Monday, September 26, 2016
In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (6x1)
As Mr. Hyde sits in an oft-used padded cell, taunting our Savior-In-Residence, Ms Swan, he utters the underlying problem of this new season: it is the destiny of all Saviors to die at the hands of their villain. It doesn't matter what the Savior does to avoid it, or how they try to fight it, the Savior falls while doing their Savior-thing. As someone who loves classic literature, tropes, archetypes, and all those cliches, I must politely disagree with Mr. Hyde and ask which heroic tales he's been reading. This isn't to say that the hero (or heroine) doesn't often die; of course they do, especially if they are undergoing a literal katabasis in their heroes journey. What's usually important to remember is that the Savior defeats Death or its bodily representation--rising like a proverbial phoenix-- and comes back from their own underworld; should they die for real, forever, it is done in service of their quest, their friends, their family, their country, their god, and/or their purpose. It's not a vain sacrifice, but one that brings the Savior to the end of their story, coming full circle and accepting that this is their ultimate destiny, a self actualized individual who understands their role in the cosmos. Would Emma die for her family? Sure, it's a feat she's been seen to undertake in several situations already. However, I cannot stress enough, that for every Savior or hero that does die at the end of their journey, more often than not they live. Buffy, Luke, Harry, Frodo, Aragorn, Odysseus, all come back home at the end of their tale. They return with a greater sense of understanding not only of themselves but of their roles in the universe. I honestly expect Emma Swan to be no different. The season premiere opens up questions, some of which I touched on above in the introduction; it ponders not only can you come home again, but can the Savior--who's life so far has been one villain, one problem, one death march after the next--really find any sort of happily ever after when evil never takes a holiday? Is Emma Swan destined to die? Even with all things being equal and probability weighing the odds, the title that follows Emma around like a bad smell would protect her. At least on this show; a show in which the writers time after time have Emma absolved of all her sins, forgiven all her wrongdoings, and have her escape almost impossible situations; a show that harps on hope and happiness and family. They've put Emma through her paces, had her go through her katabasis and to add this unforseen, unforeshadowed death threat is anti-climatic. Are there really stakes here? Does anyone really and truly believe that Emma Swan will die in a sword fight with a hooded figure when she's faced down the darkness in herself and the Lord of the Underworld? The narrative stakes need to be present in a story for it to be worth telling and this year, I just don't feel those stakes yet. Emma might be in danger but no more so than normal.
Sometimes, this show is painfully silly; I have nothing against visions of the future, time travel, ghosts of future past or what have you, but to have a fetus (who is really no more than a few cells right now, given the time constraints of this show) impersonate a god in order to wake its mother from a sleeping curse while trying to outwit its father is all bit too much for me. I was rather confused by a lot of the Rumbelle plot this week, but it seems that Belle's baby, still inside its mother's womb and said mother still being inside Pandora's Box, managed to overhear Hyde tell Rumple to travel to Morpheus's temple to enter Belle's dream world; this not-yet-a-fetus decided that in order to save his mother from falling for his father's lies and manipulations again, Sperm-And-Egg-Baby would set up a test to remind Belle that Rumple has hurt her over and over again and falling for his pretty words will neither benefit her nor the unborn babe. My god, that baby should be president of Mensa. This is silly, right? But what is maybe even sillier is Belle's dream world--in which she envisions her life at Rumple's castle as one of terror and fear, that the Beast she lived with was lurking around the corner, ready to pray on her vulnerability at any given moment. This is not how I remember the story of Rumple and Belle. Was Belle really terrified of the castle? And her life there? She saw through Rumple’s Beast persona in the beginning. She saw that he wasn’t as dark as he tried to make her believe–that was sort of the point of Belle. On one of their first outings, to retake Robin Hood (who was not yet Lucifer!), she refuses to believe that Rumple is as dark as the mask he wears to the world; she has faith in him, she stands up to him and even challenges him. And even when Belle does see the Beast, she loves those parts of him too. Belle isn't scared of Rumple or the life she chose. Belle sees herself as the hero who sacrificed her own desires in order to rescue her people, and while she had to give up her opportunities to see other lands or to travel, she found Rumple fascinating and intriguing and worthy of her attentions. The retconning of their love story in order to cast Rumple in nothing but villainous shades, to present Belle as an unsympathetic shrew, and to delay any sort of happy ending for this pairing is frustrating and beyond wearing thin. Though, maybe not as frustrating as a baby that can apparently hear through a metal AND fleshy boxes.
--I mentioned neither Jafar nor Aladdin but as they are both total side characters right now, I'll wait and see what the show has planned for them. However, if the writers ignore Wonderland, I'll be quite unhappy.
--How did Zelena even know to move into Regina's house? When did this conversation take place?
--Regina doesn't blame Emma at all for Robin's death. I'm really tired of the writers letting Emma's misdeeds be absolved by those around her as if she can quite literally do no wrong. That's not how you write interesting characters.
--It's always good to see Archie and Pongo!
--The Red Bird is Iago, right?
--"For you I would be the best man I could be." You know, Rumple's being quite honest here. The best man he can be is still someone who loves the dagger and loves the darkness. But we've reached a crossroads with these two and I don't see how they can navigate it together.
--"The only story I heard was the one I kept telling myself."
--I need a fair amount of eye-bleach after that opening Storybrooke scene. #SorryNotSorry