Monday, August 31, 2015

Once Upon a Time- Episode Analysis (A Curious Thing)

This episode was just…. I don’t know.

We finally wrap up what happened at the end of the Lost Year.  It begins with Belle arriving at the castle to warn Snow, Charming and Regina about how Rumpelstiltskin was back from the dead and how Zelena was now able to control him with the dagger.  The news is interrupted when Zelena swings by and, after turning Phillip and Aurora into flying monkeys as punishment for them tipping Snow and Charming off about how Zelena had threatened them and their unborn child if they didn’t let her know when the former Storybrookers returned to the Enchanted Forest, announces her plans to use Snow and Charming’s second child in her plans.  (Which reminds me, while Zelena magically froze Snow, Charming and Regina, Belle just stands there in the background, essentially twiddling her thumbs while Zelena announces her evil plans.  While I get there wasn’t much she could have done, it was weird that she was just standing there doing nothing.)  Understandably, Snow and Charming don’t take Zelena’s statements well, especially since this is the second time their unborn child has been threatened.  After a few months go by with no sign of Zelena anywhere, they’re all ‘well the last time this happened, Rumple’s the one who told us what to do; maybe he’s got some ideas.’  Obviously forgetting the whole issue with Rumpelstiltskin being absolutely bonkers due to the merging thing, they break into the Dark One’s castle to question him.  They don’t really get much from him, until Belle steps in.  Her presence apparently helps him get a brief moment of clarity (power of True Love, I guess), as he instructs them to go seek out Glinda, who had been banished from Oz and is now living in a castle up north, which can be accessed through a magic door portal.  They eventually find the door and, upon venturing through it, they find Glinda.  (LOL.  Poor Regina, getting rejected by the door’s heart-weighing barrier.)  Glinda tells Snow and Charming that the key to defeat Zelena is to get the green gem she wears away from her, as it is the source of her powers.  Yeah, does that sound familiar?

The fact that the movie Oz: The Great and Powerful was released in theaters before this episode aired does make me wonder if that movie didn't inspire the show writers just a teensy bit.

Anyway, the only person who can successfully get that gem away from Zelena is someone with strong Light Magic.  Immediately, Snow and Charming’s thoughts go to their daughter Emma, since she is the Product of True Love and all.  But the destruction of Storybrooke had constructed a permanent wall between the Enchanted Forest and the Land Without Magic.  The only known way to bring down that wall is by casting the Dark Curse- the one that Regina cast, which started this whole thing.  Problem is, Regina can’t cast it this time, as the Thing She Loves Most is currently Henry, who is a bit out of reach at the moment.  (At this stage of the game, Regina hadn’t figured out that Robin is her soul mate, and is therefore still rather snippy to him.)  Charming then up and decides that Snow should cast the curse, using his heart as the payment.  Which is really noble, I must admit.  Especially since they’re doing this to stop Zelena, who has directly threatened their unborn child.  Any good parent would gladly give their life for their child.  But when they do cast the curse, Zelena again pops up to throw a wrench into the works at the last minute, by adding an additional ingredient to the Dark Curse so everyone would forget all about the danger Zelena poses.  Which is why everyone has forgotten what went down during the Lost Year

Now this is when it gets really weird.  Now, if I was told that I was about to lose my memories about someone like Zelena in a matter of moments, I think my first instinct would be writing a quick note, to fill myself in once the amnesia took hold.  You know, something like ‘we cast the Dark Curse so Emma could come back to defeat an evil witch who can only be stopped with Light Magic.  P.S. don’t trust anyone who goes by the name Zelena, particularly with your unborn baby.’  But nope, that thought doesn’t cross Snow’s mind.  Instead, she decides the best action would be to have Regina divide Snow’s heart into two portions and to give one half of the heart to Charming so he could come back to life.  Because they’d already been figuratively living with a shared heart from the moment they met, anyway.  (Ugh, the sappiness of this statement.)  While this is sweet and all (and it does explain how Charming is still alive after having his own heart crushed), it was a bit self-centered on Snow’s part, particularly since this whole ‘splitting-the-heart-in-two’ thing could have had a detrimental effect on the baby.

In the present day, the Nevengers are gathered to discuss how they’re going to stop Zelena from casting her Time Traveling spell.  (Well, the Nevengers minus Killian, who we soon see had been abducted by Gold/Rumpelstiltskin off-screen so Zelena could confront him about how he still hadn’t taken away Emma’s magic via cursed kiss and to tell him that if he didn’t  comply before Snow and Charming’s baby is born, she’d have Henry killed.)  Figuring that the knowledge of how to defeat Zelena might be hidden away in their memories of the Lost Year, which was a correct assumption, they decide the best way to break the curse and get their memories back is to get Henry to believe in magic.  Because True Love’s Kiss would only work if Henry believed in magic.  Since Henry started believing in magic the first time around because of his storybook, they figure his memories would return if he got the storybook back.  Problem is, the book hadn’t been seen since Storybrooke was erased at the end of ‘Going Home.’  After searching through Snow’s closest back at the loft apartment, which they decide to do upon remembering how that was where Mary Margret originally found the book, Snow eventually finds it in a chest filled with scarfs- a chest Emma had looked through previously without finding anything.

It’s then determined, through a heart-to-heart between Snow and Emma, that Emma doesn’t want Henry to get his memories of Storybrooke back because she’s got it in her head that Henry was happier in New York where there weren’t constant dangers.  Snow, however, points out that Henry may have only been happy because he didn’t remember anyone from Storybrooke.  On the one hand, I can understand why Emma feels the way she does.  It’s a natural instinct of a mother to want to keep their child safe and happy, so of course Emma would want that for Henry.  But she seems to conveniently forget that they were never really safe in New York.  If Walsh, the wizard-turned-monkey, was any indication, evil was able to follow them out of Storybrooke.  All things considered, Henry’s probably a lot safer in Storybrooke than he is anywhere else.  At least in Storybrooke, Emma has her parents, Killian, Regina, Robin, his band of Merry Men, the dwarfs, and even Red/Ruby and Granny with her crossbow to provide backup for her and Henry.  And once he’s off of Zelena’s leash, Gold/Rumple could arguably be added to that list as well.  (Although, considering what goes down in season 4….) 

In all honesty, I don’t think even the World Leaders have a protection detail as strong as the one that’s offered to Emma and Henry in Storybrooke.  And then we also have to look back at the lesson ‘Red Handed’ provided us with.  Sometimes, the best way to protect someone is to fill them in on what you’re protecting them from.  That way, they’ll be able to be on their guard and be able to protect themselves.  I’m sure Henry wouldn’t have tried to run off on his own if he’d been pre-warned there were crazed winged monkeys on the loose.  So while Emma’s heart is in the right place, her methods are questionable.

And this is where things really start moving a mile a minute.  The Nevengers return to Granny’s and find Henry isn’t there.  They track him down to the Storybrooke Pier with the GPS Emma had put in Henry’s phone (what prompted her to do that?  Then again, they were living in New York until recently, so I guess it’s not that unusual), arriving just in time to save Henry, who is being attacked by flying monkeys that Killian cannot ward off, particularly after his gun runs out of bullets.  Once the monkeys are defeated, they give Henry his book, which instantly makes him remember, but before Emma can break the curse with True Love’s Kiss, Zelena pops up and snatches him up, planning to kill him.  Emma drives her off with her Light Magic, and Regina, who was knocked to the ground during the confrontation, regains consciousness and has a proper reunion with Henry, kissing his forehead.  That kiss ends up breaking the curse and restoring everyone’s memories, because Regina also loved Henry as much as Emma did.  But the victory of getting Henry’s memories back, not to mention the memories of everyone else in Storybrooke, is short lived, as Snow suddenly goes into labor.  To quote Meelo from Avatar: The Legend of Korra, ‘Not now, baby!

Something that’s never really explained, and has thus caused a lot of questions among viewers- what exactly happens to the flying monkeys when they disappear in smoke upon being shot, stabbed or hit with magic?  Are they dead?  Because it’s been established that these monkeys are denizens of the Enchanted Forest/Storybrooke?  Who exactly were the Nevengers possibly killing at the Storybrooke pier?

