Monday, November 30, 2015
In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x10)
When Emma rose from the Black Goo at the Vault of the Dark One, she tried--valiantly--to fend and fight off the darkness. It was hard and part of the flashbacks this year have been all about that internal struggle of Emma Swan to remain the Savior and person she was before and not give into the temptation of darkness. Hook, on the other hand, gets one talk from DO Head! Rumple and he's off to Darkville to kill himself a crocodile. Strength of character; this dude ain't got it. A lot of the flashbacks this week revolve around changes in character attitudes, almost at a blink-of-an-eye pace. Hook is angry with Emma but they kiss and make up in the woods, but only until Hook becomes angry with Emma once more and then they kiss and make up at the river. But then surprise! Hook was only playing Emma and still really wants his revenge so he'll cast the Dark Curse to take everyone back to Storybrooke in order to kill his enemy. It's all a giant waste of time and the back and forth of Hook's attitude is a time killer in order to delay the inevitable. We all know that the Dark Curse was cast and that somehow there was a loophole because whoever did it has to use the heart of the thing they love most and Emma, Hook, and Henry are all alive so we're back to the aforementioned loophole (twitch--but see previous blog posts about the total disregard for world building because I am not going to belabor the point once again). Because the focus this week, for me at least, will be in Storybrooke, I am only going to briefly touch on one problematic point in the flashbacks. Raise your hand if you're surprised that Merlin died. Now raise your hand if you're surprised that he died at Hook's hand. I have been predicting for sometime that Merlin was dead and that somehow there was a "all Dark Ones" loophole so that wasn't shocking. But the sad fact is that the perpetrator of the murder wasn't shocking either. That isn't a slam against Hook (though, he's killed before as demonstrated by his many baubles) but rather that I am not surprised that the Person of Color was killed to further a white character's story. When the various Arthurian members were cast for season 5A, I was actually very pleasantly surprised that the writers had cast a Latina Guinevere and an African Merlin. Sure, it was clearly because the writers were aware of the (well deserved) criticism that OUAT has a serious race problem, but at least they were trying to course correct and appease instead of letting it slide. Little did I know what they had in store for these two new PoC's. Let's take inventory, shall we? Guinevere was enslaved by her white husband and then turned into a rape object, also by her white husband, because of his man pain over her kissing a black character. That same black character, by the way, was spotted tonight before he was sent packing to his mommy because heaven forbid that Lancelot play any sort of active role in his own mythology. Merlin, the show's most powerful sorcerer, was also enslaved by a white character (Arthur) and then was killed by another white character only to fuel that white character's storyline. This show has such a major racial problem but the egregious issue is not that it has a race problem and is trying to actively make a commentary on race in fiction or in our reality, but that it's an unintentional racial problem. In other words, the writers don't actually realize that the plot they write for the people of color are always the same and always racist--they appear and then are summarily dismissed once they have served their purpose. You know, there's an actual trope called the magical negro; their main purpose is to come to the aid of the white characters and once they have fulfilled their role as a helpmate, they either die or simply vanish from the narrative. Adam and Eddy, once again, you're not part of the solution. You're part of the problem.
I am about to break a cardinal rule of my blog: Thou Shall Not Talk About Captain Swan. Well, I guess I break it every now and then and this time it's not necessarily discussing CaptainSwan so much as it is discussing what Hook said to Emma in Storybrooke. During a particularly heated tet-a-tet between the two Dark Ones, Hook lays into Emma with some cold hard truths. In many ways, the things he is saying aren't actually false. Emma does does destroy her own happiness by refusing to let anyone in and by refusing to believe that she can have happiness. She did it with Henry, with her parents, with the town of Storybrooke, and even with all her various love interests from Neal to Walsh to Hook. The pirate calling her on those famous walls (which, honestly, should have been destroyed by now after so many people have been let into Emma's heart) shows a level of self awareness that I didn't know he had. Also in the self-aware department are the writers themselves. For a brief moment, during this heated argument, the writers of OUAT seem to actually get and understand that Hook is a problematic and vile character. Let me pause here to say that there is nothing wrong with problematic and vile characters. We need villains in storytelling or how else would we know who the heroes are (this is sounding fairly Doctor Who-ish, is it not?). We also need anti-heroes because the world is, by and large, not divided into heroes and villains. It's far more complicated than that; we need characters like Walter White and Don Draper and Tony Soprano to illustrate how gray our world is. Hook falling into the villain or ruthless antihero category is a comfortable place for him and a good, long standing narrative tradition.
--Emma needs someone to tell her to have hope? She can't just have hope after 5 years? Emma is a petulant three year old who is emotionally reset every year.
--There are Dark One Chronicles? Since when? And why haven't we ever used them to...I don't know...figure things out?
--Belle's pink coat was adorable and I'd like it in my closet, thanks.
--I will admit to loving Rumple's speech to Belle outside of Regina's house. But, at the same time, I'm really proud of Belle for walking away from the problematic relationship and marriage (ex-marriage?) in order to give herself some time to figure out where she stands.
--Props where they are due; the sword fight between Hook and Rumple was very good.
--"Baby Hood" LOL
--Redemption through motherhood for Zelena it is then! Ah, the problematic Madonna trope rears its misogynistic head.
--"Once you go green, you'll never go Queen" Okay, hilarious line and while I appreciate Regina saying that what Zelena did to Robin was vile and horrible, stop dancing around calling it rape. It was rape. Just say it.
--"I never abandoned you" claims Newly Dark One! Hook in Camelot to Emma. Um, you left her in a jail cell to die, with her mother and Disney Princess friends. So...no.
--Apparently Hook would have returned Milah "soiled, but returned" to Rumple all those years ago. Ye gods. The morals. The misogyny.
--A boat of Dark Ones feels like the set up to a really bad joke.
--No, but really: the blood of a man who has been to hell and back.