Monday, March 28, 2016

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x15)

Oh, brother. Let's start with some upfront honesty; I was never going to like this week's episode "The Brothers Jones." As someone with as much vitriol as I have toward Captain Hook (and CaptainSwan), any episode that centers on the pirate and his main relationship wasn't going to appeal to me on any sort of level. But, I find that what I'm most unhappy about this week isn't Hook in general but the way the writers are whitewashing his past sins (which are numerous) for the sake of romance, and in turn, how it turned Emma Swan from a tough, justice seeker, to a woman who thinks heroism is one semi-good deed after several years (numbering in the hundreds) of misdeeds. The creators and writers, in other words, have a very messed up idea of what redemption and atonement is. It's Easter. Maybe we should explore what redemption, atonement and salvation mean and how the show is, in my opinion, presenting a very wishy-washy idea of something that is far more complex than the writers seem to believe. Can you have true redemption, achieve true salvation, move on to the land of shiny clouds (or Olympus or a boat at sea) without actually paying for your crimes? Grab a really shiny gem that has no bearing on your life whatsoever and let's go!

Saints and Sinners

The flashbacks for this week's episode were totally pointless so let's not even bother wasting valuable time and space on them, agreed? Instead, let's talk about redemption and salvation. In my opinion, before there can be honest redemption and before one can be absolved and made clean in front of god, society, peers, family, friends, or whatever social construct you care about, you first have to admit that you are a sinner. Everyone is. There's no getting around this, I'm sorry. You, my reader, at some point in your life have sinned. It might be a big sin; it might be a little one. Nobody's perfect, so don't feel too bad about it. There are two beautiful things about humanity that warrant being part of this analysis. The first is that as self-aware, thinking and contemplative beings, we have the ability to recognize our sins and faults. We have, to quote OUAT in a meaningful way for the first time in a long time, that still small voice inside us that whispers when we have done wrong to another person (Cruella, I imagine, is the exception here. Her still small voice probably screams at her to burn things). Our conscience dictates what is good and what is wrong; it guides us along in life, trying to avoid pitfalls, though tripping is inevitable. Knowing when we have done wrong leads us to the second beautiful thing about humanity: we have the capacity to seek forgiveness. Please note the word seek; it's important. This is likely the trickier aspect. Forgiveness is not up to the sinner; it's up the person they have angered or hurt. You can only ask for forgiveness, but it is not expected upon request. Life would be too easy if it were given without pause, thought, and most importantly, recompense. There is a long standing tradition in some aspects of theology that you cannot have forgiveness without suffering. In other words, you must actually pay for your crimes. You say some Hail Marys, you sleep on a couch for a few nights and, in extreme cases, maybe you flog yourself or go without food, water or other necessities in life. The latter is, again, in the extreme cases, but the idea of being granted forgiveness and being absolved without having to pay some sort of price seems counter-intuitive.

I suppose I should pause here and point out that I am not a theologian. I have no traditional religious background and, if I am anywhere on the spectrum, it's more as someone who deeply questions certain beliefs across all manner of religions. However, I do have a basic understanding of modern theology and, moreover, a fair amount of knowledge about interpersonal relationships between heroes and those in their circle. The hero always suffers; they have to undergo trials and hardships in order to be brought into and achieve their divine status (divine being used rather loosely here). While that is something that happens "without," it is also something that happens "within" where they must find a way to forgive those who have injured or done them wrong in the past (it's usually the father or other parental figure) after the figure has seen the errors of their ways and come seeking redemption after due suffering. What's my point here? My point revolves around one idea: you have to be willing to suffer for forgiveness. You don't get to decide when you're forgiven or even if you're ever forgiven. And this is the problem I have with this week's episode. On the one hand, Hook is doing something very good in acknowledging that he's a villain who did terrible things and maybe he doesn't deserve to go back to Storybrooke. I know I'm breaking a few of my cardinal rules by even talking about Hook but here goes: whether you like him or not, I hope we can all agree on the fact that he's done some truly appalling things. He has murdered for reasons ranging from the petty to "the darkness made me do it." Just yesterday (or maybe two days before? Who can tell!), in the timeline of the show, he was ready to send everyone who loved his girlfriend, including her 13 year old son, to the Underworld, trapped for all of time, while the spirits of the Dark Ones took over the Land Without Magic. These are troubling deeds, deeply troubling in fact, but Hook openly saying that he should be left behind to pay for those multitude of crimes is in line with redemption theology or the mark of a hero or whatever you want to call it. For the first time in ever, I actually agreed with Hook and thought he spoke sense. Too bad Emma got in the way.

Emma is the Savior. That's been her archetype since day one. In the western culture we live in that does have certain connotations. Whether you're a believer or not, the word Savior does bring to mind one figure in particular, one who is definitely concerned with redemption: Jesus. Likening those two, while tricky, serves us well here. As the Savior, Emma can grant redemption and salvation. It's what she has been doing since she rolled into Storybrooke in her little yellow bug. However, early versions of Emma also have her as a justice seeker. In season one her enemy, on the surface, was Regina who stood for chaos and an unjust world, keeping happy endings from happening and making sure the heroes suffered for imagined crimes. Emma took up the law in the mundane world as a way to bring justice to the unjust world of Storybrooke. That means that people who committed crimes, like Regina, were supposed to pay for what they did. They did not get forgiveness or redemption from Emma just because they apologized or even acknowledged their crimes. That's not how the archetype of justice works, even when tempered with mercy. What bothers me so much about this week's episode is Emma's insistence that Hook is a hero who doesn't need to do any sort of leg work to pay for those multitude of sins. How is that fair to the victims, the people the "earlier version" of Emma used to be so concerned with? How is that fair to her family, those people that were almost ripped away from their homes to spend a lifetime (and longer) in the Underworld? Emma isn't the only one Hook needs to atone to. And, yes, "the darkness made him do it" is a ready made excuse for this latest crime, but we need to acknowledge that the Dark Swan and Rumple never tried anything like this. Hook is a plethora of red flags and while those red flags could be mitigated, it can't be done without the necessary work. Hook fell headlong into the darkness and all its dark delights, something he even admits when he tells Emma "I don't deserve saving." Yeah, you probably don't! There has been very little suffering on Hook's part for what he did; at least not in equal measure to the severity of his crimes. Two episodes ago, Hook didn't seem to know what Cerberus was so I doubt that he was actually the dog's chew toy. He's been beat up a bit, but for the crime of murder (and I'll not list the other litany of bad deeds he's done since season two) it's not really enough for Emma to declare him a hero because of a last second turn around at the end of S5A, reversing the problems he caused in the first place! And the worst part? Hook, who kept admitting that he was a villain, buys into Emma's doe-eyed heroizing at the end and declares that he does deserve saving after all, and with Liam's blessing he's more a hero than his older brother ever was. It deeply troubles me that we are calling Hook a hero. Sociopathic murder? Yes. Grey anti-hero who could work toward full redemption and salvation if the show would stop white washing his crimes? I'll even give him that. But to have the Savior state that Hook is absolved and free to join the living, in her arms, for a life with her? So morally troubling as to make me recoil in horror. But hey, we all knew I wouldn't like this episode!

