Monday, October 20, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x4)

I am trying really hard not to type this whole review in all caps. I have the overwhelming urge to write this review in a screaming declarative font. I hated this episode. I really and truly did. Now, I knew going in that I was going to hate it. You can't say that I didn't prepare myself for how much I would dislike it. I'll get to why in a bit; normally I spend this portion of the review setting up some sort of theme or idea that I think the episode demonstrates. I can't do that for this weeks episode, "The Apprentice." Instead, I want to talk about why I'm still watching ONCE. It's a question that has been posed to me recently by friends, family, and, yes, even myself. Why am I subjecting myself to something that I'm obviously not enjoying as much as I used to--and no one can say I didn't enjoy it. I lived it. I breathed it. So, why do I still watch ONCE: because I am Rumplestiltskin and I have an addiction. Bold statement, eh? Am I addicted to OUAT? Well, I was. And I suppose to some extent I still am, or at least I can't quite seem to give it up entirely because some part of me needs to believe it can get better. I've walked away from TV shows before, but for the most part those were shows that I had never managed to connect to on a deeper level and so the leaving was easier. But, ONCE was my life. That sounds like an exaggeration, I know, but it did occupy (and, to be perfectly honest, still does occupy) a large part of my life. The fandom, the forums, the theories, the podcasts. Hours and days of my life spent thinking and researching and writing about what has always been a silly little show full of melodrama and camp. But it had heart. You can't watch episodes like Desperate Souls or Skin Deep and tell me it didn't once have incredible heart. I have an addiction to the friends I've made and the connections I've forged. I have this pressing bizarre need to turn on my TV at 8pm on Sundays and watch, mostly cringing all the while, as ONCE descends further from the greatness that it was into the tragedy it has become. Maybe, at some point, I'll be able to walk away I tell myself. But we know it won't happen. I'm here until the bitter end, even though it's not the show I loved. It's not even close. 

Yes. I Am Going To Talk About It

I am about to break one of my cardinal rules when it comes to ONCE: do not talk about CaptainSwan. For any CSers who (for some reason...) reading this blog, first: hi. Second, kindly skip this section and move on to the next. It's bolded, like all my headings normally are. Because I am about to embark on a long rant about why I deeply hated this first date between Emma and Hook. First off, has any "date" between any two characters ever been so dramatically set up as if it's the first date between man and woman since fire was invented. Adam and Eddy can claim they don't write ships, but the whole first 20 minutes or so was, in the present, dedicated to this idea that Captain Hook and Emma Swan were about to go on their very first date. I am honestly surprised that Snow White didn't declare a public holiday or hold a parade given how over the top annoying she was about how this date is a super big deal. It's a big deal, guys. A really big deal. I mean it's not like Emma is thirty years old (or thereabouts that it doesn't make a difference). Not like she has a thirteen year old kid. Not like she's dated countless other men before, including one flying monkey. Not like she has a history of one night stands and emotionless flings. Oh wait. Except that is who Emma Swan is. Now, you can raise some hubbub about how Emma is changing and that's fine. She probably is--whether or not a woman should be required to change in order to date a man who (as this episode clearly shows) is not changing might be the next paragraph or so. But she isn't just changing the way she approaches a relationship. Emma is changing everything. Emma's is not a girly girl. She prefers tight jeans and boots and plaid. When she did go on dates, she wears outfits that scream sex and feminine power.

I love that the first time we meet her in the pilot she's wearing a dress that might have been painted on and with shoes that could render you unconscious if she whacked you upside the head with them. She's loud and proud and in charge. She's a tower of female empowerment while still revealing a truly broken side underneath and it was glorious. Now behold her. She's demure, virginal, soft and romantic. Her dress looks like it was taken from her mother Snow White's closet. She's wearing quite a bit of makeup but it's of the neutral kitten type; her hair is up. And, dear heaven, she's even got herself a flower. I bet in the writers room, they originally wanted Hook to give Emma a corsage because all of this screams Junior Prom. She's the popular pretty head cheerleader who gave the rough and tumble bad boy in leather a chance to prove himself. They're freaking Sandra Dee and Dany Zuko. Are they going to burst into a rendition of "Summer Lovin'?" It's ludercrious--as was Grease in which another slightly alone and misunderstood blonde had to change her entire appearance in order to appease a man--you know, before they flew off into the sunset in his car. Weird movie, guys. Now it was pointed out that Jennifer Morrison gave an interview in which she discuses the dress and she basically said what I've touched on: "it's softer and more romantic." And something about walls because no one has walls like Emma Swan. I.E: Emma Swan, the kickass Savior in red leather, isn't good enough to go on a date. We gotta make her Snow White-lite. Not buying it JMo, but then again, you drank the Kool-Aid awhile back and nothing you say surprises me anymore. And speaking of changing for your man, Emma Swan is now the worst sheriff in the history of anything: first she doesn't chase after Will in the restaurant or at least call David, her co-sheriff, to chase down the criminal and then she decides to keep Will in jail because he interrupted her date. Wow. Turn in your badge, Sheriff Swan. Not helping the whole situation are two things: Snow White and Hook.

