Monday, March 28, 2016
The flashbacks for this week's episode were totally pointless so let's not even bother wasting valuable time and space on them, agreed? Instead, let's talk about redemption and salvation. In my opinion, before there can be honest redemption and before one can be absolved and made clean in front of god, society, peers, family, friends, or whatever social construct you care about, you first have to admit that you are a sinner. Everyone is. There's no getting around this, I'm sorry. You, my reader, at some point in your life have sinned. It might be a big sin; it might be a little one. Nobody's perfect, so don't feel too bad about it. There are two beautiful things about humanity that warrant being part of this analysis. The first is that as self-aware, thinking and contemplative beings, we have the ability to recognize our sins and faults. We have, to quote OUAT in a meaningful way for the first time in a long time, that still small voice inside us that whispers when we have done wrong to another person (Cruella, I imagine, is the exception here. Her still small voice probably screams at her to burn things). Our conscience dictates what is good and what is wrong; it guides us along in life, trying to avoid pitfalls, though tripping is inevitable. Knowing when we have done wrong leads us to the second beautiful thing about humanity: we have the capacity to seek forgiveness. Please note the word seek; it's important. This is likely the trickier aspect. Forgiveness is not up to the sinner; it's up the person they have angered or hurt. You can only ask for forgiveness, but it is not expected upon request. Life would be too easy if it were given without pause, thought, and most importantly, recompense. There is a long standing tradition in some aspects of theology that you cannot have forgiveness without suffering. In other words, you must actually pay for your crimes. You say some Hail Marys, you sleep on a couch for a few nights and, in extreme cases, maybe you flog yourself or go without food, water or other necessities in life. The latter is, again, in the extreme cases, but the idea of being granted forgiveness and being absolved without having to pay some sort of price seems counter-intuitive.
--I would really like to have Cruella's boots, please. She also has handcuffs to spice up her sex life with James. You go, girl.
--"Even for the Underworld, it's dead in here." Hades is a gem. And no, we're not going to speculate on him and Zelena cause gross.
--Heaven is not Olympus. It's individualized. Thank goodness.
--Loved the Henry and Grandpa David moment. Those tender family connections are the only good thing about this plot driven show, so it's a shame that they rarely crop up.
--The eye of the storm is an actual tangible thing. In fact, it's our MacGuffin of the week!
--Henry writing Hades's story to defeat him is sort of poignant and not a way I thought this show would go. Should be mildly interesting.
--"He kissed you?" "Thought he was you...." This family deserves its own Jerry Springer episode.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
--So just to keep track of all the historical and mythical things in this episode, we had: Washington's Crossing of the Delaware; Betsy Ross's flag, Paul Revere's house, the Eternal Soldier, Orpheus and Eurydice, Francis Scott Key, Fort McHenry, Masons, the War of 1812, and the opening line to the Star Spangled Banner. Spaghetti, meet wall.
--"A relationship can survive most anything except secrets." That's about as close to the theme of the week as we're likely to get.
--Ichabod brought home KFC over Burger King. Bless.
--Ichabod tells Abbie that returning to the Catacombs must be her choice; he will not make it for her. Yes, agency. Yes.
--Hamilton: The Musical jokes for the win!
--Just so everyone knows, the road to the Underworld does not run through a candy shop.
--Abbie Mills has clearly been reading my blog. In her words (and mine, week after week): "Let's go!"
