Monday, March 27, 2017
A lot of tonight's episode almost goes without saying. Regina, abused, tortured, and tormented by Cora clung to the one thing that made her feel good--Daniel. When he was taken from her, Regina turned to performing acts of darkness and evil in his name--seeking out vengeance against Snow White--because she not only hated herself for her role in Daniel's death but also the person she became. Over the years, Regina hid her self loathing behind her own narrative of being a victim. If pesky little ten year old Snow White hadn't told a secret, Regina would be happy and in love and her life would be grand. It's a nice narrative but it's failing in one regard: evil isn't born, it's made and everyone had a hand to play in Regina's turn to darkness, not the least of whom was Regina herself. Evil is a choice and she chose to go down that dark path because the darkness felt good; it felt right in the wake of Daniel's loss. Self flagellation can be a powerful tool. When reverse-engineered Cupid's Arrow found its way to Regina's closet mirror, it should have registered hard with Regina that her quest to destroy Snow White was really, all this time, a quest to punish herself for choosing evil when there was always another way. Regina still could have had love in her life be it with little Snow White who needed a step mother or even with Robin Hood had she taken that path and walked into the bar that night. Of course, that was not meant to be and in the end Regina wound up with so much more: Henry, her family, and the residents in the town of Storybrooke, who have stopped screaming and running in terror when she enters the room. But most important of all, Regina has learned to love herself, all of herself, not just the bright happy spots, but those that still belong to the darkness. The show's villains often say that they need to be better people, as if the solution is actually to rid themselves of darkness altogether but Regina is a good example of how this isn't true. It's not about getting rid of the darkness; the way to be a better person, to truly change, is to chose to do the right thing and not give into the temptation darkness offers up; the heavy handed symbolism is right in front of us: Regina takes back some darkness and gives some love to the Evil Queen. Do the right thing, learn to love yourself. So, when you know that you should tell your fiance that you murdered her grandfather, don't--instead--try to destroy the evidence of those memories instead of coming clean. Yes, this was a bash against a certain pirate but it's to prove a point. In a lot of ways, Hook has always been like Regina in that he hates a certain part of himself. Killian Jones, naval officer, was upright, noble, and honorable. When Liam (the first one, not the one Hook abandoned after he killed their father) died, Killian lost all those traits and turned into the opposite of everything he had once been and grew to loathe himself for it. Again, this does not excuse the pirate of all this many countless misdeeds, like killing Robert, but Regina and Hook are a study in contrasts this week. Where Regina has learned to love herself and stops herself from giving into another act of villainy--choosing to share her love with the Evil Queen and take on part of the darkness--Hook chooses the wrong path by ignoring all the advice given from Archie and Captain Nemo. Does Hook need to learn to love himself? Yeah, of course. But he also needs to learn to (quite simply) not do rotten things if he wants to be seen as a hero or even just a good guy.
--Okay, let's get my major criticism out of the way. Yes, major props for vanquishing the Evil Queen through love and self-love at that. However, did this story have to end with the Evil Queen finding romantic love with Robin Hood? Why isn't self love, self forgiveness, and peace enough for right now? The writers constantly put forth the idea that what cures a villain isn't love, but romantic sexual love. It's childish and frankly tedious.
--With that said, Dark OutlawQueen had the chemistry and spark I wish Regular OutlawQueen had had when they met back in Season 3B.
--Somebody might want to point out to Henry that he is sending his mom to a realm where his alter ego is trying to kill the Evil Queen for the murder of Snow White and Prince Charming. Awkward.
--"Couldn’t you use magic to dig this hole?” “I could but where would the fun be in that?”
--Seriously, how do these shears work? They are supposed to separate a person from their destiny, so is the show saying that Regina was always destined to be the Evil Queen because that throws a wrench in my whole analysis. I honestly don’t get this MacGuffin.
--No idea where Gideon is sending Hook but I suspect wherever it is will provide Hook just enough narrative to prove himself to Emma and have himself forgiven.
--I really wish Emma would have some sort of reaction to learning about Hook's murders. Her blase reaction to the body count is really disconcerting. She doesn’t even care about how it affects David, just herself and her relationship with her fiance. Ugh.
--This episode utterly wasted Rose McIver's appearance. It's okay, Liv Moore. You're still my favorite zombie!
