Saturday, March 17, 2018
It turns out, much to my surprise and maybe delight, that I have some fairly complicated feelings about Not!Hook (or Nook as I've decided to call him from now on, thanks Zelena). Can you remember back to season two when Hook was introduced? I wasn't impressed, at all. I found him smarmy, gross, and after he left Emma and the princess team of Snow, Mulan and Aurora to die in jail, I was thoroughly done with him. Long time readers will not be surprised that I have a particular dislike for the pirate; I've certainly made no secret of it. But I will confess that the only time I have found Hook interesting or thought that the show was offering up something new and fresh was in the season two finale in which we learned that Hook had been a sort of mentor and father figure to young Baelfire. To our original Hook, Bae was like a son, someone he loved for, cared for, and would have raised in place of Rumple had things not gone sideways. After those two final episodes, it seemed to me that Hook's real story was not just as a smarmy, leather clad Jack Sparrow wannabe, but instead he was another sort of "Wicked Witch." A villain who had an obsessive need to kill another character but found the relationship complicated by way of an offspring. It was hard for Regina to justify killing Snow White when her complicated friendship with Emma and mother-son bond with Henry stood in the way. Baelfire might be Rumple's son but he was also Hook's adopted/step son. Just as the dynamic team of Emma and Henry would bring Snow and Regina back together, so too would Bae bridge the divide between Rumple and Hook. Alas, that did not happen and Rumple and Hook spent most of their time from season three to season six at each others throats, always trying to out do, one up, or just generally harass the other. But, enter season seven in which Hook, the original pirate captain, is replaced by Wish Realm Hook, our Nook. Suddenly the trappings of romance that the audience sat through (read: suffered through) with Emma was no more; instead, the writers needed a way to make Nook palatable to both Hook lovers and Hook haters.
--Pitting Nook and Ahab against each other was smart; both our fictional Nook and the literary Ahab have a tendency to get obsessive over their “white whales”.
--I simply adore Alice. It's the sign of good writing and good acting when this show can make me wish that a character had shown up in the history of the narrative much earlier.
--As we get closer to the finale, I've begun to make notes of things that I will genuinely miss; first up--Bobby Carlyle's remarkable and entertaining performance as Dark One Rumplestiltskin.
--So Nook lived in the tower without going out and being a pirate for like 10 year but never once did he buy himself some non pirate clothing? Also, how did he have money if he wasn't working or looting as pirates are wont to do?
--Jacinda and Henry have so little chemistry that I actually found myself drawn more to Henry and Ivy and their connection.
–The doll, Beatrice, is creeeeeeepy.
–“Read it? I lived it.” A surprisingly emotional line.
Monday, March 12, 2018
We're gonna barrel roll through this episode. Tiana/Sabine has almost no relevance to the larger plot being spun out this season. Her main function is to provide humanity to Jacinda by giving Jacinda/Ella a best friend and character outside of Henry with whom to interact in the Enchanted Forest flashbacks. Tiana is the Ruby to Jacinda's Snow, to put it another way (the big difference, of course, being that Ruby/Little Red Riding Hood was given incredible depth, motivation, and a compelling theme all on her own and that while Ruby's main injection into the show might have been as Snow White's best friend, her own story stood up to scrutiny even when Snow was taken out of the equation. Tiana's story decidedly does not). The much maligned food truck storyline continues apace with Sabine except with several plot speed bumps in the form of a forgotten form (which should have been at the top of the to-do list for either Sabine or with Jacinda) and a man as Drew/Naveen is introduced in both our world and the other world. There's nothing compelling with any of this, either the Hyperion Heights or Enchanted Forest sections. Sabine and Drew apparently have a cursed history that gets laid out in some clunky exposition while and in the flashbacks, Tiana and an incredibly grating Naveen meet, argue, bicker, and then forge a tenuous connection all while hunting a giant alligator (that did not turn out to be Rumplestiltskin in a move that I was genuinely surprised by). Because Tiana has been given almost no development and is as bland as an under-cooked beignets her scenes with Naveen land equally flat because of the aforementioned broadness. Naveen, on the other hand, begins as a hyper masculine hunter who speaks about his powerful enchanted spear only to soften and deliver just enough clunky emotional backstory in order for Tiana to open up and be receptive to him as a man. In other words, it's the cheap way to push a romance that is using the audience's love of Disney instead of an organic development between two Disney inspired characters. Outside of Tiana, there's some other flimflam going on involving Rumple, Nook and the Coven of the Witches. Plus, apparently, Regina and Dr. Facilier have a romantic past despite absolutely no evidence to this at any point in the past six years. This latest development is more of the same misogynistic mindset we've come to crushingly expect in which a woman cannot have any sort of meaningful story without a romantic tie-in and while we can absolutely file that under offensive, it's not a new offense and I'm sad to admit that at this point in the history of the show, I acknowledge it and move on. With ten episodes to go, we're just here to be mildly entertained. Nothing more, nothing less.
