It’s been a while since I’ve written about Elena of Avalor, but given that the epic season finale, Realm of the Jaquins just aired, I felt it was a great time to return to the series. I’ve talked a lot about Elena this past year and how it pushes aside the norms of gender and race to create something truly spectacular. Given the events of this past week, it seems that now more than ever an episode which focuses on separate cultures putting aside their differences to work together is especially important. So how does the show round out its excellent first season? Let’s take a look as our heroes dive into the mystical Realm of the Jaquins.
Right off the bat, Elena makes the bold statement that she’s learned everything she needs to in order to rule the kingdom, which is pretty much a guaranteed way to make something bad happen. This declaration comes with a great song which plays out as a musical review of the season so far. Elena’s right, she’s accomplished a lot this season, but as her family reminds her, there’s always something more to learn. And that theme takes central stage as Elena storms to the realm of the Jaquins in order to plea for young Nico to be given a second chance at passing his test to become a guardian. Of course no good deed goes unpunished as her entry into the land allows for the evil Victor and Carla Delgado to storm in as well.
Elena’s meeting with the ruler of the Jaquins, King Verago is a great way to represent the message of the episode. She who has been ruling for a year, must compete for the right way to do things with Verago who was been ruling for 50. Of course, the main take away is that there is still plenty for both of them to learn. Once Victor and Carla unleash the forest sprite Marimonda, everyone must learn to work together to stop her or they’ll fail separately.
There is A LOT to talk about in this episode. But the thing that sticks out in my head the most and needs to be praised the most is the animation of Marimonda. I actually don’t know that she’s the most fleshed out villain this show has ever had from a story perspective, but it’s easy to forget because she is just so much fun to watch. Her movements and animation are all top notch and watching her zoom through the forest evading Elena was easily the best action sequence of the season. This is a villain I would gladly see return any day and is a character whose animation alone puts the Elena team on par with Disney’s animated film teams. Well done!
I was surprised to see that this episode was less about finality and closing out big moments of the season and more about raising huge questions and possibilities for the next season. The spirit Quita Moz, voiced by the wonderful Cheech Marin presents a great tutor in using the staff and if my prediction is right, Elena will be heading back to meet up with this dragon every now and then to learn some new spells. I love that he mentioned that the staff can do all sorts of things with light, and I’m excited to see how the writers use this idea to make even more interesting spells as the show progresses.
I’ll throw in a SPOILER WARNING for the following paragraph. The final scene with Victor giving Shuriki back her power is a great way to head into Season Two. It provides a main villain for the season and should hopefully raise the stakes and provide more of a serialized focus for the show. I’m guessing the sorceress will be throwing new baddies at Elena and co. as the season progresses and that should make for some fun battles and even more fun villains.
Besides all of these great cliffhangers, it was just great to see all the characters one final time before a long hiatus. I could have used more Naomi and Gabe, but I really feel like Mateo is growing and becoming more confident as a person and as a wizard. In the episode, we got to see him stand up to Elena for what he thought was right and we got to see him use some cool magic, and the spell went off without a hitch! I’ve talked about how I love watching characters grow on television and I think Mateo is a character who has shown enormous progress this season. Who knows what great things he’ll get up to next year! And, of course, Elena is becoming stronger and stronger. She starts this episode filled with confidence, but ends the episode knowing that hard times are ahead. It creates this great uncertainty for her and sets up a lot more character growth for her in the Season to come. The fact that she will have to face fear of the coming darkness makes for a great storyline and I can’t wait to see it unfold.
Realm of the Jaquins represents both the excellent growth of not only the characters of this show, but also the creators of it. Showcasing the best animation the show has yet to offer, this finale is the culmination of a team creating something wonderful this past year. Yet, it also shows that there is still so much to learn, so much to accomplish. I imagine the creators looked inward as many creators do when making this episode. Though this might be the best they’ve done yet, it’s exciting to think about just how much more they’ll accomplish next year. I want to thank Craig Gerber, Elliot M. Bour, Frank Montagna, Sylvia Olivas, Pilar Flynn and the rest of team Avalor for a thrilling season full of great lessons, music and animation. I also want to thank them for being super supportive of my blog here. Now go get some rest and start dreaming up your best ideas for Season Two. I can assure you that myself and the rest of your fans will be waiting!