Miscellaneous Notes on The Brothers Jones

--I would really like to have Cruella's boots, please. She also has handcuffs to spice up her sex life with James. You go, girl.

--"Even for the Underworld, it's dead in here." Hades is a gem. And no, we're not going to speculate on him and Zelena cause gross.

--Heaven is not Olympus. It's individualized. Thank goodness.

--Loved the Henry and Grandpa David moment. Those tender family connections are the only good thing about this plot driven show, so it's a shame that they rarely crop up.

--The eye of the storm is an actual tangible thing. In fact, it's our MacGuffin of the week!

--Henry writing Hades's story to defeat him is sort of poignant and not a way I thought this show would go. Should be mildly interesting.

--"He kissed you?" "Thought he was you...." This family deserves its own Jerry Springer episode.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (3x16)

Here's something you will not learn in your standard American history textbook: Betsy Ross's famous flag was sewn with a golden thread, which was previously strung in Orpheus's lyre, the same musical instrument taken with him to traverse the Underworld to save Eurydice. Really, it's shocking that sort of information didn't make it into our historical record. This week's episode, "Dawn's Early Light," is Sleepy Hollow at its strangest, most spaghetti-to-the-wall. There were conspiracy theories, historical objects and people, monsters from the past, mythology, and an almost over abundance of historical revisions to reveal something supernatural. And it was all rather fun, wasn't it? Isn't this batty nature, along with our favorite witnesses, why we watch Sleepy Hollow? Its charm in embracing the absurd plot lines and running with them, full throttle, are at the very least entertaining if simultaneously totally off the map in terms of anything believable. That's not an underhanded compliment. I sincerely enjoyed this episode with its monsters, flags, golden threads, and Masonic agents. TV can be deep and meaningful and move our souls both with passion and with frustration; and sometimes, it's just good fun. Grab whatever magical object you think played the most vital role in this episode and let's go!

Was there even a theme to this week's episode? Maybe and maybe not. It was all so (delightfully) hodgepodge-y that it almost doesn't need an overarching theme to tie it all together. But, that makes for a dull review, so yes, my readers, there was a theme (because, I the viewer, just decided so). If there was one motif that was hit upon more than others this week, it was that the truth shall set you free. Now, this theme wasn't actually uttered by a character or characters, unlike it past weeks in which the theme was actually enumerated upon. Rather, it was in several discoveries made by the characters. These truths, some may be self-evident, were of a cosmological nature (Ichabod learning that Betsy went with George Washington to the Catacombs; Danny learning the truth about everything); of a personal, private nature (Jenny admitting, if silently, that she is uncertain about a more open relationship with her father than previously stated); and of a interpersonal nature (Pandora realizing that the Hidden One is a self-righteous bastard who has no real love for her and that she is on the wrong side of this conflict). The thing about truths is that while their initial revelation is important, moreso is what is done with those truths. Danny likely just joined Team Witnesses (with pals Jenny and Joe) and will go exploring the Catacombs to help the save world. That's all well and good, but does he have the mental fortitude to withstand the onslaught of crazy that haunts the tiny hollow? Abbie seems to think so, if the kiss at the end of the episode is any indication. Our Leftanant's truth discovery this week is that her ready made excuses about the dangers of the world she lives in every day are just that, excuses. She is scared of what being with Danny means, the fear that he won't, in the end, be able to handle the world she calls home. I remain unconvinced by Abbie's deep passion for Danny since the relationship has been given very little development; moreover Abbie's pragmatic, no-nonsense nature has always been her leading characteristic, and Danny and his love have yet to demonstrably hinder that. But onwards. Whether or not Abbie has misplaced her trust remains to be seen; I would gently remind the readers of my little blog that Danny has some sort of side dealings going on, last time we checked in on him privately. But, what about the others who had moments of truth this week?

Is Pandora on Team Witnesses now? It's hard to say. I find it hard to believe that she shares the same altruistic sentiments that Ichabod and Abbie have. It's more likely that she is now so firmly against the Hidden One that the old adage about the enemy of my enemy being my friend is closer to her own truth. And what a wake up call, amirite? The emotional and verbal abuse officially went physical as the Hidden One tries to drown his beloved, all while telling her that she is nothing more than a family pet that he let get too familiar. What a guy. What a god. Let's kill him! The real significant and cosmological truth moment, though, concerns a certain flag and what it means for our Witnesses and their mission. It's nice to know that certain threads (pun!) are coming back into play, like the Catacombs and Betsy's never ending insertion into a story where she doesn't belong. This episode did the impossible: it made Betsy Ross relevant. Her story this week had weight, even if it was more about her famous flag than her very self. But honestly, I won't complain. All season, she has been nothing more than a tag-a-long in the Ichabod Crane adventure, only along for the ride to provide the "necessary" sex appeal to Ichabod's backstory (which he doesn't need, but these are the same writers who kept trying to make Katrina interesting). I am very excited that the show is going a very classic route in its final episodes of the season (let's be positive and say season, not series); back to the Underworld, crossing a watery threshold, we go, to defeat a god (this all sounds familiar, no?) There was one more truth that was revealed this week; the Witnesses's bond is powerful because it is true, and they are strong because they love one another. While I'm not sure how this bond and this love will defeat the Hidden One, I'd wager all the money in my pockets that the power of the Witness bond, which has been harped on more this season than any other, will play a significant role in taking down the Hidden One and getting everyone home again. So the Heroes Journey goes.

Miscellaneous Notes on Dawn's Early Light

--So just to keep track of all the historical and mythical things in this episode, we had: Washington's Crossing of the Delaware; Betsy Ross's flag, Paul Revere's house, the Eternal Soldier, Orpheus and Eurydice, Francis Scott Key, Fort McHenry, Masons, the War of 1812, and the opening line to the Star Spangled Banner. Spaghetti, meet wall.

--"A relationship can survive most anything except secrets." That's about as close to the theme of the week as we're likely to get.

--Ichabod brought home KFC over Burger King. Bless.

--Ichabod tells Abbie that returning to the Catacombs must be her choice; he will not make it for her. Yes, agency. Yes.

--Hamilton: The Musical jokes for the win!

--Just so everyone knows, the road to the Underworld does not run through a candy shop.

--Abbie Mills has clearly been reading my blog. In her words (and mine, week after week): "Let's go!"

Monday, March 21, 2016

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x14)

Why do I feel as though all this has happened before and all this will happen again? Do you all say so? Am I blatantly paraphrasing Battlestar Galactica because Aaron Douglas appeared in this week's episode "Devil's Due"? The first two questions have no answers; the third is an obvious yes and a rather low hanging fruit. Readers, prepare yourselves for something shocking: I liked this episode. Well, I tentatively liked it. There were a lot of weird moments and odd plotting and, frankly, some things that were inserted only to serve has huge swaths of exposition, but Rumple episodes tend to be, on the whole, better than all others. Rumple, even when he's slimy and sleazy and devious, is dynamic; he's like Hades in that way (and how great was their face-off?) Whether Rumple is the scared cripple hoping for a better life for his son, trying to hold his happiness together by hook or crook (pun not intended), or whether he's our immaculately dressed shop owner, looking to justify his ends by any means necessary, there's no denying that Rumple is a powerhouse to watch. I don't know that there was a specific theme to this episode; like every episode so far, it operates under the guise of unfinished business--and with Rumple and Milah (with a side of Emma, Neal and Hook) the history of that unfinished business is certainly weighted, perhaps more so than any other story in the history of this show, even Regina and Snow's. The story of Rumple and Milah and Baby Bae is how the universe of OUAT began--a mother ran away, a father tried to protect his son, and his son vanished. All other stories stem from this one point in the history of the fictional universe. To bring it all back up and revisit it makes for a meaty and juicy hour; one I was, frankly, glad to watch. Now if only we could uncanonize DarkHeart sex and the Rumbelle baby. Grab your favorite fur coat (which may or may not be Bambi's dead iconic mother) and let's go!  

