Monday, September 29, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x1)

And here we are again. If I said I was having trouble forming proper thoughts on the return of ONCE could anyone blame me? Three months off during which time my distaste and dissatisfaction for the show only grew. I don't know how I relate to this show anymore. Yes, some part of me is still curious about all the ins and outs. Some part of me still cares for Rumple and Belle and Snow and Charming, though any affection I had for Emma (who used to be my favorite female on this show) has diminished quite significantly and the less I say about Hook the better. It's hard for me to find the positive in Once Upon a Time anymore because of how disastrous and rage inducing season three (well, the second half at least) was. This show has become something I watch with bitterness and resentment. And yet...and yet, here I am. Blogging, watching, and discussing, as I always have. It's a Catch-22 for me. I can't walk away because I have devoted hours (and hours) of my life to this show; but I can't find it in me to really enjoy or just "let go" of some of the more grievous errors the writers have made. In the season premiere, "A Tale of Two Sisters," we begin the Frozen arc. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and even Sven the Reindeer are all here. It's shark jumpy and it's an obvious ratings and money hog and frankly it's annoying that the creators are going for flash over substance once more but it's also not surprising. Isn't that what ONCE has turned into? Disney fanfiction while simultaneously ignoring the nuanced and intricate characters they set up from the start. My reviews of ONCE aren't going to be positive, or at least they aren't going to ignore the giant flaws in writing, logic, character development, and substance. That's not what I do anymore. So what can I say about the season 4 premiere as a whole: it's exactly what I expected and that's not a good thing. 

Welcome to Arendelle

Because my opening was so negative toward the show, let me start the proper review off with something more positive: the casting. If there is one thing that OUAT gets right about 95% of the time, it's casting. And by right I mean they pick people who are literally carbon copies of the Disney version. Wait. Did my positive just go negative? Whoops. Actually, I admit this is a fuzzy area to criticize. It's hard for a show that sells itself as your favorite fairy tales (read: Disney movies) come to life and then not have those fairy tales look exactly like their Disney counterparts. Ariel without red hair would have been a disaster; Tink not being blonde and not in green wouldn't jive for the audience. The one time they did break the mold with Rapunzel, it came off as forced and a way to silence critics about ONCE's overwhelming race issue. So when it came time to cast Elsa and Anna, they went for the actresses who look exactly like the animated version. Even down to the costuming, they are straight off the DVD cover sitting on your shelf. It is what it is. Georgiana Haig, whom I know from Fringe, is a good actress and a good choice. Newbie Elizabeth Lail is sweet and endearing though I found the way they wrote Anna to be taxing. I won't give the show too much grief over this. I know...shocking.  So, what is happening in Arendelle? Well, it's important to note that this isn't strictly Frozen. I mean, it is in the sense that Elsa, Anna, ect are coming to ONCE but we aren't going to see the movie Frozen play out before our eyes. Rather, the events of the flashback are actually after the events of the movie. So post-Frozen, pre-Regina's curse. Because we should make this as wibbly wobbly timey wimey as possible, apparently.

Elsa is trying to prepare Anna for her wedding to Kristoff but of course that's complicated for a few reasons. Quick aside, but why does everything have to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped inside family dynamics? Of course there is some super secret hidden diary that reveals a super secret plan from Anna and Elsa's parents! Of course the parents set out to find a way to "fix" Elsa because they are horrible parents. No seriously, they pretty much thought their daughter was a monster. Once Upon A Parent: You're Doing it Wrong. Anna, determined to make Elsa realize that she's not a villain, decides to go see the Rock Trolls. And when I say the rock troll looked more like the Rock Troll than Elsa looks like Movie! Elsa, that's saying something. Seriously. It's like they spliced out the Rock Troll from the movie and then put it into ONCE and added a new voice to give it gravitas. The Rock Troll is only slightly helpful: the parents traveled to the Mist Haven to find someone who could help with Elsa's wonky snow powers. Sure. Why not. Not like Frozen was about acceptance and love. Of course all of this is compounded by the fact that Anna is getting married the next day to Kristoff and Elsa can't leave her kingdom to go on an adventure. But when has responsibility and duty and honor ever stopped the characters on ONCE? I know I sound overly critical and bitter but so far the Frozen storyline is weak. I know, I know. One episode in. But while the actors are great we are dealing, once again, with a misunderstood "monster" who wants to find love and acceptance. Zelena, Regina, Rumple, and even Cora, to an extent, fit this bill. This is why I liked Peter Pan so much; he was just evil for evil's sake. There is only so many times the writers can hammer home that "evil isn't born, it's made" before they sound like a one trick pony. Which, they sorta already are. Every villain is going to have the same story. Is Elsa a villain though? Not really. Not in the Frozen movie and probably not in ONCE. But so far, she's been set up that way and it bothers me that she's the same as every other villain.