--Rollin’ Bayou is a clever name for a food truck. Flamin’ Cajun is not.
--Henry doing a podcast is a modern take on being an author but I kinda hope the voice over doesn’t happen every episode. It would get old quickly.
--I’m glad Rumple is no longer pretending to be cursed with Regina but I wish he’d ask after Henry or Lucy.
--The super heavy and dark cloak Cinderella is wearing in the flashbacks is tragic.
--“My enchanted spear is the only thing powerful enough to kill the beast” (ugh)
--Dr. Facilier, a sorcerer/warlock with powerful otherworldly magics, couldn’t get a necklace swallowed by an actual gator until said creature was dead. The show relies so much on magic until it suddenly needs magic to fail for reasons.
--I still don’t see any chemistry between Jacinda and Henry and still don’t believe they could actually be True Love in the mold of Snow/Charming
Saturday, March 3, 2018
In case you missed, the big neon colored theme that keeps hitting you upside the head in this week's episode is mothers and daughters. There's the good if flawed relationship of Zelena and daughter Robin (Robyn? I know it's really spelled with the "i" but the "y" makes it a nice way to distinguish from her father). There's the flawed but on-the-mend relationship of Rapunzel and Drizella and there's the highly toxic, no good, really horrible mother/daughter duo of Mother Gothel and her newest victim, Anastasia. These are beats the show has hit on before with Emma and Snow, Regina and Snow, and Regina/Zelena and Cora. If the writers can find a way to make their plot about mothers and daughters, they do it; it, of course, is rather problematic given that the main writers and show runners are male and have idealized or romanticized motherhood as a path to salvation and redemption for any fallen female. This sanctification of motherhood has been a tricky subject for a long while on OUAT because of the antiquated and, frankly, misogynistic overtones given to any mothers. That is, of course, not to say that motherhood isn't a powerful force or a mother's love isn't almost otherworldly at times--my own mother would, no doubt, step in front of a train for me--but the writers only write about motherhood in black and white terms. When a woman falls from grace and becomes evil, it's usually at the rejection of her own mother or rejection of her child in pursuit of her own goals. When it's time for that woman to come back into the heavenly fold and be redeemed, it's through the love she bears her child. Relationships are far more complicated that evil equals bad parent and good equals good parent. Zelena and Robyn's relationship for instance should be filled with all sort of drama; not only is Zelena being too cautious in letting her daughter try to discover herself through magic (and we can pause here to discuss the overt metaphor of magic as Robyn's own eventual bisexuality/lesbianism) but Robyn's mere conception should be a subject that weighs heavily between the pair. Zelena raped Robin Hood, Robyn's father, and the fact that this doesn't create any sort of tension or unease between the two during their mother/daughter fallout in the Enchanted Forest is a waste of good, meaty, character building story. But that is also of apiece with how the writers have crafted this season. There is potential for good story in Rapunzel and Drizella; a mother who was so busy looking after the one daughter she thought loved her, that she failed to notice that she was shoving away her other daughter who also loved her. That's an interesting dynamic to explore; one cannot deny the complexity in a young Drizella trying to navigate her own familial situation in which her mother, Rapunzel, abandoned her--though not strictly by her own choice--only to return once Drizella had grown to love her step mother. Likewise, Rapunzel's post-traumatic stress of being held captive for years on end must be compounded by the notion that she was a captive of a different sort, the first wife who was no longer welcome into the family. Instead, the writers skipped over this human story and waited until the last second to have Rapunzel realize that she still loved Drizella, only moments before she decided to offer herself up as a sacrifice. Again, a bad woman is made right by way of motherhood. Rapunzel's death felt wholly unearned and only occurred after Drizella told her mother a rather sad story about who really lit the lanterns at night (or something, I readily admit that I lost focus during most of Rapunzel's scenes, so lacking in screen presence is Anwar in this role).