Let's Make A Deal

Rumple's story has always been that of a father looking for his lost boy. Often times, when read as an archetype, Rumple is labeled as the Trickster or other crafty devil type figure. He has a penchant for deals, for manipulation, for knowing just what to say and what to do in order to get the other party to agree, readily, to his terms. They take out their quills, sign in proverbial blood and Rumple gets one step closer to his end game, never mind how it might affect those around him. That's all in keeping with the sly fox character of say Loki or Anansi. But where Rumple differs, where the archetype has been subverted or, at the very least, humanized, is that Rumple's deals all have a human factor: his son, Baelfire. In the past, Rumple very rarely made deals that served only his ego or for only malicious or cruel reasons. He makes them (consequences be damned) to get him one step closer to his son. Every step down his long, long, long path is to Baelfire. That was such an integral part of his story in the very beginning; you could watch Rumple perform feats of magic that would amaze and horrify you, but it was all done in the name of parental love, and you had to stop and ask yourself: what wouldn't a parent do to find their lost child? You can revile him if you wish; Rumple's skin is tougher than he gives himself credit for, but it was undeniably human and that's what made him such a fascinating character study. It's really nice, then, when the show revisits those threads of the Father (capital letter cause we're in the Cosmic Realm now) looking for his Lost Son. More often than not lately, the flashbacks distance Rumple from the search for Baelfire or at least put it on the periphery, making it about magic or power and the lust and greed Rumple has for both. It forgets (shockingly) the heart of the narrative. But in this week's flashback, and even into the present day, it re-centers the story on a father who would move heaven and earth and make all sorts of very (very) poor life choices in order to save his child. Baelfire plays little role here; he's far to young to have a meaningful part to play. What does play a role, though, is Rumple's desire to do anything (including murder, though he stops short) to save Bae, and yes this includes a soul crushing deal, agreeing to give up his second born child should he have one, something he apparently took considerable measures to prevent. There's something deeply sad about Rumple giving up the happiness of more children in order to protect his firstborn, but it's also the root of his story. For Baelfire, Rumple would destroy the entire world and everyone in it; so what's a marriage, a wife, or an unborn second child to him? Selfish, impulsive, cowardly, but ultimately human. That's Rumple. Ask yourself: what wouldn't you do if you were Rumple?

And then there's Milah. This will likely come as no shock to anyone, but I've never liked Milah's character at all. To me, she's the total opposite of someone like Emma and Snow; she's the mother who left and never came back. While it was nice to hear her talk about how selfish she was back in the day, when she ran off with Hook because of her misery, it doesn't change the fact that she did run off and her motives behind it were totally terrible. At least, they were until the slight retcon of the night. Rumple removes the element of choice from Milah's small life. He decides for her that they are not going to have anymore children and that's that; she gets no say in her own body and marriage and life and so, like we know Milah is wont to do, she goes and buries her pain in drink at the tavern, apparently hoping to meet a future one handed pirate who also has a drinking problem. The issue here is that it overturns an interesting perspective on motherhood that the show has maintained with regards to Milah for three years. The show has a somewhat ugly (but sometimes beautiful) tendency to uphold motherhood as a route to salvation, the end all, be all for women everywhere. If you're evil, just get a baby and suddenly all your problems of an ethical and moral nature are solved. It makes Madonnas out of everyone and ignores those rather complicated questions of what it means to be a villain or even just a person (and frankly is overtly misogynistic). With Milah, the show had a nice balance between the good mothers (Emma, Snow and, in the long run, Regina) and the bad mothers (Milah herself). Bad mothers put their own desires first and abandon their children, never returning. This is a rather nice contrast to Emma who gave up her child in order to give baby Henry his best chance, but later returned and didn't shirk from responsibilities and, eventually, love when Henry came a'knocking. It was nice to know that, back then, OUAT didn't believe that all mothers were paragons of virtue who could be saved and fulfilled through the miracle of childbirth. Looks like, with Rumple's deal making, that is long gone and suddenly all of Milah's horrible choices that used to rest on her and Hook's (granted to a much lesser extent in his case) shoulders now reside on Rumple's and Rumple's alone. Not the wisest choice when we consider the history of the show to cast Rumple as an ultimately human figure, if one with questionable judgment.

We'll Laugh Ourselves Silly One Day

Yes, I'm using a Rumple quote because, let's face it, the conversation between Rumple, Milah and Emma was the single best exchange on this show in two years. In the present day, we once again have Rumple doing what he feels is best for his child. Now the caveat here is that it's not Nealfire, but Baby Rumbelle (which is a horrifyingly bad narrative choice given that the conception of said offspring was done with the the famous OUAT-wonky-consent at the end of last arc, but since it's officially canon, we gotta work with it). In the past, Rumple made a bad deal but believed he could out maneuver it, self assured that it would never come to pass since he and Milah were clearly on the outs and he would sire no more children. The deal might have left a bad taste in everyone's mouth but it did stop Rumple from killing a poor man (but it's hard to kill a Cylon so Rumple's immortal soul was probably okay in the long run). In the present, the deal made between Hades and Rumple left more than a bitter taste in our mouths. There is a narrative through point with Rumple that he does give people the option of choice, even if it's heavily clouded; he carefully manipulates each and every situation so that it comes out in his favor (at least the odds are stacked in favor for him) but he does present the person on the other side of the negotiation table has having the ability to walk away; he makes Regina a monster, but she chooses to walk into the woods after Daniel comes back wrong and start pulling hearts. In this week's episode, Rumple continues to show his more devious side by removing the element of choice. He more or less took away Belle's choice when he failed to give her the full story of how he's the Dark One again before engaging in the horizontal hustle; he took away Milah's choice in the past when he decided for her that they'd never have more children to protect Baelfire; and in the present day, Rumple once again robs Milah of her choice to conclude her business and move on and find peace. Instead, he punts her into a vat of Kool-Aid with some sad sacks of souls. Well done, Rumple. But it does beg the question, is that what true villainy is? Is true villainy taking away someone's ability to chose their own fate and destiny? It might sound odd coming from me, Ms. Rape Culture and Feminism, but not entirely. Rumple took away Emma's ability to chose her own destiny, didn't he? He decided, without consulting her or her parents, that she would be the Savior for his curse, to find his son. I'm not sure that's a fate anyone wants (even Jesus begged his Father to take this cup from him). For her entire life, Emma was alone, occasionally spouting magic from her fingertips, something she feared and tried to hide away, because Rumple made her that way. He did not ask, he did not bargain. He simply acted. Now, you can argue (and goodness knows that I have) that every step Emma takes after she enters Storybrooke is her acceptance of that fate and that, in the end, she very much embraces it and realizes that this is best possible version of herself (hero journey marker: unlocked!). I think villainy, true villainy, is far more complicated but the element of taking away the ability to make choices is certainly a large part of it. In that regard, both Rumple and Hades have some element of the true villainy in them (and thus far, there's no sympathy to be had from Hades). But so do all the other characters who have made choices for what they feel is best for someone else without the other persons say so--Snow telling Cora about Daniel, for example. And isn't that one of the hearts of OUAT? That villainy and heroism are far more nuanced and complex than straight white hat and black hat? This week felt like a return to the far more complicated questions the show used to ask. And that is worth something; it's worth, at the very least, a round of applause from your trusty blogger.

