Monday, October 27, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x5)

A family that loves me. I'm having a harder time putting words to thoughts, properly, with this episode. It was actually fairly decent; in fact, I think it might be my favorite of the season, and it's entirely possible that I'm basing most of that on one scene. Writers prerogative, eh? This episode actually made me feel something besides uncontrollable rage and resentment and I guess that's a step in the right direction. But, at the same time, I feel played and used. Oh, and, yes, irritated given that once again the motivation of the villain is the same carbon copy excuse they all use. But, I'm willing to do something for this episode that I haven't been willing to do in a long time: over look--at least, most of it. Trust me, there will be snark and sass and criticism. But I'm also still balling my eyes out over one scene and that's weighing on me. This weeks episode, "Breaking Glass," was more about the connections we forge and break and that little piece inside of us that wants to find someone we connect to. And how damnably hard it can be when we lose them. 

The Tattoos That Bind

When I first watched this episode, I had a lot of criticisms about these flashbacks, mostly because they are a lot of filler and are redundant given what we already know about Miss Emma Swan. Yes, Emma has walls. She was abandoned and unloved and left behind and she can't trust people and we all know this tune. That's the problem; nothing new was established in this episode except that we met someone who is (most likely) a one off character who just so happened to mess Emma up more than she was already messed up by further lying to her and tricking her. It's a theme with Emma but, again, we already knew that. Her parents left her by the side of the road (or so she believed for a long time), her first true love Neal turned her into the police (he did NOT, but let's not go into ship territory after my mega rant last week). And now it turns out that her first friend, Lily, was kind of a messed up teenage bitch who did an emo thing and it made Emma even more emo. And I say this as someone who is also of the emo persuasion. So, you know, lovingly. If it hadn't been abundantly clear what the writers were doing in terms of paralleling the present day and the past, then I'd write this off as totally filler and adding nothing to the overall episode. But, rather heavy handily, the Lily/Emma drama was cast as a parallel to the present day situation with Regina and Emma. It's not a coincidence that young Lily was a dark haired, spunky, Latina outcast who felt invisible and unloved. Apart from the dark haired and Latina aspect of it, it's pretty obvious why Emma and Lily got along. Though, to be perfectly frank, that was the most rushed best friendship ever. They knew each other for five seconds before they decided they were going to be best friends for life. But, in an effort to not criticize too much, Emma and Neal also fell in love after just one meeting, one cup of coffee, and a sad tale told on the swings. Parallels within parallels and wheels within wheels, guys. There were an uncomfortable number of Tallahassee callbacks this episode, and not just THE callback. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I guess I'll have more to say in the notes section since it doesn't warrant its own paragraph but I don't know if I feel grateful or used.

 Let's get back to Lily and Emma. It turns out that Lily is a liar liar pants on fire (she'd get along great with Clara Oswald). I saw it coming from a mile away; the truck that was chasing Lily was too suspicious to be just someone trying to put Lily back in the system. She was too reticent about opening up to Emma except for her own sense of invisibility and outcast status. Emma has a decidedly wounded aspect to her appearance but Lily seemed more functional out in the world. She knows how to play video games; she's not starved; she can make references to Harry Potter (which at this time was only one year old). Emma is the opposite--a true foster system kid who knows what it is to be hungry and alone, who has never played a video game in her life and doesn't seem to understand certain newer popular culture references because they haven't been passed down to her yet, like so many hand me down clothes. I appreciate this about Emma. Before I felt like she was becoming Pod! Emma, she was my favorite female character and I saw more of her tonight than I have in a long time. And yes, I'm just going to say it, the fact that she barely had any screen time with Hook helped. Get her away from the lovey-dovey stuff, and the bonds-person, rogue, hit the streets, leather wearing Emma is still there. You never know how much you miss someone until you are suddenly reminded of them again, and that's what this flashback was, in part--a reminder of who Emma was before they began taking her down a road that was I didn't want to follow. Emma felt real this episode, tangible even. Her relationship with Lily is over in a heartbeat, of course, once the lie is discovered. Lily isn't a foster kid; she's a lonely adopted child who's father and mother love her deeply. She has a family and a home, something Emma has never had. Emma can't understand why someone would want to run away from that; all she wants is a family. Emma thought she and Lily were special, unique, and could weather anything. But that's Emma's lesson in life: people hurt and abandon. Even though Lily is genuinely sorry, it's too late. That line has been crossed and it cannot be uncrossed for Emma. Like I said above, it's a super fast friendship that actually defies belief quite a bit, but I'm going to overlook because Emma Swan...felt like Emma Swan.

