'The Dragon Prince' Season 3 May Send Claudia Down a Dark, Familiar Path
For an animated show presumably aimed at kids, The Dragon Prince features a surprising amount of depth in its characters and the challenges they face. That probably shouldn’t come as a shock considering these are some of the same people who worked on Avatar: The Last Airbender (another children’s cartoon arguably on par with any serious adult drama), but there’s one Dragon Prince character in particular who may push the Netflix series into dark new territory as we move into Season 3.
Claudia seems to be heading down a particularly dark path, and it’s one that fans of another great show presumably aimed at a younger (teenage) audience may recognize. Buffy the Vampire Slayer saw the same thing happen to Willow Rosenberg over the course of six seasons. The comparisons are obvious (they’re both well-meaning magic users who drift into evil territory), but in an interview, The Dragon Prince co-creators Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond reveal that these similarities run deep.
“I think the interesting thing about characters like Claudia or Willow is that while one of them might be doing something evil — or perceived as evil — she’s really trying to do what she thinks is right” Richmond tells Inverse. “She’s trying to do the thing that she thinks is the best possible version of what she can do for her family.”
"Is Claudia bad? Maybe. Is she bad to the bone? I don’t know. — Aaron Ehasz
So what does that mean for The Dragon Prince Season 3? A closer look at Willow’s trajectory in Buffy might reveal the dark path Claudia could be headed down.
Warning: Spoilers for The Dragon Prince Seasons 1 and 2 and (I guess?) Buffy Season 6 ahead.
When I brought up the Willow-Claudia comparison in an interview ahead of The Dragon Prince Season 2’s release, both Ehasz and Richmond were flattered, but also careful to emphasize that they don’t view Claudia as a clear cut-villain.
“What’s the nature of evil?” Ehasz says. “Is Claudia bad? Maybe. Is she bad to the bone? I don’t know. I don’t personally think Claudia is bad to the bone. She’s complicated, and we love her.”
Anyone who watched Buffy knows it took six seasons to transform the shy nerd that was Willow Rosenberg in Season 1 into the murderous, magic-wielding big bad of Season 6. What began as an innocent interest in the dark arts and the occasional useful spell eventually led to reckless wizardry and an inflated ego. By the end of Season 6, Willow’s girlfriend Tara being shot and killed was enough to push her over the edge into a full-blown villain bent on ending the world.
When we first meet Claudia in The Dragon Prince she’s already a lot further down that same road thanks to the influence of her father Viren, a powerful dark magician and political adviser to the king with questionable ethics. In the ensuing two seasons, we’ve seen Claudia rely more heavily on magic. Most dramatically at the end of Season 2, when she kills a deer as part of a spell to heal her brother Soren, who was paralyzed while attempting to fight a dragon.
It’s a powerful moment, not just because the spell rattles the room where Soren is recuperating and scares away his nurses, but because the audience can empathize with Claudia’s desire to help her brother at all costs. But I also can’t help but wonder: What would Claudia have done if Soren actually died in that fight? Would she let the magic consume her entirely like it (almost) did to Willow?
As The Dragon Prince’s creators point out, Claudia is just as influenced by her family and friends as Willow was on Buffy.
“She genuinely cares for the princes,” Ehasz says, adding that those feelings often conflict with the orders she receives from her father.
Richmond also points to how Claudia’s parents’ divorce affected her as a child and influenced the person she is when we first meet her on The Dragon Prince.
“I think that that really informs like a lot of her psyche and what makes her tick,” he says.
For now, it’s safe to say Claudia hasn’t gone full dark magic Willow yet, but she’s also starting from a much more compromised position. As The Dragon Prince heads into Season 3, it’s difficult to say what it would take to push Claudia over the edge into pure evil, but based on everything we’ve seen so far, it might not be more than a strong nudge.
As Ehasz hints, by the end of Season 2, it may already be too late for Claudia to avoid that fate.
“She’s been thrust into making really difficult choices,” he says. “She’s going down paths that may be evil paths.”