Elena's New Quest

Over the past five years, Sofia the First has shifted gears from meeting past Disney Princesses, granting happy endings to unfinished stories, becoming a protector of the whimsical Mystic Isles, and stopping the efforts of an evil sorceress from obtaining collecting magic trinkets of former Disney villains. The series has done a fantastic job of staying interesting by constantly changing the direction of the story before it gets too tedious. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its spin-off, Elena of Avalor. The big twist in last week's episode, "Rise of the Sorceress," is that the series is regressing back to its roots by returning to the conflict that was introduced in Sofia and the Secret of Avalor, the special that revealed her backstory. Shuriki, a sorceress who trapped the teen princess inside an enchanted amulet for forty years, has predictably returned in a twist that has been a long time coming.

While Sofia's biggest fault is a lack of confidence in herself, which was presented in her premiere movie, Once Upon a Princess, Elena has the exact opposite problem. She comes back to Avalor after forty years of entrapment with full confidence in her ability to be the perfect ruler to restore Avalor to greatness and effectively undo the the damage Shuruki created during her reign. While this could have presented a wonderful lesson about how things are not always as easy as they appear and that you sometimes you have to work harder than you think to accomplish your goals, it got diluted due to the plot dragging out for over two years with many filler episodes. Elena has a an amazing sceptor that could be on par with Sofia's iconic amulet if it were not for the fact that she barely ever uses it and learns about its powers much more slowly than her pint-sized counterpart.

In the episode "Rise of the Sorceress," Elena finally discovers the secret identity of her faux friend Rita entirely thanks to Naomi's efforts. Rita is actually Carla, the daughter of an established enemy of the crown named Victor. Victor and his daughter had been working with Shuriki in secret attempting to steal a magical jewel from the royal treasury that would allow her a second attempt at her hostile takeover of Avalor. Thanks to Elena's overconfidence coupled with the overall cluelessness of the castle staff, she succeeded in obtaining the jewel. When Rita's true identity as Carla was revealed to Elena, it was already too late. The story could have gone much differently if anyone other than Naomi had been suspicious of a random girl being granted full access to the castle just because she seemed friendly. Then again, that was how Naomi got selected to be on the royal council in the first place, so it's actually a bit ironic.

Elena's flashback to the tragic murder of her parents upon seeing Shuriki alive again in last week's episode seemed to come far too late for an appropriate emotional impact. We had already met the ghosts of her parents several months ago in the Dia de los Muertos episode, so it felt like showing a flashback this late in the game was just rubbing their deaths in our faces, is a cruel thing to do in a show made primarily for children. One might argue that all of Elena's experiences so far were to train her for the moment she encountered Shuriki again. However, the fact still remains that she can only perform two techniques with her staff at this point, only one of which is particularly useful in fighting Shuriki. Sofia's already has countless abilities from her amulet, including being able to talk to animals, shrinking, and transforming into either a mermaid or faery.

I sincerely hope that since the series has finally laid the groundwork for its true villain, it will move at a better pace. Elena of Avalor was a fantastic concept in theory. It incorporates some terrific Aztec culture and mythology, but it does not work as well in practice as it could have. Seeing that Shuriki is still alive may be just the push Elena needs to realize that she cannot do everything herself and that it's okay to ask for help. The battle is far from over, and Elena's most important challenge yet lies just over the horizon.


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