Spongey’s Favorite Episodes: Elena of Avalor Seasons 2 and 3

https://spongey444.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/a-look-at-elena-of-avalor/

Hello, Spongey here.

It’s time for another round of me talking about a show I went into before, in order to go into my favorite episodes that have been made since the last time I did a big look at it. Yeah,  we’re gonna do that again. I didn’t do it for something like Steven Universe but I am doing it for this show. It really shows where my priorities are, eh?

But anyway, I’ve talked about Elena of Avalor my fair share of times, from my look at the show, to my song lists on Deviant Art, to reviewing the holiday episodes in those yearly posts.  It has interested me ever since it was announced way back when. It was essentially a spinoff of Sofia the First but was more of its own show that happened to use that as a springboard. It’s pretty interesting in that way. They even manage to have the occasional nod to Sofia, without going overboard with it.

Sometimes I forgot it was even tied to Sofia. This is a good thing, it’s managed to be a step up in some ways due to being a bit more mature and all that. I went into all that back in the big post though. What we’re focusing on today is what went on after I did it, as the show reached the end last year.

While it could it been neat for it to do 4 seasons like Sofia did, it’s fine since it did complete the story. From the beginning, it was all meant to end with Elena’s coronation after coming of age anyway, it just felt like it went by faster than I expected. As for the seasons themselves, Season 2 starts to embrace the serial storytelling more, although I do find there was less episodes I really really liked per say. I brought up way back how the way the stories are written can weigh things down a tad with it being, not quite formulaic per say but it being clear what the point of each story is from the start with sometimes mildly forced ways to get characters to learn whatever that point.

It felt it weighed some of the Season 2 episodes a bit, not to the point of being fully weak or anything but it prevent some from being better. That’s why I had less choices from that season although of course still a few to pick from. Season 3 was a big step up though. i suppose that problem still existed but it felt toned down and the stories generally felt stronger to me.

The story as a whole went into some interesting directions, mostly in one big way that oh boy we’ll at least touch on. It wasn’t come clunky aspects here and there, but it was still done well and we’ll get to discuss some of the details here and there. Although the whole thing with Naomi leaving a bit wasted as she left at the end of one episode then of course came back just a couple later, so it felt a bit clumsy in the execution.

But as a whole, Season 3 was pretty impressive. Now that it has ended its strong run, it’s time to over the standouts in the last two seasons. I wanted to possibly have 10 but it ended up being last 5 but the honorable mentions will make up for it. It’ll be in airing order, as per the usual at this point.

So, which episodes ended up my favorites of these seasons? Which ones keep things going strong til the end? Will I be talking about the big finale like I always do? You can guess the answer to that last one. Anyway…

These, are my favorite episodes of Elena of Avalor (Season 2 and 3)

The Scepter of Night

Writer: Tom Rogers

Spoilers, this is the only one from Season 2. It was a tight race for what would be here, but in the end I barely went with this one. Mostly because I just found it more interesting in some ways than the ones I picked it over.

At this point, Shurki is back and is planning to a hold of the titular scepter, which will help her take over the world or something. Elena and the gang catches wind of this and must head to the capitol  ancient Maru to get it before the villains do. But Mateo ends up being a bit more into getting it than the others.

First off, I finally get to the discuss Victor and Carla are a bit more since they become more important later on. There’s some big stuff is another entry but this shows off the dynamic of the villains rather well. Shurki is 100 percent done with their crap and it’s pretty great. You’ve also Fiero who she views as better so Victor wants to outclass him. It leads to some funny moments and the time with them on their own helps break things up better.

This one is mostly rather simple, with them running around to get what they are looking for. This even applies to the character conflict. it works just because it’s got plenty of fun action and character moments to make it balanced. It mostly serves to move the story forward a tad and the depth we do get isn’t the most complicated.

Yet what is here on that front works. Mateo gets a whole I Want song about how he feels the power from the scepter will help make him a powerful wizard like his grandfather Alakazar. That gives him an understandable reason that fits with his character, and he doesn’t overstep the line and become annoying about it.

