Thursday, March 14, 2013

Once Upon A Time (My Professional Jealousy)

I remember seeing this blog entry years back, and thinking it was funny how a guy could be jealous of a show he loved so much. "Professionally jealous" because it's a show he would make, done better than he could've done it. Well, now the joke's on me. I just recently got through the complete first season of "Once Upon A Time", and I was just amazed. Blown away at some points, even. I mean, I freaking love this show. This, to me, feels like a show I could've come up with. Or at least a show tailor-made for people like me who'd enjoy it the most, much like how the original "Kingdom Hearts" games were as video games. Like that adventure, this show is also heavy on the elements of fantasy, adventure, romance, redemption, mystery, backstory, fairy tales, dreams, struggles, happy endings, and yes, even Disney. Disney still owns ABC, who makes this show, so they get to use Disney names and trademarks in their renditions of classic fairy tale lore. As a huge fan of Disney, I ain't complaining about that. The show is also filled to the brim with tropes and conventions that I love. I love re-tellings and reinventions of fairy tales, folk lore, myths, and other such classic literature. I love the rebooting and modernization of things that are old and timeless. I love shows that run on an addictive formula but are not actually formulaic and bound to a status quo. And I love epic fantasy tales centering around a battle of good against evil. That's what really makes "Once Upon A Time" stand out from other modern live-action drama shows on TV these days, most of which I've no interest in seeing (though that's not to say I won't some day). TV Tropes puts this as an example of it being "Lighter And Softer" than those other shows, and despite it being much Darker And Edgier than the fairy tales it's basing itself around, it really is. As the site puts it: This might explain the show's success. After years of sexed up comedy shows, Dark and Edgy dramas with Black And Gray Morality conflicts, and grislier police/crime/medical/lawyer shows, a straight up battle between good and evil with an intriguing mystery at the core feels so refreshing to audiences by comparison. It's also a reconstruction of Disneyfied fairy tales. It starts off deconstructed from the get-go, then slowly begins to reconstruct itself and show that magic, true love, and happily ever afters do indeed exist. That is very clever and interesting to me, making a tale that I can get behind.

And lest we forget, this show (or at least the season I watched) tells a fantastic story. "Once upon a time" is the classic start to all great memorable stories, and this one definitely delivered. The first season's storyline could be known as "the Dark Curse Saga", as it tells the story of how the Evil Queen's curse time-trapped all fairy tale characters and cause them to lose their identities, homes, and all they hold dear. How that curse lingered in the form of the small town in Maine known as Storybrooke. And how through the work of the chosen savior, the curse was finally broken and happiness was restored. What's unique about this story arc is that it's told as two separate stories: the story in the fantasy world and the story in Storybrooke. Even more interesting is that while the latter story is told straightforwardly from episode to episode, the former story is told through flashbacks to the past of the characters' relevant to the current plot of the episode. Though as this show is written by two of the writers from "Lost", which used a similar "past/present" format formula, this comes as no surprise. But it's both confusing and frustrating to the audience having to keep backtracking or going forward in time again depending on the story (the first episode shows how the fantasy world story ends!), yet at the same time, it's intriguing having to piece this story together and figure out what comes where and when chronologically. Clues and allusions to story events are dropped all over, but it'll take a while for the payoff to come so we can realize what those things were all about. Very Greg Weisman-esque in some ways. I probably couldn't tell a story that well.

I could go on with gushing about the show, but I think I'll talk more about the characters now to demonstrate why I think it's so damn great. After all, what's a good story without a good cast of characters? But to anyone who might be reading this now who does not want to be spoiled, I suggest you DON'T READ ANY FURTHER, 'CAUSE THERE BE SPOILERS HERE! 

Emma Swan - The Hope. The Savior. The Chosen One. The daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. And the main protagonist of the series. I think this character is....okay. Sure, she's no Buffy Summers or anything, but she's plenty cool and works fine as the leading lady. She starts off as a bounty hunter who seeks out missing or wanted people for a living. We soon find out she's both an orphan and was a mother at age 18. Her past catches up with her on both levels. Her son Henry comes back into her life and leads her to his current home, Storybrooke, where Emma discovers her new calling and her ultimate destiny as the savior of the fairy tale people. She's got a good story, and a good personality as portrayed by Jennifer Morrison: she's rough, cynical, snarky, aloof, even a little cold and at time overbearing. But her heart is usually in the right place at the right time. However
I did see some problems with how she was handled. When she gets surrounded by quirky, interesting fairy tale supporting characters to interact with, she quickly becomes bland by comparison. She's always on the line between being a Straight Man and a Debbie Downer. Her ultimate role and abilities, what she can do and is capable of, were very Mary Sue-ish on many occasions. Her "superpower" of being able to detect lies got handled inconsistently and ultimately amounted to an Informed Ability. Her emotional plight of wanting to be there for Henry came off as Wangsty at points, seeing as she only just met the kid at the start of the show but got way too involved with him too quickly afterwards, which made it hard for me to get why she cares about him so much to the point of obsessiveness. Regina was clearly more of a mother to Henry, yet we're supposed to be on Emma's side 'cause she's his "real" mom, which didn't always come through. And towards the end of the story, her cynicism, self-loathing, and refusal to believe in fairy tales and grasp the truth about the curse even when it was right in front of her became an irritating hindrance. Jefferson alone should've given her enough proof of the curse's existence, yet she still refuses to believe in it when Pinocchio tries to get her to? Lame! None of these turn me against Emma Swan as a character. I like her, but she really didn't reach the greatness I think she was supposed to. She's decent at most.