Okay, it’s time I discussed the whole drama scene at the Storybrooke pier towards the end of this episode.  I have absolutely no problem with Emma getting angry at Killian here, as her anger is understandable.  After all, her son was almost killed moments before, so her stress level is at maximum right now.  And it really wasn’t a good idea for Killian to try and take Henry out of Storybrooke without informing Emma first.  How many times have people gone and made decisions for Emma without getting her input first?  Killian was always one of the only people who hadn’t done that, but now he has.  Granted he was panicking after Zelena directly threatened Henry’s life, and he might not have felt like there was time to tell Emma what he was going to do, but he could have left a message for her with Granny or Ruby/Red, asking them to let Emma know as soon as possible.  Besides, Emma wasn’t aware of the whole story, with how Zelena had openly threatened to kill Henry roughly an hour earlier, that Henry was trying to run away on his own when Killian caught up to him, and if Killian hadn’t stepped in when he did, Henry might have been completely on his own when the flying monkeys attacked him, with no one there to protect him.  To sum up, Killian really was in a no-win situation that he probably could have handled a bit better.  And while it was a bit harsh of Emma to state she couldn’t trust him anymore, especially considering everything she’d been through with Killian before this episode, she was naturally upset and stressed out over what just happened, particularly after finding out Killian had been cursed by Zelena.  She already knew there was something he wasn’t telling her about the Lost Year, and now this.  What she said was most likely said in the heat of the moment.  How many people say things they don’t really mean when they’re upset or angry?  It’s just human nature to do so.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, once she’s taken the time to calm down and hears the whole story, she’d want to take back what she said.  (And besides, it would be a tad hypocritical of her to not forgive him for this incident, considering she once tried to abduct Henry herself, way back in ‘The Stranger.’)  So, I’m not angry at Emma for lashing out at Killian. 

However, Charming and Snow are a completely different story.  They just immediately butt into Emma and Killian’s conversation, which really should have been a private one, and are all ‘yeah, we can’t trust him, bladdy bladdidy blah!’  Hold up; wait a minute!  Where did THIS come from?!  I could understand if this was happening in season 2 or early season 3, but at this point, it was completely uncalled for.  Ever since the season 2 finale, when Killian turned his ship around and offered to help rescue Henry, he has proven himself again and again.  This is the man who returned to Neverland, the place that was his own personal Hell, to help get Henry back from Pan, the one who was forced to relive his brother’s death when Charming was poisoned, and also saved Charming’s life from the Dreamshade.  He’s the one who found a way into the Land Without Magic to restore Emma’s memories and brought her back to Storybrooke so she could help stop Zelena.  While I realize the last Snow and Charming had heard from Killian prior to him returning to Storybrooke with Emma and Henry in tow was him riding off on his own,stating that the hero thing didn't take, throughout this whole season, Killian has been there every step of the way during both the Neverland and Wizard of Oz arcs, doing whatever he could to help Emma and the rest of the Charming-Mills extended family, and with the exception of the ‘Good Form’ toast and kiss, no one has ever really thanked him or acknowledged his efforts.  And now, Charming and Snow decide he can’t be trusted?  All because he apparently lied about Snow and Charming sending him a message to bring Emma back?  Okay, I’m sorry, but…no.  No, he didn’t.  Killian said he THOUGHT they had sent the message, based on the fact that the letter was delivered by bird messenger.  At the time, Charming even commented that it certainly sounded like Snow’s M.O., so he can’t be blamed for making the same conclusion.  Making an educated guess when all the facts you’re presented with points to that answer, and then having it turn out that you guessed wrong is NOT lying.  I sincerely hope that Snow and Charming later apologized profusely to Killian for this moment off-screen, because he really did not deserve this crap.  Once again, I have to blame Nealfirebagelperson for this situation.  This whole mess could have been avoided if he’d just signed that stupid letter.  I realize he was in a bad way when he wrote it and didn’t have a lot of time, but for crying out loud!  It was only four stinking letters!  (Yeah, I am so not a fan of Neal.)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Once Upon a Time- Episode Analysis (Bleeding Through)

Zelena is such a horrible person.  Forcing Robin to surrender Regina’s heart by getting Gold/Rumpelstiltskin to threaten the life of his son, Roland?  Okay, that’s it; this person deserves no mercy.  Using a small child?  Particularly one as precious and adorable as little Roland?  That’s strictly out-of-bounds.  I’m still miffed at Nealfire for using that kid as bait in his evil scheme to get to Neverland.  Seriously, stop putting this kid in harm’s way!

In order to try and learn more about Zelena, Regina decides to conduct a séance to call up her mother’s spirit.  While the séance doesn’t appear to work at first, it does lead to a really good scene with Snow and Regina, which has them essentially putting Snow’s involvement in Cora’s death behind them for good.  Regina really has come a long way, with acknowledging the fact that Snow couldn’t really be vilified for it, considering everything Cora had done to her.  AND she also apologized to Belle for all the crap she’d put the book-loving woman through.  What’s more, we see her actually protecting Snow when Cora’s ghost appears and tries to attack Snow.  Seeing this was really enjoyable for me, because you can see they’re actually starting to put their past behind them and becoming friends, something that they always could have been, if their initial meeting was any indication. 

This episode features one of the reasons why I believe simply returning Cora’s heart to her chest instead of killing her wouldn’t have stopped her from being a threat to the people of Storybrooke.  Because of Zelena’s underhanded trick, Regina’s heart is now in Zelena’s possession.  And yet, even though Regina doesn’t have her heart in her chest, she is still acting as you would expect her to act if it was.  She is still able to make peace with Snow for the whole death-of-Cora thing and even protects her from her mother’s vengeful ghost.  And then, there’s how she acts with Robin.  She doesn’t blame him in the slightest for handing her heart over to Gold, stating that ‘nothing's worth the loss of a child,’ and the episode ends with her officially striking up a romantic relationship with Robin.  Seeing this does indicate that you don’t need to have your heart in your chest to express and feel real love, and you will most likely still act just as you would have done if you did have your heart where it belonged.  If we accept that as fact, what else is to be concluded other than Cora would have simply continued on acting as she had been even with her heart intact.  And after seeing the Enchanted Forest flashback, I feel that way even more strongly, as Cora proved she was always a self-centered social climber who was incapable of even putting her own children first, even before Rumpelstiltskin entered the picture.

In the flashback, we get a bit more of Cora’s backstory.  Oh, good gravy, and you thought Emma’s family tree was messed up enough already.  Now we find out it was veering towards the semi-quasi-incestual zone as well.  This backstory informs us that when Cora set Regina up with Snow’s father, she was actually setting her daughter up with her ex-fiancée.  Yeah, Cora almost married Snow’s father.  At the risk of sounding like a stereotypical cheerleader, I think I speak for all of us when I saw ‘EW!’   However, their engagement got called off when Prince Leopold learns from Snow’s mother, Eva, that Cora hadn’t been honest with him.  Months earlier, Cora had been deceived and seduced by a man she met at a tavern, who’d claimed to be a prince but was actually a palace gardener.  Unfortunately, Cora found out about his true identity after she became pregnant with the gardener’s child.  From what I gather of how things are in the Enchanted Forest, which appears to be a medieval-style world, being an unwed mother in this world is the worst possible thing to be.  So Cora was in a sticky spot.  When she met Prince Leopold, Cora saw her chance of protecting her reputation and convinced him to call off his betrothal-since-birth to Princess Eva so he’d marry her instead, planning to pass of her unborn baby as Prince Leopold’s.  But before their wedding could take place, the gardener returns and blackmails Cora, telling her that if she doesn’t pay him off with jewels from the royal treasure hold, he will tell everyone the truth.  Cora decides to accept the terms, but Princess Eva had overheard their conversation and tipped off Prince Leopold, which resulted in Cora being cast out.  Of course, when Cora’s ghost informs Snow of this story via possession, she paints the story in a way that apparently vilified Princess Eva.  But from what I saw, it was Cora who was more at fault here.  Think of what you would do, if you were supposed to marry someone, but he left you for someone else.  Then you found out that the woman he’d left you for was a) trying to deceive him into believing he fathered what was actually an illegitimate child and b) was planning to steal from him to keep her deception from being found out.  What would you have done?  If Cora had been honest with Prince Leopold and told him the truth about the unborn Zelena, he might have gone ahead and married her anyway, especially since he seemed to really care about Cora.  In the end, Cora chose to continue lying to him, even after being given the perfect opportunity to come clean, and that was why he dismissed her.  Besides, it’s not as if Cora actually loved Leopold.  She was just using him as a way to hide the fact she was carrying an illegitimate child.  And she was only in the mess she was in to begin with because she chose to believe a man she’d barely met.  The impression I got was she only met the guy who turned out to be a gardener the same evening he ‘proposed.’  She allowed herself to believe his promises of marriage and just jumped right into bed with him.  That is NEVER a smart move, particularly in this medieval-style world, and even more so after we look at all the other established couples in this show.   All of the main True Love couples we’ve seen have taken the time to allow their relationship to progress naturally.  And even though it’s implied that Aurora became pregnant before she and Phillip could officially marry, we still get the impression they took their time before progressing to that particular step.  In the end, Cora really did bring it all on herself, and it’s really sad how her choice to blame someone else for her mistakes (which seems to be a common habit among this show’s bad guys) left the Nevengers believing Cora’s take on things and thinking Snow’s mother had done something bad.  Because from where I'm standing, Princess Eva  did the right thing in telling Prince Leopold.  Yes, she could have been more sympathetic to Cora’s plight, but Cora really didn’t give her good reason to do so, particularly when she starts insulting Princess Eva for telling Prince Leopold the truth.  As for Cora giving up Baby Zelena?  Again, I understand that having a baby out of wedlock was most likely really bad in the Enchanted Forest, but she could have left Baby Zelena with a kindly peasant couple or something.  Instead, she chose to deposit Baby Zelena in the middle of the woods and essentially left her to die, from starvation, exposure to the elements, or even from wild animals.  While Snow and Emma both gave up their children to give their child their best chance, Cora gave Zelena up because Cora was putting herself before her daughter.  That is the worst form of selfishness, which makes it even harder for me to feel bad for Cora.

