Monday, April 7, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (3x16)

Zelena's father is Kermit the Frog. 

Ok, not really. But I had to get one Kermit joke out of my system before reviewing. You give me an episode called, "It's Not Easy Being Green," and while it might be low hanging fruit it doesn't mean I am not going to go ahead and pick it. 
This is our first back story for the woman who would become the Wicked Witch of Oz. In the week following Neal Cassidy's senseless and gratuitous murder, I have been contemplating justification for killing a good guy. There is this idea that ONCE is presenting that in order to defeat Wicked, you must have proper motivation. Without that fire under you, good will apparently sit back, kick up their heels, and let the situation unfold--which is basically antithetical to fairy tales in general. You fight evil/wickedness because it's evil/wicked. You do not need the death of a loved to suddenly make you sit up and declare that you shall fight! In other words, I continue to be bothered by Neal's death, but I recognize that I cannot focus on this too much. However, this week, it isn't about Neal (he has been forgotten, as predicted) but rather about how envy is not a good color on the powerful. 

Showdown at the O.K. Corral 

I honestly don't want to dwell too long on this sham of a funeral. If you had not watched last week, would you have known who was in that coffin? No words, no speeches, no heartfelt moments of angst as the town (seriously, who the hell are half those people!) turns out to "say" goodbye to Nealfire. When Archie "died" in season 2, words were said. Speeches were made. Hugs were given. There was none of that for this funeral. Instead our main characters each took a turn putting dirt on Neal's coffin. That's it. It lasted maybe 5 minutes and then it was over. And, I need to say this, but is there a reason why HOOK is getting the focus of this scene? I swear the camera focused on him more than Emma or Henry. The gang moves over to Granny's diner for a (sham) of a wake (where there are no pictures of Neal at his own wake) and the plot quickly progresses past "sad town is sad." (Side note: but I'm basically skipping over everything that happens between Hook and Henry until the note section. It was terrible filler).

Zelena, feeling totally invincible now that she has a sane Dark One, crashes the wake to gloat about her victory over the town (evil, green skinned...*grumble*). Quick tangent, but why does Zelena only NOW feel invincible? She was a super human baby--shouldn't Zelena feel pretty powerful all on her own? I don't think having the Dark One on a leash is actually helping her power, but rather Zelena just likes the control. She and Jafar need to hook up. WickedSnake! Anyway, Zelena notes that she's not there for Snow's baby, at least not today, but her real reason for interrupting the wake is to have a nice little chat with her baby sister. Can we talk about some of the dialogue in this scene? Could it be any cheesier? "This isn't the wild west." "No dear, it's the wicked west." Really? And challenging Regina to a battle at sundown in the town square? I half expected a tumbleweed to go blowing across the screen and that spaghetti western whistle to be heard. Regina should have shown up in spurs. I don't know why they felt the need to bring in spaghetti western tropes into this episode, especially when the epic showdown was anything but. It didn't translate on screen; western high-noon showdowns are bloodbaths; the only victim of the Zelena/Regina match up was poor Doc's Miata. But we'll get to this in a bit.  Zelena spills the beans that she and Regina are half sisters, which only confuses Regina but Zelena tells her to dig into her past and she'll find the answer.

Regins scurries off to investigate and comes across plot device #7633. Also known as a heretofore unmentioned letter from Rumple to Cora (because I write letters to my exes all time, especially the ones who LITERALLY rip out hearts), gloating how he has found her first born and how she's such a spectacular sorceress. Regina apparently knew about this letter all along (ugh) and used to read it, comforting herself that she was special and capable. But now she realizes that the sorceress in question is Zelena, her sister. How did Regina put that together? I mean, anyone can forge a letter. And why does her mind jump to "aha!" that quickly? The letter was really just a way to advance the plot along without dwelling too much on character (oh hey, a theme) and if we're being perfectly honest, it was a way to get Regina and Robin to meet up and make with the flirty flirty eyes. Now, I have nothing against OutlawQueen, in fact I quite like their chemistry. But they keep coming up with all these situations to throw them together so that the two can have deep meaningful talks, but this is not the time for shipping moments. There is a witch on the loose--romance later!

