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Once Upon a Time: What’s in Store?

May 14, 2013 2 comments

 

So, I’ve been thinking about the season finale of Once Upon a Time. And, personally, I’ve had some issues with the last half of the season. However, the finale combined several of my favorite things: heartfelt conversations, a charming pirate, a very wise Grumpy, and enough Rumbelle to warm my heart before snapping it in half. I mean, the whole “I’m sorry I woke you up to die, but I needed you” line just reached into my chest and…well, you get the picture. I was absolutely gutted when they had to part – but, as the Bard said, the course of true love ne’er did run smooth.

Now, I’m curious. In the play/movie etc, Peter Pan’s shadow was mischievous, not evil. But he really couldn’t control it (it’s been a long time since I’ve read the play, so…). I’m wondering if Peter Pan, as we recognize him, will be a character. I think it’d be rather awesome if Henry was Peter Pan, but that’s just an off-the-cuff thought.

Thankfully, Neal isn’t dead. Because I really like him. He has obvious, and earned, issues with trust. I feel like he’s a complicated character and an interesting match for Emma – although, Emma has a subtle hint of something going on with Hook.

 

Of course, in season three, there are possibilities. We’ve got the Gang off searching for Henry. We’ve got Neal in Fairytale Land. And we’ve got Storybrook. Now, the finding Henry part of the adventure will obviously focus on Neverland. I need mermaids, people. They have to happen. And Tinkerbell. May I suggest Kristin Chenowith? Because she’s delightful.

For Neal, obviously, that’s going to be a hard time for him. Because he’s done everything possible to avoid the place he’s found himself in. At least he’s found friends, assuming that they don’t mind the Dark One’s son hanging around. I am interesting in seeing the conversation between him and the three who found him on the beach.

Lastly, we’ve got Storybrooke. Personally, I want to see Belle take charge. She was pretty badass when she went on her adventure in Fairytale Land. I’d like to see more of that. Because yes, she is  the perfect match for Gold. And I love everything about their relationship. But she deserves a chance to blossom.

So do the dwarves. Sneezy FINALLY has his memory back. I cannot wait to see him be someone other than Clark. But who is going to be Sheriff? Mayor? I think Grumpy is generally wise and levelheaded in tough situations. Why not elect him Sheriff? The dwarves would make excellent deputies. And you KNOW that cloaking spell that Gold gave Belle will not go smoothly. It’s too easy. “Do this, and no one will bother you!” Pffft. Where’s the fun in that? Plus, she’s going to need help managing an entire nation of people. The town’s going to need guidance.

To me, Once is a twisted fairytale, like Into the Woods. The possibilities are endless. We shall see what season three brings, but I’m hoping for some Belle. I’m hoping that Emma gets to be a badass. And I need Team Seven. Because they’re awesome.

From a storytelling point of view, I want to see character arcs. I want redemption. I want risk. I want complications and catastrophes. I want the characters of FTL et al to be given a chance to grow. In season one, Mary Margaret and David had this epic, complicated love story. They struggled. I want more of that. I want Grumpy and Nova, because I love them – and I feel like they were great together. There was growth and hope, disappointment and sacrifice. And man, those fireflies. I want to know more about Granny. I want Red to go on a date – with Dr. Whale. Those two are interesting, together. They provide a nice symmetry.

Of course, these stories are not mine to tell. I have thoughts and ideas of how I’d handle things, but I am a not a tv person. I’m curious to see how these tales as old as time develop – how the characters develop. I’ll see the cast on Once in the fall. How about you?

Categories: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time and All the Plot Holes

March 26, 2013 6 comments

 

 

So, we’re going to discuss the plot holes and problems in Once Upon a Time. Now, don’t get me wrong – I loved the first season to pieces. I have enjoyed this season, but far less than the first. For one thing, some characters have fallen strangely flat. Some plotlines are so tangled that Vishnu couldn’t make sense of it. And there have been questionable moments. Not to mention entirely too many new characters – very few of which I care about at all.

I’m not going to recap. I’m going to assume you’re caught up. In short: spoilers, sweetie.

 

  1. Greg Mendell. In Welcome to Storybrooke, we learn his backstory. We know that he’s looking for his father. He appears to be in his late thirties. In the flashback, we saw that he led the cops right to the Welcome to Storybrooke sign as a kid. So, um, WHY did it take him so long to go back?
  2. Now, I have questions about the curse. Initially, Greg and his dad wander into Storybrooke without a problem. When he goes back with the police, the town is invisible. So, what changed? If, as the curse previously dictated, Storybrooke was devoid of magic – HOW did the whole town suddenly *poof* off the map?
  3. Then there’s the matter of Tamara, who seems to be fond of the psychotic meet-cute. We have no idea who she really is, except that she’s somehow involved with Greg Mendel. Somehow, she knows about magic (presumably, because of Greg). But what sent her to the Dragon? Was she simply tailing August? My major qualm is not with her love life. It’s her obsession with that damn taser. Are we REALLY supposed to believe that a simple TASER killed a DRAGON? And speaking of taser impossibilities…
  4. Guys, August is made of WOOD. Last time I checked, WOOD DOES NOT CODUCT ELECTRICITY.
  5. Oh, and August, I have questions. When the Blue Fairy (who popped out of nowhere, for no reason at all, except for plot convenience) used magic to make him real a second time, why the HELL did he turn into a CHILD? The magic was supposed to get rid of his wooden affliction, not regress him nearly back to infancy. When that option was offered to Neal (by Gold), we saw him recoil in horror. Because you shouldn’t just have who you are taken away, bad and good. So, why did August’s good deed lead to him having to start over, without his memory, as a CHILD? Who wants to relieve their childhood?!?
  6. Why is Belle still in the hospital? Gold healed her immediately. Sure, she doesn’t know who she is, but if Ruby can bring her a book and check on her, I’m pretty sure someone can take her to her apartment and say, “Hi, you live here.” Instead, she’s stuck eating back hospital food, wearing a wretched hospital gown, and being bored out of her mind for – how long?
  7. Hook. How, exactly, did he locate Mr. Gold? He just happened to stumble into Neal’s (the VERY FUCKING SECRET BAE) apartment complex? I’m pretty sure running around with poison on one’s hook is not wise. What happens if he scratched himself? Tripped and FELL? Accidentally grazed random people navigating the NYC streets? And last time we saw him, Emma left him knocked out and tied up in a storage closet. Because nothing says ‘smart move,’ like leaving your enemy where you cannot keep track of him. I mean, it’s not like he’s relentless or anything like that. Right? *blinks* We’ve learned that he’s escaped – perhaps with Tamara’s help – but are we REALLY supposed to believe that Emma would leave Hook in NYC, without valid ID, money, or his bloody ship?
  8. What the CRAP happened to Emma’s I Can Tell When You Lie power? Because I feel like that might’ve come in handy. Plus, something is obviously OFF about Tamara, aside from the fact that she has ONE facial expression. August mysteriously dies, but not before he manages to whisper, “She…” You’d think that the brilliant sheriff MIGHT put two and two together.
  9. Lastly, Snow. Her characterization has been all over the place. She decides to kill Cora – which is premeditated. She’s THOUGHT it over. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment murder. It wasn’t an OOPS. It was a choice. Then, we’re supposed to believe that Snow immediately regrets her choice, falls apart, and sits in bed, catatonic? NO. A WORLD of NO. Yes, it was an impure thing, and Snow is all about goodness. But you cannot MAKE a decision like that and then act SURPRISED. But speaking of surprises…
  10. Snow’s heart is blackened by some kind of pulsated malignancy. One that, apparently, makes her do crazy things like SLAP people, independently. NO. Just no. First of all, if this whole Black Heart phenomenon were actually a previously established THING, we would’ve seen this before. Namely, when the crazy evil bitchy Cora’s heart makes an appearance. Cora, clearly, is not made of sugar and spice and everything nice – even from her snarky, Rumpelstiltskin-laden past. So, when Snow gazed upon Cora’s heart, candle in hand, it should’ve looked like a nice fat lump of glowing coal. BUT IT DIDN’T.
Categories: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: A Storyteller’s Thoughts on Being the Monster

November 12, 2012 6 comments

There are parts of ourselves that we all wish we could hide, that we all try to hide. The less shiny, less perfect secrets, the shades of our reflection that we are afraid of. The things that we, sometimes, simply cannot control. An instinct. An old habit. “Beowulf” was written to tell a story about the titular hero slaying a monster, Grendel. Years later, John Gardener wrote Grendel, a novel from the famed monster’s point of view. Why? Why tell the villains? Why humanize the creature that goes bump in the night? Because sometimes, everyone feels like a monster.

