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Recap / Tangled The Series S3E01 "Rapunzel's Return"

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She abandons her friends...
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...but he manages to redeem himself.
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After Cassandra merges herself with the Moonstone, she reveals to Rapunzel and Eugene that, when she entered the House of Yesterday's Tomorrow, a mysterious spirit showed her a memory of her being abandoned by her mother at the age of four before being adopted by the Captain of the Guard. This mother is none other than Mother Gothel, and Cassandra now blames Rapunzel for being cast aside in favor of her. Rapunzel attempts to appeal to Cassandra, trying to convince her that her being Gothel's daughter makes them sisters and that they can work this out together, but Cassandra rejects her and flees.

Once Rapunzel and her group return to Corona, they discover the kingdom has been overtaken by the Separatists of Saporia, led by Andrew, with the aid of their old friend Varian. In spite of this, it is soon revealed that Varian only helped the Saporians because he wanted to have a fresh start, and erased the kingdom's memories of his misdeeds. However, when the Saporians reveal they intend to destroy the people of Corona, Varian turns against them and sides with Rapunzel. Following the Saporians' defeat, Rapunzel uses the Decay Incantation to free Quirin from the amber, and Varian reconciles with the both of them.

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Tropes in this episode:

  • The Atoner: Varian.
    • Even before pulling Heel–Face Turn, he wants everything back to the way it was, but hates himself for what he's done, feels he won't be forgiven, and tries to get everyone to forget instead.
    • When the Saporians reveal their true goal, he decides that actually making up for what he's done is better than sweeping it under the rug and switches sides.
    • Near the end of the episode, he even intends to sacrifice his life to "clean up [his] own mess"; thankfully, Rapunzel doesn't let him.
  • Balloonacy: Eugene and Rapunzel do this with paper lanterns at the end of "Stronger Than Ever Before", as do Maximus and Pascal once they've finally caught the crown.
  • Beard of Evil: When Varian first appears in the episode and reveals that he has helped the Saporians take over Corona, he has a goatee. Parodied in that it is just drawn on and Lance wipes it off with his thumb. This happens as soon as Varian is redeemed.
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  • Berserk Button: Cassandra has been "waiting" her entire life, only for nothing to come of it. She's done "waiting". Rapunzel telling her to wait is what pushes Cassandra to turn her back on her former friend.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Varian pulls a Heel–Face Turn, reconciles with Rapunzel, and is finally reunited with his father, but Cassandra runs off with the Moonstone and is angry at Rapunzel for what happened in her childhood, while Arianna and Frederic lost their memories leaving Rapunzel to take over for them as they recover.
  • Break the Cutie: In the flashback, the little Cassandra breaks into tears when it sinks in that her mother has abandoned her and left with some other child.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Andrew returns as one of the episode’s main antagonists.
    • Varian also returns since we've last seen him in "Secret of the Sundrop".
  • Call-Forward: How Pascal and Maximus chase after the tiara is the same way they chase after the rings during the wedding.
  • Childhood Home Rediscovery: Cassandra is led back to her childhood home by a mysterious figure and remembers that she was Gothel's daughter.
  • Connected All Along: Cassandra is revealed to be the biological daughter of Gothel, Rapunzel's adoptive mother, so in a sense, Rapunzel and Cassandra are sisters.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Pascal makes Varian drop the balls of quirineon by giving him a wet willy with his tongue, just like he did to wake Flynn up after Rapunzel knocked him out.
    • The reverse incantation from "Rapunzel and the Great Tree" returns, and is used to free Quirin.
    • In the flashback, Gothel is worse for wear after her visit from the castle, given her attempt to cut a lock of baby Rapunzel's magic hair greatly diminished her youth.
  • Costume Evolution: Rapunzel and Eugene swap from adventurous clothing to more regal/professional attire, reflecting their character growth and that they now have a kingdom to look after while the king and queen recover.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • "Waiting in the Wings" returns in a much more ominous manner as Cassandra vows vengeance for always being in Rapunzel's shadow.
    • Even before that, there's a tragic reprise where Cassandra and her younger self sing the same song. This time, it's about young Cassandra wishing and waiting for love, whilst Cassandra comes to realize where her drive for approval came from.
