“Mom? I’m four years older than her!” “I just saw the crow’s feet and assumed.”
In “Keeper of the Spire,” Adira tells Rapunzel that she needs to find a missing piece of the scroll concerning the rocks. Rapunzel and her friends head to the Spire, a mountain with a museum of magical artifacts. There they meet the Keeper, a short, pompous woman named Calliope who says she can take them to the scroll piece. However, she seems more interested in showing them magic tricks and may not be telling the truth.
“Keeper of the Spire,”makes it a point to show that Rapunzel, who is normally patient to a fault, finds Calliope extremely annoying. Calliope also drives everyone else crazy, including the audience. This is yet another in a long line of episodes of Tangled the Series/Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure that contain bizarre messages. Calliope is self-important, loud, inconsiderate and tends to take credit for other people’s work. She takes and throws Cassandra’s sword off of the mountain to prove they can make it to the top without it, and then says it was really Rapunzel’s fault for making the handle slippery with her “palm sweat.” We even learn that she lied and is, in fact, the Keeper’s apprentice rather than the actual Keeper.
I don’t understand the ending of “Keeper of the Spire,” in which Calliope gets to become the real Keeper and raise a baby Kurlock, a bear-like creature that guards the Spire. The Keeper for whom she has been apprenticing says that he recognized the trait of perseverance in her, and that’s why he took her on in the first place. But her perceived “perseverance” comes off more like arrogance and hard-headedness. They go out of their way to make this character irredeemably annoying and rude, then near the end they dump her backstory about being an unsuccessful street magician and meeting the Keeper on the audience, and then she gets exactly what she wants, and the Keeper praises her for never giving up.
This comes out of nowhere, and it feels very unsatisfying. Why set Calliope up as being literally the only person who’s annoying enough to get to Rapunzel, show how incompetent yet prideful she is, then give her everything she wants in the ending? She doesn’t even learn anything. Even Rapunzel praises her for getting them there, despite Lance and Cass playing a large part in keeping everyone alive. They could have had Calliope learn humility or restraint or something, or even Rapunzel/Cassandra/whoever could have learned tolerance. But instead “Keeper of the Spire” has a narrative that makes no sense, and none of the characters learn anything. Once more, I’m just wondering what the show’s writers are even trying to do. This isn’t only bad for the story and characters; this is a really weird message to send kids. “You just be as annoying and self-absorbed and useless as you want, and everyone will have to deal with it!” But again, they don’t even make any point about tolerating different kinds of people. They intentionally build Calliope up as annoying and inept, and nothing comes of it.
As for the other characters, there’s not much to say here. Cassandra is annoying as usual, although she’s absolutely right about Calliope. She’s the first one to turn on her, and she’s right to do it. Cass spends the better part of the episode chastising Rapunzel for following/trusting Calliope and complaining about everything (big surprise there). There’s one scene where Eugene suggests that Rapunzel walk in back of the party with him and Cassandra as a buffer between her and Calliope, as they both have experience being annoyed by people. Cassandra remarks that she has experience being annoyed with him, which is neither funny nor necessary. I don’t understand Cassandra’s constant nagging of Rapunzel and picking on Eugene without cause. There have been a couple of episodes where she and Eugene became friends and got to know each other better, so why retread negative interactions that were never entertaining to begin with? If this weren’t a Disney cartoon, I’d guess they’re trying to suggest that Cassandra is secretly in love with Rapunzel, and trying to get Eugene out of the picture. But as-is, she’s just a character they’re regressing and not really doing anything with.
Rapunzel, on the other hand, is too nice to Calliope in “Keeper of the Spire.” Unlike Eugene, Cassandra, and Lance, Rapunzel shields Calliope’s feelings by pretending to be wowed by her magic tricks and humoring her even while being chided for mispronouncing words like “spire.” It feels like Rapunzel should confront Calliope sooner than she does, and again, shouldn’t praise her so highly when they arrive. Rapunzel is nothing if not kind, but it isn’t warranted here. If “Rapunzel’s Enemy” taught Rapunzel that not everyone would like her, maybe “Keeper of the Spire” would have been a good opportunity to teach her that she doesn’t have to like and get along with everyone. But no, they’d rather do absolutely nothing with the characters, making this annoying episode pointless, to add insult to injury.
Eugene and Lance have very little to do this time, meaning “Keeper of the Spire” is distinctly female-centric. They’re there, of course, but Eugene only gets a couple of one-liners while Lance offers Rapunzel Socky, a sock full of fluff he evidently squeezes when annoyed or overwhelmed. This feels weird, as they’ve turned equal members of the party into background characters for this episode. Why not either give them a bigger part, or make this an adventure for Rapunzel and Cassandra alone, like “Vigor the Visionary” was for Rapunzel and Eugene?
“Keeper of the Spire” has some beautiful animation, particularly on the real Keeper and on the library/museum. I like the design of the Kurlock, though it seems like they could have given it more than horns and markings to distinguish it from a normal bear. There are no musical numbers here, but the score is nice.
Overall, “Keeper of the Spire” stinks. The plot is dumb, the characters don’t learn or grow, and Calliope and Cassandra are beyond obnoxious, especially together. The animation is good and I found the thing with Lance and Socky funny, but otherwise, you can skip this one and sleep fine at night.