Monday, March 31, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (3x15)

I don't know what to say. I've been trying to come up with a way to write this blog that is honest and fair and a proper review. But my insides are broken and I frankly can't bring myself to care. This isn't going to be a typical OUAT blog or review. I'm not even sure what it's going to be. If you come to read my blog expecting a fleshed out synopsis or insight, you're out of luck today. Today I am in pain. Today I am in mourning. To answer a question first: will I keep watching?
Short answer: yes. 
Longer answer: yes but my love for this show is significantly diminished. This is more than a ship; it's more than the character of Nealfire even. This show was about hope and redemption and second chances. It taught us that sometimes you can have a better life than you've had before if you just believe--magic and fairly tales do come true. Killing the very epitome of hope on the show is not in keeping with that. For a good, honest, brave, kind man who only ever sacrificed his happiness for others to be denied his happy ending while anti-heroes who have committed mass murder, torture, brutal beatings, and been devoted to revenge get a happy ending is such a horrible message to send that I'm not quite sure why I should continue watching. 

So much for hope. 

This won't be a typical blog. This is a memorial. And, I'm sure, a rant. 

I will miss you Nealfire Cassidy. 

 Character assassination is when authors do a rapid 180 on a character without any sort of explanation. Suddenly the character is doing and saying things that do no fit with how they have been portrayed before. Typically it is done in order to make another character look better and chances are, if you have sudden character assassination, that character is about to bite it. In internet speak we typically call this "OOC" or out of character. Neal being selfish and rash and headstrong is so out of character that it has become painfully obvious that Adam and Eddy wrote him out for other reasons than just "plot." They couldn't even be bothered to write this episode themselves. A character that they hatched alone, not a fairy tale one, that was the SOLE REASON for the original curse, for the show itself, and they left it to the weakest writer of the bunch.

  The idea that Neal would go from unselfish self- sacrificer in the blink of one episode without any sort of buildup is ludicrous. For them to reduce his screen time in the past three episodes and then to bring him back just to kill him is horrible writing. Simply terrible.  He’s NOT selfish as a general rule, the guy has made a habit out of sacrificing himself for the good/safety of others, so him just using dark magic with no thought for the consequences was ridiculous. The idea that he wouldn't even QUESTION the magical handwaving vault key from a talking candle is even more asinine. And, speaking of OOC, Belle would do as much research as possible into this book and this magic vault and key as possible. She wouldn't just sit back and say, "well good. We have a solution. I don't need to look into this at all." The sheer idea that  she would not have read up on the price of that magic and not just gone running off to do the dark magic totally blind. They made both characters act OOC for plot reasons, and it bugged me. She KNOWS all magic comes with a price, but she didn't even bother to investigate it in this episode?? While in the present, she learns all about it due to her immaculate research? No. Does not jive.

Rumple absorbed his dead son's body. Yes, you read that right. That's a thing that happened. This episode was magical hand waving at its finest. A heretofore unmentioned book, key, vault, a Dark One loophole. Are you kidding me? So Belle--smart cookie wonderful Belle who read every book in that library--didn't know about this super dark book that was hiding some ridiculous key? She didn't know that the ridiculous key would lead to a giant trap door of goo which is where the original Dark One came from? WHAT?! So Rumple's sacrifice--his heroism, his honor, his beautiful wonderful love toward his son and his true love--was for nothing because plot. He knew he would return to the darkness (whatever the hell that means) and be there for all of eternity? Really? Some black goo is what he was reduced to? And Neal, not thinking things through, just running head first into black magic? No, I don't think so. "Magic destroyed my family" that was his stance. He would use it, but for good. He wouldn't be this incredibly selfish. They destroyed his character for the sake of "plot" (bullshit. This is nothing but fan service at this point.) So Neal dies first in his father's arms in the Enchanted Forest, Rumple having finally chosen his son over magic and then absorbs his body as a way of keeping him alive. Does that make any sense? Does that even sound like a thing that is possible?? No. He died because Adam and Eddy have written themselves into a corner--SwanFire was true love (Belle said so!!) but a certain pirate got in the way and had a better reaction and was more news worthy than their original plan. So they ditched it and went with something else.

So now we know why Rumple was out of his mind. Because he and Neal are inhabiting the same body. Neal has been dead for a year, but living inside Rumple, coming out occasionally (apparently). And so in the must undignified way possible...they killed Neal again. Emma using her magical powers, which apparently have jumped from zero to thousand overnight, separate Neal from Rumple and laying on the cold hard ground, fighting for his last bit of air, Neal dies in Emma's arms. Find Tallahassee, even if it's not with me. Wow. Way to rub salt in this wound, cause here some comes some dashing pirate who can give you a good home, right? Yeah okay.

And the worst part of it all? Neal doesn't even get to see Henry once before he dies. And "it doesn't matter???" Are you kidding me with this? So this 13 year old looses his father, not even remembering how much he loved his father? And his father, who crossed worlds for him (twice now!!!) doesn't even get to see him one last time. As someone who lost their father as a kid, this is disgusting. It's undignified. And it's offensive. Every part of this episode was forced and awkward and rushed. Hook apologizes to Belle for trying to kill her twice--except not really. Go rewatch the scene. It was forced and contrived. He did it because Emma was standing there giving him a look. “You really know how to charm a girl, don’t you?” And his whole “there were extenuating circumstances” about trying to KILL HER. Apparently it’s okay to beat a woman and shoot them in the back so long as you had a good reason. That was NOT an apology. He smirked through the whole thing. It was not sincere and heartfelt. And then some overly contrived idiotic scene between Hook and Neal where Hook CALLS HIM A VILLAIN and Hook gets labeled a hero. I am done. This is too much. The man SOLD Neal to a bunch of psychopaths as a boy and now he gets to be a hero? He gets the girl? He gets to be a stepfather to Henry? He gets to be apart of the family? Really? THAT's the message of this show??? You can have everything so long as you make teenage fan girls swoon? What about story? What about hope? How is this even remotely right or fair? AUGUST got a second chance and a happy ending--the little puppet boy who tore Neal and Emma apart in the first place, and HE gets to a second life with his papa to live happily.