Miscellaneous Notes on Devil's Due

--"You were with my son and former lover?!" The meeting and interaction between Milah and Emma was perfect, even if it came to nothing and Emma dropped it all in five seconds. It was worth it to be vindicated that Emma knew nothing of the Milah/Bae/Hook connection.

--Cruella is wearing the fur of Bambi's iconic dead mother. I love her.

--#Hope is contraband in the Underworld.

--Actual note I took while watching: "Hades, we've talked about the hair."

--"Tell him hello from his papa."

--The Rumple and Hades moments were spot on. Those two are forces to be reckoned with and I'd like to see more of that please and thank you.

--The gibberish spoken in the apartment scene between Rumple and Emma would rival the gibberish spoken on Under the Dome.

--Milah and Hook meeting at the tavern years before the Crocodile scene was utterly pointless.

--"We're even. For now." Oh for the love of...Hook, shut up. Did you learn nothing? Do we have to keep doing this whole revenge plot thing? Didn't he learn anything from being sucked into the darkness and realizing how much of a draw it has over him?

--Yeah, I have no comment on those three graves.

--Not one Battlestar Galactica reference? Shame on you, Jane Espenson.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (3x15)

How many Magical McGuffins does it take to open a door? Apparently not only does it take a box, an emblem, a banshee, a witch, and cuneiform, but it also takes Joe Corbin completely Windigo-ing out. Yes, a leading character became a Magical McGuffin. That sounds like criticism but it's not, at least not really. It's more like a wry chuckle at how spaghetti-to-the-wall this show gets, more so with every passing week it seems. In fact, this week's episode "Incommunicado" was surprisingly good. I say surprisingly because, like last week, it keeps our beloved Team Witnesses apart for ninety percent of the time. With Ichabod locked in the Archives and with Abbie trapped in the basement with Pandora, her sister, and a scary deer-monster, there is very little in the way of charming Ichabbie which, as we all know, is the total selling point of the show. However, what we did have was quite special and demonstrates that while, less is never more with these two, brief respites are not as horrid as we might imagine. The biggest theme of this week's episode is rather basic; communication is good and good teams have good communication. It's elementary and simple and something Sleepy Hollow has pushed since the earliest days, but it's not a lesson that one tires of hearing. Ichabbie? Good communication. The Hidden One and Pandora? Bad communication. Across barriers and internal monsters, our heroes are always in line with one another. Grab your favorite type of pastry and let's go!

For the first time since he appeared last arc, the Hidden One finally felt menacing and like a real threat instead of a shadowy and sulky wannabe Bad Boy. This was also the only time he felt like an omniscient and omnipresent god; up until now, The Hidden One has used big talk to signal his power (aided by helpful flashbacks that leave no doubt that he is, in fact, divine) but any tangible power was drawn from Pandora making The Hidden One look ineffectual and a total let down after the unpredictable likes of Moloch and Henry Parish. This week, our resident god literally absorbed every book, piece of art, poetry, comic, photography, music, and even various sonnets in a matter of seconds and informed Ichabod that none of it would be of any help to them as they were trapped together in the Archives. This week, he was the one who clued Ichabod in on something historical instead of it being Ichabod who normally informs the audience about such-and-such monster or historical time period and entity. And maybe most damning of all, it's the Hidden One who knows the true history of the Witnesses, stretching all the way back to 4000 years ago and traveling down the Crane and Mills bloodline to Ichabod and Abbie now. The Hidden One is the one with the experience and know-how, not Team Witness and, like all the cool kids says, knowledge is power. The same can be said for Pandora and Team Sister Mills (and helpful friend Joe) this week. It's Pandora directing all the action, making all the commands. Only she can break the barrier with her box, and in order for her to do that, Pandora takes charge and Abbie/Jenny are forced to ride shotgun (with helpful friend Joe and his Windigo id) giving the woman who has tried to kill them many times over pieces of her long sought after box. It's a scary prospect, this idea that the villains are getting the upper hand and are suddenly in control instead of Team Witnesses. Or, at least, it would be if The Hidden One and Pandora were communicating effectively. See, we came back around to my original point. Ichabod and Abbie may have had to take a backseat to the god and his girl's knowledge this week, but the foes are still at cross purposes and lying to one another, signaling to the audience their eventual defeat. Pandora didn't tell the Hidden One that Ichabbie have the Emblem of Thura, information he needed to know because of past historical events. The Hidden One is still too concerned with his own importance and power to care about Pandora's ever diminishing returns in her own power supply or her obvious misery. Abbie, on the other hand, knows Ichabod so well that she can buy a multi-grain croissant and, with minimal effort, get him to eat it and enjoy it. Their communication levels are off the charts. Yes, the loss of the emblem is a sad one (no more mind melding!) but it doesn't matter, in the end: Ichabbie have always been able to communicate and understand one another long before the Emblem came into their lives and it shall remain that way long after The Hidden One crushed into dust.

Miscellaneous Notes on Incommunicado 

--Geez Kyle, get with it! Clearly the band is a post-punk indie rock one.

--Great effects for the Banshee and for the moments of silence when it appears.

--Also, how about a round of applause for the use of Beethoven's Fifth in the final Banshee sequence?

--Really loved Ichabod's long speech about the importance of art as inspiration and how it is because of flawed but beautiful human beings that the world can enjoy them.

--"I'm eating my feelings." Bless you, Ichabod.

--I was rather ho-hum about Joenny when it became apparent that's where the writers were going (always going to be more concerned with Ichabbie) but there is no denying that the writers have done a splendid job selling this little relationship.

--I will never, ever, say no to an Ichabbie hug or fist bump. Team Witnesses Represent!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (3x14)

Raise your hand if you think Abigail Mills is missing love in her life. None of you should be raising your hand right now, just by the way. This week's episode "Into the Wild" is a unique blend of fascinating and frustrating because on the surface, it's exactly what Sleepy Hollow shouldn't be. You would think that an episode that keeps our charming Witnesses apart for 90% of the time would have me rending my garments and gnashing my teeth and yes--to an extent--it does have me doing just that. Sleepy Hollow is strongest when its two leads are moving through the scenes effortlessly playing off one another like they were born to play Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills. However, in spite of the separation, some answers were finally had (at long last) and the plot ball (something akin to a football, I guess) was moved several feet down the field and closer to the goal line after weeks of piddling around and stalling. However, Abigail Mills dismissing the love of friends and family and telling Daniel Reynolds that she doesn't have "what we had" and how that's apparently a bad thing makes my insides twitch. Grab some modern medicine and let's go! 

