Thursday, December 1, 2011

"I Was Lost, And You Found Me."

That Still Small Voice is my favorite episode of Once Upon a Time yet, and Archie Hopper, otherwise known as Jiminy Cricket, is shaping up to be my favorite character. He’s certainly the geekiest-seeming character so far, aside from maybe Henry, and his gentleness and desire to do what is right in the face of grave opposition makes him very appealing. He’s certainly the only character on the show thus far who could find himself on my list of fictional crushes. Of course, while I’ve loved Jiminy Cricket all my life, that’s not something I would have expected to say about him. But as is the case with all the characters on the show, this is not quite the Jiminy Cricket we’ve come to know.

This episode reminded me more of LOST than any other. The random Apollo bar sightings made me squeal, and the wonderful title quote warmed me, but mostly, this episode reminded me of The Moth, the episode early in season one that introduced us to conflicted druggie Charlie. Like Charlie, Archie struggles valiantly in his flashbacks to live a good, moral life, but a close family member undermines his determination. In the present day, he becomes trapped in a cave-in with arguably the show’s most important male character, and they hash out their differences. In both episodes, an insect becomes a metaphor for breaking free of the bonds keeping one tethered to an unwanted lifestyle.

Archie is a sweet man. I’ve liked him from the beginning, even if I haven’t been quite sure what to make of him. While this episode’s structure brings Charlie to mind right away, Raphael Sbarge’s whispery delivery and jittery mannerisms remind me of Daniel Faraday, who, much to my surprise, I came to love even more than Charlie because he lacked Charlie’s mean streak. Despite the detrimental effects his experiments had on his girlfriend and his subsequent cowardly abandonment of her, it seemed Daniel never did anything with malice. He was an innocent soul being yanked around by overbearing parents, particularly his mother, much as Archie is cowed and manipulated by his parents in the flashbacks and Regina in the present.

Sbarge really is wonderful in this episode, with the anguish of this man’s regrets and inner conflicts playing out in his anxious face. I found the twists on the old story to be interesting. I’m not hugely familiar with the original tale, but certainly, in the Disney version, which the episode title quotes, Jiminy Cricket has no special relationship with Geppetto. Indeed, the old man appears to be utterly oblivious to his existence. It’s strange, then, to think of the two sharing this profound friendship dating back so many years, with Geppetto aging normally and his friend remaining the same age, in the same form, until his work is complete. I didn’t expect that, or that his umbrella would have been a gift from an empathetic Geppetto, but I love it.

Rumplestiltskin is a truly menacing character, and the dolls into which Geppetto’s kindly parents are transformed are truly freakish. Rumplestiltskin is very much like Flagg in Stephen King’s world, making impossible bargains that seem so ideal at the time and wreaking havoc wherever he goes. What sends Jiminy over the edge is the way his parents exploit the sympathies of the open-hearted couple he does not yet realize are Geppetto’s parents. What happens instead of his intended curse on his parents leaves him in an agony of guilt for the rest of his life. I hope that when all this is over, those dolls can be transformed back into people. Kinda explains Geppetto’s obsession with wanting to turn his woodcarvings into living, breathing entities.

I really loved this episode, and I am very interested in how this character will develop in the future as he strives to obey his conscience instead of those who would bully him.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cinderella Makes a Deal With the Devil

This week, we branched out from the established characters to focus on Cinderella, a poor girl who, in this version, is thwarted out of her dream when Rumplestiltskin kills her fairy godmother and forces her into a dirty deal with him. Basically, then, we’re getting a hybrid of the traditional Rumplestiltskin and Cinderella stories. She is an innocent girl desperate to break out of her bedraggled state, and she foolishly signs a contract without understanding what she would be giving up in order to go to the ball in finery and attract the attention of her prince. In Storybrooke, she is an unwed mother fleeing Mr. Gold, to whom she has been forced to sell her baby.

Jessy Schram inhabits the role well, with naivety being Cinderella’s chief trait, although I couldn’t help finding it funny that just after learning that Emilie de Ravin would join the cast as Belle, we met Cinderella, whose storyline echoes Claire’s so closely. It amused me, too, that back in the fairy tale realm, her husband’s name was Thomas, also the name of Claire’s ex-boyfriend. Both girls are young and overwhelmed and pressured into giving up the babies they’re not sure they’re ready to raise. Also found it interesting that the name Cinderella chooses for her child is Alexandra, the infant whisked away from Danielle by Ben Linus, and that, while she never says those exact words, Emma basically spends the whole episode encouraging the 19-year-old to say to the world, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

It felt odd for Snow White to be so uninvolved in this episode. She really didn’t come into the current story at all and only had a cameo in the flashbacks as a princess warmly welcoming Cinderella to the fold. How much earlier did this take place? It would seem that it must have been before her sojourn with the dwarfs, though not necessarily. I’m assuming a very short engagement, but maybe quite a bit of time passed between her awakening and her wedding. In any case, it must have been before because Rumplestiltskin doesn’t become imprisoned until the end of the episode. I wonder just how the two families are connected. Is Thomas related to either Snow White or James?

