Monday, November 4, 2013

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (3x6)

I was three years old when Disney's The Little Mermaid came out in theaters. From the opening moments to the final happy ending, I was enthralled. Ariel and the movie became my obsession. Everything had to be The Little Mermaid. I had toys, clothing, bedding, ect. I could sing every song, quote every line of dialogue, and (according to my family) I would perform the entire thing on command. Even now, at the age of 26, it remains one of my very favorite Disney movies and it never fails: Triton letting his little girl go to be with a human makes me sob. Since Once Upon a Time premiered back in 2011, fans have been asking, "Where is Ariel?" They have looked for clues and hints that the worlds most famous and beloved mermaid was in Storybrooke somewhere. Every red head on the street became suspect but creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis were adamant that we hadn't seen her yet. And then finally, after two and a half seasons, Ariel became a part of our world. This week's episode "Ariel" dealt not only with the little mermaid herself but with the reoccurring motif of second chances and the secrets we keep buried inside to protect ourselves.

Poor Unfortunate Soul

Ariel has a habit of saving humans. We meet our little mermaid as Bandit Snow is running through the woods, trying to escape Regina's guards. The solution was to jump off a cliff. Side note but Snow, dear, did you have a plan? You didn't know Ariel was there to rescue you so what exactly were you planning to do? But saved Snow is and an instant friendship is formed between the princess and the mermaid. As the two get to know each other, we learn a bit more about Ariel. Writers Adam and Eddy kept her as close to Disney as they could. She had the red hair, the green tail and the purple bra but there were also a host of in house references (remember, ABC is owned by Disney). Ariel carries a little purse and is apparently a bit of a kleptomaniac, which was hysterical and totally in character. Disney's Ariel loves to swim to sunken boats and find human treasures for her giant-cave-o-stuff. Our Ariel is no different. And among her many treasures is an invitation to the Under the Sea (Disney reference!) Ball in honor of the mythic Sea Goddess Ursula. Ursula is just a myth, a long dead tale gone for thousands of years but remembered by both the sea folk and the humans on land. Why does Ariel want to go to the Under the Sea Ball? True love of course! About a year ago, Ariel saved a human male named Eric from drowning in a ship wreck and the moment she looked upon his face, she knew it was true love. This is something Snow understands completely. The timeline of this episode was little hard to piece together but I believe this is the month in between Snow meeting Charming for the first time (during highway robbery) and their second meeting before his wedding to Abigail. During that time, Snow tried to loose herself in the woods and forget him but found it impossible--it was true love. Snow is determined to help Ariel get her happy ending but there is one problem: a lack of legs. But this wouldn't be the Little Mermaid if Ariel didn't have legs for awhile. Once a year the sea goddess Ursula gifts the merfolk with legs for 12 hours so that they might go upon land. It just so happens that this wonderful time occurs during Eric's ball.

I had to suspend quite a bit of disbelief for the ball scene: how did they get in with just one invitation? How did Snow, the most wanted Bandit in the Enchanted Forest, not get caught? Where did they get the fancy dresses? But I was willing to overlook these trifling matters because of the writing and frankly sheer joy of watching one of my favorite Disney movies brought to life. The cutesy dialogue between Snow and Ariel was spot on and I loved how Ariel was shoving trinkets into her dress for safekeeping. The romance between Eric and Ariel did feel fast. One dance and he wants to take her off to the see world--but these are fairy tales and that's how they work, especially when you are relying heavily on the Disney version. Eric has been dreaming of Ariel's face and believes she is his future. He fell in love with her through a dream and he doesn't want to waste anytime. I have to give credit to Gil McKinney who played Eric--he was given very little to do outside of be the the Prince and the writing didn't allow him to give Eric any real flavor. But I did enjoy the couple's interaction. It was sweet and cute and I wanted more, and this is coming from someone who has been shipping Hookriel (Hook and Ariel) for a long time. Ariel is conflicted; she wants to go off with Eric and see the world but she also knows that after 12 hours she is once again reduced to a fish and cannot be apart of his world for another year. Does she tell him or does she break his heart? In a moment of distress, Ariel turns to her faith and belief in Ursula. During the whole Snow and Ariel adventure, Regina has been watching in her mirror and comes up with a plan to bring down Snow. Regina will play on Ariel's faith and belief and thus we get Ursulana. It's no great secret that Lana Parilla (Regina) wanted to be Ursula. I was against it initially because it just felt too much for her to be the Evil Queen and Ursula. Too much evil in one package. But, as there normally is on ONCE, there was a twist.

