Saturday, May 19, 2018
Let's just agree here and now that most of this plot is nonsense (what, you thought this post would be nothing but sappy nostalgia?) The Wish Realm and the mechanics of it have never made a lick of sense and the writers did what they do "best": spaghetti writing. Throw ideas at a wall and whatever sticks becomes your plot. I've heard several times that if you let go of the plot of OUAT and just focus on the acting, the campiness, and the themes then it becomes a much better (or at least more palatable) show. I say let's try that and agree, as stated above, that the plot of Young Wish Henry using dark magic to open thousands of portals to suck all the heroes of every realm ever into their own personal hellscape is mostly ridiculous. Instead, let's focus on what this episode was trying to say and trying to do. OUAT liked to hit the same beats over and over again; I've called it recycling in the past because there's only so much you can mine from the hope, faith, and family well before it runs dry and you have to start reusing the same material over again. There's something different about what is happening in this series finale, though, and maybe that's because it's the series finale and by definition none of this material can be used again. If we think critically for a moment, this finale is almost no different than any other finale over the past seven years. There's a big bad villain, some sort of time crunch, one of the family members is in trouble, and it all comes down to sacrifice, hope, and belief in the power of love to save the day. As is tradition, I went back and read my blog for the start of this season to see where we started and compare it to where we ended; in that season seven opening blog, I talked about cyclical story telling and how the writers were trying to graft Henry and Lucy over Emma and Henry and retell season one and not necessarily because they were out of ideas, but because that's how archetypes work. The song remains the same, even if the lyrics have changed. I think that's what the writers are aiming for in this series finale. They want it to be familiar and a tribute to their show, not just to a single season. Snow's really big speech about hope may be cringe inducing (as all her hope speeches tended to be) but it also fits perfectly as the last speech about hope she'll ever give. Regina's coronation as the Queen of the United Realms might be a bit of a head-scratcher--how does one fit all those realms into a tiny corner of Maine and how did the entire town elect Regina without her even realizing an election was happening--but it also is a nice culmination to her character, from an Evil Queen who crashed a wedding to a Good Queen who was crowned the people's hero. Rumple's death has been a long time coming but dying at his own hands by sacrificing himself so a father and child could be reunited while also conquering the Dark One side of himself feels like a lot of plot nonsense fulled by Magical MacGuffins except it's exactly how Rumple's story should end.
There's history here; there are memories. Emma crashing Regina's coronation, uttering the same lines Regina first uttered at Snow and Charming's wedding? Touching. One final "Madam Mayor" and "Miss Swan?" Heartwarming. Rumple and Belle dancing like they did after their wedding? Tear inducing. Flashing through the greatest hits of OUAT in flashback form as a message of hope is expounded upon by the show's greatest success story like a preacher at a pulpit? Cheesy to the hilt but completely in the wheelhouse of OUAT. This series finale isn't just about the season, it's about the show. It's about what the show has meant to the fictional characters, to the actors, to the crew, and yes, to the audience. Two episodes ago, Young Henry wrote an essay that was meant to cross the fourth wall and speak to the audience, to tell us that magic exists in storytelling. This episodes feels the same. It's yearning, begging, one final time to touch our hearts and ask that we remember it fondly. I cannot say this is a perfect show. I cannot say that it is without faults. Any hope of me claiming its perfection and its place as one of the greats died along with Neal, but maybe it doesn't need to be perfect and go down as "one of the best" for it to still be something magical and powerful. There are episodes and seasons I'll never watch again in their entirety, but buried inside those seasons are nuggets of something good, and it was only if you stuck with it that you saw them. We never had a season in which I did not find at least one thing to praise and rejoice in. The hilarity of the Shattered Sight curse; the Neal and Emma Underworld moment; Hades and Zelena's delightfully fun romance; the musical episode; Rumple giving up a chance to be with Belle so that Alice would not be trapped in a metaphorical immortal tower. It would be so easy for me to hate on this series finale (because, again, plot nonsense) and maybe in a week I'll feel differently, once the heartache of nostalgia has passed. But I don't think so. I think when I sum up my experience with OUAT someday in the future, I'll say it was weird and complicated and sad and heartbreaking and disappointing but also beautiful and wonderful and effective. And that's what TV shows are designed to be; no show is perfect, not even those that go down as "the greatest of all time." What's more important than absolute perfection is how you affect the audience, what kind of conversations you generate with the power of your media. And generate conversations it did; in these blogs I have discussed archetypes, religion, mythology, feminism, agency, motherhood, depictions of women, rape culture, and everything in between. All of those things and the discussion of them is....weird and complicated and sad and heartbreaking and disappointing but also beautiful and wonderful and effective! We contain multitudes and so does this show. This show isn't perfect but I didn't watch it all the way through because I felt like I had to; I did it because I loved it. I failed to come up with the perfect opening sentence for this blog and now I'm struggling to come up with a perfect closer. What's that old cliche? Ah yes...
