Monday, March 23, 2015

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x15)

Hook's tiny ship is totally a metaphor for his penis. Okay, now that I've said that and potentially 90% of my readers are plotting my death, I will admit something that will shock many: I did not hate this episode. In fact, there were parts of it that I found quite endearing and funny. The writers putting Ursula, the Sea Witch, into the shoes--fins?--of Disney's Ariel and making her the tragic little mermaid was a fun twist, especially since they went the extra step and really played with the iconic music and lines from 'The Little Mermaid.' In spite of the fact that this weeks episode, 'Poor Unfortunate Soul,' was equally a Hook-centric episode, I found myself laughing (both in genuine humor and in derision because there was still some horribly contrived nonsense this week) and smiling a little bit more than is my norm when it comes to this show. I think, to be honest, something I enjoyed was the idea the writers presented that happy endings do not need to be kisses and romance and true love with another individual. It was something they actually used to treat with respect back when Red was still around and her obvious happily ever after was inner peace by loving both the human and the wolf side of herself. The fact that Ursula's happy ending is her voice--a voice that she can use to make other people happy to honor her dead mother--is a good message, one I can applaud, and one that felt more like OUAT of Season One. But, because I'm still me, I do admit to a certain amount of eye rolling with the presentation of Hook the Hero in the past (because no) and how once again Hook gets everything he ever wanted without having to make any kind of concessions. Grab your fins and your best penis metaphors and let's dive in!

Sing For Your Mouse

Raise a tentacle if you're surprised that Ursula only has one parent. I know, I know. We're talking about fairy tales and that means that you are either short one parent, have a wicked step- parent, or are an orphan. Them's the breaks, kid. Ursula has an enchanting singing voice (and side note, applause to the actress who gave Young Ursula her voice. It was lovely) but her father King Poseidon uses her voice to lure pirates to their deaths on the shoals because he's an ass. Or because pirates killed his wife; we can go with either one here. Ursula is quite tired of this and ends up running (swimming?) away to live on land and make her way to another place where she can use her voice to make people happy. She does this by singing in bars to a lot of scummy, haven't-had-sex-in-weeks pirates who do not take this opportunity to molest or harass her at all. Because that is actually how the world would work if this weren't a "family show" (now with penis metaphors!). Yes, I know that OUAT wouldn't dare show actual sexual harassment (they prefer to keep it in the shadows and make it out to be sexy and part of their wish fulfillment) but it is a bit laughable that Ursula really thought she could earn enough gold by singing 'Fathoms Below' over and over. Anyway, moving on from the fantastical and into the even more fantastical: Ursula meets Hook in the bar (because the red vested one handed wonder is an alcoholic who needs Enchanted Forest Anonymous) and we get a real look at who Hook was for those long centuries while he transported cakes to Peter Pan in Neverland. Wait. The hell? Where do I begin with this particular silliness?

First off, Peter Pan wants cakes? Okay. So we are ignoring that in Neverland you can dream up anything you want, including food (or we're making up our own headcanons that allows us to ignore the nagging feeling in the back of our minds that once again the writers think I have amnesia. Hint: I do not!) Two, Hook was nothing more than an errand boy delivering food? That was the "dirty work?" This is what really bothers me. Hook was a villain. I mean a straight up, cold blooded, sly, sneering, I-Beat-Women villain. He was a villain in the present day when present day meant season two when he left Emma and Team Princess to DIE in jail; he was a villain when he beat an innocent woman simply because she--Belle--wouldn't help him kill the love of her life; he was a villain when he got woman drunk and took them back to his boat. And before then, Hook was some rogue pirate who pillaged and plundered and drank his way across realms. But, oh no. That won't work for where the show now stands with Hook. The writers are determined to cast him as Hook the Hero at all times, even if that means making him a heroic type 200+ years ago. Instead of using Ursula for his own agenda like Pirate! Hook or Villain! Hook would have done, he gets all Woobie and Puppy Dog-eyed and starts prattling on about the woman he loved who was snatched from him and how Ursula's voice stops his pain (so does the rum, but alcoholics tend not to admit that out loud). Once I managed to pick myself up off the floor that Hook had mentioned Milah (well, not mention her so much as give a vague statement about a woman he done loved and lost--banjos, this scene needs banjos!) I tuned out the sappy sad eyes and instead focused on what I hoped would be a soul-crushing reveal. Had Hook turned Ursula into a monster? Had Hook killed her father? Had Hook stolen her literal soul? Had Hook done anything that would show us his true black-hearted colors?!

