Due to Disney Channel’s inexplicable airing schedule, as well as moving, I lost track of Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure for a while. I really enjoyed the beginning of season 3, especially the premiere. They revealed Cassandra’s turn as a villain, as well as the traumatic effects this had on Rapunzel. It was full of excellent music, impressive visuals, and, overall, was quite good for television animation. I hated not being able to keep up with the show, so I decided to wait and review the rest of the season in one bundle. Season 3 has a tighter narrative than season 2, on which I had mixed feelings. There were a lot of great episodes and sequences in season 2, and it had my favorite Tangled song outside the feature film, “Next Stop Anywhere”. Absolute banger.
Anyway, my problem with season 2 was the sheer amount of filler they shoved into one season, especially the beginning and middle. They set up a clear plot, character arc, and goal for Rapunzel in the season opener, “Beyond The Corona Walls.” However, they proceeded to ignore that for roughly half a season to explore random places and introduce new characters. This would be well and good except for the fact that many of these new faces had little to no impact on the overall story, and the lessons Rapunzel learned in the new locales were unnecessary or irrelevant to her larger character arc. I couldn’t be happier to say that, while season 3 has a couple of filler episodes, it has a much stronger throughline, and said side stories aren’t as poorly executed overall.
“No Time Like the Past” sees Rapunzel feeling nostalgic as she looks through Cassandra’s old things. She finds a magical hourglass, which accidentally transports her and Pascal back in time. There they find younger versions of Lance and Eugene running with the Stabbington brothers and stealing. Trapped in the body of the speaking brother, Rapunzel sees the opportunity to find the hourglass and get back home. After some back-and-forth, Eugene and Lance agree to help under the pretense that it’s a valuable object they can sell. Once they get there, however, they’re trapped in the castle’s vault with Maximus trying to break down the door. Rapunzel leads them down a secret passage, and Lance ends up separated from the group thanks to Eugene’s “every man for himself” philosophy. Rapunzel and Eugene free Lance, and Rapunzel smashes the hourglass and is sent back to her time. “Beginnings” finds Rapunzel reminiscing on when she and Cass first met and how they became friends. The story is framed by interludes showing that Cass is scheming with the ghost from the season premiere, really Zhan Tiri, unbeknownst to her. “The King and Queen of Hearts” focuses on Rapunzel’s parents King Frederic and Queen Arianna. They still haven’t recovered their memories from the attack of the Saporean Separatists, and Rapunzel is determined to make them remember their love for one another.
“Day of the Animals” sees Pascal, Maximus, and Ruddiger save Rapunzel and friends from a magical prison. While Varian has made amends with Rapunzel and proven his redemption to her, “Be Very Afraid” gives him his chance to prove himself to the common folk of Corona. The Kingdom is overrun with magical red rocks that cause hallucinations, and only he has the antidote. “Pascal’s Dragon” is exactly what it sounds like; Rapunzel’s reptilian friend finds and befriends a baby dragon. He must decide between what’s best for him, what’s best for Corona, and what’s best for his new friend. In “Islands Apart,” Owl arrives and leads Rapunzel and Eugene back to Tirapi Island. However, it’s not Cassandra they find there, but the Captain of the Guard (her adopted father) and a vision of a younger Cass. Rapunzel must inspire the Captain to abandon this wish he’s living out to help his real daughter, who’s still out there wreaking havoc. “Cassandra’s Revenge” sees the eponymous anti-heroine barge in on Eugene’s birthday party, demanding that Rapunzel give her the Demanitus scroll.
Meanwhile, Eugene and Rapunzel are each secretly planning to propose to one another. In “Race to the Spire,” Calliope sends Rapunzel a message asking for help when she’s attacked by Zhan Tiri and Cassandra. The two villains use Calliope as a hostage to get the Mind Trap, an artifact granting the wielder of the Moonstone (Cass) power over the Brotherhood, from Rapunzel. In “A Tale of Two Sisters,” Rapunzel investigates Gothel’s old cottage following rumors that the old woman was seen there. However, it is Cassandra she finds there. The two must work together to get out, and they learn something about their “mother” along the way. Ultimately, mistakenly believing Rapunzel has lied to her, Cassandra traps her and leaves her for dead, only for Rapunzel to be saved at the last moment by Maximus. In “Flynnpostor,” Eugene must locate and arrest a new Flynn Rider who has been committing crimes under his name. In “Once a Handmaiden…,” Cassandra realizes that it was Zhan Tiri, not Rapunzel, who tricked her. She returns to Corona in disguise to reconnect with her friend, but when Varian attacks her, things go south. In the three-part finale, “Plus Est En Vous,” we get some backstory on Demanitus imprisoning Zhan Tiri. In the present, Cas and Zhan Tiri come to Corona to destroy it and take the Sundrop from Rapunzel. However, Zhan Tiri double-crosses her protégé, reveals herself, and everyone must work together to stop her.