And so, Emma Swan, Regina Mills, Snow White, Prince Charming, Henry, Cinderella, and Lucy Mills, Rumplestiltskin, Belle French, Neal Cassidy, Zelena, Alice, Robyn and Captain Hook (yes, even you!)...lived happily ever after. The end.
Miscellaneous Notes on Leaving Storybrooke
--The first image of the last episode is the clocktower reading 8:15. One last time.
--"Intruders!" This was laugh out loud funny. Good thing Granny had her crossbow handy!
–“Is this a dream?” “Well, if it is, it’s an excellent one.” I never really shipped Outlaw Queen but that was a gorgeous segment.
--“If this is how I have to go out, showing you there are people in the world who love you, no matter what you do…then that’s a worthy end for me.”
--The snowglobe is bigger on the inside!
--I’ll never not love a good dreamcatcher on this show, but I really wish Rumple would remember that he has a dead son he wants to see again; dreamcatchers will always be tied to Neal (and Emma) so that was a perfect time to throw in a Neal reference.
--Using the Dark Curse and pieces of everyone’s heart to bring all the realms to Storybrooke is…extremely meta and weird and I both hate it and love it?
--Lily’s father was Zorro! The writers get the last laugh here; for years fans have hounded them about this dangling plot thread. Be careful what you wish for, I guess.
--I suppose if I have to comment on it: Baby Hope Swan-Jones. The fact that the writers named the baby Hope is eye-roll inducing. They don’t see that baby as a baby but as a concept. That baby isn’t a person, it’s a giant hammer to beat the audience with one final time.
--“I am the strongest version of us….you don’t do the right thing for a reward. You do it because it’s right.
Final Rating for Season 7B: B
Final episode ranking for Season 7B (from worst to best)
12. Flower Child (7x19)
11. Secret Garden (7x11)
10. Breadcrumbs (7x16)
9. Sisterhood (7x15)
8. A Taste of the Heights (7x12)
7. Homecoming (7x21)
6. Knightfall (7x13)
5. Chosen (7x17)
4. Is This Henry Mills? (7x20)
3. The Girl in the Tower (7x14)
2. The Guardian (7x18)
1. Leaving Storybrooke (7x22)
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
West or, as of the episode "Virtu e Fortuna," the Indian subcontinent? You could literally create a world of anything, at any time, with any sort of people so why make one where slavery, rape, murder, general crime, outlaws, and colonialism are very much at the forefront historically? What is to be gained from that? William and Ford might have us believe it's because these less than savory aspects of human history are part and parcel of man's deepest desire. That underneath our socially acceptable gentility lurks the heart of a beast who wants to give licence to the darkness. But I think there's another reason these points in history are being explored in the park, a reason that comes to bear in the episode "The Riddle of the Sphinx." Immortality. Obviously there is a standard kind of immortality happening in the park with James Delos but this idea has been telegraphed to us before the big reveal of James and Williams' project with what kind of parks Ford and Arnold built: ones that are drawn specifically from nationalism and colonialism, ones in which nations attempt to live forever by conquering peoples. James Delos was attempting to conquer death, to plant his own flag as the first ever immortal man. The parks are serving as a metaphor for what the humans behind them are trying to accomplish, namely a life everlasting. It's a deep piece of irony that while the Hosts are jealous of the humans right to control their own lives and have their narratives written for them, the humans at Delos are trying to become more like the Hosts. Perhaps these two races have more in common than they want to admit.
--I did not mention her in the review proper but the woman who escaped Rajworld and seems to know much about the parks is William's daughter, with whom he has a rather difficult relationship.
--What exactly is the Ghost Nation doing with the humans? So far, they haven't killed anyone who wasn't a Host. Is their true programming to protect the humans in case of a Host uprising? It might explain why they appear to have created a religion based on the hazmat-suited humans who come to the park to clean up.
--Samurai! I have no idea what that might mean but it looks like there's still another park, this one based on Japanese culture.
--Poor Bernard; he seems both in control and completely out of it. I wonder how much Ford programmed our favorite bespeckled scientist before the gala in which Delores killed him.