--I know I’m a broken record but what is up with this nonsense timeline? How is Robyn a late teen in SB “years ago.” I legitimately do not understand.
--“You’re a believer Henry, even if you don’t know it."
--Nook! LOL that’s a good one.
--Love the Haunted Mansion shout out with Madame Leota, incorporating the voice over of the ride. Plus the Disney-sized wink that Memento Mori is the name of the gift shop outside of the Haunted Mansion ride!
--The fact that I’m relieved at minimal Jacinda in this episode is a sign of how terrible the writing/acting of this character have been.
--I don’t know how I feel about them waking up Lucy this early. The threat was never real (please, they’d never kill Lucy nor Henry) but now it feels like a waste of a good story.
--The high heel hit in just the right spot on the rope lever on the first try. *rolls eyes* Honestly, with an arm like that, Victoria should have played in the major leagues.
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
--How about one big final round of applause to Peter Capaldi? While he wasn't often given the best storylines, his performance never suffered. He was truly a great Doctor.
--The other lampshading moment that I didn't touch on too much was the rather backwards attitude of the First Doctor with regards to women and their roles on the TARDIS, a relic of the 1960s much like some fans hangups over the new Doctor. Most of this provided us with some quality chuckles, but when the First Doctor threatened to smack Bill's bottom, that's when it went a titch too far.
--The Dalek was really pretty unnecessary, right?
--"I turn in to you?!" "Well, you have a few false starts but you get there in the end."
--Clara appeared for thirty seconds and because I was never a big fan of hers all I could think about was Queen Victoria and why she wasn't with Albert.
--I couldn't figure out the purpose of the Captain except as a way to make the Twelfth Doctor a Christmas hero until he revealed his last name. Tying the Captain to the Brig was a smart move.
--The Twelfth Doctor's final words read less as final words of a man dying and more like a showrunner exiting the building trying to pass on wisdom to his successor, which isn't to say that Peter Capaldi didn't deliver them beautifully: "never be cruel, never be cowardly. And never eat pears. Hate is always foolish, love is always wise. Try to be nice, never fail to be kind. Laugh hard, run fast, be kind. Doctor, I let you go."
--Welcome Jodie Whittaker. I can't tell you how pleased I am to meet you! Now, kindly get back inside your TARDIS, okay?
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Magic has once again been ripped from the Enchanted Forest. Sure, it's not the Enchanted Forest you know and remember from seasons past but these aren't the characters you know and remember; it's not the Curse you know and remember and it's not the show you know and remember. In other words, it's poetic that as magic is being removed once again from the make believe fantasy world of Once Upon a Time, the audience is getting a nice hefty reminder that the magic--television magic--has also fled. What would make this season of OUAT successful? That's the question I posed in most of my reviews, trying to figure out how much newness this show could withstand while also grappling with the question of how much nostalgia to hold on to. It's a precarious balance and I certainly didn't envy the writers the task. When a show has gone through as much change as Once Upon a Time has, trying once again to reinvent the wheel will usually only yield a very sloppy wheel. For example, you have original Once Upon a Time, which I denote as seasons one through the first half of three. The characters were well developed, logical, and the mythology made enough sense to allow the audience to keep abreast of new developments but also to theorize and try their hand at detective work (ie: who is Baelfire?) Original Once Upon a Time was like sitting down to read your favorite fairy tale only to discover that it had been upgraded to an adult fanfiction of the highest caliber. After the original came Secondary Once Upon a Time which stretches from the second half of season three to the end of season six. This is the era in which the characters stopped making sense, the storylines began focusing more on the villains and their redemption at the expense of the heroes, and the mythology became sketchy, unclear, and altogether unknowable. This was like sitting down to read your favorite fairy tale only to discover that a three year old had gone over it in Sharpie marker, replacing key points with poop emojis. Readable? Yes. Enjoyable? Less so. Now we have Tertiary Once Upon a Time, a story that I don't even know how to quantify yet. What exactly is this seventh season? Yes, parts of it are interesting and there's some really good work happening with the likes of Alice and Drizella, two characters who would easily blend into the Original OUAT but those two alone aren't enough to save what is ultimately a poor story. I hate discussing plot. I'd much rather talk about archetypes, themes, religion, character motivation, ect but I have to at least pause here and try to puzzle out the plot of this year so that I might touch upon those other ideas.
--I'm sorry if this review doesn't actually discuss the episodes in question much. I'm slowly beginning to question my resolution to see this show through to the very end. Or at least to blog every single episode.