A lot of this weeks episode is about survival and how we need not only our own special skill set--like being able to concoct medicine from various flora--but how we also need each other, if only for moral support (or to fire a gun while we stab the crazy creature with a pointy stick). Abbie can climbs walls and make demon-killing drugs, but she needs Sophie's competence, Danny's determination, and Ichabod's know-how to win the day. Teamwork was a rather big part of this episode, you see. Abbie can't do it alone and that's a great message and one that Sleepy Hollow has always driven home, especially with Team Witnesses. In the past few weeks, I've lamented a bit that the show often gets too caught up in driving home the same beats over and over, particularly about the bond between Ichabod and Abbie. They don't need to say it on screen anymore, if indeed they ever did need to say it. It's apparent every single week when Ichabod and Abbie have each other's back fighting the good cosmic fight or even battling the smaller day-to-day ones, like forging "a diet of the mind." Their bond is as solid as rock and everyone knows it. While Abbie might think that her entrance into the world of the supernatural has brought her nothing but bad luck and heartache (trips to Purgatory, the past, and the Catacombs being part of this package deal), it takes Sophie to point out that it also brought her Ichabod Crane, someone with whom she has a "natural bond." The metaphor of the not-so-evil-symbol being two parts bonded together like magnets is a good one for our little team, but not one that needs philosophizing on; it's understood that it relates to Abbie and Ichabod. The problem comes when the episode ends with Abbie dismissing this bond (along with the bond with her sister, old friend Joe, and new friend Sophie) to emphasize a romantic bond, presumably with Danny.

This isn't to say that Abbie can't have romantic love. That's all well and good but in the past her reasons for not pursuing romantic love were not fear; it was because there are demons running around Sleepy Hollow! And, more to the point, her lack of a romantic love life wasn't bothersome to her. It wasn't something that Abbie thought about; her pragmatism always came first and she was fine with that. Abbie needed to save the world first, then there could potentially be romantic love, and even if there wasn't, Abbie didn't feel like less of a person, or more scared of the world and her experiences in that world, because of the lack of romance. Abbie is the woman who is always presented as being able to have it all--the brains, the brawn, the ability, the drive, the best friend and sister, the cosmic significance, and the deep meaningful relationships that in no way take away her agency or make her less Abbie Mills-like if those relationships only ever stay platonic. She's the definition of "know thyself." It's a truly bizarre disconnect for me that in one scene the bond between Ichabod and Abbie is given symbolic weight through an actual symbol, while simultaneously revealing that this bond creates energy (and I'm sure that is going to be given more importance near the season finale), followed by a smaller more intimate scene with Sophie in which Abbie acknowledges that the new Federal Agent brings something to the team, to the next scene in which Abbie says that there are things missing in her life, specifically romantic love, and casually dismisses "friends and family" as if they aren't enough. That's not Abbie Mills. At least, it's not the Abbie Mills I know and love. Abbie and Daniel can have a present tense if they so desire, but if the show begins to make Abbie's present (and incredibly under developed and frankly pretty dull) romantic love story with Danny the center of Abbie's world, we're gonna have a serious problem.

Miscellaneous Notes on Into the Wild 

--Just in case it's not apparent, but my bafflement over the sudden about face from Abbie with regards to the Daniel situation is not because I want Abbie with Ichabod in the romantic sense. They are going to be together--as Team Witnesses--no matter what. That's the power of their bond. While there is a great spark between the two, the show does not need to turn it into romantic love for that bond to have more weight. In fact, you could argue it'd be more meaningful if they were never together romantically.

--Some very sweet and lovely Joenny moments this week. Starting to really dig those two crazy kids. Too bad Joe's probably about to go full on Windigo.

--And on the flip side, some really not great Hidden One and Pandora moments. Where exactly did he go? Did we know he could evaporate into a ball of light?

--The Dutch virus monster was one of the creepiest looking creatures we've had in a good long while.

--Magical symbol and demon map notwithstanding, that was a total Crane ex Machina in the woods.

--Abbie suggests we all "find our inner Spiderman real fast."

--Abbie got Ichabod a Netflix subscription. Bless.

--Apologies for the lateness of this review! I was out of town for the airing of 3x14 and then had to focus on my OUAT review before SH could be typed up. We now return to your regularly scheduled reviews.

Monday, March 14, 2016

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x13)

It is always nice to be reunited with an old friend. Time passes and life marches on (unless you're in Hellbrooke) but we, like I stated last week, we--the indomitable human race--are haunted; sometimes we're haunted by friends and relations from our past and our unresolved business with those long gone friends. The problem, of course, arises, when a long lost friend, who was never even hinted at being a long lost friend, shows up as a sad emo and we're expected to pretend like this person really was just so super important to us. I'm sure we've all been through this, right. No? Just Snow White? Okay then. In this week's episode "Labor of Love," the audience was treated (or maybe endured is a better word) to the sudden and inexplicable friendship (and mutual face-licking) between our young Princess Snow and the son of Zeus himself, the biggest hero in the ancient Greek World, Hercules (who is not played by Kevin Sorbo, much like Hades is not being played by James Woods. Honestly, way to drop the ball, OUAT casting department). The episode this week wasn't horrible; not in the same way that other episodes are absolutely horrible. But it was dull, monochromatic and tedious; all TV shows have these episodes, thus aren't uncommon by any stretch of the imagination, but why does it feel that every single Snow or Charming episode (or Snowing, the combined pair) always end up with episodes that are boring and pointless when it comes to plot development? I guess I should be grateful that Young Snow didn't kidnap a baby and infuse it with darkness. Like last week's episode, the theme is reiterated over and over again because that's how themes work: you only get them when they are literally told to you, point blank (hint: no). If I sound overly harsh, I'm not meaning to, but does anyone else remember when Snow episodes were fantastic and moving and showed Snow as an awesome bandit living on the lamb or as a compassionate princess who made the hardest decision any child should ever make? Then again, the author's pen is apparently alive and living in Hellbrooke with unfinished business so expecting character arcs and themes to stretch over several seasons seems like the dream of a mayfly. Grab Cerberus and hold him tight (he's really very sweet once you get to know him). Let's go! 