So what's the lesson of Once Upon A Time now? I don't know anymore. I know this is just a show and death happens in real life, but Neal Cassidy deserved better than this. He didn't deserved to die in this manner, his good honest character having been destroyed. He had a good heart and they ruined him. And what did the others characters get out of it? A name. That's it--just that the Witch is named Zelena. This episode, this SEASON, makes the Charming family look incredibly stupid. You couldn't put 2 and 2 together and figure out the very creepy midwife who has a giant pendant and a creepy obsession with Snow was the Wicked Witch? What happened to our intelligent heroes? They have been dumbed down to make villains smarter. It's wrong. It's terrible writing. I hope MRJ finds a better show, one that will treat him more dignified and with more heart and hope. I don't even know if I can care about this show ever again. What is the happy ending for Henry and Rumple is their father/son is dead in his cold and callus manner?

Where is the hope?

There is a lot of speculation right now that the death can be overturned but I have no hope. It's over. He's gone. Tallahassee is dead. Emma and Hook will set sail (because why not have more OOC moments, right?) Rumple will probably be Zelena's father because you can replace one child with another. Henry will get back his memories and decide that it's okay that he lost his father because he never really knew him. Neal will be forgotten. It will be as if he never existed. And I loose a love for a show that kept my positive and happy in my dark times.

Goodbye Neal. Even if they forget you, I won't.

Friday, March 28, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (1x12)

And then there was one. 

Penultimate episodes of series set up the final conflict of the season (or in our case, series) and thankfully Wonderland did it well. This week's episode "To Catch a Thief" pulled all the strings together, gave us one final peek into the past for the story we knew we were missing and set up what has to be some sort of epic battle next week. After this episode, I am even more disappointed that we aren't getting a second season. If this is the kind of storytelling of which the writers are capable, then I want more. I want another 13 episodes to explore more of Alice's past, more of the Knave's adventures, more of Cyrus's life as a genie and more Jafar (love to hate him). But, at the same time, I worry that the writers couldn't recreate the magic that has happened these last few episodes. For all I know, some terrible love triangle would overtake the show and it would descend into madness. So maybe this is for the best. But as of right now, I have no doubt that the finale of Wonderland is going to go out with a major bang. 

Band Of Thieves    

It's very appropriate that this is our final (probably) flashback for Wonderland. While the show was touted as an epic love story for Cyrus and Alice, the real drive for the first half was the friendship between Alice and Will. For almost 8 full episodes, we watched them race against time, fight monsters, snark at each other, and be generally awesome together. While the two love stories being told side by side are wonderful, the best friendship between Will and Alice is almost more endearing because it is somehow fresher. Love stories are everywhere, but how often do you see best friends working together like this, their respective love interests nowhere to be found. Thus, I am thrilled that our last flashback takes us back to where we began. We knew that Alice and Will had rescued Will's heart from the clutches of Cora (who was sadly absent for this episode) but this story was the missing piece and the fact that it brought us full circle made it even more important.

Alice is on the run. Like in the classic book, Alice has angered the Queen of Hearts and is now trying to escape her wrath. Let's take a second to remember why Alice is in Wonderland in the first place--to prove to her father that she is not insane. As a little girl, when Alice returned from Wonderland for the very first time, her father was convinced his daughter had lost her marbles. Forever seeking proof for a disappointed and neglectful father, Alice set back out to Wonderland to gather proof (hence the bunny in the bag), but before she could get back to Fictional London, she met Cyrus and they spent a lovely time together before she lost him. This flashback takes place before she met Cyrus, though, as I said above, we come full circle this episode.  After Will gave up his heart to Cora, she in turn "enlisted" him into her service as her Knave and now has ordered him to bring Alice to her. There were so many hilarious one liners and quick witted responses. You can tell that Sophie and Michael love playing off each other. They spark in that unique best friend way that is hard to find in this world, unless you are very lucky.

Will is not so much determined to kill Alice as he has no choice. Once someone has your heart they can do whatever they choose. Even after Alice tries to warn him off, Will follows her anyway...and ends up in a net. What I loved most about this flashback was how light it was. Some flashbacks are tortured and angst ridden, and often they should be. Those types of flashbacks help us understand the character and create sympathy. But by this point in the show, we already love Alice and Will, so instead of this flashback being gut wrenching, we got to have some fun. Will in a net trying to cut Alice with a tiny dagger while she stood there looking unamused was fantastic. The word play and the snark made it enjoyable but then we get to the theme of the night: the best thieves never work alone. Once Alice learns that Will is heartless (literally) she offers to strike up a bargain: I'll steal back your heart and you stop trying to kill me.

Ah, Cora's heart vault. This thing has intrigued ONCERs since we first saw it in season of ONCE. I like that Alice doesn't use brute strength to get into the vault but rather her brains. By careful planning and precision timing, she manages to sneak into the vault where she finds way too many boxes of hearts. Seriously, Cora. You have problems, you insane woman. Alice is a smart cookie and figures out which box belongs to Will (the JH--jack of hearts) and sneaks back to Will where she promptly decides that she wants a Will puppet for herself. I don't begrudge Alice this, and I don't think Will does either. Given the choice, I think Will would have followed her and helped her anyway. Alice's price for getting Will his heart back: help me find proof for my father that I'm not insane.