Snow White is unbearable right now. What happened to my kickass bandit who could knock you out with a rock and proudly declared that she was a woman. Now she's the dowdy housewife who is coming across as possessive and strange and clingy as she snaps pictures of her thirty year old daughter going on "a big date!" You get that Emma's not a virgin, right Snow? You do not need to sit up, all doe eyed and grinning ear to ear waiting for your little girl to come home to tell you all about her fabulous wonderful date with the boy of her dreams. I mean, I know this show is Disney-i-fied but surely there is a limit to the cotton candy and bubblegum-esque nature of it all. Someone will point out that Snow never got to do any of this with Emma, but lest we forget, that's why Snow and Charming had Baby Replacement, because Snow never got to do anything with Emma. Well, I'm sorry that Baby Namestealer is too little to provide you with good mommy material, but ease up off that throttle there, Snow. At least Charming, whose role was to play the stern and silent and judgmental father, wasn't too overbearing. But there is another part of this equation and his name is Hook. Actually, his name is Killian Jones but I refuse to acknowledge that. If you read my blog you know that I don't like Hook. I never have. His sole purpose on this show is to be eye candy and to rival Rumple in power, the latter is a storyline they did away with quickly when it became apparent that Colin O'Donahue's greater skill in life is making the sexy eyes at ladies. No disrespect to Colin. He's a great actor and I actually wonder if he's happy playing--what did Rumple call him--"a puppy dog chasing after the object of his affection." Great line. But here's Hook, believing that he is a changed naturally he goes to make a blackmail deal with the Dark One to get his hand back because should the date go "well" and Emma wants to get close, he'd like to be able to hold her with both hands. Life lesson from ONCE, kiddies: people with disabilities are incapable of loving totally; you got to have all your limbs for that. I hope the writers get creamed for this line. So here's Hook hoping that by having two hands he'll be able to "hold" (pfft) Emma, which is actually contrary to what she told him when she asked him out: "I don't pillage and plunder on the first date." To which he replied, "That's because you haven't been out with me yet." In other words: oh silly woman! You do not know your own mind. I am a big strong man! I shall make the decisions for you. Silly silly woman. Now look deeply into my smoulder. Speaking of trying to change Emma's mind, Hook decreed that he should be the one to make the plans because he knows how to plan a know, having spent the past 250+ years in Neverland and all. Last week he didn't know how to use a cell phone, but this episode Hook apparently knows how to make dinner reservations and plan an entire romantic evening. Yup. Continuity. Makes total sense.

This Hand Is Your Hand. This Hand Is My Hand.

I'm going to move on now, so for those who skipped the CS induced rant, welcome! What happens when you make a deal with the Dark One? Hint: nothing good. Hook wants his hand back or else Hook will spill the beans to Belle that Rumple is lying to her and that he is still using the dagger for his own means. Rumple decides to play a bit of a mind trick on Hook and tells him that the hand might act the way the "old" Hook used to be, not this clearly reformed guy in a shorter leather coat. Except Hook ends up beating up poor Will (as he's trying to break into a library, so okay, as much as this pains me, props to Hook for trying to stop the unlawful breaking and entering). When Hook demands that Rumple give him his trusted hook back, Rumple informs Hook that he gave the real dagger back to Belle and therefore Hook has lost his leverage. At which point Hook tried to kill Rumple. Eeh gads. Yeah, you changed alright pirate-boy. Why is Regina looking better by the second? She's officially the only one who didn't attempt murder between season 3B and season 4. I guess give her time? Anyway, Rumple says that if Hook wants his hand, he needs to do Rumple a solid and then there's a walking broomstick. I won't lie; should this walking broomstick and Sven the Reindeer get their own spinoff, I'd watch it. Well, provided it wasn't written or even touched by Adam and Eddy, that is. The walking broomstick was clever. I enjoy clever references to Disney classics like Fantasia. Follow the broomstick! Wherever could it lead?