Meanwhile, while Regina is contemplating her letter, Belle wants to try and rescue Rumple. If anyone can get through to him, it's her. It's a sign of how low the show has fallen in my eyes when I can't even muster up some joy at seeing my OTP reunited. Mostly, I was just annoyed at Belle's bizarre acrobatic act, trying to reach Rumple in the cage. Girl, take five steps forward. There is no need for this reaching contortion thing you are doing. There is a little moment between them, but Zelena shows up and ruins it by having Rumple chase Belle out of the basement (yeah, she needs to die). So now there is no hope except in Regina--she must face Zelena and her Dark One pet at sundown. Rumple and Belle are never going to be together, are they? They'll keep them separated because that's how you create drama. Because couples couldn't possibly have drama while being together.

So now it's night time and Zelena is not a patient woman. I am going to nitpick this, but what does sundown actually mean? Does it mean when the sun is no longer in the sky at all? Does it mean when the sun begins to set? Is it based on geography? Because it's sundown on Main Street, but go two blocks west and hello Mr. Sun! Regina is late (she likes to make an entrance) so Zelena has some fun taunting the crowd with the Dark One. Let's take a second and praise Robert Carlyle, who has always been an unstoppable force on this show. His raw pain and anguish here is real. He's just lost his son, he chased away his true love, and now he might have to kill the people he died to protect just 5 episodes before. All magic comes with a price, and that decision to become the Dark One all those years ago, really is catching up with him. Regina and her bright red gloves (what is up with those gloves? Did they serve a purpose? Was it symbolic? Was it to make watching the magical hand waving visible at night?) finally shows up and the sisters taunt each other for awhile. Zelena resents that Regina was even born. And then the fight begins. And it's epic! It's flashy and magic-y and full of awesome witch dueling. Just kidding. It lasts for about 2 minuets. Regina throws a stop light at Zelena who deflects, throws Regina onto Doc's Miata (RIP Doc's car) and then up to the clock tower to have some alone time.

So what does Zelena want? Regina's heart. Black and tortured though it may be, she wants Regina's heart. And if Regina learned one thing from Mommy Dearest, it's never bring your heart to a witch fight (Cora would be so proud). So all this was for nothing--Zelena leaves empty handed. Regina and gang begin to put together the pieces: Zelena took Charming's courage and tried to take Regina's heart. Those are ingredients for something, who knows what. Back in Rumple's cage, Zelena finally tells the audience what she wants, why she is doing all this. But before we get into that, I want to look at the flashbacks because the plan will make more (well, marginally more) sense.

We're Off To See The Wizard

Baby Zelena was dropped off in Oz by a twister. Because children survive such things. Some magical, green twister picked her up in the Enchanted Forest and deposited her (conveniently) in front of a woodcutter and his wife. The wife is enamored but the husband sees the child do magic (burn her!) and is repulsed that the child is not like them. But the wife prevails and they take baby Zelena home with them. Welcome to Oz. Years pass and Zelena grows up with a drunk for a father, which we knew. But when her father finally gives up the ghost that Zelena is not his child, she is legitimately hurt and decides to go see the Wizard of Oz who can reunite her with her real family. A villain who has a tragic back story, was abandoned and abused and who feels resentment. Gee, where have I seen this before. The villain cycle on ONCE is laughable at this point. Every villain is just a take on previous ones. If this had been the first time Adam and Eddy had introduced the idea of child abandonment leads to mental instability, then I’d applaud their creation of this villain and be more open to her story.
But the fact is, it’s not. It is the exact same formula they’ve used in the past. And that’s why I find it less appealing because OF COURSE she has abandonment issues and parent issues and rage.

Zelena goes to see the Wizard, who is a larger than life figure behind a curtain. The Wizard understands Zelena's dilemma and agrees to help her out. Using his magic all seeing floor, the Wizard shows Zelena her past--an image of Cora abandoning her in the woods in the Enchanted Forest because Zelena would prevent her from achieving her goal of becoming royalty. He also shows Zelena her sister Regina, who is weaker magically but still under the tutelage of Rumple. Zelena is incredibly jealous of Regina; she is far more powerful than Regina, she should be the one taught by Rumple. It was a veritable hissy fit. In order to get to the Enchanted Forest, Zelena needs a portal and those are in short supply. Except they aren't. We've been told since day one that moving between worlds is incredibly hard, but every season they come up with another method. I suppose I can't complain too much with this one because this one IS in the actual story of Oz. The slippers of course. Quick side note, but for legal reasons they are not allowed to be ruby. That was an adaptation for the 1939 MGM movie and they are heavily copyrighted. In the book, they are silver, so they are silver here as well. Clicking her heels three times, Zelena takes herself to the Enchanted Forest where she meets Rumple.