Henry Mills - The biological son of Emma Swan and the adopted son of Regina Mills. Henry is the boy with the storybook: the kid who brings Emma Swan into the adventure. This kid shifted between being endearing and being irritating on a regular basis. I like how into fairy tales he is, and just how determined he is to bond with his long-lost mother, help her break the curse and set things right for everyone in Storybrooke. His fixation on "Operation Cobra" was a lot of fun to watch, and he served as a great foil for Emma: his bright optimism and firm belief in the fantastic contrasting with her cynicism and disillusionment. Plus, he actually gets some funny lines here and there. (I particularly liked his Genre-Savvy line of how "If the hero believed from the start, it wouldn't be a very good story.") Henry's a boy with a lot of imagination and a lot of heart, so I relate to him on some levels. But that doesn't mean he's any less annoying when he pouts about things not going the way he wants them, whines about how evil his stepmother is even when she's trying her best to be a good mom to him, acts presumptuous and all-knowing concerning things like Mary and David's love life, emotionally manipulates both of his mothers at points, mopes and dopes about how "good can't defeat evil" whenever the villains seem to be triumphing, does the dumbest things a kid in his situation could do, and in general will not shut up about his knowledge of the curse and the fairy tales, despite the fact that he should know how crazy it makes him sound! I'm just like, kid...shut up! But for all his faults, Henry is, like his mother, an okay character. I was engaged in his plight and how his future would turn out, particularly at the end of the season, where he almost loses his future!

Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard - Now this was a character whom I both loved and was frustrated by. Mary Margaret is a young elementary school teacher in Storybrooke, and also Emma Swan's roommate. In her past life that she does not remember, she is the pure hearted Princess Snow White. Which makes her also Emma's mother. Now that is seriously messed up! What frustrated me about this character is how completely different her identities' personas were from each other. Snow White, in stark contrast with her traditional depiction as a demure damsel, is tough, strong willed, sharp witted, snarky, greedy, feisty and stubborn. With this attitude combined with her petite body, good looks, and choice of clothing, she reminds me more of Lina Inverse than of the classic Snow White. Mary Margaret, meanwhile, is kind, well mannered, awkward, shy, a bit clumsy, and overtly good natured. Indeed this character is all sweetness and light in general, but one version of her has more spice while the other has more sugar. At times I even forgot that the same actress was playing both roles, they seemed so different. That's the sign of a good acting, and Ginnifer Goodwin gives two terrific performances. She is just so good at being likable and sympathetic, not to mention really funny, whether it be in her delivery of Snow White's snarky wisecracks, or her delivery of Mary Margaret's general wussiness. What she brings to the role(s) is why I love both past and present incarnations of the character. They're different but equal to me. Also, one of her quirks is the reason I've started putting cinnamon in my hot cocoa from time to time. And it's really not half bad!

Prince Charming/David Nolan - Wow, and I thought Snow/Mary was a frustrating likable character. This guy shows an even bigger disconnection between his past and present selves. Prince Charming (really Prince David but called Prince James) is...well, he's charming. He embodies everything you would think the typical fairy tale prince would be: he's brave, kind, smooth, dashing, handsome, romantic and faithful. The twist is that he's all this while keeping an everyman quality to him. It turns out that he's not a born prince, but a young shepherd whose twin brother James was adopted by King George, so when his brother died, he had to take his place as the new Prince James. So he can also be a bit simplistic, naive, and reckless at times too. But he has a strong heart, and is ultimately an appealing, well developed character. However, his present-day Storybrooke counterpart is David Nolan. Because Charming was at death's door when the curse hit, David ended up as an eternal coma patient in Storybrooke. That is, until Emma came to town and got Mary Margaret, a volunteer 
at Dr Whale's hospital at the time, to be at David's side when he mysteriously awoke. But David's at 
a literal disconnection between himself and Charming because he has amnesia. He can't remember either his real past life or his fake past life. All he remembers is that he loves Snow/Mary Margaret. And he'd do anything to spend more time with her, even cheat on his own wife! So as he pursues this mad romance, he continuously makes choices that hurt Mary Margaret, Kathryn, and himself. He's the total opposite of Charming: a weak, pitiful, inept, self-centered, thoughtless, wishy-washy wreck of a man whose mind and heart are always in disorder. I really liked Charming, but could not stand David Nolan half the time. He reminded me of that tool Mako from "The Legend Of Korra". But to his credit, he's still a better character than Mako because his schmuck moves do have consequences that hurt him as well as others, he gets called out for them by the women he's screwing with, and the narrative is clear that his negative portrayal is completely intentional. Oh, and he recognizes what 
a screw-up he is in the end, which makes the character redeemable, even if he's not redeemed in-universe. So he's actually what Mako should have been, and should still yet be in the next season.

