All good things come to an end. This is especially true of the The Adventures of Tintin which gives us 13 final episodes in the company of the young journalist, his spunky dog and colorful friends. The third season of the show moves away from the sheer variety of adventures offered by season two and follows the example of season one where multi-episode arcs reigned supreme. Trading in breadth for depth turns out to be a positive move since the final season emerges as the show's strongest.
Before I go any further, allow me to give the folks who may have skipped over the first two seasons (for some unfathomable reason) a basic primer that I included with the earlier releases:
Tintin was a comic strip creation of the immensely gifted Belgian artist Hergé. Over a period of roughly 50 years (ranging from the late 20s to the mid 70s), Hergé released 23 rip-roaring comic book adventures (his 24th remains sadly unfinished) featuring the plucky reporter, his canine sidekick (Snowy) and memorable pals (including Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus). While the tales of Tintin are positively huge in Europe, the character never quite caught on in the States.
Before I continue with any discussion of the individual episodes, it's probably best to lay out the characters for the uninitiated. As I've already mentioned, Tintin is a young Belgian reporter who is largely defined by his heroic nature and his determination to follow any story to its conclusion with little regard for his own safety. Snowy is Tintin's adorable fox terrier who amps up the cuteness quotient while coming to his master's aid in many a sticky situation. A major recurring character (and fan favorite) is Captain Haddock, a crusty old grump who usually sets his cynicism aside just long enough to join Tintin on some of his adventures. Professor Calculus is the Q to Tintin's Bond. He is a slightly deaf but fairly ingenious inventor who often comes in handy. Serving quite the opposite purpose are Thomson and Thompson, a pair of bumbling detectives who provide comic relief through their general ineptitude.
This season gives us the following 13 episodes:
1. The Red Sea Sharks, Part 1
2. The Red Sea Sharks, Part 2
3. The Seven Crystal Balls, Part 1
4. The Seven Crystal Balls, Part 2
5. Prisoners of the Sun, Part 1
6. Prisoners of the Sun, Part 2
7. The Castafiore Emerald, Part 1
8. The Castafiore Emerald, Part 2
9. Destination Moon, Part 1
10. Destination Moon, Part 2
11. Explorers on the Moon, Part 1
12. Explorers on the Moon, Part 2
13. Tintin in America
While the episodes ostensibly cover 7 of Hergé's tales, it is worth noting that The Seven Crystal Balls / Prisoners of the Sun and Destination Moon / Explorers on the Moon qualify as longer multi-episode arcs. It should come as no surprise that they are also the most satisfying tales presented here. The 4 episodes that make up The Seven Crystal Balls / Prisoners of the Sun represent some of the best action-adventure storytelling that this series has to offer. The stolen mummy of an Incan king and a divine curse that slips its victims into deep comas (punctuated by screaming spells!) forms the creepy first half of the tale. Before you know it, the second half transforms into a rescue mission that sees Tintin, Snowy and Haddock escaping from speeding trains, crossing deadly waterfalls and avoiding becoming human (and canine) sacrifices.
If The Seven Crystal Balls / Prisoners of the Sun arc plays up the image of Tintin as a dashing hero (brains and brawn equally tested), then Destination Moon / Explorers on the Moon turns out to be a tale that appropriately scales him back in order to focus on the overwhelming wonder of space travel. Hergé actually wrote this pair of stories more than a decade before man ever set foot on the moon. With that in mind, it's a little awe-inspiring to see the attention to detail that can be found here. While the plot involves crooks trying to steal a rocket that Prof. Calculus designed to travel to the moon, the real thrills come from placing oneself in Tintin's shoes as he boldly goes where no man has gone before.
Having been spoiled by the epic scope of the two major arcs that make up the bulk of the season, it is tempting to view the remaining episodes as filler but that's not entirely true. The Red Sea Sharks is a fast-paced seafaring yarn that has Tintin and Haddock facing off with old foes (Rastapopoulos, the rogue of many disguises) in order to help old friends (Kalish Ezab and his son Prince Abdullah) and save some victims of human trafficking in the process. With that said, it's tougher to defend The Castafiore Emerald. Hergé conceived the tale as an exercise to get away from his traditional adventure story structure and the bland, inoffensive result indicates he succeeded. Coincidences pile on top of misunderstandings as Tintin helps solve a small-scale mystery surrounding a missing jewel.
A story as light and fluffy as The Castafiore Emerald doesn't require two episodes, yet that is what it gets. This comes at the expense of Tintin in America which gets shortchanged with just 22 minutes to tell its tale of Tintin and Snowy tangling with organized crime in Chicago. Even though it is presented as the final episode of the series, the source material comes from one of the very first Tintin stories written by Hergé. Tintin may feel like bit of a blank slate but his determination and pursuit of truth is on full display. The final frames of the episode are also unexpectedly touching in the way they set up all the future adventures.
Note: The video quality remains unchanged from the first season.
The show was presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Considering the early 90s pedigree, I was unsurprised to see that the image was a bit soft in spots. I also noticed specks and dirt with some buzzing and jitter in the picture. Some smearing was also noticeable with the bright colors. With that said, given its age, the image was more than adequate and didn't really prove to be distracting.
Note: The audio quality remains unchanged from the first season.
The audio was presented in a Dolby Digital Stereo track with English and Spanish language options. I chose to view the show with the English track and found it to be free of any obvious defects with the character voice work coming through loud and clear. The action scenes could have used a bit more oomph but the presentation was perfectly acceptable for the material at hand. English subtitles were also available.
Once again, there were no extras at all.
The Adventures of Tintin is built around a concept that is simplicity itself. A man, his dog and his friends travel the world solving mysteries and getting into all sorts of trouble along the way. The past two seasons of this show have brought those adventures to life in compelling fashion. This third and final season doesn't skip a beat in giving the series the finish it so richly deserves. Highly Recommended.