To suck an old man into a hat. I wish I was making this up. The hat sucks people, with magic, into it and once it's "fully charged" Rumple, as the Dark One, will be unstoppable. Which makes perfect sense. Except, not. Wasn't he already unstoppable as the Dark One? He can't be killed. He can be controlled if someone has his dagger, like Zelena. But other than that, he's supposed to be the most powerful magic in all the realms, except True Love. But with each passing season we get more "things" or people who are apparently stronger and more powerful than the Dark One. The Blue Fairy, the magic cuff from the Home Office, The Black Fairy's Wand, and now a hat. Why is Rumple being presented as being so self-serving? This is a man who tried to break worlds to find his son, to get a chance to ask for forgiveness and say he was sorry for letting go of Nealfire's hand so many years ago. Is he selfish? Yes. But his whole mission in life has never been one of self-service. So this idea that now Rumple, just because he discovered the hat box on his wedding night, has suddenly laid a plan to get more power feels like a disservice to his character. Why are the writers doing it? My guess is they are making him look truly dark and evil so that a certain someone else *cough Hook cough* looks better. Ain't gonna work on me, folks. So in the end, Hook helps Rumple suck an old man into a hat and then demands to be released from their deal. But Rumple decides to make Hook his little bitch instead and I actually enjoyed this conversation, mostly because Bobby Carlyle is a powerhouse that cannot be stopped. Rumple's right; Hook is still a ruthless pirate who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Hook even tells Rumple he has no problem crushing Belle's heart (um, metaphorically since Hook doesn't have heart taking power. Be more careful with your words, writers). So Hook is now Rumple's to do with as long as Hook lives. How ominous.

I'm The Cool Kid. I Know Everyone

Oh look. Rumple knows Anna. How shocking. This part of the storyline dragged a bit, though I did think that Elizabeth Lail and Bobby played well of each other. Anna was more likable here, a little more flighty but still kinda cute. In essence, Rumple wants to use Anna to get the hat box from the old man that he will later suck into a hat. Why? Because the hat box is enchanted with a curse that can only be broken by someone who has conquered the darkness within. Sure, okay. Condense writers. That's a lot of story and a lot of ideas, none of which have ever been presented before. In fact, why is this just now coming up? If every Dark One from the dawn of time (or something) has tried to get this hat box, why is Rumple just now going after it? He manipulated an entire birth of a magical true love baby, you're telling me he couldn't manipulate someone to getting the hat box before Anna arrived from Arendelle? Anna succeeds in not giving into the darkness and Rumple uses her tears to get himself a hat box. But then Anna takes it cause the plot requires that Rumple not have the hat box...cause he's trying to find his son. You know, his whole reason for living? The person he sought for 300 years? Yeah, hat box and unlimited power ain't gonna help that, now is it.

Sven is my life now. But what is annoying me most about the flashbacks is the way the writers are shoehorning in the Frozen cast members in every single episode. Episode one was Frozen: The Sequel; episode two was Anna and David; episode three was Frozen: Part Three; and episode four was Rumple and Anna. They've never done this before. Zelena and Pan were not in every single flashback, just the ones that required them to be there. I get that Frozen is huge and equals money, but they are sacrificing their core characters and the people I actually care about for the sake of these new shiny toys. It's irritating. Like quite a bit. There is such a thing as overkill. The reunion between Anna and Kristoff (and Sven!) was cutesy but did it really need to be there? Not really. Save it for another episode. Did it really need to be Anna that Rumple manipulated? I guess it's cleaner storytelling, but honestly I don't need each and every single week to be "the next part of the Frozen saga." All in all, I really didn't like this episode and not liking a Rumple centric is a first for me. Bobby is still magnificent but it doesn't feel like he's trying as hard to sell the mad but tortured Rumple I loved from the start. I honestly wonder if he's happy with the way his story is being told.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Apprentice

--Will wound up breaking into the library and curling up next to a copy of Alice in Wonderland. A picture of the Red Queen was found in his pocket. I'm going to go ahead and say it: Anastasia is dead.

--Henry going to work for Rumple is great, EXCEPT he is manipulating Rumple using Nealfire's name to do so. It's appalling. It has nothing to do with Neal nor with Rumple, but all about helping Regina find the writer of the book. I find it disgusting that Henry is using Neal that way.

--"I, unlike you, am nice."

--Almost no Snow Queen. Feels like the story they set up last week suddenly halted in the middle of telling it.

--Henry wants Emma to be happy but isn't sure that he's okay with her dating Hook. Too bad it'll never come up again. Also, mom and kid have apparently talked about her love life, but not his dead father. Okay then.

--Hook clearly lies to Emma about how he got his hand back and her lie detector doesn't go off. Naturally.


  1. I get why you and other fans are upset, I do. But I can't help but feel there's been a huge misunderstanding of what Rumple's character has always been about. The tendency to romanticize his genuine love for his son and for Belle has blinded people to it, and now it's less character derailment than it is everything becoming clear. Rumple has ALWAYS been about obtaining incredibly self-serving means of validation. Validation as a worthy person, validation as a worthy living being, through both power and love, things he has notoriously lacked his whole life. He's similar to Jafar from the Wonderland spinoff, only not quite as evil (since Rumple actually wants validation through love from people he doesn't plan to kill immediately after getting it, and he doesn't horrifically murder/torture other people every single bloody episode.)