Alice and Will stop for a pint and we learn a bit more about Will. I must admit this part felt a little off. I don't like learning about random family members in the last possible second. Will has a sister, now? One who died? Why does this feel like information they stuck in only to elicit sympathy from Alice to motivate her to give back Will's heart? I'm glad she gives Will back his heart before their deal is over and done with, but I'm not sure a random heretofore unmentioned sibling was the best way to bring that about. It felt forced but I'm willing to overlook it in light of how well Alice and Will get along. Alice, feeling guilty, gives Will back his heart and instead of taking it and running, he still helps Alice. They capture the bunny and Alice sticks him in her bag and Will tells her to go live her life. I'm glad Alice was worried about Will and didn't want to leave him, but Will assures her that she won't be along for long. And she won't. We've come full circle--Alice, having said goodbye to Will, run away from the guards where she will shrink herself, stumble, and fall right in the path of Cyrus's bottle, which was zapped from Agrabah a short time before.

Fate. Destiny. Whatever you want to call it, these lives are inter-meshed and interwoven.  And I kind of love it. If Cyrus had listened to the Nyx, the guardian of the well of waters, he'd have never been turned into a genie but then he'd never have met Alice. And if Alice's father had just believed her, she'd never have needed proof and never met Will or Cyrus. Perhaps Nyx got it wrong--maybe fate wasn't subverted that fateful day in Agrabah when Cyrus chose his mother over prophecy. And perhaps Nyx knew more than she let on and all of this was a design of fate and destiny anyway. Whatever happened, happened. And that's what Jafar cannot stomach--surely there must be a way to make it un-happen. He is the real antagonist of fate, not Cyrus. Oh, speaking of Jafar and Cyrus....

I Did Not See This Coming 

Jafar is keeping Ana in a glass coffin in front of Will's cell. Well, that's a whole new level of creepy and deranged. Jafar, get thee to Storybrooke and seek out a man turned cricket named Archie. He'll help you out, you poor sod.  Jafar knows all about desperate souls and he knows how to pray on Will; "there is a way to bring her back." If Jafar can break the laws of magic, then he can bring back Ana for Will. To what lengths wouldn't you go to bring back the one person you loved more than anything? For Will, that means seeking out his friends and asking for their help. If Alice and Cyrus hand over the serpent staff, Jafar can break the laws of magic and make what happened, un-happen. "We have to let Jafar win." But as sorry as Cyrus and Alice are that Ana is dead, they can't stomach the idea of Jafar winning. They are thinking of the greater good, after all. They want to take Amara to the well of wonders and return the waters so that Cyrus's brothers might be freed from their genie-hood. But fools in love....

This episode was billed as a betrayal from Will to Alice, but of course it wouldn't last. Will and Alice love each other too much to ever betray each other that way. So even after Will stole the AmaraStick and tried to escape, he would never let Alice die or be harmed. "I don't know how to loose you, Alice." (my heart just shattered, by the way). Alice again assures Will that he is not alone, but Will has some harsher words for Alice, "you think your love story is the only one worth fighting for." It's true. Alice is a bit myopic sometimes. It has always been about saving Cyrus, being reunited with Cyrus, her happy ending with Cyrus. To Alice, Ana is the Red Queen and old habits die hard; it has been hard to trust her and she frankly doesn't like the idea of Will and Ana together, her Will deserves better. But that's not up to Alice, is it? This is Will and Ana's story as much as Alice and Cyrus's, and if Will wants to fight for it, then she needs to help him, not detract him.

However, there is still the small problem of Ana being dead. Enter the unlikely foe turned friend--or at least turned into a helpmate, cause I'm pretty sure I don't consider Jabberwocky a friend. Jabber is no longer happy with her arrangement with Jafar--she wants freedom, not to be his little pet, kept on a leash known as the Vorpal blade. I am now incredibly intrigued by the Jabberwocky and her past. WHAT is she? And if she wasn't born a monster, then how did she become like this. I suspect we'll never know but her speech that monsters are made in a cruel world by cruel people has piqued my interest. There are quite a few similarities between her and the Dark One's curse that infects Rumple on ONCE and now I'm seeing theories that the two blades are connected and that Jabber was cursed. Could we please have her over on ONCE proper? Jabberwocky vs Regina and Rumple. Just picture that for a few moments.

The quartet, that now becomes a quintet, strikes up a plan to break into the palace and free Cyrus's brothers and save the Red Queen. It all revolves around freeing Amara from that staff. And this is where I do have a major complaint. How the blazes did she get free???? One second she's a stick and the next she saunters in, in a killer red dress and serpent necklace without even a bit of warning. How was this achieved? She says that she didn't teach Jafar everything she knows but I am seriously confused. If she could free herself this whole time through her own magic, was she just waiting for the right moment to strike? Until Jafar had all her sons gathered in one place? The fact there is no explanation is a little disconcerting, but what follows Amara's appearance is SO EPIC that I'm not going to dwell too much. So the plan? In several parts, the first of which was to get Cyrus into Jafar's chamber where is brothers are and wait. Will creates a distraction until Jafar summons him back to his bottle; Alice frees the Sultan who agrees to stop Jafar before he can hurt anyone else. Like Alice's plan to break into Cora's heart vault so long ago, this one is built on precise timing. Yay for Alice being an epic strategist (and freakishly good at counting...)

So now things converge. Cyrus and his brothers are in the same room; Will is in his bottle, Amara is free from her former status as a stick and Alice is racing, and kicking ass, to get to the room to take down Jafar once and for all. I have been waiting for an epic magic battle on ONCE for a very long time. Any kind of magic battle!! We seem to always bypass them--Cora died before there could be any sort of battle; Pan was killed with a knife to the heart; Regina and Rumple have settled their differences. On a show built around magic, the fact that there is a dearth of magic battles just makes me sad. So finally I got my wish. Snakes! Poofs of smoke!! Broken mirrors!! Taunting!! Sorceress being sorceress!! It was wonderful. Jafar and Amara are really matched against each other, each one managing to counter the others spells. But as Jafar says, "it always comes back to one thing when it comes to us sorceress. Family."