  • Double Meaning: For Cassandra, "Crossing The Line" means she is pushing past the walls that have always blocked her from achieving her goals in life. For the audience, she's turning her back on everybody that cares about her and cementing her role as the new villain of the series.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Varian created a Memory Erasing chemical and named it after his father, so everyone will remember how they failed to help him. Lance and Eugene immediately point out the flaw in this logic.
    • Rapunzel gives Varian a bucket of water to snap her out of the Reverse Incantation, but it evaporates the second it touches her skin, just like everything else. Thankfully, she snaps out of it on her own.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Rapunzel tries to relate with Cassandra that they were both abused under Gothel's care, but Cass just shuts it down.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted. Cassandra was Mother Gothel's biological daughter, but the latter never treated her as a daughter. At best, she was a little servant while at worst, she was a burden who was always underfoot.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Eugene makes fun of the idea Andrew and his group could actually take over the kingdom by themselves, only for a very familiar chemical ball to stop him in his tracks, revealing Varian has teamed up with them. Eagle-eyed viewers might have also noticed the chemical balls by Andrew's man bun when he first showed himself.
  • Five Stages of Grief: After Cassandra's betrayal, Rapunzel goes through them during the entire special:
    • Denial: Rapunzel acts very cheerful and excited to return to Corona, acting like everything is great and comments that Cass' betrayal was "very bad" in a nonchalant tone.
    • Anger: As Rapunzel forges her new frying pan, she is seething with anger about how Cassandra did her dirty, so much that she refuses to even mention her by name.
    • Bargaining: Rapunzel irrationally believes all she can do is to salvage her whole ordeal by trying to stop Varian and the Saporians alone to take back her kingdom. Clearly, a subconscious desire to erase her pain of Cassandra's betrayal.
    • Depression: Rapunzel goes to Cassandra's quarters and cries over how the best friend who was always there for her is gone. In the dungeon cell, Rapunzel even laments how someone she trusted betrayed her, and wonders if she can ever trust anyone again.
    • Acceptance: The special ends with Rapunzel finally ready to talk about Cassandra with Eugene.
  • Flashback: The episode begins with a flashback to Cassandra's time in the mysterious door she entered in "Rapunzeltopia", which Cassandra is recounting to Rapunzel while the flashback is taking place.
  • Foil:
    • Both Cassandra and Varian were offered a chance by Rapunzel to turn back from their dark path. Cassandra rejected her chance to go back to being Rapunzel's friend, whereas Varian came to realize Rapunzel's still his friend despite everything he's done and wishes to undo his misdeeds.
    • Rapunzel and Cassandra both lived with Gothel and were mistreated by her. But while Rapunzel eventually saw the light and the true monster Gothel was, Cassandra's still in the dark that Gothel's not a mother worth mourning for.
    • During "Rapunzeltopia", Rapunzel came out of the experience having faced her demons in the form of dream!Gothel. Cassandra, on the other hand, came out of the House of Yesterday's Tomorrow with newly-formed demons, thanks to revisiting her memories of Gothel.
  • Foreshadowing: After Andrew defeats Rapunzel and her friends in the throne room with a chemical bomb, Varian looks at them with regret, hinting his remorse about his actions and Heel–Face Turn.
  • For Want of a Nail: Like Cassandra, Varian reaches out to Rapunzel while she chants the Reverse Incantation. Unlike Cassandra, he's saved from horrible disfigurement by the fact that he's wearing much heavier gloves and douses her with water seconds before touching her, causing his gloves to melt but protecting his hands.
  • Freudian Excuse: So why did Cassandra betray Rapunzel and take the Moon Opal? Because she is the daughter of Mother Gothel, who neglected to give her any real love or affection. And she had learned that on the fateful night Rapunzel was kidnapped, Gothel had abandoned Cass in favor of the infant princess. (Although it wasn't out of love or favoritism that Goth chose Rapunzel, but the simple fact she could make her live forever).
  • Friend or Idol Decision: After the Saporians reveal their true intentions to Varian, he has to decide whether to go with their scheme or listen to Rapunzel. He chooses the latter, thus initiating his Heel–Face Turn.
  • From Bad to Worse: Defied, then played straight when Eugene and Lance try to save the King and Queen from the carriage.
