Monday, November 7, 2016

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (6x7)

Since the beginning, Once Upon a Time has told its audience that the most powerful magic in the world--indeed, in all the worlds--is True Love. The show opens with one of the most iconic images in all of fairy tale lore, Prince Charming wakes up Snow White with True Love's Kiss. This powerful magic can break any curse, stop any evil, and can vanquish the darkness. Emma, the much lauded Savior, is True Love personified and her strength and magic come from the love born between her two parents, the truest of all true loves. But what happens when True Love isn't enough? Or when it's not strong enough to outsmart villainy? Can True Love really be the end all, be all when evil gets the upper hand and manages to outflank you? This week's episode, "Heartless," was easily the best episode of the season so far because it felt deeply rooted in the show's overarching thesis about family and love but with the added twist of examining the limitations on its universe's most powerful magic. Snow White and Prince Charming stories can get a bad reputation because of how remedial they often feel, but my hat goes off for this outing. Grab a magic baby tree thing and let's go!

You Must Remember This...

I tend toward the harsh end of the spectrum whenever Snowing centrics come my way. We're long past the point where these two feel relevant; the original paring of the show now come across as doddering grandparents who's main purpose is to randomly give a speech about hope and the show has moved on to shiner and more interesting toys, like Regina, Hook, and their villain-of-the-arc style of storytelling. But, almost without fail, every year the writers trot out a Snowing flashback that somehow, inexplicably, ties the two back to the plot of the moment without pausing even for a second to think if it contradicts previous storylines or themes. Hence, the baby snatchers of season four. What the writers should focus on is taking the themes already laid heavy in Snowing's story--like the truest love to ever exist, the unstoppable belief they have in each other, and the concept of always finding one another--and run, pell mell, with that. And that, my dear readers, is exactly what this episode did. Now, it wasn't quite as elegant as a season one story and there are some glaring magical errors along the way, but it really did feel like the heart of Snowing (no pun intended) was laid bare tonight (seriously, no pun here!). These are two souls who somehow, as if through fate, manage to find their way to each other; who are always there for one another, even if they don't know that their soul mate is on the other side of a door. Going into this episode, I had a real sense of dread that the show would magically retcon the wonderful season one episode "Snow Falls." That episode stands out as one that pushed the idea that we don't know the stories we think we know. Snow was a bandit and the two love struck outcasts snarked at each other more than they swooned. While this secret-meeting-without-really-meeting is fairly cheesy and slightly improbable (you mean to tell me that these two soul mates didn't recognize each other's voices when they met later on?) the themes that centered around the heretofore unmentioned meeting felt perfectly in the Snowing wheelhouse. Snow's naive and precious belief in the goodness in people, Charming's eagerness to help, and that the union between the two could yield something miraculous is very in line with the earliest seasons of OUAT. I also appreciate that, so far this season, the show has been trying very hard to make connections from the past to the present day storylines in terms of more than just plot and plot devices. Snow's sacrificial streak comes through on both ends; she's unwilling to put Charming's life in danger, just from seeing her face, in the Enchanted Forest and she's unwilling to put her entire town (which, in this case, equates to her entire kingdom) in danger from a foe whom Snow knows all to well the depths of villainy can sink.

A Hearty Twist

Well, I didn't see that one coming. It's not too often that this show can shock me but the Evil Queen managing to put the split heart itself under a sleeping curse and thus cursing Snowing to be awake/asleep in opposite turns was quite an eyebrow raising twist. I'm going to ignore the mechanics of how this happened (no apple, no spinning wheel, no nothing) and instead speculate on how this feeds into some of the themes on the show. Again, as I already stated, the show has driven home the point that True Love is the most powerful magic of all and with Snow and Charming, it exists in spades as the single most powerful True Love Couple. So how exactly does this new curse not break when true love's kiss is exchanged? It feels like it should, right? Snowing's love is supposed to be strong enough to break any curse, save the Dark One that Emma broke by virtue of Saviorhood and being True Love Incarnate thanks to Snow and Charming. If the show is going to keep with their much often quoted emphasis on true love then how does one go about breaking this curse? This isn't actually a problem the Savior can solve--unless Emma kisses her mother/father awake and come to think of it, that wouldn't be a terrible solution. But I'm not sure what this says about the show as a whole if the truest of true love couples can be put under such an evil curse that not even their go-to True Love's Kiss can solve. Are we supposed to believe, then, that true love has restrictions (Rumbelle can write novels on that topic)? Are we supposed to buy that sometimes evil does win and can defeat good? This new curse is a good twist and one I actually quite like, but I'm not sure how it stacks up against the show's biggest hitting motifs of true love being the strongest magic in the realm(s). To play devil's advocate and to show just how torn I am over this, you can argue that True Love's Kiss is working--Snow or David do in fact wake up--it's just that there's a new element in play that allows the Evil Queen to see their suffering in a new and interesting way. Being unable to wake someone up versus being able to wake them up but not be with them....which is worse? I have no fear that Snow and Charming are doomed forever, but it'll be quite unique to see where the show goes with this new development.

Miscellaneous Notes on Heartless

--This review wasn't intended to be less in-depth or less analytical. Honestly, this episode was a good character study and I enjoyed it, but with characters as old and well known as Snow and Charming, it's hard to say something new.

--“Sleeping Snow is my favorite Snow”

--The water in the bottle is not too bad of a MacGuffin; It’s a continuation of last year’s plot as the water is from the River of Lost Souls!

--“You can overcome anything. Remember who you are: the product of True Love.” That was a nice Emma/Hook moment.

--Did we know that Blue Fairy could bigify herself in the Enchanted Forest?

--The chemistry that might exist between Rumple and Regina is less a byproduct of the story and more because of Bobby and Lana, two actors who would have chemistry with rocks. Their relationship was always mentor/mentee with huge overtones of father/daughter hence why so many people thought Rumple was Regina’s father for a long time. This “romance”/ powerplay really horrifies me.

--Speaking of Rumple, I am going to pass over the scenes with him this week until we get a firmer hold on where this particular story is headed.

--Longbourne is the home of Lizzie Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. Please leave Jane Austen alone, Adam and Eddy.

-- I still feel like this season is aimless; what’s the goal here? Is it just to let Lana act her heart out? Fabulous, but there has to be a point somewhere, right? The Savior storyline is going nowhere and as fun as it is to watch the EQ sass everyone, I don’t get where the show is going with this.


  1. Great review Jacqueline, I was really dreading they'd rectoon the beautiful episode Snow Falls. And though the almost meet was indeed cheesy, It's perfectly understandable that they didn't recognize each other's voices, some time had passed they each got involved with other stuff, other problems so you can't really expect them to recognize each other's voices. I was so angry when I thought they were gonna kill one or both of them and I nearly thought David was gonna die after he kissed Snow. The new curse was a nice twist but wouldn't Emma kissing her parents break the curse and fix everything?

    Snow and Charming were my favorite couple and THE couple since season 1 for me along with Rumbelle (R.I.P I have completely given up on them) but they've been backboned so much that they're not even considered as the main couple anymore. I loved this episode because it focused so much on them and it did give me a lot of season 1 feels!! This is what happens when you focus on Snowing and the core elements of the show... a good episode!! probably the best we've had all season!!

    1. I would love it if it was Emma who breaks the curse instead of some magical handwave/MacGuffin! It would feel full circle in a way; Emma, sent away from her parents, manages to save said parents because of the very magic she possess because she was sent away!

      Definitely agree that it was the best episode of the season so far!

      Thanks for reading!