Girl Meets Demi-God

Let's start with what seems like a pretty obvious fact after five seasons of OUAT: the flashback as a narrative device has long since worn out its welcome. We're at the point in the show's lifespan when the flashbacks are a hindrance instead of a helpmate and often times the flashbacks are crammed into an episode, adding little to nothing to the current arc or even our understanding of the characters. Suddenly, out of the blue, characters who have never interacted before are the best of buds, throwing the timeline and history of the characters into mass confusion. Such was the case this week with Baby Snow White and Hercules, the demi-god wonder boy. First, just to clarify, it's great to see Bailee Madison again. She always brings such an honest portrayal to the screen; a mini Ginny Goodwin who effortlessly captures all of Ginny's mannerism and hallmarks characteristics as if she might actually be Ginny Goodwin from the far past. Apart from the joy at seeing Bailee again, what exactly was I supposed to take away from this flashback? Snow learned how to be a hero and conquered some of her fears with the help of her new godlike pal, Hercules? Okay, well that's nice and all, but it would have been even nicer if that been touched upon at any point in the past five years. It also throws a big ol' feminist wrench in the fact that Snow originally learned how to lead and be a (future) queen from her dying mother, Eva, a woman who told her incredibly young daughter that fulfilling those hard roles was about hard decisions and choices, like not killing another person in order to save someone you loved. That moment-- Snow letting her mother die and realizing just how heavy the crown really is--is far weightier and more meaningful than learning to fire a bow and arrow to stop some bandits. The original message imparted by Eva was a simple one but it was a powerful one and one that fit into the earlier seasons theme of women who depended on one another, helped each other, guided each other, and found solace in each other without the aid of a man, or getting their cues on how to be a hero from a man.

That, of course, sounds like feminist propaganda, so lest anyone think that I'm burning my bras in anger, it is possible (and indeed more than a little possible) for men and women to equally help one another, to give aid to each other without any sort of underlying power dynamic, which is where the show wanted to take itself in the present day. That's really the heart of feminism: not that women are better than men and hate everyone "not man" but that the sexes are equals and can both give and take help, comfort, love, anger, joy, responsibility, and so on and so forth together. And while I've been harping on some of the more questionable moment in terms of feminism, there really is one area that bothered me more: Snow White and her wide-eyed crush on Hercules, he of the rippling muscles, soft doe eyes, and early 2000s floppy hair. I understand, and acknowledge that young teenagers can have crushes and even significant relationships, but most of those latter ones are borne out of similar, long lasting life experiences. There is usually a significant emotional link between the two--Gus and Hazel have cancer; Henry and Violet lost a parent, and so on and so forth. In the flashback, there is a serious inequality; Hercules has all the power and knowledge and bravery; Snow needs all the power, knowledge and bravery and only her new friend (who happens to be "hawt" as the kids say) can provide this to her. It's bothersome for a lot of reasons, the least of it being that Snow is simply too young, too inexperienced, and has known Hercules for too short a time to have learned such valuable life lessons from someone who is equally young (even if he's more experienced in battling). So was there a point to these flashbacks? Only in the smallest way possible. You see, in a season where our characters go to Hell, it is actually possible to run into your former demi-god best friend (and his sad sack of not-a-girlfriend).

Does Hagrid Know His Dog Is On The Loose?

Hey, look, there's a three headed dog residing in Hellbrooke! Also, Hercules appears to have taken the Dexter route in life and become a lumberjack? Maybe he and Mary Margaret can renew their friendship by bonding over their tragic fashion sense. Hercules has gone from a floppy haired teenage wunderkind to being a depressed dead man who, this time around, needs Snow to remind him that "you can't let fear of failure keep you from trying" (theme!). And sure, it's nice to see the gender roles reversed and witness Snow teaching the demi-god a lesson, but at the same time, it's a lesson Hercules already knew and had previously taught the young Snow White. It's not like this is an inversion of gender dynamics; it's one in which the female props up the male by reminding him how simply awesome he is. If they were going for strong women, they failed (I know; the shock is overwhelming, isn't it?). This is, essentially, the main problem with this week's episode: the events are so paralleled as to be repetitive. OUAT has always paralleled their flashbacks with their present day, but it used to feel stronger. Or at least, they were different enough that I wasn't watching the same story play out with only slight changes in the notes. It's because of this that I find I have very little to talk about. Yes, Snow decided she wants to be Snow again and not Mary Margaret anymore. But why now? Hasn't she faced down hardships and been self-confident and brave before? How about when she fought for her daughter against an Ogre? Or said goodbye to the same daughter in S3; wasn't she the most Snow White she's ever been since the Pilot during this moment? Bravery doesn't have to be fighting and winning with bows and arrows be it against bandits or three-headed puppies--and, in fact, I'm getting rather tired of the show selling home the point that heroism is defined by physical prowess. Snow's bravest moment came, post-curse, when she kissed Emma's head in a wordless goodbye, knowing she'd never see her child again. She wasn't Mary Margaret, then. She was Snow flipping White; but apparently it takes Hercules and his trials (sorry, labors) and his bravery to help Snow see sense. It's disturbing and disappointing but as I said above...not exactly shocking.

Miscellaneous Notes on Labor of Love

--Speaking of underwhelming, Megera had the impact of a small pebble, no? I've seen the actress in other things and she's done well so this is clearly a writing issue because she was so dull and lackluster here and very much a damsel in distress as to be completely pointless. A sad reality given how spunky her Disney counterpart is.

--"I miss the gin, the glamour...the gin." Cruella is fabulous and I've missed her.

--The pen has magical essence, is alive, and has unfinished business. Okay, sure. I guess I should expect Chip to come to life and have a sit down talk with Rumple about the fate of his favorite ship before crossing over the bridge to Olympus.

--Emma you lived in the real world for your entire life and have made several Harry Potter jokes before. How did you NOT snarkily suggest that someone play Cerberus a lullaby?

--Hades and Emma meeting was nice and I'm glad the show didn't keep it until the midpoint of the season. It should have felt a bit more weighted, but I can wait for the more cosmological meeting. Speaking of...

--"Why does everyone think that [I can be defeated]? I'm Hades. This is death...." Classic Hero Story: unlocked! Emma Swan, that's your cue.

--Heaven is Olympus. Ooh, keeping it religiously neutral would have been better, I think. Or at least not implying that heaven is a specific mythological place from legend. Does this mean that Mulan from Fictional China and people from Agrabah don't get to go to "the better place" because it's not their mythology? Does this mean that their cultural stories of what happens when you die are wrong? Also, gods really do exist? How does that mesh with the Holy Grail of S5A?

--Hercules would make an excellent Sunday Roast.

Monday, March 7, 2016

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x12)

And lo, Once Upon a Time did celebrate their 100th episode with the maudlin and macabre title "Souls of the Departed" and we all bore witness to the main cast of characters (except Belle, of course) literally take the show into Hell. How's that for a meta commentary? Yes, our favorite (loosely speaking) fairy tale show is back for another round of what I'm sure will be stellar, logical, and heartfelt family narrative. Or, you know, not. I've done a fair amount of thinking this winter with regards to this little show; not necessarily about how I approach the show anymore; that was decided last season (one episode at a time with little to no hope for anything decent), but more along the lines of whether or not, after 100 episodes, this show was "worth it" to begin with. In other words, was season 1-3A worth all the heartache, confusion, anger, and disappointment that came with everything that happened after episode 315 (Neal's death)? Do a few mostly okay, sometimes pretty good, episodes like Shattered Sight, Sympathy for the De Vil, Operation Mongoose part 1, and The Dark Swan, balance out the rest of the show with its rape culture values, misogyny, and focus on romantic love/ships over family? I suppose to put this in OUAT episode terms: was Skin Deep/Manhattan worth Quiet Minds/Swan Song? I don't have an answer. I wish I did, but I don't. At any rate, those big questions aside, the show has gone to Hell (not in a hand basket, but close enough) and we all better settle in for Emma's quest to save the Pirate Wonder by splitting her heart into two. I will repeat something I said at the start of Season 5A: this has potential. Not the romantic Captain Swan aspect of it (that I couldn't care less about), but rather Emma traveling to the Underworld and going against Death. That's cosmic and mega and mythological, everything Emma's story should be. The question is whether or not the writers can keep this arc focused on Emma and not have it devolve into being all about Hook once more. We shall see. Grab your favorite long lost enemy and let's go!