No. No of course not. Instead, Hook and Ursula are both presented as victims of Poseidon and that Hook had "no choice" because poor sad Hook. Look how sad! Ok, I know I sound overly harsh but the fact is that in spite of the Hook mess, and it feeling like the writers were still trying to force Hook into a hero mold instead of acknowledging that he was once a straight up villain, the flashbacks were good. The CGI was better than most episodes, the acting was good and less hammy than last week. There is still a lot of plot that happens rapid fire fast and always revolves around some magical plot device--a conch shell, a jar of squid ink (nice call back to season two, by the way-- but at least I wasn't gritting my teeth and bearing through. Ursula's devastation at losing her voice was palpable and my insides hurt for a little girl who wanted nothing more than to bring joy to the world (way to go, Hook!) but like I said above, a lot of that was underscored by Hook's own man pain, something about which I give exactly zero...well, fill in the best curse word here. But let's not end on a negative: this episode did try to bridge some divides about continuity, like why our present (drag) Queen of Darkness Ursula was not the sea fearing goddess we saw in season 3A.


HAHAHA! Tiny ship! It's totally a metaphor for Hook's penis! HAHAHA. Oh, you think I'm kidding? The show actually inserted their own penis joke while Will and Hook bantered about how you should never insult the size of a pirate's ship (read: penis). Oh, OUAT...Dr. Freud called. He thinks you need to talk about your penis envy and mommy issues. So why is Hook's ship tiny and inside a bottle? Because the writers need to kill time. Oh did you mean the in-show reason? I don't know. Something about Elsa and Blackbeard and Ariel. Because OUAT needs to remind everyone that they've almost run the whole board of Disney films and have had more characters on their show that a show should naturally have. Let's be honest: the writers knew they'd catch hell if they had an episode about Ursula but didn't have any mention of their version of Ariel. So, they put her inside a bottle, made her a plot device who now doubles as a carrier pigeon. Points deducted for not having Ursula and Ariel interact, though. What was going on in present day Storybrooke? A lot of nothing, says I! Torture, mayhem, back door deals, pirate oaths being broken the day after they are made (seriously, Belle?), gun waving, and smoke inhalation. I'm getting rather negative again and I did say at the outset that I liked this episode, but that's because of tiny moments. That's what is left for me now, after four years. I enjoy moments, almost never total episodes. So let's focus on the tiny moments that made me smile.

First and foremost, I could watch Ursula tentacle bitch slap and throw Hook into the sea forever and never be bored. Second, Snow White clocking Cruella with a frying pan is now my favorite moment in all of season four. That felt like Bandit! Snow made a return. You remember her, right? The tough, live by the seat of your pants, awesome and rogue bandit named Snow who flouted the Queen's guards and stole from her? Snow White hasn't felt like Snow White in a long time, but that moment was actually quite in character and I loved it. Third, let's keep Cruella. Let's just keep her so she can make sexual innuendos and be deliciously snarky. And, finally, a moment that actually had me smiling and wanting to express an emotion more than anger: August and Emma reunited. This had been a long time coming; they haven't seen each other since August lay in his bed, turning to wood as Emma's walls fell and she realized she was the Savior and it really was her job to bring back the happy endings. Since then, a lot of us have been waiting for them to see each other again and this all too brief moment reminded me of how much I used to like them together as brother and sister (no, I never shipped WoodenSwan. I was a SwanFire from the moment I put the pieces together in S1). August and Emma were a team, a good one at that. I really hope the writers don't cheat us out of a long, meaty conversation between these two (and if they don't mention Neal I will literally flip tables).