Monday, March 21, 2016
Rumple's story has always been that of a father looking for his lost boy. Often times, when read as an archetype, Rumple is labeled as the Trickster or other crafty devil type figure. He has a penchant for deals, for manipulation, for knowing just what to say and what to do in order to get the other party to agree, readily, to his terms. They take out their quills, sign in proverbial blood and Rumple gets one step closer to his end game, never mind how it might affect those around him. That's all in keeping with the sly fox character of say Loki or Anansi. But where Rumple differs, where the archetype has been subverted or, at the very least, humanized, is that Rumple's deals all have a human factor: his son, Baelfire. In the past, Rumple very rarely made deals that served only his ego or for only malicious or cruel reasons. He makes them (consequences be damned) to get him one step closer to his son. Every step down his long, long, long path is to Baelfire. That was such an integral part of his story in the very beginning; you could watch Rumple perform feats of magic that would amaze and horrify you, but it was all done in the name of parental love, and you had to stop and ask yourself: what wouldn't a parent do to find their lost child? You can revile him if you wish; Rumple's skin is tougher than he gives himself credit for, but it was undeniably human and that's what made him such a fascinating character study. It's really nice, then, when the show revisits those threads of the Father (capital letter cause we're in the Cosmic Realm now) looking for his Lost Son. More often than not lately, the flashbacks distance Rumple from the search for Baelfire or at least put it on the periphery, making it about magic or power and the lust and greed Rumple has for both. It forgets (shockingly) the heart of the narrative. But in this week's flashback, and even into the present day, it re-centers the story on a father who would move heaven and earth and make all sorts of very (very) poor life choices in order to save his child. Baelfire plays little role here; he's far to young to have a meaningful part to play. What does play a role, though, is Rumple's desire to do anything (including murder, though he stops short) to save Bae, and yes this includes a soul crushing deal, agreeing to give up his second born child should he have one, something he apparently took considerable measures to prevent. There's something deeply sad about Rumple giving up the happiness of more children in order to protect his firstborn, but it's also the root of his story. For Baelfire, Rumple would destroy the entire world and everyone in it; so what's a marriage, a wife, or an unborn second child to him? Selfish, impulsive, cowardly, but ultimately human. That's Rumple. Ask yourself: what wouldn't you do if you were Rumple?
Yes, I'm using a Rumple quote because, let's face it, the conversation between Rumple, Milah and Emma was the single best exchange on this show in two years. In the present day, we once again have Rumple doing what he feels is best for his child. Now the caveat here is that it's not Nealfire, but Baby Rumbelle (which is a horrifyingly bad narrative choice given that the conception of said offspring was done with the the famous OUAT-wonky-consent at the end of last arc, but since it's officially canon, we gotta work with it). In the past, Rumple made a bad deal but believed he could out maneuver it, self assured that it would never come to pass since he and Milah were clearly on the outs and he would sire no more children. The deal might have left a bad taste in everyone's mouth but it did stop Rumple from killing a poor man (but it's hard to kill a Cylon so Rumple's immortal soul was probably okay in the long run). In the present, the deal made between Hades and Rumple left more than a bitter taste in our mouths. There is a narrative through point with Rumple that he does give people the option of choice, even if it's heavily clouded; he carefully manipulates each and every situation so that it comes out in his favor (at least the odds are stacked in favor for him) but he does present the person on the other side of the negotiation table has having the ability to walk away; he makes Regina a monster, but she chooses to walk into the woods after Daniel comes back wrong and start pulling hearts. In this week's episode, Rumple continues to show his more devious side by removing the element of choice. He more or less took away Belle's choice when he failed to give her the full story of how he's the Dark One again before engaging in the horizontal hustle; he took away Milah's choice in the past when he decided for her that they'd never have more children to protect Baelfire; and in the present day, Rumple once again robs Milah of her choice to conclude her business and move on and find peace. Instead, he punts her into a vat of Kool-Aid with some sad sacks of souls. Well done, Rumple. But it does beg the question, is that what true villainy is? Is true villainy taking away someone's ability to chose their own fate and destiny? It might sound odd coming from me, Ms. Rape Culture and Feminism, but not entirely. Rumple took away Emma's ability to chose her own destiny, didn't he? He decided, without consulting her or her parents, that she would be the Savior for his curse, to find his son. I'm not sure that's a fate anyone wants (even Jesus begged his Father to take this cup from him). For her entire life, Emma was alone, occasionally spouting magic from her fingertips, something she feared and tried to hide away, because Rumple made her that way. He did not ask, he did not bargain. He simply acted. Now, you can argue (and goodness knows that I have) that every step Emma takes after she enters Storybrooke is her acceptance of that fate and that, in the end, she very much embraces it and realizes that this is best possible version of herself (hero journey marker: unlocked!). I think villainy, true villainy, is far more complicated but the element of taking away the ability to make choices is certainly a large part of it. In that regard, both Rumple and Hades have some element of the true villainy in them (and thus far, there's no sympathy to be had from Hades). But so do all the other characters who have made choices for what they feel is best for someone else without the other persons say so--Snow telling Cora about Daniel, for example. And isn't that one of the hearts of OUAT? That villainy and heroism are far more nuanced and complex than straight white hat and black hat? This week felt like a return to the far more complicated questions the show used to ask. And that is worth something; it's worth, at the very least, a round of applause from your trusty blogger.
--"You were with my son and former lover?!" The meeting and interaction between Milah and Emma was perfect, even if it came to nothing and Emma dropped it all in five seconds. It was worth it to be vindicated that Emma knew nothing of the Milah/Bae/Hook connection.