Take Ruby in last night’s episode of Once Upon a Time (Child of the Moon). Ruby’s story turns the tale of Little Red Riding Hood on its head. She is the wolf. She has no way to control her changes, except for a magical red cloak from her Granny. Of course, there was a time where she had no idea who she was. She killed people, including the love of her life, Peter.

With the landscape of magic shifting and changing in Storybrooke, Ruby (Red) has begun to regain some of her more wolfish qualities. A few weeks ago she admitted to having a heightened sense of smell and used it to locate the lost Belle. Once she realizes that she cannot find her cloak, and it’s the first full moon since the curse was broken/magic was restored, Ruby locks herself in the freezer at Granny’s.

Decker, aka the Evil King who was Charming’s fake father in Fairytale Land, is hellbent on evil and mayhem. He sets Ruby up for a murder she didn’t commit, killing Billy (who is actually GusGus from Cinderella). Ruby, realizing her worst fears have come true, has a truly poignant emotional meltdown, blaming herself for the harm she believes she’s inadvertently caused. Decker has whipped the townsfolk into an honest-to-fairies MOB – complete with pitchforks and torches – in an effort to make David/Charming’s life into a nightmare. (More on nightmares in a minute.)

However, in a Fairytale Land flashback, we find Snow and Red running away from the royal guard. Red’s cloak is torn, and she insists they split up for the night, for Snow’s sake. Red is discovered by a pack of wolves just like her, including the mother that she was led to believe in dead. Her mother has a bit of Crazy Eyes, but she teaches Red how to give in to the wolf, to be the wolf, so that she’s in control – and doesn’t have any more blackouts. This is the first time Red embraces her nature, not as a monster – but as a lesson to us all, which is not to fight who we are. It is when we fear ourselves and are untrue to who we are that bad things happen.

Of course, Red’s mother thinks that humans are horrible and they are the monsters by default. When Snow stumbles upon their den, looking for Red, she is welcomed at first – and then one of the palace guards kills a member of the pack. Crazy Eyes Mom goes full-on Lord of the Flies, decreeing that they must EAT Snow, including Red. Red, to protect her friend, fights her mother – who dies and calls her a traitor to her kind. Talk about needing therapy there, Mommy Dearest. Red, beautifully played by Meghan Ory, says that she wasn’t betraying her family – she was protecting it. This reminds us that family isn’t always blood, and blood isn’t always right.

Which brings us back to Storybrooke, where there’s an Angry Mob chasing after Ruby, who is so convinced that she’s a monster who deserves to die, that she goes out to meet them as the wolf. Her friends (David, Granny, and Belle) believe in her. They see the good in her, when she is at her worst and can only see herself as a monster. Belle, in a wonderful quip, calls herself an ‘expert on rehabilitation,’ which seems to imply her relationship with Gold has continued, though we have yet to see them interact for a while. Still: large cheer!

Ruby, thinking of all her past mistakes, so easily blames herself. It is so easy to internalize guilt, thinking of our worst decisions, our worst failings. David tells the crowd (who are one step away from shouting RUTABAGA! which is a common shout in mob scenes) the truth about Decker, who pretty much oozes vitriol and spite. He, taking a risk, walks toward Ruby with her rediscover cape, talking to her about seeing who she is, about knowing her for who she is. David reminds Ruby of herself, and Ruby thus gains control over her own nature. That moment is very touching, because what person doesn’t need that kind of reminder, sometimes? When we are down on ourselves, when we think we are the monster? Everyone is Grendel, sometimes. But if we are lucky, there is someone to hold up a true mirror, instead of a distorted funhouse one.

Of course, not all’s well that ends well. Decker’s endgame was to destroy the Hatter’s hat, which he does with glee – leading David to nearly shoot him. Ruby talks him down, but for a moment, I wished she hadn’t. Because Decker is an asshole. Where are his redeeming qualities? We know from his backstory that his wife was barren. That he suffered. Each character in Once is layered – even the Evil Queen has her roots and her reasons. I’m curious about Decker’s.

We cannot forget Henry in all this. He and Sleeping Beauty have been having the same nightmare, a side-effect of the Sleeping Curse. Regina, upon discovering that the nightmare has very real implications (the dream flames burn Henry), she calls Gold. He cannot stop the nightmares, but he gives Henry a necklace to wear that will allow him to control the dream, thus giving him a link to Fairytale Land through Sleeping Beauty. This is a pretty clever turn of events, and I’m curious to see how it’s used to unravel and shape the storylines. Also, when Regina asks about the price for Gold’s services, he snarks that she couldn’t afford it, BUT since it’s for Henry, it’s on him. I wonder, then, if he’s truly acting benevolent – or if he has some other kind of plan for Henry. Since we know that Henry can leave Storybrooke without a problem (that IS how he fetched Emma), I wonder if he might bring Baelfire to Gold, assuming he can discover where his son is.

This episode exemplifies an overarching theme of the show: no one is a hero or a monster; everyone is both. David, with a gun in his hand, may nearly kill someone. Ruby, thinking the worst of herself, may attempt penance through sacrificing her own life. And yet, everyone is saved or redeemed. In the end, a person must choose to save him/herself — to do the right thing. A friend can hold up a mirror. Someone who cares for you may stay by your side. But in the end, you have to choose to see the truth in your own reflection. In the end, you have to allow someone to be there for you.

Categories: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: the courage to be vulnerable

October 22, 2012 2 comments

 

Relationships are hard. Inevitably, everyone has an opinion about them, even when they’re not one of the two people in the relationship. Perhaps especially then, since it’s so easy and so clear cut to weigh and measure something from the outside. The sad truth is that there are those who will always judge another for who he/she loves, for who he/she has given his/her heart to. The saddest thing of all is when it is a family member, or someone whose opinion is held in high esteem.

Truly being in a relationship is fraught with emotional peril. For it to work, you have to be honest. You have to be vulnerable. You have to bear the ugly parts of yourself, not run away from them. Moreover, you have to fight for your relationship, for that other person. If you cannot fight for that other person, why would that other person fight for you? Like honesty, the hard work necessary is a two way street. When only one partner is doing the heavy lifting, something is rotten in Denmark.

Last night’s episode of Once Upon a Time (The Crocodile) was full of equal parts hardship and hope, love and loss, lesson and the object of that lesson. In Fairytale Land, we find a cowardly Rumplestiltskin, whose wife is longing for adventure. She resents him for being a coward (the quickest way to kill a relationship, btw, is to breed resentment). Supposedly, Milah is kidnapped by Killian Jones, who will later become Captain Hook (expertly portrayed by the dashing Colin O’Donoghue; this guy is wonderfully cheeky, having named his fans Hookers. A fact that nearly caused me to spit wine.). The cowardly Rumple goes to get her back, but is unable to fight for her, because of his debilitating fear. Hook, well-clad in leather and Johnny Depp’s leftover eyeliner, proclaims, “A man unwilling to fight for what he wants deserves what he gets.” And, you know, that’s true. Just as we accept the love we think we deserve (Perks of Being a Wallflower shout out), we are also bound those we choose to risk for – people, opportunities etc. We are what we dare. And if we do not dare, no one else loses but us.

