Monday, March 7, 2016
In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x12)
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.
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.
--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.