Let’s start with the positive, because GoD only knows there isn’t much of it. The actors on this show are damned fabulous. Generally, they’re given crap to work with and they still act their asses off– particularly Robert Carlyle and, lately, Barbara Hershey and Rose McGowan. Then there’s Jane Espenson, fantastic writer. Between her and the actors, they manage to spin shit into sterling silver. (Let’s face it, guys. They’re not Rumplestiltskin, and their base material isn’t even straw.)
There are also moments on Once Upon a Time that are so heartrendingly perfect, though, that every misstep in plotting, characterization, and pacing is thrown into ever more glaring relief.
Here’s one: Regina shoved her mother’s heart back inside her chest and Cora gave her daughter one brilliant, heart-felt smile of love and adoration. The next moment, she falls dying into Regina’s arms. There’s just enough life left in her to cry, “This would have been enough. You would have been enough.”
And another: Rumplestiltskin, earlier in the episode, believes that he may actually die. Belle is still mindwiped and in the hospital, but he wants to reach out to her one last time — just to thank her, to try to give her some beauty to hold on to. He calls her up and says, “I know that you’re confused about who you are, so I’m going to tell you. You are a hero who helped your people. You are a beautiful woman who loved an ugly man. Really, really loved me. You find goodness in others and when it’s not there you create it. You make me want to go back, back to the best version of me. And that’s never happened before. So when you look in the mirror and you don’t know who you are, that’s who you are.”
This is followed by a heart-wrenching and laugh!sob-inducing moment between Rumplestiltskin and his estranged son Baelfire. It is absolutely no surprise that all of these scenes occurred during Espenson’s latest episode, “The Miller’s Daughter.”
And then there’s the rest of it. Let’s get started with the grossest offenders, shall we? Each of these points come courtesy of nonsense in 2.13-16, or “Tiny,” “Manhattan,” “The Queen is Dead,” and “The Miller’s Daughter.”
1. Field full of magic beans! …no Rumplestiltskin.
What the actual fuck? No, I’m sorry, this makes no actual sense. Rumplestiltskin has done nothing but tirelessly search for ways to other worlds. He cut off a man’s hand and killed a woman (who was once HIS WIFE) to get ONE BEAN. Now, true he had some emotional investment there — but the bean was still the goal. He’s wheeling and dealing with Jefferson on a regular basis, giving him copious amounts of gold in return for his trips to Oz and HammerHorrorLand. He knows about the Ruby Slippers. I’ve no doubt he sought out Jefferson because he discovered the properties of the hat.
…but OUAT wants me to believe that he doesn’t know the Giants are still around and they have A WHOLE FIELD OF MAGIC BEANS JUST COMING TO HARVEST?
What are they smoking in these writer meetings? Because Adam and Eddy really need to share.
Just. No. I can’t buy it. Tiny climbed down a stalk that still was hanging out somewhere, just waiting to be climbed. Rumplestiltskin makes it his business to know things, especially about methods of getting to other worlds. He would know about the beanstalk. He would know about the Giants. He would be lurking and waiting to make a deal, or maybe he’d just take the whole field from them.
As someone somewhere once said, “there’s a difference between suspending my disbelief and watching it writhe in agony as it swings from the nearest tree branch.” This episode shattered my suspension right there, and the rest of it was just a waste of our time.* Sorry, not sorry.
*Except for the scenes with Gold in them, of course. Those tend to fix everything, or at least obliterate the rest of the crap for their duration. He had tons of great evil-imp lines in this one.
2. Belle. Still being victimized.
I was so infuriated during the scene in “Manhattan” in which Ruby visited Belle, I actually had to pause the television and calm down before I started throwing things. I’ve talked before about my fondness for Belle and the high hopes I had for her character, which keep being dashed due to poor time management and fridging. But this episode just took it to another level – presumably, Ruby knows that Belle was confined in the hospital basement for 28 years. They were friends, after all (I really hope, once Belle gets her memories back, that they’re not friends again for a damn while and there better be groveling involved on Ruby’s part). So watching Ruby allow Belle to be manhandled and drugged for asking after a truth that she has every right to know just made me angry like bull – you know, teeth clenched, nostrils flaring, the urge to gore rising. What the fucking fuck is wrong with these people? Even now, I’m descending into incoherence about this. So I’ll stop there.
No, I’ll add one more thing: I’m surprised there was no concerted effort to keep Regina out of the hospital and away from harassing patients, especially considering Gold’s injunction to keep Belle safe and the presence of the outsider. Instead, she’s just right back to carelessly screwing with Belle, knocking her unconscious and magically rifling through her purse.
Forget Dark!Snow. I’d like to see a few episodes of Dark!Belle at some point, where there is a Reckoning in Storybrooke for All The Shit she’s been put through, I swear to GoD.