--“And now I love myself. And so should you.”
Saturday, March 25, 2017
--In the alternate future Molly/Lara leaves, Jenny is a Resistance fighter. If anyone finds this shocking, you haven't been paying nearly enough attention.
--"The Riders will come." Straight up terrifying and outta the mouth of babes.
--I appreciate that the show references its own past, like finally giving the Horseman of Death his proper name (Abraham von Brunt) and mentioning Katrina's season two time travel spell.
--"Time travel sure does complicate verb tenses."
--"The only thing that matters is that your survived."
--"You and I. We are the Witnesses!" "Yes. We. Are."
Monday, March 20, 2017
What kind of character was Baelfire? It's hard to pin him down and point out specific traits because of who he grew into; Neal was jaded and lonely and had more abandonment issues than anyone else on the show, perhaps barring Emma. But Baelfire, from what we've seen over the course of several seasons and many flashbacks, was kind, gentle, brave, loving, and had a childlike ability to believe in his papa. That last trait is what comes to mind most often. Even in the face of Rumple's descent down the dark path, Baelfire believed that his papa could turn it all around if he just tried a little bit harder to resist the siren's call of the Dark One's Curse and its dagger. Baelfire was a boy who was willing to give up everything--his home, his way of life, everything and everyone he had ever known--in order to take his Papa to a place where dark magic couldn't affect him. That's the Baelfire we've gotten to know and that's the Baelfire that was lurking just underneath Neal's sardonic grimace and rough exterior. So how do we as an audience rationalize Baelfire's sudden about face a few months before the same child will take a magic bean and open a portal to another world in hopes that his father can be saved? I guess these memory potions are super handy to have around; not only will they make you forget that you ordered the murder of someone but also they clean up your soul so it's all sparkly clean! It's a shame all the villains haven't discovered the wonderful effects of these elixirs. I suppose we should suss out exactly why Baelfire ordered the death of Beowulf at Rumple's hand. It certainly wasn't self-defense; Beowulf was all set to go back to the village and continue to spread his lies about Rumple and his apparent monsterness. It wasn't self preservation; Rumple, the character who never wanted to move away from his village even when Milah begged and pleaded and left to shack up with a pirate, actually told Baelfire that they could just leave town to escape the impending town mob and its persecution of the Stiltskin clan. Baelfire could have let Beowulf walk away, packed a knapsack and moved on with his father who had clearly passed some sort of "light" test when he was willing to let Beowulf leave unscathed. The reason for Bae's sudden deathly command? We must either believe that he's petty and didn't want to give up his home and life, which is pretty antithetical to future events, or he was corrupted by the power of the dagger, which seems equally bizarre given that his name isn't on the dagger and no one else who has ever come into contact with the dagger had the same reaction who wasn't already impure of heart. If you want Beowulf die and reinforce the thesis that Rumple will do anything for his children, a motif picked up strongly in the present day situation, then the narrative path here is clear: have Rumple give into dark magic whilst Beowulf is threatening to Bae. It solidifies what we already know from past flashbacks--Rumple protects Bae at all costs (remember the man turned into a snail and consequently squashed?) and in order to protect his child, Rumple uses that which Bae does not want him to use.
--Hook gets a lot of credit from me for that introspective and self-aware conversation with Archie. However, 1000 points from House Pirate for not telling Emma about Robert when he had the chance! Talk about souring the proposal.
--Zelena and Robin’s team up is hard to process. On the one hand, this isn’t our Robin so he’s not the one Zelena raped. On the other hand, it’s still Robin and it’s hard to see Robin being chummy with Zelena after all the history.
--“It’s just like when you needed the crutch to walk.” A true line, to be sure, but it’s also a bit on the nose. It’s always been perfectly understood as subtext that Rumple traded one crutch for another.
--The Blue Fairy forged Hrunting–a hero sword–but she couldn’t defeat the Dark One’s curse, had no hand in creating Excalibur and has been useless for years. I am so confused on how powerful she actually is!
--"You darkened your soul so our son wouldn't have to."
