In “The Brothers Hook,” Cassandra is about to shoot an apple off of Hookfoot’s head when Eugene takes it. Cass remarks that it’s their last apple, prompting a fight over the apple amongst the gang. Meanwhile, Rapunzel finds a poster advertising a piano concert by Hookhand, Hookfoot’s brother and one of the original bar thugs from Tangled. They all agree to attend the concert and meet up with their old friend. After the performance, Hookhand is elated to see Rapunzel in particular. Hookfoot is noticeably uncomfortable, and Hookhand mockingly asks him about his “razzle dazzle” dancing. Hookhand and the others reminisce as Rapunzel probes Hookfoot about his past dancing; it was his life’s dream, he says, and despite having similarly artsy aspirations, his brother constantly teased and humiliated him for it. Hookfoot says he’s glad that the visit is over and they can leave, but Hookhand comes back and tells them they’re all going the same way; Rapunzel and the gang will ride with him.
Rapunzel tells Hookfoot that he has to confront his brother with his true feelings about how he’s been treated. He does so, and Hookhand tells him to get over it. Hookhand arrives at his next big performance three minutes late, and his employer, King Trevor, isn’t happy. He informs Hookhand that if he plays one note wrong, he’ll end his career as a pianist. Rapunzel confronts Hookhand, reminding him that without her and Eugene’s support of his dream, he’d still be wearing an unpolished hook in the Snuggly Duckling tavern. Hookhand goes out to perform for the King and gives a speech about the importance of dreams and supporting those you care about. This makes Hookfoot regret a prank he pulled for revenge: he stuck fish in the keys of Hookhand’s piano. He lunges forward to remove the fish, humiliating Hookhand and angering King Trevor. Rapunzel challenges the King to a dance-off against Hookfoot to save the careers of both brothers; with the support of his brother and friends, Hookfoot wins by a landslide. The two brothers reconcile and decide to tour together, with Rapunzel giving Hookfoot her blessing to leave the expedition.
I have to say, I’m surprised to see Hookhand again; throughout Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure so far, they’ve included several of the original bar thugs prominently, like Shorty, Attila, and Big Nose. I had assumed they were avoiding Hookhand (the main bar thug in the original movie) because they didn’t want to pay Brad Garrett to appear in the TV series. They have had most of the film’s (surviving) cast on the show at some point or another, so that seemed the only logical explanation, that maybe he would be more expensive than some of the other side characters. At least based on the information available right now, it looks like “The Brothers Hook” is Garrett/Hookhand’s only credited episode, so maybe that is the case, and they just wanted to do a cameo episode. Either way, it’s good to see the character again. King Trevor is voiced by Bradley Whitford, and he’s funny as the effeminate, whiny king. The dance-off near the end is ridiculous, but that’s what they were going for, and it is funny.
I like the idea of giving Hookhand and Hookfoot this backstory, and the ending of “The Brothers Hook” is absolutely perfect. I would not have guessed they’d send one of Rapunzel’s traveling buddies off like this, but it makes perfect sense to have Hookfoot go on tour with his brother. It even gives the episode a kind of bittersweet ending, although it’s not “There’s Something About Hookfoot” levels of sadness. Some of the conflict between the brothers almost seems comical; Hookhand’s (now successful) goal to become a concert pianist isn’t any tougher or more manly than his brother wanting to be a dancer. As such, it’s hard to understand why he sees any distinction, other than because he wants to torment his little brother. However, the episode is comedic overall, rather than a sappy, dramatic reunion. I think that’s OK, really; after all, the last episode starring Hookfoot was surprisingly emotional for a kid’s TV series, but it still wasn’t that good.
I have mixed feelings about Hookhand’s song, “Livin’ the Dream.” Much like last week’s “Hurt Incantation,” it’s based on and inverting a song from the original Tangled, this time “I’ve Got a Dream.” I’d argue the effect is less successful this time for a number of reasons. The song is quite funny at times, and the visuals during this sequence are pretty and unique, but Garrett’s voice is off somehow. It’s been almost ten years since the film was released, so it’s entirely possible that this is just the effect age has had on his voice, and there’s little that can be done for that. But personally, I found it distracting, so I think it’s worth mentioning. Musically, it also sounds off, likely because it’s trying to sound like “I’ve Got a Dream” but the syllables in each verse are different than they were in that song. I was also partial to “I’ve Got a Dream” because it shows the perspectives of several characters in Tangled, and it’s upbeat and optimistic and extremely clever with its word choice. As I mentioned, the sequence containing “Livin’ the Dream” has some things going for it, but it never touches the song to which they’re paying tribute.
My one big gripe here isn’t even the fault of this particular episode, but more so the season as a whole and the placement of “The Brothers Hook” within it. It feels like in season 2, every time we get an important/plot-based episode, it’s followed by a barrage of filler/slice-of-life episodes. This takes away any urgency offered by episodes like “Beyond the Corona Walls” or “Rapunzel and the Great Tree.” Every show has filler, but it matters how much and how it’s used. Avatar: The Last Airbender used a filler episode in Book 2: Earth, “Tales of Ba Sing Se,” to develop several of its principal characters and show the audience more of the great city. Because of this, it’s considered one of the series’ best and most emotional episodes. Most shows aren’t going to be able to pull off something like that, but it would be nice to see some effort. “The Brothers Hook” is the 15th episode of season two, and we’ve only had three plot-advancing episodes. This is a series for kids that airs on the Disney Channel, but I think the earlier example of Avatar makes that point moot. Kids deserve smart entertainment that challenges them to think, and Disney has adult fans as well. If Tangled: The Series/Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure had been introduced as a series of unrelated wacky adventures with some pretty imagery and the lead actors returning, I would still have watched it. But why construct such a potentially interesting story and character development for our heroine if you’re going to ignore it for much of the season?
Overall, “The Brothers Hook” is a pretty good episode of Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure, although I’m somewhat disappointed that yet again we’re getting a side adventure right after a big, plot-based episode like “Rapunzel and the Great Tree.” This week’s song is nothing special, but the score is good, as always, and the episode is visually interesting. I appreciate character-based episodes like “The Brothers Hook,” it’s just unfortunate that this series has so many of them, and so many that don’t advance the main story or characters at all. Filler should be used to take a break from the stress and intensity of the plot and character development, not the other way around.