We get a lot more feels from Killian and Emma’s brewing relationship.  Killian is still closing himself off after Zelena cursed him in the last episode, but he’s still remaining at Emma’s side.  It’s really admirable that he’s doing this.  He could have easily commandeered one of the boats in Storybrooke and sailed away to keep himself from harming Emma, but he knew that his leaving would hurt her even more.  He knows Emma has had people leaving her throughout her whole life, either by their own devices or not.  But he’s made an unspoken promise that he’d not continue that trend.  Instead, he’s going to continue to be the one person who sticks by her, the man who always comes back.  But at the same time, he has to keep Emma at arm’s length to protect her from his curse, something that’s possibly tormenting him because for the first time, Emma is actually giving him a window of opportunity to act on his feelings for her, and he can’t take that opportunity.  She is completely and unapologetically flirting with him at Granny’s Diner as she practices her magic in front of him.  She even goes so far as to playfully take his hook from him.  Killian’s response to this is not what Emma expects.  She knows Killian would quite possibly go along with it and joke around with her, or even show more enthusiasm over how quickly she’s getting the hang of her magic.  After all, we all saw him vehemently praising her magic in the last episode.  It’s really great that Emma knows something’s wrong with Killian, but unfortunately, Belle interrupts before she can really ask him about it.  Which is a shame, because for all we know, Killian might have told Emma about Zelena's curse if Emma had gotten the chance to push the issue.  Belle, I know you were excited about figuring out that Zelena was planning to go back in time and change the past, and that it was vitally important, but couldn’t you have waited five more minutes?

There’s a really fun scene when Snow and Charming are going back and forth trying to think of names for their unborn child.  When you take the time to think about this scene, it really gives Killian’s moroseness when Emma arrives a new meaning.  While I’m sure a huge part of his sour attitude is because of Zelena’s curse, what if that conversation about possible baby names had been going on for a while before Emma arrived?  He certainly had this ‘I’m so done with this’ expression when Snow and Charming try to get Emma’s opinions on the matter.  Which reminds me, how sweet was it that Emma took hold of Killian’s hook during the séance so casually, as if it was an actual hand?  I see that as a small testament to the fact that Emma accepts the hook as simply another part of Killian.

Finally, there was that one moment when I felt really bad for Gold/Rumple when he had to play nice with Zelena, particularly when he tried to get the Dark One’s dagger away from her.  It must have killed him to resort to that particular method since this is not only the woman who played a significant part in the death of his son, but I can imagine how he might feel like he’s also betraying Belle in a way.  It’s not often that I feel genuinely sympathetic for this character, as a good chunk of his misfortunes are caused by his own doing, but this was one of those times.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Once Upon a Time- Episode Analysis (The Jolly Roger)

This episode!   Oh, this episode!  I have no words!  It just has everything you could ask for!  We get to see two former rivals bonding, with one of the pair becoming a mentor for the other, an AWSOME display of Emma’s magical potential, an epic swordfight between two famous pirate captains, an emotional love confession that could make ANYONE melt, with dashes of humorous moments thrown in for good measure.  (How many times did they make the ‘haha, Mr. Smee got turned into a rat’ joke?  And yet, it never got old.)  And then, we get the angst.  OH, the angst.

It all starts with us seeing one notable escapade Killian went through during the Lost Year, as he makes an attempt at returning to his old pirating ways.  Only, since the Jolly Roger was MIA, he and his crew were stuck being land-based pirates.  The trick we see them pull in the start of this episode was so clever.  Plus, we get to see Killian in his Iron Knight disguise.  While it was all part of his ruse to steal the gold from the passing carriage, I wouldn’t object to seeing something like that happening for real someday.   While it is still, to our knowledge, quite a ways off, just imagine if the series finale has everyone returning to the Enchanted Forest again, this time for good, and with Emma and Henry in tow.  It would be great to see Killian becoming a part of the Charming’s royal court.  After all, we’ve already seen that he was once a part of the royal navy to some unnamed kingdom centuries ago, so he’s no stranger to having a place of honor among royals.  Even though he turned against his former king upon learning of his corruption the hard way, I think he’s seen enough to know that the Charming family would never turn out that way.  I’d even go so far to say that, after everything Killian has done this season, for Emma, Henry and, to a lesser extent, Snow and Charming, he’s EARNED an official place among the Charming’s royal court.  Well, apart from being a royal consort to Emma someday, because after this episode, is there any real doubt that these two are endgame?

Watching Killian through this flashback of his time during the Lost Year is quite heartbreaking.  Despite his best efforts to hide it, we can still see that he hasn’t broken the promise he’d made to Emma at the Storybrooke town line.  The one when he’d stated he’d think of her every day.  We can see a hint of it in his face when he turns down the barmaid whose services his crew had purchased for him, and again when he tells Ariel ‘few people have held a dagger to my throat and lived to tell the tale.’  We all remember the details of his first meeting with Emma, which ended with him getting tied to a tree, right?  (While I might be alone in this, I can’t help but wonder if he’d let himself hope for a brief moment that Emma had found him again when Ariel clouts him over the head after he leaves the tavern.  After all, Emma did have a tendency towards knocking him out during the course of season 2.)  The constant presence of Emma in Killian’s thoughts becomes more evident after he finds out through Ariel that the Jolly Roger has been commandeered by his archrival, Blackbeard.  Just look at these actual lines from the episode:

‘She's not just a ship. ….. She's more than that. I haven't been myself since we've returned. I should have realized the reason why. It's because I don't have her.’

‘Up close, she's even more beautiful than I remember. Don't worry, my dear. You'll soon be back in my loving arms.’

Both times, he’s supposed to be speaking of the Jolly Roger, which clearly puzzles Smee and Ariel, who voice their confusion over why he’s talking about the Jolly as if she were an actual woman.  Unlike them, the answer is rather obvious to the viewer.  Even though he might not consciously realize it, Killian is clearly projecting his feelings for Emma onto his ship.  In a way, this makes perfect sense when you remember that the last time he’d set foot upon the Jolly Roger was during the Neverland arc, when he was helping the Nevengers rescue Henry from Pan.  And Neverland was where he and Emma had been the closest to each other.  It was where he became aware of the depth of his feelings for her, and it was where they shared that earth-shattering kiss.