Evil Queen Regina/Regina Mills - The main villain of the story. She is the one who cast the Dark Curse that trapped everyone in time and created Storybrooke to begin with. In the past life, she was an evil monarch and sorceress who became known as "the Evil Queen". When she cast the curse, she made it so that she would have comfort in the new world that was created, and she would hold power over everyone's lives. That way, she could freely make everyone else, especially her nemesis Snow White, miserable, and the only happy ending would be her's. Naturally, she ends up as mayor of Storybrooke, and one of five characters who knows the truth about what's really going on. Regina also wanted a family in order to make up for all she'd lost, particularly her father Henry, whom she killed in order to get the curse to work. So when Emma gave her baby up for adoption, Mr. Gold secured the child and brought him to Regina, who named him after her father. Regina is cold, stern, sly, power hungry and ruthless as mayor. She has an almost perpetually sour attitude, and is vindictive, vengeful and petty towards all she considers her enemies. She is also very vain, of course. When she wants something, she'll stoop to any low in order to get it, and the same goes for if she wants someone out of the way. So when Emma comes to Storybrooke, Regina senses the threat she poses both to her own relationship with her son, and to the hold she has on Storybrooke. Which is why she makes it a focus to degrade Emma at every chance she gets, hoping to drive her away from Storybrooke, away from Henry, and out of their lives. What's interesting about Regina is that despite how horrible she is, she's actually a well developed, interesting, three-dimensional character. She's even sympathetic at points, and only becomes moreso as the show goes on and we learn more about her and how she became the way she is. It turns out that her hatred of Snow White for being "fairer than her" is something of a myth. The real reason she hates her is because she allegedly ruined her life, for which she wants to take revenge. It takes a long time, but I was surprised to finally learn the full details of her history with Snow White. It was all so tragic and unexpected, and it hammered home how much I pitied this character. She wants love, acceptance, triumph, and happiness more than anything, but her all-consuming hatred and the evil she commits in pursuit of a false "happy ending" only makes her more bitter, empty, miserable and alone. The downsides to Regina's performance as a villain is, like Emma as a heroine, it's a little inconsistent. As the Evil Queen, she's kind of your typical Disneyfied fairy tale villain who chews the scenery when expressing her evil-ness. As mayor, she's often made a Designated Villain: we're meant to see an insidious, frightening villain in someone who really just comes off a nasty, unpleasant woman. She also fell into annoying repetition until halfway through the season. Always telling others what they can or cannot do or what to stay away from, bitching about Henry, or getting up in Emma's face to glare at her while arguing about whatever for whatever reason. And the balance between her being a straight-up evil villain worth hating and a tragic villain worth feeling for was a bit...off at points. Sure, she shows redeeming qualities and does really love her son, but then she goes and does terrible, unforgivable things that makes her look like a total monster...and then she softens up again. It happens in both her lives, and doesn't always add up. I think they should've made her either more evil or tragic from the very start and stuck with that portrayal the whole season, waiting 'til the next season to develop her other sides. Trying to do it both ways got mixed results. But Regina was an effective villain and a great character for the bulk of the season, and damn is she one nasty MoFo.

Rumpelstiltskin/Mr.Gold - The secondary villain of the story but in many ways the true Big Bad. It was he who created the Dark Curse that he gave to Regina, he also keeps his memories of who is in the present day, he actually holds higher power than Regina, and we gradually learn just how much he's had a hand in. Ultimately, he's responsible for the whole story and everything is part of his massive gambit. Y'know how I said that Regina was a little weak and inconsistent in how she was portrayed as a villain? Well this guy is the exact opposite: this is a great villain. He's got a fantastic backstory, a great visual appearance, and a deliciously devious performance by Robert Carlyle. He manages to be both a chilling, detestable villain and a sympathetic, gut-wrenchingly pitiful tragic villain too. Plus, he manages to get some great comedic moments here and there! It's just a perfect balance. In his past life, he was a crippled peasant who was influenced to take up the mantle of "the Dark One", a demon who's essentially the Devil of the fairy tale world. As such, he became devious, underhanded, and merciless, coveting his new power. When his son Baelfire tried to get him to give up his power in order to regain his humanity, Rumpelstiltskin chose power over his own son, and his son was lost because of it. Rumple succumbed to madness after this, becoming even less human and more of a crazed, nihilistic, manipulative trickster who made dark deals with several others in order to further his plans. When he gave his Dark Curse to Regina and told her how to use it, he worked in a deal that enabled him to keep power over her when the new world was born. In present-day Storybrooke, he goes by the identity of Mr. Gold, a wealthy pawnbroker who is so rich and powerful that he owns the whole town. He can spread his influence everywhere, even to the mayor, especially if he just says the magic word "please." And he's still very fond of making deals for business, deals in which he usually comes out better off. While a mischievous demon in the past,    he now looks and talks human again. Gold is sophisticated, affable, and witty, yet intimidating and diabolical at the same time. With the power he wields, he is the one person in Storybrooke the people fear more than Mayor Regina. When Emma comes along, Gold knows how to make good use of her in his schemes. In the end, he wants her to break the curse so that he can achieve something that basically amounts to having his cake and eating it too. I really love the way this character was written and the way Robert Carlyle played him really brought it home. As Rumpelstiltskin, he resembles an odd mash-up of Heath Ledger's Joker, Loki, the Elder Toguro brother, and Hannibal Lecter in how he looks and acts. As Mr. Gold, he's like a Scottish cross between David Xanatos and Lionel Luthor. His appearance and mannerisms differ, but he really sells that it's the same character. And he just jerks you back and forth between siding with him and abhorring him, unlike the more clearly villainous Regina. When he's bad, he is twisted: this is one evil ass motherfucker. But then when he's good, he's genuinely sympathetic and even likable. And it really, really works. The character is so wildly unpredictable and so very fun to watch. As such, he's become one of my new poster boys for a definitive Magnificent Bastard. He simply defines the Trope. And y'know, now I don't think I can go back to any other depiction of Rumpelstiltskin because of him. Damn, he's good!

Cinderella/Ashley Boyd - The ultimate Disney Princess and her Storybrooke counterpart only showed up twice but that was just enough to leave a good impact. We all know the story of Cinderella, but the way the show tells it has a twist to it. Especially where her Fairy Godmother is concerned, but I won't dare spoil that because it's really, really funny. In Storybrooke, she's a 19 year old girl who had an affair with a boy named Sean and is now pregnancy with his baby. But Sean's dad didn't want his son and his girlfriend to get saddled with the responsibility of parenthood, so he made a deal with Mr. Gold stating that Ashley would have to give her baby over to Gold for adoption as soon as it was born. Ashley is saddened by this until Emma gives her inspiration to take charge and change her life, much like Cinderella did. But what she doesn't know is that Gold's interest in her baby is a remnant of her past life before the curse, and a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that she had broken. Cinderella's character was so likable and sympathetic here. Thankfully, thanks to Emma, her story has a happy ending and she gets to keep her baby and see her prince again. I also liked how she was good friends with Ruby, and got a brief second appearance because of that.