--“Right. Well, I’m not here to discuss timelines.” In other words, the writers would really like for us all to stop questioning how their world works and simply take it for what it is: under developed and at the whims of an external force.
--Why would you keep the frozen statue form of the woman who threatened to curse you inside your house on display?
--It’s pretty obvious that Alice and Robyn are going to be serious love interests. They can bond over the fact that their mothers raped their fathers in order to conceive them. (gags)
--Welcome back Zelena, I guess? I get what the writers are going for making Zelena engaged and having her choose her family over her life as Kelly but sometimes the writers take the whole “family over everything” throughline too far. Like, Kelly’s fiancee is her family too and Zelena even says she still loves him!
--The Eighth Ingredient is the never before heard of magic from a witch who crushed the heart of the thing she loves most. Good LORD. That’s the most oddly specific and dumb plot device since “blood of a man who’s been to hell and back.”
--Why should I even care about how powerful Anastasia is?. We literally just met her! And why is she even this powerful?
--Plot Device Battle: which is dumber? The magic from a witch who crushed the heart of the thing she loves most OR a white elephant that helps you remember your most important relationship?
--I usually review the arc as a whole during this winter finale wrap up but if my above review doesn't tell you all you need to know then I don't think another paragraph will do it. Needless to say, there are bright spots (Rumple and Belle's episode, Roni, Alice, and Drizella) but the overwhelming negatives outweigh all the good. The season continues the writers trend of biting off more than they can chew and not actually letting plots unfold at a steady pace leaving room for emotional growth and audience attachment.
Final Episode Ranking for S7A (lowest to highest)
10. The Eighth Witch (7x10)
9. A Pirate's Life (7x2)
8. Pretty In Blue (7x8)
7. Greenbacks (7x5)
6. One Little Tear (7x9)
5. The Garden of Forking Paths (7x3)
4. Eloise Gardener (7x7)
3. Hyperion Heights (7x1)
2. Wake Up Call (7x6)
1. Beauty (7x4)
Final Grade for S7A: C/C-
See you all in March!
Saturday, November 18, 2017
I really don't want to walk back what I said last week about the show finding its sweet spot and slowly becoming a more watchable hour of TV. I stand by that with regards to last week's episode. But I forgot the cardinal rule of OUAT that I wrote for myself at least three seasons ago--take it one week at a time, do not let the good week foreshadow the next week's episode. For example, I could never--in a thousand years--anticipate that a magical flower, that apparently grows babies after one night of passion, would play such an integral part in the big Eloise Gardener reveal. How could I? Such a useless, silly, nonsensical MacGuffin could only come from the minds of writers who are lazy and want easy answers instead of trying to write something more compelling that weaves heart and magic into one. To be fair, that is what OUAT does a lot--they introduce an object that will play no role in anything outside of one event and lets that object be the reason the story progresses. Over the years we've had necklaces, mushrooms, tasers, wands, gauntlets, and even some coconuts. We were bound to get a magic baby growing flower eventually not just because of the writers penchant for terrible MacGuffins but also because the writers have proven that they don't care for the realities of human gestation. Zelena had a magically sped up pregnancy, gave birth, and then ran around in high heels all in the course of an hour; Belle's son magically became a baby again, and way way back in Season Three the writers suggested that Snow was pregnant with Baby Snowflake for about a year. Honestly, the fact that a magically flower-grown baby hasn't happened yet is the real surprise. But I'll get off this magic flower shtick because while the reveal of who Rogers' daughter is--Alice--and with whom--Mother Gothel--is dumb (dumb dumb dumb) the first hour of OUAT did provide some interesting commentary into Hook's character, which is really what we're here for.
--Alice selling stolen watches under a bridge seems exactly like something Alice would do.
--Should I even bother mentioning the problem of sexually untimid Rapunzel turning out to be Evil Mother Gothel?
--Giant Garden Gnome is super stupid but also super hilarious.
--–I normally really like Roni’s outfits but that polka dot necktie thingy is tragic.
--“I tend not to trust people who tie me up and drug me.”
--Henry is listening to "Bizarre Love Triangle" when he meets Nick in the bar. Incredibly on the nose there, OUAT.
--–“As much as I want to go to Storybrooke to get help, we can’t do that and they can’t know we’re here!” Because…..? Oh right. The whole cast quit a year ago.
