Monday, October 31, 2016

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (6x6)

The overarching, series long story of Once Upon a Time is the tale of multiple people (who happen to be Fairy Tale Characters) searching for a home and a family. They go through curses, deaths, marriages, children, and more Disney Big Bads than you can shake a stick at, but while the lyrics change, the song remains the same: everyone needs a community. This family can be bound by blood or by affection or, far more likely in this case, by both; at the end of the day, our families and our communities inform our identity and give us a sense of purpose, security, and belonging. It's not surprising, then, that the biggest theme of this episode "Dark Waters" was all about people accepting their families, making peace with their often hard to reason with communities, and uniting against common foes to protect what they've worked so hard to build. What's that? A Hook episode that actually has thematic importance to the show and doesn't make my insides twitch? Progress! Grab the knife with which you killed your papa and let's go!

Spoiler Alert: The Giant Squid Is Also Part Of The Family

Hook's never had an outstanding family life, which really means next to nothing since every single character on this show is required to have a broken family life, at least one dead relative (bonus points if two!) and a broken spirit because of it. Where Hook differs in some regards is that quite a few of the reasons why he has had a poor family life is because of his own actions. Hook attempted to cure Liam (the first one!) and it resulted in his brother's death; now, granted, Hook did not realize the extent to which Pan was telling the truth and the extent to which staying in Neverland was actually vital for Liam, but this action is absolutely something that would weigh on Killian Jones. Going along with that common theme, Hook murdered his own father and abandoned his little brother, Liam (the second!). He also lost Milah to Rumple and sold Baelfire to Peter Pan in fit of anger. Hook's own actions have caused him to lose his family so it should follow that it needs to be his own actions that grant him a family once more. This has been a rather sore sticking point for me; it has often come across that Hook is simply gifted everything--Emma, a place in the community, respect, admiration, hero status--and never had to truly earn those things by his deeds and sacrifices, unlike other black hats turned morally grey anti-heroes (ie: Regina). What this episode did, in a rather nice fashion, was have Hook be confronted by the fact that those he considers family might not be likewise inclined because, like I stated a moment ago, he hasn't exactly earned his place in this never ending Greek tragedy. When Henry lashes out and tells Hook that the one handed pirate isn't his father and that he's not even a part of this family, Hook must face the music that he's done precious little to prove to Henry (and not just to Emma) that he cares for more than the Blonde Savior. Think about it; has Hook actually demonstrated a genuine affection for anyone other than Emma? There's a bit of a geniality between Hook and Charming nowadays but Hook and Snow? Hook and Regina? Hook and the town at large? All of these facets--Charming, Snow, Regina, the town of Storybrooke itself--are all part of Emma Swan's collective family as well as part of the OUAT family; while Hook might have helped save those individuals when Emma goes on a Savior-quest, it's never been out of the goodness of his heart or even because he wants to belong and feels a kinship with this collective brood. It's only because he has to follow Emma wherever she goes. I think my readers know, pretty clearly, that I've never liked Hook and indeed will probably never like him, but the moment when he told Henry to get to safety because it's more important that Emma not lose her child, I had an honest moment of appreciation for the pirate I've so maligned in the past. This is not a question of if Emma loves Hook and would be devastated by his loss; we know the answer to that--it's called season five. It's about Hook realizing that to be a part of this family, you have to put it first above your own desires. It's about Hook acknowledging his past mistakes and trying like hell not to make the same ones he did in the past. Last week was a step back when Hook lied to Emma about the shears, but this week he bared his soul about his selfish need to keep the family he's claimed but never been apart of or given anyone reason to consider him apart of. I don't often say this but good job, Hook.

