Review: Elena of Avalor - The Magic Within

I watched today's Elena of Avalor special, The Magic Within, expecting a drawn-out about Elena getting new powers that cause her dress to change color with her emotions using them to win a temporary victory over her current foe, Ash Delgado. All of this happened within the first few minutes, and then I got something I did not expect--Elena coming to terms with her cousin Esteban's deception. Betrayal has been an ongoing theme in princess shows as of late. Last week's Tangled season premier, Rapunzel's Return saw Rapunzel dealing with the effects of Cassandra's betrayal. The new season of Disenchantment had Bean struggling with her conflicted feelings after learning that her mother was actually evil. Esteban's betrayal of Elena was a little different from these, however, because it happened long before the beginning of the series.

The third season of Elena of Avalor premiered last week and left me underwhelmed compared to the massive revelations in Tangled. Now that we've had a week to recover from Cassandra's betrayal, it's time to face Esteban and all the drama that comes with him. I was extremely impressed with the way the writers handled Elena and her family's reactions to learning the truth about his past. It felt very realistic and also a little dark for a Disney cartoon. Esteban's secret was revealed Elena fell into a magic well that turned her scepter to crystal along with her entire outfit. This new look came with new powers that caused unexpected magical things to happen whenever Elena felt strong emotions. The enhanced power of the staff revealed that Esteban was working with the sorceress Shuriki, during the time that Shuriki murdered Elena's parents, took over Avalor, and banished Elena into Sofia's amulet. Shuriki was defeated in the Song of the Sirenas special, but Elena and her family remained blissfully unaware of Esteban's actions until now.

The easiest path the writers could have taken is to make Elena so angry that her new powers caused some sort of horrible disaster that Esteban would need to solve and earn her forgiveness. That is not the route that they took. Instead, Elena's powers caused some plates and silverware to levitate harmlessly over the table, while she remained calm enough to assess the situation and bring Esteban before the Grand Council. I loved how differently Elena's grandparents reacted to deciding Esteban's punishment. Abuelo wanted to forgive him because it had been over 40 years since his traitorous act, but Abuela knew that people don't change that easily and that a deceptive slimeball will only claim not to be a deceptive slimeball just to avoid punishment. Yet, we still see that she loves him and doesn't think any less of him for disagreeing with her, which is an important message. In the end, I felt that Elena made exactly the right decision to exile Esteban from Avalor. As we see later in the special, locking him up in his own home is not a very effective way to keep him under control.

Initially, I thought that Esteban was like Cedric, one of my favorite characters from Sofia the First who had a beautiful redemption arc that concluded in the finale. However, The Magic Within proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Esteban is beyond any hope for redemption. It was painful to watch him get so many chances to prove that he had changed and then repeatedly make the wrong choices again and again. In a way, he is more of a villain than Ash because he had deceived his own family for years. I am so glad that Elena and the others finally know the truth. Now they have the rest of the season to actually do something about it. It was a pleasant surprise to see that this special focused on something so inherent to the show's roots instead of having a bunch of cheap gags to show off Elena's new powers.

The Magic Within surprised me in a good way. Initially, I had been disappointed with the third season, but I see now that it was important to show Ash solved the puzzle box and find Takaina early on so Elena could get her powers at the beginning of the special and still have time to shift the focus to more important things. I also liked that Elena didn't cycle through a bunch of drastic mood swings just to show off her new powers. This special worked so well because the writers understood that it isn't the emotions that are important, but what causes them. I also appreciate the betrayal theme because I recently struggled with a betrayal from someone who I once thought was a good friend, so it's nice to see that I'm not alone and that even Disney Princesses can't reform everyone.


Hope35 said…
The way this episode ended for Carla makes me wonder if she might be the one who ends up with a Cedric-style redemption arc.
Anonymous said…
Esteban felt remorse for what he had done.
Francisco was the most reasonable on the council when he decided to forgive him. Also, when Esteban was trying to explain himself Elena didn't even try to see his point of view. Elena has a major lesson to learn about forgivness
Lisa Dawn said…
Thank you for your input, Anonymous.
Anonymous said…
Don't you agree Esteban deserves forgivness since he shows remorse and that Elena didn't see his point of view.
Anonymous said…
Don’t you think Esteban deserves to be redeemed? Also since Cassandra got redeemed they probably will redeemed Esteban?
Anonymous said…
Also, the way Luisa lost said she lost her daughter and son in law sounds very hypocritical. She already lost Esteban parents and she never even mentions them. She always mentions Elena parents which shows favoritism. She acted like a jerk. Francisco understood Esteban had changed and showed remorse and forgave him. Also I think Isa also forgave Esteban she a lot like Francisco
Unknown said…
I know you can't the past but they did bring Victor and Carla in season which was terrible season 3 because they rid of old who was amazing for a mean selfish brat just for stake drama, if you want to create drama do it right,they worked Shuriki too. That's not if they get forgave so he
Anonymous said…
Can you explain the magic which is stored in her new crystal dress?
Lisa Dawn said…
Sure. Her dress changes colors based on her emotions, which give her different powers. Positive emotions like happiness and love create warmer colors and do positive things like creating life and healing, while negative emotions like anger and sadness create cool colors and do negative things like violence or bringing nightmares to life.

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