this is probably kinda messy but i just really need to get all my Trollhunters thoughts out before I burst. beware of spoilers, my dudes.
I love that I feel some, if even a small bit, of sympathy for each of the “villains” in the show. Draal begins as Jim’s first major adversary wanting to be the Trollhunter, but as he steadily becomes a close ally we learn all Draal wanted from the title, from beating Jim, was to make his father proud, something he learns to do by helping Jim instead of going against him. Strickler is a ruthless and cunning guy who literally admits to being power hungry and only having his own best interests in mind, but he has a soft spot for Barbara that brings out his more human side, that makes me feel bad for him despite everything. NotEnrique is a (quite literally) shifty, selfish brat that betrays Jim and co. before officially moving to their side, but his genuine care for Claire and her feelings, the budding sibling relationship they grow to have, makes me like him, makes me sad to think about him leaving after Claire gets Enrique back. Angor Rot is a cruel hunter who enjoys torturing and destroying souls, but the flashback where we learn he’s so bitter because his own soul is trapped in a ring and he wants to be free, made my heart clench when the ring shattered right before his eyes. Even the little gnomes who are shown to be selfish and mischievous, are shown another side by Chompski, another turned ally of Jim’s, who just wanted a home.
The characters are multi-dimensional, and because of this we see gray spaces among them. NotEnrique especially goes back and forth for awhile before settling his allegiance with Claire, but I appreciate the gradual change as opposed to a sudden one because it feels more realistic. You can feel that inner conflict going on. It becomes very clear that villains are people (creatures, whatever) too who see themselves as doing right but are capable of shifting their perspective into a new idea of right. Aaarrrgh is another great example of this. He used to fight with the GumGum long ago, but then realized he was wrong and dedicated his life to repenting for all the death he caused, choosing to do good and be a pacifist instead. The show doesn’t define by fixed black and white, but by the choices characters make. This extends to the “heroes” too.
The best example probably being when Jim faced the ethical dilemma of trusting Angor Rot to follow through on their deal or not. Both of his friends stood for these opposite choices; Toby wanted Jim to trust Angor Rot and hand the ring over, and Claire wanted Jim to keep the ring and control Angor Rot with it instead. It’s hard to say what the better choice is because both raise good points. Ultimately Jim seemed to lean more Claire’s way, going a step further and trying to steal the Killing Stone from right under Angor Rot’s nose, but that backfired horrendously resulting in the ring shattering and utterly destroying any chance of some sort of truce/alliance ever forming between them. Angor Rot was after blood from then on out, putting Jim, his friends, and all of Troll Market in serious danger. We don’t know if all of that could’ve been prevented had Jim acted differently, we don’t know if something worse would’ve happened had Jim acted differently, but it just goes to show the moral complexity behind ethical decisions like that, something I deeply appreciate the inclusion of. Its great writing.
Jim is faced with smaller decisions of this nature as well, such as when he lies to his mom once more after promising to tell her the truth when she recovers and doesn’t remember anything again, though we have yet to see the outcome of this decision, whether its the better course of action or not, as again each choice has its drawbacks and benefits.
That said, I find Jim’s character progression in a moral sense very interesting, particularly when it comes to “finishing the fight”. The story begins with Jim vehemently against this, choosing to spare lives like Draal’s (”House rules. Not mine.”), going so far as to start a speech in front of the disappointed trolls about how he doesn’t want to live by their rules until he’s yanked off stage by Blinky. This continues up until about the middle of the season when he has to kill Gunmar’s son out of self defense. My first thought watching that scene was ‘Oh no. The first kill’ He was trying to dance around it in the fight, trying to get out of doing it, but in the end he couldn’t get out of it. Kill or be killed. And as the stone body tumbles into the water, you see Jim’s conflicting emotions on his face. You see the resignation, the realization that this is something he’s gonna have to do sometimes whether he likes it or not, and your heart breaks a little for him. Then in the finale Jim doesn’t hesitate, jamming Angor Rot’s sword right through his own chest without looking back.
And it hurts, watching this young, loving kid realizing you can’t spare everyone, having to adapt to this harsh warrior lifestyle so suddenly, but its realistic development. Too many times stories will try to argue that killing the villain makes you just as bad as them, but that’s just not how it works. That’s not how war works. It’d be nice in theory if everyone could be spared, but that’s not reality and Trollhunters does a great job of showing that, and the emotional burden that comes with it.
Switching gears a bit, there’s a decent amount of foreshadowing of Jim’s father having been a changeling, and consequently Jim having some of that troll/changeling blood in his veins as well; his father’s mysterious sudden disappearance, the fact that the amulet has only ever chosen those with troll blood before, the quip about Stickler being a changeling “If he’s one, I’m one” in which we find out later Stickler is one. I don’t know if the theory’s true or not (it would explain how the amulet could’ve chosen Jim), but I wanna play around with it for a sec, as well as the Daylight and Eclipse powers, in relation to the morally gray spaces in the show.
If Jim is part troll/changeling, it would symbolically represent the amulet really well; Daylight representing his humanity, Eclipse representing the changeling. On the surface, like a human compared to a changeling, Daylight seems more “good” than Eclipse. The suit’s blue and silver, there’s no ill intent behind wanting “the glory of Merlin”, and Blinky says Jim’s (as well as all humans’) greatest strength is their ability to love each other. Whereas Eclipse is black and red, is drawn from Gunmar’s eye, is to be used “for the doom of Gunmar”. But, like a human and a changeling, despite appearances, neither force is more inherently good or bad. Humans are capable of doing evil, and Daylight is capable of being used for evil, like when Angor Rot was using Daylight against Jim. Changelings/any creature from the GumGum are capable of doing good, like NotEnrique and Aaarrrgh, and Eclipse is capable of being used for good. Nothing is inherent, nothing is all good or all bad, all that matters is your choices, how you choose to wield those powers, what kind of person you choose to be.
And Jim himself would be the amulet that binds these two forces together. He is neither all human or all troll, all light or all darkness, all good or all bad. He is not one side of the coin or the other. He is the coin itself. He is the literal balance of these forces, bridging the gap between them as well as the gap between the “good” creatures and the “bad” creatures, and then all the creatures and the humans. He commands these forces. Regardless of appearance, regardless of blood, he gets to choose how they’re used and what kind of person he is, and that is what defines Jim. Not either or, but both. Both sides embraced together. That is of course if Jim really is not all human. It’s certainly something I’d like to see.