And finally, we arrive back to this weeks centric character. Was Ursula getting her happy ending too soon in this arc? It feels quite sudden. I'm glad that she's not going to be a (drag) Queen of Darkness anymore but it was a bit shocking that it happened that fast. And, to be frank, it reads like the writers dismissed her (just when I started to care about her) in order to squeeze Regina into her spot in the (drag) Queens of Darkness trio of leather and bad lines. What happens to Ursula now? Is she gone for good? Is she moving over to #TeamHero? Ursula never got the treatment she so rightfully deserved, especially when it turns out that her happy ending and her story are intriguing and somewhat riveting. She was chopped liver to Regina's Filet Mignon, in other words. The writers enjoy when they get to make Regina the Evil Queen so they made sure they put her with the (drag) Queens of Darkness as soon as they could, but having four female villain AND Rumple really is too much. So out goes Ursula! At least the writers didn't kill her?

Oh. And the author is trapped inside the book. Because of course. 

Miscellaneous Notes on Poor Unfortunate Soul

--Regina inside Snow was one of the freakiest and most bizarre things I have ever seen on this show. And not in a good way.

--August's nose grew and grew. #PenisMetaphor

--Ok, one final Hook-rant. The pirate tells Ursula that if he had something left of Milah's (he'd hold on to it) just like she wants to hold on to her voice. Oh, really Hook? You BAELFIRE. The son of Milah whom you SOLD to Peter Pan!! This line almost made me turn off my TV.

--The OQ dream sequence was utterly unnecessary.

--How does August know that the Author is in the book? Did the book speak to him?

--How do you free the Author from the book? Do you burn it? Is there magic non-squid Ink? And how did he get trapped? The Sorcerer? Also, calling it now: they've set up the idea of people being trapped inside the book; I think the season will end on a cliffhanger in which the characters are literally trapped inside the book and we are shown who the Sorcerer is (it's Jafar).

--Why is Will on this show as a regular at this point? And COME ON. WHERE IS ANA?!

--Belle learned that Rumple manipulated and deceived her once again. If she goes back to him now, I am writing her off as a ninny.


  1. I can't quite agree with your Hook portrayal criticisms, since he WAS shown as that villain you mention both at the start of the flashback (ordering around and intimidating his crew) and the end (what he did to Ursula; it was NEVER presented as him having "no choice", it was shown as a gratuitous dick move to spite Poseidon). The change to a more noble Hook in between this was explained as due to Ursula's voice, which made him believe in the good in life again and that he need not waste it all on vengeful villainy. Remember, while you describe this phase as him being "some rogue pirate who pillaged and plundered and drank his way across realms", as two-handed Killian he still DID possess an honor code. Helping Milah escape what she described as an abusive situation from her husband was the same as helping Ursula escape what she described as an abusive situation from her father, plus I'm pretty sure that if Rumple had gone onto anyone else's pirate ship and refused a duel he'd just have been killed on the spot rather than allowed to go home free.

    The problem for Hook in this situation is that he fell prey to the Rumple syndrome of "I can and will have both": he felt he could be honorable again AND still take his revenge, which he can't. Once his vengeance was compromised, he threw away his honor. The point of the flashback wasn't to retcon Hook, it was to show those sides to his character were also buried and that he had a chance to uncover it long ago but wasted it. It was the same point as the flashback with Baelfire, actually. Speaking of...

    "The pirate tells Ursula that if he had something left of Milah's (he'd hold on to it) just like she wants to hold on to her voice. Oh, really Hook? You BAELFIRE. The son of Milah whom you SOLD to Peter Pan!! This line almost made me turn off my TV."

    Woah, WOAH. First off, Baelfire was not an object.