Of course, we later learn that Hook and Rumplestiltskin encounter each other again, but Rumplestiltskin is the Dark One, brimming with power. It turns out his wife isn’t dead, as he thought; she ran away with the Captain, because she fell in love with him. This breaks his heart, not only for what that meant for him, but for how she abandoned their son. He exacts revenge by almost poetically ripping out Milah’s heart, perhaps as a metaphor for the emotional toll she took on him. Hook, who is not a clear cut bad guy, is obviously wrecked by this, which feeds into the idea that evil isn’t born – it’s made. As we find at the end of the episode, Hook and Cora are plotting to take a trip to Storybrooke.

What I loved most about this episode is the evolution of the Belle/Rumple relationship. In the beginning, Belle has a nightmare that exemplifies her fears. In it, he gives her a necklace (pretty, yes – but ornamental), gets in a fight with Leroy, and turns back into the Dark One. Once she wakes up, she spies him in the basement practicing magic, and his refusal to answer her questions makes her leave his home. Wisely, she tells him, “You don’t need power, Rumple. You need courage – to let me in.” That is what anyone in relationship needs: courage to honest. Courage to be vulnerable.

Rumplestiltskin, upon finding her gone, goes to David for help. While they are not friends, Rumple points out that he’s in a unique position to understand what he’s going through. This emotional appeal was a brave thing, because the Rumple we know would never ask anyone for him. David agrees, and they begin looking around Storybrooke for Belle.

Belle, of course, has the unfortunate experience of being kidnapped by her own father, who is absolutely horrified that she has fallen in love with the Dark One. This conversation is completely resonating for anyone who has ever loved someone that their parents disapproved of.

Belle: He wasn’t holding me captive. I choose to be with him.

Moe (Belle’s Dad): Are you saying you fell in love with him?

Belle: But I fear it may be over now.

Moe: It must be. Promise me you no longer love him. That you will no longer see him.

Belle: I’m not a child.”

Moe: You don’t understand what that man will do to you, what he’s already done.

Belle: No, you don’t understand. It’s my life.

Moe: Then I don’t have a choice. I’m sorry.

With that, Moe takes the overprotective parent angle to new, horrifying (somewhat PSYCHOTIC) heights: he has someone else take her to the mines, in order to forcible send her across the town boundary – which would erase her memory, thus her love. Stop and think about that for a second. I’m sure that in each parent’s life, there are things he/she would take away from his/her child. Most likely, it would be pain or a bad memory. But Moe, being dangerously ignorant and self-righteous, would rather his daughter lose who she is – than to be in love with someone he disapproves of. The implications there are truly revolting. It is one thing to disagree with someone; it is another to insist you know better and attempt to stamp out that person’s agency.

Meanwhile, David and Rumplestiltskin are asking around, and the townsfolk are not entirely helpful. It isn’t like anyone has Mr. Gold over for tea. And yet, there is this sweetly touching moment between these two, where Rumple is (again) raw and vulnerable – and very, almost sweetly human.

Rumple: Can I ask you a question – about you and Mary Margaret. How…how does that work?

David: Are you asking dating advice?

Rumple: Of course not, no.

David: Honesty. That’s how we did it. Hard work and being honest with one another.

Rumple: I don’t lie.

David: There’s a difference between literal truth and honesty of the heart. Nothing taught me that more than this curse.

This brilliantly illustrates how much Rumple doesn’t know about relationships – and draws a nice parallel between Cursed David and Rumplestiltskin. That version of David didn’t know how to be perfectly honest, and that’s what mucked things between him and Mary Margaret; he couldn’t be the brave version of Charming. Likewise, Rumplestiltskin is in foreign waters, because he hasn’t exactly had the best track record with relationships. His first wife pretended to be kidnapped, ran off with someone else, and constantly berated him. He was used to being the Monster (the Beast, the Crocodile), until he met Belle. Belle, it is fair to say, is his catalyst for change. Love, after all, is the most powerful magic.

David, Moe, Ruby, and Rumplestiltskin arrive in the mines in time to rescue Belle; Rumple makes his biggest display of magic yet, which impresses Ruby. He is relieved to find that they are not too late, that Belle hasn’t forgotten him. The beginning of this exchange has shades of their conversation in last season’s finale – “I do, Rumplestiltskin. I remember.”

Belle isn’t a weak character. She doesn’t immediately forgive the man she loves, simply because he rescues her. Instead, she challenges him, “Thank you for what you just did, but that doesn’t change that you’re too cowardly to be honest with me.” Belle isn’t afraid of the dark parts in him; what she fears is that he cannot show them to her.

Of course, somehow Crazy Moe thinks that he and his daughter will now live happily ever after – because nothing says Daughter, I love you! like trying to take who she is – but Belle is having absolutely none of that, declining to go with him, “After what you just tried to do to me? You’re not better, father. You don’t get to decide what I do or how I feel. If either of you cared about me, you would’ve listened. I don’t want to see either of you again, ever.” Beautifully, she leaves, with everyone else just gaping at her. I cheered a bit, while feeling horribly bad for Rumplestiltskin. Let’s face it: if my ideal type was personified as a character, it’d be him. And I’m not just saying that because I have a crush of Robert Carlyle. That doesn’t hurt of course.

The story does not end there. In her nightmare, Belle was given a very opulent necklace by Rumplestiltskin, something pretty – but impersonal. It was not a gift that says I know you; it was a gift that says I am buying you. Or, even, you are just another possession, like this necklace. However, in reality, someone leaves Belle a key to the library. It is, as we learn, from Rumplestiltskin. The parallel between these two gifts is remarkable. While the necklace conveyed an emotional disconnect, the key does the exact opposite: it shows that he sees her and appreciates what she holds dear. In other words, he gets her.

He is waiting for her in the library. And it is there that he is the bravest we’ve ever seen him, without a whisper magic or power. All he is armed with is his naked vulnerability, his love, and total honesty. He has, we see, taken David’s advice. The motive is not to win her back, but to be a worthy person.

Rumplestiltskin: I came because, you’re right. About me. I am a coward. I have been my entire life. I tried to make up for it by collecting power, and the power became so important that I couldn’t let go. Not even when that meant losing the most important person in my life.

Belle: Your son.

Rumple: Baelfire is him name. After he left, I dedicated myself to finding him. I went down many, many paths – until I found a curse that could take me to the land where he escaped.

Belle: Here.

Rumple: Now I find myself in this little town, with only thing left to do. Wait for the curse to be broken, so that I could leave and find him.

Belle: But instead of looking for him, you brought magic.

Rumple: Because I’m still a coward. Magic has become a crunch that I can’t walk without. And even if I could, I now know I can never leave this place.

Belle: Because anyone who leaves, forgets the people they love. So, when you go to look for balefire, you won’t know him.

Rumple: Magic comes with a price. Belle, I have to break this new curse. That’s why I was using magic, the night you saw me in the basement. I have lost so much that I loved. I didn’t want to lose you again, without you knowing everything. [Here, he touches her face, with such a loving gesture. I am not ashamed to say that it melted my heart.] Goodbye, Belle.

What is love, if not forgiving? What is love if not a display of difficult honesty? Belle sees the pain of what he’s going through, what he’s gone through. She sees, through that conversation, his ache. The one he has carefully hidden from the world. The mad desire to find his son consumed him in Fairytale Land. In a horrible twist of fate, it might be his release of magic that rendered him unable to go in search of Bae. The question hanging in the air is: if he hadn’t release magic, would he be able to cross the town line without consequence?