Sunday, March 19, 2017
This is a tale as old as time (sorry, lame joke I know. It's low hanging fruit but totally within my reach) and all the classic moments are found embedded in this new version. Where the story differs, though, is in trying to provide more character motivation that isn't necessary in an animated Disney film largely aimed at an extremely young audience. In the animated movie, the Beast is understood to be beastly even from a young age but without any given reason. While it is true that the privileged and the rich can exhibit traits like vanity and arrogance, there is usually something lurking beneath the surface to explain those characteristics. Here, the Beast is given an appropriate backstory (unsurprisingly it involves a dead parent and a less than ideal other parent) which compares and contrasts nicely with Belle's own tragic backstory and rearing under a far more kindly father. In the animated movie the titular Beauty and Beast have little in common except their circumstances of being literally locked up together but here, in this live action movie, the two can bond over their own loneliness. Belle even remarks that her village is as lonely as the Beast's castle. The two are also outcasts and that further bonds them. While Belle, in both the animated and live version, is loudly (and in sing-song style!) told she's odd and out of place, the animated Beast is shown to have a good dose of friendliness with his servants through their own damnation and desire to see the curse broken. In the live version, though, in order to parallel with Belle, the Beast's relationship with Lumiere, Cogsworth and the like is awkward and stilted because the Beast does not know how to interact with these people he's condemned to a life of objecthood. What's even more interesting here is that the various servants feel that they are responsible for the Beast's situation given that they did not save the young prince from his wretched father. This overwhelming guilt fleshes out the servant characters who's only original purpose was to provide Belle a window into their enchanted life and help explain the Beast's internal thoughts when he's incapable of doing so; this in turn helps them to feel more human as opposed to just enchanted objects who sing to you over your dinner.
--I need to start with the biggest controversy surrounding the entire film: the character of LeFou. In the animated Disney film, LeFou is the comedic sidekick to Gaston and his only role is to prop up the villain's ego and not be disgruntled over the treatment he receives. It's not a great character but LeFou does serve to show how terrible Gaston truly is--a man who beats up and bullies his best friend isn't a man to write home about. In this new version, however, the movie decided it was time to give LeFou some extra flavoring and so they made him subtly gay. This is the first openly gay character in the Disney universe but it was also made a bigger deal by the producers than is depicted on screen. It wasn't really until the end scene when the film openly showed LeFou as homosexual; until then, however, while it was never explicit, Josh Gad and the writers depicted LeFou in what can only be called overtly cliche homosexual hallmarks. He's flamboyant though you can make the argument it's keeping with a cartoon character. I will say, however, that LeFou was not the spineless twerp he is in the animated film; in this modern version he has a strong conscious and is a voice of reason to Gaston's brutish neanderthal nature.
--This is a visually stunning film. The colors--either natural or garish--are rich and eye-popping and the graphic design is breathtaking. Pay close attention to the costumes in this film. A lot of color themes are worked throughout; in the early story the prince and palace are shown in harsh bright colors, almost unnatural and otherworldly. Belle is rendered in her hallmark blues and natural tones though she stands in contrast to the vulgar townspeople who are in shades not found in nature (though, tellingly, they are found in the Prince's castle before the enchantment). The Prince himself wears his normal blue coat but it slowly changes until he becomes more human and his blues are picked up in Belle's wardrobe.
--Speaking of, the Beasts's final powder blue outfit was delicious and I'd love to own it.
--"Hello. And what is your name?" "That...is a hairbrush."
--The incorporation of some of the original French fairy tale was a really nice touch.
--All the actors did a bang up job but Emma Watson and Dan Stevens did particularly well. However, while I love Emma Thompson generally her depiction of Mrs Potts was a bit too cliche. Mrs. Potts is supposed to be kind and motherly but I was overly distracted by Thompson's over the top cockney accent. Honestly, would it have killed them to get Angela Landsbury back?
--It does bother me that the library scene was not recreated exactly as it is in the animated film but the continuing motif of being intellectually compatible and bonding over the library books made up for it.
--Between his career defining work on Legion and this wonderfully nuanced and careful portrayal of the Beast, I sort of fell a little in love with Dan Stevens.
--All the classic songs are here and done with aplomb, though "Be Our Guest" was noticeably slowed down. This is perhaps made up by the soaring solo performance by the Beast as Belle leaves the castle; it gave me honest to goodness shivers.