    Rumple was a kid with no love from his father and no power to improve his sad life. As an adult he finally had both love and power (through Milah and a position in the army), but lost them both when he tried to avoid leaving his son fatherless, like he was left in his youth. To protect the only other love he had in his life, Baelfire, and to gain ultimate power, he became the Dark One. His problem ever since is that he feels he needs both love and power to feel validated, and his own selfish feelings of validation matter above all else. His line to Regina of "you can't have everything" is the HEIGHT of hypocrisy, since that's basically what he desires: to have everything.

    He regrets whenever he chooses power over love and seeks to rectify things when he does (especially when it came to his son, given his own situation with his father), but he also isn't keen on choosing love over power, he thinks he needs both. That choosing love over power once, sacrificing his life for Neal and Belle, only resulted in Neal's ultimate death and Rumple being abused by Zelena for months on end just strengthened his previous beliefs. That's why he can't just be content being married to Belle, he needs power too...while at the same time, lying about because he also couldn't stand to lose Belle's love.

    Except for the whole sacrificing his life thing, the needs of others, even the ones he loves, have never come first for Rumple. It's all been about helping himself feel like he matters. Even his big epic goal of reuniting with his son...would that have helped Neal in any way? No, in fact Neal didn't want to be found. It only helped Rumple because Rumple needs his son's love and forgiveness to feel complete. Who cares how many lives he has to destroy so long as he gets that, right? It's the same reason he drank the memory potion when Emma told him of Neal's fate: not doing so may have sabotaged Neal forgiving him before dying (and, as we saw back when he thought Tamara had killed Neal, his son dying before ever forgiving him would make him downright suicidal, Belle be damned). It's the same reason he didn't keep the promise he made at Neal's grave...during a speech that reinforced how his own validation is the most important thing to him: talking about how his son's love made him feel like a man.

    Rumple is a fantastic character, and you don't have to like Hook...but saying that this self-service angle is something new and that they're trying to make Hook look better by comparison to Rumple, as if Hook was EVER a worse person than's just not factually accurate. As Robert Carlyle has said, Rumple may not be evil at his core, but he's still a very, very bad man and one whose bad habits will truly die hard.

    1. Ok. I want to do you the honor of responding but it's going to be short and to the point because I spend an unholy amount of my life debating ONCE with people and it's exhausting.

      I don't disagree with you on most of this. Rumple is flawed; he's an addict, he's ruthless, he's a coward, and he's loving, and he's tortured, and he's every other thing you come up with. And even though he wanted it all, power and love, he did everything he did for his son (while holding on to his power, yes, but always for his son). And when they took away his drive--Nealfire--they took away the major loadstone of his character. And now he's floundering with the writers giving us no explanation.

      Subjectivity is a big thing for me. Do I think Rumple did worse things than Hook? Yes, most likely, Do I think Hook is a worse person? Possibly. And this goes back to motivation and personal bias. That's my cross to bear. Everything Hook did was for his revenge. Maybe we can rationalize it with 'revenge for loosing true love' but it was revenge nonetheless and that led him to do things that set my teeth on edge and things that I cannot over look. Rumple did horrible things--yes. But he also mostly made deals with people and played them like pawns. That's not the same as beating a woman.

      And here's my absolute final thought. Anything truly bad that Hook ever did, you'll never see on screen. That's no longer the story Adam and Eddy are pitching to the audience. Hook was once designed to be the sociopathic pirate capable of matching Rumple. That was ditched. Any flashback we ever get of him will not show him in a negative light in order for them to drive the what is, arguably, one of the most popular characters in the fandom. That's business. I get it. It doesn't mean I don't get to call them out on this. And that doesn't mean that they aren't trying to sell Hook the Hero and Rumple the Villain hardcore this season. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.

      Doesn't make me right. Doesn't make me wrong either.


  2. "A picture of the Red Queen was found in his pocket. I'm going to go ahead and say it: Anastasia is dead."

    Really? The mysterious way they treated it made me think that they're reintroducing her for the Once audience who never watched the spinoff and she's a shoe-in to appear later on down the road. In fact, Will's whole story seems to be a rehash of the spinoff for the audience that missed it, since it's the one thing from the spinoff that everyone seemed to love. Also, the fact that he's looking at a picture of the RED Queen and not the White Queen reinforces my belief that this whole thing takes place before their wedding nuptials: Will hasn't been a King yet and Ana hasn't changed her royal color-coding.

    1. Actually I no longer think that Ana is dead. I believe that she is in the story, like that picture of the Red Queen IS Ana and she's trapped.