3. Milah’s Bizarre 180.
They really screwed up in showing that pre-Ogre War scene between Milah and Rumplestiltskin. I know it was the briefest glimpse into their lives, but it showed a Milah who seemed genuinely content with Rumple and was terribly worried about his safety. She didn’t want him to go to war, and she didn’t look like she really cared about the village’s opinion of Rumplestiltskin’s father. She let herself be persuaded that going to war was RIGHT, but that bone-deep conviction in Rumplestiltskin needing to redeem his family name didn’t come from her.
So, she’s heard some shit from around the village about Rumplestiltskin being a deserter, and suddenly she’s judging him SO HARD and not even willing to fully consider the reasons behind his actions? Are you fucking kidding me? Magic exists in this world, and she’s THAT disdainful of a seer’s visions? OUAT’s characterization of Milah is an excellent study in microcosm of how badly they can screw up characterization.
4. Young Cora’s Attitude.
Let’s see: she yells at visiting royalty in full public view. She talks back to her own rulers. She gate-crashes noble parties and then mouths off REALLY PROVOCATIVELY at HER KING. (“You’ve got some nerve, disparaging me. You’re selling off your own flesh and blood.”)
Note: I’m not saying these weren’t crappy nobles who didn’t deserve to be put in their places. I’m saying the total lack of consequences training that kind of freely disrespectful behavior out of her is really, really hard to swallow given their setting.
Seriously. How wasn’t she executed before the flashback events in “The Miller’s Daughter”? Or just thrown in the dungeons? Maybe put in the stocks? In a society where she’s clearly not been previously put in her place as a “mere miller’s daughter,” it seems absurd that she would be mocked for attending the ball with straw on her dress or for aspiring above her station. She’s on a casual chatting basis with the Prince, for pity’s sake!
The evidence of this episode suggests that Cora has been allowed by her society to express herself freely and without propriety to all levels of said society for her entire life. Once, incredibly unfairly, she was chastised in public and made to apologize. As a result, she turned into a Mad Bitch Queen who craves power over everything else, rips out her own heart, and fully subscribes to a life mission of “don’t stop until they’re on their knees.” Which she pursues by harnessing her most negative emotions and spinning them into dark magic. I’m beginning to see where Regina got the psychosis that enabled her to fully blame a manipulated ten-year-old for the murder of her secret lover.
Also, WTF with Prince Henry claiming that Cora was different before Rumplestiltskin’s tutelage? She was mildly so, but she was also still caustic and confrontational and bitter. The only difference was that Cora was a little sweet on Henry since he was nice to her and didn’t treat her as being beneath him. The sad truth is that losing her heart did not change Cora THAT MUCH, though it certainly prevented her from mellowing or softening later in life.
5. The Shittiness of Actual Charming Rule.
Why would anyone want to be ruled by the Charmings? They want everything to be just and fair in their realm (whether FTL or Storybrooke), but they don’t want to be the hard-asses who make it so for their citizens. Just, here, let me expand using a brief conversation I had on Tumblr:
I don’t believe it! Snow actually came up with a cunning ploy! And she didn’t need Rumplestiltskin to feed it to her, nor did she preface it with a ten minute speech about how she’s too much of a special snowflake to sully her hands with anything less than unrealistic ideals!…
If Snow doesn’t want to make hard decisions that result in bloodshed yet protect the greatest number of people, she should probably give up the crown and join a religious order that allows her to retire into solitary reflection.
I’m just saying. Protecting things worth protecting, especially when there are powerful and vicious enemies arrayed against you, means getting your hands dirty. Someone has to be strong enough for that, and that’s the responsibility you take on as a ruler. You just make those decisions soberly and after considering all options. You don’t make them flippantly or with cruelty. I’m pretty sure Snow met all those criteria, but she lets herself be undermined by this fanciful ideal of “pure of heart” that doesn’t exist. If it did, and if she was, she wouldn’t have had the thoughts in the first place.
The only thing she should feel ashamed of is the ruse she had to pull on Regina because, as evil as both Regina and Cora are, it’s a shameful and awful thing to trick someone into murdering their own kin. Still, it had to be done and that’s how she managed to pull it off. So she’s just gotta woman up, live with it, and continue protecting her people.
There’s a bit more over here if you’re interested.
Some things I just can’t be bothered to go on about: Emma’s truth-telling superpower? Ha ha ha. Pull the other one! I can’t believe other characters still let her get away with that. Then there’s the stunted piece of crap Regina’s storyline has become, and also the fact that no one wants to talk about how Neal left Emma to take the fall by herself and go to prison, where she gave birth to their son. Or the bit where Snow’s so perfect, but never thought that self-sacrifice was an option in the face of her mother’s untimely demise.
I was also perplexed as to why we were supposed to continue thinking of Hook as a villain when he’s so clearly a buffoon, but that tipped me off into realizing he’s actually the clown. Dance, Hook! MAKE US LAUGH WITH YOUR BUFOONERY AND BITCHFACE.
This post is way late, guys, but let’s be honest: the sadder fact is that it’s over a month out of date and yet only two episodes behind.