Jiminy Cricket/Archibald Hopper - One of the most interesting and popular members of the supporting cast. We all know that Jiminy Cricket was a sentient little cricket who wore clothes, carried a lucky umbrella, and served as a conscience for Pinocchio, always steering him to do the right thing. What we didn't know, according to this show, was that Jiminy used to be a human who was always being forced into doing the wrong thing by his parents, two lowly sociopathic Thenardier-like crooks who stole from others for the sport of it. After being shown kindness by a would-be victim, a little boy who gave him his umbrella, Jiminy got fed up with his life and made a deal with the evil Rumpelstiltskin that would remove his parents as the problem holding him back, so then he could be free. This went terribly wrong and he ended up destroying someone else's parents while his own got away scot-free. To make amends for this, Jiminy wished on the wishing star and made a promise to the Blue Fairy that he be a conscience from now on, and wished to be transformed into his favorite creature, a cricket. In Storybrooke, Jiminy has been restored to human form and is the town psychologist whom Henry sees for psychiatric therapy, at Regina's request. Archie starts off as weak-willed, skittish, lazy, and easily swayed by the mayor's orders. But thanks to Henry, he remembers the type of person he wants to be: a kind, helpful soul who will always do his best to be good, for others and himself. Archie gets involved in more adventures afterwards, even though we stop learning that much about him. But the impression he left was very good: Raphael Sbarge was simply perfect in the role. He totally made me believe he was Jiminy Cricket, even as a human!

Gepetto/Marco - Gepetto, in both of his lives, is Jiminy Cricket's closest friend. The guy portraying this character does a fantastic job: his voice, accent, and the emotions he expresses gives him great presence, which is impressive for a character who doesn't show up that often. We also learn some interesting things about him in the past. He was the little boy who gave Jiminy his umbrella, and the boy whose parents were turned into grotesque, lifeless wooden puppets by Jiminy's potion meant for his own parents. This puts a dark, Freudian twist on why Gepetto dedicated his life to making toys, particularly puppets whom he always wished would come to life. Jiminy was his conscience before he was Pinocchio, and while Gepetto knew what Jiminy did to his parents, he tried not to hold it against him and was his best friend regardless. Years later, he made Pinocchio and after that familiar story played out and Pinocchio became a real boy, he was requested by Prince Charming to help build the magic transportation wardrobe out of the sacred tree. Gepetto did this, but with a catch that only he, Jiminy, Pinocchio, and the Blue Fairy knew about: Pinocchio would go through to the new world first before Snow White and her baby. Learning this was really surprising and changes the way you look at the first episode, and these characters' words and actions in them. Gepetto was ultimately a bit selfish and deceitful, but for an understandable cause. This gives the part where he and his son reunite in Storybrooke all the more weight, though he can't recognize him.

King George/Albert Spencer - The wicked stepfather of Prince Charming, who is the district attorney in Storybrooke. He only appears once as the latter, but is an important secondary antagonist as the former. Good lord, I hated this character. He's probably my least favorite character byfar, but in a good way. King George is meant be to absolutely reprehensible. Though his story in the past starts off pretty sad in that he and his late wife could never have children of their own, so he adopted James and later adopted David to replace James after James' untimely death, all sympathy you might have for him gets lost fast. For one thing, we see that he's always been a cruel, bitter, dark hearted old tyrant who liked to oppress and torture others beneath him. He raised his first adopted to be just like him, which is why he loved his son so much. When said son died and was replaced with David, George showed no such love for the new boy. He saw him as a weakling who was only a tool for him to use in his alliance with Midas' kingdom. He even threatened to kill David, kill his mother, and burn his family's farm to ashes if David didn't comply with his demands! When George finds out about David's love for Snow and how that could get in the way of the arranged marriage between "James" and Abigail, he does everything in his power to drive them apart, even locking Snow up in a dungeon and threatening his own stepson with execution should he seek Snow instead of his fiancee. It becomes clear that the man is a sociopath who doesn't believe in true love, and doesn't have a true loving bone in his body. When Charming David breaks his rules, George sends his men out to recapture him so that he can be put to death. He almost does this to, but hands him over to Regina to be tortured instead. He remains cold and unfeeling throughout all this. And from what I hear, he only gets worse in the second season! King George is a character who goes so far beyond being just an evil prick that he becomes this completely repugnant monster. His actor portrays this very well, making him patronizing and detestable in his every word and action. The man radiates with a pure evil presence whenever he's at work in stories. Definitely a solid villain you love to hate.

The Huntsman/Sheriff Graham Humbert - The town sheriff of Storybrooke, Graham Humbert, was a major character in the first seven episodes of the show, but we didn't find out who he was in his past life until the seventh. He was an expert huntsman who was raised by wolves in the forest. When the Evil Queen found out about him, she requested his services. He was to escort Snow White into the woods, then kill her and carve out her heart, which the Queen would add to her heart vault. The Huntsman was reluctant to do this, and ultimately could not after he saw what a pure heart Snow had and how forgiving she was willing to be of her stepmother. So he killed a stag and brought it's heart back to the Queen instead. But of course, the Queen saw through the deception and punished the Huntsman be ripping his heart out and then making him her sex slave for eternity. After the curse, the Huntsman became Graham. He's still in Regina's service, still does not have a heart inside of him, and still knows his way around the woods very well. He's great at tracking, though not entirely competent at the rest of his police work. Though he's a noble, amiable gentleman, his lack of a heart makes him unable to really feel anything, and so he goes through life an empty man. The only thing that can make him feel alive is sexual stimulation, which he gets from Regina and presumably all the other women in town. Emma's coming to Storybrooke leads him on the path to reclaiming his lost heart. Unfortunately, he only feels again once Regina takes it out and crushes it in her hands, killing Graham. His final moments were spent with Emma, whom he kissed and thanked for helping him to remember everything before he died. Graham was a fascinating and immensely sympathetic character, but ended up needing to be the sacrificial lion out of the initial main cast. I don't miss him all that much, but I felt terrible for him and was sad to see him go. Rest in peace, good Huntsman.

