helps his brother Kyle get back on his feet, and for the first time in years, both seem happy and well-adjusted. It is endearing to watch Ty become responsible, but all of this seems too good to be true. Any kid Ty’s age with good financial backing tends to rebel, gets habituated to vices, and remains clueless about his future. Ty staying away from all the troubles seems a bit far-fetched in regards with this narrative.

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Kathy Is Back

The woman that randomly showed up in the season two finale of Sweet Magnolias turns out to be Ronnie’s sister Kathy, who has had trouble maintaining a decent and steady relationship with him and Dana Sue. She has a whole story cooked up in her head, and she believes her brother and Dana Sue have some vendetta against her and pushed her out of Serenity. The sad part of this narrative is that, as viewers, we never got to hear reality. Dana Sue or Ronnie, as characters related to Kathy, never bothered to give away details of what happened years ago. Hearing the story from their end would have given viewers some perspective. Since the writers did not make anything clear, the viewers tend to believe Kathy’s story and not trust Dana Sue and Ronnie’s words at all. They might have acted like bullies, as Kathy states.

Kathy intends to open a restaurant that would compete with Sullivans and probably make hers a better dining place in town. But Kathy’s dream is founded on the hatred she has for Dana Sue, and that will not help her build a successful venture. She tries to hire Erik as well when he takes a break from the Sullivans to get back at her sister-in-law and brother. Kathy’s character is not given any gray shades, and the writers could have emphasized the pain she went through just to make us sympathize with her. The writers went all the way to make all women in the show likable and did the exact opposite for Kathy’s character.


Dana Sue, And Ronnie Make It Work

In Sweet Magnolias season finale, the couple decides to reconcile, and things have been steady ever since. There are ups and downs they come across in the form of critical decision-making, but instead of arguing over it, one person steps back to give the other some benefit of the doubt. The two of them work on their love languages, and they are both on the journey of rediscovering themselves and avoiding conflicts at any cost. They do have disagreements over where they want Annie to study, but that final decision will be taken by Annie herself and not her parents. Dana Sue and Ronnie’s biggest point of friction is Kathy. Dana Sue does not want to deal with her sister-in-law nor is she interested in hearing baseless accusations being hurled at her. Ronnie takes it upon himself to sort out the matter because Kathy is his family, and it is he who will have to face the burden of dealing with her issues.


Annie and Jackson

Annie and Jackson are very much in love, and lately, their only obstacle has been Jackson’s mother, who is at the moment clashing with Annie’s mother, and as a result, she forbids him to date Annie. But the two of them find ways to stay in touch and meet discreetly. Annie believes Jackson wants to make their relationship work, and that’s why he keeps meeting as often as he can. Annie has never been this happy, and Jackson has understood all of her issues so far. Unlike Ty, Annie is not egoistical, and she works on the relationship because she thinks Jackson and she are meant to be together. The relationship throughout Sweet Magnolias Season 3 has been smooth sailing, and it is an indication that both might face an obstacle. Anything that looks too good to be true always has a catch behind it, and sadly, Annie and Jackson would discover that soon.

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Annie gets  her driver’s license, and a part of her motivation was her being able to meet Jackson without having to depend on any of her friends. The meeting turns the situation around because Annie’s vehicle meets with a minor accident, exposing her and Jackson’s relationship to her parents. This was the biggest obstacle the writers added to the narrative, and there was no recovery from here on. Annie is grounded until she heads to college, and Jackson stops meeting her. This angers her because she had hoped he would understand her dilemma, but the boy handled the situation incorrectly. He mostly figured his mother would know of him sneaking to meet Annie from Dana Sue, and as a result, he would be grounded too. Jackson never came back for her. Annie, out of irritation, breaks up with him because she wants a partner who wants to be by her side during troubled times. She was with him when his father and mother were being accused of financial embezzlement, but Jackson disappeared when she needed him. This breakup comes at the right time because she can focus on her college options and move on to better things.


Is There An End To Maddie, Dana Sue, And Helen’s Sweet Magnolias?

All three women are trying their level best to make their respective relationships with their partners work in their own way. Maddie and Cal are physically keeping distance, while emotionally they are connecting. Helen and Ryan go on plenty of romantic dates and walks. They discuss having a family because it has been Helen’s end goal. Dana Sue and Ronnie are having a good time working on the reconciliation, and the two of them do everything they can to make each other happy.