--William told Delos that in another year or two the scientists might crack the cognitive plateau problem. We are also reminded that Peter Abernathy has the same overly complex code-that-is-not-really-code inside his head. Given the makeup job done on Ed Harris to make William look younger when he's with Delos one final time, I'm guessing a year or two has passed and that Charlotte wants Peter Abernathy out of the park because the solution has been cracked and he's carrying the solution inside him.
--"Tell me that was a host and not a human." "I think it was both."
--Bernard promising not to hurt Elsie and then flashing back to killing a bunch of lab techs is a giant flashing sign that Elise isn't likely to live much longer, right?
--"If you're looking forward, you're looking in the wrong direction."
Saturday, May 12, 2018
Name some of your favorite OUAT non-regular characters. I'd wager that the list would include Peter Pan, Cruella de Vil, and Ariel the Little Mermaid. Well, you're in luck because all of those characters show up in this second to last episode. Whether or not they deserve to be there is another story. When these aforementioned characters have shown up in the past, beyond their arc seasons, it wasn't just for show, but rather because the narrative of that season could easily fit them in. Season five, being in the Underworld, had actual dead people running around so it made sense that a deceased Peter Pan and Cruella would show up and harass the family clan. In this episode, the returning characters didn't add much to the storyline except to indulge the audience and show them some fan favorites before the show goes off air forever. Did we really need Peter Pan trapped in stocks or Cruella locked in a dog cage? Was Ariel and her Magical MacGuffin really necessary to the plot (aside, but are Magical MacGuffins ever really necessary?). The answer to all of those questions is a resounding no. The only appearance that actually made a difference plot wise was the Apprentice showing up again, ironic given that no one would catalog the Apprentice as neither a fan favorite nor a character anyone was dying to see again. Don't misunderstand me, though; it's not that it wasn't nice to see Peter, Cruella and Ariel because all of those characters are among my favorites but the writers didn't need them, the plot didn't need them and the only way the writers could even get these characters back was to move the entire show to the Wish Realm (a place that still does not make any sense) and have our family interact with them there. It's sloppy and haphazard (there's the season six word I used so much!) but I guess if it's a way to help the audience say goodbye then that's a point in the returns favor. Putting all that aside, though, there are a few beats of this episode that also return to take us into the final episode (ever!), namely the return of the show's most ambiguous prophecy. I get the feeling that the writers believe that they had resolved the prophecy from the Seer in which Rumple learned that a boy would be his undoing, but because the audience never understood it or could agree on which boy (Henry? Bae? Peter Pan? Gideon?) was Rumple's ultimate undoing, the writers felt okay in bringing the prophecy back into the narrative fold and trying to resolve it once and for all. It puts Henry and his role as the Author at the center of the finale and the idea that it's up to Henry to bring the happy endings back is very in line with one of the major beats of the show. Yes, Emma was the Savior but if Henry hadn't gone to find Emma and beg her to come to Storybrooke, the original curse would never have been broken and the past seven years would be but a dream. The other big return is not a person or a narrative point but rather place: Storybrooke. If we're talking nostalgia, seeing the Storybrooke sign as Alice and Robin drove into the tiny hamlet actually gave me a big jolt in the stomach. How many times have we seen that sign? How many times have conversations and moments and important themes happened around that sign? Round and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved (Don Draper always says it best). Let's end where we began, with a family fighting a complicated villain, trying to restore the happy endings to a bunch of equally complicated fairy tale characters just trying to make their way in this very real world. One last time...we gotta teach them how to say goodbye.
--Nook and Alice talking on the phone but not being able to be any closer was really heartbreaking. I can’t believe there’s a version of Hook I genuinely like and am rooting for.
--"We don’t negotiate with villains! We kick ass and protect the people we love.”
--“I know it’s a bit cluttered; but it’s beach front property.” “All I see is a cave where booze goes to perish.”
--“That is indeed a complicated story. The timelines alone would make one’s head spin.”
--“If it comes in with a built-in Margo, then I’m all in.”
--Tiana’s crisis of personality would be interesting if we had spent any time with her over the last year. She’s been such a background character that I honestly forget she exists half the time. And when did she and Naveen become romantic?
--Horrible CGI dragon is horrible.
--I can't believe next week is the last blog I'll ever write for Once Upon a Time. I've been trying to think through what I want to say in advance and I'm finding it...difficult. 'Till next week, readers.
