Monday, October 10, 2016

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (6x3)

The Latin poet Horace once urged his readers to carpe diem and since then, the idea of seizing the day and living life to its fullest has been an important part of many people's lives. I might get hit by a bus tomorrow so I should try to live the life I wish to live; love over life, whatever the quotable sound bite means to you, subjectively. This theme was put forward in this week's episode "The Other Shoe" and to say I was conflicted by it would be an understatement. It's hard to live without love, no doubt. But do you know what it's also hard to live without? Life. By its very definition, life means living and I find it hard to believe that one must choose either love and living life to its fullest--and here fullest implying a romantic end for certain characters--and simply living day to day with all that implies by simple virtue of humaness. In other words, Emma you could still get hit by that bus tomorrow after asking Hook to move in; did you die happier and more fulfilled having asked Hook to live with you than you would have if you didn't ask? You won't be able to answer, Ms Swan, you'll be dead. It's a quieter episode this week, so grab a shoe and let's go! 

If The Shoe Fits...

While this episode mainly focused on Cinderella/Ashley, I find I want to talk more about Emma. It might be nice to see an old familiar face like Cinderella, this week complete with a straight-outta-Disney backstory, but she's a character we see once in blue moon and therefore it's hard to really care about her. I have little investment in her life and happiness because she's never been given room, space, and narrative to breathe and flesh out. Frankly, the sudden reversal that Ella considered herself the wicked stepsister and her step sibling was equally down trodden was pretty eye-roll worthy. Sorry, Ashley. You're iconic but rather flat. However, we should talk about Emma Swan. I'll leave aside her rather egotistical and pretty appalling intrusion into Archie's office, thereby kicking Leroy out of his paid for session as if Emma's problems are more pressing and more vital than Grumpy's, and instead focus on Emma's "problem of the week." If last week was her identity crisis, then this week is all about how her identity feeds into her happily ever after, specifically whether or not Emma gets one. I want to start off by saying that at the outset this is a good line of thought. Emma's life is in constant danger; Snow's on point commentary about "defeat and repeat" rings doubly true for Emma and it can be hard for a woman like Emma, who is constantly facing down an evil witch, a impish man-child, or even the Lord of the Underworld, to negotiate her own identity and her own happiness with so much evil and misery around. How can Emma ever be comfortable in her skin, be self aware, and achieve a modicum of peace (let alone a happily ever after) when she's constantly in danger of losing her own life. In other words, if the ending thesis for this episode is that you should choose love over life, Emma is currently wrestling with the fact that the life part is likely short and therefore unable to choose love. If I were Emma at the end of this episode, my choice of love would center on choosing self love; choosing that I am important, that my happiness means something, that I am important enough to be happy as a self aware person for however long my life might be; an hour, a day, twenty years, I deserve to be a full actualized person in charge of my own destiny and narrative.

Here's where this falls a little bit off the wagon for me. While you can argue that Emma is choosing her own destiny and choosing to be happy for however long she has, she's doing it, not solely out of consideration for herself and not even for everyone in her life and family much like Snow tried to impart to Charming by reminding him of all that his life has to offer without going down the oft trod revenge road. I bet a lot of you know where this is going, don't you? For the most part, Emma's own consideration for whether or not she should try to be happy for as long as possible is for Hook. Emma's not upset that her happiness is fleeting for herself or even for her collective community--which would include her parents, her child, her lover, her friends, the entire town of Storybrooke and even the universe she, as the Savior, inhabits--but for one single individual: Hook. There's no denying that Hook is part of her equation; I may not like it, but there's no denying that he's a part of her life. However, I have serious reservations about the fact that Emma's negotiates her own happiness and how she should live life vis a vis Hook's own future and happy ending. If Emma dies, Hook won't have a happily ever after and that's what bothers her. Not the fact that she is going to die and leave behind a thirteen (going on twenty?) year old, a brother she barely knows, parents she's making up lost time with, a community of well-wishers and admirers--just her boyfriend of roughly four months. These considerations are not about Emma's life and her own self worth but about someone else's expectations, namely her romantic partner's. Whether she's the Dark Swan or whether she's Savior Swan, Emma's identity and her own sense of self keep getting relegated to her romantic entanglements, which I find troubling when we're supposed to believe that she's the embodiment of strong females on the show. Yes, Emma. Seize the day, carpe diem. But do it for yourself, not because you want your boyfriend to get his happy ending. That's...rather missing the point, don't you think?

Miscellaneous Notes on The Other Shoe

--I'm sorry I don't have much to say this week. Honestly, it was a perfectly fine episode. More entertaining than some, but there's not much to unpack here.

--This is the first time in a long time that the flashbacks felt relevant and needed.

--I really enjoyed Snowing this episode; they finally felt like real people and not idiotic simpletons.

--Mouse!Gus Gus was the star of this episode.

--"Some scars don't heal." This is a pretty great line from Prince Thomas to Emma and it would behoove Emma to examine her own scars and try to deal with them instead of spending her time being worried about Hook's happy ending.

--Dopey is un-treed and off getting his Masters. In no universe does that make sense.

--Anastasia from Once:Wonderland is not Cinderella's stepsister. Look, writers, OUATinWL happened whether you choose to believe it or not.

--God bless Bobby Carlyle and his Scottish accent.

--Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll are working together. "Penny Dreadful" called and they want their idea back.

--"You look like a trash can and you have the education of my cat."

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