    Eugene: How can things get any worse?
    (Carriage comes to a gentle stop on top of a hill)
    (The carriage slowly starts to roll back down the hill)
    Eugene: There's that irony.
  • Godzilla Threshold: As dangerous as the Reverse Incantation is, Rapunzel decides to use it again because it is the only option left to free Varian's father.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Varian returns to the side of good after the Saporians intend to use his quirineons to hurt people instead of erasing their memories, as well as Rapunzel explaining to him that she didn't mean to break her promise to him and that he still has a chance to redeem himself to everyone.
  • Hidden Depths: Shorty, of all people, is fluent in miming, so much he can understand everything Ulf mimes.
  • Hope Spot: During the song "Crossing the Line", Rapunzel seems to momentarily get through to Cassandra...that is, until she asks her to "wait". Cassandra believes she has been waiting her entire life, only for nothing to come of it, so she takes umbrage and turns her back on her former friend.
  • Immediate Sequel: This episode picks up right where "Destinies Collide" left off.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Rapunzel begs Cassandra to wait so they could talk their issues out. Rapunzel doesn't know that Cassandra believes she has been waiting her entire life, only for nothing to come of it. Hence, she takes umbrage at Rapunzel's misunderstood wording.
  • Ironic Echo: Cass cuts the bridge between her and Rapunzel, more or less the same thing her mother did to her. Bonus points in that it took a single, well-meaning word to prompt the act ("Mama"/"Wait").
  • Irony: Despite that Cassandra's betrayal should've destroyed Rapunzel's trust in anyone close to her (much less a former friend), the experience helps her to relate to Varian and even rebuild the bridge between them.
  • I've Come Too Far: Varian intends to erase everyone's memories because he doesn't believe they'll forgive him for what he's done, so it's better to forget.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Young Cassandra says this as the Captain lovingly adopts her.
  • "I Want" Song: A dark example. Cassandra's half of "Crossing The Line" is about how she is tired of working so hard for what she wants only to be denied it, while her "best friend" gets everything Cassandra ever wanted handed to her just because she's The Chosen One. Now, with the means to get everything she believes she is owed, she's going to take it, and will burn every bridge she's built just to get it.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Clementine has a Saporian Wand of Oblivion, which can erase people's memories. Varian has made a new element out of it and intends to mass-produce it to erase the memories of everyone in Corona.
  • Last-Second Chance: Rapunzel gives one to Cassandra, convincing her that she's her friend and potential sister and they can work together, but she refuses.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the last special, this episode is dark at some points, but ends on a positive note.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Gothel is the one who abandoned Cassandra; yet, she blames Rapunzel for her mother's actions, even though Rapunzel was just a baby at the time and kidnapped by Gothel. Also, she endured 18 years of emotional manipulation, was kept from her grieving parents and confined in a tower while being used for her ability to make Gothel young again. Just like Cass, Rapunzel is a victim, and she wasn't loved by Gothel either. Cassandra simply associates Rapunzel with getting everything she ever wanted, even her own mother's love.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Owl stays by Cassandra's side, even after she takes the Moonstone betraying her friends.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • Rapunzel points out she and Cass were abused (one way or another) by Gothel. Unfortunately, this leads to Cassandra arguing the contrary. Despite their similarities at having been mistreated by Gothel, she only sees how different they are: one struggling for what they want with nothing to show for it whilst the other was practically born for greatness.
    • Rapunzel also sees how she and Varian have experienced broken trust at the hands of a close friend.
  • Not What I Signed on For: Varian turns on the Saporians when they reveal they intend to destroy Corona.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Maximus expresses a silent one when he sees the carriage heading right for him.
    • Varian, when he sees his gloves dissolve as the Hurt Incantation is made, and he realizes he's unable to get Rapunzel to stop once she's sufficiently gotten his father out, so he panics.
  • Parental Abandonment: When it came to choosing between her daughter and the flower, Gothel outright abandoned Cassandra.
  • Parental Neglect: Gothel treated Cassandra less like a daughter and more like a servant, having her clean the house while Gothel was out looking for the flower. Sadly, if the "Waiting in the Wings" reprise is any indication, young Cassandra was no stranger to being left alone at home for hours at a time.