I did not see this coming. I figured Ana would bite it because of the name thing, but it never occurred to me that Cyrus might die as well. It just seemed so...out of the realm of possibility. But of course, Jafar is right: it all comes back to family. Killing Ana was the perfect motivation for Will; but what about Amara? What do you do to ensure that she helps you with your "break the laws of magic spell?" Kill one of her sons, of course. And now that Cyrus is no longer a genie, Jafar can hurt him all he wants with no fear of what it means for his magic spell. One tiny flick of his finger, and a shard of glass lodges in Cyrus's heart; a pain that even Alice can feel. Their hearts are entwined, forever linked in love. And Alice can't get there fast enough.

Jafar has gotten everything he wants. And now the final battle begins.

Miscellaneous Notes On To Catch A Thief

--Jafar becomes a genie. That's my series end prediction. Genie and trapped in a bottle.

--Will Jafar go back on his word to bring back Ana and Cyrus?

--Will Alice fight against Jafar even if it means loosing Cyrus?

--"I won't sacrifice a life with you."

--Really wish I knew more about the Jabberwocky now. She's so fascinating.

--Cyrus carried the Snake on his back almost the whole episode. Given Momma a piggy back ride!

Monday, March 24, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (3x14)

A bridge episode is an episode that gets you from point A to point B with only hints of important information. It differs from a filler in which the episode is really not needed at all. This weeks "The Tower" is a bridge; it gets us from the big reveal that Zelena is Regina's sister and takes us to whatever happens next week. There were a few important themes fleshed out and possibly a motivation behind what Zelena is doing, but all in all, it felt like an hour of TV that you have to watch in order to get to another hour but because its central focus was a core character, it mattered more. The Rapunzel story was totally unnecessary and was an obvious ploy to play on the popularity and success of Disney's Tangled. The main drive of the episode was fear and overcoming it but it was wrapped up in magical handwaving and characters that we'll never see again.  

Who Is The Next Disney Princess On The List?

The episode opens as several Once Upon a Time episode do--with a dream sequence. Dream sequences can be overdone on TV, but on a show built on myth and magic, dreams make more sense than they do on other sitcoms. Dreams, in the classic world, were often seen as portents for future events and by reading the dream you could figure out your destiny. This dream sequence was set up to be something loving and delightful but then quickly turned into a horror film-esque moment--complete with spinning doll heads and daughter sucking wardrobes. Charming finds himself in Emma's old nursery, a place that is a direct contrast to the hallway Charming had previously been in--dark and alone and complete with the Evil Queen theme music. The nursery was bright and full of hope and happiness--the life Charming and Snow and Emma should have had. Instead of a baby infant Emma, however, Charming finds his little girl all grown up, standing in a (very poofy) princess ball gown, preparing for her first dance.

 While a tenderly sweet moment, it was also one of those times when I am reminded that Charming and Emma are the same age and how, if I didn't know they were family, it would be more romantic than father/daughter bonding time. It takes you out of the moment for just a second when Charming picks her up and spins her around because it felt like a lovers waltz. However, the scene quickly shifts to really highlight that this is a dream (Dream!Emma emphasizing that she's "not really here" and how "it's a shame that she never got this life.") Enter super creepy, drowned rat, Emma. Her hair is a mess, her ball gown is deflated and the wardrobe which was present throughout the whole sequence opens and begins to pull Charming's daughter from him. I will say this--it's about time they got around to how Charming felt about putting his daughter in a magical wardrobe. Charming's archetype is that he's the consummate white knight, and that's great. He plays it well. But the fact is, he stuffed his newborn into a tree and sent her out into a different world just praying that someday she'd find him. And in the seasons since they got their memories back, Charming hasn't once discussed his conflicting feelings over that moment. His confidence never wavered, he tells Robin Hood. But in all honesty, Charming should feel guilty and wretched about his decision. So it was nice to see Charming's conflict in this scene, trying to hold on to Emma as she vanishes from him. "Don't fail the next one, goodbye Daddy." Of course it's all a dream and Charming wakes up in his bed where Snow (who is way more pregnant than just 8 weeks! Seriously, costuming department get on that. Instead of being a tender moment I was laughing at how obviously pregnant she was) tells Charming that she is with child again. And Charming, claiming he is thrilled, does what probably 75% of all expecting fathers do: panics.

So apparently, Charming drinks when he's scared? Where did that come from? That's not knightly! Is this part of his "we are both?" I feel like they could have done without the whole drinking portion and just had Charming run to the barn in a panic. However, I do like the developing friendship between Robin and Charming--it's very fairy tale, the thief with the heart of gold and the white knight. Charming confesses to Robin that he is filled with dread that he will loose this child as well. Charming has never raised a baby; he might be a great father to Emma (yes we all love Daddy Charming) but he has no idea how to be a father day to day from start to finish. Robin tells Charming of a magical root called Night Root (really?) that will help anyone who eats it to conquer their deepest fears. Yes! Give the knight a quest--seriously, how quickly did Charming grab his sword and set off to the forest? When in doubt, Charming goes on a heroic quest. What can I say? It's his archetype.