I brought up before on how stories in the show can feel a bit forced, when they need to get to a certain point. This could be seen as an example but here it flows more naturally. Mateo getting into this is introduced gradually, so they don’t beat you too over the head with it right off the bat.

He gets them in trouble but not in a way that makes him unlikable or anything like that. It’s all simple stuff but it adds more to his character by showing him making an understandable mistake that stems from something that makes sense. How much you’ll like episodes that suffer a bit from this will really depend on how much you get into the point it all leads to and for me I got into it and even though the writing did a good job of not making it feel as forced as it could have been.

It all ends on a nice note and a solid cliffhanger of sorts, as they got solved this riddle but gotta find the rest of the scepter. There’s an episode in my honorable mentions that arguably a deeper Mateo story but I needed one Season 2 episode here. I think this allowed me to discuss one that had an issue I brought up but handled it pretty well.

It’s just a very well balanced episode with solid action, humor, story, and character stuff. None of this is amazing but putting it all together shows how solid it is. Granted, I liked this one a bit more in my head hence why I picked it but even after watching it again, it provided some discussion and is still really good.

It provides a good balance of everything and ends up being a very enjoyable little adventure. I don’t have a clever pun to end on.

Norberg Peace Prize

Writer: Rachael Ruderman

This episode is the main reason I could only fit in one Season 2 one, as I just had to fit this in., If I were objectively ranking them, I’m not sure where this would land but it’s one that appealed to me and I wanted to include it here. It’s the most stand-alone episode on here but it still has some importance and continuity.

It follows directly on the events of the previous episode, The Incredible Shrinking Royals. King Hector was invited to this year’s Feast of Friendship, and he’s quite the boastful jerk who clashes a lot with Queen Abigail. In this, Norberg needs a certain thing that only grows in Hector’s kingdom so Elena is tasked with mediating a truce between them so they can Hector to allow them to have some.

This mostly has Elena setting up various friendship things in order to force them to not only get along, but become the best of royal friends, as the song goes. This is not easy with how much the two bicker. It’s mostly just really fun as these characters are fun to watch. For as bad as Hector is, Abigail gets too caught up in outdoing him which leads to some funny moments.

I’ve always really enjoyed Hector back in his first appearance, mainly for how much fun Jess Harnell is clearly having. Thus I liked having him come back and get more to do, especially in this one with how he plays off Abigail. There’s even slight depth among the jokes, when he says he learned how to tie knots because he spent a lot of time alone as a kid…because the other kids were too awestruck by his genius, as he totally honestly claims.

It escalates in fun ways, like when they have to chop a tree and Isabel points that it’s a bad idea to give them sharp objects. That’s all but then it gets to the big take away. Elena is not just forcing them to get along, to become full on best friends. This fails because they are just too different and clash too much to really be friends. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t along when they need to.

It took them longer to learn that they must work together at least this once for the good of their kingdoms, because they thought they had to be friends when really they didn’t. This moral has two sides. You can’t force certain to be friends but the other side is more interesting.

Sometime you’ll have to work together with someone you don’t like and you have to stop acting like children to get things done but you don’t have to become best friends in the process. It’s a moral that frankly I think a lot of adults should listen to sometimes.

It’s well handled and works in making the story solid. Hector does soften up by the end which is nice to see. One aspect I wasn’t sure of is this small subplot between Princess Chloe, Gabe and Naomi. It’s a mild love triangle as there’s some teasing with the latter two. I still don’t know quite know how to feel about it since it does come a tad out of nowhere.

But these two don’t interact much on their own so it’s interesting to see and there are some nice moments with this. Since Elena isn’t involved in romance, which the finale makes even more clear in a way, I guess the friends had to end up with someone so this at least sets up that small moment later on. Your excuse for not pairing up characters of the same gender works…this time.

Also, there’s a part with Esteban that references that events of the previous episode, which I didn’t expect. It’s a good moment and in hindsight, may have been foreshadowing…

Anyway, this all works to create a highly enjoyable episode. The main dynamic makes for a lot of fun moments, the song is catchy, and the ending is very nice. It’s a well put together and satisfying story where things fall into place well and offers a solid moral. I liked this even more re-watching it as it’s very solid, as before I mostly just appreciation the moral.