When they do locate the Jolly Roger, we get a really well-choreographed duel between Killian and Blackbeard.  I confess, I would really like to see a reprise of this in a future episode.  (Maybe with Killian defending Emma’s honor after Blackbeard insults her in some way?  But whatever reason for another duel would be more than welcome.)  The duel ends with Killian getting the upper hand, but that just leads to the turning point- Blackbeard gives Killian a choice- he can either kill him and keep the Jolly Roger or surrender the ship to Blackbeard in exchange for information on Eric’s location.  If you’ve seen the episode, you know Killian ends up choosing the Jolly Roger over helping Ariel find Eric.  While this clearly wasn’t the honorable choice, I just cannot be angry at him for this.  I completely understand why he made that choice.  Ariel didn’t realize it, but she was being unwittingly insensitive.  She was going up to a man who had just lost his True Love and asking him to help find hers.  That’s exactly what Killian was in this moment- he was a man who had lost his True Love for what should have been forever.  We’ve seen plenty of proof by now that losing your True Love can leave you at your worst.  When Charming thought Snow didn’t love him, he quite literally dove into what was essentially a suicide mission.  When Rumpelstiltskin believed that Belle had killed herself, he was at his most manic state and eventually got placed in a magic-inhibiting cage.  And Regina… well, we all know what she became after Daniel’s death.  Why should Killian be any different?  And I imagine it’s even worse for Killian than the others.   Think about what he’s gone through.  For 300 years, he’d lived believing that killing Rumpelstiltskin was the only thing he had to live for.  He didn’t think there could ever be anyone or anything else for him.  But then he met Emma, and for the first time in so long, he started opening himself up to the possibility of loving someone.  For a brief, shining moment, he allowed himself to hope that he could find happiness with Emma.  But then, Regina had to erase Storybrooke from existence to stop Pan’s curse, and Emma had to leave, with no possibility of ever being able to come back.  This undoubtedly left Killian in a whole ‘I opened up my heart and let myself hope I could move on from Milah and find happiness with someone else, and this is what I have to show for it?’ state of mind.  You can clearly hear that anguish in his words when he tells Ariel ‘love brings nothing but wasted years and endless torment.’  In a related story, he’d already stated that he’d felt something vital missing from his life after returning to the Enchanted Forest and reuniting with his crew.  While subconsciously, he knew that it was because he’d lost Emma, he wasn’t consciously willing to accept that quite yet.  Much like his habit of hiding his feelings of self-loathing behind an air of swagger and bravado, he chooses to cover up his heartache by pretending everything’s peachy, and that he’ll feel better when he’s a full pirate again.  When he sees his chance at getting his treasured ship back, he really thinks that would help him get over his emotional emptiness.  Like he says in present-day Storybrooke, he thought getting the Jolly Roger back would help his broken heart recover.  Plus, I’m sure the fact Blackbeard practically bated him with the accusation that he’d grown soft didn’t help the situation much.  As I said back in my analysis of ‘The Crocodile,’ if Killian Jones didn’t protect his reputation as a fearsome pirate captain, he would quite possibly loose his crew’s respect.  Besides, if you poke a wounded animal with a stick, they are going to lash out.  It’s a fact.

At the same time, you see he immediately regrets his decision as Ariel swims off.  Already, he’s realizing that getting the Jolly Roger back is not making him feel better.  He still isn’t satisfied, and feels the same emptiness.  I really think it is Ariel’s parting words that make him realize exactly what he was really missing.  And he’s also seeing her determination to continue looking for Eric, even when the odds are clearly stacked against her.  It should be impossible for Ariel to find Eric, just like it should be impossible for Killian to ever see Emma again.  And yet, here’s Ariel refusing to give up, completely sure that she’ll achieve the impossible and find Eric.  In that one moment, you really start to wonder if Killian is left thinking that perhaps the same could be true for him.  Then again, since we never see what happens to Killian during the Lost Year after this moment in time, we can only speculate.

The Storybrooke storyline for this episode breaks off into three subplots.  Ever since the showdown in the last episode, Zelena hasn’t shown her face.  Emma decides that it’s time to stop putting their efforts into defending themselves from her and focus on bringing the fight to her.  To do so, she asks Regina to pick up the magic lessons that we saw starting during the Neverland arc.  Its clear Emma remembers how easily Zelena was able to overpower her in the last episode, which makes her even more determined to learn to harness her magical abilities.  During the start of the magic lesson, Emma starts to doubt how she’s ever going to learn anything, particularly after trying to read a spellbook written in half-Elvish, something no one who hasn’t grown up in the Enchanted Forest could know.  (Unless you’re some sort of Tolkien fanatic, which I doubt Emma is.)  In response, Regina resorts to the Rumpelstiltskin method of teaching, which is an extreme version of Sink-or-Swim.  Her method involves forcing Emma onto a quickly breaking rope bridge, instructing her to stop the bridge from breaking.  However, while Emma fails to stop the bridge from breaking, she manages to fuse the broken planks and rope fragments together as a sort of magic elevator platform that stops her from falling a rather significant height and levitates her up to safety.  And Regina is TICKED.  Not because Emma didn’t complete the task as she was told to do, but because this stunt has proven Emma has huge potential that she’s been completely ignoring.  Something that’s further proven later, as Emma is able to look into other worlds through mirrors, which is apparently supposed to be impossible for everyone else.

While Emma is off at her magic lesson, Snow and Charming are kinda in a funk over the fact that Henry isn’t interested in spending time with them.  It’s really funny to watch them in this episode, as they are acting so much like typical parents whose preteen/teenage kid is at the stage when it’s not cool to hang out with their folks.  Which potentially leads to the parents trying to appear more cool by adopting their child’s current lingo (and oftentimes failing horribly), which of course only results in the preteen/teen being even more alienated than they were beforehand.   However, the method they, or rather Charming, decides to utilize, was teaching the 12-year-old Henry how to drive.  Which of course results in a few near-collisions and a public mailbox to get damaged.   Charming, I give you an A for effort, but next time, perhaps it would be smarter to start the driving lessons in a spot away from an actual road?  When my father started my driving lessons, we started off in empty parking lots so I could get a feel for being behind the wheel first.

The third subplot involves Killian, who Charming recruits to assist Ariel find Eric in Storybrooke after the mermaid suddenly appears in town, claiming she’d also forgotten what happened in the Lost Year.  Killian is visibly reluctant, but goes along anyway.  When a tracking spell Belle places on Eric’s old cloak leads them to the coastline, with the cloak sinking beneath the water’s surface, Ariel concludes that Eric is dead.  Which doesn’t make much sense, because... aren’t there supposed to be underwater portals to other worlds that can only be accessed by mermaids and other mystical sea creatures?  You’d think the obvious meaning of the cloak going underwater indicates that it’s going through one of those underwater portals.  Why is Eric’s death the first logical conclusion?  However, it does make sense that ‘Ariel’ makes this conclusion, given the episode’s big reveal.  When ‘Ariel’ decides to accept Eric’s death as a reality and thanks Killian for his help regardless, Killian’s conscience gets the better of him, and he confesses to ‘Ariel’ of how he chose to keep the Jolly Roger instead of helping her find Eric.  When ‘Ariel’ angrily berates him for this, we get one of the most heart-wrenching love confessions ever written.  This moment is even more powerful because of actor Colin O’Donoghue’s amazing acting in putting so much emotion into his lines.  He apologizes to Ariel for not helping her, stating that he’d do anything to go back and change his decision.  To prove the sincerity of his words, he admits he still believes in love and then swears on the name of the woman who broke his heart; the woman he still loves- Emma Swan.   While it comes as no surprise to hear him admit to loving Emma, as his past actions have proven that already, it is still beautiful to hear him actually come out and say it.  Unfortunately, the moment is ruined when it’s revealed that this whole time, ‘Ariel’ was really Zelena in disguise.  As if she knew that Emma was continuing her magic lessons, which is quite possible, as she stated she has spies everywhere, Zelena plotted to remove Emma’s magic.  She decided that the best way to ensure this would happen was to place a curse upon Killian.  It turns out that Zelena’s spies had already informed her of the choice Killian made on that fateful night and she chose to use his guilt over that choice to trick Killian into verbally confessing his love for Emma, which gave her the opportunity to lay a curse upon him.  The terms of this curse were that if Killian ever kissed Emma, or vice versa, her powers would be instantly removed.  Before Zelena teleports off, she leaves Killian with an ultimatum- if he doesn’t kiss Emma and remove her powers, she’ll go after the people Emma loves.  Specifically her parents and son.

This turn of events really leaves Killian in a state of emotional turmoil.  Once again, his feelings for Emma has the potential to severely hinder Emma and what she’s currently tasked with.  It’s like Echo Cave all over again, when he poured out his heart in admitting he was falling for her in order to reunite her with Neal, but feeling guilty because he knew doing so would possibly distract her from the goal of getting Henry back.  Only this time, it’s so much worse.  Now, he’s faced with the impossible choice of taking away a vital part of Emma, something he’d glowingly praised earlier, or doing nothing and possibly endangering her family.

As to why he doesn’t explain things to Emma like he stated he would when Zelena first cursed him, I have thoughts on that.  First off, let’s look at what Zelena told him.

Killian: I’ll tell her. And she'll defeat you.
Zelena: Then I'll send The Dark One to kill her before you can.
Killian: No, you won't. If you could have killed her, you would have. You need her power removed. It's why you didn't kill her when she came to the town. It's why you had a monkey look after her in New York instead of killing her. For some reason... you can't.
Zelena: It no longer matters, because you're going to remove her powers. I may not be able to hurt Emma, but I can hurt those around her.