Before he can leave the library, Belle stops him.

Gold: Have you ever had a hamburger?

Rumple: Yes, of course.

Belle: Well, I haven’t. But I hear that Grannies makes a great one. Maybe, maybe we could try it sometime.

Rumple: I would like that.

That is the beginning of forgiveness. It is a new, honest start. It is also the promise of a date. I think that it’s interesting that Belle knows exactly who she is, and what she wants, even though she’s been absent from the world for 28 years. She is experiencing so many things for the first time, and yet, she is secure in herself. She has an almost childlike delight in the things we (as everyday people) perhaps take for granted. The little pleasures, like iced tea and pancakes for breakfast. The delight of sharing a meal with someone, something that’s new. It is a simple thing, but so very important. When we begin to take those moments for granted, we begin to take each other for granted – we take life for granted. She takes nothing for granted. And I love that.

While Belle portrays our very best self when in love (brave, honest, strong, and willing to FIGHT – even if that means fighting the other person), Rumplestiltskin reminds us that we all have the potential to be cowardly – to run away and wall ourselves off. However, he also reminds us that we are more than who we have been. We are more than our past. We have the ability to change, to be braver and more honest. The most important thing we can do in a relationship is to be honest, to share the messy parts of ourselves, trusting the other person more than our fear. To offer up the darkest parts of ourselves to the person that we love, without ulterior motive. Because no one is truly a coward in love. Love itself makes us braver, stronger, and truer. Flaws and mistakes are not who we are; they are just things that we have done.

Now, a few small points, just for fun. Rumplestiltskin goes a bit Princess Bride on occasion, which I adore. He says truly and true as twooly and twu, not unlike the bishop in the marriage scene between Buttercup and Humperdink. Additionally, Captain Hook uttered a Buffy shout out, when he instructed the cowardly Rumplestiltskin on the fine arts of duelling, “The pointy end goes in the other guy.” Between the Game of Thorns flower shop, and that, I did a geeky dance of happy.

Once Upon a Time: A Storyteller’s Thoughts on Vulnerability and the Things We Do for Love

October 15, 2012 4 comments

Letting someone in is a hard thing. Or at least, it can be. It requires trust and vulnerability. It is a leap of faith, and it can be scary. I remember when I was five years old, a friend of mine wanted to pick me up. It was a silly game that kids play. I, trusting her, said yes – and she then dropped me in the parking lot, leaving me with a skinned knee. After that, I didn’t trust her. But life is rarely so overt as physical pain and scars.

In the same vein, putting another person first can be pulse-racing terrifying. It is a selfless act, or it should be. In this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time, there is a dance of trust, faith, vengeance, and the tango that is love. Love, any kind of love, is a strange, transformative thing. To be blunt, it makes us insane. It makes us do absolutely crazy, illogical things.

Princess Aurora, for instance, is wracked with grief over the loss of her love, Prince Phillip. She’s got angry face and evil eyes. In an instance of pure stupid, she tries to take out Snow, who is still a badass, even without the practice. She gives Aurora a stern talking to, before Mulan has a slight fit that someone else is being condescending toward the princess. But if anyone understands losing love, it’s Snow; she lost Charming so many times, for so many different reasons. Prince Phillips’s soul is trapped inside the wraith’s medallion. So, he isn’t dead, so much as…inaccessible. That’s just MY two cents. It seems like there could be hope for a happy(ish) ending there, but what do I know? I grew up reading too many fairytales. BUT, speaking of the fairest of them all…

Snow, reaffirming the Love Makes Us Do the Stupid theme, confronted an OGRE – with only a bow and arrow. She took it down with one shot, not knowing if she could even aim well, anymore. Snow was protecting her daughter, somewhat recklessly — without hesitation. Emma, clearly, is stunned. She isn’t used to relying on others, which she now must, because we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Because Kansas does NOT have ogres.

David, back in Storybrooke, endeavors to keep Henry out of harm’s way, which is well-meaning, but ridiculous. Henry, as kids often are, is all courage without fear. Without compunction, he tricks Regina out of her office (playing on her very real emotions), steals her keys and goes off in search of something in her vault to help get Emma and Snow back.

Momentary pause, here, because I felt incredibly bad for Regina, because her joy was totally sweet, when she thought Henry wanted to see her. Then, to find out he LIED to her? That’s low and cold. I’m sure her heart did a slight Grinch reversal – and yet, she still had the hope and the wherewithal to call David and let him know what happened, putting Henry first and saving from the vipers that were about to snack upon his stubborn hide.

This show continually warns that all magic comes with a price. And yet, so do the ordinary things, the choices we make and the actions we take. Trusting someone else? It is risky. It makes us vulnerable. And when we love someone else to put our life in their hands (figuratively and literally), it says a lot. In a Fairytale Land flashback, we see Charming’s mother poisoned by an arrow, Snow cursed with bareness, and Charming’s mother sacrificing her life so that Snow can be healed. The lake Nostros, with its healing powers, has all but dried up – since Charming killed the siren that lived there, last season. Only a small thimble-sized bit of water is left, and in an effort of selfless, sneaky love – Charming’s mother tricks Snow into drinking it. All the while, the knowledge of this barren curse is kept from Charming. Which is odd, because you’d expect Snow to maybe want to commiserate with the man she loves. Also, that drop of water? What if it was rain water? I mean, how did they know that this small seashell contained the magic lake water? Because it could’ve just been a puddle. *ahem* Anywayyyy…

Additionally, in this episode, we meet Lancelot, who has already been disgraced, left the round table, but who is still an honorable knight with a heart of gold. But to me, his character kind of fell flat. He could’ve been ANY knight. There was nothing truly remarkable about the depiction, except that he had a recognizable name. I wish that Once would’ve done a bit more with him, because with a rich literary history such as that, it could’ve been awesome. Of course, none of that matters, because by the episode, we learn that Cora killed him and has been posing as Lancelot ever since. This, I have to say, was a brilliant plot twist. I did NOT see that coming. Snow, clearly, knew better than to trust Cora; however, she was so relieved to see her old friend Lancelot that she didn’t question him, until he (Cora) slipped up.

Cora is desperate to get to Storybrooke. (Why? We don’t know. We can probably guess it’s for nefarious reasons AND that it probably has to do with getting revenge on Regina for the whole looking glass banishment thing.) She is foiled by Emma, who sets the wardrobe aflame; the wardrobe is the only known portal back to Storybrooke, and she had to protect Henry. Afterwards, there is a very touching moment between Emma and Snow, where we really see how broken Emma is in places. She has a very hard time trusting people, and she’s incredibly uncomfortable with other people putting her first. She is used to being a badass, but not used to being a badass with friends and people who care. It kind of undoes the edges of her world. Incidentally, Cora reappears after the others have departed, only to scoop up some wardrobe ashes into a bottle; they begin to glow red. It seems like there still might be a bit of magic left in the embers.

Back in Storybrooke, Jefferson (after a sweet pep talk from Henry) goes to find his daughter, Grace. His worst fear that she will hate him, because he abandoned her. Silly rabbit, her face practically cracks underneath her giant grin, when he calls her name. There is a quiet, overwhelming beauty in this reunion; it is something so simple: a father and his daughter, finding each other again. But it took a great deal of hope and vulnerability for Jefferson to get to that moment/place, literally and figuratively. In order to see his daughter again, which is something he wants very badly, he had to risk his greatest fear: that she wouldn’t want to see him. It was an instance of bravery and faith that would warm even the coldest heart. Well, except Cora’s, because I’m pretty sure hers is made of volcanic ash. (I want to see the initial meeting between her and Rumplestiltskin. Because you KNOW that’s going to be fantastic.)