Hansel and Gretel/Nicholas and Ava - One-shot characters from the ninth episode. Their fairy tale story is the same as you remember it, except for a few minor details. Their father really did get lost from them rather than abandoning them, they were told by Queen Regina to go into the gingerbread house to retrieve her poisoned apple from the blind witch, and were then sealed into the eternal forest along with their father for defying Regina. Though in the same place as their father, the forest was so huge that they could never find each other. And they still were separated in their lives in Storybrooke, until Emma and Henry helped the family reunite. Gretel was a pretty strong character and well played by her young actress. Hansel on the other hand...my God, this kid was so dumb. And not just his actor's lack of presence and the characters lack of dialogue: he literally does the dumbest things. Regina tells the kids not to eat anything in the gingerbread house, Gretel reminds her brother of it when they get there, and then seconds later the dumbass kid gobbles something up! Nice job leading you and your sister to a grisly almost death, you little retard! On side note, Emma Caufield was kinda miscast as the blind witch. That character should've been absolutely terrifying, but came across as oddly sexual and goofy instead. What the Hell, Casting Agency?

Dr. Frankenstein/Dr. Whale - The part about his past life is a spoiler since that was never revealed 
in the first season. Needless to say, it made everyone go "What? That's no fairy tale!" But in this season, he was just the head doctor at Storybrooke's hospital. Though his focus is usually on medical procedures, he takes the same serious-minded and slightly twisted approach to his job the way he would with science. He's also a notorious lech, flirting with the town's ladies or looking at them perversely on many occasions. This guy was quite an interesting character, even though we went the whole season not knowing much about him. I guess a mystery is a big draw for some.  

The Genie of the Magic Mirror/Syndey Glass - Formerly the Genie of Agrabah who then became trapped within Regina's Magic Mirror, he's now the lead reporter of Storybrooke's newspaper, the Mirror. I never really liked this character as much as I think I should've. He's got a smooth, funny personality and the actor does a good job. But he rarely showed up in the present, his newspaper job barely got exposure before he got fired from it, and his partnership with Emma which was actually a Mole job for Regina didn't really go anywhere except for him taking the fall for what Regina tried to frame Mary Margaret for. He was never seen again after that, not even in the next season! And his backstory was full of holes. Where is Agrabah anyway? Why did he fall in love with some woman he only recently met? So much that he betrayed and murdered the man who gave him his freedom? 
I enjoyed the ironic end to his tale, though. He uses the third wish that King Leopold gave to him, wishing that he could be with Regina for eternity. But all magic comes with a price, so he ends up trapped inside the Magic Mirror: as much of a prisoner as he was of the lamp at the start. And of course, he continued to serve at Regina's side out of love and devotion even after he was free of the mirror due to the curse. His servitude was all he really had in the end. That Meanie Genie!

Belle/Lacey - A very popular character despite only appearing in three episodes of this season.       In the fantasy world past, she's made to look and act similar to her Disney counterpart, but her character still comes off like a unique take on her due to the actress' performance. She's an Australian actress, thus Belle speaks with a clear Aussie accent. I found that to be both funny and surprisingly effective, adding much to the character's charm. Belle is a bold, spunky, intelligent, funny, adventurous girl who is willing to do big things and make big sacrifices for both the sake of her family and so she can get out and see more of the world beyond her bland, provincial town. Due to a deal she accepted, she ends up as a prisoner of a beast who lives at a fancy estate. And that beast is Rumpelstiltskin. During her time with him, Belle learned to enjoy herself at his place and Rumple warmed up to her as well. Eventually, the two began to fall in love. When Belle realized how much she loved him, she came back to him even after he'd given her a perfect opportunity to escape. When Rumple questioned this, Belle told him it was because she loved him. Unable to comprehend how anyone could show him true love, Rumple came to the conclusion that Queen Regina must have gotten her in her employ, thus he locked Belle in his dungeon and denounced his love for her. Days later, he set Belle free, and she left after giving him one hell of a The Reason You Suck Speech to his ugly face. Rumple is later told by Regina that Belle committed suicide out of despair, but it's a lie since Belle is shown to be alive and well at a bar where she talks to Dreamy about true love. In Storybrooke, Belle is an amnesiac, mentally ill girl named Lacey who Regina keeps locked up in the hospital's secret mental ward. In the season finale, she gets set free and is sent to Mr. Gold, thus reuniting with her former lover in a heartwarming moment that gets diminished by Gold's love for power taking dominance once again. I hear some stuff happened between her and Gold in the second season and then she got Fridged (she's not dead, thank goodness!), but I hope things get better for her and that she and Gold get some happiness together. Damnit, I know that relationship's unhealthy and toxic and wrong in canon, but my inner Beauty/Beast shipper just cannot keep them apart!

