Monday, December 5, 2016
There are many questions that come with an alternate universe in storytelling and many of them I likely asked myself two years ago when OUAT delved into Isaac's penned manuscript. That version of shifted reality made enough sense to let the world feel like it could actually exist and any glaring faults in logic and character could easily be chalked up to Isaac's lack of skill and his own human folly in trying to create a world where heroes were villains and villains, heroes. This world--this wish-granted universe--does not have a saving grace like Isaac and, as such, I find myself wondering the writers even remember certain aspects of their mythology, their story, and the universe it resides in. This isn't to say that some aspects of Wish World weren't coherent; Emma growing up a princess who had everything she ever wanted and was beloved by family, friends, and subjects alike made perfect sense. Of course Emma's life would be radically different; not only would she be unmagical but she wouldn't be that scared, stunnted orphan who wished she wasn't alone on her twenty-eighth birthday. Emma's life is one of joy and wonder, unhampered by the concerns--both magical and mundane--that have followed her these six seasons. But there are other aspects of Emma's life that don't quite scan, as if they were attempts by the writers to curtail fan criticism at the head before anyone could angrily tweet their displeasure. One aspect in particular fails to make sense: Henry. I understand that the writers don't want to leave Jared Gilmore out and that there is a poetic nostalgia to Henry (kind of, sort of) being the one who makes Emma remember who she is once more, but Henry's existence in the Enchanted Forest of this AU makes little sense because nothing about him has changed. He's still the son of Nealfire, who either never went to Neverland or somehow made it back to the Enchanted Forest one hundred plus years later where he grew up, met Princess Emma and had a child with her before dying in some heretofore unexplained manner. I get that the writers are aiming for consistency with Henry--after all Henry can't literally exist if you change one of his parents--but in this warped AU, how am I to explain his conception, birth, and the death of one of his parents when the story of the universe has been so fundamentally altered?
--I honestly didn't mean to make this review so short or lacking in the many plot lines that were happening this week. The problem is that there's nothing to say. Emma and Regina/the Evil Queen carried the bulk of the narrative while everyone else either stood around and fretted over what was happening or had absolutely nothing to do with the AU at all and thus didn't really fit into the review proper.
--The Black Fairy raised Gideon to be a monster and I guess that's where the next half of this season is going. Alright then. Also, this is a total Angel/Holtz/Conner rip off, right?
--I still don't care one iota about Aladdin and Jasmine and their journey to Agrabah (what if it's at the bottom of the sea! Did they even think about that?)
--“What are you gonna do…throw a fireball at yourself?”
--Normally the show’s costumes are on point, but Aladdin’s genie outfit is horrid
--Regina literally runs up to a group of dwarves and asks where Emma is without even pausing to question which type of world she’s in. She knows it can’t be present; if it’s the past, no dwarf is going to trust her; and if it’s a reality where Emma wasn’t the Savior, then it follows that she’s a defeated Evil Queen and, again, no one would trust her!
--There’s a literal KEY TO THE KINGDOM??? What nonsense is that?
--So, where was Zelena this week?
--I have very little to say about Robin Hood coming back. He's not been brought back to life in the same way Hook was brought back in S5 but it speaks to something I mentioned above: the writers trying to placate the fans by giving them what they think they want. They keep doing this; there's a difference between listening and hearing. What the writers hear is that people were upset at Robin's death; what they aren't listening to are the reasons why. It goes beyond OutlawQueen.
--“Nothing makes sense. Anything is possible.” This is like the most literal description of this show since S3B I’ve ever heard.
Final Rating for Season 6A: C
Final Episode Ranking for Season 6A (least to favorite)
10. Street Rats (6x5)
9. Changelings (6x9)
8. Wish You Were Here (6x10)
7. The Savior (6x1)
6. A Bitter Draught (6x2)
5. The Other Shoe (6x3)
4. I'll Be Your Mirror (6x8)
3. Dark Waters (6x6)
2. Strange Case (6x4)
1. Heartless (6x7)
See everyone in March!
