Monday, December 15, 2014
In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x11)
Look! A plot device! And we're only 10 minutes into the show. I doubt that is a record for ONCE, but it is certainly rather early. Normally the magical deus ex machina nonsense comes toward the end just when all hope is just about lost. It's a magical thing! From a magical land! That does magical...something? I don't know. It leads you to the person's greatest weakness which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. First off, how does it know which person to seek out? Does you have to tell it, "okay magical gauntlet. Find me the weakness of Mr. Bob!" And then it (magically) finds the weakness of Mr. Bob? Does it pull you along? Does it float toward the person at rapid fire pace? How does the person doing the seeking then keep up? Does it POOF you? Does it require blood, hair, nails, semen? God, I hope it's not that last one, though did anyone else think there were quite a few suspicious fanfiction like lines coming from Rumple and Belle this week? I mean, I swear I've read some of Rumple's dialogue in Rumbelle fanfiction over at A03. Anyway, this is the first non-FROZEN ALL THE THINGS flahaback in a good long while (okay, except for one tiny part that was done only to appease the masses of FROZEN fanatics but we are so totally skipping over that mishegas.) Instead, we are treated to a rather timeline wonky Rumbelle centric (featuring DISNEY ALL THE THINGS--that's going to be my new thing guys; get used to it). When was this supposed to take place? I assume it was early on in Belle's stay because of the unreliable curtains being closed, but at the same time, Rumple lets Belle out in the woods...by herself...where she can run away? When it was pretty firmly established that Belle never left the castle until Skin Deep when Rumple let Belle go for good? So, what...he trusts that the girl he is holding captive in a dark cell isn't going to up and run away when she's out doing his laundry? Yeah, that sounds logical. And later, in the present day, Belle says that this particular flashback was the first time Rumple saved damsel-in-distress-can't-do-anything-because-she-is-not-really-Belle and that this moment was when Belle first began to see the good in Rumple, the man beneath the Beast. But in "Lacey" she begins that episode by crying over her forever-vacation in the Dark Castle and by episodes end, she sees goodness in Rumple when he gives her a library after sparing Robin and Marian. So...what? It goes back to something that I've touched on before and will likely do so again: the writers don't care about the past episodes. They care about the here and now, the current story arc, the current magical villain and their problems without trying overly hard to stick to canon or established fact. They are hoping that their audience has amnesia (I do not) and won't care that their flashbacks are feeling increasingly disjointed and bizarre (I do).
My review was less than happy but at least ONCE had established Mal in her own right on their show. They actually decided to step away from her Disney incarnation in the first season and I found that to be delightfully refreshing and entertaining. It was something ONCE was founded on: these are only the stories you think you know. They could cater to Disney but not take him absolute. Now, we've got Mal decked out as the Mistress of All Evil, with a dragon staff, the demon horns, wearing all black and looking incredibly Jolie. I know the DISNEY ALL THE THINGS is a controversial topic in this fandom. It does seem like Adam and Eddy can't win. On the one hand, if you don't make the Disney incarnations close to their Disney counterparts then people are going to complain. But going too close to Disney--as this show is now doing at an increasingly alarming rate--also causes people to complain. It's clear that Adam and Eddy "changed" Mal's wardrobe not for story reasons but for money and marketing reasons. Now she "looks" like Mal--Disney's Mal, at least. And that's what matters to the Great Mouse. The second you see Snow wearing that appalling red, yellow, and blue getup, run for the hills, though. That's a sign that the Mouse is really running this shindig. So what is up with these three (drag) queens of darkness? What do they want? Who the frack knows or cares. I'm not kidding. If ONCE is constant in one thing, it's that these three--Mal, Cruella, and a really horribly dressed Ursula--will have tragic backstories in which they became villains because they had their hearts broken or lost loved ones or had bad fathers and mothers. That is how ONCE operates: by formula. Take villain X. Give them roughly the same backstory that is full of sad, connect them to either Regina or Rumple, and present it with a new shiny bow, trying to fool your audience that you're reinventing the wheel. There is no invention anymore. Everything is so literal: the Rock Trolls were actual Rock Trolls! The Wishing Star was an actual Star necklace! The fact is, right now, I know next to nothing about what these three (drag) queens of darkness want. They apparently faced Rumple once before and were his students (oh god help me...that means one of them is in love with him!) but that's about it. They mostly just whine that the "game" is rigged and they can't win because they are villains. Well then maybe you shouldn't do villainous things! It's not a hard concept! I fear that ONCE is actually going down this rather bizarre path that destiny (or The Author) made these people villains instead of the villains doing really terrible things. It's horrible morality (pipe down OutlawQueen, I'll get to you) and it flies in the face of "evil isn't born, it's made." In the end when Cruella says, "the game is rigged" I almost threw my imaginary popcorn at the screen. Which takes us to....present day.