It may not win a peace prize, but it can get the prize of being on this “list”. Hell yeah, bad puns are back!

The Magic Within

Writers: Tom Rogers and Rachel Ruderman

And here is the big special that essentially changed the course of the season  The episodes from here on out will be hard not to spoil due a big thing that happens. I may end up giving it away to an extent but hopefully I can hide the exact details. Even if the description on Disney+ gives it away.Seriously. Anyway, this was a big deal and this special managed to do it all quite well.

Carnival is here again and it seems to be really looking up as the gang manages to seemingly defeat and lock up the Delgados for good. Plus, Elena falls into a well and gets neat emotion fueled powers. However, when a certain secret comes to light, it changes things forever.

It’s the second half where all the big great stuff happens here. The rest is just pretty good but it wor4ks as build up for the big stuff. The first half mostly has them taking care of the villains and dealing with the emotion powers. That’s all fun and good, just nothing super amazing or anything.

There’s a subplot with Dona Paloma’s ego taking over that’s decent but I felt like Masks of Magic will always be the height of her stories. We also get introduced to Flo, a Pinata that is brought to life.

Frankly I mostly find her kind of annoying, as she feels like one of those forced re3minders that this is a Disney Jr show. It’s odd because this show is really good at avoiding those kind of things yet here is one during such an important episode. she even interrupts serious moments, which is a bit irksome. Granted, I did find her less annoying as time went on, since she stays for the rest of the show and is a bit more in the background. I even tolerated more in this one this time around, for the most part.

She does serve a narrative purpose as she ends up leading to that secret coming out. It works well enough but is every so slightly forced. Still, it at least is there for a reason.

Then it all comes out and things kick into high gear. I feel you’ll be able to tell what is is based on what I am saying even if I can’t say it exactly. It’s something that has been bubbling up since the start and it involves someone rather complicated. By this point, we’ve come to see them as mostly good despite their mistakes.

But when the truth is revealed, Elena feels like it may as well as just happened instead of it being years ago. There are two sides to this and as you’d expect, there was some discourse that picked just one side and ignored all the nuance. That is bound to happen and it does prove you’ve crafted an interesting story if you get people to care that much but so many people tend to just treat it as one sided.

In this case, one side is sympathetic but did make a mistake while the other was hurt but does perhaps act a bit irrationally. With how much we’ve gotten to know them, I was mostly on that certain characters side. Elena is indeed acting rash upon just hearing of all this, but she could have calmed down to think about all the good things they did that prove they’ve changed. And yet they still kept that secret for so long and I still ultimately get it.

But then they end up making more bad decisions that puts them on a different side for the rest of the season. This is the real reason this is a special, so we can have a whole second half to explore all this. From the reactions to it, to them getting on that side. The first half being a bit lesser is a necessary flaw so this can have time to play out.

Sofia had an episode like this and as great as that was, this being loner allows more time to explore it. It also continues to show the difference between this show and that one, with the protagonist reacts to everything and how it gets dealt with. There’s a fairly natural transition from the sides they are on, so it’s not like they change at the drop of a hat.

There’s also side shifting on the villain’s side, which I saw coming so I didn’t mind it here. It does take awhile for it to get addressed later on but it mostly worked when that happened.

This episode introduces some big status quo shifts and it handles it very well. As I said, you get both sides and it’s just heartbreaking that things come to this. The transition is done well and shakes this up in a solid way. There’s also fun stuff with the emotion magic but our next entry goes better into that, hint hint.

I will say this is the only special without at least one song I can say I really loved, but they were still good and weren’t exactly the focus as much. It still does it’s job in shaking things up and giving us big changes that would be explored further on.

It does it all right and works as a strong Wham episode. With all this, it certainly had the magic within to be strong. Shut up.

Dreamcatcher

Writer: Rachel Ruderman

If I were ranking this, this would my favorite of the non-specials on here. After the big swerve in our previous entry, I was looking forward to seeing more of how it affected Elena and we really get it here.