The changes made serve the story well but are not so frequent as to distract Disney fans who came to relive some early 1990s nostalgia. The themes that made the animated movie so strong are here aplenty ready for new young girls to grasp on to.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
--I demand that for every child's play henceforth Ichabod Crane be in attendance.
--The perimeter alarms didn't go off until Lara/Molly was in the tunnels, but not when she literally stole a book off a shelf.
--The fight between Lara/Molly and Jenny was really well executed but also extra meaty once Lara's identity is revealed.
--So Ichabod isn't going to be War forever, right? That would be nonsense. Paging Henry Parrish!
--As of right now Sleepy Hollow has not been renewed and it's unlikely it will be given the poor ratings. There are two episodes to go before I can reflect on if this season was a success.
Monday, March 13, 2017
The fact that Once Upon a Time likes to explore parental relationships is nothing new. After all, this show is largely built on a series of parents and their children trying to navigate a world of villains, heroes and all the in-between facets; whenever possible, the writers throw in a mother or father (blood, bond, or figure) into the mix and watch our core characters scurry to understand their own personal narratives in light of said parents. David's life, then, is no different from Robert's or Rumple's, the two other fathers in this episode who set out to do right by their children. It's an unusual combination of characters, to be sure but there is something quaint in the universality of their stories. Robert we've never met and have only heard of in passing in one episode (and that detailed his drunken demise); Rumple's history with his son is long and sordid and covered in many episodes over the course of the years. Charming isn't exactly the odd man out because he was, in his own way, looking for his child, Emma, without knowing it but what sets Charming apart is that he's supposed to be noble, not a wretch. It's that complicated white knight trope back to bite him on his steel plated armor behind. This complication last arose in season five when Charming and Arthur (before we really knew what kind of shady figure the King of Camelot was) discussed how they aren't sure if they are heroes because their deeds are largely exaggerated or not particularly valiant; Charming tellingly said that he didn't want to be remembered only as the guy who woke a princess with a kiss. The search to save one's family, as is the case in Charming's current day situation, would be a song worthy of a bard but it's complicated by the fact that it is selfishly motivated. Charming isn't just out to discover the truth, but he's out to prove something to himself--that he can save his family and that being Prince Charming, with all the trope hallmarks that come with that lofty title, is in fact enough. Where the episode draws a nice parallel is with Rumple and Robert. Both are looking for their own sons. Rumple lost Baelfire ages ago and has spent every moment of every day trying to find a way to see his son again, if only to apologize. It's noble and heartwarming but it's also selfishly motivated; it's not about what is best for Baelfire (Neal, famously, doesn't want to even see Rumple let alone hear his excuses) but what Rumple needs. Robert, similarly, is trying to locate James, his lost child, and save him from King George. But again, this isn't exactly pure; in trying to save James and fix his own family, Robert is trying to fix himself from the mistake he made in selling James to the King. Tellingly, Robert spells it out to James's and David's mother, Ruth: "fixing this broken family, this is how I fix myself." Rumple believes Baelfire can cure the sadness and darkness within; Charming thinks finding his father's killer and avenging him will give him clarity as Prince Charming to save Emma and unite his family against Gideon. These three men have something else in common, though: they are all dead wrong. Fixing oneself comes from within, something Archie and David tell Hook during the pirate's own angst this week. You have to listen to your conscience and change who you are. Rumple needed to let go of magic and the darkness in order to be truly united with Baelfire. Robert needed to give up the drinking and provide a good home for Ruth and David. And David needs to realize that being Prince Charming isn't enough and never can be because Prince Charming is an idea, not an actual person. Prince Charming must be just and moral and righteous all the time; he must win all his battles, defeat his foes, and save the maidens/towns/kingdoms all while maintaining his heroic integrity. No one can do that, certainly not a flawed, arrogant, somewhat inept farmer. Wanting to fix your broken family is absolutely a laudable thing but true change comes from within.
--It was nice to see Snow White back in action this episode. Also, the advice she gives to Regina was lovely and pays off big time at the end of the episode.
--So Robin totally stole the Snake Evil Queen, right? He's way more suited to that version of Regina than our non-Evil Queen Regina.
--“Someday, may we all be reunited with our sons.” That hurt right in the chest area. Also, Bobby was totally on point as the Dark One this week; haven’t seen a performance like that from him in awhile.