Do You Wanna Build A Sparkly Ice Viking?

And now for something completely different. And by completely different, I mean an isolated blonde with trust issues and a spunky Latina with equal trust issues trying to work together to forge a connection and uh..failing. At least until the end. Yes, Lily was basically one giant Regina-stand in. But let's put a pin in that for a moment and talk about Regina this episode because, oh boy. She just did some serious back peddling that does not rank her below Hook but doesn't exactly endear her to me either. If the writers want me to see Regina as anything other than mostly-villain, then they need to have her stop saying such dumb things like Emma ruined her life. No, Regina. You ruined your own when you chose revenge and blood over forgiveness and understanding. Emma had nothing to do with that. Emma saved a life and while I know that means you can't get your magical rocks off with Robin Hood, it doesn't change the fact that without Emma you'd have more blood on your hands. Is that what you want? While you delight in tearing apart people's happy endings, Emma actively tried to save one. It's not a matter of Emma learning to deal with it, it's a matter of you learning to deal with the fact that you chose your path and it led you here, so maybe you take you lumps and live. It doesn't help that they give Emma some pretty stupid lines that seem way too revisionist history, like "you've done a lot for me." Well. No, she didn't. I mean, unless you count poisoning your son, trying to run you out of town, trying to kill your parents, and--oh yeah--being the reason you were sent through a magical wardrobe in the first place. Look at your life, Regina. Look at your choices. You're the one who doesn't regret or feel sorrow. Emma is beating herself up over this, even though she won't take back saving a life. You're the one who has some serious rage issues right now. And it finally came back to bite you when Sidney, your loyal servant (read: slave) decided to ditch you for the Snow Queen who wouldn't lock him into some sort of prison for all of time--be it a padded one or a reflective one.

Of course it takes the combined powers of Emma and Regina to stop the Sparkly Ice Viking. Seriously, what the hell is this thing besides rather bad CGI? I have conjured an ICE VIKING! Um. Sure? But minus the somewhat cringe worth effects, I did like the magical battle. ONCE has a habit of chopping their magic battles off at the knee caps; you expect it to be something big and grand--and why wouldn't you with the level of power some of the characters have. But it never goes anywhere. The villain is always taken care of with one flick of the wrist, a heart put back into a chest, a knife in the back, a necklace removed (ugh). But in this case, they let Regina's fire and Emma's true love work together to take down Sparkle McSparkleson (not Viking enough, I know, but I'm not calling him Ragnar. Viking joke...). It's all a set up for the Snow Queen who just wants Regina's mirror. It's the new precious. The kids in Under the Dome had that damn egg; The Snow Queen wants her mirror. See, I can still criticize an episode that I thought was pretty decent. Like Emma and Lily, Regina and Emma are struggling with finding a family that loves them, fully. Emma finally got a clue that her mother and father and Henry love her and need her and that Storybrooke is home, but Regina just had all that taken away from her. So, while I'm pretty critical of Regina right now, I do understand that she's in pain. And having Sidney betray her can't have been pleasant. What's the Evil Queen without her magic mirror, right? Though, um, maybe this is why we don't threaten our "friends." Learn this lesson Regina, cause Emma wants to be a friend. (Down, SwanQueen shippers. Down!)

