Monday, March 30, 2015

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x16)

About two and a half years ago, sometime in the heyday of S2, I had a conversation with a friend about parenting on OUAT and one of the differences I saw between someone like Rumple and the power-saint couple that is Snow White and Prince Charming. It went a little something like this (for dramatic reasons, please imagine that my friend and I are in a cafe drinking espresso. Also, I'm wearing a beret. I don't know why except I think they make you look smarter). 
ME: But the thing I love about Rumple is that at the end of the day, his whole plan is to get his son back. He's a father looking for his little boy. What wouldn't a parent do to get their child back?
FRIEND: Not rip holes in the fabric of the universe.
ME: Really? What about Snow and Charming? They put Emma in a magic tree; but what if she was taken from them, or they lost her through their own selfish act, like Rumple and Bae?
FRIEND: Snow and Charming would never tear a world apart to find their daughter. 
ME: Well...then what does that say about them as parents?
 This conversation never seemed more appropriate than after this weeks episode, "Best Laid Plans." I must admit that this episode shocked me. Good shock or bad shock? Don't know yet. But what does stick out is that the flashbacks, in particular, really fit with one of the most repeated themes on this show, parents doing whatever they must to give their child their best chance and damn the consequences. It's not something we've heard uttered in awhile, but that motif has always lurked around ONCE since the pilot. Snow and Charming giving up Emma; Emma giving up Henry; and even in his own twisted, selfish way, Rumple becoming the Dark One for Bae (and of course, even more twisted than this are Cora/Regina and Malcolm/Rumple). The question I'm supposed to be asking now, at the end of this episode, is are Snow White and Prince Charming really heroes? And did they do the right thing? Grab your magical unicorn horn (Plot Device #235621) and let's go!

Congrats, It's A Dragon-Human-Egg?

"She turned into a heinous dragon and laid an egg." Ladies and gentleman, Once Upon A Time. This episode was designed to get me to question, honestly and sincerely, how I feel about the Charmings. I have a serious issue with the idea that in order to redeem a villain or make them sympathetic, you first have to lower the heroes to the level of the villains and make them the impetus for the villains actions. Snow White and Prince Charming stole a baby dragon egg (that had a human inside....that was confusing and creepy) and emptied their daughter's darkness into it because they couldn't possibly have a daughter with darkness and who has the potential to be evil. Does this feel in line with the characters of season one? I honestly don't know. Snow (and yes, I am going to talk mostly of her because Charming has always been her sidekick and never anything more substantial) was the one who pushed David to put Emma in the wardrobe because they had to give Emma her best chance. But Snow's also the one who felt guilty over what she "did" to Regina (she was 10!) and also knew the burden of leadership passed on from her mother and knew that she had to be brave and kind and not selfish--like saving her mother, Queen Eva, would have been because it would have cost another life in return. This is the same Snow who only banished Regina once they retook the kingdom; when offered the chance to execute the former Queen, Snow decided that it wasn't the right way and preferred "peace." So how do I reconcile these very different Snow White's? I guess I don't, but neither do Adam and Eddy. On the one hand, Snow going to extraordinary lengths to protect her daughter seems to fit; but I also don't see Snow truly believing that her daughter was doomed to darkness--that there was no choice on the daughter's part in the matter. Snow doesn't once stop to think about how her daughter has a choice in her darkness and that it's Snow's job to help guide her child down the right and light path, something that does feel out of character. The hardest part here is knowing that some poor innocent baby suffered because of the Charmings. Who knows what sort of future--happy, sad, normal--that baby could have had if the Charming's hadn't interfered.  The heroes are now responsible for multiple villains suffering; in Regina's case it's a perceived slight (no one will ever convince me that Snow did something *super horrible* to Young! Regina) but in Mal's case, it's an honest to heaven evil act. Maleficent pain was palpable and I did feel very bad for her. Who are the heroes and who are the villains? Isn't that the overarching theme of this season and arc--that the lines between those two seemingly black and white dichotomies are anything but?