--Cruella is wearing the fur of Bambi's iconic dead mother. I love her.
--#Hope is contraband in the Underworld.
--Actual note I took while watching: "Hades, we've talked about the hair."
--"Tell him hello from his papa."
--The Rumple and Hades moments were spot on. Those two are forces to be reckoned with and I'd like to see more of that please and thank you.
--The gibberish spoken in the apartment scene between Rumple and Emma would rival the gibberish spoken on Under the Dome.
--Milah and Hook meeting at the tavern years before the Crocodile scene was utterly pointless.
--"We're even. For now." Oh for the love of...Hook, shut up. Did you learn nothing? Do we have to keep doing this whole revenge plot thing? Didn't he learn anything from being sucked into the darkness and realizing how much of a draw it has over him?
--Yeah, I have no comment on those three graves.
--Not one Battlestar Galactica reference? Shame on you, Jane Espenson.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
--Geez Kyle, get with it! Clearly the band is a post-punk indie rock one.
--Great effects for the Banshee and for the moments of silence when it appears.
--Also, how about a round of applause for the use of Beethoven's Fifth in the final Banshee sequence?
--Really loved Ichabod's long speech about the importance of art as inspiration and how it is because of flawed but beautiful human beings that the world can enjoy them.
--"I'm eating my feelings." Bless you, Ichabod.
--I was rather ho-hum about Joenny when it became apparent that's where the writers were going (always going to be more concerned with Ichabbie) but there is no denying that the writers have done a splendid job selling this little relationship.
--I will never, ever, say no to an Ichabbie hug or fist bump. Team Witnesses Represent!
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
--Just in case it's not apparent, but my bafflement over the sudden about face from Abbie with regards to the Daniel situation is not because I want Abbie with Ichabod in the romantic sense. They are going to be together--as Team Witnesses--no matter what. That's the power of their bond. While there is a great spark between the two, the show does not need to turn it into romantic love for that bond to have more weight. In fact, you could argue it'd be more meaningful if they were never together romantically.
--Some very sweet and lovely Joenny moments this week. Starting to really dig those two crazy kids. Too bad Joe's probably about to go full on Windigo.
--And on the flip side, some really not great Hidden One and Pandora moments. Where exactly did he go? Did we know he could evaporate into a ball of light?
--The Dutch virus monster was one of the creepiest looking creatures we've had in a good long while.
--Magical symbol and demon map notwithstanding, that was a total Crane ex Machina in the woods.
--Abbie suggests we all "find our inner Spiderman real fast."
--Abbie got Ichabod a Netflix subscription. Bless.
--Apologies for the lateness of this review! I was out of town for the airing of 3x14 and then had to focus on my OUAT review before SH could be typed up. We now return to your regularly scheduled reviews.
Monday, March 14, 2016
Let's start with what seems like a pretty obvious fact after five seasons of OUAT: the flashback as a narrative device has long since worn out its welcome. We're at the point in the show's lifespan when the flashbacks are a hindrance instead of a helpmate and often times the flashbacks are crammed into an episode, adding little to nothing to the current arc or even our understanding of the characters. Suddenly, out of the blue, characters who have never interacted before are the best of buds, throwing the timeline and history of the characters into mass confusion. Such was the case this week with Baby Snow White and Hercules, the demi-god wonder boy. First, just to clarify, it's great to see Bailee Madison again. She always brings such an honest portrayal to the screen; a mini Ginny Goodwin who effortlessly captures all of Ginny's mannerism and hallmarks characteristics as if she might actually be Ginny Goodwin from the far past. Apart from the joy at seeing Bailee again, what exactly was I supposed to take away from this flashback? Snow learned how to be a hero and conquered some of her fears with the help of her new godlike pal, Hercules? Okay, well that's nice and all, but it would have been even nicer if that been touched upon at any point in the past five years. It also throws a big ol' feminist wrench in the fact that Snow originally learned how to lead and be a (future) queen from her dying mother, Eva, a woman who told her incredibly young daughter that fulfilling those hard roles was about hard decisions and choices, like not killing another person in order to save someone you loved. That moment-- Snow letting her mother die and realizing just how heavy the crown really is--is far weightier and more meaningful than learning to fire a bow and arrow to stop some bandits. The original message imparted by Eva was a simple one but it was a powerful one and one that fit into the earlier seasons theme of women who depended on one another, helped each other, guided each other, and found solace in each other without the aid of a man, or getting their cues on how to be a hero from a man.
