Thursday, May 9, 2013

What were the biggest missteps on 'Once Upon a Time' this season?

It’s no secret that ABC’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ fell victim to the dreaded sophomore slump this year.

After a stellar first season – with one of the best finales of the entire year – viewers expected a lot from ‘Once Upon a Time’ in the second season.

They were quickly disappointed.

‘Once Upon a Time’ was a magical show with a simple formula in the first season. The one major theme that ran through the storytelling tapestry was that true love will always win out.

That theme seems to have been forgotten or – hopefully – misplaced this season. Instead, the theme of this second season has been disjointed revenge – and the magic is obvious gone from Storybrooke.

With Sunday's second season finale upon us, viewers can only hope that there's a glimmer of the show they fell in love with that manages to surface.

So where did ‘Once Upon a Time’ go wrong this season?

5. A lack of “family” time: The one great conceit ‘Once Upon a Time’ has going for it is the fact
that Snow and Charming are the parents of a child that is roughly their age – and grandparents, even though they’re still young. That situation had hilarity written all over it – and yet it was played with very little. The only two scenes I found funny on the family front were Emma walking in on her parents having sex and being mortified – and Snow pushing the issue of Emma’s background in the very first episode back this season. That was it. The family dynamic of David, Emma, Snow and Henry needs better definition and writing – let’s hope this is addressed in the third season. The writers really let me down on this front.

4. Propping Captain Hook without anchoring him in any reality: Captain Hook has the potential to be a charming villain – the Johnny Depp wannabe eye makeup aside – but he is so scattered it is hard to get a good feel for him. Hook is Neal’s stepfather – yet they didn’t have a conversation with each other. He’s also the person that plucked Neal out of the water when the dark shadow was trying to fly him off to Neverland – and yet Neal never brought that up. Hook is bent on revenge for Rumplestiltskin -- even though he kind of set up the situation himself. Hook was putting the full-court press on Emma for awhile – but seems to have dropped that for the time being. I’m starting to feel a vibe between him and Regina – but that could just be in my head. He has been tossed into just about every story of prominence this season - -and yet he’s got no character definition of his own. It’s a weird dichotomy. 

3. Rushing Neal and Emma’s love story: I love the chemistry between Neal and Emma – and the
sense of destiny that surrounds them. Neal is Rumplestiltskin’s son and the father of Snow and Charming’s grandson. He has an important place in Storybrooke. That’s why I’m baffled as to his reluctance to believe Emma – even though he knew she was special – and his unwillingness to bond with Emma the minute he saw her. I don’t want their romance rushed – but I also don’t want it to fall by the wayside. With August being turned into a little boy and Hook now circling Regina, I think they’re setting Neal and Emma up to be epic. So why they dropped Neal into a portal and had him profess his love out of nowhere (her profession was even more jarring) flabbergasts me. I don’t get why the writers feel the need to force every issue. Let some romances, some stories, some ideas – you get what I mean – let some of them just evolve on their own. I have no doubt that Neal will be back. If he doesn't return, that's pretty much the biggest waste of a character ever.

2. Giving secondary characters limited air time: Why spend so much time in the first season setting up great secondary characters only to completely drop them in the second season? Ruby, Grumpy, the Mad Hatter, Sidney, Archie, Granny, Dr. Whale and the Blue Fairy have all gotten short shrift this season. I understand that Emma, Rumplestiltskin, Regina, Snow and Charming are the heart of the show – but the secondary characters helped make ‘Once Upon a Time’ what it was in the first season. If you abandon them, fans will abandon you. I understand that some things can’t be helped – especially when the actors have responsibilities with other productions and shows – but that still doesn’t make up for the blatant way the secondary characters have been tossed aside this season. 

1. Separating Snow and Emma from Storybrooke for so long: This was the biggest misstep – and
it happened at the beginning of the season and last way too long. The first episode of season two ended with Emma and Snow being transported to fairy land. There was no chance for family bonding. No chance for Storybrooke acclimation. Nothing. I understand the rationale: The writers wanted to bond Emma and Snow in fairy land – and show Emma that her parents gave her up out of necessity, not want – and also bond Henry and Charming in Storybrooke. The problem is, the family needed to bond as a four-some – not as two separate twosomes. The strength of ‘Once Upon a Time’ comes from real emotion springing from the fantastical. The writers would be wise to remember that next season. Trying to be slick and slam as much mythology as they can into each episode is just going to alienate viewers.
What do you think? Can ‘Once Upon a Time’ be redeemed in season three?


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