I am talking myself in circles, I know, but it's honestly because I don't know how I feel about this. I can't straight up hate the Charmings for what they did to baby-dragon Lily (of course it was Lily; let's all move beyond the element of shock and awe here since there was none). How could I? Like my initial paragraph stated, what wouldn't a parent do to save their child? The issues comes in thinking that the child--Emma--needed to be saved in the first place. Bae was going off to war; he was going to die, there was really no question of that. Without Rumple taking up the mantel and becoming the Dark One--for selfish, desperate, and noble reasons--his child would have die and he would be dust, as he so famously says in "Desperate Souls." But there is no nobility in Snow and Charming's act. It's malevolent and down right dirty. Where's the nobility? Where's the heart? It all felt very bumbling and foolish. I wanted someone--anyone!--to stand up and say, "Snow...we all have darkness and light inside us! It's the choices we make. You know this. You know this maybe better than anyone as you have had to make choices and you've seen your own step mother make choices that led her down a dark path!" You know what it was? It was Cora and Malcolm-like. Cora cared nothing about Regina in the end; it was all about Cora herself and "this is my happy ending." Snow wasn't so much concerned with having a daughter that could potentially go dark as she was concerned with what it might mean for her. How could she, Snow White, have an evil daughter? So find an old man, an egg and solve your problems that way! And let's not forget Snow's stance that this egg isn't a proper child; it's a monster. What kind of messed up philosophy is that? I suppose at this point, I've said all I can say about the Charmings and their (mis)deeds against Maleficent. There is a bitter taste in my mouth and a lot less love for the Charmings--but by the same token, they haven't really been the Charmings in a few seasons now, I guess, so is it really that great of a loss?

I'll save all the Author talk for the present day so let's move on to Storybrooke where everyone ran in circles like little chickens and there was a whole lot of "WTF" going on.

I Was Right?

The events of the present day were really leading up to two different moments: Snow telling Emma and the Author reveal. I am going to tackle these only, everything else is in the notes (yes, that includes the Rumple stuff). So Emma decides to wash her hands of her parents because they told her the truth about how they took her darkness and implanted it into a baby and then accidentally lost the baby. Here's the thing; Emma is a pod and her reactions are never what you'd expect because instead of being in line with her own character arc or growth, they fluctuate based on the person who's giving her the low down. Confused? I'll break it down. Emma told Hook two-ish weeks ago that it doesn't matter what he did to Ursula because he wasn't that guy anymore. He has ticked up enough points in the hero tab that anything he did in the past can be swept under the rug. I had issues with that to begin with, but now let's look at how Emma reacts to her parents news: she decides that she is angry, tearful, and doesn't want to listen to her parents because they did a big bad thing. I guess it doesn't matter how many hero points Snow and Charming have gotten since that moment with the Dragon Egg? This was the biggest bad to end all big bad things and therefore Emma can't hear them out, talk to them, or tell them it doesn't matter. They done gone and did a bad thing y'all and that is that. Consistency. It is not a thing on this show. I'm not even asking that the writers go back and make Emma be angry at Hook--I'm asking that Emma be consistent in her reactions to shocking news that people she loves and cares about are lying to her but have done things since the big bad deed to prove that they have changed! She can't give the same courtesy to her parents? Snow White and Prince Charming? Really? It's very hard for me to not see the sort of blatant preference to keep 'shippers happy and not cry foul. Emma was a daughter long before she was ever part of the gruesome twosome; her home and happy ending were always--first and foremost--her parents and her son. That's all I am going to say about that because honestly, Emma is exhausting. She used to be my favorite female on this show but now she's just someone that I used to know (somebody! that I used to know! Somebody! (I may be listening to music while I type this...))