Some brief ploty-plot-ness to make all this go down smooth. What's up with all the mirrors, Dairy Queen? If you've read the original tale of the Snow Queen then you know that mirrors play a very big role, so I like that they've incorporated this into their FROZEN storyline. According to the Snow Queen, mirrors reflect our mood, our desires, and our essence. They are a temporary receptacle for some tiny bits of our soul.  That's good. I mean, that's almost season one level good in terms of intrigue and excitement and mythical surprise. Mirrors are absolutely symbolic of all that and I like that the writers are playing with these very universal ideas. And the fact that the Snow Queen is using only mirrors imbued with dark magic is pretty interesting too. Is she going to turn people dark in order to love her? However, I draw the line at the this whole "a family who loves me" stuff. Yes, it was the theme of the episode and it worked really well but it's the chorus line to every song a ONCE villain has ever sung. And I sick of hearing it. Regina felt unloved by Cora and did horrible things. Rumple felt unloved by everyone and did horrible things. Cora...same. Zelena and the Snow Queen need to start a support group because they are presidents of the "My Family Didn't Love Me" club. What kind of family does she want? I'm going to say one with children given that she's Emma's foster mother. Wait, what? Yes, the Snow Queen is Emma's old foster mother and Emma doesn't remember this at all, even though she apparently ran into the Snow Queen back in Season One (um. let's just skip right over that, thanks very much. I'm on a good roll). I knew it was coming so it's not surprising but still, once again the villain is somehow related to Henry and his family. This would be like his foster grandmother? Poor kid. 

Miscellaneous Notes On Breaking Glass

--Snow's late night adventure was both good and not so much. On the one hand, it was amusing, but on the other hand, it's official: they are turning Snow into a Disney caricature instead of letting her be the amazing bandit she once was. She said at the end that she felt like herself again, but I don't see how since she wasn't acting anything like how I remember Snow White. Most of this was probably just the writers giving Ginny Goodwin her contracted screen time, but they could work harder on writing her more consistently.

--Will Scarlet is hilarious, but again, I wish they'd given him something more to do outside of being a funny guy. The Will I remember had layers and depth!

--Belle became a babysitter for baby Snowflake and didn't even get one line. Oh boy. She's the new Ruby.

--No Henry and no Rumple. I hope that's rectified soon. On the other hand, very little Hook!

--The Snow Queen lives in the Fortress of Solitude and is also Jadis the White Witch from Narnia going by her decor. 

--All right. Let's do it. Let's talk about THE scene. It's hard to talk about this because I'm not sure what I want to say. First, I cried a lot. I mean...a lot. Also, this was, without a doubt, the most genuine and most real moment I've seen from Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan in a long time. This was heartbreak and loss and grief and feeling sick to your stomach that you've lost someone who meant the world to you. This was everything that was missing since 315. This is what the characters should have been doing since Neal died: mourning, trying to cope with loss, something that is often a time which cannot be coped with! Emma and Hook both had this expression of pure pain. They were remembering Nealfire and how much he meant to everyone. It's one of those times when dialogue actually screws it up so all we're left with is silence. This is another person whom Emma loved and, yes hurt her, but whom she loved nonetheless. And who loved her back. Deeply. Passionately. Without hesitation. So much so that he would let her go. And all of that got wrapped up in a tiny, wordless moment that featured the SwanFire music and other touches of SwanFire, like Emma's Tallahassee glasses and the box itself. It was lovely. But on the other hand, my cynicism being what it is, it just made me sad and angry that they dared to kill off this amazing guy who knew nothing but heartache and loneliness his whole life. That the final message of Neal Cassidy is that it doesn't matter if you do the right thing, you're going to be hated and despised and killed off. And it felt like bait. Adam and Eddy wriggled Neal and Emma out there like a worm on a hook and I was the hungry fish who took the bite. I don't even care that the existence of this picture makes no sense. There was no one around during this moment to take this picture. It cannot exist as it does. But I don't care. It's the Swan Nuzzle and it's glorious and I miss Neal Cassidy more than you know.

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