And now for something different: does anyone else feel like the present day story is seriously lacking in momentum? What is the point? Yes, the themes of the past are carried over with Belle trying to decide if Rumple is apart of her family, with Liam and Nemo reuniting and making their own little family, and with Aladdin and Jasmine coming together to try and work out their problems, but outside of that--looking at just plot--what's the point of any of this? I'm having such a hard time seeing this story gel together.  Tiny scenes are good, even tiny story arcs are good. But the overall picture is messy and aimless. I don’t get what the end game is. What’s the point of this season besides visiting the characters from Forgotten Character Island and watching the Evil Queen have a sass-off? A lot of this has to do with the poor world building in terms of what a Savior does; the other part has to do with the writers needing to kill time before a winter finale but everything going on in Storybrooke feels so remedial and like such a time waste. Shouldn't we be exploring Saviorhood and what exactly dictates it? Shouldn't the Evil Queen be doing more than strutting around and saying funny quips? Shouldn't there be a sense of urgency and an actual threat? We're heading into the home stretch of this first half and none of this year feels particularly interesting or meaningful (with the exception of a few flashbacks). The themes I touched on are nice vignettes but the overall picture is too befuddled to have this season be anything other than mediocre so far. Pick up the pace, OUAT. Time's a tickin; we got a Savior to kill.

Miscellaneous Notes on Dark Waters

--So, the shears of destiny work on anyone? At least they’re more than the MacGuffin of the week, then! But what exactly will they do to Belle/the baby? Is this a magical abortion or does it just change Morpheus’s personality/view on Rumple? And how can Belle have a solid line of destiny? While destiny has always played a big role in the show, so has free will. We see Belle exhibit it every single week as she ping-pongs back and forth about Rumple.

--What is up with Emma's red dress? It's not only just ugly but very not in line with Emma's normal wardrobe. Her clothing is usually symbolic so what am I supposed to read from this dress?

--Aladdin's accent is going to drive me bonkers.

--The underwater scenes were well done and I like that the only fish we see swimming by the Nautilus are Blue Tang (Dory). It fits with us (and Hook) finding Nemo.

--Snowing rescued Archie and baby Pistachio seems quiet upset by that. Once again, Snowing make an enemy by sheer dumb luck.

--I am not even going to comment on the disgusting display of Rumple and the Evil Queen.


  1. nice review Jacqueline and also the timeline for Liam makes no sense. How could he possibly be this old when he was just a little boy when the first curse hit and we know Hook killed his father just moments before he went to Wonderland to meet Cora and she froze them and park of the Enchanted Forrest. Once again they messed up the timeline.

    1. I've more or less given up on the timeline! I have no idea how it works in regards to Liam. Thanks for reading!

  2. This is a great blog and I love reading it. You write thoughtfully, intelligently, and articulately about the show. <3

  3. "This has been a rather sore sticking point for me; it has often come across that Hook is simply gifted everything--Emma, a place in the community, respect, admiration, hero status--and never had to truly earn those things by his deeds and sacrifices, unlike other black hats turned morally grey anti-heroes (ie: Regina)."

    This is funny, because from where I'm standing it's the opposite. Helping save Henry aside, when has Regina helped out when it hasn't directly benefited herself in some way or when she hasn't been forced to? Her attempted sacrifice in the S2 finale? Forced into it, she never chose to stop her own intended doomsday plan before it was hijacked. Her helping defeat Zelena? To stop herself from being erased from existence. Everything in S4? To get herself a happy ending? Everything in S5? Owing Emma for saving her. All those things you say were gifted to Hook and earned by Regina...weren't exactly earned by Regina either.

    Honestly, Hook's had MORE cases of deeds and sacrifices that would earn him some credit. He came back with the bean in the S2 finale of his own choice, in S3 he wanted Emma to remember everything so that she could save her family, his dying wish toward the end of the Frozen arc of S4 was for Rumple to not hurt everyone else (not just Emma), he died in the S4 finale AU for Emma and Henry when he didn't remember them, he got lethally cut by Excalibur saving Emma's family in S5 (particularly Snow who was being choked) and wanted to die rather than be turned dark, later did die for them, and wanted to stay dead and move on so that Emma could save her family and the rest of Storybrooke from Hades. He's not perfect, but I don't find him the raging "all about me" narcissist that Regina consistently comes across as.