Didn't We Kill You A Few Seasons Ago?

We, the entire human race, are haunted. We are haunted by our pasts, our regrets, things we did and did not do. We are haunted by ephemeral ghosts of yesterday who follow silently behind our footfalls until, at long last, they catch up with us. They always do, in the end. I, for one, am haunted by what this show used to be and what it could have been before it rebooted itself into a show that is a sad parody of its former self. Hence all my big questions at the beginning of the review. There is no denying that the rather in-your-face prominent theme of this episode was unfinished business; how many times did different characters says those two words? Neal, Cora, Rumple, Henry Sr, and I think the list might go on for a bit. The Underworld isn't so much the fire and brimstone Hell we imagine (though, there is some fire in Mount Doom--no really, didn't that look like Mount Doom?) nor the mostly calm realm of the dead in Greek mythology, so much as it is a limbo of people who are waiting to crossover to another place--be it a better or worse location--because they have unfinished business. In a way, this sets up a really interesting premise for the season. If it is true that all the souls can be saved--as Henry Sr was in the end--then Emma's real arc here isn't so much about finding her dead boyfriend, but rather saving the people in the Underworld who can't cross over. It's a meaty and enticing storyline that keeps with her Savior mythology quite nicely. After all, Emma's role as the Savior isn't just breaking curses, it's bringing back the Happy Endings, be they of the small mundane worldly ones or the great cosmic ones, like moving on to receive your ultimate punishment or moving to receive your reward of peace and tranquility. That story beat brings Emma's narrative back to her and her cosmic significance instead of relegating her to someone's girlfriend, which is a much needed shakeup after the disaster that was her own Dark Swan arc. Now, I say all this knowing that Emma will be more focused on Hook than on saving the souls of nameless individuals who haunt the streets of Hellbroke, but it would be nice if her quest to find Hook turned into a quest to save all the souls trapped in this Limbo-like domain. So what--or, maybe better, who--haunts our cast of intrepid characters? Their family of course.

It's certainly not shocking that we see a lot of familiar faces in Hellbrooke (clever name, fandom, I'll go with it). I expected to see Pan and Cora at least; they are the most famous of the seasonal arc villains--the two who really fit into the messed up family dynamic of the show. One of these appearances works far more than the other, though. Cora's mayoral role is tinged with bitterness. It's the part she always wanted to play; Cora's in charge, she's ruling for Hades, sitting in the seat of power. Much like her Wonderland role, she finally got to be queen of a little domain. The difference this time around, however, is that being the mayor-lite isn't what she wants anymore. Regina would have been enough and now Cora needs to see to it that her daughter isn't harmed by the Underworld, a place where Regina is certain to run into some familiar faces. What's disappointing is that Cora hasn't quite learned all her lessons yet; she's still ruthless in her desire to give Regina what she thinks is best for her daughter, including tossing Gollum into Mount Doom. There's a question I asked while I watched this episode and that's "do these people deserve to be saved?" Henry Sr, yes. His death was a tragedy and he himself acknowledges that his greatest regret was not intervening with Cora and Young Regina earlier. And that's basically on par with how most of the fans have read his character; he's a villain by neglect. He doesn't physically or emotionally hurt Regina but Henry Sr never protected her either, as is a parent's role in this world. Cora claims to be giving Regina her best chance by forcing Regina's hand and getting her out of the Underworld but it's really Henry Sr who is giving Regina her best chance--her chance to make amends, to prove her bravery and how far she's come. She's not the Evil Queen anymore who once longed to crush the heart of Snow White; now Regina's working in tandem with her former nemesis to save another soul (whether or not that soul deserves to be saved is another question, and we all know where I stand on that). Henry Sr got his ever after; he crossed the bridge into--oh whatever shall we call this place--paradise, heaven, the land of shiny light and fluffy clouds? But what about Cora? She might have her heart and care more about Regina that she did whilst she was alive and living it up in various red dresses (does the woman own any other color?) but her heart hasn't changed her. She's still willing to do reprehensible things in the name of love. Love might not be a weakness to Cora anymore, but her expression of it isn't exactly on the level.

I'm harping on this because, honestly, the emotional beats between Regina and her father were by far the heaviest and most meaningful and if that sort of resolution can be gotten from other characters over this arc, then it might not be a total wash. You just have to wonder if Cora is capable of the same self-awareness that killing others in the name of love isn't exactly loving. The appearance that did not make the same splash was Peter Pan, though it is always nice to see Robbie Kay back in this role. Like Cora, Peter Pan hasn't quite learned all his lessons. He still only cares about himself; his smooth talk to Rumple about wanting to start over absolutely rings false; it's an obvious contrast to what is happening on stage left with Regina and Henry Sr. I don't even know what to make of Pan's plan because I don't see it happening. I don't see Emma and the others letting Pan switch places with someone (even Dark One Rumple) to allow Peter Pan (a sociopath if ever there was one) back out into the world. Peter's appearance here feels like the writers knew they had to have him back, but couldn't think of a proper storyline so he gets stuck with one that isn't ever going to happen. Maybe I'm wrong, though. But it wouldn't be the only appearance from a dead character that was for the sake of the 100. But, I think we'll save Neal for the notes. I might be too tempted to go on at length otherwise.

Honey, We Gotta Talk About Your Hair

So this isn't James Woods. Thought I'd just get that out of the way in case anyone was confused. It is, however, Hades. It's hard for me to get too firm a read on him since his scene was at the very end and I was distracted by the random pedicure (really, a pedicure?). But Hades does appear to be a fun villain; he was menacing but he has a certain charm about him, like Rumple did back in season one. You were scared, but you couldn't look away because you weren't sure if he was going to smile and grant your every wish or slaughter you where you stood. I get the same vibe off of Hades. However, just to be clear, that CGI hair is appalling, especially when viewed from the side. Hades, here in OUAT, has more of a Devil-Lucifer vibe to him rather than the Greek god for whom he is named. He is set up to be an enemy to life. His domain is full of the dead and he likes it that way. He cannot stand the tick tick tick of the clock as another soul exits the Underworld. I think more than anything, Hades is set up to be the antithesis to Emma. One is a servant of cosmic good and life, and one is the lord of cosmic evil and death. What are the chances that Hades created the Dark Curse, that which ruins lives and happy endings? If Emma's main story this arc isn't so much saving Hook but turns into saving everyone, then Hades has to be stopped. This is really the heart of the hero journey. While the hero goes on epic quests and fights some sort of villain figure, it's really their victory over death that proves them to be the Chosen One or what have you. It's like the writers are killing two birds with one stone; Emma fights a big bad, and the big just so happens to be the representation of death. It's really the big good vs evil battle that has been teased before but always gets watered down to smaller stories. It would be nice if this time it really came down to the ultimate showdown. But, yeah, Hades--turn off the hair. You look ridiculous.