Yes, all magic comes with a price. Almost always, trust and faith do, too. Because those actions are, inherently, a risk, without the certainty of a reward. David must pause in his nearly mad quest to find Emma and Snow, in order to be a grandfather to Henry. This includes a rather cute swordfight toward the end of the episode, which is menacingly undercut by Charming’s fake father glaring from a nearby car. I’m pretty sure I’d notice the man who routinely ruined my life, sitting there – but perhaps his flannel acted as some sort of camouflage. (Seriously, though, Alan Dale is a wonderful actor. He puts some much evil into a single look.)

This episode is all about faith, trust, and being vulnerable. Snow is vulnerable with Emma and vice versa. Aurora, in all her mad grief, is vulnerable. Regina is vulnerable with Henry, and Henry (oddly for him, the previously moral compass for Right and Good) takes advantage of that. Jefferson is completely heart-on-sleeve with his daughter; this is rewarded.

I wonder, though, about the title of the episode The Lady of the Lake. It is a reference to the Arthurian legend, retold from a thousand different angles; the most commonly recognized one is that of a woman, giving Excalibur to Arthur, extending her hand from the waters. In Once, are we to believe that the Lady of the Lake is the dead siren? If so, what is the significance of the title? Is that that all actions come with a price, not just love and magic? In order to save Fredrick for Abigail, Charming killed the siren. This set a wheel into motion, consequences spinning out in all directions. Whatever potential that lake held, it is forever gone. Sometimes, what is lost through one choice is unfathomable. No one can account for everything, and so Charming lost his mother, because she was selfless. And through that, Emma was eventually born. The smallest choice, ripples out, like notes in a song.

Love, and you cannot know what will happen. Trust, and you cannot know what will occur. Show up, and you cannot know how will someone else react. Every action is a risk. Sometimes, the result is a beautiful thing. Sometimes, the endgame is not clear. Sometimes, you must have faith. Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is often a noble act caught in shadows. Only time will tell.

Categories: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: We are the Lines We Cross

October 8, 2012 2 comments

Everyone has a line they say they will not, or cannot, cross. The line between good and bad, the line between right and wrong, the line between yes and no. For each person, in each situation, the line is distinct. A line is usual an if, then instance. If I cross that line, then this will happen. Whatever this is. Sometimes, the outcome is known. Other times, it’s a mystery.

So, there’s a line in front of you. What do you do? You either cross it, or you don’t. You can only dance on it, through indecision, for so long.

Last night’s Once Upon a Time was all about lines (We Are Both). The town is in a panic, wondering if they should flee or stay. It is discovered that if someone crosses the boundary out of Storybrooke, his/her personality vanishes. Leroy explains, “If we leave, our cursed selves become our only selves.” (Lee Arenberg is bloody brilliant – as are the rest of the dwarves. Team 7, ya’ll.)

David went to Regina, looking for answers about the magic hat. A rather hilarious exchange ensues, and Regina quips, “I will not listen to childcare lectures from a man who put his daughter in a BOX and shipped her to Maine.” In Evil and Unhelpful Mode, she lies about who the hat belongs to. The two argue about Henry, and David wisely admonishes her, “If you have to use magic to keep your son, then you don’t really have him.” This is a perfect foil to Regina’s relationship with her mother, Cora – who continually uses magic to keep her daughter a prisoner, set to marry Snow’s father.

A flashback to Fairytale Land reveals a young, and unhappy, Regina – before she marries Snow’s father. She desperately wants her free and just as desperately wants to remain good, unlike her mother. Wondering, out loud to her father, she asks how her mother came to be that way – since evil isn’t born; it’s made. Her father mentions a man who is responsible, but Cora will not speak his name. A brilliant use of dramatic irony, and the audience KNOWS that it’s Rumplestiltskin. An interaction with Young Snow White reveals that Regina is terrified that being around her mother is changing her, since she’s started to have increasingly dark thoughts. This brings up an interesting notion: did Cora make Regina evil, or was it Regina’s choices?

Regina, desperate to get her back magic (and thus, Henry), visits to Gold. On her way, she runs into Dr. Hopper who tries to get her to talk about her pain, so that it might help her realize who she is. With a look of utter certainty, she says, “I know who I am.” This certainty, however, is called into question.

Visiting Mr. Gold, we find that he already has magic at the ready, as he conjures a familiar book of spells. The very same book that belong to Cora, Regina’s mother. Gold notes, as well, how asking for that book is crossing a line – because now, Regina resembles her mother. The very thing, back in Fairytale Land, she feared to become. Another flashback to Young Regina reveals her summoning Rumplestiltskin. Her innocence and sweetness is very interesting; he also admits that he’s seen her before, back when she was a baby and more “portable.” The audience gets a sense that, perhaps, some sort of bargain was struck between Cora and Rumplestiltskin, but no further details are given. Begging for a way to get rid of her mother without succumbing to evil. Her gives her a magic mirror, saying that she only has to push her mother into it – and it will do the work. In a moment of blind fear and rage, Regina does just that, looking completely horrified afterwards. That moment, that choice – that line – is the beginning of her descent.

Meanwhile, David is trying to remember how to be a prince, but complains that Snow was always the one who was good with words. The town is falling apart, and he’s caught up in his own personal struggle – a very human emotion. Mr. Gold for help (he is looking for a way to Snow and Emma), but wouldn’t go so far as to tell Gold what he needed it for. The compromise was that they’d keep out of each other’s way. David mentions the trouble crossing the line; as soon as he leaves, Gold’s anger and grief is taken out on the room. He smashes things, looking truly downtrodden, as if some possibility has been lost. We learn, through little hints and at the end of the episode, that Gold was looking to leave Storybrooke. He was headed to New York. Perhaps to find his lost son, who methinks is coming to him. Summoned by…? We don’t know.

David, completely consumed with finding his family, misses the town meeting where he’s supposed to talk about how to save the town. Ruby has been frantically trying to keep the townspeople in check, but she can only do so much. Regina, magic-laden, crashes the party – scares the people – and Henry goes with her to assuage her anger. Back at her house, Henry attempts to escape, only to be caught by the same spell that Cora used on Regina, back in Fairytale Land. Afterward, he pointedly asks how long he’ll be her prisoner for – and replies that she is only acting the way she is because she loves him. “So, I’m a prisoner, because you love me? That’s not fair.” In this beautifully, almost misguided, heart-to-heart, Henry reasons with Regina, who is trying to appeal to him by saying he can make people love him, if she shows him magic. “I don’t want that. I don’t want to be you.” Visibly, Regina is taken aback, as what he said pulled at her heartstrings, as she remembers how her mother kept her prisoner.

David, finally as a combination of David and Charming, confronts the townspeople. This is a moment where he shines, crossing the line from self-involved, panicked person – to hero. He talks about being both people, how he wouldn’t give up one part of himself to just be the other. Each aspect of his personality, both halves, make him who he is – the weaknesses and the strengths. Every person, if they stay, has so many choices open to him and her. But leaving? Leaving takes away those choices, by removing part of themselves. That would make each of them less. David promises to keep them safe and protect them, urging them to united as a kingdom and a people. They agree, and Ruby gives David a look of approval, as he’s FINALLY grown into his own. (One wonders if, perhaps, Snow/Mary Margaret had to be absent for that to happen. Perhaps he would’ve leaned on her more heavily, if she was there.)