It is very agitating to me that the most potent villain in this series has a Scottish accent. Rumplestiltskin is completely creepy, yet he’s got charisma, more so than the icy evil queen. As unpleasant as he is to look at, particularly in the flashbacks, there’s a seductive charm about him, and every once in a while a facial expression or vocal inflection reminds me hugely of Desmond. Blech. So not Desmond. But so far, aside from Henry, he is most certainly the most engrossing male character in the show. It would seem that he’s our Smokey.

I do have hopes for Jiminy Cricket, however. It’s not completely clear where his allegiances lie, but he seems to have mostly retained his decency, and his geeky demeanor is endearing. Looking forward to focusing more on him next week.

Obviously, Emma’s own bargain with Rumplestiltskin is going to come back to bite her, no doubt at the worst possible time. Emma was rather foolhardy too, but she took what seemed like the only solution and figured she’d worry about the price later. This episode was all about forethought and not entering into agreements lightly, and that’s certainly a lesson that carries over into the real world.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Snow White and Prince Charming Meet

After the first episode of Once Upon a Time ended, Dad remarked that we would probably wind up hating Snow White before it was all over. I disagreed, and I still do, but it’s obvious that there are more layers to her character here than we are used to seeing. The version of Snow White that we got in the flashbacks of Snow Falls was more like Robin Hood than the innocent damsel in distress we’re used to seeing. This Snow White is fighting for her life and trying to bring down the queen herself. We still didn’t get the story here; Snow confirmed that she’d ruined the queen’s life but didn’t explain how. I’m anxious find out. In any case, though, Snow in this episode largely reminded me of Danielle in Ever After, a strong, confident tomboy who forges a connection with a prince despite the fact that they initially seem to hate each other. I liked her.

And, of course, I still like her in the current storyline too. There, she spends her time tromping through the forest with Emma trying to find the man she knows as John Doe, the one with whom she felt a strong connection after he grabbed her hand while she was reading to him. It all felt very season six of LOST to me, with Henry realizing that they are in this strange sort of limbo and trying to shake people out of their stupor by bringing them together with people they love but don’t yet remember. He’s trying to trigger a domino effect; the more people realize what situation they are in, the better. Except he doesn’t want the queen to know, but if love is the key, is there any real danger of her coming to her senses?

I never really thought about how fairy tale-ish it was for so many of LOST’s sideways “awakenings” to revolve around kisses. In this, we’d already seen Prince “Charming” – we now know his name is James – awakening Snow with a kiss, and in this episode, she does the same for him, in a sense. It’s CPR, but the effect is that it looks as though she kissed him back into life, making a nice bookend to the story in the fairy tale realm. Do we believe that the woman in the room with him is actually his wife, or did the queen just pay her off to pretend to be? I’m not sure. Could go either way. But obviously things are not over between these two.

I really enjoy Snow / Mary and Emma together. They seem like such natural friends. I also love their rapport with Henry, though you would think it would be getting pretty hard for them to keep spending time with him. I would think the queen would just want to pull him out of school next, though I would guess that there is only one school in Storybrooke. Maybe she could get a private tutor. I love that in this episode, Henry yelled, “We have to go back!” That was the big LOST moment for me, though the cutting of the net looked very much like a LOST shot.

Mary and Emma will make good roomies. I like that combo. This episode didn’t feel as sprawling as others; there weren’t as many characters to keep track of. It was very focused. I’m intrigued to see how they begin to pull in other princesses; Cinderella is next week, and I’m anxious to see Emilie de Ravin as Belle. I don’t picture her as a Belle, and I wonder if she will be a brunette for this. I also wonder if she will have her natural accent. An Australian Belle would be very weird to me. But I’m excited, and I hope that more LOST actors trickle in as they have been doing on Person of Interest, which I really should be recapping too. I love the interplay between Finch and Reese and it is glorious to see Michael Emerson again for an hour a week, but the plot hasn’t grabbed me that much. I’m giving it time. But Once Upon a Time has me hooked, and I can’t wait for the next episode.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Daddy Issues Rise to the Top With The Thing You Love Most

