Monday, December 8, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x10)

Are you ready for something shocking? I genuinely liked this weeks ONCE episode. There is no caveat to follow that--I won't be qualifying it with "inasmuch as I can like any episode anymore." I mean that I actually, really, and truly liked this weeks episode, "Shattered Sight." I have issues, of course, but even before my utter vitriol ramblings about ONCE, I had issues, so it's not fair to call it a hate-filled criticism. Here's the thing: this episode was silly, stupid and nonsensical. It really was. It was campy and over the top and full of cliche tropes that aren't mold breaking at all. But ONCE knew all that and decided to play with it. If you read my Sleepy Hollow or Doctor Who reviews then you know that I do like camp. I don't find camp to be a bad thing except when camp is being forced on me in an inorganic way. Bo Peep? She was stupid camp because I don't care about her at all. But Evil Queen Regina and Dark Snow White having a sword fight and yelling like half this fandom does...good lord, that is delicious campy goodness. That is camp that I don't mind watching and devouring. This week, the spell of Shattered Sight hit the town--hard--and everyone turned on each other. Meanwhile we get the final loose ends of Emma and Ingrid's backstory tied up (with some overly convenient bows--I'm still me, guys) and everyone prepares to move on to the second half of the season. Sit back and enjoy. I got issues, but mostly I'm smiling. 

What? Your Parents Never Threw You In Front Of A Car? 

First, I gotta sing some praises about Elizabeth Mitchell. As someone who was devoted to LOST for six years, I really grew to love Miss Mitchell and even followed her to "V" and "Revolution" and she manages to deliver a solid performance every week; you know, in spite of the rather torturous dialogue and bizarre plot lines. What worked really well this week for the flashbacks was that it wasn't heavy plot. There was little in the way of super magical devices (except one and we'll get to that) but rather it was emotionally driven. Ingrid might be somewhat creepy and slightly off kilter, but you could tell that she really did love Emma and that Emma really did love her. It was heartbreaking knowing that little Emma almost had a family and then lost Ingrid because of what essentially amounted to as "lack of patience." Ingrid is a bone chillingly cold villain because she doesn't much care about the people she hurts while getting what she wants; she's a bit like Cora in that regard with her, "I only just arrived in town" after killing someone she didn't know. She is also a lot like Rumple and there were some obvious parallels to Rumple in "Going Home." It works in a lot of nice ways--the villain who does get her happy ending because of love and self realization. Now, I do have a lot of issues about how it worked out in present day (and we'll get to those) but overall Ingrid as a villain was great. I believed the emotional storyline even if the plot storyline was weak and cliche and rather silly. But back to Emma and Ingrid....

Emma finally found a home. Ingrid is kind and warm and treats Emma like she is special and worthy of love. Ingrid is also clearly waiting for Emma to "spark" (erm, literally). Ingrid doesn't even encourage Emma to think of her as a mother, but as a sister. It makes a lot of sense from Ingrid's storyline that this is how she wants Emma to view her, but it's also nice from a foster/adopted kid standpoint. Ingrid isn't forcing Emma to think of her as a parental figure, something Emma had difficulty doing with her own biological parents later in life. Trying to force mother/daughter feelings on a child when they've been rejected their whole life can go terribly wrong (just ask Snow White in Season 2A). But this all ends when Ingrid decides to throw Emma in front of a car. Ok, let me contextualize that. Ingrid has been waiting for Emma for a long time and she rather jumps the gun a wee bit. After a small demonstration that Emma does in fact have some sort of power--light flickering--Ingrid decides that an emotional upheaval is necessary to really jump start Emma's powers. It's not uncommon. Lots of superheroes in comics, ect get their start that way. Something traumatizing happens to them and suddenly their powers manifest; Adam an Eddy are such nerds (and the rest of the writing staff) that I'm not surprised they went this route. In fact, they reference Harry Potter in this episode and Harry's powers really began to manifest on his 11th birthday after a very trying day--side note, but what is with all the Harry Potter references of late? However, Emma doesn't have a Dumbledore to help her; she has a foster--soon to be adoptive--mother who literally drags her out into the middle of the street and tells her to stop an oncoming car! Call to adventure: rejected (go check your Campbell, my friends). Of course when Ingrid tries to explain, Emma run away cause that's how Emma rolls. Suddenly it becomes clear; Ingrid doesn't love Emma, she loves what she apparently sees in Emma--and least that is how is appears to Emma. Like I said above, I truly believe that Ingrid does love Emma as a reminder of her sisters and a quasi-happy life. Emma runs off into the night and never seen Ingrid again. Oh wait...