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Cal and Maddie pass the no touch for two weeks test and conclude that their love is strong and that they are slowly coming to accept each other for who they are. They also have dinner with Cal’s ex, Vicky, where she notices the ex is only interested in showing off her popular boyfriend. Vicky seemed like an insecure person who was unwilling to believe Cal had moved on from her. Maddie was also impressed to see a secure Cal being completely comfortable with Maddie. This proves the couple has great compatibility.

CeCe approaches Helen to get her to help her stay back in Serenity as her parents are moving away to another city. Her idea is to stay back in Serenity, finish school, and move away for college. Her concerns are understandable because she does not want to leave her education midway and move to another school where she will have to start looking for friends all over again. She initially asks for emancipation from her parents, but Helen offers to be her local guardian until the end of the school year and offers for her to stay with her. Helen helps her because he has seen potential in the girl ever since she worked as her assistant for some time. 

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Ryan and Helen are having a good time, but it is obvious from his body language that he is not ready to fulfill the promise that he made to her. Ryan should not have made a big decision based on his emotions. This is most likely the last time she will ever give him a chance to work on their relationship. Rayan has issues with CeCe moving in, but he decides to remain quiet about it because he does not behave like a controlling maniac partner.

As Helen’s best friends, Maddie and Dana Sue can sense Helen is not happy, and there is some underlying tension between her and Ryan. Maddie takes one for the team and asks Helen if she is indeed happy with Ryan. Maddie knows both inside and out, and as friends, she will be nothing but brutally honest with them. Helen is triggered by her question, which is proof of her feeling guilty about choosing Ryan over Erik, and she is indeed not happy with him. Helen is embarrassed by her choices, and she feels her friends would criticize her despite their warnings about how worldly Ryan is and that living in a small town will make him feel claustrophobic. Helen was not ready to answer that question posed by Maddie, and she asked them to leave her alone if they could not respect her choice to stay mum about her relationship.

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Maddie and Dana Sue’s concerns stem from the sisterhood they share. Maddie was also put through tough love by Helen and Dana Sue, and Maddie only took them up as their way of helping her be a strong woman amidst the adversity of her divorce. Helen, being a headstrong woman right from the beginning, did not take this lightly, and the group ended up taking a break from each other for the first time. This is not the end of their friendship. It only states they will be back together, but only after a while.

Helen is still hung up on the thought that her relationship can be salvaged, but things go south after Ryan and Helen come back from a romantic break, when Ryan finally confesses to not being able to adjust to life here. He should not have agreed to the commitment if he had no intention of fulfilling it. There is a difference between falling in love and continuously being in love. Ryan is still not able to do the latter. Helen, for one last time, breaks up with him and heads to Tampa, Florida, to spend some time with her mother. A much-needed break she required from the familiar faces of Serenity. The three of them regroup once Helen is back and apologize for crossing the line, even though they have been friends for many years.

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Dana Sue and Ronnie finally decide to renew their vows to cement their relationship one last time. Unfortunately for Ronnie, Kathy becomes a big problem, and to get rid of her, he offers her money and requests that she leave town. It turns out Kathy was all noise because money is what she always wanted, and she leaves town for good. This character will frustrate viewers the most because there was never a proper characterization given to her. With some of the money gone, Dana Sue and Ronnie plan to cancel their renewal celebration. Dana Sue was livid at Ronnie for letting Kathy have a chunk of their money, but she is being patient as a part of reconciliation and considers this his way of dealing with his family. Thankfully, she did not have to be involved.

Maddie and Helen feel bad about Dana Sue’s financial situation, and they take over the wedding preparations and promise to keep the entire event under budget. Maybe the party items are reasonably priced in that town; their renewal ceremony followed by the party seemed like quite a big affair, and it makes the viewers wonder why writers forget to stay true to the narrative introduced. The party is an instant hit, but one last time, Kathy makes an appearance. She is back only to apologize to her brother and Dana Sue and offer their family heirloom as a gift. The writers did not make it clear how and why Kathy changed her mind. Even if an external force is responsible, her years of bitterness washes away in a few hours of conversation. That does not seem plausible. The anti-climactic ending to Kathy’s arc was unnecessary because its nonexistence would have made no difference to the overall narrative.

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Sweet Magnolias Season three ends with CeCe, Annie, and Lily coming together as friends and willing to forget all their past indifference. Maddie, Helen, and Dana Sue glance at them, and all they see is a younger version of their teenage days. Their friendship is contagious, and they can only hope it rubs off on the young girls the right way and they remain inseparable till eternity.


Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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