Speaking of Elsa and her complexities, she and Kristoff do NOT like each other, eh? Where did that come from? Why is that the ONCE interpretation of their relationship? Cause I don't think they even speak in the movie. Maybe it's jealousy. Anna is all Elsa has and now she's loosing her sister to Kristoff, and this is after she almost lost Anna to a frozen heart. I suppose that works, but once again, we just had a jealous sister issue. Granted, Zelena was jealous at Regina to the point of destruction and Elsa is jealous of Kristoff more so than Anna, but it's the same note just changed in pitch ever so slightly. Kristoff is covering for Anna who has run away to the Mist Haven to find a cure. Oh, by the way, Mist Haven is really the Enchanted Forest. Why? No, seriously, why? Why is the EF now the Mist Haven? We call it the EF, FTL, and now Mist Haven? Are the elves there? Is this where Gandalf and Frodo went at the end of the Return of the King? Yes, yes, I know that is the Grey Havens, but still...bizarrely similar name is bizarrely similar. But back to Anna and her adventure. I'm not thrilled with Anna's characterization. She was too flighty and dumb, which is not how Anna is in the movie. In the movie, Anna is just exited but she's smart and capable. Kristoff was a big pile of gray nothing. His moments with Sven were cute but with Elsa, I couldn't get past the fact that obviously don't like each other.

We're Squatters Now. We Squat.

And now we're back in Storybrooke. And this portion of the show is called: check in the with the ships people care about! I'm not kidding. Most of this was about the various couples circling each other and and going on little side adventures. Charming and Snow appeared for maybe five minutes in total because while they are the original couple on the show, the fandom doesn't really care about them. They aren't flashy enough. You must have flash. Or leather. Or a cross bow. Or be morally reprehensible. Snow and Charming are both heroes. BORING. Neal and Emma are both heroes. BORING. But ooooh, morally corrupt bad guy/girl and a hero? SCORE. I hate this show. Let's just get the shipping nonsense out of the way. Elsa is in town and causes havoc through a giant snowman that had terrible CGI. Though, Marshmallow's CGI wasn't as bad as the fake snow that kept falling around Elsa. That was some truly terrible CGI.

Rumple and Belle are totally cut off from the rest of humanity, in a house that is abandoned. Because breaking and entering is a thing we do now. Wait. What? Doesn't Rumple own most of the property in Storybrooke? What is this very random house that Belle decides they can squat in for their honeymoon? This is illegal. What kind of messed up ---nope. I'm not going to think about it. I'm really not. I'm going to just review the episode and ignore the horrible, terrible message that is love and romance on this show. (Belle breaks the law now! Cause love! Sorry....had to). Rumple is feeling guilty over killing Zelena so he switches the daggers again. Which totally makes up for lying to Belle and killing Zelena in the first place. Except...not. It does not. This is not the right thing. This is wrong. You need to tell Belle what you did and then face the consequences. But then I suppose the writers want me to ignore this glaring moral dilemma because I got my Rumbelle dance scene. I have wanted this scene since season one. I have prayed for it. And it's rather ruined by Rumple and his lying and his manipulation and his general addiction to magic. Just like their wedding was ruined by the stupid Hook and Emma nonsense. Whatever. They dance and have sex. All is happy in Rumbelle land (except not, and I'll get to that later).