Another flashback to Fairytale Land offers us an exchange between Rumpelstiltskin and Regina, who admits that she loved using magic – and because of that, she doesn’t want to use it agin. Rumplestiltskin quips, approvingly and creepily, that she’s “discovered who [she is].” She accepts his offer to teach her magic, owing him a favor someday. When she asks if she’ll become like her mother, he replies, “That, dearie, is entirely up to you.” This further exemplifies the idea that we are what lines we deign to cross. We are the choices that we make. And who we are isn’t set in stone. It’s a constant act of will – and, perhaps, change.

We see this idea blossom, when Regina crosses back over a line. She willingly gives Henry back to David, admitting that she doesn’t “know how to love very well,” but that she remembers that “if you hold onto someone too hard, that doesn’t make them love you.” She then apologizes, brilliantly, saying, “I want to redeem myself.” In an effort to do just that, she truthfully answers David’s questions about what remains in Fairytale Land. From this exchange, one thing is clear: they both truly care about Henry. Interestingly, Regina is very human after she acquires she’s long sought after.

Evil isn’t born; it’s made. The same can be said for good. Each character isn’t wholly perfect or imperfect. Each is a combination of things, wrought by decisions and influenced by others. Regina gave up Henry in order to earn his trust; that sacrifice may be her turning point. Unlike her mother, who most likely is still evil and not dead, as we find Snow and Emma imprisoned with her in a corner of Fairytale Land. One wonders, then, if it is her magic that kept that part of the land from the curse.

The lines we cross, and the choices we make, reveal us to ourselves. They are a step on a path, a stone in a street, a direction. No single decision defines a person. We are the sum our past and a future, not just what we have do, but what we do and will do. Just as David finally remember who he is, so can everyone who dares to step up to a challenge and be brave. Bravery isn’t swords and battles; it’s words and wisdom. It’s staying, and not fleeing. It’s loving and not running, even when we are afraid. No one is perfect. We are, all of us, weak and strong. Every choice is a line. Every line a question. But there is strength in crossing it – or even just figuring out how to do that. If we are never brave enough to venture outside boundaries, then we learn nothing. We love too safely. And we would never grow.

Crossing a line always means taking a risks. Those risks shape the most important parts of ourselves. And while we are the lines we cross, we are also the reason we cross them.

Categories: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: Love, Sacrifice, and Forgiveness

October 1, 2012 7 comments

 

Have you ever felt completely unlovable? Thought to yourself, I’m too this or too that? I’m awkward or unfunny. No one is going to be able to love me. How could they? I’m [x,y, and z]! This is for posterity, so be honest.

Of course you have. Because we all have those moments that shake us to the core. Things we’ve done or said, secrets that we carry like Sisyphean boulders – the bloody albatross hanging precariously from our necks. It is all to easy to believe that our flaws and our wrongdoings make us who we are. It is all to easy to accept the notion that we are defined by our past. And that past, perhaps, makes us unworthy of love. I think it was Stephen Chbosky who wrote that “we accept the love we think we deserve.” And, in our darkest moments when we cannot bear to look into the mirror, he is right. We get used to the idea that we are unworthy and cannot get around it. Even, perhaps, when the love of our life is standing in front of us. In that way, we are all occasionally broken in our eyes.

Last night, in the premiere of ABC’s Once Upon a Time (Broken), Rumpelstiltskin was reunited with Belle. Magic has returned to Storybrooke, but it is a different magic. A strange magic. One that no one really understands (at one point, Regina tries her magic and fails spectacularly – only to succeed a small while later). True love, however, is repeatedly called the most powerful magic of all. When you look at Rumpelstiltskin and Belle, there is love there. Palpable, tangible, heart-singing love. The kiss scene by the well? That was absolutely beautiful. But if true love is the most powerful magic of all, it also should be said that difficult love can also be true love. As David/Mary Margaret illustrated last season, the course of true love ne’er did run smooth. Belle makes Rumpelstiltskin promise not to kill Regina, not to let his need for revenge win – and if he honors that promise, they can be together. Robert Carlyle expresses more with a look and a kiss that previously thought possible, and Emilie de Ravin was beautifully sincere and hopeful as Belle. She is a strong character. More about that later.

Elsewhere in Storybrooke, happy reunions occur, a mob tries to kill Regina, who is rescued by the Royal Family. (Interesting exchange between Charming and Dr. Whale. Whale vehemently retorts that Charming is not his prince, either implying that his allegiances lie with a different royal family OR that he knows that Charming isn’t really a prince. He is, technically, the prince’s twin brother.) Emma is still reeling from the revelation of her parents (Snow and Charming), and eventually she explains that while the intentions were good, being abandoned as a baby left deep scars. It wasn’t merely an altruistic move, as she points out; it was also done to save the kingdom. Essentially, Snow and Charming sacrificed being with her/raising her knowing that they would not see her for 28 years. While part of that reason was love, it has to sting a bit.

Technically staying true to his promise, Rumpelstiltskin visits Regina, marking her with the symbol of a Wraith. A soul-sucker that doesn’t stop until it kills its victim. When Belle overhears what he’s done, she is hurt and furious. Rumpelstiltskin is a master of words, of saying on the right side of promises, while doing what he wants. Belle tells him, “You toy with words. Like you do people. You’re still a man who makes wrong choices. I thought you’d changed.” From a place of defensive hurt, he viciously rejoins, “in the hour you’ve known me?” Despite his apologies, she leaves, pain plain on her face. The parting shot of his face is one of shock, leaning toward, “What have I done?”

Meanwhile, Snow, Charming, and Emma struggle to save Regina – because Emma promise her son Henry. And yet, he seems to regret that promise a little while later when Regina nearly kills Charming, his grandfather. Whoops. Armed with Jackson’s mad hatter hat, they attempt to send the Wraith elsewhere, but Regina can’t make it work – until Emma puts her hand on Regina’s shoulder, signifying that Emma possesses magic, possibly more magic than the Evil Queen. While Regina is, indeed, saved – the Wraith pulls Emma down the hat with it, and Snow jumps in after her, determined not to abandon her daughter again. Charming attempts to follow, but the hat portal closes before he can. (All this makes me wonder exactly where Jefferson is hiding.)

Congruently, in Fairytale Land, Prince Phillip woke up Sleeping Beauty – and Aurora and Phillip are happily reunited, with some help from Mulan. They are in a part of the Kingdom that is miraculously untouched by the curse; when Emma returned to Storybrooke, she started time in Fairytale Land too – which is an interesting link between the two worlds. Unfortunately, Phillip is marked by the Wraith, dooming him to death. He tells no one, but sets off to sacrifice himself so that his beloved Aurora (and his dear companion Mulan) may live. When the two women discover this, they rush off to find him, Aurora realizing keenly that Mulan carries a hidden torch for the Prince. Phillip dies at the ethereal and dark hand of the Wraith, which was brought back to the land by Emma and Snow. That was an interesting twist.

If this episode were based on a question, it would be this: what are you willing to sacrifice for love? For Snow, it was everything – when she jumped into that hat. For Emma, she saved Regina for love of her son, resulting in unimaginable consequences. For Phillip, it was his life. He sacrificed himself for the woman he loved. Which brings us full circle to Rumpelstiltskin. He sees himself as a monster, as Belle pointed out, a “man who makes wrong choices.” He allows his pain, anger etc to rule him. And yet, with the introduction of Belle, there are cracks in that dominant motivation. He truly does love her, and she him.

What, then, does Belle sacrifice for love? Everything. Because she comes back to him. Despite what he has done, she returns – which is something we’ve seen in the past. She asks, “So, you didn’t get what you wanted?” And, clever as always, he says, “Well, that remains to be seen.” Her resolve seems to crack completely when she sees the chipped cup from their time together in Fairytale Land. He has saved it, and in season one, fought very hard to get it back when it was stolen.

