My sources say that writing something outside the subject of my NaNoWriMo project still counts towards my monthly goal, and there are some things that need to be said about this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time. Grievances to be aired, nits to be bloody picked and so on. I realize, having said this myself before, that UOaT is not a haven for amazing writing or storytelling. There are some bright spots, don’t get me wrong, but for the most part the scripts are pretty lazy. Not to mention the CG. I’ve seen better effects in low budget 80s movies. Oh yes, spoilers. If you don’t watch UOaT you probably won’t know what the hell I’m talking about but I’ll try to make it interesting nonetheless. If you do - SPOILERS. Spoilers for some incredibly stupid character non-development and the ritual butchering of something very precious to me.
Why do I still watch the show? For reasons all beginning with “Rumple” and ending with “stiltskin” now that the USS Mulan/Aurora has foundered upon the rocks of tragedy and unrequited love. Robert Carlyle is a treasure, I love the way he plays the character, and now that he’s in Neverland he gets to be this awesome cross between maniacal past-Rumple and reformed-but-still-ominous Mr. Gold. Which is where my first nit comes in. Remember when he first came to Neverland? He cut off his own shadow. Sliced it right off his feet, with the Dagger of Resplendent McGuffinry. And then smirked and sent it off to hide the dagger. Amazing. And now he’s wandering around the island, moping around about how he’s a coward and Henry’s his undoing and he misses his son and SO ON until Regina has to come and rescue him from Peter Pan’s shadow. Mind you, that is some damn artful moping (never leave me, Robert C) but Regina? The Evil Queen so completely feckless she a) can’t kill a beached mermaid properly, b) locks herself in a perpetual Groundhog Day with happy-ish albeit dopey and ignorant versions of all her enemies, and c) probably leaves the stove on when she leaves the house. I have feelings about these things. But even Regina is a goddamn Machiavellian genius compared to some of the other characters on this show, but more on that later. I like Regina, her character has depth, and she can feast upon the scenery close to a Rump-esque level. But not quite, because that cannot be done. I’m happy that they’re teamed up now, because there could be some excellent gender-swapped Oedipal business in the future. Yes I have a sick mind - is Regina Rumple’s daughter? I can’t remember. But my point is, Rumble’s emo behavior over the last few episodes is not working at all. Be glorious, Rumple! Sew fear into some hearts, lay waste to some bratty teenagers! And stop calling your son Bae. Who the hell gives a kid an awesome name like Baelfire and then calls him Bae? These are questions that must be answered.
Moving on, all the characters we don’t care about except Hook are fumbling around the island trying to find Henry. As usual, Charming is being stupid, Snow is being creepy and awkward, and Emma is… well, she didn’t really start out with a full box of crayons. There’s a bunch of talking, until finally all the characters have to reveal a terrible secret that they would never tell anyone and it turns out to all be boring things that we’ve already figured out. Snow wants another kid? Surely you jest. Even Charming could pick up on that one, or should have been able to. Emma hoped Neil would be dead so she didn’t have to feel all the feels again? Shocking. Charming’s revelation was a little more interesting as he has to tell Snow that he nearly died of stupid and now can’t ever leave Neverland. But who cares? This show has been beating us over the head with the idea that nothing else matters because they have each other, so why can’t they just kill Pan and raise a family in Neverland? So, interesting but not world-shattering in any way. The only secret that had any real impact was Hook’s, at least in my book. Not for what it was - we’d all figured out he was just a wounded puppy dog and not a dastardly evilpants a long time ago - but because of what it said about him. He didn’t weasel about waiting for someone else to go first, he laid out his feelings even though Emma’s baby-daddy was sitting in a cage not too far away whom she’s supposedly still in love with. Let’s be honest, no one has just one terrible secret they won’t admit to anyone. I’m pretty sure Hook could have picked any number of things to reveal and kept his interest in Emma strictly of the boffing kind as far as anyone else was concerned. That look he gave Charming after the dude thanks him for saving his stupid life took the phrase “I didn’t do it for you, mate” and translated it straight into “I want to bang your daughter”. That look did not say “I want to have a meaningful relationship with your daughter”. Remember in Saga where Marko needs a secret of Alana’s to power a spell and she gives him “I enjoy the taste of my own breastmilk”? The point is everyone has tons of secrets, and Hook decided to reveal the one that put him in the most vulnerable position. At least that’s how I chose to think about it, instead of that its more lazy writing. Incidentally, if you haven’t read Saga and don’t know what I was talking about up there, leave your computer now and go read Saga. Do it. You’re welcome.
Anyways, moving on to the ritual slaughter. Let me get something out of the way first - I love The Little Mermaid. Its my second favorite Disney movie after Beauty and the Beast, “Part of Your World” is my go-to karaoke crowd-pleaser, I watched it every single day for a month when it came out on VHS, and I can nearly recite the entire movie from memory. I sometimes sneak “Dinglehopper” into normal conversation. I also know the specifics of the original, far less happy, Hans Christian Anderson tale. I LOVE THIS SHIT ALRIGHT? And what they did with Ariel’s story in UOaT was just horrifying. I know in the movie she falls in love with Eric pretty quickly, but at least she saw him conscious first. Whereas, here she saves his life and is in love after one look at his comatose face. So instead of a headstrong, lovesick girl she’s now a crazy stalker who falls in love with possibly dead people? Great. The worst thing is, they could have fixed that with one sentence of extra dialogue. “I saw him dancing and playing the snarffblatt at his birthday party and I knew he was the one, and then I saved his life.” - there. Also, Eric doesn’t look anything like Eric. Basically he’s just one more in the long line of drippy, boring princes that OUaT ladies keep inexplicably falling in love with. At least Belle has some taste.
And then there’s Regina as Ursula. When I said I memorized the whole movie when I was a kid, that includes all of Ursula’s inflections, and watching Regina try to do the Ursula lip-pop was painful. Remember the lip-pop, done so amazingly in the cartoon after putting on her shrimp-lipstick? Or the hip-check so powerful it could propel a man straight to the moon? No one can out-Ursula Ursula, darling. Just stop before you hurt yourself. Also, that whole thing made no sense. Ursula’s the sea-goddess who’s been dead for a thousand years, but she still arses herself to give mermaids legs for a day? Pretty active for a dead lady. Which brings me back to the Echo Cave again - spilling your guts to everyone to get the bridge to appear I can accept, but Neal’s cage was constructed outside the damn cave. Why does it all of a sudden work by the cave’s stupid rules? I’m a firm believer that you can pretty much put whatever you want in a story if you make the effort to ensure it fits. As long as things make sense within the bounds of your own world-building and continuity, go nuts. Its alright to have a McGuffin if you spend some time building up the McGuffin. Yes, I’m talking about mermaids being able to travel in between realms. That is a concept I would have been just fine accepting, if the writers had spent just a little time establishing it. Something a little more than Rumps saying “Yes, I know that’s a thing they do”. Really, OUaT? You are willing to spend god knows how much time noodling over various characters “secrets” but can’t be arsed to properly write in something as important as a way to frikkin’ leave Neverland? Good god.
Like I said, I don’t watch this show for the amazing writing. Jane Espenson pretty much has a lockdown on the good episodes, of which there is a non-zero number. But when its bad… it feels like the show has just dick-slapped us all across the face and didn’t even bother with the foreplay because it knows we’ll never leave it. Which, lets face it, as long as Robert Carlyle keeps getting scenes, I won’t. Because I’m weak. Oh, one more thing - IT IS NOT A SALAD TRIDENT IT IS A DINGLEHOPPER.