    1. The only other quibble I have with this review is that you somehow grouped "he lost Milah to Rumple" as part of the trend of HOOK'S actions costing him a good family situation. Huh? Nothing Hook did could ever and will ever make what happened to Milah anyone's fault but Rumple's.

    2. This is one of those things that made sense when I wrote it and less sense reading it back. I believe what I meant was a just a general "Rumple killed Milah (with the understanding that Hook was unable to stop such an act--akin to losing Liam through actions he could not have predicted)" going along with the idea that Hook has lost people he loved. Sorry for the confusion. You're right; that was poor wording on my part.

    3. Thank you. But again, I am legitimately curious, what deeds and sacrifices do you think Regina has made to "earn" her the good that she has, and why are the ones I've listed that Hook has made somehow invalid until this point? (I continue to be very uncomfortable with many people ignoring how he died in Camelot - he took a cut from Excalibur to save Emma's family, not Emma herself, and flat-out begged to not be turned into Dark Hook and for Emma to instead cure herself and go back to live happily with her family. I instead see more people condemning Hook for what he did as Dark Hook afterward and ignoring all the blame Emma has for that. I honestly think Liam (the first one, not the second) nailed it when he confronted Emma in the Underworld...Hook was feeling self-loathing over his Dark One actions and unworthy of Emma, when just as appropriate a reaction he could have had toward her would have been "I told you so".)

    4. First, I don't think it's a competition between the two--Regina and Hook. I agree that there are selfish aspects to Regina's actions and some of it can be read as karmic (losing Henry at the end of 3A because she cast the Dark Curse to begin with therefore setting a lot of this into motion). But I don't think Hook's actions are wholly deprived of ego, as if they are some egalitarian selfless act.

      Camelot is one you've brought up twice so I'll start there. It's true, Hook took the cut and then begged Emma not to turn him into a Dark One. Now was this because he didn't want to unleash more darkness into the world *or* because he didn't want to be turned into the thing he hated most? I'd argue that it's the latter, and given Adam, Eddy,and Colin's interviews following mid-S5A, I'd say that's more in line with how the writers want the show to be read. While that's 100% understandable given his history with Rumple, it's not because he believed evil is wrong and that unleashing more of it into the universe was a very not good idea. I don't think we can look at it as a selfless heroic act meant for the family.

      Other examples you've pointed out are likewise not free of ego; returning the bean at the end of S2, for me, doesn't negate taking it in the first place to save his own skin. Now here, his reasons for bringing it back were not because he needed to save the family but because of the guilt he felt over Baelfire all those years ago in Neverland--a relationship I'll forever be sad they did not explore more, choosing to go the love triangle route. I also think there's an Emma element given that he was obviously smitten. I actually don't fault Hook much for this one; he brought it back, he gets a nod of approval from me on this one.

      The rest of your examples, you'll notice, have an Emma factor. This isn't to say that Emma can't be a concern but she is predominately his first; everyone else comes in a distant second. And I think this translates to how the rest of the family views him as well. Why did they go to the Underworld? Not for Hook, but for Emma. If Emma hadn't come up with the idea to go to Underbrooke, would Snow have thought of it? Would Charming? Would Regina or Henry or Robin? (The counterargument here is that they also didn't think about this when it came to anyone else who has died, which might demonstrate two things, depending on if you're looking internally or externally. Internally, it shows how insular this family is and how hard it is for anyone who has not been welcome into the fold previously finds it to make inroads. Externally, of course, it's because the writers hadn't conceived of an Underworld that could be got to through the Duck Pond of Doom). This is why the show has, over the past season or so, gone to some lengths to have members of the family have some sort of heart to heart with Hook in which they accept him (Charming in S5B, and Henry in this episode).