  • Pet the Dog: Monty Montgomery smiles when Rapunzel says she even missed him, though doesn't show it. Initially, he isn't even happy to see her when she returns.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Defied. Varian intends to stay on the flying ship to take it high and blow it up without causing harm, to "clean up [his] own mess". Rapunzel lands him on the nearest roof and stays to do it herself pointing out that she has the magic indestructible hair to protect her from the explosion.
  • Reflective Eyes: Cassandra is reflected into Rapunzel's eyes as she is telling her the truth.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Discussed. Varian realizes all of the terrible things he has done but believes no one would forgive him, which is why he wants to cause everyone to forget what he did.
  • Restart the World: Varian's plan was to erase everyone's memories of the past year, so that no one will remember his crimes against the kingdom, and then they will remember him as a hero. The Saporians, on the other hand, want to execute this trope by destroying Corona, making sure there is nothing left of it so that they can rebuild Saporia.
  • The Reveal: Cassandra is Gothel's daughter, abandoned by her for Rapunzel the night she was kidnapped.
  • Roundabout Shot: Rapunzel and Eugene get one together towards the end of the final song.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • During her song in the flashback, Young Cassandra brushes dust off of a small, heart-shaped pillow, indicating how her mother neglects to show love to her daughter in return.
    • Varian is revealed sporting a Beard of Evil. Later it is revealed that the Beard of Evil is drawn on, as if to show he was putting up a front and didn't really become evil. After he cements his Heel–Face Turn, Lance rubs the beard off of him.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Andrew undoes his man-bun and shakes his hair loose.
  • So Proud of You: Quirin reveals to Varian that the letter said that he's proud of him.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Crossing the Line" is about Cassandra cementing her Face–Heel Turn and betraying Rapunzel, but the tone of the song is heroic and triumphant, more along the lines of Let it Go or Defying Gravity than a typical Villain Song.
  • Stepford Smiler: Rapunzel copes with Cass's betrayal by pretending nothing is wrong. Eugene tells her that it's okay to be upset and not to keep her feelings inside.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • No one in Corona wants to stand up against the Saporians because the king and queen are under their control, so they'd be charged with treason if they tried to rebel.
    • Gothel was abusive towards Rapunzel and only cared about the flower and its youth/immortality-bestowing properties. It's no shock that she wasn't a better mother to her biological daughter either.
  • Symbolically Broken Object:
    • In Cassandra's flashback, Gothel cuts down the bridge that connected to her house, grimly representing how she abandoned and cut ties with her daughter.
    • In the same flashback, when Gothel abandons her, Cassandra drops her music box, and it shatters, representing her heart breaking.
    • In the present, Cass uses Adira's blade to cut the bridge connecting her and Rapunzel, destroying their friendship and abandoning her friend just like her mother abandoned her.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Varian curls into a ball and admits that while he only ever wanted to make his father proud, if Quirin had witnessed what his son has done these past months, he'd be ashamed.
  • The Unreveal: Quirin is free from the amber, but the note he wrote was dissolved in the process. So we don't know what he wrote.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Cassandra is revealed to be the biological daughter of Gothel.
    • Varian makes a Heel–Face Turn.
    • Quirin is finally freed from the amber.
    • The king and queen have their memory erased, so until she finds a way to fix it, Rapunzel is in charge.
  • What You Are in the Dark: When it seems like Rapunzel would be stuck in her Reverse-Incantation-Mode after using it to save Quirin, Varian promises that he won't give up on her, even after witnessing firsthand what kind of harm might come to him if he touched her. Not that he was able to do anything before she woke up, but it's the thought that counts.
  • Written by the Winners: Discussed. Varian feels that he's done so many horrible deeds, believing people will never forgive him or be grateful if he tried to fix things. So, by making everyone forget his misdeeds, they will only remember him as a friend. Rapunzel points out what Varian will create is a society born out of lies and not out of free will.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: The Saporians lie about backing Varian's plan to erase everyone's memories; halfway through the episode, he learns that actually, they want to use quirineon's explosive properties to destroy Corona.
  • You Will Be Spared: Cassandra has no intention of killing Rapunzel... yet. But she makes it clear Rapunzel better leave her alone before she reconsiders.

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