Sunday, March 4, 2012
"You Can Do Anything As Long As You Can Dream It."
Earlier this week, I mentioned to my brother that Grumpy was going to be the subject of the upcoming episode of Once Upon a Time, and I said that made me happy since he is my favorite part of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. “Well,” I clarified, “I really love Dopey, too. But Grumpy definitely has the best character arc.” Nathan laughed. “The only character arc,” he replied. Yes, I suppose that’s fair. No one else in the movie really changes; each of the other characters is steady, basically the same the first and last time we see them, but Grumpy is dynamic, morphing from a curmudgeonly crank into a considerate fellow with a heart full of love.
In Dreamy, he is similarly dynamic, and in Storybrooke, he makes a similar transformation. I still love the relationship between him and Snow White, but here they are hard-luck partners with a common goal of selling candles, and the real agent of change is a new character, a sweet, clumsy nun named Astrid.
The name Astrid holds one strong association for me, which is Astrid Lindgren, who wrote the Pippi Longstocking books. Astrid has a similar sort of boundless enthusiasm and cheerfully ungainly quality as Pippi, but she lacks a bit of her self-assurance. Still, she dares to dream, and Pippi is certainly a dreamer, not to mention a world traveler, something that Astrid would love to be. Grumpy’s real-world counterpart, meanwhile, is Leroy, which immediately calls to mind Jim Croce’s Leroy Brown. It seems that this Leroy is a comparably crusty town ne’er-do-well who is “meaner than a junkyard dog” – at least until he sees his true love and is illuminated.
Light played a huge role in this episode. There was the fairy dust, ground from diamonds to light the world. The very name of Astrid in her fairy form – Nova – calls to mind stars, and the twin ceremonies of the two worlds – the fireflies in the fairy tale realm and the candles in Storybrooke – serve as a profound moment of connection between these seemingly mismatched individuals. As soon as Nova mentioned the fireflies, I thought of the lantern scene in Tangled, and the association was equally strong with the candles. As my first viewing of that scene stands as one of my most liminal movie experiences ever, the similarity certainly stirred my soul.
I love the earthy practicality of Dreamy coupled with the flighty exuberance of Nova. They are both a couple of dreamers, even if they come from different and seemingly incompatible world. Air and underground, flying and mining… Intriguing opposites. But the gentle eagerness that emanates from Dreamy in the beginning truly does not seem to fit in his confined surroundings. I do love the camaraderie with his brothers, though. They make such a sweet group.
The dwarf origin story also fascinates me. I’ve never heard anything like it before – dwarfs hatching from eggs fully-grown and only male, being christened by having their names printed on axes, being incapable of falling in love. Granted, I can’t think of too many stories in which a dwarf does fall in love, but I always assumed that it was a possibility. This strict, regimented world seems too harsh, even if the dwarfs are built to enjoy it. It reminds me of the elves in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Maybe making toys is an elf’s typical trade, but shouldn’t there be freedom for those who break the mold to do something different?
Dreamy’s egg being sprinkled with fairy dust makes me think of Short Circuit. There are just rows and rows of the same thing, but one is different simply because an extraordinary event happened to him. It’s a higher order of living that he just happened to be blessed with, and it’s a gift to nurture, even if its fruition seems impossible. After all, doesn’t just about every romance on this show feel that way? All of these couples have major obstacles standing in the way of their happiness, but as Horowitz and Kitsis said, just as LOST was about redemption, Once Upon a Time is about hope. Yes, these people are flawed too, but it’s mostly about bad things happening to them for reasons beyond their control and their finding ways to keep the faith and combat despair against all odds.
We didn’t see Rumple or the queen in the fairy tale realm, which made it feel oddly tranquil this week; the only antagonists were characters who were more concerned about the good of the many than the good of the few, or the one, and as the respective leaders of their groups, who could blame them? They weren’t evil, just pragmatic. So while it was very sad to see Dreamy shrug off his dreams and leave Nova devastated, supposedly for her own good, it was a gentler sadness than we’ve seen in most of these backstories.
Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke, the connection between Leroy and Astrid was still incredibly sweet even though she was a nun and therefore off-limits. I wonder how common it is for nuns to fall in love and relinquish their vows? Not that she has done that, at least not yet, but it certainly seems like it could be headed that way. I thought that was a clever way of making her unavailable, and the connection between fairies as distributors of this sort of spiritual life force and nuns, who you might say serve a similar role, was neat. Just as there are no female dwarfs, I wonder, are there no male fairies? In essence, then, fairies and dwarfs each exist within a sort of monastic community. Incidentally, what does Mr. Gold have against nuns?
It was great to see Belle again in this episode, and her sweet but lovelorn advice to Dreamy really packed a punch. (Also, I cracked up over Dreamy's total cluelessness about Nova's heavy-handed firefly hint and Belle's immediate recognition of it as an invitation.) From her dress to her state of mind, it would certainly seem that this meeting occurred post-Rumple, and presumably she is hiding out with the dwarfs. On the one hand, this makes sense, since she is underground and unlikely to be discovered by the queen’s goons in passing. The dwarfs, despite their no-nonsense demeanor, seem to be a rather altruistic lot, so I imagine they don’t mind harboring her. However, as a full-size beautiful woman among short bearded men, she is quite conspicuous. Is this really the best hiding spot, then? At least it’s good to know that she is not rotting away in a dungeon somewhere, though.
I didn’t catch any overt LOST references, though of course the sailboat reminded me of Desmond and I caught a whiff of John Locke’s defiance in Leroy’s comment about people always telling him what he can’t do. Henry didn’t have a role in this episode, but I didn’t miss him. I was thoroughly caught up in this love story, perhaps the sweetest one this show has given us yet. There’s such a sense of purity about both characters and their uncomplicated magnetism. Noreen, the gorgeous lament that Neil Byrne sings as a part of Celtic Thunder’s Heritage, seems a fitting way to describe Grumpy’s future state of mind, though at this point he’s merely hardening himself, convincing himself that the life everyone says he was born for is the life he wants. Later, the regret will pierce his armor. However, we’ve already seen the future, and he and Astrid are well on their way to at least a beautiful friendship.
They really are pairing everybody off rather neatly, aren’t they? I wonder if Archie gets somebody. My guess, however, is no. After all, he is ageless to an unusual degree, much like Richard, which makes it pretty hard to form romantic attachments, not that that matters in Storybrooke, where everyone is in suspended animation, and not that it stopped Rumple from falling for Belle. Perhaps that crossed his mind, however, as he thought of reasons why he was unsuited to be in a romantic relationship. Anyway, I would like to see more of the sadly neglected Archie, and I look forward to Henry’s return next week.
But I really loved this episode and its pairing of star-crossed and starry-eyed dreamers. Given the nautical bent of this episode, the lyrics to Eric Bogle’s Safe in the Harbour seem doubly fitting here, and a good way to close out on an optimistic note: “So when storm clouds come sailing across your blue ocean, hold fast to your dreaming for all that you're worth. For as long as there's dreamers, there will always be sailors bringing back their bright treasures from the corners of Earth.”