Hey, look, there's a three headed dog residing in Hellbrooke! Also, Hercules appears to have taken the Dexter route in life and become a lumberjack? Maybe he and Mary Margaret can renew their friendship by bonding over their tragic fashion sense. Hercules has gone from a floppy haired teenage wunderkind to being a depressed dead man who, this time around, needs Snow to remind him that "you can't let fear of failure keep you from trying" (theme!). And sure, it's nice to see the gender roles reversed and witness Snow teaching the demi-god a lesson, but at the same time, it's a lesson Hercules already knew and had previously taught the young Snow White. It's not like this is an inversion of gender dynamics; it's one in which the female props up the male by reminding him how simply awesome he is. If they were going for strong women, they failed (I know; the shock is overwhelming, isn't it?). This is, essentially, the main problem with this week's episode: the events are so paralleled as to be repetitive. OUAT has always paralleled their flashbacks with their present day, but it used to feel stronger. Or at least, they were different enough that I wasn't watching the same story play out with only slight changes in the notes. It's because of this that I find I have very little to talk about. Yes, Snow decided she wants to be Snow again and not Mary Margaret anymore. But why now? Hasn't she faced down hardships and been self-confident and brave before? How about when she fought for her daughter against an Ogre? Or said goodbye to the same daughter in S3; wasn't she the most Snow White she's ever been since the Pilot during this moment? Bravery doesn't have to be fighting and winning with bows and arrows be it against bandits or three-headed puppies--and, in fact, I'm getting rather tired of the show selling home the point that heroism is defined by physical prowess. Snow's bravest moment came, post-curse, when she kissed Emma's head in a wordless goodbye, knowing she'd never see her child again. She wasn't Mary Margaret, then. She was Snow flipping White; but apparently it takes Hercules and his trials (sorry, labors) and his bravery to help Snow see sense. It's disturbing and disappointing but as I said above...not exactly shocking.
--Speaking of underwhelming, Megera had the impact of a small pebble, no? I've seen the actress in other things and she's done well so this is clearly a writing issue because she was so dull and lackluster here and very much a damsel in distress as to be completely pointless. A sad reality given how spunky her Disney counterpart is.
--"I miss the gin, the glamour...the gin." Cruella is fabulous and I've missed her.
--The pen has magical essence, is alive, and has unfinished business. Okay, sure. I guess I should expect Chip to come to life and have a sit down talk with Rumple about the fate of his favorite ship before crossing over the bridge to Olympus.
--Emma you lived in the real world for your entire life and have made several Harry Potter jokes before. How did you NOT snarkily suggest that someone play Cerberus a lullaby?
--Hades and Emma meeting was nice and I'm glad the show didn't keep it until the midpoint of the season. It should have felt a bit more weighted, but I can wait for the more cosmological meeting. Speaking of...
--"Why does everyone think that [I can be defeated]? I'm Hades. This is death...." Classic Hero Story: unlocked! Emma Swan, that's your cue.
--Heaven is Olympus. Ooh, keeping it religiously neutral would have been better, I think. Or at least not implying that heaven is a specific mythological place from legend. Does this mean that Mulan from Fictional China and people from Agrabah don't get to go to "the better place" because it's not their mythology? Does this mean that their cultural stories of what happens when you die are wrong? Also, gods really do exist? How does that mesh with the Holy Grail of S5A?
--Hercules would make an excellent Sunday Roast.
Monday, March 7, 2016
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.
Saturday, March 5, 2016
--The Jersey Devil was a perfectly fine episode villain, but the real meat lies with the Hidden One and Pandora. And if I'm being honest, a colonial alchemist who turned himself into a goat, snake, scorpion was more silly than anything.
--Speaking of Mr. Hidden, might he actually be Set? I had though Amun-Ra, but if the goal was to destroy his brother, Set makes a certain amount of sense. Or, possibly, Mr. Hidden is an archetype for, simply, corrupt and evil divinity and has no particular mythological callback. Along the same lines, Pandora's story resembles the Greek story in the barest sense.
--Joe and Jenny had a cute little side adventure. Glad to see the more playful, less life and death, side of their relationship.
--Ben Franklin used to put warm spoons on..."not his nose." Gross!
--Ichabod's reaction to the hold the symbol has on Abbie was perfect for how these two characters have developed. He won't judge her, he won't condemn her. He just wants to help, if she'll let him. These two, I swear.