Maybe I’m misinterpreting this exchange, but I think I see a threat written between the lines, with Zelena saying ‘okay you caught me.  I can’t go after Emma directly if you tell her I cursed you, but her family is still fair game.’   To me, it sounds as if Zelena is saying that she’ll hurt Emma’s family if he warned her about the curse.  And it’s already been established this witch has spies everywhere with her legion of winged monkeys, so she’d most likely know if Killian did tell Emma.  And there is a small exchange in a later episode that does suggest the same thing, which I’ll discuss when I get to that episode.  Besides, it’s not as if he didn’t make an attempt to inform someone.  The scene immediately after Zelena leaves Killian at the Storybrooke pier shows Killian going to the Charming’s loft apartment, apparently looking for Snow and Charming.  Perhaps he was going to go to them to let them know what just happened, just like he did back in Neverland when Pan informed him Neal was still alive.  But Snow and Charming weren’t there when he came by the loft apartment, and instead, it was Emma who answered the door.  When Snow and Charming did come back, he didn’t really have a good opportunity to speak to them without being overheard.  He couldn’t exactly ask them for a word in private at the moment.  Not without arousing any suspicion.  While he might have been able to fill them in later, I don’t think he was given many opportunities to speak to them alone.   And I know from experience, the longer you wait to tell someone something, the harder it is to do so.

All the same, Killian starts to withdraw a bit, even going so far as to turn down an obvious invite to join the Charming-Mills extended family for dinner at Granny’s.  Here he is, once again trying to be Captain Nobility by distancing himself from Emma in order to keep her safe and happy, even if it means sacrificing what he wants most- to be a part of her family, something that he started wanting from them moment Emma indirectly offered him one at the end of season 2 and again here when she sorta-invites him to join them for the family dinner.  If anyone can sit through that final moment in this episode with Killian watching Emma from afar with his spyglass without feeling horrible for the poor man, you have no soul.

It’s so devastating that the episode ends like this, because you really saw the potential for them to be a real family unit.  Before heading off to her first magic lesson since Storybrooke returned, Emma once again leaves Henry in the care of Killian.  (Incidentally, what was up with Henry in this moment?  Kid, your mother is standing a few feet away, talking to a man in full pirate regalia.  Is your little video game really more interesting than that?)  The scene where this happens is just perfect.   While last episode had Killian offering to watch Henry, this time Emma doesn’t need a prompt to ask him to do so.  Considering that this is a woman who once vowed to never trust anyone ever again, it’s really a huge character growth moment to see that she’s now completely trusting Killian with someone as precious as her son.  Emma even announces that she trusts Killian in this episode when she and Regina are discussing the fact that Emma is leaving Henry in Killian’s care on a regular basis.  Emma’s trust in Killian in regards to Henry proves to be well founded throughout the episode, as Killian is clearly developing a strong paternal instinct towards Henry.  When Mr. Smee asks him straight out why he wants to stay in Storybrooke while Zelena is at large, we see him immediately look over at Emma and Henry as they’re approaching.  The camera angle speaks for itself when we see that Henry is not even close to being obscured in the shot, indicating that Killian values Henry just as much as he does Emma.  We see this again towards the end when Zelena directly threatens Henry, and Killian’s voice instantly grows rough with fury and warning.   This is not the reaction of a man who only tolerates the son of the woman he’s set his sights on.  This is a man who views mother and son as a package deal and loves the son just as much as the mother does.  Even though it’s nowhere close to being official at this point, Emma and Killian are already acting like Henry’s parental unit.

This episode also continues to bring back Emma’s tendency to avoid underlying issues.  In the scene when she’s asking Killian to watch Henry while she’s off at her magic lesson, she informs him that she plans to return to New York with Henry after Zelena’s defeat.  The excuse she gives him is that she feels it’s best for Henry, who still hasn’t gotten his memories back.  However, Killian is once again seeing Emma poised to make the same mistake he’d made once.  This time by believing that you can simply go back to a life you’ve once lived.  He knows that didn’t work for him, as his attempt at going back to being the pirate he was before meeting Emma ultimately failed, with not the smallest of old pleasures satisfying him.  Once again, Killian knows that Emma wouldn’t be happy going back to her old life, just because he wasn’t.  It’s just one more example of how he’s aware of how like-minded they are.

Finally, I have to mention Zelena in this episode.  She is really a sadistic psychopath.  And not just because she was clearly torturing Killian throughout this whole episode with making him relive the moment he’d failed to help Ariel, something he felt guilty for ever since.  And much like Pan, she is proving she knows nothing about things like true bravery and pure love, and therefore either underestimates them or looks upon them from a sinister angle.  When Pan tried to test Killian during the Neverland arc by telling him Neal was alive, he fully expected Killian to keep the news to himself so he could continue to pursue a romance with Emma without any interference.  He never took into consideration the fact that Killian had once loved Neal/Baelfire as a son.  In much the same way, Zelena paints Killian’s heartfelt apology to ‘Ariel’ and the following confession of his love for Emma as a ‘selfish plea for redemption.’  What would a woman like Zelena, who has spent years being fueled by jealousy, know about feeling true remorse for something you know you did wrong and genuinely wanting to make up for it?  However, her actions in this episode do prove one thing- she’s actually scared of Emma’s magical potential, and knows it could be enough to beat her.  This witch is a rattlesnake who is starting to rattle.  And rattlesnakes only do that when they feel threatened.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Once Upon a Time- Episode Analysis (It’s Not Easy Being Green)

As was established at the end of last episode, Neal is now dead.  And for real this time.  The episode even begins with his funeral, just to drive that point home.  I suppose I’m supposed to feel bad that he’s gone for good, but I’m really not.  And it’s not just because I never really warmed up to his character.  (Maybe if they'd actually developed his character by putting more emphasis on him mending the strained relationship with his father and building a relationship with Henry instead of just presenting him as a part of the pointless love triangle, I might have liked Neal a bit more.)  Perhaps this scene would have been more impactful if they hadn’t already given us the whole ‘Neal’s dead…wait, never mind, he’s still alive’ fake-out at the start of the season.  But they did give us that fake-out, so watching his funeral didn’t do much for me.  Of course, I do feel bad for everyone else.  I feel bad for Emma, as he was the father of her child and she of course cared for him as such.  I feel bad for Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, especially since this was his son and there was no question of how much he loved him, particularly after we’ve all seen how long he’d been trying to find him again, and the extreme lengths he went to.  And I of course feel bad for Killian, as Neal was not only his last real connection to Milah, the woman he’d carried a torch for for centuries, but also because, for however a short a time they were together, Killian was genuinely coming to love Boy Baelfire as a son.  (It was so impactful that he was the first one to place the dirt over the coffin.)  I suppose I also feel slightly bad for Henry, as this was his biological father, and in the few weeks they knew each other, they did seem to actually love each other.  But you know, Henry still has Grandpa Charming.  Not to mention not one, but two potential stepfathers in Killian and Robin.  This kid is not lacking at all in the father-figure department; he’ll be fine without Neal.  So, yes, I do feel bad for the people who actually liked Neal.  However, I don’t feel bad for Neal himself.  The fact remains that he decided to use dark magic to resurrect his father, knowing that the method he was using would enable Zelena to get the foothold she needed.  While it is understandable that he’d want his dad back, his actions were still very self-centered, particularly since it would undoubtedly put everyone in danger and it also contradicted the fact that Gold/Rumpelstiltskin had sacrificed his life to save everyone from Pan, which was quite possibly the first genuinely selfless act he’d performed in who knows how many years.  In the end, if Neal had just been smart and listened to Belle, he might still be alive.  It’s really his own fault he’s dead.  Much like that guy from Maine that I read about who died when he decided to launch a firework off his head, I simply cannot bring myself to feel all that sorry for people who die because they did something stupid (my sincere apologies to the people who knew the guy in question).

Emma and Killian once again show they really have no concept of personal space.  Even though Emma is still not willing to completely lower her walls, she still doesn’t back away when Killian gets up close and personal.  Killian was really in the zone in this episode.  It all starts when he once again reaches out to Emma, using his wisdom to keep her from making the same mistakes he’d made.  This time, he warns her against letting her anger at Zelena cloud her judgement.  He knows all too well that going after your enemy with feelings of vengeance fueling you will not lead to feelings of fulfillment.  He loves Emma too much to allow her to be consumed by the void revenge begets.  He then makes a gesture that clearly means more to Emma than flowers, chocolates and extravagant gifts.  He offers to share what he remembers of Boy Baelfire with the amnesiac Henry, to help him feel connected with his biological father.  Emma has made it known very well that she will always put her son first, as is the case with any decent mother.  By offering to reach out to Henry, Killian has shown that he also cares about Henry and considers his well-being a high priority.  What mother wouldn’t be touched by that?  And Emma is clearly no exception, as this episode marks the moment when she starts trusting Killian with Henry, allowing the two to have time to bond with each other.  And that bonding time gives Killian the chance to show he has the potential to make a great stepfather to Henry someday (as well as another brief Killian vs. the Modern World moment, with his obvious unfamiliarity with the term GPS.)