    Secondly, Hook didn't lose Bae because he sold him off. Did you forget that Bae was demanding OFF of Hook's ship? Even if Hook DIDN'T sell him to Pan, he wasn't going to keep him, since Bae wasn't moved by any of his pleas. Unless you're suggesting that what he should have done was hold him hostage against his will.

    Selling Bae to Pan was wrong, but I'm kind of tired of people missing the point as to WHY it was wrong. It wasn't because Bae ended up with Pan...he'd end up there anyway if Hook just let him go off on his own like Bae wanted, since there is nowhere to go in that sea BUT Neverland. It was wrong because of the selfishness and triggering nature of it, triggering to Bae because it was once again an adult male he had previously trusted trading him away for some kind of privilege, just like Rumple did.

    1. Lastly, I'm sorry, but you're really saying the writers are trying to retcon that Hook was a villain in an episode where they flat-out give him the line "I was a villain"? Really?

      Your complaints really seem to be that they portray villain-Hook sympathetically at all, which I don't get. He's not going to be shown like he was in Season 2 Hook because Season 2 Hook nearly always appeared from the heroes' POV. This is HIS POV flashback, so of course he's going to be shown with more humanizing traits. This isn't unique to him: Regina's POV flashbacks show her sympathetically even when she's a villain, Rumple's POV flashbacks show her sympathetically even when he's a villain. Was "Skin Deep" trying to retcon his character by showing that he was a tortured soul who wanted love, then almost found it but blew his chance and returned to villainy? Why would you expect Hook's POV flashback to just portray him as some black-hearted, woman-beating monster without any nuance?

      You hate him for shipping reasons, I get that. But come on, you're better than these double standards.

    2. I'm not going to touch the first part just because we won't agree on Hook as a villain or as how the show portrays him. He is never brought to task or made to suffer like Regina or Hook. His villianous actions are forgotten by the characters in universe and when they are brought up BY HOOK himself, characters (namely Emma) dismiss them as "you're not that man anymore." Emma is not in a position to forgive Hook for the crimes he committed against other people. That's for those people to do, but either they are never brought up or they are sideswept by the characters in question--his "apology" to Belle for example. With one very unapologetic remark and he's off the hook (pun intended) in spite of the fact that he beat and shot her. My thoughts on this are pretty well known and I'm not going to go back into them.

      Re Baelfire: No, as I constantly say I forget nothing. Have you forgotten that Bae was 14 years old and Hook was basically his stand in parent and we don't let children make life altering choices when they are mad? Hook acted like a petulant teenager who was angry. You know what you do? You lock Bae in the cabin until he cools down and then try to reason with him. Know what you don't do? You don't sell him off to a man you will later call a demon. Hook was the adult. He should act like it.

      Re: how Hook is portrayed, briefly. There is a difference between showing a sympathetic character and showing a character who is actually trying to make progress. Everyone around Hook makes excuses for him. His villainy is constantly forgiven by others. They (and the writers) don't hold him to the same standards as they do Rumple and Regina who--every bloody season--get their crimes laid bare in front of them and are expected to make amends or to apologize.

      They flat out gave him the line that he was a villain but 1) it's dismissed and 2) every acts like he fixed everything but he certainly hasn't fixed or made a mea culpa for any sort murder or attempted murder.

      And for the finale thought and me being better...thanks for the backhanded compliment, I guess. You like reading my blog and I welcome conversation. But--and I stress this as hard as I can--double standards are part of any TV/fan critic. We are subjective beings who respond to characters in many way for just as many reasons. I don't like Hook. It is not just because I liked SF, it is not just because I dislike CS. I dislike him for about a thousand different reasons stemming from misogynistic overtones to rape culture and the way media portrays "sexy bad guys" in their interactions with women. I am glad that you like reading my words, but I am going to continue to have double standards because I am a subjective being and do not watch TV objectively No one does. That is why I started this QoD arc (412 review stressing that I am not a Hook fan and that I do a lot of anger-watching).