Monday, November 3, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x6)

Here's a question: how many plot lines is too many? And here's another question: when is the right time to throw all your plot lines at the audience? If you answered a lot and all at once, then you could get a job as a writer on ONCE. Now, to be fair, this episode wasn't bad. It is as good as it gets on ONCE lately, to be honest. There was a lot that I'm not happy about, namely the massive exposition dump at the end that was so unbelievably confusing and strange that I'm betting casual viewers just rolled their eyes and decided this was the last week for them. A lot of serious mental gymnastics are required to understand this one: secret family members, magical rocks and spells and reflections, lying and ship drama, and doppelgangers, and I don't know....a kitchen sink while we're at it. But "Family Business" did have one thing to recommend it: Belle. Lots of Belle. More Belle than they ever had before. They actually managed to show her as more than one half of a popular ship; they gave her something to do and it was actually pretty great. I loved that they made her a doubtful hero. A theme of the season as a whole has been the lengths we go to for family and that's what Belle did. So while the episode was super plot heavy and weighted and felt like I was drowning in all the sudden revelations, at least there was actual character development. 


Meet Belle's mother. Belle's mother is dead. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. All parents die on ONCE. That is how the series will end: all the parents dying in a blaze of glory. So, basically, Hook and Belle are left standing. Oh my god. I take it back! Dead parents on ONCE are pretty common, and I'll grant that it's a pretty common theme in fairy tales and mythology in general. But wow; ONCE just broke their record for fastest parental death ever. Even Snow and Regina got a full episode with their mother before she kicked the proverbial bucket. Belle got two minutes. I'm not kidding. I timed it. The more important thing is how Belle reacts to her mother's demise: namely she doesn't remember it because her father is an asshat. "I didn't want to add to your grief so I took away all your memories of how your mother died to protect you." What the hell? What kind of rationale is that? Especially since, when Belle does finally learn about her mother, she's over it in a hot second. "I learned a valuable lesson, Father. And now we can continue to live our lives with knowledge that heroes save people." But then, see, if they hadn't taken away Belle's memories, how could they possibly work in Frozen? They must do that at all costs! (Because Frozen is money). I'm sounding rather harsh,  I know, and the truth is this episode was my second favorite of the season, though not for the flashbacks which once again attempted to shoehorn in Frozen in every single possible way.

Oh dear Lord. It's Okaen. Not only is it Okaen, it's the most insane replica of Oaken known to man. Down to the "Yoo Hoo." This bothers me greatly, and not because this guy wasn't great; he was. But ONCE doesn't do this. They don't feel the need to put in every single side character from the Disney adaptation. Ariel didn't have Scuttle or Flounder or Sebastian. But, of course, in Frozen-land we must have all of them: Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Hans, Sven, Oaken, the parents, the ice bridge, the references to the songs, the dresses, the snow monster. In case you missed it, it's Frozen! Anyway. Anna and Belle meet because Belle's solution to her missing memories is to break out of her dad's castle, run away to another land, and go in search of what I can only describe as drugs. Belle's a rebel, guys. Belle and Anna were good together in the five or so seconds they spent not talking about their own individual problems. Despite it being a Belle episode, it was heavily Frozen, with Anna taking almost equal amount of screen time and weight in the story. Instead of focusing on Belle more and Anna being a side character, it was like they both needed to have a problem, which isn't exactly how ONCE rolls. Anna wants to find out if Ingrid (yes, Ingrid) is actually her aunt and Belle gets a magic glowing rock that will make drug-tea and give her back her memories. The problem is that Belle's plot is rather simplistic and gets solved by her father in the end, not by anything Belle does. Her adventure amounts to nothing except loads of guilt she carries so near and dear to her heart that it has never once been alluded to in the past. Anna, on the other hand....

Okay, ready for plot exposition part one? Once upon a time, in the land of Arendelle, there were three sisters: Ingrid, Helga, and Gerda. They were all very close but Ingrid and Helga were different; they were special. One day, Ingrid and Helga vanished and no one knew what happened to them. The royal family of Arendelle, being completely stupid, decided the best thing to do was to take all the memories of everyone and erase all knowledge of Ingrid and Helga. Thus, Gerda was left as the only child of the former Queen and King. She eventually got married and had Elsa and Anna. And here we are. Not only was Ingrid (the Snow Queen) a secret sister, but there is in fact another secret sister. Oh my word. And it turns out that little Miss Snowy Barefoot (why is she always barefoot, it bugs me now) wants to replicate her family but this time with people who will understand her; people who are special like her. And Anna...well she is the wrong colored hair. No, I'm not kidding. Apparently everyone Ingrid wants is blonde. So, she's also a Nazi.