Saturday, May 5, 2018
"Scratches are a part of life." This one little line from Regina at the end of the episode could pretty much sum up all the character journeys in OUAT. The heroes, the villains, the in-betweens, so much of the story of OUAT is about the emotional and psychological scars life leaves on the human soul. That sounds depressing but there's a flip side to this; it's what brings us together. Everyone has scratches in their life, moments of deep pain and loss and regret but it's the commonality of those scratches that makes us a community. When the show began seven years ago, Emma was a little lost girl without a home or a community. The people she met in Storybrooke became her tribe, her people. This feeling of loneliness and being untethered is something that united Regina and Emma even when the family drama kept them at odds. It's also something that we find in their son, Henry. I have lamented all season that Henry's motivation for wanting to go out into the world hasn't felt real. No one talks about going out into the world to find their story because they aren't in any book and this kind of language removes a sense of familiarity with the audience when Henry speaks in terms that don't resonate. But there's finally a moment where it all makes more sense: "they didn't accept the real Henry Mills." This line makes it so much clearer how much of a lie Henry would have to live every single day of his life if he ever dared to step outside of the tiny Storybrooke hamlet. This sort of reasoning feels real; it feels familiar because there are lies all of us tell the world and the weight of them burdens us. I can't imagine having to lie about my family, my upbringing, and my earliest experiences every single day of my life but I can imagine how very tiring it would be. Henry wanting to escape that fate, to find a way to build his own community where he could be Henry Mills--the boy kidnapped by Peter Pan, who's father was killed by the Wicked Witch of the West and who's two mothers loved Robin Hood and Captain Hook--and more importantly could be accepted for being Henry Mills. That's really just Henry following in his families footsteps. That's why it's so important that Regina is the mother Henry interacts with the most this season (putting aside Jennifer Morrison's departure); Regina, more than anyone, wanted a community that accepted all parts of her story, where she didn't have to live a lie. Her happy ending wasn't a romance or a romantic partner but instead finding a place in the world where she was accepted. How could Regina not want the same for Henry?
--Buckle up tight, everyone. I imagine that those feelings of nostalgia are only going to becoming more and more pronounced in these last two episodes.
--Big round of applause to both Jared Gilmore and to Andrew West for that Henry to Henry phone call. They sold the hell out of it.
--Regina trying to smash Gothel’s head in with a bat is also how I feel about Gothel and her overall plan.
--Robin and Alice are the absolute best thing about this entire season. I actually cheered and fist pumped when they were reunited.
--“You want to ruin me like the world ruined you; I’m not like you. I'm not an outcast, I’m not an orphan or a street rat or some crazy girl who’s lost her way….you chose hate. But I choose love.”
--Regina digging up a grave of a very recently dead woman to get a storybook is all manner of creepy and weird.
--I have no idea how I feel about Wish Rumple as the final villain. I’m worried about the execution because OUAT doesn’t often stick the landing when it does stuff like this, but Rumple wrestling with his demons–facing (literally) the man he was so he can prove that he’s not this kind of Rumple anymore? Sign me up.
--The time travel paradoxes are insane and the show would be better if they just had everyone live in 2045-2050 and make the argument that technology didn’t advance much in 30 years.
--Facilier’s sudden death is so unearned. We know nothing about him or what we wanted or what his connection to Regina is. Everyone from the "Princess and the Frog" fairy tale has been wasted.
--"...But that’s the thing about stories. They’re more than words. They live inside of us. They make us who we are. And as long as someone believes that, there will always be magic."
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
--I don't know if it's deliberate but there's a really interesting racial divide between Delores's group and Maeve's group. Delores has surrounded herself with all white comrades whereas Maeve is marching around with people of color. Thus far, Maeve's quest is the purer of the two. This is further seen in the Delos company (all white males) being seen as, not villains per se, but privileged egotistical white males who take what they want versus our lone sympathetic Host who hasn't turned on humanity, African-American Bernard. Take that for whatever it might mean.
--There is some seriously gorgeous piano music throughout the entire episode.
--"Dead isn't what it used to be."
--"I think in twenty years, this will be the only reality that matters."
--I honestly have no idea what run down structure Delores--and is also William's greatest mistake--is heading for but it's significant that it was William who showed it to her originally. Again, the experiences forced on her inform her identity.
--"We have toiled in God's service long enough; so I killed him."
