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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Once Upon A Time Series 4 (First Half).

Once Upon A Time
Series 4 (First Half).

I've spoken before about how Supernatural feels like it's tired and worn out and needs to end, and probably should have done so ages ago. Once Upon A Time feels much the same way, and it's only three and a half series in. Actually, it's felt that way for a while now.

Part of that is that, since each half-series has its own storyline (in recent years, at least), it feels more like it just finished Series 6. A lot of that is that this was never a concept with more than maybe a series or two of mileage anyway, and they've exhausted that.

In this series, Elsa of recent Disney hit Frozen arrives in Storybrooke, rousing the suspicion of several residents. It soon emerges, though, that Elsa isn't the only ice-manipulating mage in town, as enigmatic snow queen Ingrid threatens the town with a rather convoluted plan involving mirrors and ribbons. Meanwhile, Rumpelstiltskin seeks to free himself from the control of his dagger, and Regina becomes convinced that only a mysterious author holds the key to her finding a happy ending.

If that all sounds a little - well, I'm thinking of a colourful term for 'not very good', I'm sure you can fill in the blanks - then that's because it is. 

It might even be a colourful term for 'dalliance-ingly akin to excrement.'

All of the guff with Frozen, and it is everywhere in this series, feels tacky and forced and awkward. It reeks of desperation. While it's absolutely no secret that by 'fairytales', Once Upon A Time means 'disney films', there has usually been at least some kind of attempt at having these characters be new versions, inspired somewhat by the Disney films and somewhat by their fairytale basis, but generally new creations. 

Not so with the Frozen cast: They are dragged directly out of their canon and dumped into the storyline in a way that feels entirely unnatural. There is nothing not unpleasant about seeing these characters: They look like cosplayers, act like caricatures, and if you are ever in danger of forgetting about their origin, one of them will, like clockwork, bring up one of the many hackneyed and unimaginative plot points of their source material.

It's a gaping, elephant-in-the-room problem that cannot be ignored, and unfortunately this series' two B-plots don't do much to improve it. 

(The lip service to the original fairytale that the series attempts to make by bringing in Ingrid, apparently meant to be loosely the Snow Queen of the tale, is shot down when mere episodes later it incorporates her into Elsa and Anna's backstory.)

Oh, and Will from OUATiW is here too now. He doesn't do much.

First is the Rumpelstiltskin plot. Uncovering a magical hat full of sky, an artifact belonging to the mysterious Sorcerer, which he's searched for for many years, he sets out to charge it with enough magic to perform a ritual that will remove his dagger's hold over him while allowing him to keep his power. It's a tired, boring subplot. We've seen the Rumpelstiltskin-is-scheming-and-nobody-seems-to-notice plot a dozen times at this point: It was a feature of both the first and second series, and while it was refreshingly absent in the third series, it hasn't been gone so long that its return here doesn't feel unpleasantly same-y.

Second is the Regina and Robin Hood plot. With her budding romance snatched away from her by the return of Marian, Regina becomes convinced that she can't have a happy ending. The main problem with this plot is that it appears to have been written via round robin. At first Regina wants to kill Marian, and then, quite abruptly, she decides that she doesn't, and nobody really ever mentions it again. No, instead she wants to locate the author of Henry's storybook. After making this decision, this plotline is almost totally forgotten about, bar poking its head up now and again, until an episode where Robin apparently makes more progress on this particular task in a day than Regina and Henry made in months.

It, too, is dull. Incredibly so. Not that I'm not always up for more Regina and Henry shenanigans, but since their quest to uncover the author mostly consists of them occasionally talking about their quest to uncover the author, I wasn't overly impressed by this offering.

About the most interesting thing about this series was the romance between Emma and Hook. 

Yes, these two.

I don't approve even remotely of Hook's presence in this series, and I have talked often before on this blog about how I repulsed I am by ABC and Disney's decision to include Peter Pan characters in Once Upon A Time without paying their dues to Great Ormond Street, despite that unambiguously being the wishes of J.M. Barrie. I am similarly disgusted by the Tinkerbell films.

That said, the Emma/Hook romance is one of the best kind of television romances: One that has grown organically out of the chemistry the actors and characters have, rather than being forced by writers' edict (hey, Snow and Charming. I mean, your actors are actually married, but I honestly wouldn't be able to tell). They're fun to watch, and I find their courtship very believable.

That's really the only good thing I can say about it, though, and after twelve episodes, I should really be able to pinpoint more that I enjoyed.

A very disappointing half-series, and I don't foresee the latter half being any better. 

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