Can I skip all the nonsense that is Outlaw Queen? I really don't care for this ship and I am 100% over love triangles; I'm really over shipping in general for ONCE but we are Once Upon a Ship now. So, turns out, Sydney, has been locked up in in a psych ward all this time. No one let him out. No one. That's cruel and unusual punishment. And now Regina needs her mirror, so she goes to let him out only to put him inside his mirror while he screams and pleads. Wow. Character development, GONE. Regina wants The Mirror's help to take down Marian so that Regina can have her happy ending. Of course, Regina's plans change when she feels guilty and ends up saving Marian from the giant snowman. Because character development should be as uneven and bipolar as possible. I rolled my eyes so hard at Regina's back and forth. It's just like in season two when Cora managed to make her evil again with just a whisper. I am over Regina on the whole, though. I've come to realize that the more I watch, the less I like her. Ah well. In the end, Regina's plans become something a bit unexpected: she wants to find the author of the book and force the writer to make a happy ending for the villains. Which is...odd. Not odd in the sense that it doesn't fit with the universe--it actually is a nice tie back to the first season--but rather it's odd that this is coming up now. I won't lie; it feels very final season. Figuring out who the author is, making all the villains get their happy ending, is very "tie everything together with a nice big bow and give it to the audience for one last hurrah." I'm beginning to suspect that this might the final season (thank God). Rumbelle married, author of the book found, happy endings for the villains....the writing, it's on the wall, kids.

If you think I'm going to talk about Captain Swan, then you're an idiot. They don't exist. Emma is now Pod! Emma and literally not on my screen. Ever. He doesn't speak or move or think. He is just a thing that people think is there only he's not. Got it? Good. Look, Rumple has a hat! It's glowing. Will he smoke it (Grimm joke). It has...the universe inside it. Sure. It's clearly the hat from the Sorcerer's Apprentice and I bet you anything, it ties into the book. Walt Disney wrote the book, didn't he? That's where this is going. The ultimate fanwank for Adam and Eddy. They have Disney-i-fied their entire show and now Walt himself wrote the book that started Henry's journey. Maybe they'll get Tom Hanks to play Walt since he just did it so well in Saving Mr. Banks. Again, this feels like final season stuff, but I have a early seasonal issue: why is the hat in this house? It was in Rumple's castle meaning it should be in the pawn shop. We saw the hat in Skin Deep (trust me, I know my Skin Deep), so how is it here? And why? And do I really care? Probably not. So Regina is looking for the author of the book, Rumple will continue to be addicted to magic, Snow is a wallflower who only gets so speak when spoken to, Charming is making really inappropriate jokes, Emma is a pod, Hook...continues to not exist. And Hen--what's his name? Harry? Harrison? Henry! That's it! I don't know what he's going to do but he'll somehow get hurt or injured or captured. It is know. Welcome back, Once Upon A Time. I wish I was glad to see you.

Miscellaneous Notes on A Tale of Two Sisters

--Ok, so I avoided talking about the Rumple scene in which he talks to Neal's grave. I did this for a reason, namely...I don't know how I feel about it. On the one hand, it was nice to see Rumple finally acknowledge that he lost his son. On the other hand, it felt very random and out of place. Like the writers knew how upset we were by it and decided to respond with this scene. And I can't help but be angry at some of what Rumple said. He killed Zelena to avenge Neal but that is obviously NOT what Neal would have wanted. It also felt very selfish: the entire speech was about Rumple and his feelings about what he must do now to press onward, not about Neal himself. I don't know. It doesn't sit well with me at the end of the day.

--"There is no frosting."

--"She was going to die anyway, what did it matter?" Dear God. This is why you don't get a happy ending, Regina. 

--Sven was really cute. I like him. Let's keep him.

--I almost threw my TV out the window because of Adam and Eddy's line that came from Charming: "maybe we should have named him [the baby] Baelfire." Shut up, writers. Just take the flack from the audience that 90% of us are livid that Snowing named their baby Neal.

--Robin only staying with Marian because he made a vow is ludicrous. This is Robin Hood and Maid Marian. They are epic true love. Marian is not just the ball and chain. 


1 comment:

  1. You hit all of the points that bothered me from this episode. The one thing that I disagree with is the book. It is an interesting idea to change the book so that the fates change, except the book doesn't dictate the outcome. The book has seemingly changed to match what has happened. I always understood the book to be a record of what has past, not what will be.