The quest leads him to a clearing where he finds the root and is about to eat it when a cry for help resounds. Note to self, never answer the call for help. Coming upon a tower, Charming begins to climb the incredibly long braid of hair and finds a young princess named Rapunzel (shock!) locked in the room. I want to pause here and talk about a few things: filler characters and race. I'll go into more detail later about the former, but my biggest problem with this take on the Rapunzel tale was how very unnecessary it was. This new princess has no connection to any other character, she has never been seen before, her kingdom is in the vague north, ruled by a king and queen we've also never seen before. She is there for one purpose and one purpose only--to give Charming something to do. And that's where race comes in. If there is one accusation that is launched at ONCE that has more than a measure of legitimacy, it's their depiction of people of color. In TV P.O.C. are not just African but anyone who is not European/American white. To date, ONCE hasn't done a spectacular job of representing them--they either die or are evil or are written off very quickly while our heterosexual white pretty people get to take center stage (Regina being our one exception as Lana Parrilla is Latina). So for example: Cinderella's Fairy Godmother (killed by Rumple in 104); Sydney Glass/Magic Mirror (murderer who winds up locked in an insane asylum by Regina); Lancelot (dead at the hands of Cora long ago); Billy/Gus the Mouse (dead); Tamara (evil); Mulan (written off with no explanation and given a total fan service SleepingWarrior moment). Do you see where I'm going with this? Thus far, any person of color gets the shaft by the writers. So imagine my disappointment when it look like Rapunzel will be following the same pattern even though they took a really ingenious step by having her be African American in the first place! But now it feels like that was just to quiet the critics because she turned out to be colorless and forgettable. She is there to assist Charming in his quest, not to be a character in her own right. In fact, if she hadn't had the hair, would you even know she's Rapunzel?

Rapunzel's story is fairly straight forward, but *really* different from the actual fairy tale, which is problematic for me. The thing about ONCE is that while they twist the fairy tales to suit their own needs, there are always elements that remain the same--Snow White still ate the apple, in other words. Rapunzel is in a tower with her long locks, but her story is totally changed. In the original, Rapunzel's mother is pregnant and craving a specific vegetable that only grows in the witch's garden. Her father steals some of this vegetable and then sells his daughter to the Witch when she catches him. But in ONCE, Rapunzel is a princess who lost her older brother (and the heir to the throne) in a tragic accident. This tragedy means that Rapunzel is now the heir to the kingdom, a notion that really frightens her; frightens her to the point of nightmares. I'm not a fan of his damsel in distress vibe she is giving off; it's not what ONCE does with their iconic princesses. Rapunzel learned of the night root and set out to conquer her fears. After she ate the root, a witch appeared and chased her into the (overly super convienent) tower and each time she tries to leave, the Witch prevents her. And here is the big twist, if you want to call it that. The Witch isn't real. She is the physical manifestation of Rapunzel's fear and therefore looks like Rapunzel herself. It's twisty but I don't know if I like it. It means that Rapunzel and this whole flashback have no connection to Oz or to Zelena. Rapunzel and her story are literally there to prop up Charming and his story. So, of course, Rapunzel conquers her fear, but only after some encouragment from Charming. And apparently to conquer her fear, she has to cut her hair and have the "witch" fall from the tower? Sure. Honestly this whole flashback felt really pointless to me. Leave Rapunzel out of it and let Charming conquer his fear in the Enchanted Forest to parallel what was going on in the present day Storybrooke.  And then Charming gives Rapunzuel back to her parents (ugh) and he and Snow having a private public. While everyone has a party? (wut)

The episode ends with a Snowing moment in which Charming finally tells Snow what he fears: loosing this new child like they lost Emma (twice). Now, why didn't you do this in the first place, Charming? "I had to go on this magical mystery quest in order to assure myself that I'll be a good parent." Instead of just talking to your wife who would essentially the same thing? And see, this is the biggest problem of them all--there was no point to this flashback. It felt filler and unnecessary and the only vital information was the night root which does play a part in present day, but surely they could have thought of a different approach, one that did not involve Rapunzel. It is as if Adam and Eddy have a list of "popular Disney princesses" and feel the need to incorporate them one after the next. You watch: season 4 will have Elsa from Frozen be the big bad, just because it made tons of money at the box office. And Elsa will have a pet lion named Simba.  Adam and Eddy need to branch outside of Disney already. I know they work for the big Mouse, but there are so many other stories and myths that don't exist inside the Disney universe. I know Disney is beloved but just because it's popular doesn't mean it needs to be done.

This Is Why I Drink Coffee

Meanwhile, 9 months (what. how. No. Learn math, Adam and Eddy) later the gang of 5 are at Casa Snowing discussing the winged creatures known as Flying Monkeys and how the Wicked Witch is after them. It's time to search for clues! Hey, I know! Why don't we look at the newbie in town who has wormed her way into Snow's life and is constantly wearing a giant GREEN emerald? Come on, guys. We've done this before: mysterious stranger in town, knows a lot, is super helpful. Probably got something else up her sleeve. But they ignore the warning signs and go to inspect Regina's office where Charming tries to smell blood only to determine that it is hollyberries that grow in the woods. Rolling my eyes over here. First, really Charming? You tried to smell blood? Second, Regina claims she went over her office with a fine tooth comb and found no clues, but oh look! Berry juice! Okay then. So now we are looking for a witch with berries on her shoes. Charming has an appointment with the villain and so we are left with Hook and Emma to go off in search of the berry-witch. But one scene at a time because our characters end up splitting into different groups.

Let's start with my Imp. Last week I wondered if he was faking his insanity, but this week I think it's pretty clear he is insane at least most of the time. He sits in his cell, with his spinning wheel, and spins because it "cleans the mind and soothes the soul." I think this might be the most insane we've seen dear Rumple. When he was locked up in the Enchanted Forest before Regina's curse, he was clearly deranged but also lucid enough to know how to have a conversation with someone--like Snow and Charming. In this case, I think he is more insane that he is lucid. And what is possibly making him insane? Is it the fact that the Witch likes to...shave him. For appearances sake (except not). What was this?? This was beyond deranged and creepy and strange. "Let me shave you with this dagger that controls you." So yeah, Zelena shaves Rumple and while she does, she tells him a little story. Her father was a drunk and possibly a magic addict who couldn't hold his hands steady enough to shave his face, so Zelena had to do it for him. She got really good at it, apparently, except that she "accidentally" nicks Rumple and take a bit of his blood. Which only adds to the overall creepyness of what she is doing. So why does she need Rumple's blood? To break into a safe inside the pawn shop and get the night root that Rumple keeps there (for reasons?) And why does she need night root? To make Charming go on a magical mystery tour of bravery. I guess.