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
--My review could theoretically go on for ages, but some things really must be saved for the notes! It's become increasingly clear that the show is playing with multiple time streams. This is easiest to see with Dolores. When she's in her dress, it's the far past when Arnold and Ford were setting up the park. When she's in her dress shirt and pants, with a stomach wound, it's roughly thirty years ago (I'll explain that in a second) and, finally, when she's in the same outfit but without the stomach wound, it's present day. How do we know? I think the internet's most famous theory about Westworld is absolutely true--William is the Man in Black on his first park visit. Almost like a goose flying home after winter, Dolores keeps taking the journey back to the original homestead. Now, what prompted this present day adventure? I'd say it was the photograph she found in the pilot that triggered her self-awareness. We shall see!
--"If it's such a wonderful place out there, why are you all clamoring to get in here?"
--Maeve will begin the robot revolution by slowly opening the eyes of all the robots with the potential for sentience. Is there any Host who is lacking in such potential?
--I think I'm really confused as to where Teddy and Wyatt's story fits in, hence why I talk so little about it.
--"A little trauma can be illuminating."
--Dolores killed Arnold. Was it because he opened her mind to sentience? Is that what the Maze is--a way for the Hosts to gain sentience? It would explain why the Man in Black keeps being told it's not for him. He is already sentient, Westworld showed him what sort of man he is.
--"Who am I?" "That's a complicated question..." #SeriesTheme!
Monday, November 28, 2016
Back in season three, audiences were introduced to a creature called the Black Fairy. She existed off screen (a lot of things exist there, come to think about it). This Fairy was supposedly dark and dangerous, but she had a magic wand that could help out the heroes in their fight against Pan so the character was created, though no one was the wiser about who she was apart from the Blue Fairy who, as official Exposition Ex Machina, could tell the tale. I'm bringing this up because in tonight's episode it's revealed that Rumple's mother is, in fact, that same Black Fairy. To some extent, this is an interesting development and it does help inform Rumple's character, though after six years you'd think something as basic as parentage and relationship with said parents would have been covered and with some degree of depth, but I digress. This reveal means that both Rumple's parents abandoned him, that both parents left him for less than noble reasons--the pursuit of power over love, the pursuit of immortality over love. Is it any wonder why Rumple think he's not just a difficult man to love, but an impossible man to love? Anyone who is supposed to love him--his mother, his father, his wife, his son, his second wife, his second son--leave him. In Rumple's eyes they either don't give him a chance and/or don't accept him for who he wants to be (a Dark One with lots of dark magical power) and so the implication is that he's unlovable. There's a lot of great character work in there and it used to be what made Rumple so complicated and nuanced. He wasn't so much a black hat as a victim of the cycle of abandonment in a socio-economic world that made it next to impossible for him to be in control of his own life or of those loved ones around him. That lack of control over his own destiny is what made him, famously, a desperate soul. In short, I don't mind the reveal that the Black Fairy is Rumple's mother--though this raises a host of questions about biology and magic given that Rumple is half fairy (which means Bae is a quarter fairy, and Henry an eighth) and also raises questions about how a mortal and fairy managed to have sex and deliver a child without the Blue Fairy knowing when Nova and Dreamy couldn't even go on a date, but again I digress. What I mind is the total lack of foreshadowing and how very fan service-y this feels. For years, people have hounded the writers about the Black Fairy (who is she? Will we ever see her? Will we get her story?) and, at the same time, pestered the writers about Rumple's mother (who is she? Will we ever see her? Will we get her story?). Given that the show does not have long to live, though another season seems guaranteed, it's time to answer those questions in the quickest, easiest and most efficient manner possible, no matter how clumsily it comes across. So there you go: the Black Fairy is also Rumple's mother who abandoned him upon birth and neither Rumple nor Belle ever mentioned it when the Black Fairy was brought up previously.
Welcome Baby Gideon! Your Life Sucks.
