Monday, March 27, 2017

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (6x14)

Perhaps Ms Whitney Houston said it best when she crooned, "The greatest love of all/ Is easy to achieve/ Learning to love yourself/ is the greatest love of all..." Yes, tonight the Evil Queen learned to love herself with a little bit of help from her..."better half" (sorry, that quote was too funny to not use it in full.) The Evil Queen emerged on the scene earlier this year, back and ready to take down Snow White, Prince Charming, and all the dogooders who have vexed her; what we ultimately got was a watered down version of her royal Evilness, focusing more on a concluding chapter in Regina's own internal saga. Self loathing and self hatred have always been a cornerstone in Regina's story; she clung to dark magic because she felt so rejected by those around her and while these feelings in no way diminish or excuse her villainy, they do make the deeds more complex. It's not all good news in this week's episode, "Page 23," however. Grab your damaged and broken heart and let's go!

Queen, Love Thyself! 

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.

Miscellaneous Notes on Page 23

--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.”


  1. OK, we all have our biases, I get that. But for God's sake, go back and look at your review for "The Brothers Jones", which also was teaching self-love and self-forgiveness. Look at what you said on the subject there, and what you say here.

    In that review, you go on about how the villain shouldn't get to decide when/if they're redeemed, there shouldn't be redemption without suffering and paying for their crimes, and how letting them off easy isn't fair to their victims.

    You seem happy now that Regina is just deciding to love herself, forgive herself, and treat herself as a redeemed hero. You also seem fine with the Evil Queen's fate aside from the romantic love angle.

    Regina may have been forgiven and called a hero by the Charming Family, but what about the people of Storybrooke? They may not flee in terror from them anymore, but do we really have hard evidence that they forgive her, or that she ever went out of her way to help them as recompense for her evil against them (saving Storybrooke - which includes saving herself and her loved ones - does not count, the people she hurt may benefit from that but that isn't Regina's goal for doing it.)

    When did she suffer beyond feeling really bad and self-loathing? And while I absolutely agree that Hook was a douchebag for trying to burn his memories in the dreamcatcher, is that any different from Regina splitting her evil side from her in the first place, something only she rightly blamed herself for whereas Emma and Snow constantly stumbled over themselves to tell her "It's not your fault"?

    1. You asked in that review "How is that fair to the victims?" Two moments in this episode beg that question:

      - Regina says she doesn't regret not meeting Robin at the tavern because she wouldn't have Storybrooke, her family, Henry, yadda yadda. You seem to agree with that. But if she had met Robin at the tavern, HUNDREDS, maybe THOUSANDS of people Regina murdered as the Evil Queen would still be alive. How is this fair to them? Are their deaths just all worth it because their murderer got to be happy in the end? Heck, the Wish Realm appears to be a real existing place now, so Regina just murdered its Snow and Charming, and is getting off scot-free for it. How is that fair to them, and to poor orphaned Sir Henry?

      - The split Evil Queen gets a "fresh start" in the Wish Realm and a happy ending with Robin Hood. How is that fair to Edmond Dantes or the Oracle, or still-living victims of her malice like Belle? She apologizes to Snow, and that's enough to warrant insta-redemption?

      I know you don't like Hook, that's fine. But trying to bring morality into this and act like Hook is so super-specially morally offensive, then turning a blind eye to Regina like this is ridiculously hypocritical of you. You can't have low standards for every other villain except Hook just because he's the villain that messed up your OTP.

    2. Also: "When Liam (the first one, not the one Hook actually killed) died". What? Hook didn't kill the second Liam, he's still alive and showing up in the next episode. Are you confusing Liam with Brennan?

  2. I did forget that Liam is still alive, yes. I've fixed that.

    As for everything else....I'm not going to disagree with you. I do think Regina's story is deeper, more thoughtful, and has a better resolution. I do think she's further along but you're not wrong either. You're right that we don't have a ton of evidence that the town of Storybrooke has forgiven Regina--largely in part because the town is a veritable ghost town as of late and also because those smaller stories don't get told anymore. I wish we could sit inside their heads for awhile and figure out how they feel. We only have the word of the Charmings and that's not much to go on.

    I don't really have a solution for you. I've admitted my biases many times--part of it is Swanfire, part of it is that I've always had an eye for spotting rape culture and how white males are privileged in society and narrative and tend to spend more time pointing that out over other, equal, injustices. So, again, I'm not going to disagree with anything you've pointed out. You're right--it's not fair, Regina or the Evil Queen doesn't get to decide if she's redeemed or not. Her victims should get a say and time and time again the show goes out of its way to avoid that (for all the villains).

    My personal preference would have been for Regina and the Evil Queen to reintegrate and have Regina really realize just how terrible that side of her was and go from there. That won't happen not only because the EQ is now off in the Wish Realm because the show is way more concerned with plot than with character.

    This is my however though. At the end of the day, I do think Regina's story is better. I think it's richer, more developed, and I do think there are moments when its clear Regina has changed in a more profound way.

    I will bear in mind everything you've said and, as always, thanks for reading.