Miscellaneous Notes on Souls of the Departed

--So, shall we talk Neal? It's very hard for me to be objective about this scene, especially since it induces both rage and love. A winning combination, I know. On the one hand, he should absolutely be part of the 100th episode. Baelfire is a huge reason for the show and to not have him there would be a disservice to everything the show was. It was also just beautiful to see Emma and Neal together, catching up and talking about things that matter--like Henry. On the other hand, the scene played as a "writer insert excuse." What I mean by that is that while there were some really nice emotional moments, the real reason for the scene was to tell the audience that Neal had moved on because he has no unfinished business (malarkey. Absolute malarkey) and that we wouldn't be seeing him in the Underworld and can't save him because he's in a better place. In other words, the writers are trying (one final time) to tell their audience (who keep wondering) why Neal can't come back, if not for Swanfire then for Henry.

--Emma would have come after Neal too but she didn't know she could go to the Underworld. Okay, sure. But you could have let Rumple fix history like he wanted in the S3 finale but instead you told him that Neal died a hero so he has to stay that way (while now claiming that Hook is a hero and needs to be rescued). It's a bipolar world you live in, Emma Swan.

--Henry trying to find his dad and not getting to see him hurt me more than I wish it did.

--"Your questions are pointless." Because the writers are making this up as they go?

--Adding to the special 100th episode appearances were the Blind Witch of season 1 fame (Gingerbread or Children?) and James, who totally made out with Snow in Hellbrooke's version of Granny's.

--Adding to the confusion of the show's mythology, the Underworld-That-Is-Not-Really-The-Underworld is surrounded by 5 rivers, just like the mythological Hades. 

--I'm sorry, but Jiminy is in Snow's shirt because....?

--How did Henry Sr get Snow's heart and switch it out with another?

--Welcome back, everyone. It's been a quiet hiatus and now we've got another 11 episodes ahead of us. Here's hoping we make it out of the Underworld without too much rage.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (3x13)

As Abbie says, sometimes it would be nice if the stories were just stories. However, that's not how Sleepy Hollow rolls, certainly not in this week's episode "Dark Mirror." This is a pretty standard episode of Sleepy Hollow, which is not ever a bad thing. We have Ichabod and Abbie facing down a legendary and mythic monster--who turns out to be pretty real--and, because it's Sleepy Hollow, also happens to have a connection to a Founding Father. We have some mythological development, some danger, and some good ol' fashioned adventure. It's a welcome change after last week's loose-ends episode. This, maybe more than any other episode since saving Abbie, felt like Sleepy Hollow at its finest. The charm of the show comes from Ichabod and Abbie working together to stop the various evils that inexplicably find their way to Sleepy Hollow (I swear this small town is sitting on several Hellmouths) and it's when the show highlights those charming interactions that we get a very solid hour of TV. But, again, like I mentioned last week, it's also becoming so rote that I  worry if there's a conversation to be had. But, for this week, the stories get some much needed depth and thus my worries are assuaged, at least for the moment. Grab your favorite alchemy symbol, try not to worship it, and let's go! 

The biggest selling point for this episode is actually Pandora and the Hidden One. Finally, after several exasperating episodes where they simply sit around and bemoan their fate, the gruesome twosome were given some much needed color. In the first half of this season, Pandora was a fairly compelling and properly creepy villain. She seemed unpredictable and obviously had a long game going on that was enjoyable to watch week after week. Once the Hidden One entered the scene, he began to suck all the life from Pandora--both literally and narratively. The two have felt incredibly ineffectual and lackluster for quite some time, but in case I had any doubts, Sleepy Hollow had a plan. Not only was the power dynamic between the two meant as a contrast to Ichabod and Abbie, but it also does a nice job setting up the backstory between the two ancient beings. The two villains were never equals; one was literally a servant to the other. For this particular story--the sort of which Abbie laments always turn our to be true--we have to go back in time, to what historians often call the mythological time. This is a time that is before history; not only before humans wrote down and recorded anything but also a time when our world was categorically different than the way it is now; and in this universe, a time when gods roamed the earth and held humans captive in their sway. I don't want to go into a whole lot of plot (because that's not what a review is) so instead we can discuss how the story here plays into the arc of the season. It seems pretty apparent that the Hidden One's goal is simply to recreate his former life--one where he was all powerful, a god, and humans brought him cups of blood everyday as an offering. Pleasant guy, I know. I think there's a narrative connection here to Ichabod, strangely enough. Both Ichabod and the Hidden One are men out of time.

Ichabod and the Hidden One have struggled with what the world became while they slept, hidden away underground. Ichabod eventually adapted, even to the point of wanting to become a citizen of this new world. The Hidden One desires nothing more than to go back to his glorious past. All he needs is a green light at the end of a dock--wait, that's Gatsby. But the message of both figures is the same: you can't recreate the past, no matter how hard you try. Ichabod tried with Katrina, to go back to their happy marriage but two many bridges had been burnt. It's a lesson that the Hidden One hasn't learned. It's not surprising, then, that the magical object of the week is a literal Sands of Time in an hourglass; a new world (which is really the old world) begins now. While the power dynamic between the Hidden One and Pandora is already pretty messed up, we see another point of contrast with the villains and our witnesses. Abbie never tried to recreate a supposed perfect past with Ichabod; in fact, she even went back in time to Ichabod's past and still knew that it was the future that mattered. Pandora, by contrast, only wants to recreate the Hidden's One past, and you have to wonder if she's all the keen on it. After all, her past was as a slave, with a brief moment in the sun before it all ended again. Her power is evaporating, her box is taken, and her own desires and agency are on hold while the Hidden One gets what he wants. We are not boats, beating against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past. We move forward; humanity moves forward. The Hidden One cannot win because what he desires goes against the very fiber of nature. Ichabod and Abbie aren't just safe guarding Sleepy Hollow; their protecting the very laws of nature and the universe. Heroes, the pair of them. Even if one of them might be ever so slightly enslaved by a demonic symbol? Again, I have no idea what to do with that but, as Abbie, who had some of the most on point lines of the night said, the first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one. Abbie has asked for help. Together Team Witnesses will pull through. The cosmic nature dictates: the good guys win.

Miscellaneous Notes On Dark Mirror

--The Jersey Devil was a perfectly fine episode villain, but the real meat lies with the Hidden One and Pandora. And if I'm being honest, a colonial alchemist who turned himself into a goat, snake, scorpion was more silly than anything.

--Speaking of Mr. Hidden, might he actually be Set? I had though Amun-Ra, but if the goal was to destroy his brother, Set makes a certain amount of sense. Or, possibly, Mr. Hidden is an archetype for, simply, corrupt and evil divinity and has no particular mythological callback. Along the same lines, Pandora's story resembles the Greek story in the barest sense.

--Joe and Jenny had a cute little side adventure. Glad to see the more playful, less life and death, side of their relationship.

--Ben Franklin used to put warm spoons on..."not his nose." Gross!

--Ichabod's reaction to the hold the symbol has on Abbie was perfect for how these two characters have developed. He won't judge her, he won't condemn her. He just wants to help, if she'll let him. These two, I swear.