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Friday, 15 May 2015

Once Upon A Time Series 4 (Second Half)

Once Upon A Time
Series 4 (Second Half).

Ugh. I put off doing this one for as long as possible, but I guess I have to do it now. At least it's not Supernatural, which is on the schedule for next week.

After the cringeworthy love letter to Frozen that was the first half of the series, the second half of Once Upon A Time's fourth series sees Rumpelstiltskin forming an alliance with the self-styled Queens of Evil - Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella de Vil. Returning to Storybrooke, they set about in their plan to find the author and force him to write them happy endings - a plan which may have deeper and darker ramifications than it seems.

(Oddly, Cruella de Vil gets to be from the real world, despite Alice of Alice in Wonderland apparently being from a ~Victorian London World~ and both Robin Hood and Hua Mulan, folkloric figures whose stories are very definitely set in the real world, both being from the Enchanted Forest. I guess only America is allowed to be a real place in OUAT.)

I wish I could say that this half of the series made me as squirmingly uncomfortable as the first half, but without the cynical cosplay-ridden cashing in on Frozen's popularity, I just found it boring. Boring, but still somehow managing to undermine literally all of the series themes.

The Queens of Evil, whose most evil act in the whole series is adapting a confidently
overweight character into a conventionally attractive thin woman.

This series had maybe two - okay, no, no, maybe three - big twists in it: Firstly, that Emma had her 'darkness' transferred to Maleficent's child Lilith, resulting in Lilith being unable to not do evil things. Secondly, that the writer is evil and was manipulating events for a long time. Thirdly, that the Dark One is a separate entity to Rumpelstiltskin who has been occupying his heart and manipulating him.

We'll go through these each and talk about why they are so deleterious to what little dignity and pathos the series had left.

Emma had her darkness transferred to Maleficent's child Lilith. Well, firstly, Emma's strength as a character has always come from the fact that she is an imperfect but well-meaning person, and this development essentially throws that out, replacing it with 'Emma had no choice but to be a good person'. The second problem is that the entire concept of a tangible 'darkness' in people kills off the series' themes of choice and redemption - because it's no longer purely a matter of people making a choice to do bad things, there's now a ~spooky darkness~ within people that drives them towards bad decisions. 

They lapse on their themes again with Cruella de Vil, as the big twist of her storyline is that she's just naturally evil, driven to do evil things for no good reason. 

The writer is evil and was manipulating events for a long time. I've always hated the 'writer' plotline, and my great hope was that it would end either with the reveal that there is no writer, or that the writer has no special powers and simply chronicles events - either would have been cliche, but I'd have been happy with them. Instead, the writer is nigh-omnipotent and evil, and has been rewriting reality for a long time, going so far as to rewrite the story in the finale so that Rumpelstiltskin is the benevolent Light One, Snow and Charming are evil, and Regina is good. 

(Speaking of, evil!Snow is clearly meant to be intimidating but just comes across as hilarious.)

It's basically the regular world with the names changed, right down to Regina
wearing Snow's outlaw clothes.

Apart from the fact that that basically shot in the face the finale's whole concept of 'the villains finally get their happy endings' by just making different characters the unhappy villains, it's also another nail rammed into the coffin of Once Upon A Time's themes of free will. Bonus hilarity points for the new writer, Henry, snapping the magical pen in two dramatically, before literally twenty seconds later finding himself in a situation where being omnipotent would really have helped. 

The Dark One is a quasi-demonic entity residing in Rumpelstiltskin's heart and manipulating him. Okay, apart from this being the silliest plot twist ever, does anyone remember Series 1 Episode 12? I'll refresh your memory on the plot point I'm referring to: Belle and Rumpelstiltskin share True Love's Kiss, and it starts to cure him of being the Dark One. And yet, and yet, at no point during the 'my heart is corrupted with darkness and I'm dying' debacle or the 'When I die, it'll just be the Dark One around' debacle does Belle even seem to consider kissing him, despite it having already been established that this would solve at least one, maybe both, of their problems.

I - don't have a witty caption here, carry on.

The other problem is that it completely murders Rumpelstiltskin's character arc. No longer is he a deeply fearful and cowardly person who clings to power as a crutch (something you literally alluded to early on in the series by having him throw away a crutch once he receives his magic again, writers) and does bad things in order to preserve that power - no, now he's been manipulated all along, corrupted by 'the Dark One', who is an entirely separate entity of evil.

In what would otherwise be an entirely lacklustre series, those three problems push it straight over into terrible territory. The finale leaves things on an interesting note that bodes well for a fifth series that's enjoyable, if not necessarily good, so we'll see how that goes when it returns.

Ugh. I am increasingly starting to feel that Once Upon A Time needs to perish.

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