--“Oh that’s cute. You think I’m going to villain monologue for you? Please.” Ivy is the best.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
I need to hand it to Once Upon a Time; it's certainly making quite an eleventh-hour resurgence. Just when I thought nothing about this show could ever interest me again or induce anything either than boredom or revulsion, it has done the unthinkable: it made me sit up, really pay attention, and want more. Sometimes rebooting a show can breathe new life into it and I don't know if it's the new characters like Drizella and Alice, or if it's the fact that what I once found so terrible and tedious is not only gone but completely forgotten about, or if it's a lovely combination of both but, despite a few headscratching set backs, season seven is proving to be more intriguing than I originally thought. I rarely discuss plot in these reviews because, first, by and large I am unconcerned with simply spitting back the plot spaghetti of this weekly TV show and, second, OUAT usually dishes up something worth discussing that interests me from a feminist, political, social, or mythological standpoint. But I think I need to pause here and praise the show for delivering a plot that does feel familiar (Dark Curse, memory loss, ect) but is being spun in a new way. I've said this before both in relation to OUAT and in relation to other pieces of media but you need not always tell me a new story; you can always tell me an old story well. This is helped quite a bit by Adalaide Kane who is doing exceptionally well as Drizella. There's a pathos to her portrayal of young Drizella that is aided by the fact that the writers smartly paired her next to Lana Parilla, who is still doing amazing work as Regina. A character like Drizella, with her background, wouldn't come across as successfully as it does if it weren't for the six year history the audience has had with Regina. We instantly understand Drizella, the temptations she must be feeling, the suffering she's endured because Regina understands it and we understand Regina. Drizella doesn't need to be fully fleshed out over the course of several seasons because the character in her closest proximity has done all that work beforehand. OUAT understands this by reinforcing the past in its current narrative; Regina brings up her own horrifying upbringing and, just to really soccer punch the audience with understanding, Rumple randomly strolls into the middle of this little lesson and offers Regina some advice in the guise of her old teacher, reminding her of some facts Regina avoided. Wheels within wheels and it all works, even if Drizella's education with Regina and her turn to the darkside literally takes place over the course of one afternoon. We've seen what twists and turns it took for Rumple and Regina (and to less of an extent, Cora) to turn down their own dark paths. This doesn't save OUAT from a some measure of criticism, naturally, because Drizella's plot to kill the random prince in order to darken her own heart so that Lady Treamaine couldn't steal it to implant into Anastasia is...strange to say the least. Why not just kill Lady Tremaine? Or why not just end Anastasia's "life" (if you can call it that). Instead, Drizella goes to extraordinary lengths to not only cast the Dark Curse (can there be any doubt that she cast it?) but to ensure that even Regina wouldn't want to break it because of something sinister that we likely won't figure out for another few weeks. While the Prince plot was silly, the other questions once again bring us back to our parallels and to the character in closest proximity to Drizella: Regina. I used to ask the same questions of Regina and Snow; why didn't Regina just kill Snow, why go through the trouble of casting a Dark Curse to separate Snow and Charming? The answer is easy, if heartbreaking: because when you've been tortured and mistreated it's easy to get caught up in that pattern and want to turn that torture and mistreatment on the guilty parties instead of either forgiving them or taking a more direct approach. Don't forget, Regina's first successful attempt at hurting Snow was a poisoned apple that put Snow in a death-like sleep, but did not kill her.
--Bella Note has stray dogs hanging around it. Classic, old school, OUAT charm!
--Regina's black outfit in the Enchanted Forest might be my favorite thing she's ever worn.
--“Things are always more fun when you start in the middle.”
--Rogers’s storyline still feels a bit disconnected right now. I’m sure it’ll sync up but in an episode like this, it feels out of left field. Prediction, for the record: his daughter is Anastasia and Lady Tremaine was originally Rapunzel, hence why she keeps her hair short and why she thinks fear is the greatest weapon of all.
--I think OUAT is trying just a bit too hard with Henry and Jacinda. Holding a radio over his head is cheesy but also fairly cringe worthy for a guy who wasn't even alive in the 80s. There is very little spark between these two and I think it might come down to the lack of chemistry between the actors. I will say, though, that Andrew J. West's little victory pumps were adorable.
--I really need Alice and Drizella in a scene together soon because I have a feeling it would be dynamic as hell.
--Rumple refusing the wheelchair and kicking it as he walked by: somethings never change.
--Two hour episode next week and then we have two weeks off!