We also sorta learn through something Henry said that during the missing year, when Emma and Henry were living in New York with their false memories, that Emma had a habit of leaving Henry in the care of associates who owned boats while she was working.  I can’t help but think that this was one more instance of Emma’s subconscious mind trying to remind her of her true past during that period of time.  If so, it’s very telling that Emma would leave her son with boat people, considering a certain character’s connection with seafaring vessels.

The main storyline of the episode begins when Zelena has the audacity to crash Neal’s memorial service.  And it goes without saying that NO ONE is pleased to see her.  However Zelena, being the nasty piece of work she is, doesn’t pay the least bit of attention to this and challenges Regina to a showdown, revealing her identity as Regina’s long-lost half-sister in the process.  Through Regina searching through Cora’s belongings and the episode flashbacks, we learn that Zelena had been abandoned by Cora when she was only a baby and, after being carried off by a cyclone (just go with it), she was adopted by a couple who happened to be passing by.  However, Zelena’s adopted father proved to be a major jerk who actually made Uncle Vernon from the Harry Potter franchise look good.  I mean, come on guy.  While I can totally understand how you might be shocked that a tiny baby can have such a strong control of magic that early, she saved your life from a falling tree branch!  Show a little gratitude, will you?  When Zelena grows up and has had enough of her adoptive father’s verbal and emotional abuse, she seeks out the Wizard of Oz.  From him, Zelena learns of her past, and of how Regina was learning magic from Dark One Rumpelstiltskin.  But Regina didn’t have Zelena’s unbridled mastery of magic, so with a pair of magic slippers that Oz gives her, and a warning against not allowing herself to feel jealousy over what others have, Zelena ventures into the Enchanted Forest to also learn from Rumpelstiltskin.  While he does agree to take her on as a pupil, Zelena gets ticked when she finds out that Rumple is continuing to train Regina, angrily stating that he doesn’t need Regina anymore as she is more than capable of casting the curse that would create Storybrooke.  As she starts to allow the jealousy to take hold, she literally starts to turn green with envy.  She then tries to kill Regina to force Rumpelstiltskin to choose her as the curse-caster, but she discovers too late that who she thought was Regina was really Rumple in disguise, who tells Zelena that her actions have led to her being more-or-less expelled from his school of teaching.  The enraged Zelena taunts Rumple before teleporting away, telling him that she could have gotten him into the Land Without Magic without the curse with the use of the magic slippers the Wizard of Oz had given her.  Which is awesome, when you remember Rumple had asked Jefferson (who I really wish they’d bring back for even a just a cameo) to locate a pair of slippers in ‘The Doctor’ flashback.

As we learn of Zelena’s backstory, we also see Regina finally stop backpedaling in regards to her connection to Robin.  Much like with how Killian instinctively knows exactly what Emma needs to hear, Robin effortlessly convinces Regina to let him in when she has doubts that she’s strong enough to defeat Zelena, who was a magical protégée.  Robin clearly gave Regina the encouragement she needed, as Regina does end up going up against Zelena, and two engage in a full-on battle, causing quite a bit of property damage in the process.  (Who’s exactly going to pay to clean up that mess?)  In the end, Zelena does get the upper hand, but when she tries to take Regina’s heart, she finds that it’s no longer in her chest.  Because she’d given it to Robin for safekeeping.  And in a very touching moment, she asks Robin to continue holding on to her heart.  Her exact words were 'you can’t steal something that’s been given to you,' which can obviously be interpreted in more than one way.

The episode ends with us learning what Zelena’s ultimate plan was, and why she wanted to collect Charming’s courage and Regina’s heart.  She plans to use them in a spell that will enable her to travel back in time to prevent Regina from being born.  Oh, and Walsh the Monkey was also the Wizard of Oz who got turned into a monkey by Zelena.  This show.

An alternate title for this episode could really have been ‘The Grass is Always Greener.’  Zelena’s malfunction is how Regina was the one who Cora kept, and the one Rumpelstiltskin chose to train to enact his curse.  Something she felt she was entitled to due to her being the firstborn and the magical protégée.  At the same time, we’ve all seen how horribly Cora’s child-rearing and Rumples’s training had messed Regina up.   Really, Zelena, you really weren’t missing out on anything all that great.   Try using all that energy on forging your own path.  Even though your horrible adoptive father didn’t appreciate it, your magic skills could have been hugely beneficial to a lot of people.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Once Upon a Time- Episode Analysis (Quiet Minds)

I think my reaction to this episode can be best summed up by Jean-Luc Picard.

Last episode ended with the Nevengers discovering Gold/Rumpelstiltskin was alive and was being kept prisoner by the Wicked Witch.  Or at least he had been, as he somehow managed to break out of his cage off-camera.  The rest of the episode is spent with them trying to figure out how Gold came back to life in the first place.  While Killian and Belle search Gold's shop for something that would provide answers, Emma and Charming search the woods, with Regina returning to the farmhouse in the hopes that she’ll find something the Wicked Witch left behind.  Snow, however, ends up staying behind for the sake of the baby, despite her statement that she was the best tracker.  Which isn’t necessarily true; why couldn’t they just recruit Ruby/Red to serve as a tracker?  She is a wolf, after all, right?  Was Granny’s Diner just too swamped with the breakfast crowd and she couldn’t be spared at the moment?  I suppose that’s as good an explanation as any. 

Anyway, while Killian and Belle are at work searching the books in the back of Gold’s shop, someone forces their way through the badly-barricaded door.  No joke; who uses old file boxes to barricade a door?  Wouldn’t it have been more practical to shift around something heavier?  Or better yet, get Emma to put up a protection spell over the place.  We know she’s capable of doing so.  She’s done it before.  Anyway, it turns out the person at the door is Neal, who passes out the instant he gets through the door.  He’s brought to the hospital, where it’s discovered he’s got a symbol burned into his hand, but when everyone goes back out to continue searching for Rumpelstiltskin, he up and decides to sneak out after them.  (And there is NO WAY he could have just pulled that IV out like that.  Just try it sometime- I bet you couldn’t do it without spurting out blood all over the place.)

ANYWAY, while Emma and Neal are continuing looking around in the woods for Rumple, Emma gets a call from Belle, who had pretty much figured out the stuff we’d been seeing in the Enchanted Forest flashbacks.  During the Lost Year, Nealfirebagelperson and Belle teamed up to try and figure out a way to bring Rumpelstiltskin back from the dead in the hopes that he’d know of a way to help Neal reunite with Emma and Henry.  (So much for what Charming and Snow told him in the ‘New York City Serenade’ flashback, about letting them be so they could have a chance at a happy life together.)  With the assistance of a man trapped in the form of a candelabrum (Lumiere) the pair tracks down the Vault of the Dark One, where the very first Dark One came into existence.  Of course, it turns out that Lumiere was actually an underling of Zelena, who wanted to use Nealfire and Belle to bring Dark One Rumpelstiltskin back so she could place him under her control via the dagger.  And this is when it starts getting stupid.  Nealfire, even after finding out that Zelena was using them, still decides to go through with bringing Rumple back, deliberately ignoring the sage advice and wisdom of Belle, who urges him to try and think of another way and not make the same mistake Dark One Rumpelstiltskin made when he forged the curse.

As one would expect, Neal’s statement of ‘to hell with the cost’ comes back to bite him in the butt, as the method he used followed the same rules as that double-sided candle from season 2.  In other worlds, Rumpelstiltskin’s life in exchange for Neal’s.   To keep Nealfire alive, Rumple merged with him, because apparently you can do that.  (This episode is just too sci-fi, even for me.)  But because of the merging, Rumpelstiltskin becomes completely unhinged because of the dual voices in his head.  Which is strange because when Neal was in control, he seemed perfectly fine, up until it was all revealed and he started writhing around on the ground.  Of course, we’ve already seen enough evidence that Neal was never the sharpest tool in the shed.  (As much as I detest Zelena, we were in complete agreement over her ‘dumber than a box of hair’ comment.)   So I suppose it’s not too surprising how there was no crowding in Neal’s head when Rumple was the one lying dormant.

So, Neal, deciding that it’s vitally important for Rumpelstiltskin/Gold to regain full control of his mind so he can tell Emma and the others who the Wicked Witch is, has Emma un-merge them.  Which results in Neal dying.  Again.  Only this time, it’s for good.  Cue the sappy, sad music, but I’m not really torn up over it.  I was already over Neal at the end of season 2.  (And apparently, so was Emma, who, prior to this episode, was showing as much emotion to Neal being M.I.A. that I display when we’re out of Nutella.  And she can’t have been too heartbroken over his second round of death, since she left his body lying in the woods.)