That was two paragraphs of praise, so let's do some critique. This was just plain silly. I know the show is playing fast and loose with the rules of magic in Storybrooke but there was a lot of convenient plot device items going on here. First Ingrid just magically appears in town after holding the scroll. She didn't even have to cross the town line. It's bothersome that she didn't have to physically transport herself over the line but it's more bothersome that Regina didn't realize that a new lady was in her frozen (oh that's not a pun or reference) town and setting up shop as an ice cream maker. That's a bit too implausible for the woman who lived in a town that never changed for 28 years and controlled the fates and destines of everyone around her. And then there are the rocks...erm, crystals. They needed to answer why Emma had no memories of Ingrid even though Ingrid was in Storybrooke in season one (apparently) so they pulled out a plot device item. It's from the movie FROZEN but I'm more bothered by the fact that magic is rather "eh" in this town. Regina sacrificed her ring but even then it was barely powerful enough to power the hat (oh lord, that sentence is just strange if you don't remember season one.) It's a bit too magical handwaving. And why is Ingrid just now making an appearance? Why didn't she pop out to see Emma after know...broke the curse? Proved she was the Savior? Why not do all this then? And how did Ingrid even know that Elsa would come through to Storybrooke someday? See, this is the part where I'm supposed to ignore all this flimflam and move on, which is ultimately what I'm going to do since I want to enjoy this episode and not bog myself down...but you guys get that this is an issue? It's lazy and sloppy and does try to make sure the audience isn't paying close enough attention. But as I continuously say: I don't have amnesia.

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

The present day conflict of this episode is really two (and a half) thrusts. There is the main plot of Emma, Elsa, Anna, and Ingrid and then there is the overly campy but oh-so-good silliness that is Regina, Snow White, and Prince Charming having a verbal and sword play fight. Let's take the latter first. Regina decided that Emma was to blame for all her woes (which doesn't make sense since the spell didn't take her memories..but whatever). When Emma releases Regina from her vault (in order to get what I can only describe as a laughably stupid plot device), Regina makes for the sheriff's station and finds Snow and Charming locked up and decides this is much a better plan--kill the Charmings! It's old school ONCE and it's very episode 301 where Regina and Snow have a fist fight. Only this time Charming is more or less on no one's side. It's all rather glorious. It was exactly like fandom fighting: the Evil Regals yelling about how Snowflake promised to keep a secret and the Snow fans yelling about how she was only 10! I swear, it's like Adam and Eddy and the writers went to Tumblr and paid attention for a hot minute what was going on inside their fandom. There were a lot of really great one liners that will probably make their way into my notes section, but outside of that, there is something I want to talk about: the ending. Regina and Snow and Charming are taken out of the spell and they laugh. There are no hard feelings, no shouting, no hurt feelings. It was a curse that they all had to suffer through and they've come so far in the 4 seasons that they can actually just joke about it now. I know I give the show a lot of grief that it rightly deserves about character, plot, and story but this was a nice reminder of where we started--Regina declaring that breaking up Snow and Charming and cursing everyone was her happy ending--to where we've got to. The situation and the fight are so preposterous that everyone just laughs. Two years ago, Regina and Snow would have been hurt over what the other one said and let it stew. Now...not so much. Well done, all around.