Elena is being troubled by some bad dreams, and it becomes very clear they are result of a certain betrayal from someone. However, she thinks it is best to just not talk about it because of how her new emotion magic will react. However, the new magic makes things from her dreams come into reality.

The theme of this episode isn’t totally new but I have mentioned before how it seems that in recent years there’s been a big push in family entertainment to teach people about the important of not holding in your emotions, There was Inside Out, that Littlest Pet Shop episode, that My Little Pony episode, and now this.  All have the same idea but approach it in different ways.

In all cases, we have someone dealing with tough stuff on the side put feeling they have to hold it all in or something bad will happen. Yet that just makes things worse as that will just cause you damage in the ling run. In this case, Elena has been really hurt by someone yet I get why she feels this way. That magic is not good when she feels bad so she has a better practical reason for wanting to hold it all in.

But again, it just makes things worse. The fact that her dreams represents this is obvious but it’s a solid road getting there. There’s some fun visuals in the dream world, and any time Zuzo is involved is a good thing. It’s done well enough so that it doesn’t feel like everyone is running around in circles trying to figure out what is going on.

This is a theme I really like seeing. I think it’s really important to show that actually talking about your feelings with others is the best way to get over them. As we see in all these examples, bottling them gets you nowhere. Sure it can be hard to address certain things but eventually ya gotta do it. It’s something I may or may not relate to.

This leads to the climax, where she finally gets to approach this certain someone and lets them have it. She tells them about what they have done to her and the family and it is pretty powerful. I don’t I talk about how Aimee is in this show and this episode really shows it is and especially in this moment with just how sad she really sounds.

She still acts a bit rash towards them, as we see them being truly regretful but it’s still important for it to be this way given how things play out in the finale. It’s a great moment and the final nit with get with this certain person is rather heartbreaking given it had to come to this. Plus the song is excellent, my favorite of the season.

We also get to see how Isabel feels about this…sort of. She wants to talk about it, Elena refuses but decides to do so…and the credits roll before we really see them do it. I’m glad Isa was addressed but she seems to slide into the background when the focus isn’t on her. It’s not a big problem for but worth noting, it should have been explore more.

Otherwise, this is a great episode that was really needed. It addresses more of the fall out of The Magic Within in a very good way and is an important step in the story. It teaches a great message about how to handle these tough emotions and has a powerful ending. Add in some fun visuals and a great song, and yet you get a really solid outing.

There’s an obvious dream pun I can end this on, but I will spare you that…this time.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Jewel of Maru (Ron Holsey), Snow Place like Home (Tom Rogers) and Flower of Light (Silvia Olivas): These are all the holiday episodes I couldn’t include since I already reviewed them. Each is really good though, with plenty of emotional moments. The first started season 2 very well, Flower of Right had some nice stuff, and Snow Place Like Home developed Esteban further in a good way. That one honestly would be my pick for Season 2 if again, I didn’t already talk about it, and I wanted to use that space to talk about something else.

Rise of the Sorceress (Don Perez): It mostly just serves just to have Shurki reintroduce herself for good to everyone but does that well with a lot of suspense. And the song is really well edited.

Song of the Sirenas (Silvia Olivas and Rachel Ruderman): It’s brought down by a mixed use of Disney’s twist villain fetish but introduces this Sirena world well, and the songs are really good.

Spirit of a Wizard (Rachel Ruderman): Mateo finds a way to bring Alakar back and it’s highly enjoyable with an emotional payoff. I’d say it’s kinda better than Scepter of Night but I wanted to talk about that one more.

Día de las Madres (Rachel Ruderman): This episode is really cute. It has nice flashbacks and again gets to address that certain someone, even if it feels slightly incomplete in a way.

Also, I must mentioned Sweetheart’s Day, for being a musical episode. And To Queen or Not To queen, just for that bit where someone says Elena doesn’t even sound like a princess name, then goes “Now Sofia, that’s a princess name” Nice.

And of course our last one is…

Coronation Day

Writers: Craig Gerber and Rachel Ruderman

Once again we got a big finale to cover, and yet again I will be very much praising it. Like with Sofia, it got to be a full hour and so it has more time to really wraps thing up pretty well, for the most part.

