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Friday, 16 December 2016

Once Upon A Time S6 (First Act)

Once Upon A Time
Series 6
(First Act)

You know, I've compared Once Upon A Time to Supernatural before, and I think the comparison is still apt: Both are shows which are rooted heavily in Americana (albeit very differently), that were never great but then started to decline, that struggled both with rehashing old ground in its character arcs and in constantly trying to escalate the threat every series to more and more absurd levels. The two shows are practically mirror images of each other, except Once Upon A Time is still fun to watch.

Don't mistake me here, Once Upon A Time is terrible. It is badly written, its actors feel increasingly tired and uncommitted, it is lazy, poorly paced, unimaginatively directed, and overtly, painfully a Disney advertising vehicle -- but I do consistently enjoy watching it. Not in an ironic sense where I'm sitting in my chair going 'har har, I enjoy this because it is entertainingly terrible' but in an actual sense where I regularly tune in to watch it, and enjoy it despite its many flaws, and don't consider myself to have wasted forty minutes of my life in doing so.

It doesn't engage me like many shows do, I don't find myself especially inspired by it, nor does it occupy my thoughts for even a second after I'm done watching it, but it has something which Supernatural and its cohorts lack, which is a modicum of effort and a modicum of enthusiasm in its production. Not a lot, but what little it does have shows. So while I do think that the show needs to end, when it does I may, at least, mourn its passing for a few seconds, whereas Supernatural ending will be a welcome relief.

Damning with faint praise segment over, let's talk about this series, which represents a slight (very slight) uptick in quality over the last series.

Oh, yeah, this super important character who was never mentioned before shows up near
the end, too.

In the sixth series of Once Upon A Time, Hyde arrives in town with the rest of the inhabitants of the Land of Untold Stories, and soon finds himself in an alliance with the Evil Queen, Regina's dark half that she split off from herself. While the gang hurries to try and stop Hyde and the Queen's plans, Rumpelstiltskin becomes increasingly controlling and abusive when Belle decides that she won't let him see their son once he's born. Meanwhile, Emma starts to suffer from tremors and magic outages, as she's haunted by a vision of her future death at the hands of a cloaked figure -- a fate, we're told, that all Saviours face.

I do want to say more nice things about this series. I do. It's difficult, though, when every one of those plots is a plotline we've seen in an earlier series, just rejigged slightly. Two villains team up in an uneasy alliance and attempt to take over the town? Seen it. New arrivals to the town have trouble adjusting? Seen it. Rumpelstiltskin is controlling? Seen it. Emma and company are haunted by the inevitable? Seen it.

Towards the end of this act, the show even defaults to the old Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin team-up, which we've already seen in the first series -- except there it was noticeably more interesting, because both Regina and Rumpel were at cross-purposes, with Regina's goals being very straightforward and Rumpel's being much more mysterious. Here, they're not really at cross-purposes at all, because all the plans are the Queen's -- Rumpel could have been replaced with any character in the cast and you'd have functionally the same storyline, because he's only there because he extracted a promise of safety for Belle from the Queen. 

Jekyll is actually pronounced 'Jeek-yl' guys.

At least Hyde had an agenda of sorts that existed independent of the Queen, even if it wasn't a very original one.

The show does manage to eke out a bit of tension from Emma's visions of the future, although more in the form of wondering whether Emma will use some magic shears to sever her destiny and un-saviour herself -- an option that the show, to its credit, does explore as a genuine option, which does create a decent amount of suspense. Not a huge amount, but you can't have everything, I suppose.

Moreover, the reveal of who the cloaked figure is actually works pretty well. It links in with the storyline of the series in a way that makes a surprising amount of sense, and since it seems pretty obvious for most of the series that it's the Evil Queen, it actually does manage to come as at least something of a surprise.

You two look nothing alike.

It's not that there aren't things to like about this series, and like I said, I have enjoyed watching it -- it's just that it's not good. It'll probably never be good. It's entertaining watch-and-then-forget television, whereas I think the writers are aspiring for something a little more than that.

Still, a fun enough first half to the series. We're apparently being set up for a somewhat darker second half to the series, which will begin airing in March 2017, and it's looking increasingly likely that the show won't be renewed for a seventh series, which I honestly think is a good thing. If it can be anything, Supernatural can be a warning of what can happen if you let your series go on for too long.

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