Toward the end of the episode, Rumple tells Belle that he'd "never hurt her. Ever." This is utter nonsense but let's look at the context. Belle has just given birth, approximately seven months ahead of schedule, and has sent her only child away with the Blue Fairy (of all the creatures you'd entrust a child with....) while her husband, and supposed true love, tries to track down his laboring wife in order to steal their child, cut the child's cord of fate/destiny/whatever you want to call it, in order to force said child into loving him. This is what the writers have done to Rumple and Belle. This is such a hot abusive mess--and while that is hard to admit and even harder to watch--that hot mess would be fine if the writers knew they were writing a hot abusive mess with a clear moral message behind it. Even something as simple as "this is what abuse looks like, kids!" would get a nod of approval, but instead they wrap it up in Rumple's self-confidence issues and try to normalize it as everyday romantic angst, which it most assuredly is not. There are so many problems that it's hard to know where to start. Rumple's belief that he'd never hurt Belle is nothing more than empty words because abuse isn't just physical; it's mental and emotional and for two seasons or so, Rumple has done next to nothing but be mentally and emotionally abusive and even if he can't see that--even if he thinks he's always done what he thought was best--for the writers to put words like that in a characters mouth and not have anyone call him on it (even if Belle is too feeble to do so there are others in the room) is egregious. Looking at Belle, however, her constant waffling about Rumple is grating. In the span of five minutes in this week's episode, Belle declared loud and proud that she was never going back to Rumple only to tell him to his face that if he hurt her and their son (which she knows he has EVERY intention of doing!) he'd "lose her forever" as if her mind wasn't already made up. I don't want to blame the victim, but Belle's inconsistency is the only thing constant about her in recent years and it almost--almost--makes me sympathize with Rumple and his downward spiral. As exhausting as he is, so too is she. There is no positive way to spin this; Rumple and Belle getting back together and trying again for whatever reason--true love, Rumple says he's sorry, Rumple gives up power, Belle changes her mind for the millionth time, for the sake of their infant son--isn't good enough to erase the level of damage these two have undergone. Maybe it's best if baby Gideon stays away for good; maybe it's for the best that he never know either his mother or his father. And maybe it's for the best that Rumple dies and Belle leaves town forever and ever. However, as I'm sure will happen sooner rather than later now that we have a bonafied genie in our camp....wishes rarely work out the way we expect.
--"Wingless glow worm."
--So fate really does exist for everyone? It’s a literal thing that can be cut, modified, changed, and un-fated? But what if you’re not magical or what if you’re fated to just leave a normal, every day life? Do peasants have lines like this? Can they be cut by the shears?
-- Regina’s heart controls the Evil Queen? And she hasn’t put this into practice until this very moment? Like she didn’t bother to use this trick when the Evil Queen was threatening Snowing? Or literally at any point during these first 8 episodes?
--Aladdin is now the Genie. Okay, sure. Probably not a great idea to have a magical wish-granting Genie around when there is also a malevolent Dark One and a sociopathic Evil Queen, but whatever. I’m sure if I cared about Aladdin that’d matter to me.
--Anyone got a read on when these flashbacks take place?
--–Blue can pop into Rumple’s Dark Castle and free Belle…but she couldn’t free Belle from Regina’s prison…?
--I’m really excited to not see Jennifer Morrison fake shake anymore.
--Next week is the Winter Finale! One big question as we cross that threshold: was there a point to this half-season?
Thursday, November 17, 2016
--I don't know how to speculate when it comes to this show. I know the internet is rife with theories and ideas about what is going on, but the field on this show is so extensive that it's hard for me to get a proper handle on it. If you've read my reviews for any show, you know I'm far more interested in discussing morality and cosmology.
--However, Westworld was renewed for a second season, so I do need to start looking at the big picture. Hopefully, I can do that in piecemeal over the next few reviews.
--RIP Therese. RIP Clementine. And, to some extent, RIP Bernard! Will he remember that he's a Host after this? Also, what sort of light does this shed on his many behind closed doors interactions with Dolores?
--Maeve has become so self aware that she no longer freezes on command when the men-in-suits come for Clementine.
--The Reveries are responsible for the Hosts retaining some of their more traumatic memories; this falls on Dr. Ford's shoulders but I gotta wonder--who gave him the idea?
--"Surviving is just another loop."