Charming is summoned back to Snow's side in order to meet the midwife, Zelena, whom Snow now trust implicitly. Because apparently the curse made Snow stupid. Come on, Snow!! Yes, Zelena lies and says she knew Snow's nanny but since when are you just trusting her? Shouldn't you be a little bit more suspicious of someone who wants to make your life super easy? At least Charming has some good sense and tries to voice his concerns, which are shot down buy hey--he tried. And Zelena, in the background manages to sneak some of that night root into the Charming's tea. Now he is going be facing his fears manifested in a physical form of himself.

This played out better than the Rapunzel storyline but there was a little bit too much exposition between Charming and Fear!Charming. Charming, as always, is the White Knight and makes giant declarations of "I will die for my family!" and "True love!" and whatever else. I did like that it's seeing Emma's yellow bug coming to save him that reminds Charming that he's a good father and he will fight for his children no matter what. So he stabs himself with his sword and, having conquered his fears, the Fear! Charming poofs up in smoke.
And then so does Charming's sword? The broken hilt of the blade is magicked away in green smoke (gee, I wonder who did that). But why? Cue exposition from Regina. While Charming was facing his fears (literally), his courage was transferred into the sword, making it a totem of that bravery. Someone (Zelena) poofs away that totem and now has it in her control, which should worry the audience. This is the only important part of this episode. Think about it: this is the Oz myth. Zelena just took bravery, or at least the totem for it. In essence, Charming is the reverse Cowardly Lion. Now, I don't know why, but my theory is that Zelena is stealing the reverse traits of the classic Oz characters from those who have them in abundance. So she stole Charming's totem for courage (Lion); she needs the totem of someone with lots of heart (Tin Man) and the totem for someone with lots of smarts (Scarecrow). Who might fit this bill? I'd say Neal for heart and Belle or Rumple for brains. If it's Rumple, then the dagger might be his totem and Zelena is thus collecting totems from the important men in Emma's life (her father, the one who ensured she was the Savior, and her *maybe* true love). Zelena will probably also go after Henry and take his loyalty, thus keeping Henry as Toto and Emma as a Dorothy stand in. What could Zelena want with them? I don't know. But that was the only intriguing part of this episode.

The ending sets up the mystery for next week (and yes, I am skipping over the Hook and Emma stuff in the woods because I'm a little miffed that he's glad Emma's heart is broken. But I am happy she called him on his lying crap. I think Hook knows what happened to Neal). Regina, Emma, Charming and Hook make their way to the storm cellar at Zelena's to discover that the lock is broken. But inside they find a spinning wheel and straw that has been turned into gold. "Who do we know who can turn straw into gold?" asks Charming. Only one person. And now they know Rumple is alive.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Tower

--First lack luster episode of the season. There has to be one or two each season, I know, but I hope this doesn't signal the downfall of season 3B. The first two episodes were great.

--Mrs. Gold. Ok, I'm calling it now. Rumbelle wedding by seasons end.

--Shaving Rumple was really disturbing. Please never do that again

--Sweet Henry and Regina moment by the lake. However, why isn't Henry more confused about why everyone in town wants to get to know him? And why is Henry spilling secrets to a woman he's met once? Just because she bought him ice cream?

 --Hook is back to making moon eyes at Emma and lying to her face. Yippee.

--WHERE THE HELL IS NEAL. *ahem* I'm fine.


Friday, March 21, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (1x11)

"I’m the ‘Queen’ of Hearts. Do you really think I’d be so careless, as to keep my heart where everyone else does?"--Cora, Queen of Hearts (Once Upon a Time, 2x09)

Ah, Cora. You can't really have a story about Alice in Wonderland without having the Queen of Hearts, she of the "off with her head!" mentality. I'm rather surprised at how happy I was to see Cora as I basically loathe her character (Barbara Hershey, on the other hand, is superb). Cora is cold, manipulative, callus, and power hungry. She mentally and emotionally and physically abused Regina; she broke Rumple's heart, and then tried to kill him to take his power. She is all kinds of bad ass, and all kinds of villain. And so when she appeared on this weeks, "The Heart of the Matter," I began to suspect that sweet but selfish Ana would slowly morph into a mini Cora. If last weeks episode built the mysteries and myth of the show, this episode was the emotional gut punch we needed after so many answers. The theme of the week is forgiveness but it's also prisons, the sort we build for ourselves be they ones of iron and bolts or ones that are dressed in pretty jewels and power. Maybe not as good as last week, this episode was still stellar, with quite the shocking ending! 

Is Your Momma A Stick?

I want to start with the B plot of the episode as the A plot (both in past and present) is very heavy and involved. Having learned that his mother is alive, Cyrus sets out to find the Caterpillar and retrieve the compass that Cyrus traded him long ago (I honestly forgot that Cyrus had traded the compass to the Caterpillar because it was back when the show was really struggling to hold my attention). The Caterpillar is willing to give Cyrus his compass back, but only if Cyrus hands over Alice and the Knave for not returning the Forget Me Knot. Side note, but I like how the smaller stories aren't being forgotten by the writers. They could have easily brushed the deal Alice and Will made the with Caterpillar back in 103 under the rug, but they didn't. Alice, shrunken down in size, is attempting to steal the compass from the Caterpillar while Cyrus distracts everyone. And in case you aren't culturally aware, there were a ton of Star Wars nods in this episode. The creators are nerds and the love Star Wars but, the Caterpillar has always been a stand in for Jabba Hut and now bar fights, calling in debts, and Cyrus got to be a bit of a Han Solo-type.

