The first two seasons of the commercially successful Sweet Magnolias ended with a tinge of drama. This Netflix Original, in the first and second seasons, established several characters for the viewers, and it helped in creating a world set in the small town of Serenity in South Carolina. The people are genuinely nice, and they seem to be God-fearing and act in the best interests of the people around them. There are only a handful of antagonists that add spice to the rather mundane lives of the townspeople. The overarching plot of the show revolves around three independent women who are best friends and stand by each other. Season three, just like the last two, brings to you the same women and their lives going forward from the incident that shook them up at the end of the season two finale. Creator Sheryl J. Anderson brings back the over-the-top, sugar-coated romantic drama for the viewers to relish.
What Happens In Season 3?
Season three begins where the last episode left off. Cal is out on bail, but the man has been depressed ever since because of his bad behavior in public, which embarrassed not just him but Maddie and her kids as well. Helen, on the other hand, is struggling to answer Ryan’s marriage proposal and wondering what she should do so that no one gets hurt, including herself. Dana Sue is in for a rude shock to see Kathy back in Serenity. This is the same woman who showed up in the season finale. The woman is troublesome, as described by everyone. Ronnie and Dana are jittery and spooked by her arrival. Who is Kathy, and what scores does she have to settle with Dana Sue? And why is she back in town after so many years?
Annie, Ty, and Kyle are going through their own set of teenage issues as they are coming close to finishing school and will be heading to college. Annie and Jackson are still very much in love, but this time they will come across bigger obstacles. Ty is figuring out wanting to do something different, now that he is not pursuing baseball, and this leads to several discussions and confusion from his side. Kyle is enjoying his high school days with his friends when he comes across a secret admirer. Noreen struggles with being a single mother. Her fervor for work is marred by her maternal duties towards Rebecca. Only time will tell if she finds help because the town is filled with people who are willing to lend a hand.
What Worked This Season?
There are only a handful of aspects that work this season, and the same could be said about the previous two as well. The creator and the writers have done a brilliant job of portraying female friendships, bonds between mothers and daughters, women standing up for their gender and encouraging the younger lot around them to take up jobs that would bring about a change in their community. The friendship that Helen, Maddie, and Dana Sue share will be remembered and cherished for a long time. Their determination to be there for each other sustains the plot in a rather mediocre narrative.
The bond between every mother and daughter in this season must be appreciated, for they always encourage them to be the best version of themselves. Though it is widely regarded that mother-daughter relationships are complex, in Sweet Magnolias, we do get to see that, but a lot of it is superseded by the wisdom the parent figure wants to impart to her child. It is endearing to watch.
We also got to see many central characters helping women from poor economic backgrounds and volunteering to assist them in as many ways as they can because they empathize with their struggles. These elements came out very well this season, just like in the last two. This was only possible because the creator and most of the writers on the show happen to be women. Only our gender can empathize with the struggles and pain of our fellow women, and it is high time we showcase female bonding most positively.
The men in this show also encourage each other to be themselves and not to follow the traditional rules of masculinity. There is a group of men who are there for each other and try to understand their pain and dilemmas, which is a refreshing change. Again, this was possible only because of the presence of female writers, who bring a certain sensitivity to the table. Essential male bonding is a big thing in this show, unlike what we get to watch in many other television shows and movies, where men bond over everything but their feelings.
What Did Not Work This Season?
There are plenty of aspects of this show that did not work in favor of the third season. The show picked up right where the last one left off, and right from the get go the pacing was bad. The screenplay takes a lot of time to establish and close the subplots. The 50-minute running time of almost every episode adds to the misery of making this a slugfest. Most of the younger characters had better arcs than the adults. The younger ones are better actors as well.
The screenplay is not tight. It meanders and jumps from one subplot to another. There are many subplots introduced, but most of them end either inconclusively or are just forgotten. Sadly, this time there were no scenes between Noreen and Kyle. Their friendship was an important part of the last two seasons, but this time it was hardly explored. The new antagonist was introduced with the hope of creating conflict, but her arc was completely mishandled, and the conflict portion did not work because there was not enough screen time given to establish her concerns. Her arc was closed in an anti-climactic manner, leaving the viewers frustrated. An antagonist needs to have a solid motive for their behavior, but here, the character was written haphazardly. There are several other conflicts introduced, and the writers did not tie up any of their loose ends, making the narrative seem lazy.
The narrative also does not help in understanding what is happening because, at any one time, many subplots are going on, adding to the confusion and despair of having to watch this show in its entirety. Several emotions are tuned up for dramatic effect, but none of them has any impact on the viewers. The writers surely have spent a lot of time on dialogue that is, for lack of a better word, cheesy. Most of the characters in the show deliver dialogue to each other, as all of them are licensed therapists. The dialogues seem to have been lifted from social media or motivational speakers who only talk about good things. This is washed, rinsed, repeated, and presented to the viewers umpteen times. It does come across as toxic positivity, and after a point, this narrative becomes tiresome.
Even during tense scenes, there is no sense of urgency that is felt because the emotion is nonexistent on paper, and that is why it does not translate well on screen. “Sweet Magnolia” reeks of a soapy drama presented in a polished manner. The conflicts in this show only carry theatrics, but there is no depth to them. The romantic scenes are devoid of basic emotion, making the chemistry between the couples look bleak. In the quest to remain true to the genre, there is too much indulgence in romance, and most of them do not have any long-term effect on the viewers.
The direction is basic, and there is no difference as to how the material was handled in the first two seasons and how it was done this time around. The repetition of a direction style only works when the story, screenplay, arcs of several characters, and dialogue are interesting. Unfortunately, in this season, all of the above-mentioned aspects made the direction banal. Each episode could be 20 minutes shorter, and that would have reigned in the narrative instead of letting it get out of hand. The stretched screenplay is the reason the editing of this season failed miserably.
The performances of child actors are commendable, as they deliver innocence and vigor with utmost ease. They are the only ones who performed with the right kind of emotion and somehow kept alive the watchability of the show. The adult actors seem to have been given nothing new to work on. There was no progression in any of their arcs, making their performance monotonous. Heather Headley as Helen Decatur and Dion Johnstone as Erik Whitley are effective in a few scenes, and they are the only characters that deliver the right kind of sentiment.
The third season ended on a happy note, unlike the last two seasons, so we wonder if the show will be renewed for a fourth season. Overall, the third season of Sweet Magnolias has nothing new to offer, and it is purely meant for the loyal fans. You can binge it if over-the-top emotional dramas are your jam.