--"The longer I work here the more I think I understand the Hosts. It's the human beings who confuse me."
--Okay, HBO-fanatics; what's sadder: "Hold the door" or "What door?"
Monday, November 14, 2016
Would Henry ever go dark? That's a question with which the show has wrestled before. In season three he agreed to give Peter Pan his heart when he believed magic was dying; in season four he seriously considered writing his father back to life before the Apprentice convinced him it was a bad idea, and in season five he, first, almost did write Cruella back to life so that Emma wouldn't have to live with the moral consequences of having killed the De'vil and, second, destroyed magic so that his family wouldn't get hurt anymore. These actions are not evil, per se, but they do exist in a morally grey area. Peter Pan was pretty clearly manipulating Henry (Wendy Bird and all) and Henry saw first hand what happened if an Author tried to write a story the way he wanted instead of recording them as they actually happened. Henry's viewpoint is that he's, first and foremost, concerned with his family, their happiness and their general well-being. Perhaps more than anyone else, Henry understands how much this family needs each other. At the tender age of 11, Henry went out to find his birth mother because he believed, whole-heartedly that his family was cursed and that it was up to his Savior of a mother to save them all. The family needs each other and likewise Henry needs them. He's only thirteen, after all (though, a thirteen year old watching nothing but John Hughes films makes me question what decade the writers room is living in. Are they also trapped in a curse?). Henry still has some growing up to do and despite Emma and Regina by episode's end believing that they've done their job in raising him, Henry needs his mothers tender loving care. Henry has girl questions and school functions that terrify him. He still has to graduate college! Henry will never not need Regina and Emma--we all need our mothers, all the time. The show hasn't ever minced words about the way our mothers affect us so it comes as no surprise that when faced with a decision to save his mothers, even at the cost of an innocent life, Henry actually stops and considers what the right and what the best course of action is. It's much like Emma in season four when she killed Cruella; she did not do it maliciously, but out of a mother's protective nature to save her son from a woman who literally skins dogs and wears them as coats (I miss Cruella). The internal conflict with Henry was interesting but also a bit underwhelming given that I didn't, for a second, think the writers would actually have him kill the Dragon. The writers like to keep Henry in the ultimate good alignment. He can be tipped toward lawfully just but he always rebounds back to his preferred state of "Heart of the Truest Believer" and "Ultimate Do-Gooder." What's slightly more interesting is that the Evil Queen is so hell bent on getting Henry to her side. Is it really Henry she's after, or is her true impetus about loneliness?
Is the Evil Queen really evil? I know, that seems like a dumb question; after all, the name really gives it away, right? It's what Regina named herself in the Enchanted Forest of the past once she accepted certain aspects of herself. For the first few episodes, the Evil Queen came across as that most evil and malicious parts of Regina. She reveled in wanting to watch the family tear themselves apart but as time has gone on, the Evil Queen is channeling more of her mother-- that love is a weakness and a weapon but is not pure unadulterated evil. This doesn't quite scan with what the writers said early on in interviews this summer, but since we rarely tackle these outside forces in my reviews, let's let sleeping dogs lie and we'll try to speculate why the Evil Queen is turning less chaotic evil and more lawful evil (sort of, the alignments here are tricky). It's my belief that, at the end of the day, the Evil Queen is more lonely than she is evil. The first indication of this is the Evil Queen's relationship with Zelena. If the Evil Queen really was so determined to destroy everyone, that would include Zelena; they were enemies of a sort in season three when Zelena tried to make it so Regina was never born, which would mean the Evil Queen would never exist at all. But instead, the Evil Queen sought her out to befriend her; they've even had a spa date. But now there's a rift, a tiny tear between the sisters largely because of Zelena's jealousy over the (totally disgusting) nature of the Queen and Gold. In other words, there's a hole that needs filled, a desire to have someone to whom the Evil Queen can relate and she'd much rather stick within her own family. Enter Henry. If the Queen could corrupt Henry, she'd have someone who would understand her, be like her, sympathize with her, and even help her. And, the cherry on top, it'd be someone she does love in whatever way she understands love. When Henry rejects her, the Queen is left with one choice: Rumple. And lo, we get another horrible display of kissy faces between the two that makes me want to claw my eyes out. It's not love between them; but it is mutual understanding. These two live in the darkness, they feed on it. And when the people they want--Zelena/Henry and Belle--reject them, they are left with just each other. As ugly and as tortured and as skin crawling as it is, it's what they are left with. What Rumple gets out of this remains to be seen. The Evil Queen wants a family--a remnant feeling left over from Regina--but Rumple? I think his plans with the Evil Queen are far more nefarious. With only two episodes left to go, I get the feeling it's going to only get harder to watch Rumple.