The search for Amara is abruptly cut short when Alice and Will learn (thanks to the Tweedle) that Jafar now has all three genies and Ana is locked up. But thankfully there are SECRET TUNNELS under the castle. Forgive me while I laugh myself silly. Really? More super convenient secret tunnels? Does every palace in every realm come equipped with them? Is there some sort of building company that crosses realms and installs them? Anyway, secret tunnels aside, Alice and Cyrus break into the dungeon to find Ana and figure out how to save Will. It was really heartbreaking to see Ana thank Alice for returning even though she knows Alice didn't do it for her. They are rudely interrupted by Jafar and Jabber coming to question Ana and manage to make a quick escape but not before learning one vital piece of information--because Will does not have his heart, he is not "a proper genie" and therefore Jafar's spell will not work. In order to save Will, they must first get his heart back. Enter the Bunny!!! Hi Bunny!!! I'm not sure when Will told Alice where his heart was, but all Alice needs is a portal to take her to--wait for it--Storybrooke!! We're going home.

Don't even bother asking me when this takes place in ONCE proper. I've been trying to connect some dots about the timeline of this episode and so far have nothing. Mr. Gold's car is at the Rabbit Hole (the bar) which he only frequented once in the episode Lacey which was toward the end of Season 2. The reason I'm harping on this? Because if Jafar does succeed in breaking the laws of magic, then doesn't it have repercussions for all worlds? How does it affect the parent show? Is that how Zelena managed to bring back Rumple? Timeline issues aside, I loved this portion. Finally we get some genuine fish-out-of-water moments on any ONCE show. This is what it should have been like for Hook and Belle; they've tried with Hook in 312 to do some of these moments but they were few and far between. Alice and Cyrus are genuinely surprised at everything in our world--cars, electricity, music, ice. It made for a some comic relief in the midst of a emotionally heavy episode.

I was actually rather surprised that the heart was in Storybrooke; I had predicted that it would be back in the Enchanted Forest, inside Ana and Will's old house. But instead it's in Will's house, which was rather spartan in nature. Will, during the Curse, was just living to get by. Boxes of unpacked items show that he never settled into his life. Like Ana stated last week, "I can never be comfortable. Not without you in my life." And what does Will have on his wall? A drawing of the Red Queen in all her royal glory. A picture that is littered with holes from throwing darts at it. Ouch. Alice, knowing the Knave better than anyone apart from Ana, deduces that the heart must be behind the picture of Ana. This is both sweet and sad. Will literally boxes up his heart and puts Ana's picture over it. A constant reminder that she broke him and what it cost him.

With the heart-in-a-box safely collected, Alice and Cyrus head back to Wonderland, only to meet Jafar who was on his way to Storybrooke--my kingdom for one conversation between Jafar and Rumple! There is a bit of a magic stand off battle here in which objects are exchanged. Remember how Amara is not only a snake staff but also Cyrus's mother? Well, when Jafar goes to try and use his trusty snake against Cyrus, Amara is having none of it. She rebels against Jafar and there is a lot of bright light and magic and confusion. Jafar has never experienced this before. always obeyed him. Cyrus ends up grabbing AmaraStick and she fights all of Jafar's powers, but sadly Jafar is able to grab the box with Will's heart. So at the end of the battle, Cyrus has his MommaStick and Jafar has Will's heart. Jafar needs both, remember--only two powerful wizards can perform the spell to break the laws of magic and Will needs his heart in order to be a proper genie. Cyrus and Alice figure out, with the help of the special compass, that the Snake Staff is Amara. But how do you break a spell that has your momma trapped as an inanimate object. Quick! Kiss the snake!

But I Think It's About Forgiveness

Normally, I split the past from the present but in this case, I think the two are better talked about together. In the past, it's the night before Ana's wedding to the Red (since when?? He was dressed in all White last time) King and you can tell that she's almost content. Ana has also made a new friend--Cora, the Queen of Hearts. Cora is an intimidating figure but instantly sees a bit of herself in Ana. Side note, but there is more than a bit here. There is a whole whopping parallel, and it was deliberate. Cora takes ones look at Ana, knows her story and sees not only herself but also the daughter she should have had. Regina was a disappointment because she didn't understand how power can shape you as a person. Regina only ever wanted love, but like Cora, Ana chose power instead. This intrigues Cora and in Ana she found someone she could mold when Regina refused. And Cora plays on one of things Ana always wanted to hear--motherly love. Oh Cora, you twisted soul. Rumple taught you well. Cora offers to teach Ana magic, insisting that Queens must use everything at their disposal to rule. Ana thinks it's a bad idea but you can tell that Cora isn't finished.

I said Ana was rather content in her new life and I think that's true. There is a lot of staring into mirrors, touching her jewels, admiring herself. It's only when a surprise visitor comes along does she start to rethink her plan. Poor Will (how many times do I say that?) but he deserves an explanation from her. He wants to know why Ana would do this--how could you break my heart in such a cold manner? Now, Ana claims she was doing what was best for both of them, but that's rather hard to see. With Ana there was a bit too much "oh shiny!" in her hasty engagement to the King. And I fail to see how it benefited Will unless she thought he'd be better off without her. Will breaks into the palace and asks Ana to come away with him tomorrow morning--meet him at the wagon and leave all this behind. Will is so broken here it's hard to watch. There are some really sad lines, Will mentions naming the stars at night to fall asleep and he named them all Anastasia because it's the most beautiful name he knows. Will has the heart and soul of a poet, which is why it makes it hard during this moment to feel any sympathy for Ana who so rudely ditched him. Will tells Ana one last time to meet him at the wagon at dawn and vanishes. Oh. One more thing: guess who was listening?