At The Cave Of Madness

Halloween brings out the Lovecraft in me. So, Belle has been so weighted down by her secret trip with Anna, and the fact that Belle did not try to save Anna before the Snow Queen got to her, that now she is lying her pants off--or, rather her very short skirts because Belle doesn't wear pants. In fact the guilt of all this manifests itself in a very bad way--she decides to use the dagger against Rumple. Of course, we know it isn't the real dagger, but Rumple has to play along or be caught in his tangled web of lies. Belle, very smartly, decides to go after the Snow Queen with a pick axe that is being kept stashed with the umbrellas. Belle, honey. You're supposed to be the intelligent one. Going after the Snow Queen to find a magical hat that will suck her right up is not exactly the smartest plan in the world. But, I get it. You're emotionally distressed. By the way, your husband is lying to you and if you opened your eyes a bit, you'd see it. You know, I'm actually willing to forgive this really dumb plan because what came next was at least really cool and let Belle see a different side--or reflection--of herself and it was the best bit of the episode. So off we go to the woods and the Snow Queen's Fortress of Solitude.

Mirrors are evil. Bad bad mirrors. The reflection is interesting; it shows the side of you that I think we all try to keep hidden. For Belle, this is that she is not really a hero, but a pathetic coward. She never could be a hero because she let Anna fall off a cliff. I think the mirror also speaks to some internal truth that you already know, but have trouble admitting. Not only is this psuedo-heroism for Belle, but it is also the fact that Rumple doesn't love her but he needed someone weak that he could easily control and manipulate. And of course when Belle tries to tell her reflection off, by pointing out that Rumple gave her the dagger, the Evil! Belle laughed and asked if the dagger was even real. Somewhere, deep inside, Belle knows this isn't real which means she is lying to herself. Rumple manages to break the hold the reflection has on Belle but only after Belle beings to seriously believe the stuff the mirror is saying. It's actually very cool. What else could this mirror show to the residents of Storybrooke? What truths might it tell about everyone else--about Emma and Hook and Snow and Charming and Regina? What is the reflection? Is it their doppelganger? Can the reflection somehow manifest in the real world? That might be kind of cool to see. Alright, let's put a pin in this and talk about Rumbelle.

Let me tell you a bit about my history with this ship. This ship is what brought me into the fandom. In the hours since viewing this weeks episode, I have been wondering what my life would have been like had I not fallen head over heels in love with Skin Deep and Rumbelle. Would I be as involved? Would I have stopped watching the show at some point? I don't know. But I know they were my OTP; now I don't know what they are, except really really messed up. I hate that--while this scene was beautifully acted--it basically amounts to Belle ignoring all the evidence, everything she knows to be true deep down inside, and instead makes Rumple a victim. Now, I am a huge Rumple fan but I can't abide this. All of these issues are his fault. He murdered Zelena, he lied about the daggers, he is still lying about the daggers, he is trying to obtain more power with every passing episode. But here is Belle begging for forgiveness from Rumple and saying that she doesn't know if she should even be with him anymore because of her lies. It's a bad message and it's not just because I am "in the know." Belle knows; the mirror is proof of that. Deep inside her, she knows that Rumple is lying his Guuci pants off to her. So willful ignorance on her part which makes her look really silly. Combine this with the whole "going after the Snow Queen with an axe" thing and she's not exactly Bookworm Belle.

Ready for plot exposition number two? That is a prophecy. It is a crazy prophecy that doesn't make a lick of sense but here goes: "the Savior's name shall be Emma and the savior shall be Ingrid's sister." Ingrid has kept this prophecy for a long time; hence her need to seek out true love savior Baby Emma and raise her: she wants to be Emma's sister. It gets weirder. Turns out, Helga and Emma look exactly alike. So, now we have three blondes--Emma, Elsa, and Ingrid--all of whom have magic and are misunderstood and in need of a family who will accept them for who they are. And that's the Snow Queen's endgame: Elsa, Emma and herself as three happy sisters living together. It gets weirder. The mirror of doom inside Ingrid's lair is destined to be smashed (like in the original story). When you smash it, it will cast the Spell of Shattered Sight and cause everyone in Storybrooke to turn on another and destroy the town--of course, what is a season of ONCE without Storybrooke almost being destroyed? But the only three people it won't destroy are the three magical blondes. Got all that? Prophecy, secret sisters, look alike saviors, and pick axes. Oy vey.

Miscellaneous Notes on Family Business

--Regina told Robin to learn to fall in love with his wife again. Wow. That's almost like real development.

--"I'm about to storm an evil ice cream truck."

--Hook's line about everyone being related. Yeah, that was good. See,  can appreciate some things about Hook (though this was the second episode in a row that was Hook-lite and it was wonderful to get this long of a break).

--Kristoff and Sven are the best adaptations from Frozen.

--Emilie de Ravin looked gorgeous.

--I can't even make any theories because it's all a big jumbled mess. So many ideas all at once and it's hard to get attached and think about it all because I know it will be over in a few episodes and whatever they come up with won't be as cool as what I think.

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