Red Riding Hood/Ruby - Another popular, interesting, and memorable supporting character. I loved this character the moment I laid eyes on her. As a resident of Storybrooke, Ruby's a punk rock type of girl with a perky attitude, a rebellious streak, and a good heart. She has a job at her grandmother's inn/pub that requires her to wait tables, take everyone's orders, and keep the place neat. She tires of this after a while but stays out of love for her grandma. Eventually she does quit her job in an attempt to find something better and show grandma that she's good at it. She assists Emma in her sheriff duties and finds out that she can do good at other things...but that doesn't mean she should, nor does it mean she wants to or even likes it! So she goes back to her grandma's job, has a heartfelt reconciliation, and finds out that she's to take over the place after grandma retires or passes away. In the past, she was little Red Riding Hood, nicknamed "Red." Her story went in a totally different direction than the fairy tale. Here she lived with her grandmother in the outskirts of a village, had a boyfriend named Peter, and took in the runaway Snow White to live with her. The two girls have a very cute sisterly bond with each other. Of course, then Red finds out a dark secret about the Big Bad Wolf that often terrorized her village on nights with full moons. We're led to believe that Peter is the wolf, but it turns out that the Big Bad Wolf...is Red herself! Her grandmother's boyfriend had been a werewolf and left his mark on her. She passed on the werewolf gene to her daughter, who passed it on to Red. As a ravenous wild wolf, Red kills, rips apart, and eats her own boyfriend. This traumatizes her, but also confirms the truth to her and she comes out stronger for it. When Snow White and Prince Charming are endangered by King George and his men, Red uses her wolf transformation to fight back and help her friends. This was a badass character: very well played.

Widow Lucas/Grandma - Grandmother of the above mentioned Ruby and owner of "Granny's" inn/pub. This character didn't get much screentime, but was well performed in the scenes she got. 
I was actually kind of surprised at what a hardass this lady was. Definitely not your typical portrayal of an old granny. Of course, being an ex-werewolf who was turned that way by a monstrous lover and who now has to very protectively look after her werewolf granddaughter might have helped with this.

Princess Abigail/Kathryn Nolan - Formerly the daughter of King Midas in the past, now David Nolan's long-suffering wife in Storybrooke. The actress who plays her, Anastasia Griffith, isn't very conventionally attractive, yet she's got so much charm that she comes off as lovely anyway. When we first see Princess Abigail as Prince Charming's fiance in the past, she comes off as a stuck-up spoiled brat with lots of gold and jewelry and little love for the man she's been set up to marry. But we then learn that she's actually a pretty cool, brave, confident young woman who leads her own private army, and doesn't love Charming because she already loves a young man named Frederick, one of her father's knights who was accidentally turned into a gold statue. This works perfectly for Charming, since he loves Snow White. Neither party wants any part in this arraigned marriage, so Charming helps Abigail and Frederick get their happiness and they help him with Snow White in return. But after the curse, Abigail became Kathryn, a woman with false memories of loving and being wed to a man named David Nolan, who left her after a disagreement between them. When David comes out of his coma, Regina is quick to track Kathryn down and get her back into his life, just to keep Mary Margaret out. Though a tad sheltered and prissy, Kathryn is very nice, sweet, and likable. She is easily sympathetic in how she tries so hard to get her husband to remember her so that they can love each other again, but nothing seems to work because David is a fucking tool. But she turns out to be alot more strong willed and intelligent than expected in the end. It's also interesting how she's one of Regina's few friends, thus hangs out with her and turns to her for help alot. Of course Regina has no strong love for her and attempts to have her killed after she'd broken it off with David, just so Mary Margaret can be framed for the murder. Luckily, Kathryn survives and is put in the hospital. When David visits her, she reveals that she's okay with letting him go, which he agrees to. We don't see her again after this, or again since, like Sydney, her performer wasn't available for the second season. Supposedly she reunited with Frederick when the curse was broken and they're currently living in happily ever after. I hope so, 'cause she was, as David put it, amazing.

Grumpy/Leroy - Once the most prominent of the seven dwarves, Grumpy is now the town drunk 
of Storybrooke: a minor character named Leroy. But great writing and great acting made him a character who shined whenever he was on the screen. We learn his backstory too, and it's really interesting. He and all other dwarves were hatched from eggs blessed by fairy magic. The dwarves work underground in the mines, and are given their names when they receive magic pick-axes on which names appear, reflecting the dwarf's personality. This dwarf got the name "Dreamy", because he was a romantic dreamer. Dreamy fell in love with the perky young fairy Nova, who loved him in return. The affair grew so strong that Dreamy was actually contemplating leaving his life in the mines behind in order to spend his life with her. But the Blue Fairy told him that an eternity together would only prevent them both from realizing their true callings, and Nova in particular would never see her dream of becoming a Godmother come true. Thus Dreamy broke up with her and went back to the mines. In a rage, he broke his pick-axe and was given a new one, this time with the name "Grumpy". The pain caused by the loss of the love he could have had stayed with Grumpy, keeping him who he is. He says as much in a pretty cringeworthy line to Snow White. But he makes up for that line with a later one: "Let's show that king what Snow White and seven dwarves can really do!" Wow, Grumpy just made "Snow White And The Seven Dwarves" sound badass. In Storybrooke, Grumpy (Leroy) actually meets Nova (Astrid) again and falls in love with her all over again. He and Mary Margaret take on a wacky misadventure trying to sell candles for the nuns so that Astrid can be happy and impressed. This is tough, but it all gets resolved and the story has a happy ending. I really enjoyed this character, and apparently his role gets expanded in the second season. Hooray!

The Blue Fairy/Mother Superior - Leader of the fairies, the most magical beings in existence, in the fantasy world, and leader of the nuns in Storybrooke. This character's roles were often very important, yet very vague at the same time. She was there to turn Jiminy into a cricket, there to give her blue magic to Baelfire and then chastise Rumpelstiltskin for screwing that up, there to persuade Dreamy to break up with Nova, there to lead the fairies into battle against King George's forces, presumably the one who sent Cinderella her Fairy Godmother, and was with Gepetto and the rest when the fateful decision regarding the enchanted tree was made. She ended up being a part of Gepetto's plan, lying her little ass off about how many people can go through the wardrobe. In Storybrooke, her role was even less prominent, though she's there when the curse gets broken in the end. I liked her character due to how the actress portrayed her. Her voice is very light, warm, and magical sounding and she is played with sweetness and kindness, but also a bit of mischief and wisdom too, to the point where she comes off as downright shady. I sorta get the sense that she could be the secret Big Good (or Big Good Wannabe) of the entire story when all is said and done. Also, she's sexy. Fairy sexy, though I'll make no comments on her boobs except for that mention.