As for you, Snow, how can you be such a horrible judge of character!  I get you’re getting pre-labor jitters and all, but come on!  Who even dresses like your ‘midwife’ anymore?!  She looks like she crawled out of an old 50s sitcom.  And she’s once again got that creepy smile while offering you something to drink!  Snow, why aren’t the alarm bells in your head not reaching at least DEFCON 3 level?  You were such an awesome, strong woman, if the Enchanted Forest flashbacks were any indication.  Why are you now channeling your cartoon counterpart?  At least there didn’t seem to be anything sinister in that orange juice she gave you.  If there had been, it couldn’t have been good for the baby. 

This episode also kick starts Emma’s plans to not restore Henry’s memories and just return to New York when the whole mess with the Wicked Witch is over and done with.  I have my own thoughts on that matter, but I’ll address that in a later episode analysis.

Of course, there were still some bright spots in this confusing mishmash of an episode.  We get a great moment when Emma gets a reluctant Killian to offer Belle his assistance in scouring Gold’s shop for information on how Gold came back to life with just a look.  That was such a married moment between them, and we do get another moment of their non-verbal conversations when they’re at the hospital, when Nealfirebagelperson asks for a moment alone with Emma.  It almost looks as if Emma is looking for Killian’s permission or something.  There’s also the moment between Killian and Nealfire, which I will admit was quite sweet.  It was a welcome reminder that Killian genuinely loved Boy Baelfire.  The relationship between these two was woefully underplayed, particularly since we never really got to see Nealfirebagelperson’s thoughts on being reunited with Killian again.  After all, the circumstances of their parting in the ‘And Straight on Till Morning’ flashback wasn’t exactly amicable.  They don’t meet again until ‘The Queen is Dead,’ but Killian had been knocked out at the time because Emma hit him over the head with the umbrella stand, so they don’t get a chance to actually have a conversation until the Neverland arc.  But even then, we don’t get to hear any of their conversations unless it had something to do with the stupid love triangle the show writers were trying to instigate.  There really was a LOT of wasted opportunity to add more depth to these two characters.  Particularly Nealfire, who never really had much in the way of character development to begin with.  (Plus, we also got a reprise of sorts to the Jell-O deleted scene from ‘In the Name of the Brother.’  Again, I REALLY wish they had left that scene in the actual episode.)

And then there’s the scenes with Regina, who meets Robin Hood for the first (second) time.  Just like their initial meeting during the Lost Year, they really make quite a strong first impression on each other.  Seriously, how awesome was it that Regina can just catch Robin’s arrow in mid-flight?  And they’re really laying out the fact that these two are soulmates on thick, with Regina getting the feeling that she’s met Robin before and Robin shamelessly flirting with her.  They even resorted to the old kiss fake out.  You know, when someone leans in and you THINK they’re going to kiss, but it turns out they’re just reaching for something behind the other’s back.  Of course, Regina turns and runs off with her tail between her legs when she spots Robin’s tattoo and realizes he’s the guy Tinkerbell once tried to set her up with.  Lady, you never do learn, do you?   What’s holding you back this time?  You clearly have a solid connection with this man, who is obviously into you as well.   And he’s got that adorable son, which is a huge plus in my book.  Where’s the downside?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Once Upon a Time- Episode Analysis (The Tower)

The goal of our protagonists in this episode involves them trying to figure out who the Wicked Witch is within Storybrooke.  But I am at a loss why everyone is so clueless when it comes to figuring it out.  Gee, I don’t know, guys; how about you start questioning the people you don’t recognize from the original curse?  Maybe the one with the giant green gem on her neck?  I know I shouldn’t be surprised that Snow is so quick to trust the mysterious midwife, given her nature, but what’s Charming’s excuse?  He IS sort of an unofficial deputy in the town, and he clearly is cautious.  But all it takes is Snow saying ‘but she knew my old nanny,’ and the he’s all ‘oh, all right then.’  No, seriously, I’m asking.  How is the fact that she knew Snow’s old nanny, Johanna, proof that she’s trustworthy?  You know who else knew Johanna?  Cora.  Was Cora trustworthy?  Yeah, didn’t think so.  Besides, just LOOK at Zelena in the scene when she’s with Snow and Charming in their loft apartment!  How can they not tell she’s bad news?  All that woman needs is the big twirly mustache!  Even the tone of her voice is a dead giveaway.  And word to the wise, if ANYONE is smiling like that when offering you something to drink, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re about to get Mickey Finned.

The main message in this episode seems to be about overcoming your fears.  Back in the Enchanted Forest flashback, Charming, after learning of Snow’s second  pregnancy, is nearly overcome with trepidation.  Which makes since, what with happened with Emma.  They never got the chance to be proper parents to her, what with them having to send her away almost immediately after she was born.  And when they found her again, they struggled with figuring out how to relate to each other, since Emma was now fully grown and had long-since learned to live without a parent.  So of course, Charming would be questioning his ability to be a good father to the new kid.  And since he’s forgotten everything that happened in the past year, he’s having those same fears now, even though he denies them until the end of the episode.

After learning from Robin about an herb called Nightroot that is said to help anyone overcome their fears, Charming decides to head off and find this herb.  While I do understand why he’d be so inclined to do so, this does seem like a slight de-evolution of his character.  Think about it for a second.  He just up and decides to head off in pursuit of a magical plant that’s rumored to be the solution to his problems.  Just thinking about that statement; it just gives me a sudden sense of Deja-Dreamshade.  You know, the plant that Killian and Liam were once told was a super-awesome-cure-all, when it, of course, was the exact opposite?  What’s more, look at the names of these two plants.  Dreamshade?  Nightroot?  I can’t be the only one who sees the similarity in these two names.  While I’m not suggesting that Nightroot is deadly to the extreme, you would think that Charming would be a wee bit hesitant about magic plants with peculiar names after his bought of Dreamshade poisoning.  Anyway, he goes off to find this magic root and in the process, stumbles across a woman who was locked up in a doorless tower.  A woman with very long hair that can be utilized as a climbing rope.  Yep, it’s Rapunzel.  I admit I was a bit surprised to see this variation of Rapunzel, as every version of the story I’ve heard all stated that Rapunzel had blond hair while OUAT’s version had her portrayed by a black woman.  I guess they were going for racial equality or something?  If so, that’s fine; I’m cool with that.  Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time OUAT deviated from the original source material.  Rapunzel explains that a witch trapped her in that tower when she came to search for the Nightroot herself, on account of her fears of acceding to the throne, particularly after her older brother and their kingdom’s heir apparent died in a tragic accident.  When the witch returns, Charming, upon seeing her face is identical to Rapunzel’s, realizes that the ‘witch’ is actually Rapunzel’s fears.  He figures out instantly that when she took the Nightroot, it conjured up a manifestation of her darkest fears, and she can only escape from her tower if she can gather up the courage to face those fears.  Which she eventually does with Charming’s encouragement.

And that brings us to Charming’s present day storyline.  Because Zelena drugged his tea with a bit of Nightroot she stole from Gold’s shop, Charming was forced to face his fears that he wouldn’t be able to be a proper father to his unborn child.  When he finally manages to accept the fact that he has those fears but decides to face them anyway, he manages to defeat the Nightroot entity.   And it’s in watching this scene that I think it’s such a shame that his encounter with Rapunzel occurred during the missing year.  Because if he remembered that moment, he would have realized that what he just encountered was the result of being drugged with Nightroot, since he’d previously seen the effects first hand.  If he’d remembered that, he might have stopped to think about how he’d gotten Nightroot into his system and possibly remembered the tea Zelena made him drink.  You know, maybe these people should have kept a diary or something.    Then maybe, they could have looked back and figured out enough from their entries to figure stuff out.  Unless any diary they might have kept wouldn’t have been transferred over with the new curse.  Which is doubtful, because we’ve already seen that a lot of the Enchanted Forest denizens had their belongings automatically wind up in Mr. Gold’s shop.  So any diary they could have kept during the Lost Year would most likely have appeared there.

When Charming does defeat his fears, Zelena magically steals Charming’s sword.  Upon hearing this, Regina surmises that the Wicked Witch stole Charming’s sword because it’s a symbol of his courage, which he displayed when he conquered his fear.  They also discover, by searching the farmhouse Emma and Killian stumbled across earlier, that Zelena has Gold/Rumpelstiltskin held hostage.  Though, how he got out of his cage I can’t quite figure out, as I doubt Zelena had taken him out for a walk.

