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.