--“Better be safe?” I normally find very little amusing about Hook, but watching him and Charming try to chem-lab their way to magic was fairly hilarious.
--Emma’s floral blouse-thingy in the opening Storybrooke scene was hideous. Maybe the most hideous thing she’s ever worn.
--Pleasure Island has modern carnival rides for kids living in the medieval-esque time period. Didn’t they all wonder what a light bulb was?
--I really wish we had gotten to see some of Emma and Henry's canoe adventure. Operation: Don't Rock The Boat.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
--Another point of criticism, but I remember when the monsters of the week had interesting and almost human backstories instead of just being drawn from obscure mythologies.
--A woman goes nuts and starts chowing down on passersby. This is witnessed by several D.C. residents yet is not commented upon or makes any sort of news. I know that D.C. is a dog-eat-dog world but surely even the most Frank Underwood-esque of politicians would note when one of their own eats another person.
--Dreyfus is creating new Horseman. That's actually quite cool given the past mythology of the show. Might Henry Parrish show back up? After all, he's the only Horseman of War I'd ever want to see.
--"Actually I'd go with smashing success."
--"I was a master at Rubik's Cube." "I have no idea what you just said"
Monday, March 6, 2017
The tale of the Ugly Duckling was never one of my favorites; I always felt sad for the "unfortunate" creature who was so unloved because of how his physical appearance was perceived and could only be self actualized once it had been welcomed into a community of like minded souls. There are two lines of thought when it comes to this fairy tale, both of which are mentioned by young Emma and teenage August--because when you're living on the street, there's nothing like a good philosophical discussion about the nature of self worth and belief. In Emma's young mind, the duckling had always been a swan but it couldn't see its own inner (and outer) beauty because of the various hardships of its sad life. It absolutely makes sense that this is Emma's perspective. Her life, at the tender age of 10 or 11, has been nothing but woe upon woe. Her birth family abandoned her by the side of the road; she grew up in miserable foster homes, feeling unloved, unworthy, and unwanted. If there is a beautiful swan hiding behind Emma, she can't see it because everything in life is solidifying her own worthlessness. Teenage August--who apparently kept such careful tabs on Emma that he could find her hiding under an overpass in the middle of a mega American city?--has a bit different perspective. When we revisit August as a character there is usually one hallmark characteristic: his belief in magic, hope, and transformation. August believed, even back in season one, that Emma could become the Savior if she, in turn, just believed as August did. Belief is at the root of any good Pinocchio story; a father who wanted a child so badly that a puppet came to life and a puppet who wanted to be real so badly that he eventually became such. August's take on the Ugly Duckling reflects his own story and experiences. For August the Ugly Duckling needed to believe, and never stop believing, that it was a swan before it could become one. It was the power of belief that changed the Duckling into a Swan. This suggests that the Ugly Duckling really was ugly and alone--that society's perception of it was spot on. It was only because the duckling never stopped believing that it could be better that it eventually became better. Let's pause here and discuss the actual tale of the Ugly Duckling as recounted by Hans Christan Andersen. The story is pretty sad (as all Andersen tales are) but what I think is important here is that it is Emma's take on the story that is more true to the original. The Ducking, through a life of solitude, does not realize that it has always been a swan. It's only when it finds a pack of swans that accept the duckling for what it has always been that the duckling finds its happily ever after. That's Emma's story, is it not? Emma was always a Savior, was always Emma Swan, just not fully self-actualized because she had no community; we've seen evidence of her magical abilities, not to mention her compassion and her need to help those in need. Emma has never not been Emma Swan, Mythical Savior, but it took finding her community to recognize it. It took Henry's love, Mary Margaret's friendship, Storybrooke's acceptance and Emma's own quiet desire for belonging to see herself as the who she truly was. I'm not sure that August's story is necessarily bad--and as I pointed out, it fits with August's own experiences about the nature of belief. What I find tedious and a bit disconcerting is that it is August's perspective that is given more weight and credence. Indeed, Emma only becomes "Emma Swan" because of August. Emma adopts the surname Swan because August encourages her to never stop believing that she could eventually become the Swan in the story, implying that Emma was the Ugly Duckling to start which isn't strictly true. It's also yet another example of Emma's story being moved down the chess board because of a man, not because of Emma's own agency. I would have loved if Emma took the last name Swan because of her perspective on the story of the Ugly Duckling--that she was always a Swan, but needed to find her community. It fits with Emma's overall story even if young Emma didn't know how strongly the fairy tale would match her own.