While Charming did sorta hog the whole episode, there were also some touching moments from other characters.  Regina takes the amnesiac Henry out for some ice cream and the two of them have a discussion that ends with his desire Henry voicing to have more than just Emma and him, particularly during the holidays.  It’s a really sweet moment because, like Regina, we all know that Henry has a large extended family that is just waiting for him to remember them, so his wish is going to be more than fulfilled.  And of course, we get the only major moment between Emma and Killian within this episode as they’re searching the woods for signs of the Wicked Witch.  They end up talking about Emma’s most-recent ex, Walsh, with Emma admitting she was seriously considering marrying him.  In this moment, they both say vitally important things.  Emma states that Walsh, like everyone else, ‘wasn't who he said he was’ and it resulted with her heart being broken.  With this statement, Emma reveals what kind of man she really needs- someone who is always upfront and open with her, who won’t ever pretend to be something he’s not.  (Hmm, who do we know who fits that description?)  With Killian, his defining moment is when he tells Emma that if her heart ‘can be broken, it means it still works.’  At face value, this statement might seem a bit strange, but it makes sense when you remember exactly who Killian is.  This is a man who has had his heart broken more times than anyone should.  Think about how many loved ones he’s lost throughout his life.  First when his father abandoned him as a boy, then when he had to watch his beloved older brother, Liam die- twice.   I’m sure he was also hurt by whatever happened to his mother, even though that’s currently an unsolved mystery.  And of course, there was Milah, who was murdered before his eyes.   After all that heartache, and the anger and thirst for vengeance it left him with, he must have spent such a long time believing he was incapable of loving again.  But then he met Emma and, after a short period of time, he realized that he was falling hard for her.  Even then, he still suffered a great deal of heartache.  First from the (slim) possibility that she would end up choosing Neal, since he was the father of her son, then when he was forced to say goodbye to Emma before Storybrooke was erased from existence at the end of the Neverland story arc, with no hope of ever seeing her again, and finally the knowledge that she very nearly ended up finding love with someone she met in New York during the course of the Lost Year.  Because of all that, he knows better than most that having a broken heart simply means that your heart is still capable of feeling something, and therefore it is possible for your heart to mend.  This moment also seems to set up an ongoing theme that continues throughout this Wizard of Oz story arc.  At various moments throughout the remainder of season 3, Killian will make multiple attempts at reaching out to Emma when he feels she might be getting off track, using his own life experiences to try and nudge her back on the right path.   He’s already figured out that he and Emma are cut from the same cloth, and like Emma said at the end of season 2, they understand each other.  He knows perfectly well that if a course of action didn’t work out for him, it will most certainly not be one Emma should even consider, so he does whatever he can to keep her from making the same mistakes he made before she actually makes them, as well as sharing with her the wisdom he’d gathered from his own trials when he sees she’s going through a similar one.  That is the action of a man who always has Emma’s best interests at heart.  How could that not make you melt?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Once Upon a Time- Episode Analysis (Witch Hunt)

We really get great Regina and Robin bonding moments in this episode during the Enchanted Forest flashback.  While Outlaw Queen is not my OTP within the context of this show, I still support these two as a couple, as they really do play extremely well off each other.  And you can already see something brewing mere hours after they meet.  It all starts when she saves Robin’s son from a flying monkey.  (Roland is such a little cutie!  Even his voice is precious.)  And you can see how much being Henry’s mother has helped nurture Regina’s maternal instincts when you see how good she is around Roland, something Robin clearly takes notice of.  So much so that he ignores Regina’s wishes to infiltrate her old castle alone and goes with her.  As they make their way through the secret passageway, they began to bond over the fact that they’ve both lost someone close to them.  Robin had lost Maid Marion, and Regina, as we all know, has been separated from Henry for what she believes to be forever.  However Robin tries to reassure Regina that it is possible to find something new to live for.  And it makes perfect sense that he’d be the one to tell her this, and not just because, unlike them, we know that Robin is the same man Tinkerbell had tried to set Regina up with years ago, and is therefore someone Regina could live for someday.  Practically anyone can identify Robin and Maid Marion as one of the well-recognized literary couples, so of course losing her would leave Robin devastated.  But it’s clear that the existence of his son, Roland, was able to help snap Robin out of his state of mental chaos and got him into full-father mode.  Not only does that show remarkable strength, it also makes him the perfect person to tell Regina that it is possible to find a new reason to live.  However, Regina is not receptive to Robin’s words and plans to put herself under a Sleeping Curse after lowering the barrier preventing the others from entering the castle, so she won't have to continue facing a life without Henry.  She almost goes through with her plan when she comes face-to-face with the Wicked Witch, who reveals she’s Regina’s long-lost half-sister, Zelena, who was abandoned by Cora years ago.  The knowledge of Zelena, and how she intends to wreak havoc, gives Regina the motivation she needs to have second thoughts about the sleeping curse, as she now vows to bring Zelena down,

Back in Storybrooke, Emma and her parents get to work on figuring things out.  It turns out that the new curse did more than remove everyone’s memories of the past year, with the exception of Killian (who broke off from the group shortly after they’d returned to the Enchanted Forest and claims he’d received an anonymous letter via bird messenger that instructed him to bring Emma back with the enclosed vial of memory potion).  People have been disappearing without a trace from the moment Storybrooke came back into existence.  The reason for the disappearances are discovered by Robin when he’s out hunting with his men and Little John gets snatched up by a flying monkey.  He’s later found with a severe bite on his neck which is quickly revealed to have the properties of a traditional werewolf bite when Little John transforms into a flying monkey.  To get to the bottom of things, Emma calls an emergency town meeting.  At the meeting people all start turning on Regina, accusing her of being behind the new curse.  Regina, however, insists she had nothing to do with it, pointing out that if she had, she would have restored Henry’s memories of her.  At first, it looks as if Emma is siding with everyone else in accusing Regina, but it turns out that it was planned between them.  In reality, Emma believes Regina’s claims of innocence and they purposely made everyone think Regina was the guilty party to trick the real culprit out of hiding, and to give them time to try and replicate the memory potion that Emma got from Killian.  Which is a really clever move on their part.  And it is great to see these two women actually working together.  Unfortunately, their plan to lure out the culprit is unsuccessful, as she vanishes in a cloud of smoke the second she’s cornered.  However, that and the fact that people are being turned into flying monkeys give them enough information to know that they’re dealing with the Wicked Witch, who, as we see in the final few seconds has a very-much-alive Gold/Rumpelstiltskin locked up in a basement somewhere.  And he is just as unhinged as he was in the Enchanted Forest.  He’s even speaking in his Dark One voice.   

You really feel for Present Day Regina in this.  Because Henry hasn’t gotten his memories back, everyone has to virtually tiptoe around him.  Everyone has got to feel very awkward around him because while everyone in Storybrooke has known Henry for his whole life and watched him grow up, he has forgotten everyone.  Because of that, people have to be very careful to pretend that they’ve only just met.  But of course, there are bound to be slip-ups, like with Ruby/Red bringing him the cinnamon hot chocolate without even asking.  And Henry’s memory loss is particularly hard for Regina.  Imagine how you would feel if the child you raised and then lost no longer recognized you when he reentered your life.  All you’d want to do is to hug him, but you know you can’t because he wouldn’t understand.  And poor Regina is understandably frustrated when her attempts at recreating the memory potion in order to restore Henry’s memory fails.  Your heart just breaks for her when she’s ‘introduced’ to Henry as an old friend of Emma’s and all he does is hold out his hand for a casual handshake.

Not only that, but the people of Storybrooke are once again very quick to turn on Regina at the town meeting.  While this would be a perfect opportunity for Regina to go back to her season 2 mentality in moaning about how no one will ever give her a chance, she is clearly in a much healthier state of mind this time around, and instead focuses on recreating the memory potion in order to prove her innocence (hooray for character growth).  I’d like to think a part of her decision at this moment stems from her understanding that the Storybrookers really couldn’t be blamed for immediately being suspicious of her.  After all, none of them were in Neverland to see how much she helped out, and since the last thing everyone remembers is Emma and Henry driving over the town line, they’ve obviously forgotten anything Regina had done to assist them during the missing year (like helping them get back into her old castle, for instance..)

On a final note, Grumpy/Leroy really IS the Storybrooke town crier, isn’t he?  When Emma and Regina come up with the plan to make the true culprit believe they’re making progress on the memory potion, Regina announces she knows just who to tell to ensure the culprit would overhear the message.   Your first thought would be that Regina was thinking about Snow, which would make sense considering Snow’s track record for keeping secrets.  But seconds later, it’s revealed that Regina was actually thinking of Grumpy/Leroy, which is an unexpected moment of humor.