Then, Rumpelstiltskin attempts to make a sacrifice: he tries to send Belle away, for her own good. He is, once again, giving up his own heart for her. He tells Belle that “despite what you hope, I’m still a monster.” As love is a thing that reveals us all, she will have none of it, fighting for him, even if it means fighting him. Touching his shoulder, tears in her eyes, she replies, “Don’t you see? That’s exactly the reason I have to say.” That is love. Love stays, when others would flee. Love risks, attempts to rescue us from our darker selves.

You see, Rumpelstiltskin may think himself a villain, but in her eyes, he is just a man who makes wrong choices. And that is something someone can fix, something you can rescue someone from. He is not an evil man, though he’s done bad things. Belle SEES him for who he is and who he can be. She sees past all his defenses, all his mistakes, and refuses to allow him remain apart from his heart – it is that heart that may be his salvation. Rumple is his own monster. Yet, she forgives him for his flaws, which is all anyone really wants in love. To see, and to be seen, and for all things to be made right through love. What is, perhaps, broken or chipped like that cup? It can still be cherished, because love is forgiveness.

Once Upon a Time: We Could All Use a Little Bit of Magic

 

What if the only thing keeping two people apart was a curse? An evil spell that did not keep them from loving one another, but kept them from being able to get their acts together? A magic that did not make them forget each other, but themselves? You cannot love, truly and deeply to the hilt of it, if you do not know yourself. You’d bring nothing to the table but hope and illusion. Love built on that is love built on a frozen river. It may be beautiful for a time, until the world thaws and the foundation is swallowed by the current.

Love, though, is the most powerful magic of all. Think of all the people you’ve loved, wrong or right. Think of all the heated looks, the captured memories, the soft kisses and stolen glances. Think of all the feelings, like your skin is the only thing keeping you from going everywhere at once. It’s a warm, rushing, dizzying feeling – like Christmas morning and the flu rolled all into one.

A single kiss can break the curse, bringing the world to right – even in the moment the world seems so very wrong. In the season finale of Once Upon a Time (A Land Without Magic), Emma finally believes (“I just talked to the Evil Queen and Rumplestiltskin about a quest to find magic.” The delivery on this line was priceless.). Her eyes finally open. And Emma? She’s pissed and she’s mighty. She kicks a dragon’s ass (poor Malificent!), rescuing an egg with a special potion in it (true love, bottled by Rumplestiltkin – who, holy crap, was amazingly played by Robert Carlyle. I can’t get over how talented that man is, dearie). Except, Mr. Gold takes the egg for himself, and it’s not a bottled magic that saves Henry or the people of Storybrooke. It’s Emma. Because Emma leans down and kisses Henry, waking him up – waking everyone up.

And things in Storybrooke are very, very interesting. Because everybody, suddenly, remember who they are. Charming finds Snow – and calls her Snow. But the most interesting twist (to me) is Jackson. The Hatter is frakkin’ pissed. The Queen double-crossed him TWICE; once, in Fairytale Land and once in Storybrooke. He just wants a life with his daughter. So, he does the only thing he can for vengeance: he releases Belle, the woman who loves Rumplestiltskin. And more importantly, perhaps, HE loves HER. Love might be the only thing that could ever keep him human. Or human-ish. We’ll have to see how that plays out next season, of course. But the look on his face when he sees Belle? And then when the curse is broken, and she remembers who he is? It’s so beautiful that it moves beyond words.

This finale left the audience with a lot of questions – wonderful questions, to be sure. What happened to August, who’d turned to wood? Why didn’t everyone travel back to Fairytale Land? And why did Rumplestiltskin put the love potion in the well, which spread true love through the town like the curse had spread? Do all the magical creatures have magic, again?

I do know one thing: I’d hate to be Regina, who was so beautifully portrayed by Lana Parrilla. So many perfectly conveyed emotions. I ended up feeling sorry for her, which I didn’t think was possible. But there’s a moment in the hospital, after Henry’s alright, where she tells him that she loves him. And it was so honest and raw – it broke my heart. But, as I said, I’d hate to be Regina. Because she was the one responsible for keeping Belle away from Rumplestiltskin. She lied to him, as well, about what happened to Belle in Fairytale Land. She took away the one bright thing that could render him human, again. That is a very, very dangerous thing. I am looking forward to his vengeance. But more than that, I’d like to see the gold spinner in love. Really, truly in love. Just for a little bit.

If Once Upon a Time is any indication, there are few things we should always believe in: love can change everything, the people who love us truly will always find us, and true love IS the most powerful magic there is, even in a world where Muggles reign supreme. For one hour a week, I’ve had the opportunity to believe in fairytales, again. I’ve met Prince Charming, Red Riding Hood, and a dwarf named Grumpy (formerly, Dreamy). It’s been a thing of wonder, full of the most perfect madness. There’s still more of the story yet to be told (thank the Blue Fairy for a second season!), but the one thing that doesn’t change? That’s love. And my dears? You’ve got mine. Thanks for the cast and crew for a fabulous season. You all have my thanks and appreciation.

Categories: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: On Being a Hero and Biting the Apple

May 7, 2012 5 comments

 

There are times where so many things seem impossible. Where someone tells you that you can’t do something, or the situation looks bleaker than a night on the bayou. Situations like that are considered hopeless, a lost cause – the place where sane, reasonable people lay down their arms. Because there’s no point in fighting, anymore. What lies ahead is a dragon or worse.

And yet, in moments like that, there are people who charge ahead anyway. There are people who refuse to quit, who do not yield, and who cling to principles and heart – rather than probability and doubt. This type of person looks at a situation, as dire as it may be, and sees that maybe something will change. That maybe, even when things seem hopeless, there’s no merit in giving up. Because then, the only thing you’ve guaranteed is that all possibilities have been abandoned.

This kind of person? Is a hero. In yesterday’s episode of Once Upon a Time (An Apple as Red as Blood), we have several examples of this: Snow White and her friends in Fairytale Land AND Henry in Storybrooke. I’d also propose that Mary Margaret in Storybrooke is a hero for a moment, a flash of her kickass self laying into Emma, who was going to run like a coward.

You see, Emma might be the savior of legend, but she isn’t a hero yet. She is, as Mary Margaret pointed out, regressing to her old self – the person who attaches to no one, who is beholden to no one, responsible for no one, and who runs when things get complicated.

Except that there’s Henry, her son. Who, despite all of her idiocy and fear, she wants the best for. She is grief-stricken when Archie points out all the trouble Henry’s gotten into, since Emma came to Storybrooke. What Archie doesn’t point out is that Henry is the one who began it, before even meeting Emma. He stole Regina’s credit card and tracked down Emma. Perhaps she isn’t the impetus for his slightly delinquent (though well-meaning) behavior. Perhaps it’s the circumstances in the town, which no one seems to consider.

In a perfect contrast of heartbreak, there’s Snow White in Fairytale Land, trying like Hell (with all her kickass friends, who made me cheer like crazy) to save her true love, Prince Charming. In an effort to spare his life, she willingly eats an evil, magic apple that traps her within her body as if dead. In the moment the magic hits her, the reverberations of it shoot through Charming, who feels the loss as if it were his own. A beautiful, poignant scene that reminds us that we often sacrifice ourselves for love, real love – that we would do anything to save that other person. (This is perfect, distilled love – not selfish, jealous love that sometimes runs rampant.) Snow fights to save her love with everything that she has. She puts her life and herself on the line. There’s nothing more profound than that. She took a fairytale bullet for Charming. It was hard to watch, because honestly? Who doesn’t want that kind of love?