Nova/Sister Astrid - A one-shot character from the episode "Dreamy", but a very enjoyable, memorable one. In the past life, she was a cute, clumsy, hyperactive dork of a fairy named Nova. 
Her dream was to get better at magic so that she could be promoted to Fairy Godmother. She was assigned by the Blue Fairy to spread her magic fairy dust to give birth to dwarves, which ended up creating the seven (eight at the time) dwarves. One day when she was looking for diamonds, Nova met Dreamy and the two of them soon fell in love. Despite her obsession with her dream, Nova was very eager to have a long-lasting relationship with the dwarf. But the Blue Fairy forbade it, so Dreamy broke up with Nova, breaking her heart and making him Grumpy. In Storybrooke, the fairies are nuns, and Nova is now Sister Astrid. She meets Leroy when preparing for a town fair, and they become smitten by each other once again. Leroy agrees to help raise money for the nuns by selling candles, but can't sell a single one due to his lack of popularity around town. When Astrid asks about it again, Leroy fibs and says he sold them all, which Astrid soon finds out he didn't. But Leroy rectifies this at the fair itself, and so he and Astrid reconcile. I most remember this character for the humorous and touching episode which she starred in, and that the girl playing her was adorable as heck in the role.

Jefferson The Mad Hatter - A character who started off looking like a one-shot villain, but who returned with a vengeance in the two-part season finale. Named Jefferson in both lives, he's one of the few people in Storybrooke who remembers everything about life before the curse, but is powerless to do anything about it. In the past, he was a hat merchant who lived with his daughter, Grace. He was down on hard times when Regina asked him for his services, offering to reward him in return. Wanting to make things better for his beloved daughter, Jefferson was tempted into doing this, so he brought out his magic hat that pulled him and Regina into Wonderland. Regina was looking for something specific there, and once she got it, she turned on Jefferson and left him behind. Jefferson was sentenced to slave-labor working on hats for the Queen of Hearts. In the present, Jefferson was given a luxurious house to live in as an "apology" from Regina. But he lived right across the street from his daughter, who now lived with a new family. So every day, Jefferson's mind was tortured having to watch his daughter live without him, but he didn't want to just go over and tell her the truth in fears that it would destroy her innocence. So instead, he abducted both Emma and Mary Margaret one night. Using the latter as leverage, he tried to force Emma into making his magic hat work again, believing only the Savior could do so. He desired for him and his daughter to go back home, to the 
life they used to live. This makes him a very tragic character that one cannot help but feel sorry for. However, he's also gone really mad over time and is played as a creepy psychopathic killer. He has a frightening, unsettling presence and is a-okay with doing detestable things if they suit his needs. The first episode to feature him, "Hat Trick", was easily the scariest episode in the season. Despite seemingly meeting his demise in that episode, he's back in the season finale and is suckered into helping Regina again, under the promise of returning him to his daughter. Regina helps Jefferson get the magic hat to work again so that Jefferson can reach through it and pull out the poison apple from it's point in time. But when it ends up poisoning the wrong person, Regina revokes the deal, going back on her word again. This makes Jefferson angry and vengeful, so he releases Belle from the mental ward and sends her to go find Mr. Gold and tell him that Regina had her locked up. This was clearly the start of his revenge scheme, but it was left hanging after the season had concluded.

Cora The Queen Of Hearts - A minor but important character in this season, who becomes the Big Bad of the second season. She's Regina's abusive, controlling, selfish, power-hungry bitch of a mother, and also one of the most powerful witches in existence. She is a major contributor to all bad things at the heart of the story, effectively getting the whole thing going between her daughter and Snow White. Her crimes include killing Snow White's mother, hexing Snow's horse so that Regina could save her life and her father King Leopold could enter the picture, manipulating events so that a marriage could be arranged between the king and her daughter, manipulating Snow White into telling her Regina's secret love for Daniel the stable boy, killing Daniel by literally ripping out his heart, and ensuring that Regina's rage is redirected towards Snow rather than her. That she was also the Queen of Hearts in Wonderland is a spoiler, but goddamn was she creepy there. It was the total opposite of the Queen of Hearts from the book: shrouded and quiet rather than loud, bombastic, and in-your-face. Cora is easily the most evil character on the show. Of course, as we find out, this is because she's literally a heartless sociopath. She sees love as weakness, and desires power and prosperity for herself and her family above all else. Once she started climbing higher in power, she never stopped, and she wants her daughter to reach similar greatness as a testament to her legacy. She is a bad person to start with, but without a heart to give her any conscience or decency, she's basically 
a Complete Monster. Just one episode is enough to show Cora is a pure cold-blooded bitch.