Rumple is instantly impressed with Zelena; her magical abilities far exceed Regina's. He has no problem training Zelena too. The relationship between Zelena and Rumple is not the same as Regina and Rumple. Rumple and Regina have a very student/teacher relationship that is often tense as the student tries to surpass the master; Zelena, just learning that her mother abandoned and that her sister got all the nice stuff that she should have had, latches on to Rumple. She sees him not only as a teacher, but a father, and--because it's Rumple and my sparkly Imp has game--a husband. It's a confusing relationship for her but also for the audience. Does she want to kiss Rumple or to call him papa? But whatever it may be in Zelena's head, she comes to care and love for Rumple. Which is a problem if Zelena is to be the one to cast the curse.

When Zelena learns that Rumple is essentially two timing her by still teaching Regina, her envious side shines through. Shouldn't SHE be his only pupil? Isn't SHE the special one? Isn't SHE the one with the most talent and promise (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!)? But Rumple is Rumple. This curse means everything to him; he has to hedge his bets. And Zelena literally starts turning green with envy. Now, I don't have a huge problem with this idea because we have seen that emotions can affect your outward appearance--as Rumple and Belle fall in love in "Skin Deep," his skin becomes far less reptilian and more soft gold and green. So this isn't a new concept but it's still a little eye roll worthy. Does this mean her color changes based on her mood? I would say she's moved from envy to envy plus rage with a side of bitter resentment  (what does green and red make?) Seeing that Zelena is coming to care for him too much, Rumple sets up a test and in which Zelena is fooled into believing that she killed Regina in order to have Rumple all to herself. Rumple realizes that in order for Zelena to cast the dark curse, she'd have to sacrifice HIS heart. And then Rumple's quest to find Bae would be moot (kinda is now that he's dead, but I digress). Rumple rejects Zelena and in her anger, Zelena tells Rumple that he could have used her slippers to go to a land without magic, but now it's too late. From now on, they are enemies.

 Storming back to Oz, Zelena confronts the man behind the curtain. Zelena wants a do-over, change the past and change your destiny (save the cheerleader, save the world). If she can go back in time and make it so that Regina was never born, then Zelena could take her place as Cora's daughter, Rumple's favorite student, and Rumple's daughter/wife/something super creepy. But the Wizard has some depressing news: you cannot change the past. That is outside of his control. In a fit of rage, Zelena pulls down the curtain and we come face to face with the charlatan who is the Wizard of Oz: Walsh. Yup. Monkey boy is the Wizard; some time ago, Walsh came to Oz from Kansas and set himself up as the Wizard of Oz. Emma Swan dated the Wizard of Oz: better or worse than a monkey? But, like in the classic book, the Wizard is pretty much useless. He has parlor tricks, but that's it. Instead of having genuine power, he has collected items of power--such as the slippers. Zelena ain't got time for this nonsense, so she turns him to a flying monkey. Then, as her envy begins to seep through even more, her plan takes shape. Somehow, someway, Zelena will figure out a way to change the past, to prevent Regina from ever being born. The heart, courage, and brains are ingredients to change the past. What, no genies? I am bothered by how easy it seems to change the laws of magic now. These laws were supposed to be unbreakable, but now there are TWO spells that can do that? Seems contrived. I wish this show would make up its mind: it's impossible to travel to other worlds (except for beans, portals, looking glasses, ashes, tornado, shoes); You cannot change the past (except for two spells); Dead is dead (except it almost never is). So what does this mean for what we've seen on this show so far? I have no idea. If Regina isn't born then Snow doesn't become a bandit, doesn't met Charming and Emma isn't born. If Emma isn't born then she never meets Neal and never has Henry. Neal wold have come to our world, but never met Emma and probably died anyway. Adam and Eddy always said no time travel, but this plot seems to contradict this. I am going to try and keep an open mind, though. Maybe they haven't jumped the shark.

Miscellaneous Notes on It's Not Easy Being Green

--The CGI for the Wizard's chamber room was better than previous CGI sets. However, Emerald City itself and the yellow brick road was a bit iffy.

--Henry and Hook: There was a certain amount of tenderness and sweetness to them, but for me, it was overshadowed by the fact that I don’t have amnesia. I remember everything Hook’s ever done, including giving Bae to the Lost Boys. This will never be addressed on screen and that bugs me. He needs to give some exposition about how he tried to go after Bae or how horrible he feels. But right now it’s coming off as “I raised Bae like a loving step-papa” while forgetting everything Hook did. The writers make Regina and Rumple bear the consequence of their crimes every season. Hook doesn’t get a pass from me. It’s sloppy character development.