All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues, and perhaps so do all the worst villains. The primary LOST connection for me in The Thing You Love Most, the second episode of Once Upon a Time, was patricide. Sadly, that was a fairly common occurrence on LOST, especially if you expand it to encompass immediate family members in general. Thinking back, I believe the first occurrence of a character killing his or her father was early in the second season, with Kate, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

On LOST, the dads who bit the dust at the hands of a son or daughter were varying degrees of jerks, from Roger Linus, who found it so difficult to nurture the son whose birth killed the woman he loved, to Anthony Cooper, who, to my mind, competes only with Keamy for the title of most evil character on the show. (Well, Smokey's pretty rotten too, but he had a long time and a lot of supernatural power to give him a leg up there.)  Here, however, the victim was someone who appears, by all accounts, to have been a very good man indeed. His daughter killed him not because she despised him but because she loved him. Both shows incorporate patricide as a sort of twisted rite of passage, something a character does under some duress to achieve a sought-after goal. But it felt particularly painful in this case.

Like The Man Behind the Curtain, this is an episode that made you feel sorrier for the villain at times and more disdainful at others. Generally, however, revulsion overpowered pity for me here. The queen’s only true aim is revenge, which is never a worthwhile goal and certainly not a valid reason to murder the one person who has always cared for you. We still don’t know precisely how Snow White ruined her rival’s life, but it’s wrapped up somehow in Snow White’s father, whom the queen loved. Is it her very existence that she resents? It seems to be something more specific than that, one particular instance that ruined everything for her. Perhaps as a child, Snow White got herself into a perilous situation and her father died saving her. I imagine it’s something comparably dramatic.

We met Maleficent in this episode, and considering that she may just be Disney’s most intimidating villain ever, she didn’t make much of a splash here. She really didn’t seem frightening at all, and certainly not as evil as the queen. I liked their duel, like a shortened version of the Gandalf-Saruman showdown, but she just wasn't very intimidating.  The only other major character to emerge for the first time was the queen’s father, whose name, it was revealed, was Henry. So even though she doesn’t seem to remember her past in Storybrooke, at least not fully, the love of her father is ingrained enough in her for her to have named her adopted son after him. But her murder the most important person in her life poisoned that relationship from the outset. I wonder if Henry’s storybook mentions what happened to the queen’s father. Perhaps someday he will come to feel some empathy for her, but her wicked choices have undoubtedly set her on a lonely path.

I love the gently developing relationship between Emma and Henry, as well as Emma’s friendship with Snow White, who looks more like her sister than her mother. Henry’s psychiatrist, Jiminy Cricket in his own world, seems like a good guy too, albeit too much under the queen’s thumb. Rumpelstiltskin is creepy in an Eloise Hawking sort of way, and I get the sense that he knows more than the queen does about what is going on. It seems that aside from Henry, he is the only one who fully understands that they are not where they should be.

While elements of this episode reminded me of LOST, I didn’t catch any Easter eggs, though I am under the impression that there were some. I’ll have to look again more closely. But Easter eggs or not, this was another compelling episode with even more emotional resonance than the first.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Once Upon a Time, Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz Dreamed of a Happily Ever After

“If LOST was about redemption, Once Upon a Time is about hope.” So say Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the LOST writers who have teamed up to create Once Upon a Time. As LOST was, indeed, largely about redemption for me – and as Kitsis and Horowitz wrote my favorite episode, Dr. Linus, which embodies the theme of redemption better than any other – I am inclined to take this as a very good sign. These are master storytellers out to spin a tale that taps into our deep-seated longing for a happy ending, something that seems to be passing out of favor in film and television too often. So much bleakness… I need a show that can help me to feel better about the world, not worse. I need a show that acknowledges a sense of possibility. I’ve been waiting for Once Upon a Time, and I think it can deliver.

Once Upon a Time is a curious animal because we are working largely with established characters who most viewers will have known since childhood. We all have preconceived notions about them. My hunch is that some of our expectations will be met and some will be turned on their heads. This show, as I understand it, will be every bit as character-centric as LOST, delving into the back stories of classic figures like Snow White, the Wicked Queen, Geppetto, Rumplestiltskin and Little Red Riding Hood. In this case, the pristine wonderland will be in the flashbacks, not the present day, so to some extent I wonder whether I will feel more connected to those, in part simply because I want to step into that world. In its own way, that fairy tale world is quite as gorgeous as the Island.