There are a few other key transformations in this episode from Robin looking to change his destiny by coming back to Storybrooke with Regina to Rumple openly admitting that he doesn't want his son to kill Emma because he recognizes that such deeds are a cry for help against unimaginable pain which, for the first time in forever, pushes Rumple back to his transformative phase that he was undergoing before everything went to hell. But the other biggest transformation outside of Emma Swan is that of Gideon (Gold?). Gideon's story is his never ending belief that he can be a hero and a Savior if he just takes his destiny into his own hands, a bit of a neat parallel with Emma who is likewise trying to take her own destiny into her own hands. It's interesting that Emma's perspective on the Ugly Duckling would work well for Gideon. He's likely already a hero if we can define heroism as survival against a villain (which I think we can) and working hard to end corruption and evil. Gideon could also be a savior if we define savior not in terms of mythology but in terms of action. If Gideon were to save or rescue the realm of the Black Fairy from dear old grandmama then would he not already be a savior? Regina was called a savior figure in season 3B because she saved Storybrooke from Zelena, so the same applies to Gideon. Emma's perspective on the Ugly Duckling works with Gideon but Gideon takes quite a different perspective. Is anyone else super confused on the nature of Savior magic and mythology after Gideon spills the beans on his plan? In what part of the OUAT universe does Saviorhood work like the Dark One's Curse? It never has; Emma is a Savior because she's the product of the truest love and because of Rumple's machinations with the Dark Curse. Aladdin is a Savior for some vague handwave-y reason involving being a thief with a heart of gold and a "diamond in the rough" (whatever that means). Emma's Saviorhood and Aladdin's Saviorhood has little in common but it does have that neither of them had to kill another Savior in order to gain their status as Savior. Gideon is motivated by his own horror of a childhood and some sort of innate goodness that fuels his desire to save others from the Black Fairy--which in and of itself is interesting and a good narrative jumping off point--but confusing the Savior mythology (even more than it already is after the introduction of Aladdin) calls Gideon's character into question. You could theorize that Gideon's belief that killing the Savior would make him a Savior came from the Black Fairy but if Gideon has shrugged off all of the fairy's other lessons (like hatred and evil) then why would he follow this one? I hope there is more to the story and that under no circumstance Saviorhood works the way Gideon believes but until such time Gideon's narrative is much like other tales in OUAT: too much, too fast, and disregarding what has been shown or stated in the past.
--The Wish Realm drives me absolutely bonkers. It's fun but with no substance. It raises a lot of questions (Hook came back from Neverland when? Why? Did he give up his quest for revenge against Rumple? How do August and Emma even know each other?).
--The final conversation between Rumple and Belle was a breath of fresh air after all the angst and drama of last season. They seem to finally understand that they must work together to save their son. I also deeply appreciate Rumple's perspective on Gideon's plan. He recognizes how addicting darkness can be and how it's really just a cry for help.
--Old, fat, and drunk Hook is really the only good kind of Hook.
--"A tree?" "A magic tree." "Oh, well, forgive me."
--So Robin's soul traveled to a "not real" alternate-wish realm and inhabited a new version of Robin? Does that make any sense?
--"I am fated to die. And I will die. But not today."
--Belle died of starvation in the Wish Realm and all that's left of her are her bones. It's like the writers couldn't think of anything interesting for her character in this new world of infinite possibilities.
--You know Gideon is going to be trouble because he broke the clock tower.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
--Dreyfus's vision of the future includes being close friends, possibly even a father figure, with Molly, with intimate dinners on the White House lawn. I have no idea what to make of that.
--Pizza, according to Ichabod, is Neapolitan Flat Bread and Chinese is a far better fare.
--Mr. Stitch is very much like the Golem of season one that was attached to Ichabod's son, Henry. Nice callback.
--"Battling against the supernatural made us sisters again."
--I continue to not care about Alex and Jake, though the latter had some funny moments this week.
--"We must rescue ourselves."