Cora, you really are an evil witch, aren't you? Cora overhears the conversation between Ana and Will and probably has very intense flashbacks to Regina and Daniel. Here is a girl who Cora can mold and shape and what is she going to do--run away with a commoner? Choose love over power and magic? Not on Cora's watch! Before dawn, Cora slips out of the palace and goes to see Will. Cora claims to be there on behalf of Ana and that Ana has made her decision--she will marry the King. Will is just a distraction now, and one Ana could do without. "Is that what love is to you? A distraction" asks Will and then Cora gives probably her most famous line in the Onceiverse and a theme that Adam and Eddy have been playing with for almost three full years now, "Love is weakness." I may or may not have cheered when hearing this line--horrible as it is. I knew it was coming. It had to! The speech from Will that follows is even more heartbreaking than his moment with Ana in the palace the night before. Will is so broken on the inside, dreaming that Ana will come home today and then he goes to bed when she doesn't and wakes up the next morning hoping again that Ana will return. You can't live on hope, sometimes you need reality. He can't go on; he doesn't want to live this way. But luckily, he knows Cora's reputation. Cora, the Queen of Hearts, with a vault full to bursting of human hearts that she removes herself. Until this episode I had been predicting that Ana took Will's heart in an effort to appease Cora. I never dreamed that Will would ask for Cora to take his own heart. I was genuinely shocked at the request. Feeling nothing is better than feeling what he did feel. So Cora reaches in and takes Will's heart, boxes it up, and Will--altered now to feel nothing--packs up his stuff and leaves the wagon, not caring that Ana didn't show up.

Ready for the twist? Ana was on her way to the wagon. She chose Will, until Cora (ARG!) interfered. Catching Ana in the act of packing and fleeing, Cora shows Ana via magic mirror that Will Scarlett isn't waiting for her at the wagon. He lied, he has left her (like she left him) and now it's time for Ana to get on with her life. Cora sees so much potential in Ana and if Ana really wants to be a good queen, she will need Cora's help. And more importantly, Cora's magic. Does Cora really see potential or is she playing on Ana's insecurities and vanity? My guess is the latter. Ana's isn't a deft hand at magic but she is emotionally scarred from her mother's cold treatment towards her. Ana doesn't take to magic the way Regina did (who broke her mother's magic binds without even one magic lesson under her dress). Ana is a bit slower; her lingering feelings for Will are holding her back. Cora also takes the time to explain the rules and laws of magic to Ana. Ana's main interest is in knowing if she can break them. This displeases Cora. Greatly. Cora is pretty intelligent and if Ana wants to break the laws it's only to get Will back. Cora gives a very rousing speech (I love Barbara Hershey) about letting go of whatever is holding Ana back and believing in herself and in the magic and the power, because with it, she can have anything she wants. And just like that, Ana's magic comes into being. And even if Ana's new husband doesn't approve, it doesn't much matter--chances are Ana and Cora are about to kill him.

Alright, present day. While Jafar is off searching for a way to Storybrooke to get Will's heart, he leaves Will and Ana in adjoining cells which provide the two the chance to talk. Or rather, Ana does a lot of talking and Will responds the way a man without a heart would. You know, it's interesting. Despite not having his heart, Will clearly still feels something for Ana. He stopped Jafar from killing Ana by telling him where his heart was and when Ana notes that Will will never love her again, there is a flash of agony. Ana didn't know Will gave up his heart for her and she is clearly disturbed and bothered. She knows how much pain she caused and now that pain is sitting in the cell next to her. Ana asks if Will can ever forgive her and Will says that nothing is impossible in Wonderland. Time for the storylines to converge. Jafar has Will's heart and wants to test it.

Jafar forcibly puts Will's heart back inside his chest and in an instant, Will feels again. And the first word out of his mouth? Ana. And no hesitation, no thinking, he reaches for her and they share THE TRUE LOVE KISS OF EPICNESS. Now, I've seen some true love kisses on ONCE before but this one had the swelling orchestra and the overly cheesy camera spins and happy lights. And it was gorgeous. That's how true loves kiss should work. The title for this episode is "The Heart of the Matter" and it comes from a song which states, "I’ve been tryin’ to get down/ To the heart of the matter/ But my will gets weak/ And my thoughts seem to scatter/ But I think it’s about…forgiveness." I think Will forgives her instantly. Forgiveness isn't forgetting but he loves her. He always had and he always will. But what's a heart for if not to be broken?
As Jafar says, "must make sure that your heart still works" and out comes the dagger. As Will is forced to watch from his prision, Jafar stabs Ana in the back and we watch as she falls to the ground, clearly dead. There was an interesting line in this episode that I think works thematically here as well, "we create our own prisons." Ana's prison was her selfish act that had repercussions down the road for everyone; Will's prison was his decision not to feel anything and lock away his heart behind a literal wall (he and Emma Swan should go out for a drink sometime--they can discus literal and metaphorical walls.) Jafar's prison is his obsessive need for his father's love, even if it's fake and false and probably won't be what he thought it would be. Ana's laments before her death that she wishes she and Will had never left Sherwood; coming to Wonderland was the start of it all because "Anastasia and Will, we already had all the magic we needed." And now she's lost for good and Jafar is closer than ever to his dreams.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Heart of the Matter

--Is Ana dead for good? Hard to say. Her name does mean "resurrection" so it's possible that she might come back if Jafar succeeds in breaking the laws of magic.

--How do you revive Amara? I don't know if they'd be as cliche as true love's kiss from her son, but neither Cyrus nor Alice have that sort of magic to break her curse.

--Really loved seeing Cora, even if she is an evil soul. But the question still remains, how did Will and Alice get his heart back from Cora?

--Only two episodes to go! Now I wish it had a second season. Wonderland has now surpassed my expectations. Sorry to see it go.