Review: Tangled - Rapunzel's Return

There are few season premieres as anticipated as the third season of Tangled. The season 2 finale, Destinies Collide, left fans with chills as Cassandra betrayed Rapunzel within the final seconds of the episode by snatching the Moonstone Opal right out of her hands. I avoided jumping too deep into the fan theory vortex since only one explanation for Cassandra's actions would ever truly be canon. That explanation came within the opening minutes of today's season premiere, Rapunzel's Return. It was a shocking twist of events, but not one that was completely unfounded. According to series creator Chris Sonnenburg, the final season of this series had been planned since the beginning, which is made clear by Cassandra's character design as well as some subtle foreshadowing in the second season. Let's just say Rapunzel and Cassandra have a lot more in common than they may have thought.

For me, the most disappointing thing about Rapunzel's Return was learning Cassandra betrayed Rapunzel entirely of her own accord instead of being manipulated by some sort of external force as I had initially anticipated (or hoped). However, that disappointment is from my perspective as a fan, not as a writer. In that respect, today's two-part special was almost too perfect. It played all the right heartstrings, making me sad, forlorn, and satisfied at just the right moments. The special answered all of the questions we've been asking for the past two seasons of the show within its 43-minute runtime as well as bringing back several characters from earlier episodes. It avoided any semblance of filler and got straight to the point. I wish every episode of the Tangled series could have been this good.

One of the biggest rewards for trudging through the hiatus was the return of Varian, Rapunzel's troubled alchemist friend whose absence left a gaping hole in the show's second season. Varian also betrayed Rapunzel in the The Secret of the Sun Drop from the first season, but unlike Cassandra, his story went unresolved for much longer than a single hiatus. In some ways, his character arc got tied up too neatly in Rapunzel's Return, but I can forgive that because the kingdom of Corona never felt quite the same without him. If they are able to keep up this momentum until the end of the show, it will be an exciting roller coaster of a final season indeed. The second season had way too much filler for my taste.

The only question remaining is what will become of Cassandra. It seems likely that she will be the new villain of the show. The creators knew exactly what they were doing when they forced us to like for two years just to make the betrayal hurt us as much as it hurt Rapunzel. The optimist in me wants Cass to have a redemption arc by the series finale, but from a writer's perspective as well as my own personal experiences with betrayal, that seems to be an unlikely outcome at this point. I feel as though this series could have benefited from only being two seasons long instead of three. The filler episodes on the island and in the House of Yesterday's Tomorrow feel completely arbitrary when we could have spent all this time developing the complexities of Rapunzel and Cassandra's relationship.

Rapunzel's Return was an outstanding season premiere and possibly my favorite episode of the series thus far. It's impossible not to feel sorry for Cassandra during the opening scene, which allows us to understand her motivation in betraying Rapunzel on a painful and intimate level. Some of the songs felt a little out of place due the darker themes that were introduced in the previous season. The duet between Rapunzel and Cassandra reminded me of "Life's Too Short," my favorite deleted song from Frozen, so I'm glad it made it onto the screen in some form. In fact, the sisterly relationship between Rapunzel and Cassandra bares a strong resemblance to Anna and Elsa. Whether or not their story will end the same way, however, remains to be seen.


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