I have a lot of mixed emotions on how this all ended. On the one hand, it was beautifully acted and, yes, that always counts for something in my book. However, there are a lot of overly cliche moments and in one case, something incredibly troubling--at least for me. The trope of "saved in the nick of time" is an old one and certainly one ONCE has done many times before. It's not new. But they added to it this mea cupla from Anna and Elsa's mother--Gerda--that equated to a giant and very sudden change of heart. The parents regretted trying to change Elsa; Gerda regretted taking away Arendelle's memories of Ingrid and not celebrating her sister's powers, letting her hide away. It's all super (word of the season) convenient. I expected Storybrooke to be saved in the nick of time, but I didn't expect that it would involve an overly trite letter. I guess I should have--there was no way the Big Mouse was going to let Adam and Eddy leave Elsa with the worst parents of the year. They had to go and fix that. But the way it happened: finding the bottle, reading the letter, Anna getting to Ingrid just before Emma tries to kill Ingrid, it's just...convenient. There's that word again. It's almost like god reaching down and giving the villain a redemptive motivation just before the heroes are forced to do something nasty. And, let's be honest, it's lazy.

Which brings us to the real issue I have. It's the big one. Ingrid, having been moved by Gerda's words, knows that she must end the spell of Shattered Sight by (and yes, this is a direct quote) "I have to destroy myself." I have issues. Many of them. First, I know how this reads. It's sacrifice for the sake of others. I get that; but it does have some seriously heavy suicide as a happy ending overtones. Ingrid says that this is her happy ending--bear in mind that when Rumple essentially did the same thing in "Going Home," his proclamation was that "villains don't get happy endings" so he knew this wasn't his happily ever after. But for Ingrid, it is. This is how she will find happiness with her sisters. It's a troubling message for many who find suicide a triggering subject. It's saying that killing yourself is a way to find happiness and that's...not an okay message. Now, to be fair, I don't think it's what Adam and Eddy and the writers were going for, not at all. But I don't think they are aware of how it comes across. They aren't thinking about how viewers will react to this disturbing message of Ingrid bathed in white redemptive light having killed herself awhile proudly proclaiming that this is a good thing. I know there are many that are going to shrug this off and relegate it to "villain who did a good thing in the end" which is fine. I know that what I'm saying is not how it reads for everyone, but I do hope that people can see what I'm trying to say. I don't want to end this mostly positive review on a bummer so here's something fun: snow falling wakes everyone up and the spell has ended. Also: FROZEN ALL THE THINGS is almost at a close!!

Miscellaneous Notes on Shattered Sight

--Madame Faustina was both hilarious and slightly unnecessary.

--Should I talk about Not-Rumple? Probably. I am at my wits end. So he really does want world domination? And he's planning on releasing darkness on the world? I really and truly am lost with him--and it's not just a character development standpoint; it's confusion about the actual plot. What is his plan for after he has cleaved (twitch) himself from that dagger? On another note, if he says cleave one more time, I might throw my TV out the window.

--Speaking of Not-Rumple again, does anyone understand the logistics viz a viz Not-Rumple, Belle and the shop? Because this is how it played out: Not-Rumple puts Belle in the shop and puts up a protection spell; then the Shattered Sight spell hits; then Not-Rumple goes...back to the shop and Belle isn't there? So what he put her under a spelling spell? He knocked her out? I don't understand.....

--Hook and Henry were funny and huzzah! Henry never liked him anyway! Atta boy.

--Ready for some funnies?
"He's a baby not a breakfast burrito!" 
"Hey Swiss Miss. I pick flowers, I talk to birds. I do all sorts of warm fuzzy things. You know what else I do? I kill. I killed the evil queen's mommy. I said I was sorry, but I didn't mean it."
"I don’t know who you are, but why don’t you go back to where you came from.” POOF
"You said you could keep a secret!" "I WAS 10!!!!!!" (that one takes the cake if only for meta fandom reasons.)

--Snow and Charming's kiss....totally a callback to 122 "A Land Without Magic" which will always be one of the finest hours ONCE has ever done. I actually got teary eyed.

--If you saw next week's promo...don't ask me to explain. I've known for awhile who is coming for the second arc and yeah, I'm not entirely thrilled. One more episode to go...

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