Overall, there’s a lot I love about this season. The musical score and animation are the best they’ve been so far, and the voice acting is always top-notch. I’m particularly thrilled that, as I predicted, they showed Demanitus in his human form, once again voiced by Timothy Dalton. I think they did a particularly good job in bookending the series both with the song “Life After Happily Ever After” and with Eugene’s narration. I also think that Cassandra striking off on her own to find her destiny works for her character, not to mention explaining why she isn’t at Rapunzel’s wedding in Tangled Ever After. I think the scene where Eugene and Rapunzel embrace her, of course, mirroring the King and Queen embracing Eugene in the first film’s conclusion, works really well. The after-credits scene in which Eugene finally successfully proposes to Rapunzel (after two rejections!) was beautiful. As I’ve said since the first season, unfortunately, the actual musical numbers in the show aren’t as good as the score for the most part. The reprise of “Waiting in the Wings” was amazing, and there were a couple of pleasant tunes throughout. However, for the most part, the songs are a weak point in the series.
As I said earlier, there isn’t as much filler this season, and most of what is there isn’t too bad. However, I have a couple of pretty significant problems with “No Time Like the Past,” “The King and Queen of Hearts,” and “Day of the Animals,” in particular. “No Time Like the Past” creates problems with Eugene’s character arc from the first film, which is frustrating because he’s one of the biggest reasons the movie is so darn good. It’s also somewhat of a retread of “You’re Kidding Me!” in which some characters are turned into children. Sure, this time, Rapunzel goes back in time and actually meets younger versions of some of her friends. However, I think it’s still a little too similar in concept, and it wasn’t that great of a premise, to begin with. “The King and Queen of Hearts” is actually sweet overall. I loved Rapunzel’s parents in the movie, and I think they’ve remained true to their personalities pretty well through the series. My problem is really with King Trevor; I like Bradley Whitford, and I liked this character in previous appearances. However, I think he was just a touch too ridiculous here. “Day of the Animals” isn’t a horrible episode, but I tend to get annoyed with whole shows or movies focused on animal hijinks. I also think Pascal and Maximus were an excellent comedy duo in the original film, as well as playing well with Eugene. I thought the addition of Varian’s raccoon Ruddiger and King Edmond’s raven were unnecessary, and, frankly, they’re annoying characters to spend time with.
I also have a small gripe with the very ending, in which Cassandra sets off on her own journey. I assumed this character would be redeemed and was actively dreading it. For one thing, Varian went through this exact process of being a trusted friend to Eugene and Rapunzel, feeling betrayed and lashing out in response. However, whereas Varian only wanted to save his father and did more than make up for his actions, Cass isn’t so simple. I understand Rapunzel’s eternal optimism and loyalty; those are some of the traits I’ve loved so much in this character since 2010. Her sweet, forgiving nature is part of what makes her and part of what we root for. However, I sort of think she’s been too lenient with her former best friend. Cass’s motivation was well set up in earlier seasons and actually makes it easier to understand why I found her so unbearable. She’s bold and adventurous like the princess, but unlike her, she’s selfish and self-righteous. So many of their earlier feuds made no sense to me because they were played as lessons Rapunzel needed to learn. However, it often seemed too complex for someone to be “wrong,” or it was straight-up Cass being mean and then Rapunzel apologizing for… some reason. I understand Cass’ motivation, and it’s genuinely an excellent set-up for a villain. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised when she turned bad; so many elements of the show I had issues with were re-contextualized and made sense now. This being said, though, it’s not a terribly sympathetic reason to try to kill your best friend, all her subjects, and destroy an entire kingdom.
She also seemingly gives up and helps Rapunzel just because she failed, not because she realizes she was morally and logically incorrect. Again, Varian was a literal child driven by guilt and concern for his father’s life/wellbeing. Cassandra is ~22, and wants to become a hero and earn glory because her mother neglected her. This is understandable, but it’s not a good set-up for a character you’re going to redeem. Cass also doesn’t really do much to make up for unleashing an immortal demon and tearing up the kingdom, unlike Varian, who has been invaluable. It’s also getting to be a little trite in Disney movies for the best friends/siblings to split up at the end. Ralph Breaks the Internet seems to have replaced the plot-twist-villain trend with whatever you would call this. Toy Story 4 did it worst for sure, as that was a total betrayal to fans and the characters. It works here and in Frozen II, but I really, really wish they’d take a break from doing it so often lately. I’m also left to wonder how much better this would have been if I genuinely liked Cassandra as a character and wanted her and Rapunzel to reconcile. I hate this character, her attitude, her tomboyish appearance and behavior, and with every fiber of my being, I detest it when she calls Rapunzel “Raps.” I liked the reveal that she was Gothel’s daughter, her turn, and the exploration of whether Gothel loved either girl. Great stuff; too bad I couldn’t fully get behind the character, except when she was trying to kill people and destroy civilization. That being said, the little moment where she reunited with her father was very sweet, especially after seeing how much she was tearing him up inside.
Overall, I truly enjoyed the conclusion of this show, and I will miss it. I enjoyed seeing what these characters did after the film and before the wedding, and I’ve really liked some of the new faces and places explored. I think it would be stronger if they had combined seasons 2 and 3 and cut some of the filler out, but still, I do like the show. Unlike most Disney spin-offs and sequels, this truly felt like it could be part of the movie’s story. With some exceptions, the plots aren’t too outlandish, and the characters remain true to what I loved about them in the first movie. The inclusion of clever callbacks to the film, the gorgeous animation, and returning cast members certainly didn’t hurt. This wasn’t a perfect series, and I think it would have been even better if Cassandra was more likable, but I am sad it’s over. Now, to catch up on Big Hero 6: The Series and Star Wars: Resistance (not looking forward to that last one).