--"I don't dance with amateurs" "I'm not an amateur. I'm the Savior." That's all good and well, Emma Swan, but what have you done in the past few episodes to show that you're the Savior? You walked through the woods for two episodes in order to drive the shipping community into a frenzy, but so far, your Savior title isn't holding up. Don't ask permission to go after her. Just DO IT. 

--I do think this episode was better than both The Tower and Quiet Minds, but the repetitive nature of ONCE is getting...well..repetitive. At one point, Zelena actually says: "We are doing it all over again." Yes, yes we are.

--Despite all the clues, I call "red (green?) herring" that Zelena is our Dorothy. 

--"I have that effect on women." That is total nod to the fangirls of Rumple (of whom there are a startling amount, including yours truly).

--Predictions: Zelena used Dorothy's heart to cast the Curse that sent everyone back to Storybrooke. Zelena's father is the Scarecrow.


  1. I have nothing but questions for this episode:
    1) How did baby Zelena move the tree? Developmentally all she has are "Oh shit" reflexes which include her flailing arms and suckling.
    2) Why in Tits-McGee would Emma intrust Henry to Hook? There have got to be far more qualified people that can look after him. I'm now beginning to resent any hope I had for CaptainSwan having at minimum a fling. Hook is bothering me and Emma is being stupid.
    3) Oz the Great & Terrible? I thought it was Powerful. Is this another "from the book" adaption? Or are the writers just doing more sloppy character development and stating that Walsh has never been a good guy?
    4) This is not a question…this is just frustration. I get that the letter Regina found could be interpreted the way it was, but why would it? That is not proof in the slightest. And why would Zelena think that anything of Cora's would A) exist in this world and B) would actually be helpful in the slightest to "verify" Zelena's claims? Plot device. Why not just point out "Hey…I broke into your office. Blood magic." That, in my opinion, is far more proof than some vague letter.
    5) Why would this curse call specifically for Regina's heart? If it is a time travel/history changing is it required of the one that needs changing? What if I wanted to go back in time and prevent myself from having a car accident? Would I need to rip my own heart out?
    6) Why didn't Regina protect her heart like she did for Henry? Just seal it in her chest.
    7) I also like the chemistry between Hood and Regina…but how could she make with the flirty cuteness if her heart was not in her chest. She would not feel or care to feel. Yet she did. Devil in the details.
    8) If Walsh has zero magical ability…how did he get the slippers onto Zelena's feet in the first place?
    9) What does getting rid of Regina do anyway? Would not Cora still get rid of Zelena? Or is Zelena planning to prevent her mother from giving her up and then convincing mommy dearest to not have anymore kids? This plan is hugely flawed.
    10) What Dorothy theory is spinning about? And why would Dorothy mean anything to Zelena? Are we sure that a similar curse was even cast or is it something entirely new?

    1. I am going to try my best here. But honestly, most of the answers are "PLOT"

      1) PLOT. Perhaps genetics--if Cora had the magic spark inside her and then Zelena's father was also magical, and if it was True Love, then Zelena might have more advanced abilities.

      2) Because Emma doesn't know Hook's history with Neal or the Lost Boys (he killed Rufio...) and they never intend to bring it up ever again because they need to make Hook a hero.

      3) Book gives both as names for Oz

      4) No it's not proof at all. It's a plot device. It was used to get Regina and Robin to sit under a tree and talk. Because Regina opens herself up to complete strangers all the time. (hint: no)

      5) PLOT. Taking Regina's heart makes no sense. You need a talisman (a heart is not a talisman) of one of the traditional characteristics of Oz: courage, heart, brains. Zelena took Charming's sword (courage), is controlling Rumple with the dagger ( brains), and now want's Regina's literal heart. But Regina is not the most pure of heart, in fact her heart is almost as black as coal. So it makes no sense.

      6) PLOT. And to add to your question: why didn't Regina just take Zelena's heart right then and there. She shoved her away magically but didn't bother taking her heart.

      7) PLOT

      8) PLOT

      9) I think Zelena is planning to make sure Cora keeps her and is such a good daughter that she'll never have Regina. This plan is hugely flawed and idiotic. How is a baby going to prevent anything when she has no memories of what has transpired before?

      10) I think Zelena used Dorothy's heart to cast the curse. Dorothy comes to Oz as an orphan; Zelena takes pity on her since she sees a lot of herself in Dorothy. She grows to care for her as her own child, to fill the void in her heart (much like Henry did for Regina); and then she'll kill her to cast the Curse.