I gotta hand it to Lana Parilla; she pulled off Fake Ursula spectacularly--different voice, different mannerisms. And of course, more Disney references: "My poor sweet child," is a direct line from the movie! Fake!Ursula offers Ariel a deal that will allow the mermaid to be on land forever and with her Prince. Poor Ariel doesn't realize she is being played until much later but Ursula gifts Ariel with a bracelet that will allow Ariel to keep her legs and the wearer of the bracelet will get Ariel's fins so long as the bracelet stays on. Guess who gets to wear this special bracelet? It's Snow of course. And suddenly we have MerSnow! That was wholly unexpected and kind of amazing. Snow, now with a flashy green tail, is unable to run when Real!Regina shows up to take her revenge. Ariel doesn't want to leave Snow alone with the Evil Queen but Regina encourages her to go be with her Prince: this is her one shot at true love and she should take it. There are no second chances (oh Regina of the Past. If only you could see this show now). It looks like Ariel will leave MerSnow to her fate but then...she stabs Regina with a dinglehopper. I fell into a fit of giggles at this. The dinglehopper (fork) is iconic in the Little Mermaid. When Ariel was announced, everyone wanted to know if she'd have a fork. Instead of using it to comb her hair, she uses it to stab Regina in the neck. Once again, Ariel saves Snow and the two swim away leaving Regina without her catch of the day.

There is one more bit of Ariel's story that is classic to both the original Hans Christian Anderson tale and Disney's: Ariel's voice. After being saved, Snow tells Ariel to go and tell Eric how she feels. If she's honest with him and their love is true, it can survive anything. Ariel, giddy as a school girl, swims away to Eric's castle. Just as she is about to call out his name, she finds herself mute. Regina has taken her voice and Eric leaves without Ariel, thinking that she doesn't really love him. It's a credit to the writing of Adam and Eddy and the casting that this scene played so well. Ariel's devastation was palpable and so was Eric's distress. Regina: killing happy endings for years. But in the present day we got a bit more of mermaid myth: they can travel between worlds. Regina summons Ariel to Neverland and gives her back her voice. The Evil Queen has a task for Ariel and even though Ariel doesn't want to help Regina she will if it means finding Eric. The task? Go to Storybrooke. And finally after 6 episodes we're heading back home to our friends in Maine. I've really loved the Neverland arc; it has been dark and creepy and very angsty. But I'm ready to see Storybrooke and its inhabitants once more.

Cause Two Can Keep A Secret If One Of Them Is Dead

For an entire week a debate raged: would Hook tell Emma that Neal was alive? Turns out, people were half right? Hook tells Snow and Charming that Pan claims Neal is alive but it could be a trick. And if it is a trick, Emma will be hurt all over again. Best to keep it a secret and find out if Neal is alive for ourselves before we tell her. I'm not actually sure how I feel about this. Lying is bad and secrets have a tendency to come out (especially when you tell Snow who is just incapable of keeping them) but it was done out of concern and love. I was glad this little interlude only lasted one scene. Emma should know that Neal is alive, for non ship reasons. He is the father of her child and she needed to know. Neal's death has been hanging over Emma all season: she's pissed that he died, she's pissed that he left her, she's pissed at how when they finally said the I Love You it was too late. So once again, the task of Saving Henry is put on hold. I understand that the writers are dealing with a lot this season but I had hoped more progress would have been made on this front. So far, Henry's gotten one scene of being given hope but it's debatable if that message actually worked and if he believed it. We've saved Charming and now we're saving Neal. But despite one more tangent, I was ok with this one. Because my shipper heart sometimes rules my ability to watch TV. However, this tangant is the final straw for Regina who has been "camping with the Charmings" for a week and is sick to death of it. It's peace out for Regina who decides to find Rumple instead because the evil duo can accomplish tasks better than the do-gooder's.

