Thursday, September 4, 2014

TELEVISION: Has Once Upon a Time lost the magic?

ABC’s Once Upon a Time is one of those shows I can’t make my mind up about.

The first season was great. The introduction to the characters was spot-on – and the show runners managed to seamlessly weave flashbacks from the Enchanted Forest in with the present day world.

The season one finale was breathtaking – with the greatest twist on true love’s kiss ever.

And then?


The second season started off seconds after the first concluded, and viewers now found themselves in a world that would never be the same again.

Emma realized that she was, indeed, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming – and they’d hidden her in a magic tree to protect her from a curse. Unfortunately for Emma, her life wasn’t exactly Cabbage Patch Kids and cartoons. No, she grew up in the foster care system, where she was neglected her entire life.

While Snow tried to forge a bond with her daughter right away, things spun out of control when
Emma and her newly discovered mother were shuttled through a portal to the Enchanted Kingdom – where they remained for the first third of the second season – away from everyone.

This was our first clue that the writers were penning “ministories” instead of complete arcs.

The first season was one complete arc – and it was beautifully done. The second and third seasons were broken into parts.

Part One: Emma and Snow in the Enchanted Forest.

Part Two: Cora’s assault on Storybrooke.

Part Three: The “Agency” comes to town.

Part Four: Neverland.

Part Five: Pan in Storybrooke.

Part Six: Return from the Enchanted Forest.

The problem is, by creating these “acts” – the writers actually built stumbling blocks into the narrative. And, when they did that, a show that was built on the fantasy of fairy tales lost all the fun associated with them.

Where is the fun associated with Emma being the same age as her parents? Where was the stern talk with Neal (or even Hook) about their intentions with his daughter?

I understand Ginnifer Goodwin’s real life pregnancy was a curveball (and she got so big it was virtually impossible to hide her pregnancy) but there were ways around it. A new baby seems like a contrivance.

I rewatched the third season last week, trying to find something positive to say about it. This is what I
came up with: I still like the actors. I like the chemistry. I like Storybrooke itself. I do not like the contrivances or whiplash associated with these stories, though. It’s like there’s no forethought.

What am I talking about?

Example One: Regina’s romance with Robin Hood is so rushed, we never get a chance to get used to them as a couple. Whether it be during their year in the Enchanted Forest – or their weeks together in Storybrooke – we never got to see the emotional attachment of the couple. That’s why Emma and Hook saving Marian and bringing her back to Storybrooke in the finale meant absolutely nothing. We can’t grieve with Regina because we never saw her fall in love. Marian’s return is just a way to make Regina evil again.

Example Two: Hook and Emma’s sudden “love.” I have never been a fan of over-propped characters – and Hook is a prime example of an over-propped character. I think the actor is charming and the character has promise. I still don’t buy this undying love. Hook spent a few days with Emma and Snow in the Enchanted Forest before they escaped. He then spent about a half hour with her in Storybrooke when he returned. He then offered his boat to find Henry – but that trip was filled with Neal’s return (although Hook was already acting like Emma was his soulmate) and saving Henry. When they got back to town, the curse hit, and all the fairy tale characters were sent to the Enchanted forest while Emma and Henry had their memories wiped and lived in New York for a year. Then Hook shows up, still besotted with her, and she finally remembers and they spend another week together while all the wicked witch stuff is going down (and that week included Neal dying and the birth of a baby). That means these two have spent three weeks together. How are they in love? It’s ludicrous.

Example Three: Neal’s death. I don’t care whether Neal and Emma ended up together or not. She’s
had way too many love interests in my book. If I had to pick one for her – one she had actual chemistry and spent time with – it would be Graham. Yeah, I said it. I feel nothing when Emma and Hook are on the screen together.  I’m talking about Neal, though. Neal’s death seemed like nothing more than an easy way to clear the path for Hook (and the two of them could've had a totally awesome bromance). How can Rumplestiltskin’s son – Henry’s father – Emma’s ex be out of story that quickly? It seriously ticks me off. Neal did not have to be a part of Emma’s happily ever after. He certainly should’ve been a part of Henry’s, though.

My worry with Once Upon a Time is that it’s the new Heroes. What am I talking about? NBC’s Heroes had a tremendous first season, a grand story arc that left viewers on pins and needles all season to see what would happen. I’ll tell you what happened, the story flopped. The show never recovered from that stellar first season and was cancelled prematurely.

I don’t want that to happen to Once Upon a Time.

The writers need to step up their game, though.

I have been close to quitting this show twice. The first was at the mid-season finale last year, when the new “curse” came down and cast everything into doubt again. I was sucked back in.

Then I was completely bored for the entire spring run. I was considering giving up again, and then the writers delivered a great season finale that allowed Emma to see her parents fall in love and finally “get” what being a fairy tale character is all about.

I’m still on board this season. The problem is, the upcoming Frozen arc already looks to be another gimmick. I haven’t seen one shot of footage and yet I’m already cringing.

I want this show to be good. It’s one of the few shows I still watch on network television.

It needs to make some adjustments, though.

What do you think? Has Once Upon a Time lost the magic?


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