Monday, March 13, 2017
In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (6x12)
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.