Our current-day tale unfolds in Boston, where a tough gal with abandonment issues is spending a pretty miserable 28th birthday until she makes a wish on a star – the star-shaped candle on her birthday cupcake – and her dream of companionship comes true. In walks a little boy who claims to be her son. She is Emma, he is Henri, and it seems that theirs may be the central relationship of the show. Emma is played by Jennifer Morrison, who I know as Cameron, the doctor on House who I liked a lot better in earlier seasons. Speaking of doctors, she seems to be this show’s Jack. Destiny hangs heavy upon her; it has been said that she will be the one to restore the lost kingdom to its former glory. However, that’s just crazy talk as far as she is concerned, and she wants nothing to do with it. Yet by the end of the episode, she has already taken a step toward fulfilling that calling.

Jared Gilmore, new to me but with three years of TV credits to his name, is Henri, the adopted son of the Wicked Queen, who in this world is the mayor of Storybrooke, Maine. Like Walt, Henri is cute but rather creepy. He’s “special.” On Once Upon a Time, these characters are, in a sense, frozen in a sort of suburban purgatory, never to age while the clock stands still. Snow White, who now goes by Mary, certainly doesn’t look a day older than she did in her fairy tale realm. However, Henri is not native to that land, so perhaps he does age at a normal rate. Nonetheless, if the show proceeds as slowly as LOST did, with only a day or two per episode, he could fall into the Walt trap of aging far too quickly. But that’s a bridge they can cross if they come to it.

I am fairly familiar with Ginnifer Goodwin, and like Amy Adams, she just seems to have a Disney Princess air about her. Her Snow White – the one who remembers who she is and the one who doesn’t – is sweet and optimistic but with a light shroud of melancholy hanging over her. Snow White is Emma’s mother, and it will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out with the two women about the same age. She and Henri already share a powerful bond, and I imagine the three will form a potent team before long, even though the mayor’s disapproval will make meetings between Emma and Henri difficult. I love the moment when she returns that brilliant blue bird to its birdhouse. It’s such a wonderful way to show how her true identity seeps into her role in this land the Queen claims is devoid of all happiness.

Even though the characters are live action in both worlds, the show often reminded me of Enchanted, and I’m sure they were just as intentional about that as they were about the fact that the address of the mayor’s house is 108. Lana Parrilla plays the Queen, and while she was pretty personable in her two-episode stint as “good cop” Other Greta down in the hatch with Charlie in Through the Looking Glass, she is icily creepy here. One wonders why this monarch is in this waiting place that she inflicted on the rest of them. I’m also curious about the relationship between the Queen and Snow White. She was an adoptive mother to her; did she earnestly want to raise her, but something got in the way of that happening so now she’s fulfilling that lost dream with Henri? Emma asked if she loved Henri, but it wasn’t clear to me from Emma’s expression whether she was telling the truth in her response. I love the truth detection; that’s a nifty skill to cultivate. It’s like she has her own inner alethiometer.

Dad says that before this is all over, the Queen will probably be the “good guy.” I wouldn’t go that far. She seems pretty darn evil to me. But I do expect that we will have at least some reason to feel sorry for her. Like Smokey, she is capable both of vanishing in a puff of smoke and of causing extreme destruction. She desperately wants something that she can’t have, and she will go to any lengths necessary to get it. But what exactly would constitute her happy ending? The Queen also reminded me of Narnia’s White Witch, particularly since it is through Geppetto’s finely crafted wardrobe that baby Emma escapes her doomed country to resurface in the middle of nowhere in modern America.

It’s plain that playing Spot the Literary References will be just as much fun here as in LOST. You never know when a new one might turn up. Since the primary source material is fairy tales (and ABC is owned by Disney, which serves as many youngsters’ introduction to the genre), kids could play at this game almost as well as adults, though I’m not yet certain how appropriate this show is for children younger than high school. So far, the only big issue is violence, and while it’s not pervasive, there are a couple of scenes that get fairly graphic. Additionally, both the Queen and the raggedy Rumplestiltskin, played by a very unsettling Robert Carlyle, are downright scary. Then again, as it seems that 10-year-old Henri is the only character fighting on the side of the good who knows exactly what is going on, children really have an important character to latch onto.

Once Upon a Time is beautifully filmed and written, and I am already growing attached to some of the characters. So far, it seems poised to be all that I hoped it would, and I look forward to seeing how they explore, honor and twist these beloved characters in the weeks to come, ideally retaining an audience large enough to allow it to build toward the Happily Ever After that will serve as a natural complement to the title. No doubt there will be many nasty turns along the way, but I am eager to take them.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jack Shephard Bobblehead

Buy the Jack Shephard bobblehead and get yellow lab Vincent too!

Monday, May 23, 2011

LOST: The Last Episodes Soundtrack

Relive the majesty of the music in LOST's final four episodes with Michael Giacchino's LOST: The Last Episodes.