After so long, is is finally time for Elena to be crowned queen but of course the villains have to show up to put a damper on it. But things got worse as a new set of baddies is unleashed, and everyone is put to the test to put an end to the threat.

At this point, I feel like I say the same things about finales and due to spoilers I can’t exactly say a lot anyway. In this case there isn’t really a lot to the stuff that happened prior to spoil beyond that thing the last couple entries were all about. That and Carla’s mother, Ash Delgado became the new main villain. The way she came in at first was amusingly forced but she was a good addition nonetheless in the end. And there’s a shift with Victor and Carla that you can guess based on how I am phrasing this, that was a thing too.

As for the finale itself, it basically does everything it needs to and then some. But it has the usual little things you can pick at, depending on your view. Finales always have a few balls in the air and some people will be more into certain aspects of a series. Thus, most finales won’t be able to do everything perfectly and some may take more issue with some getting short thanked.

In this case, there isn’t like a ton of little things it is spotlighting per say and the big things it does gets equal time to play out. The action gets mainly split between Elena and Ash in the spirit world while everyone else has to deal with these spirits known as the Four Shades of Awesome that got summoned by someone.

It’s good they split that up to get everyone time to do plenty. However, this new threat ends up being more or less the big bad and thus is given bigger and more serious treatment in the overall story. In contrast, Ash’s stuff is not so big and she gets taken care of in and a bit more of a silly way.

On its own it is kinda clever but even for me it was a bit odd. Granted, it does help subvert expectations and the Shades do serve as unique threats. Each has a different power and a guest voice, including Mark Hamill and Jenny Slate. Ash is fun and all but more typical in comparison so I get needing guys these to come to take over.

Although Jenny’s character basically ends up being the biggest threat and thus we still have a sassy female villain  that this universe loves. I’m not complaining. There is a nice moment beforehand with Carla at least. But it’s not really followed up on. We don’t get much in terms of Victor and Carla’s side to the Ash thing after Elena and her go to the spirit world. It’s a case where a piece I think is important is just kind of missing. Not the biggest deal but it’s problem I had.

As for another issue, they introduced another baddie with Chatana earlier in the season and she is built up like she will add a lot. And she does not, she ends up being kinda there. It’s a shame, she was kinda cool but in the end, doesn’t add up to much. That’s all I have for notable complaints though, everything else is really good.

There are some little things to mention. Patrick Warbuton voices a character and it thought it would be one of the shades, specifically the big strong one. But shockingly, nope. He’s some bird spirit instead. He is pretty fun here, and the way they resolve the thing he gets involved is clever, if perhaps disappointing given it is the Ash thing I mentioned before.

To make up for it, there’s a joke during the section in the spirit world that is surprisingly dark for this show, and I love it. Let’s just say someone now has a body count to their name.

Near the end, Elena has to pick someone to do this royal dance with and they do something where she approaches each of her friends to make it seem like she picks one of them when she actually goes for someone else. This was teased earlier with a small bit where Gabe and Mateo ask her about the subject, hinting at shipping without giving me bad Party of  a Lifetime flashbacks.

So when do this tease is is a shipping one of sorts…and they do it with Naomi first and thus kind of go the farthest with it. She asks her about something else and yet it almost seems like a marriage proposal or something.  I ain’t saying they fully intened to be teasing us here but I will see it that way. And hey, two supporting female characters get a flirty moment in the final song so…close enough?

(Plus, we’ll always have She–Ra, heh)

Onto the bigger stuff, there’s plenty of fun action and they split things, with everyone getting a solid moment. Isabel for example gets to set up  a bit. That’s all fun but the highlight is how they wrap up everything with that certain someone I keep going on about. I knew they’d stick the landing but there was a lot of pressure for them to get it right as they got it all done so far but perhaps leaned too far into one side and not enough of the understandable aspects of why this character did what they did.

Here they address all that. The biggest picture of this arc is now all laid out and it leads to some great stuff. Something is revealed that makes sense given what we’ve been told before and give us a bigger idea of this character wants what they do. Of course this get in a way that shows them they went about it the wrong way and all that good stuff.