Pinocchio/August Booth - BIG spoiler! This was probably the most surprising character in the season. August came to town at the end of the Hansel and Gretel episode, wearing his leather jacket and driving his motorcycle down the darkened streets. Nobody knew who he was and how he came to Storybrooke. He claimed to be a writer and was staying in town looking for story inspiration. He then proceeded to hang around Henry more often, taking a particular interest in his book of fairy tales. Henry didn't know which character August was supposed to be, and neither did the audience. August had a flippant, snide, sarcastic personality and takes a rather unprofessional approach to his job. He likes to insist that he always tells the truth, though usually it's half-truths he tells. He kept showing up to entice us with the mystery of who he was and what he was up to. It finally seemed to be figured out when Mr. Gold suspected him of being his long lost son Baelfire, and then he confirmed this too! But it turned out to be a lie: August was playing Gold in order to seal off his power. The next episode revealed who he really was...Pinocchio! Yes, Pinocchio: Gepetto's boy who only showed up in the first episode before now. It turns out that when Gepetto was told of the curse, he suspected that it might turn Pinocchio back into wood. So he, Pinocchio, Jiminy, and the Blue Fairy lied about how many people could go through the enchanted tree wardrobe as part of a plan to send Pinocchio through first so that he could be saved from the curse. But before Pinocchio was sent through, Gepetto was told that Snow White's baby would be being sent in afterwards instead of Snow herself. So he told his son to protect baby Emma once she came through, and make sure that she grows up believing in the fairy tale world so that she can break the curse and save them all by her 28th birthday. Once on the other side, Pinocchio took Emma to the orphanage but then got persuaded by other orphan boys to run away and have fun with them. He did this, abandoning the baby he was supposed to raise and protect. Pinocchio grew up to be a wastrel, and eventually payed the price for it when Emma came to Storybrooke and his body started turning back into wood as a side-effect. This is what drew him to the town, where he hopes to fulfill his duty for Emma and reconcile with his father, Gepetto. But due to Emma's skepticism, it doesn't end well for him. This guy was one of my favorite characters in the season. Eion Bailey is perfect in the role: he's got a nice deadpan tone and even has a fitting crooked nosed appearance. Yet I never would have suspected him of being the character he was and playing the role he ended up playing in the story. How could I have guessed that? They turned a little wooden boy into a big wooden man!

Maleficent/The Dragon - A minor character from the second episode who ended up being crucial for the season finale. She's a bit younger and more vibrant than the legendary Disney villain she's based off of. And she's got a full head of white hair for some reason. It at first seemed strange that the mistress of all evil would act so courteous and almost nice, even if it was to her only friend Regina. And her losing a magic battle against Regina due to love for her pet...that doesn't seem like Maleficent at all. Regina even says "Love is weakness. I thought you knew that." It turns out that she was acting in this out of character way because she had swallowed a true love potion during an earlier fight she had with Prince Charming while in her Dragon form. One of the curse's effects was to trap Maleficent in her Dragon form, which is why Regina keeps her in an underground dungeon. This proves to be fortunate in the finale when Emma is able to fight and destroy Maleficent, retrieving the true love potion from the belly of the beast. Considering how great a villain Maleficent is for Disney, it's a bit disappointing to see her as a non-entity here, but she played her part alright.

And they all lived happily ever after. The End. OR IS IT???

6 comments:

  1. You're the second person to recommend this to me. I'll have to check it out.

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    1. I'm honored to be of service. Keep in mind that the second season isn't out on DVD yet, and while it's engaging enough, it's not as good as the first. At least in my opinion, and alot of others' too apparantley.

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  2. "I think they should've made her either more evil or more tragic from the start and stuck with that portrayal the whole season, waiting 'til the next season to develop her other sides."

    Er...No! There's no "or" about this. She should've just been more evil from the start and stuck with it. Being a tragic villain wouldn't work half as well.

    For the most part, they seemed to get it right, but I think that she should've been shown as having NO humanity in both personas except for episodes 2, 5, 18, and 21/22. Things like her as the Evil Queen softening at moments in the Hansel and Gretel or Mad Hatter affairs, or Regina just being a cheap jerkass who was sometimes civl and sometimes a flat-out Designated Villain.....they just did not work well, and they were so outweighed by her evil moments anyway that they were extra redundant.

    That's how it should've gone, keep her pure evil (with exception) for most of the season until toward the very end. Then gradually reveal her as more tragic in the second season. By trying and failing to balance her with both evil and tragedy this season, they caused an imbalance which led to a slew of tragic moments for Regina in both personas all too fast and all too soon in the second season, which then led to trying to re-balance that with fresh new henious deeds in both personas that create further imbalance. It's an endless cycle with poor Regina now. I hope that whatever happens in the upcoming second season finale will finally put an end to it somehow.

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    1. I wouldn't have said "or" if the second season hadn't insisted on having Regina work to redeem herself, and then have her go BACK to being a villain! They played her as both an evil and tragic villain in the first season, and then have LITERALLY been playing it both ways in the second. If her character arc requires for her to be a villain in both seasons, either she's a full-blown villain in the first season and an Anti-villain in the second, or an Anti-villain in the first season and jumps off the slippery slope to full-blown villainy in the second. Instead, she's really evil but kinda tragic as well in the first season, then a total tragic Woobie in the second season until she switches back to being evil but still tragic because she's so pitiful and cries alot, and we also see her past evil deeds that make her more evil but also more tragic 'cause she cries some more, and then she intends on committing new heinous deeds in the present and is clearly being abusive towards Henry again, but she's still tragic 'cause goshdarn it, she cares! See what I'm getting at here? It's a mess! I hope it ends soon too.

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    2. "either she's a full-blown villain in the first season and an Anti-villain in the second"

      Yeah, that's the choice I was reccomending. If she was portrayed as 95% pure evil in the first season, then she'd be better positioned to SLOWLY AND GRADUALLY soften up through the second season and KEEP IT UP even as a villain, rather than pouring all the well-written tragedy of her in the first half and then compensating by making her do horrific evil things because you didn't do enough of it as you should have in the first season.

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    3. Exactly. Rumpelstiltskin, by contrast, had a perfect balance as a villain in the first season and thus his second season antics feel natural for the character as he's been developed and portrayed (if not always thanks to the writing, then thanks to Robert Carlyle). He knows his audience: he know what he's going for because the creators have a firmer grasp on his character arc. Regina's arc just wasn't thought through nearly well enough, and it's reflected in the show's writing so much that not even Lana's acting can save it. If Regina gets a new, gamechanging role in the season finale, then perhaps that'll be what's needed to make her a truly great character again. I sure hope so...

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