‘Sweet Magnolias’ Season 3 Review

Maddie, Dana Sue, and Helen in Sweet Magnolias Season 3

Sweet Magnolias Season 3, Episodes 1-10 Spoilers Ahead

Note from Marvelous Geeks’ Team: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn’t exist. We stand with and for them.

Sweet Magnolias Season 3 takes viewers back to the heart of Serenity, but unlike its glowing sophomore year, it’s packed with fabricated drama that makes the stories deeply frustrating. In its attempt to make matters right, it comes off too saccharine, breaching into unearned cookie-cutter territories that sadly don’t feel organic. It still features some surprising highlights, and fans will undoubtedly be counting down the hours until next season again, but it’s disappointing that it falls into this place in the first place.

Maddie, Helen, and Dana Sue’s friendship is the story’s soul, often allowing their friendship to drive the narrative above most other subplots. It’s where the series is at its best, relying on the gorgeous chemistry the actresses have to bring it to life. Thereby, splitting them apart this season and depending on a big fight that makes little sense is its downfall. Between all this, the arcs focus on one bad thing after another, which reflects the real world, sure, but to this degree becomes more akin to 90s soap opera accounts. In order to get to its fantastic penultimate and worthwhile finale, the series swerves in all sorts of misguided directions.

Sweet Magnolias Season 3 Fails Helen’s Arc

Heather Headley as Helen in episode one of Sweet Magnolias Season 3.
. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Helen is and has always been one of Sweet Magnolias’ most level-headed characters. And while the season’s trajectory allows Heather Headley to bring to our screens yet another thoroughly compelling performance, it’s deeply unsatisfying how we arrive here. Ryan isn’t someone whose flaws had only appeared the one time—we know this about him. We know he’s unreliable, and the characters do too. And while it’s entirely understandable that someone who loves him as fiercely as Helen would be willing to give him another chance, it’s unfathomable how it progresses to the fight after Maddie simply asks a question.

In hindsight, the fight is also comprehensible. No one wants their happiness questioned, and people will often put up walls when their defenses are fractured. Yet, it unfolds in a way that feels entirely out of character. Neither the argument nor the arc feels as natural as the women making up do. To refrain from judgment (and honor the show’s theme), I’ll note that while the arc isn’t uncalled for, the execution and prolonged nature of the narrative take much away from the enjoyment. The brilliant tension and longing we had last season with Eric and Helen now feels squashed a bit. Yes, the couple is endgame in the books, but could we really get there in a way that undoes all the hurt? I hope so, yet I’m not entirely sure.

Annie and Ty’s Growth Is Both Surprising and the Best Part

Ty and Annie hugging in the middle of the field in Sweet Magnolias

Anyone who knows me knows I almost always loathe the childhood best friends to lovers trope. It seldom works because narrative requirements rely too much on telling instead of showing, without diving deep into the why. Why is this couple worth rooting for? Why should I care? However, Sweet Magnolias Season 3 takes its time developing them, intent on subtly unveiling that they’re each other’s safe space before lunging straight to an unflinching and vulnerable exhibition. The moment between the two of them in the middle of the field is something fans will hold onto for ages—the kind of ship-worthy scene that’ll be remembered as one of their bests. The scene isn’t outright romantic, but that’s entirely why it’s so profound and poignant. It’s natural and necessary to openly reveal that Ty is and has always been Annie’s safe place.

His arms are the ones she can always run into when every part of her is breaking, and his presence can be the only one that’s consoling. For a moment, it’s unclear who she’ll run to, making it that much more cathartic when it happens, giving both Anneliese Judge and Carson Rowland gripping substance to work with. The way Ty simply asks what he can do and how she responds with needing him to just be there make for such a vulnerable display of affection. It’s in those quiet moments (and some of the more restrained ones throughout the seasons) where we see how Ty’s gaze lingers a bit longer than it should. It’s in this embrace where it becomes poignantly apparent that nothing hurts him more than seeing her in pain does.

Ty’s growth is so innately admirable this season it’s hard to believe he’s a teenager. It works concurrently with Maddie and Cal’s growth as well, allowing the older couple to act as a mirage of how the teens could someday be. Sweet Magnolias Season 3 is at its best with these arcs, taking the few characters it was easiest to worry about and allowing us to settle a bit.

A Perfectly Hasty Vow-Renewal and a Rushed Conclusion

Ronnie and Dana Sue renew their vows in Sweet Magnolias Season 3.

There’s nothing bad or negative to say about the beauty in Dana Sue and Ronnie’s vow-renewal party. I am, and will forever be, an absolute sucker for an entire town coming together to give a beloved couple a beautiful, rushed wedding like this. It’s what they deserve, and everything that we learn about Mrs. Frances and why she chooses Dana Sue for the money is one of the loveliest details in Sweet Magnolias Season 3. But everything that transpires with Kathy and the whiplash the last scene brings is anything but believable.

Yes, sure, a good Christian should forgive when a person sincerely apologizes, but a character like Kathy doesn’t do a complete 180 from outright cruel to authentically remorseful in a single episode. Where those final few moments should’ve been honorable and wholesome, they come so far from left field that none of it feels netted. There’s minute growth from Bill, but everything with Kathy is on the back burner, going from one extreme to another and appearing far too mawkish to feel believable. It’s the single moment in the show where it’s easy to remember that the series is, in fact, fiction.

Sweet Magnolias Season 3 has its solid moments, like finally allowing Annie to find her sisters in Cece and Lily, but it also features some forgettable moments people will likely skip upon rewatches. It feels rushed at times, overly formulaic and too dramatized. It’s not the best of the bunch, but it’s still worth its salt as the show continues to be a solid source of entertainment and an excellent display of sisterhood.

Stray Reflections

  • I’m really glad we’re done with the Jackson and Annie of it all.
  • We should also never be subjected to Ryan again. Please and thank you.
  • Noreen and Isaac’s friendship remains so solid.
  • The decorations at the barn for the wedding are top-tier.
  • Seeing more of Pastor June and Peggy this season has been a delight.
  • Cece moving in with Helen is an A+ choice.
  • Katie and the letters made my heart squeeze every time. 
  • Very happy that Paula is happy. It’s what she deserves.
  • Also, super thrilled we’re keeping Heather Headley singing in the contract. 
  • I might never be bothered to care for Bill.
  • Genuinely cannot believe the feelings I have about Ty and Annie. 

Sweet Magnolias Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.
First Featured Image Credit: Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2023


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