Masterpost of “the entire point of a plot twist is that you don’t see it coming but will be able to pick up on stuff the second time you watch it” moments in Frozen, because a lot of people seem to be confused or angry that the Hans reveal came “out of nowhere” or was “implausible”.
- When Love is an Open Door starts, he sings “I’ve been searching my whole life to find my own place” and gestures to Arendelle.
- Backed up when asked if they should stay in the palace after getting married, he over-enthusiastically agrees.
- It seems like a gag misinterpretation upon the first viewing, but Hans affirming that Anna is “completely ordinary” makes more sense the next time you watch it. It isn’t until she glares at him that he pretends to soften up and add “in the best way.”
- "If he was the bad guy then why was he so nice to the townspeople?" To earn their trust and respect. His goal isn’t to conquer the kingdom or take it over violently, he wants to be King and to do that he needs the people on his side.
- When Anna’s horse returns to town and Hans realises that she’s lost in the mountains, he’s happy. He smiles. It will give him a greater chance to prove himself as Arendelle’s hero if he rescues the princess, which he can then use to his advantage later on down the track.
- Fritz is about to shoot Elsa with his crossbow and Hans glances up at the chandelier before grabbing the weapon and aiming it directly at the chandelier’s weakest point so that it will fall and knock Elsa unconscious. He doesn’t want Elsa dead - he’s not sure if killing her will actually bring back summer or not, but he wants her captured and under his control so that he can try to manipulate her into thawing the winter.
(When he finds out that she can’t control her powers, he settles for killing her to try to bring back summer but doing it then and there in the dungeon would be too suspicious, so he uses Anna’s ‘death’ to charge her with treason and execution.)
- Anna put Hans in charge when she left - he has complete control over all of Arendelle. If he wanted to free Elsa, nobody would have the power to stop him. Elsa doesn’t know he’s in charge so she asks him to tell “them” (the people she believes are running the kingdom while Anna is away) to let her go and he lies to her face.
- Hans aimed to earn the trust and loyalty of not only the townspeople but the other royals and this scene shows that he has succeeded in his goal. The Spanish dignitary basically says that Hans is the last hope for the entire kingdom if anything were to happen to Anna.
(This is summed up very slyly in the screenplay - “Hans hesitates, realizing how much this kingdom has come to depend on him. Is he really all they have left?”)
Hans’ goal wasn’t to take over a kingdom full of people who hated him (like Scar did in The Lion King). His goal was to be a (beloved) king. His plan was to marry Anna and kill Elsa after they’d married so he and Anna would ascend to be King and Queen. He doesn’t really reveal what he would have done with Anna after that point but I doubt she would have been kept alive for much longer.
That plan changed when Elsa revealed her powers and cursed the kingdom to the eternal winter, and again when Anna decided to go after her. Both of these things worked to his advantage, as a feared queen would be easier to kill with no unintended repercussions and being left in charge of the kingdom in Anna’s absence would allow him to gain everybody’s trust as a leader.
He needed people on his side who would back him up for any potential backlash and he very quickly earned it because he is a very skilled manipulator. When the Spanish dignitary tells him that he is all Arendelle has left, he realises his plan’s worked and he no longer has any need for either Anna or Elsa - he leaves Anna to freeze, announces to the other royals that they managed to marry before she died and then when they tell him that Arendelle looks to him for leadership, the first thing he does is charge Elsa with treason and death.
The characters of Hans and the Duke of Weselton are probably two of my favourites (after Elsa) because of the ways that they were set up both contextually and subtextually to be the heroic prince and the villain, respectively, and instead turning out to be the real villain and the red herring.
Hans is voiced by Santino Fontana, whose most recent role is as the Prince in the broadway adaptation of Cinderella and the Duke is voiced by Alan Tudyk, whose last role at Disney was as the main bad guy in Wreck-It Ralph, King Candy / Turbo whose villainy was revealed in a plot twist in the second half of the movie, just like Hans.
The main theme of Frozen seems to be hiding who you are (or hiding behind closed doors, to put the recurring motif of doors into context)
Elsa has tried to hide her powers for so long that she’s become terrified of herself and the second she is able to accept herself and let it go, she’s instantly a happier and changed person.
Kristoff tries to hide himself behind his rough exterior because of his dislike of other people and social ineptitude, but Anna helps to remove his mask and he becomes a happier and changed person as well.
Anna is a little more complicated in that while it’s obvious that she loves Elsa very much, she still puts her own needs before her sister’s for most of the movie. While Elsa is worried about revealing her powers at the coronation, Anna is more concerned about meeting people and finding love (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she never mentions Elsa in her parts of the song - she loves her sister but she’s long since given up on reconciling with her). When she introduces Hans to Elsa, and announces their engagement, she ignores Elsa’s pleas for reason and instead acts defensively. When Hans tells her that he’s going to kill Elsa, Anna is still mainly concerned with her own safety, but as soon as she makes the decision to sacrifice herself in the most selfless way possible by throwing her own body in front of Hans’ sword, she becomes a better and changed person as well.
(I’m not trying to ‘blame’ Anna for anything here - having to grow up completely all by yourself with no idea why your own sister shut you out would be a horrible experience and her naivety in the first half of the film isn’t her fault - the trolls and the King just reacted in the worst possible way after Anna was struck the first time.)
Hans hides behind his charming appearance and personality to manipulate others to get what he wants (a skill he almost certainly learned growing up with 12 older brothers).
I love Frozen and one of the main reasons is probably due to that theme of hiding who you are. While the doors motif isn’t exactly the most subtle thing in the world, the subtext behind that is about opening those doors and accepting yourself, faults and all (Fixer Upper is literally a song about that very idea.)
An interesting note is that the main conflict throughout most of the film begins as soon as the king orders the palace gates be shut, and the film is finally resolved with Elsa’s insistence that the palace gates are to stay open forever.
This is beginning to turn into a badly set out essay so I’ll just leave it at that, but the Hans reveal was neither “poorly planned out” nor “tacked on at the last minute” because everything leading up to it is hinted at in his actions and in the main thing linking the 4 main human characters together - the idea of hiding something.