The path to Neal is a tricky one and it leads them to the Echo Caves where Pan has moved Neal's cage. This is all part of Pan's games. He is setting up our Jolly Roger crew to hate each other; by revealing their secrets inside the cave, Pan is driving a wedge between everyone. The secrets our characters tell are not the deepest dark secrets of their past but secrets of the heart. And what is everyone's greatest secrets?
Hook's secret is that he never thought he would move on from Milah, his first love. But then he met Emma and he realized that he can move on. This secret is tricky. There is rejoicing in both ships today. On the one hand, Hook didn't say that he loved Emma but that she makes him realize that he can move on from a lost love. On the other, it did read as an I love you. But I think Hook's feelings are misplaced. It's not love he feels but a sense of gratitude and thankfulness that he now knows he can have love again. He's misreading his own feelings but until he figures that out, the triangle isn't going anywhere. (side note: I am sick to death of it already. I know this is the kind of drama TV loves but it's exhausting being pulled and pushed in both directions). Snow's secret is that she loves her daughter very much but she feels cheated out of being able to raise her daughter and she wants another go at it. This has been a reoccurring theme for Snow all season: she has no idea how to mother a girl who is the same age as her. I hope this isn't read as, "I want a replacement baby" but I think the major theme of the season, besides belief, is second chances. Hook wants a second chance at love; Snow wants a second chance at being a mother. Charming wants a second chance too but his confession is that he is stuck in Neverland after being healed with the magical waters. And Emma? Emma has the biggest secret of them all.

There is not one SwanFire out that I know of who thought the relationship between Emma and Neal would be easy. There is pain and regret and mistrust but there is love. Oh, there is love. Emma's secret is that she has never stopped loving Neal and that she will always love him but she wished this had been a trick by Peter Pan because the only way she could ever move on from Neal is if he was dead; if he is alive, he has a stake in her heart. So it is easier for her to believe him dead because now Emma has to deal with the big scary emotions. And Emma doesn't do big scary emotions. She is a walls up kid of girl and starting at the face of the man she has loved for 11 years, without ceasing, is terrifying. But in Neal's words: "you can say anything to me." And then the hug. I wasn't disappointed that there was no kiss, that would be outside of Emma's character.  Emma can handle the heady lust filled emotions that cause pirate smoochies but they don't register to her, hence her telling Snow that the kiss meant nothing and it happened because it had been awhile and she was feeling good. A thought she reiterated to Hook before he confessed, mind you. What Emma cannot handle are the deep emotions of love--maybe even true love. And Neal makes it very clear, he's going to fight for her. He will never stop fighting for her (oh Rumbelle callbacks!). Now or ever. My deepest hope is that the triangle goes on hiatus until they get back to Storybrooke with Henry and then it can be triangle hell until Emma makes a choice.

Miscellaneous Notes from Ariel

--I'm more or less passing over the whole Shadow!Belle incident because I'm just glad it's over. I don't know if Belle has been the Shadow this whole time or if it was just the shadow this time because it was spouting the same ideas Pan was. That part of this story is done and now we can see Real!Belle and hopefully some amazing Rumbelle moments. Though amazing Rumbelle moments on top of SwanFire moments might be the death of me. As another note, is the Shadow really Peter Pan? I'm starting to doubt it.

--Pan and Rumple are brothers. If they aren't brothers then this is the best red herring on the show. Pan cooked him breakfast--his favorite breakfast for heaven's sake.

--Regina and Rumple together! Ah, that's magic. What will Ariel be bringing back to Neverland? Well Rumple called it a fate worse than death, which has been used once before on this show; back in the season 2 premiere it was used to describe what happens when the Wraith takes a soul. Might Regina and Rumple try to take Pan's soul? Does he have a soul to take?

--I loved the random appearance of Real!Ursula at the end and even more than that, I loved that Regina was scared of her. 

--Henceforth, all forks in my house will be known as mini-tridents.


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