A couple weeks ago we got an episode that I really loved (though when don’t I love an episode of this show) called Olaball. In the episode, Elena taught Gabe to play the kingdom’s favorite game, Olaball, in order to impress his father, who didn’t care that he was literally the main guard for Princess Elena. All that mattered was that he could kick a ball through a hoop on the wall. Priorities, Dad. This week, we got a reverse episode as Gabe repaid the favor by teaching Elena how to fence so that she could compete in a fencing competition, impress her grandparents and avenge her mother…’s wrist. While The Princess Knight was not a deeply moving affair like some of my favorite episodes, it was hands down the funniest episode of the show so far, and proved once again that underestimating Elena will ALWAYS get you proven wrong.
The backstory of this episode is essentially that Elena’s mother was a fencing champion but during the final round of the competition, her wrist was broken and she was unable to compete, effectively forfeiting the match. When Elena decides she wants to learn to fence, her grandfather uses this as an excuse to tell Gabe, her fencing partner, to go easy on her. Of course, when Elena finds out, she decides to show everyone who’s boss by entering the fencing competition under cover. The only problem is that Gabe has been letting her win their matches, so she actually isn’t a very good fencer. Now Gabe must train her Karate Kid style in a very short amount of time so she doesn’t make a fool of herself, or worse, get hurt in the process.
The fencing itself proves to be some of the most interesting and well done animation of the show. This makes a lot of sense when you know that the creators watched hours of fencing competitions, studying the movements to get them just right. Every episode of Elena manages to top itself in some way and this one does so by creating elegant and realistic movements as the characters step this way and that, lunging and parrying with their swords. It’s worth pointing out that I never found the movements to be unfair. Often times, fight choreography can feel so “choreographed” that the hero obviously wins because the story demands it. Here, the fighting feels real and fluid, so when someone gets a point, it feels more like they were the better fighter. You can effectively see the movements that lead to that point and just like watching a ball cross a field and then score in soccer, you’re able to trace the moves that landed the point. This creates a very immersive competition and helps keep the stakes high in the episode.
Our villain this time around is Lord Elrod, none other than the fencer who cheated and broke Elena’s mother’s hand so many years ago. He pushes his son, Sir Cassius, to cheat in the same way, believing that winning is more important than a fair sport. There’s something really wonderful about seeing this guy get trounced and then finding out that it’s by the daughter of the woman he broke the wrist of. He’s a pretty foul character with not much to redeem him, but that makes Elena’s win all the sweeter.
As I mentioned before, this episode was highly entertaining and full of laughs. From Gabe’s training of Elena, to Elena pretending to be a man to the point of drinking tea from a straw, I found myself laughing out loud more often than not. I loved the fans trying to get Elena’s autograph and Gabe’s “Oh no!” that followed as he whisked Elena away. I also loved Elena being sort of out of shape, something that didn’t make all that much sense after her Olaball playing days, but was still very funny. To that point, her montage sequence was really brought home with one of the catchier songs of the season, “Stepping Up” which I am still humming today.
It was great to finally get an episode that was really all about Elena as it’s been a few weeks of exploring other characters. And while the brief glimpse of the still frozen in stone Alakazar at the beginning of the episode made me think we were getting another magic fueled episode, I was very happy to find a charming episode instead about Elena stepping up and not only avenging her mother, but getting to know a bit more about her. While her mother and father are gone, I always love seeing that they are still a very big part of her life. Elena’s dedication to proving herself and stepping into a dangerous situation despite the warnings show her bravery, but also help to define her character flaws, which I always love as it makes her more human. All said and done, The Princess Knight was a simple episode that really let the music and animation take center stage and reminded us why no one, NO ONE, messes with the crown princess of Avalor.