--I chose to not point out all the logistic problems with the Mirror World in the review proper but let's talk about them now. I think it’s a bit of a wasted potential. We’ve seen what mirror images can do to our characters–like S4 with Belle looking into Ingrid’s mirror and seeing an “opposite” Belle, of sorts. I think this more than anything should have been played up, instead of just a barren landscape with lots of mirrors. Also, confusingly, for some reason magic doesn't work there and even though Regina tells us that the mirrors in Mirror World are only one way, we also learn that Sydney lived in Mirror World and we know he and Regina easily communicated for years. I also have no idea how putting one mirror back together was supposed to aid in escaping but the show got around that by having a MacGuffin.
--And in this week’s “random MacGuffin” category we have: the Hammer of Hephaestus! Feel free to make up your own story as to why Rumple has that.
--The montage of Snow/Charming asleep and awake was seriously adorable.
--The EQ doesn’t consider herself evil, but a strong leader who does what is necessary. What's the difference? If a leader kills thousands or if a leader disenfranchises huge swaths of people to appease a majority and the "others" live in terror of him, is the leader merely Machiavellian or evil? Asking for a
--“Family makes you stronger than you’ll ever be alone.” AKA: how to sum up the themes of OUAT in one sentence.
--The Dragon lost a daughter. It’s Lily isn’t it?
--Place your bets now: who is in the lamp? I say it's Jafar.
--No new episode next week, so see everyone in two!
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
–I don’t particularly care about Lee and his tortured artists shtick.
–So why exactly are employees of the park (some of them) broadcasting a “bicameral mind” to the first generations Hosts? And who grabbed Elsie?
–“You don’t have a choice. Even if you say no, it’s part of your character.”
–I like that the further you get from the central town, the more hazardous and raw the game gets.
--Did anyone else think that sizzle real was false advertising? It was romanticizing what goes on in Westworld. You have the cowboys and the great outdoors and an interesting little town complete with saloons, but it failed to show what “life without limits” really means–like lots of bloodshed and violence and people acting out their basest of desires.
--What are the chances that Arnold is at the center of the Maze--provided it's literal.
Monday, November 7, 2016
I tend toward the harsh end of the spectrum whenever Snowing centrics come my way. We're long past the point where these two feel relevant; the original paring of the show now come across as doddering grandparents who's main purpose is to randomly give a speech about hope and the show has moved on to shiner and more interesting toys, like Regina, Hook, and their villain-of-the-arc style of storytelling. But, almost without fail, every year the writers trot out a Snowing flashback that somehow, inexplicably, ties the two back to the plot of the moment without pausing even for a second to think if it contradicts previous storylines or themes. Hence, the baby snatchers of season four. What the writers should focus on is taking the themes already laid heavy in Snowing's story--like the truest love to ever exist, the unstoppable belief they have in each other, and the concept of always finding one another--and run, pell mell, with that. And that, my dear readers, is exactly what this episode did. Now, it wasn't quite as elegant as a season one story and there are some glaring magical errors along the way, but it really did feel like the heart of Snowing (no pun intended) was laid bare tonight (seriously, no pun here!). These are two souls who somehow, as if through fate, manage to find their way to each other; who are always there for one another, even if they don't know that their soul mate is on the other side of a door. Going into this episode, I had a real sense of dread that the show would magically retcon the wonderful season one episode "Snow Falls." That episode stands out as one that pushed the idea that we don't know the stories we think we know. Snow was a bandit and the two love struck outcasts snarked at each other more than they swooned. While this secret-meeting-without-really-meeting is fairly cheesy and slightly improbable (you mean to tell me that these two soul mates didn't recognize each other's voices when they met later on?) the themes that centered around the heretofore unmentioned meeting felt perfectly in the Snowing wheelhouse. Snow's naive and precious belief in the goodness in people, Charming's eagerness to help, and that the union between the two could yield something miraculous is very in line with the earliest seasons of OUAT. I also appreciate that, so far this season, the show has been trying very hard to make connections from the past to the present day storylines in terms of more than just plot and plot devices. Snow's sacrificial streak comes through on both ends; she's unwilling to put Charming's life in danger, just from seeing her face, in the Enchanted Forest and she's unwilling to put her entire town (which, in this case, equates to her entire kingdom) in danger from a foe whom Snow knows all to well the depths of villainy can sink.
