Monday, April 3, 2017

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (6x15)

I have a confession to make before I review this week's episode "A Wondrous Place;" about thirty minutes into the hour, I stopped--full on stopped--taking notes because I was laughing too hard. Mind you, this was not because anything about this episode was side splittingly and genuinely hilarious but rather because the writing in this Aladdin and Jasmine centric was so illogical, nonsensical and straight up weird that I couldn't take anything that was happening even the tiniest bit seriously. I have disliked episodes before; usually those episodes have something morally offensive in them: a perpetuation of rape culture, a morally dubious plotline, an inconsistency in character that spoils the entire arc of an individual, ect. But, rarely, do episodes of OUAT completely and totally bomb because the writing is so atrocious. Well, congratulations Once Upon a Time; you done did it! Hold on to your sanity cause we're going into the deep end of crazytown. 

What Is Narrative? And Why Does It--What's The Word--Suck?

I'll tell you what--I'm not even going to bother to properly reviewing this episode. There is nothing to be sussed out in between these pages of fluff and filler. Sure, we could sit here and analyze the parallels the show is trying to draw between Jasmine and Hook; both feel guilty over the things they've done in the past to the point where they hide behind their guilt, afraid to jump into love's waiting arms lest it fail to catch them. I guess that's one way of looking at Hook and Jasmine's own internal dilemma but it all falls flat and borderline offensive when we consider that Jasmine's great crime was not marrying a villain, who was duping her in the first place, with aims of stealing her kingdom and ruling over her people and that's Hook's crimes (heck, scratch Hook and add your favorite villain who could have had the same silly parallels drawn--Rumple, Regina, Cora, Pan) involve actual, life ending murder. Hook isn't guilty of being played by someone bigger and stronger than him and failing to stop a conspiratorial plot! He did actual bad things and the idea that the show is trying to draw some sort of emotional parallel between him and Jasmine is frustrating but so inside the wheelhouse of OUAT that you know what? I'm not bothered! No, really. I'm not. It doesn't bother me because there are other, more pressing, horrible things to talk about. So here it is, folks. Instead of a review, which would be hard to read and even harder to write, I'm going to sit here and discuss all the things that don't make a lick of sense in this episode or are just plain dumb. Let's start with the absurd number of plot devices in this show. OUAT has always had a bad rap when it comes to these MacGuffins; every episode or so, another is introduced that is cringe worthy in the extreme. The best MacGuffins usually find a way to upset the previous established logic of the show or to be so blatantly stupid that they defy any sense. This episode we had Kraken's Blood, which can apparently take people from Storybrooke to the Enchanted Forest and back again (because season one was five years ago and nobody cares anymore!). We had a never before seen ring that was housing a lost city unbeknownst to everyone. This one might be my favorite. It does that magical thing MacGuffins often do which is to literally drop into the hands of the person it--this inanimate object--needs to be revealed as the answer to all your questions! How many times did Jasmine talk about the ring, show us the ring, reference the ring in present day and flashback? Of course it was where Agrabah city was hiding! Following this truly wonderful bauble, the show gave us a double whammy--a shellphone that can allow Hook to call (yes, call) Emma across realms. That's not the best bit, though. This shellphone can be interrupted by the Tears of Savior that Gideon just happened to gather from Emma while she was sad-crying in a bar and while he pretended to be the legendary Aesop! Other TV shows, look out! Once Upon a Time is hot on your Emmy-nabbing heels with such rich narrative twists like these.

The silly and overused plot devices may not even be the worst part. After all, OUAT has an extensive history of using a good ol' fashioned MacGuffin to fill in as an easy answer to a seasonal problem. No, there are other points in this week's episode that are equally baffling and weird such as the entirety of the Aladdin, Jasmine, Ariel, and Jafar plot. First off, what was the point of Ariel in this week's episode? Apart from the show wanting to grab all the old favorites one last time, Ariel was just there to be a funny line delivery machine, essentially taking the place of Regina with the core group. So Ariel, having rescued Prince Eric, is living in a secluded "off season tiki hut" like a wayward and homeless teenager, collecting flotsam and jetsam in her bathrobe? Even if Eric's kingdom was destroyed by the Dark Curse (any of the three versions at this point), why aren't the happy couple rebuilding it? Forgetting about Ariel, the real absurdity of this week comes from Aladdin (overbearing and demanding and self-centered) and Jasmine (completely unlikable and pathetic) and the rapid fire change of fortune they experience with Jafar. This is why I confessed to having not taken notes about anything past a certain point because I'm pretty sure Ariel gave Jasmine Jafar's lamp (continuity error: that's not his lamp!) only to have Jafar pop out like a demented jack-in-the-box with a turban the size of a small city, knock everyone but Jasmine out, somehow poof away his genie curse (because no one watched Wonderland!), engage in a bizarre conversation with Jasmine about, I don't know, heroism, before she--in turn--threw some red powder on him and turned him into a screaming staff. Y'know, right before she lip-locked Aladdin and Agrabah grew ten sizes. As far as villains go, Jafar was completely wasted on the parent show which is absolutely a crying shame given how powerful and resonate he was in Wonderland. Go back and watch these final scenes again; it's like a strange and awkward high school production where everyone misses their mark and forgets their lines so they start ab-libing a story that they think makes sense. Are we sure the well known writers in the OUAT room are still writing? Are we sure they haven't passed off responsibility to interns who are working around the clock to pump out 12 more episodes, all while mainlining coffee, Red Bull, and Xanax? Honestly, I'll accept that answer as legitimate since the alternative is that we have to endure seven more episodes like this!

Miscellaneous Notes on A Wondrous Place

--Because I spent the entire review having a bit (lol) of a rant, I'll highlight some of the more positive aspects of this episode.

--Unlike like 95% of Emma’s outfits this year, I actually like her red plaid jacket.

--This episode needed less Jasmine/Jafar/Aladdin nonsense and more drunk Snow making random bets with Vikings.

--“It's are supposedly artisinal. Which I think means STRONG!"

--“Why is this rug flying!” “It’s a carpet. A magic carpet.” “It’s clearly a rug.”

--How did Jafar know about Eric and Ariel, enough to fool Ariel at least?

--“Come on, Princess. How many times are you almost going to kiss me?” Dude, back off. If she doesn’t want to kiss you, then she doesn’t have to kiss you. If she wants to, she will. If she’s torn over if she does or not, give her SPACE. This is not a difficult concept.

--"Didn’t you hear the Captain. We have no Kraken’s Blood!” Really, that line though.

--"Son of a fish!"


  1. Wrong bottle aside, I was at least glad that they remembered Jafar's history on "Wonderland", referencing his backstory, that people tricked him into becoming a genie, and emphasizing his defining (and self-defeating) character trait from that show: his venomous anger and hatred toward absolutely everyone and everything. And considering the story behind his snake staff, his fate here was more than a little karmic.

    1. Oded Fehr did his best with what he was given--which was largely bad. I wish the parent show would stop dancing around Wonderland though they did reference it, vaguely, this week. It's a shame because we've already had solid proof that Jafar can really work as a villain and that Adam and Eddy know how to write him as such, not to mention Jerome Schwartz who co-wrote this week's episode and came over from the spinoff. Had the Aladdin/Jasmine/Jafar arc not been so haphazardly put together, it likely would have been far more enjoyable.