The plot device broom found the plot device door! I...weep. Now that the FROZEN ALL THE THINGS storyline is done, the writers finally turn to the Rumple-is-Evil storyline. And we got a full explanation for why Rumple has been acting the way he has all season! And boy was it good. You see Rumple...nope, wait. Sorry. I lied to you just then when I said we got a logical, well thought out, well written reason. We got jack squat about his motivation except power is good, I can have it all, and power power power. Here's what really irritating me, this idea that Rumple has never given up power before. Does anyone else remember when he threw the dagger at the Wicked Witch, finally choosing Neal over his power? How he allowed himself to be taken by Zelena in order to save his child? Does no one on the writing staff remember the only good (using that word hella loosely) thing about the worst episode of ONCE ever? So, now, at the end of all this, why in the name of sanity is Rumple even doing all this? What was his plan after he cleaved (twitch) himself from the wavy knife, to quote Anna? Go forth into the world aaaaaand? And would the dagger even have any power over him in the real world anyway? There is no magic out there, right? That's the whole point of sending Marian over the town line, to cure her FROZEN heart? So then doesn't it follow that the dagger shouldn't be able to control the Dark One out in the real world; he shouldn't be beholden to it because its magic is rendered null and void? So he needn't have gone through with this cleave (twitch) storyline in the first place? In other words WHAT THE HELL WAS THE DAMN POINT OF THIS ENTIRE RUMPLE STORYLINE EXCEPT TO ONCE AGAIN SEPARATE RUMPLE AND BELLE AND MAKE RUMPLE INTO THE MOST EVIL PERSON IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE?! Answer: because Adam and Eddy have no idea how to write "good" characters because they are too fascinated by the dark. Look around, folks. How much Snow and Charming did you see in this weeks episode? The episode was called Heroes and Villains...but where were the original heroes of our show?
--There was a lot of stuff that I left out because it doesn't really deserve my full attention, so we'll do this bullet point style. Up first, OutlawQueen. Goodbye Robin! Actually, I thought Regina letting Robin go was quite touching. She was chosen, finally, but in the end it doesn't matter. If Marian doesn't get across the town line, she'll die and Regina won't have more blood on her hands. Character development. Atta girl. Will we see Robin again? I sorta hope not. In the end, I can't support this ship, not after sex in the crypt and the fact that Regina makes Robin want to be a man without honor and principles.
--Next up, CaptainSwan, albeit briefly. How is it that Emma doesn't question Hook, at all, about his goings on with Rumple. I mean, she still doesn't know about the hat sucking and the nun sucking. Is she ever going to find out? Is no one concerned that the nuns are missing? Why haven't they realized that ALL THE NUNS ARE GONE?! No, seriously. Rationalize this for me.
--One more FROZEN ALL THE THINGS reference. This time "chocolate!!!" complete with the giggle. Gah. I won't miss this arc.
--Henry and Belle scene! How adorable! But Henry didn't mention Neal when discussing New York City. That's just wrong.
--"You have a hole in your heart." Yes, and its name is Neal but you'll never hear Rumple talk about it ever again.
--A bird that poops sand dollars that talk.
--Normally I'd do some sort of season/mini season wrap up, but like season 3B, I'm too exhausted from ONCE to even try. At least, not a full one. I do want to talk about one thing and that is: why we don't let mega corporations run art. They have different agendas. No one will deny (and certainly not me) that TV is also a business that requires cold hard cash. But mega coprs, a la the Great Mouse, don't care about art for the sake of art. They care about their bottom line. If anyone really thinks Disney isn't calling the shots now on ONCE, let me tell you this: guess what comes out of the Disney vault in February, a month before ONCE returns for 4B? Yes, 101 Dalmatians. Is it any wonder why Cruella is showing up now? It's marketing. It's all clever marketing where the two--ONCE and Disney--play off each other. It's very "you scratch our back, and we'll scratch yours." There is no heart to this show anymore, well not substantial heart anyway. It's all about the big shiny object to play with until the writers get bored and move on. While I like the 11 episode arc structure because it does give me a long break, it's killing the emotional center of this show. Why bother getting invested? Why bother theorizing when the writers use not-so-clever magical handwaving to wrap up the story in ways that the audience never saw coming? What's the point of getting involved in Anna and Elsa when a magical wishing star unites them and a magical door takes them home (where apparently they defeat the invaders of Hans and his brothers in like a day...?) Adam and Eddy don't care about storytelling anymore; they care about product. They aren't mutually exclusive, but once upon a time (more word puns!) they cared about one more than the other.
--Final Grade for Season 4A: C- (though, for the record, I liked Ingrid way more than I liked Zelena)
--Final Episode Ranking for 4A
Heroes and Villains
Smash the Mirror
A Tale of Two Sisters
The Snow Queen