The Queen and King of Avalor

Today is the season 2 premiere of Disney Junior's Elena of Avalor, even though the last new episode was only two weeks ago. As is typical of Disney, the seasons have no set schedule with hiatuses that often take place in the middle of seasons instead of separating them. The new episode, "Jewel of Maru," is a worthy season premiere. It takes place on Dia de los Muertos, the Spanish celebration of the dead. This day is particularly significant to Elena because she learned in the first season that she has the mysterious ability to see ghosts on this day every year. It is also significant to Disney because of their upcoming movie, Coco, which centers on Dia de los Muertos. In the first season of Elena, the king and queen of Avalor had yet to make an appearance due to their untimely demise. Today's episode offered us our first flashback sequence and ghost appearance of them.

In "Jewel of Maru," Elena sings a song about wanting to make her parents proud as a ruler and as a daughter. In the song, we see flashbacks of her as a little girl spending time with her parents. What's interesting about the flashbacks is that her mother is always doing something active while her father stands passively next to them. The queen is first seen playing the guitar for young Elena and later gives her fencing lessons. It was mentioned in a previous episode that her mother was a fencing champion, a talent the Elena inherited but never seems to use on adventures. The queen's activism makes sense for a Disney Princess show because it supports the new princess image that Disney has been promoting over the past decade. Elena is shown in many active situations in the show's opening title, though she is not much of a warrior princess in the context of the series.

Oddly enough, none of the flashbacks show her sister, Isa, even though she should have been the around the same age when her parents were murdered by the evil sorceress Shuriki. Isa talks about her parents a lot less than Elena does and seems more attached to her big sister as a motherly figure. Of course, it's implied that she misses them too, but it's a little strange that she wasn't present in this episode. She didn't age after her parents' death because of the magic painting that she was trapped in until Elena was freed, which means that her memories of them should be just as recent as Elena's. It was smart of the king and queen to protect Isa and her grandparents in the painting, but I always thought it was weird that no one else in the kingdom thought to protect the king and queen using the same method. I guess they thought it was necessary to sacrifice themselves in order to save everyone else. If they had a regent instead, that person probably would have been killed too.

Elena's ability to see ghosts on Dia de los Muertos does temporarily reunite her with her parents, but only after she faces in a situation that seems hopeless. As typical of a Disney story, they come to her when she needs them the most to restore her courage so that she could stop the villainous Victor and his daughter Carla from bringing Shuriki a powerful jewel that would restore her magic. Unfortunately, we see very little of the king and queen's personalities when they appear as ghosts. They don't even tell us their names. Instead, they are typical nurturing Disney parents. Their defeat allowed Shuriki to become an evil queen for a short time just like many other Disney queens who gained their positions of power by killing the current monarchs. It would have been nice to see some semblance of a personality during this rare opportunity, but I suppose this isn't their story. Their sole purpose is to give Elena the confidence to continue her mission, and they achieved that.

Before I saw "Jewel of Maru," I knew very little about the former queen and king of Avalor. Now that I have seen it, I still know very little about them. They were proud and loving parents who lost the fight against evil, but that's about it. Still, it was touching to see Elena have one more opportunity to talk to them. The episode also teaches us more about Elena and what motivates her decisions. She can come off as a bit cocky at times, but deep down, she just wants to be someone that would make her parents proud.


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