So here we are at last---we meet the Author. And he's a drunk? Once Upon A Time! Promoting alcoholism, one shady man in leather at a time. Hello massive info dump, am I right? Where did August even learn all this? And why in the world didn't he tell Emma--or Henry--all this way back in season one? Oh right, the writers didn't know that the author would be trapped in the book. I know that TV writing is a process and clearly shows with a huge mythos like ONCE do not flesh everything out in the very beginning, but at least try to come up with answers that make sense and don't feel disrespectful of the previous seasons. There is no reason why August couldn't have told Henry all this back in season one. Henry was the believer; that was his role. August could have told him that the book was made of magical lollipops and gumdrops and the kid would have believed. He ate a freaking poison apple turnover because he believed so much! August being a duex ex machina and suddenly revealing ALL THE THINGS to Emma in the 11th hour was just bad writing. Why couldn't Henry have pieced that together or figured it out? (Because Henry is a thing that doesn't not exist on this show. Like consistency). So what did we learn? Well...a lot. We learned that "Author" is a job, not a person. There have been many authors, including Walt Disney. Wait. Hold up. Lemme backtrack this. Remember when I said this: "Guys, I'm calling it right now. The Author is some sort of amalgam of Merlin and YenSid and he lives in our world under the name Walter, but you can call him Walt. The Great Mouse will be pleased." Yeah, that's right. I basically nailed it. You can pay me in cookies, money, or booze. I am not picky. Anyway. The Author is a guy who is chosen by the Sorcerer to write the stories that need to be remembered---Plato, playwrights, ect. All "Authors." Except for one little greedy guy who got too big for his britches and started manipulating the stories--though we don't yet know how. This guy is the current Author. And he's not nice, he's not happy to see you, and he runs really funny (no, seriously, go back and watch him running away. It's hilarious). The Apprentice--Mickey Mouse and Dumbledore hybrid--trapped him in the book (is the Apprentice really the Sorcerer? He knows an awful lot about magic and spells and seems to be pretty gosh darn powerful). But now he's free and out on the lamb and probably going to make our lives (sorry, the characters lives) a living nightmare. Goody.

Miscellaneous Notes On Best Laid Plans

--I never really answered the question about if I liked this episode or not, did I? I don't know. I think it's going to rank fairly high for this arc, but for the season and series? I'm not so sure. There was a lot of character disappointment but at the same time, we did met the Author! That's kind of big--even if also a let down. Oh, ONCE. You make me so conflicted.

--Alright, let's do it. Rumple. So the speech Rumple gave to the sleeping Belle (poor Emilie de Ravin. You poor soul) was interesting. Well, interesting in that I think it solidifies that Rumple is going to die. Let's look at part of the speech, "And I have racked up so much debt I can never be clear of it…unless I find a way to change the rules. But now… [his hand on his heart] here’s the hard truth. Something else is changing. So, if I’m gonna change the rules, I’m gonna have to do so quickly." Guys, he's going to die. The clutching of the heart gives it away. There is something wrong with Rumple and he knows it. He knows that if he doesn't change the rules soon, his life is over. How when he's immortal? Dunno. The writers will do a thing; they always do a thing. Be free, Bobby. Be free.

--Snow whispers to Charming about keeping secrets from Emma while she is right there and Emma doesn't hear? Really?

--Bad dragon CGI strikes again!

--Does Lily have a father? Probably not. The writers want all the secret baby drama (and Adult! Lily drama) without any of the mess of adding another character. 

--An entire conversation about missing children and Rumple doesn't bring up Bae at all. Keep trying, writers. I am not going to forget him no matter how much effort you put into it.

--You can cast a sleeping spell over an entire town? Or was it a sleeping curse? How did everyone wake up? And Henry WAS put under a sleeping curse/spell back in Season 2!

--I do like Snow's forest outfit and Emma's new red coat.

--Hook...back the heck off. Emma is allowed to have a male friend. (twitch)

--August was the rare exception to Emma not being able to make friends. Who is Neal again?


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