A Look at Disney: Villains Profile: Chancellor Esteban
As I continue my look at Fallen Heroes, we come across yet another exciting subcategory, what I refer to as the reluctant villain. I.E. a villain that doesn’t want to be a villain. Now Google conflates this with the idea of anti-villain. An anti-villain is defined as
a character with heroic goals, personality traits, and/or virtues who is ultimately the villain. Their desired ends are mostly good, but their means of getting there range from evil to undesirable.
And while I could see how these two could overlap, I’m not sure that works with the type of villain that I am looking at today. People mistakenly believe someone such as Killmonger to be an anti-villain when no, I can’t go there but I think someone more like Karli from The Falcom and the Winter Solider might better fit that alignment.
Again, please understand me, you can see where both these people are coming from but they are still villains and even using that label for Karli might be a stretch. But I truly believe that does not work for the villain I am looking at today, Esteban is again what I would refer to as a reluctant villain. He doesn’t want to be a villain but is forced into this role due to past actions I thought he had already paid dearly for. And throughout his whole time as a villain, he wants to make amends for what he did but his family will not hear him out. In my view, this makes him a tragic figure, and again, this is why I refer to him as a reluctant villain, not an anti-villain.
Lanz delivers an excellent performance as Esteban. He at first seems to be a stuck-up comedic character but during this whole arc, there is a sense of heartbreak in his voice. The way he voices Esteban, you can hear this once noble character losing his composure after everything that had happened and there is a sense that he blames himself.
Like all the other cast, Esteban is first seen in the backdoor pilot movie spinoff, Elena and the Secret of Avalor. This show is a spinoff of another Craig Gerber show, Sofia The First and this is where my confusion comes in. We see in this movie that Esteban had been serving the show’s main villain, Shuriki for 40 years after she killed Elena’s parents and trapped her in an amulet. Yet, Esteban turned against Shuriki at the end of the movie and helped to take her down.
This is where my confusion comes in. The pilot movie led me to believe that Elena already knew that Esteban had served under Shuriki and while it is horrifying to realize, I had thought she had forgiven him at the end of the pilot. I understand that things from pilots aren’t always carried over to the series itself. Still, this revelation coming in season three feels odd as we have visual knowledge of him serving under Shuriki. Yes, I understand it’s a big secret that shakes up the status quo and we learn that he had a hand in helping her invade the kingdom but it just feels a bit strange.
Why He Fell
You would think the revelation that the revelation that Esteban helped Shuriki invade Avalor would be reason enough for him to fall. It’s not though, it does get the ball rolling and does cause a rift in the Flores family. And this does tie into the rift as even after Esteban teams up with the villains, he still tries to protect his family but he truly turns after an encounter with Elena where Elena tells him that she no longer considers him part of the family.
And this is such an interesting case as the show in my view isn’t asking to side with Elena but rather understand both sides. Elena has every right to be mad at her cousin for his part in the death of her parents but at the same time, it has been forty-one years and he is not the person that he was when this event occurred. This ties into a significant throughline of Esteban’s arc throughout the season of wanting to be heard and feeling as though no one was listening to him. The fact that the show’s villains gave him attention speaks to why he teams up with them. They don’t exactly like him and are just using him as a tool to get what they want in the end. In contrast, when you look at Elena, her anger has so clouded how she views Esteban to the point that she cannot see her cousin but rather as just another villain wanting to harm her kingdom. This is rather evident in the show’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” episode, To Queen or Not to Queen where Elena has a dream of what life would be like if she were just an ordinary villager and Esteban is king. He is a monstrous and narcissistic king that has no care for his subjects and forces them to do jobs that they hate.
This again goes back to how Esteban may not view himself as a villain for his actions, but clearly, his family does, which isn’t easy to shake. His Abuela even says as such in the series finale after he overtakes the throne, he Esteban that the kingdom will never respect and only see him as a villain for his actions.
Esteban is a broken man after his turn. He still loves his family and wants them to love him again but that doesn’t seem possible in his mind as it does not seem likely. When Elena and her Grand Council vote on his fate, only Abuleo stands up for him and has an important train of thought. He states that they shouldn’t judge Esteban on the man he was but on the man that he has become. Alas, this falls on deaf ears and Esteban is cut off from the family and instead ends up teaming up with the main villain of the season, Ash Delgado, and her family as a means of escape. She’s not a very good person, she turned her husband to stone.
