Known as the little cinnamon roll by the Tangled fandom, Varian (voiced by Jeremy Jordan) is the smart, clumsy but well intentioned alchemist. He’s been both friend and foe to Rapunzel. Varian has a hero’s heart and wants to do good. But above all, make his father proud.
Varian’s story arc saw the character develop from a boy full of excitement over his latest invention, to someone seeking revenge after a betrayal and finally Corona’s most trusted royal engineer.
My Top Five Varian episodes took him on the road of self discovery with a pit stop to villainy along the way.
Varian was the youngest Disney villain. At 14, his crimes included committing treason and kidnapping the queen. Ironically despite these terrible acts, Varian is one of the most popular and well liked characters in the Tangled universe. So much so that after he was defeated in Season One episode “Secret of the Sun Drop,” fans hoped for his return and redemption.
In a previous article, I discussed Varian’s descend into evil:
Here I highlight my Top Five Varian episodes. What’s not to love about this cute, smart and quirky character?
5. What The Hair?!
Varian’s first appearance in Tangled: The Series. Cassandra takes Rapunzel to the cottage of a wizard with the hope of the princess learning the truth about her hair. When the wizard appears, he announces “I do not work with magic!” and they meet a 14 year old alchemist who puts Rapunzel through a series of 87 tests using a machine he built. We learn the hair testing equipment isn’t Varian’s only machinery. It seems the kid wants to bring hot water to his village of Old Corona and has constructed five heaters using his new chemical compound Flynnoleum (Named for Eugene’s alias Flynn Rider, Varian’s hero). Unfortunately the Flynnoleum causes a massive explosion that destroys Varian’s house. His father Quirin searches for his son among the rubble. He’s relieved to find Varian is okay. But when Varian apologizes for the explosion and damage, Quirin sighs and says “Not again Varian.”
In What The Hair?! we learned a few things about Varian: 1. He admires Flynn Rider who he sees as a swashbuckling hero, 2. He wants to do something good for the people of his village, 3. He wants to impress his dad. This goal leads to Varian’s downfall towards the season’s end.
4. Be Very Afraid
The Black Rocks react to Cassandra’s fear over the prospect of destroying Rapunzel by turning red. These new rocks feed on fear causing those affected to hallucinate their worst fears. Varian’s fear is his father becoming trapped in the amber again. He has a hallucination of this as well as the people of Corona calling him The Betrayer and saying “It’s what you deserve.” When a petrified Ruddiger becomes frozen in terror along with others in Corona, Varian tells Rapunzel they must cut off the Red Rocks’ fear power. The solution: Dousing them with Varian’s amber compound. Varian has to face and fight his own fear in order to save the people of Corona.
After Rapunzel’s Return, Varian was redeemed in Rapunzel’s eyes and she was able to trust him again. But it wasn’t until Be Very Afraid when the people of Corona started seeing him a hero thus making his redemption complete.
3. Queen for a Day/The Alchemist Returns
Queen for a Day and The Alchemist Returns are tied. One sees the lost of Varian’s innocence as he begins his dark path. While the other shows his deception and the lengths he’ll go to see his plan come to fruition.
After hearing Quirin lie to King Frederic about the Black Rocks and the damage they’re causing in Old Corona, Varian takes it upon himself to come up with a solution. He feels his dad is running away from the problem. Sadly that solution makes things worst and puts Quirin in jeopardy. Varian travels from Old Corona to the castle during a blizzard seeking Rapunzel’s help to rescue his dad. As it’s a State of Emergency and since she’s acting queen with her parents away, Rapunzel can’t just leave with Varian. His pleads are met with being tossed out of the castle by the guards. Returning home, Varian finds Quirin now completely encased in amber. His grief turns to resolve in finding a way to free his father. Then comes anger and a vow to make those who stand in his way pay. The kingdom of Corona now faces a sinister new threat wearing the face of an angelic child.
Time has passed since Varian’s snow trek to the castle and Rapunzel’s refusal to help him. A nightmare and message from Varian forces Rapunzel to remember he needed her. After gaining the Sun Drop Flower which he believes holds the key to freeing his father, Varian discloses his true colors telling Rapunzel “I used you.” And Rapunzel’s final line of the episode “I don’t know what he is anymore” acknowledges her understanding that her friend is lost to her.
2. Rapunzel’s Return
Rapunzel returns to Corona to find her parents don’t recognize her. She learns their memories were wiped using a Saporian Wand of Oblivium, which Varian plans to synthesize into a gas named Quirineon after his father. But Varian’s motivation isn’t to join Andrew and the Saporians in taking over Corona. He feels guilty for his past crimes and figures the only way to make amends is to erase everyone’s memory of his evil deeds. However, when Varian learns Andrew and The Separatists of Saporia want to use his explosive compound to destroy Corona, the young alchemist switches sides by joining Rapunzel to defeat them. He’s even willing to sacrifice himself to save Corona. Varian is back on the right team and is rewarded with getting his father back when Rapunzel performs the Decaying Incantation, melting away the amber. This is symbolic as Varian’s hurt and anger has also melted away. A joyous father son reunion happens with Quirin telling Varian the note he wrote before being encased said he’s always been proud of him.
1. Secret of the Sundrop
My favorite Varian episode of the series. He’s gone full villain here. But feels justified in his actions believing it’s his only choice to save his father. “I’m the bad guy that’s fine, it’s no fault of mine. And some justice at last will be served.” We have this 14 year old kid feeling not only betrayed by Rapunzel for breaking her promise, but alone and abandoned by everyone in the kingdom when he needed help the most. Although he refuses to admit it, he’s responsible for his dad’s predicament as it was the compound he created that trapped Quirin in the amber. There’s no going back for Varian now…he’s kidnapped the queen. Eugene, Lance, the Royal Guards and half the town lead by Cassandra lay siege upon Old Corona. Outside Varian’s house, they’re ambushed by huge automatons. Meanwhile, King Frederic and Rapunzel attempt to rescue Arianna. But the alchemist anticipates the move and prepares a trap. Varian tells Rapunzel and King Frederic his plan to use the princess’ unbreakable hair with his handmade drill to shatter the amber. He’s devastated when Rapunzel’s hair doesn’t work. After witnessing a loving moment between Rapunzel and her parents, something inside Varian snaps. He declares “If I can’t have a happy ending then neither can you!” Varian pilots an automaton intent on inflicting pain and destruction. Rapunzel uses her connection to the Black Rocks to defeat him.
Varian’s final words of “I will make you proud of me dad if it’s the last thing I ever do” before being taken off to the castle dungeon allows the viewers to see him for what he truly is. Not a scary villain out to bring down a kingdom but a boy seeking his father’s love and approval.
What is your favorite Varian episode?
Photos Courtesy of Disney Channel
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