This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, Sweet Magnolias wouldn’t exist. We stand with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA.
Sweet Magnolias Season 3 starts out strong and ends in a way that leaves you positively yearning for a Season 4 – a brilliant play on the part of the writers, but the middle of the season, and the motivations of the characters throughout don’t always gel in the way they needed for the season to wholly click. Despite its issues, however, the season is a perfectly entertaining return to Serenity that ends up being better than its flaws.
The Magnolias themselves are, however, not as clear a strength of this season as they have been in the past two. They end the season strong, but they go through a nonsensical rough patch in the middle that can only be explained by the need for drama. Sure, friends sometimes get into fights for no reason whatsoever – and sure, Helen, of all people, has been known to make this mistake before, but when you run into the same brick wall not once, or twice, but five times, after a while, it’s either masochism or nonsensical writing, and since this is TV, well, the odds are on the second one.
Helen Decatur, one of the easier-to-relate characters in the first two seasons is another of the low points of season three. It’s not that Helen cannot make mistakes, it’s that it’s infuriating to see her make the same one, over and over again, and then get mad at her friends – not even for pointing out the mistake, but for questioning if she’s happy. If you’d told us in Season 1 that Helen, Maddie and Dana Sue would get into a fight and we’d be 100% Team Maddie, we would have laughed, but here we were, and here we remain.
Our disappointment with the writing for Helen aside, Maddie was a true bright spot in Season 3 – and so was the writing for her and Cal in general. It’s easier to write a romance than it is to write two characters finding a way to grow separately and then come together, and Sweet Magnolias Season 3 struck the perfect balance with the two of them.
It didn’t quite hit the mark as well with Ronnie and Dana Sue, but then again, it always had a much harder job with them, considering where it was coming from. At least it had us rooting for them, which is more than we were expecting. If, just for that, the season has already won. We’re far from loving Ronnie, but at the very least, we can watch him on our TV screen and not feel the need to avert our eyes, like we did at every second of Ryan Wingate. Gotta take the small wins.
And the big ones, like the Ty and Annie of it all. The show fumbled with them in Season 1 by coming off too strong, when what their relationship always needed was a slow burn. Then, they were forced to pull back way too hard, which meant we were stuck with a season of Annie and Jackson, and if we’re being honest, no one actually cared about Annie and Jackson either. We all knew that was temporary. But Season 3 finds the balance of giving us Ty and Annie the way the show should have from the beginning, little by little – by setting them up as friends first. And it works, because the chemistry is there, and the actors absolutely sell it.
Other things work in the season – the male friendships are an absolute delight, even in a show centered on female friendships. Erik Whitley’s journey, even as he’s lost, remains something we can’t take our eyes off – who would ever choose Ryan Whitley over him? Plus, Isaac is such a great addition to the Serenity family it’s hard to imagine this show without him. But the things that don’t work really bring the season down – and take so much screen time it’s hard to handwave them away. Six episodes of Ryan, really? Plus, did the unnecessary fight need to last that long?
Overall, it was okay, not great – and though there are some episodes that are worth rewatching at the beginning, and certainly near the end, the season serves more as a prelude of great things to come than as a standout by itself. That might all be worth it once we get to watch the rest, but right now, well …the appetizer is never quite as satisfying as the main course, and if it is, then the chef did something wrong.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Sweet Magnolias Season 3? Share with us in the comments below!