This, of course, is the exact opposite of Emma – who chooses to leave Storybrooke for a myriad of reasons that read more like the excuses on an emotionally underdeveloped teenager. “You’ll be better off without me.” “We’ll still see each. It just won’t be every day.” The reason that Emma is so nervous and distraught as she tells this to Henry is because SOMEWHERE, deep down, she knows that this dead wrong. There was a reason she chose to stay in Storybrooke, and it may have been for Henry in the beginning (what happened to her stalwart strength that we saw in the first few episodes? The woman who would cut down an apple tree?) – but she stayed for the people in the town, those she cared about. Archie. Mary Margaret. Even David. She, honestly, made their lives better. And now she’s going to run away?

Not so fast. You see, Regina (with the help of the Mad Hatter – who I thought had gone back to Fairytale Land in the magical hat that Emma made. I don’t quite understand that bit) snatches the same evil, magic apple from Fairytale Land. She makes a delicious looking turnover of Apple Evilness and gives it to Emma, after they make a deal that Swann will leave Storybrooke. That moment had me YELLING at the screen, because COME ON, EMMA. Accepting candy from strangers is one thing, but accepting an apple turnover from a person of less than benevolent origins? She framed Mary Margaret, and now you’ll going to snack on the ONE apple turnover that just HAPPENED to be in her oven?

Of course, it doesn’t come to that. When Emma spills her paltry guts and pathetic explanations to Henry, the poor kid yanks on every heartstring in the human body. In a moment of revelation, he spies the turnover and makes an absolutely heroic choice: he sees it for what it is, but takes a bite anyway. To show Emma that the curse is real, that Regina is really the evil queen, and to keep her from fleeing Storybrooke. Henry, like Snow, makes the ultimate sacrifice.

That is a move that Emma will not be able to ignore. She may have willfully failed to see August for what, and who, he is – but her son? He’s the most steady emotional connection that she has. And now he’s in danger, because of Regina. Because of what Regina was trying to do to HER. I think, if I had to guess, we’re going to see more Apple Tree Chainsaw moments. From here on out, Emma must take her stand to fight for the only thing she’s really been willing to fight for: her son. This could be what brings Emma to her true self. (Also, notice that she’s wearing the red leather jacket again? Not a coincidence. Also, I really, really, really want that jacket. SO BAD.)

One thing I need to applaud is Mr. Gold’s pitch-perfect seething rage, kept in check behind a “dearie” and “all magic comes with a price.” It’s wonderful to see a bit of his Fairytale persona bleeding over into Storybrooke. I found myself wondering, exactly, how much magic he was able to carry over into Storybrooke. Regina said that all her magic lies in the objects she was able to bring over – and Gold has a giant shop FULL of objects from Fairytale Land. This has to come into play at some point, right?

I’m looking forward to the season finale – to seeing what Emma does, what she risks, and if David and Mary Margaret finally bury the hatchet of stupidity past. To quote from the Princess Bride, death cannot stop true love. I doubt a few flubs, or poison apples, or creeping doubts can stop it, either. Because wuv, twu wuv? It doesn’t happen every day. When it does? It’s worth risking everything for. It’s worth fighting for, even when it might seem hopeless.

Categories: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: A Storyteller’s Thoughts on Fear and Believing

April 30, 2012 9 comments

Belief is a strange thing. You cannot make someone believe something. You can present an argument, an opinion, or an example – and then, the other person must decide what to believe. Some people believe in god, because that’s how they were brought up. Environment and experiences factor into our belief system, because we don’t live in a vacuum. To a certain extent, we are what we live through.

Sometimes, though, we cloud our own eyes. We are so busy not believing that we cannot consider what we might be missing. Perhaps it is out of fear. Perhaps it is a desire to avoid responsibility. Perhaps it is a thousand things, crashing together like thunder in storm. In that case, the result is what matters. The outcome.

There’s something inherently sad about someone who lacks faith – any kind of faith, not religion. The ability to believe in things is a powerful thing. When absent, its dearth leaves a mark, a shadow, a hole. You know it when you see it, too. It’s easily recognized on a face, dancing in the shadows of a smile. This is a person who might be so strong in other areas – but so weak in this one instance. It can undercut the other facets of a person – the strength, the bravery, the goodness. Our ability to believe is intertwined with who we are.

Take Emma Swann, for instance, in this Sunday’s episode of Once Upon a Time (The Stranger). Essentially, she’s Obi Wan Kenobi. She’s the only hope for the people of Storybrooke. She’s the only one who can break the curse that befall the folks once who lived in a world of magic. By staying in Storybrooke to be with her son, Emma took the first step – that was a leap of faith. She has taken small leaps (believing in Mary Margaret, trying to trust August, the enigma, wrapped in stubble, wrapped in a typewriter). But the big leap? That she is a hero? That all the people she’s come to know and care for have been plucked out of fairytales? That scares the hell out of her.

Who wouldn’t be terrified of that kind of responsibility and pressure? Who would just blindly accept that kind of thing? No one. Because our experiences make us who we are, just like they formed Emma. Emma grew up in a world without magic, unprotected. Her life was full of struggles and hardships. She relied on what she could see and feel, putting faith in no one but herself.

In a brilliant revelation, August revealed himself to be Pinocchio. Since magic arrived in Storybrooke, he has also been affected – never mind that he was living it up at the human equivalent of Pleasure Island. His leg has turned to wood. In a moment of desperation, trying to force Emma to believe, he brings her to the place where she was found. He was there, too. His father bargained for his life, placing him in the wardrobe with baby Emma. He was the one who brought her to safety, only to abandon her in a moment of weakness. (The wooden boy became a real boy, and now that real boy is a man who can see his own shortcomings.)

Facing all this, Emma launches into to panic mode. She doesn’t want the power or the responsibility. The truth that people might be depending on her for their lives? When all her life, no one depended on her – and she depended on no one. It’s too much. By the end of the episode, she has come to a very human decision: she’s going to run. But she’s not going alone. She’s taking Henry with her. She’s fleeing, instead of fighting. Because her faith has faltered. Her kickass, take no shit from no one attitude is full of stress fractures and holes. She’s been unable to tell when people are lying or when they’re telling the truth. She’s lost her compass, somehow. Her sense of herself has been shifting, because she has been affected by her circumstances.

Growing up, we often lose our somewhat indiscriminate ability to believe in everything – fairies, monsters, magic, myths, and even people. That shining, bright copper penny feeling dulls, leaving us with an ache that we often try to ignore. (See, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell – and if as a horrible, candle-snuffing word.) It’s so important to hold on to a small part of ourselves that can still cling to magic, even the everyday magic of a sunset. A beautiful song.

Emma Swann has lost that – or buried it. She’s all heart and strength, without direction. She’s focusing on Henry and gaining possession/custody of him – because that’s the easier fight in a lot of ways. Believing in fairytales would completely shake her belief system to the roots. (Side-note: All along we’ve been referring to August as the Stranger — but he isn’t the only one. Not really. He’s part of Fairytale Land. I’d posit that Emma, who didn’t grow up in Fairytale Land, is the true Stranger.)

August believes that only he can convince Emma to believe, again. And he fails, spectacularly. That failure leads to a sort of reunion with his father, though only August knows who the man truly is. For me, I think that it’s not August who will restore Emma to herself. He doesn’t have a rapport with her. He doesn’t have the right connection. The only person who can make Emma believe isn’t even Emma herself. It’s Henry. He left Storybrooke in search of his mother. He is her heart, her center. Her reason. Somehow, that little kid (who is beyond awesome) has to make her see things as they are, not as she expects them to be.

Fairytales and magic aside, that is a very honest experience. We do not often want to see what is in front of us – especially if we are scared or not open. Especially if it means taking on something huge and daunting. Especially if it means diving into the wreck, a leap of faith without any semblance of a net.

But that kind of risk? It’s what makes us great. It’s what makes life worth living. It’s what brings a bit of magic into an otherwise ordinary world. We are what we dare.

Categories: Once Upon a Time