Review: Tangled - Queen for a Day

Right on the heels of Once Upon a Time's Rapunzel fail, Disney's Tangled: The Series released a new animated Rapunzel special called Queen for a Day. I will admit that I had higher hopes for this than Once Upon a Time due to the stronger quality of writing the show has in comparison. Unfortunately, the special turned out to be mostly exposition for an established character from the show to turn evil in future episodes. It wasn't terrible, but it lacked direction. Queen for a Day spends too much time focusing on Rapunzel when it was really meant to provide the backstory for the other character, which makes the pacing feel erratic throughout most of the 45 minutes. There are spoilers below the image, so if you plan to watch the special, please do so before reading on.

The title Queen for a Day really drives home the fact that the special is supposed to be Rapunzel's story, and it is. Unfortunately, her story feels more like the "B" plot that the writers are trying hard to mask as the "A" plot. Rapunzel's parents go on a short vacation, leaving her temporarily in charge of the kingdom. She does the best she can, but soon she must face her most powerful foe yet: Bad weather. I kid you not. A freak snowstorm is the main antagonist in this special. Meanwhile, the king and queen get caught in the same blizzard during their travels, causing their carriage to plummet off a cliff. It would all sound very Frozen if all that was not just a big distraction from Varian's story.

Varian is a sporadically recurring character from the series who has been established as the rebel genius kid who studies medieval science that's way ahead of its time. He may or may not have a slight crush on Cassandra, but that's going nowhere fast. The point is that Varian is the only one besides Rapunzel and Cassandra who knows anything about the strange rocks that made Rapunzel's hair grow back at the beginning of the show. This makes him very a very important person in Rapunzel's life. In this episode, Rapunzel unintentionally betrays him. Even though that's a pretty big deal for the future of the series, the episode is uneven and spends more time focusing on the snowstorm than it does on Varian. Granted, Varian does get a fantastic song, but it's not enough to make up for the lack of screen time.

A major theme of Queen for a Day is growing up and taking on new responsibilities. That's why so much of the special is spent showing Rapunzel trying to help her subjects survive the blizzard. Yes, I agree that it is necessary for her to help them. The problem is that it's not that interesting of a story for a two-part special from a fantasy series about a princess with long magical hair. To solve this problem, Rapunzel consults Xavier, the most forgettable recurring character on the show, for help. I know he has been in several episodes as well as the recently released novel, but there seems to be absolutely nothing memorable about him whatsoever. He's a blacksmith, so that's cool, but every time they show or mention him, I have to rack my brain to try to remember anything else about him.

Anyway, Xavier helps Rapunzel locate a magical device to stop the storm, which leads to a completely unnecessary emotional scene involving Pascal. The trope of tricking people into thinking a beloved character has died has gotten extremely old. We know they're not going to kill off Pascal, so stop making innocent children cry for no reason. That was a really low blow. It also took more screen time and emotional impact away from Varian, who is the true star of the episode.I'm sure we will be seeing a lot more of him later this season. The special should have been focused on what happened to Varian's father, but he appears to have a secret, so I suppose they couldn't reveal too much.

Overall, Queen for a Day is a misdirected story with uneven pacing. If Varian had joined the dark side in the middle of the episode, I think it would have been a lot more interesting. Instead, we spend too much time watching Rapunzel try to conquer a freak snowstorm as her parents wait on a cliffside for a rescue team. In the end, Rapunzel decides that she isn't ready to be queen, which is understandable because she was locked in a tower for most of her life. It's very sweet how supportive Eugene is of her during this scene. We barely see Cassandra in this special, which is surprising considering how much she loves being the center of attention. Despite all of that, I'm looking forward to seeing where they go with Varian's story.


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