Saturday, April 28, 2018
So, I play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons (cue shocked gasp here) and as someone who is currently playing a Druid, I have a certain amount of appreciation for magic wielding creatures, in a fantasy story--particularly when their magic is rooted in Nature. Nature is often romanticized as something that has a magic all its own, a magic that humans cannot tap into because Nature and Natural magic (capital N because this isn't your standard everyday nature, but a cosmic archetypal Nature) transcends human understanding. Nature is otherworldly, someplace where there are nymphs and dryads and and fairies. Cities, civilizations, and humans stand opposed to this, going through life with an axe or a blowtorch, destroying Nature and its magics for their own selfish reasons--think paving paradise to put in a parking lot. Up until this point, most--if not all--of the villains of OUAT have come from the human side of things. They might have grown up poor and abused, but they grew up in the human world of cities and technology (if low grade technology) and not as a child of Nature. The fact that Gothel is a child of Nature--and indeed is destined to become the Mother of All Magic (magic, which apparently in the OUAT cosmos, derives directly from Nature)--sets her apart from the other villains in OUAT, from Rumple to Regina to Cora to Pan to Zelena and so forth and so on. I do have to appreciate this uniqueness because other parts of her story--the boiler plate parts--are awfully familiar. Gothel wants to be part of a world that she is not particularly meant to be in. In this case, Gothel wants to be a part of the human world. This is perfectly in line with other villains; Rumple wanted to be part of those in power who have control over their lives; Regina wanted nothing to do with her royal lineage instead wanted to be a simple stable girl; Cora wanted a life that was more than just the Miller's Daughter. Villainy in OUAT seems to come down to not being able to accept the life you have and instead wanting a life that is out of your reach. Gothel cannot be part of the human world because she is antithetical to humankind. They are steel and iron and she is dirt, trees, flowers, and roots. In this regard, Gothel's villainy is a shade more interesting than others in the past. Her goal isn't the dagger or revenge on a singular person who denied her the life she wanted, but instead to take back Earth from humanity for Nature. She wants to cover the earth in flowers again and pluck the weedy humans who keep interfering in the universe's garden. It's heady and it's deep and, most importantly, it requires more than just one damn episode of backstory to detail this kind of dynamic. Gothel's family was destroyed as was her home and that's certainly reason for her to move against humanity but I deeply wish it had been a slow destruction, not because of one night in which about five people were mean to teenage Gothel and she went on a mass genocide (and I do mean mass genocide) spree. Because, my dear readers, here's where the episode took a left turn into crazy town.
Miscellaneous Notes on Flower Child
--Lucy clearly follows in her father’s footsteps by making really bad choices when it comes to interacting with villains.
--So Henry's cured? It was that simple? What about the 1000s of different types of moss Regina had to study?
--It’s hard to feel sympathy for Gothel when she says stuff like this: “I never would have left you alone in that tower if I knew you have magic.”
--Smurfs. Smurfs everywhere, complete with plastic dollar store butterflies in their hair.
--“The world was cruel to me. And I became cruel too."
--Henry built an entire crazy board–complete with pictures of people–in less than a day. Where’d you get the pictures, Henry?
--Did Lucy really pull out Cinderella’s glass slipper from a paper bag from Granny’s? Why in all of sanity is it there?
--Henry and Jacinda finally kissed but no curse was broken. I find I don't even care.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
--Obviously there is a whole slew of plot that I neglected to talk about but, like last year, spaghetti plot will slowly unravel itself. It's best to just go with it for now and ponder big heady questions instead of trying to dive in too deep to the goings on.
--However, a few intriguing points of plot, yes? We're jumping timestreams much like we did in season one, this time through Bernard's eyes. How Bernard got separated from Charlotte and wound up on a beach sometime after Delores's massacre is a good question.
--Another good question: how many parks are there? Because a Bengal Tiger most certainly does not belong in the Wild Wild West.
--Anyone wanna hazard a guess as to why Charlotte needs Peter Abernathy, Delores's father?
--"You were prisoners to your own desires. But now, you're prisoners to mine."
--Delores believes she has evolved into something new, but I think that honor might belong to Maeve who's calm, collected, rational and totally in charge persona isn't one we've seen from her before. There are shades of those former lives, but Maeve appears be wholly new.
--"I will cut off your most important organ and feed it to you. Though, it wouldn't be a very big meal." "I wrote that line for you." "Bit broad if you ask me."
--Complicating all of this is Robert Ford's final conversation to William, our Man in Black. Young Robert suggests that everything we see now is a new game, a new design that is all happening exactly as he plotted out. If that's the case, then there really are no new identities and Delores and company are players on a stage once more.