Well, I didn't see that one coming. It's not too often that this show can shock me but the Evil Queen managing to put the split heart itself under a sleeping curse and thus cursing Snowing to be awake/asleep in opposite turns was quite an eyebrow raising twist. I'm going to ignore the mechanics of how this happened (no apple, no spinning wheel, no nothing) and instead speculate on how this feeds into some of the themes on the show. Again, as I already stated, the show has driven home the point that True Love is the most powerful magic of all and with Snow and Charming, it exists in spades as the single most powerful True Love Couple. So how exactly does this new curse not break when true love's kiss is exchanged? It feels like it should, right? Snowing's love is supposed to be strong enough to break any curse, save the Dark One that Emma broke by virtue of Saviorhood and being True Love Incarnate thanks to Snow and Charming. If the show is going to keep with their much often quoted emphasis on true love then how does one go about breaking this curse? This isn't actually a problem the Savior can solve--unless Emma kisses her mother/father awake and come to think of it, that wouldn't be a terrible solution. But I'm not sure what this says about the show as a whole if the truest of true love couples can be put under such an evil curse that not even their go-to True Love's Kiss can solve. Are we supposed to believe, then, that true love has restrictions (Rumbelle can write novels on that topic)? Are we supposed to buy that sometimes evil does win and can defeat good? This new curse is a good twist and one I actually quite like, but I'm not sure how it stacks up against the show's biggest hitting motifs of true love being the strongest magic in the realm(s). To play devil's advocate and to show just how torn I am over this, you can argue that True Love's Kiss is working--Snow or David do in fact wake up--it's just that there's a new element in play that allows the Evil Queen to see their suffering in a new and interesting way. Being unable to wake someone up versus being able to wake them up but not be with them....which is worse? I have no fear that Snow and Charming are doomed forever, but it'll be quite unique to see where the show goes with this new development.
--This review wasn't intended to be less in-depth or less analytical. Honestly, this episode was a good character study and I enjoyed it, but with characters as old and well known as Snow and Charming, it's hard to say something new.
--“Sleeping Snow is my favorite Snow”
--The water in the bottle is not too bad of a MacGuffin; It’s a continuation of last year’s plot as the water is from the River of Lost Souls!
--“You can overcome anything. Remember who you are: the product of True Love.” That was a nice Emma/Hook moment.
--Did we know that Blue Fairy could bigify herself in the Enchanted Forest?
--The chemistry that might exist between Rumple and Regina is less a byproduct of the story and more because of Bobby and Lana, two actors who would have chemistry with rocks. Their relationship was always mentor/mentee with huge overtones of father/daughter hence why so many people thought Rumple was Regina’s father for a long time. This “romance”/ powerplay really horrifies me.
--Speaking of Rumple, I am going to pass over the scenes with him this week until we get a firmer hold on where this particular story is headed.
--Longbourne is the home of Lizzie Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. Please leave Jane Austen alone, Adam and Eddy.
-- I still feel like this season is aimless; what’s the goal here? Is it just to let Lana act her heart out? Fabulous, but there has to be a point somewhere, right? The Savior storyline is going nowhere and as fun as it is to watch the EQ sass everyone, I don’t get where the show is going with this.