His team-up with Ash is rather strained as she wants to hurt his cousin and with Elena being blinded by a need for revenge, she has no qualms about hurting Esteban after what she had learned whereas he does not want to harm while still helping Ash obtain what she wants in going after a form of ultimate power. In doing so, after he teams up he falls into something called the Crystal Forge that grants him magical powers on par with that of his cousin and her scepter. Yet, he has no desire to train with his newfound magic until Elena decides to cut ties with and that is what spurs him to commit to training with his newfound magic. As I have stated, these villains do not respect him and are just using him.
This is even seen with the villain team-up later in the season and after Ash releases monsters that are known as the Shadows of the Night but now go by the Four Shades of Awesome, they are dangerous threats as will destroy Avalor if left unchecked and are using Esteban to obtain what they want.
This speaks to how easily he can be swayed by others’ influences to get what he wants. For example, the Four Shades promise to make him king.
And what better way to do it than through song?
I am not putting these four underneath the Lackey category because while they say they are serving Esteban, that isn’t the truth, they want him to believe that to obtain their own goal. This is a recurring theme throughout the season with Esteban being used by the villains and him not realizing that or them stroking his ego as that is a way for them to go along with what they want.
On the surface, it may seem as though he wants power and to become king and we do see that in the series finale. And while he does get that, he still isn’t happy. As he never truly wanted power, he wanted to be heard and feel as though he was part of the family. We learn in the episode, Dia de las Madres, we learn Esteban as a young kid moved into the palace after his parents were lost at sea and this has never left him.
He has always felt distant from the family he moved in with and a great Twitter thread pointed out how the Royal Family Portrait highlights this as we see Esteban almost standing away from the rest of the Flores family.
He’s never felt as though he was truly part of this family and after the revelation of what he did, he doesn’t think his family will ever accept him as one of them. And that is more than fair considering that Elena tells him that she no longer views him as family. He is a man longing for the love of family but doesn’t think he is worthy of it. This also ties into how he wants to be heard but no one listens to him. He tried to warn the King of Avalor about Shuriki’s incoming invasion but he wouldn’t listen and when he wanted to plead with Elena that he has changed and felt immense regret for his part in what happened, she was so blinded by anger to hear him out.
Most Evil Deed
While I could go with any of his misdeeds during the time he worked alongside the villain,s I’d rather go with what set this whole event and in many ways, the whole series into motion. His helping Shuriki invade Avalor is the worst thing he ever did.
When watching this clip, you can how ashamed Esteban is of his past, and rightly so as this is such a horrible action. Shuriki lied to him saying no one would be hurt as she killed Elena’s parents and for forty-one years ruled Avalor in ways close to something of a dictatorship.
If he hadn’t helped Shuriki, Elena’s parents would still be alive and she wouldn’t have been trapped in an amulet for forty-one years. Alas, that is not what happened and I do understand why he wanted to keep this secret hidden for so long but if he had been honest with his cousin from the start, he probably wouldn’t be in this mess.
Never Too Late
This as I learned from TV Tropes is called a Distant Duet and I like that term as not only does it apply to the fact that Elena and Esteban are singing this song in two different locations, but they are also at two different points in their respective journeys. Elena has learned that she can’t just give up and she can learn from her mistakes whereas Esteban is defeated and believes he’ll never be forgiven for everything he has done. He is his own worst enemy as he views himself as a coward and a loser for everything that he has done. He may have obtained the power that he wanted but at a deadly cost that he didn’t want to pay. He may have the throne but he’s a ruler with no power.
He reunites with Elena and she forgives him after learning her parents had forgiven him combining the magic of her scepter and his staff, they can send the last shade, the Time Shade away to the Underworld. He promises Elena that he will spend the rest of his days atoning for what he had done.
Does Esteban Work as a Villain?
This is such an interesting case because, throughout his whole arc, Esteban doesn’t see himself as a villain and is shocked when he is referred to as such. This isn’t a case like Cassandra’s where she gets unjustifiably angry when Varian says she’s a villain. Esteban never thought of himself as a villain and is heartbroken to learn that his family especially his Abulea views him as such. The fact that he doesn’t see himself as a villain makes his arc all that more tragic and that is why I think referring to him as a reluctant villain as he didn’t see himself as such and he was pushed into becoming a villain by his cousin learning of his past.
I do have one more big villain coming up but before I get to her, I’m going to do something simpler and look at one from a movie series as I head to Auradon to see what happens when the daughter of a princess becomes a villain as I look at…