The song Never Too Late demonstrates it in a beautiful way, as I discuss in the song list. The songs in general are especially good here due to having an orchestra backing them up and this uses that the best. Plus, on the final soundtrack they released, they include some of the score tracks and they are pretty great.

The scene where this is all comes to a head is fantastic. It becomes clear what Elena’s test is and it is a very important theme is done well on both sides. It is a pitch perfect resolution to this and is is beautifully done. It’s what really elevates the finale, as it is the thing a final thesis and ties everything back into the characters.

That’s what a good finale really should. Along with all the big stakes, you gotta remember what the most important part of the series is and really bring it home. They really did that there.

To top it all off, the ending itself is very nice and there is a special appearance that was awesome to see and truly brings the greater Everrealm Cinematic Universe to a close as well just this show.

Overall, Coronation Day is a great finale. It has the usual small quibbles but the core of it is very strong. It has the usual high stakes and action we’d expect but the emotional core is very effective. Elena’s journey ends strongly and that certain character’s arc is closed out well with some great moments.

If I had to pick, I’d say I like the Sofia finale more personally but this was still very satisfying. This at least actually has a big finale song. Either way, it is very good and ended this series on a pretty great note.

That’s about all I got, it’s a very solid way to end our list.

 

And those were my favorite Elena of Avalor episodes from seasons 2 and 3. This was a bit weird compared to my other lists like this. I spent a lot of time talking about bigger picture stuff and episodes that feed into it. Especially when it comes to that one character. On a side note, it’s so weird that this show managed to be the hardest to hide spoilers for. I talk about serialized shows sometimes and yet this is the one I had mild trouble with. That’s why I don’t exactly about them too often, at least not in a bigger way like this,

Anyway, I don’t have a deep wrapup like some of the others. This is show I quite liked, but mostly as extension to Sofia which I had a bigger emotional connection to. Again, this is a series I connected to, just not in a way that makes me want to get super sappy with. Still, it was indeed pretty good.

As a Sofia extension, it’s a spinoff that stood on its own since that’s what it was created as from the inception anyway. It was able to carve its own path and do its own thing. It’s really interesting to compare how it tackles similar concepts. Quality wise, I did find myself more connected to Sofia and personally I tend to like its best episodes a bit more.

Just comparing the SFE I did for them, Sofia did have more stand alone episodes that stood out. But that’s mostly due to their approaches to the whole story arc thing. Elena did end up focusing more on the bigger picture later on and as a result those stories were better than the stand alones.

However, Elena can be seen as better as far as that stuff goes, it did handle the overarching story better and the ways it did things differently did tend to be slightly better in some ways., Elena was able to be more mature and bit darker which doesn’t always mean better but in this they handled that way. It still technically being Disney Junior did hold it back a bit in that way I discussed but it did prevent it from going too far with certain things like other shows may have done.

It doesn’t matter which is better though, Elena of Avalor managed to be quite good as a followup. It certainly stretched what you could do on Disney Jr in pretty interesting ways. It still likable characters, great songs and solid storytelling all around. It wasn’t without some bumps as I mentioned but it was a pretty solid ride all to the very end.

So yeah, I bid farewell to this very solid show. It seems like a lot of the shows I was attached to ended over the past few years. At the moment, the biggest shows tend to be the new guard, so to speak. DuckTales 2017 is ending soon so I guess the biggest cartoon on the main 3 still standing is The Loud House. Most of these ended when they needed to, and it allows for those recent hits to really get the spotlight now. Still sad to see all these shows I was attached to go.

Anyway, Elena can be added to that pile and it is a solid addition to it. Once again I must give a big thank you to the crew of this show for making it so good and creating such a solid followup that can stand strong on its own. I can very much looking forward to whatever Craig Gerber does next, even with this universe being over, for now at least.

Hopefully it’s as good as what we have so far. So…yeah, solid stuff. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t for whatever reasons, it’s quite good. …That is all.

See ya.

About Spongey444

I'm 25 and I mostly spend my time watching TV and movies, hence why I ended doing a blog all about those things. I tend to have weird tastes, but I like think I'm just fair on things. Actually nah, I have bad tastes.
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