Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Once More, With Feeling OUAT S1E18 The Stable Boy

Previously on this series, we discovered that when we're writing neither to a deadline nor to a word count we get really wordy and blathery. For the sake of everyone's sanity, eyeballs, and our wrists, we're attempting to limit this one to 10K. You may all now point and laugh if (when) we blow straight by that in our search for the perfect rant about what the fuck is wrong with Regina and her characterization. For the curious, A wrote all the our-world bits and Kitty did all the FTL bits, for this one.

Previously on Once Upon A Time, we have a big amalgamation of scenes! Which isn't bad as such things go, with bonus irony on Emma's evidence against MM versus the evidence for the curse. I see what you guys did there. Who knows the truth! (Hi Gold.) Who can break the spell! (Emma. August. Henry.) The subtlety, it is not. Am I the only one who wants Gold to break into a rousing chorus of Rolling Stones over Regina getting what she wants? No? Excellent. Let's begin the scenery chewing, shall we? For all that we bitch about the characterization being weak, these scenes tend to be delightful. Two actors determined to enjoy every bit of their villainy? Oh yes. Regina is examining the wedding ring Daniel gave her, which is I think the first time we've seen her with something that was clearly either a trophy or sentimental; we know by this that this will be a Regina-focused ep. (If, you know, when you first watched this you didn't have all the trailers and sneak peeks and so on.) Gold will cheerfully interrupt! And ask for a favor, because apparently the wheels of justice are grinding very slow indeed. I'm just going to sigh at the pacing for the umpty-millionth time and move on. It's at least a nice touch that Gold doesn't leave room for Regina to interrupt him on the being locked in a cage bit, denying her that chance to gloat. Most of this scene is very exposition-laden. The reasons it carries fairly well despite that are a) the actors and b) the fact that it's the first scene, and we expect a certain degree of that, both for the sake of the ep of the week and for the sake of potentially picking up new viewers. Gold will now use an apple for a prop, which along with his tie and Regina's blazer are the only spots of color in this office. Dark red. Naturally. Because We Are Evil And Also Not At All Subtle. That actually is the ONLY reason to trust him, too, that he always honors his agreements. And only so far as the agreement carries, which means you need to be VERY CAREFUL how you word such things. Which, as far as we can tell, Regina isn't, though we don't get a firm wording followed by "it's a deal," so it's possible he just out-rules-lawyered her and we don't get the details. Guys? If you're going to have a deal-maker like Gold|Rumple in your show, it matters that you give us the damn details on each and every deal, either when it's struck or after the fact. Every time. So we know what loopholes he's exploiting and can wait for what should be the inevitable comeuppance from... well, we'd hope Emma, but with this show that would be too damn much to hope for.

From black and white to supersaturated color! Like they do in this show. The juxtaposition here of the evil guy who always honors his agreements and the setup for having her life ruined by a little girl who innocently broke her promise is actually fairly subtle as far as this show goes. What is not subtle or at least jarringly not period is the equestrian setup they have here. I mean, really? Seriously? You have "gods", people swanning about in Renne Faire outfits, castles, and shining armor, and you couldn't be bothered to throw in some non-modern-looking riding jumps? That's a very pretty bit of footage, at least, and a very sore ass she's going to have later. Her father is all adoring and her mother is all criticizing, and I have to wonder if the comment of "you ride like a man" is supposed to call back to a certain young adult book or just meant to rip on Regina riding astride instead of side-saddle as ladies are supposed to do? Because if the latter, um. That's not a side-saddle Daniel's holding. No, it turns out Regina's mother just wants her to use a saddle at all, and my ass sympathizes, but again here we have strange worldbuilding, because if they're going with the traditional costumes and values of stereotypical fairytale medieval land, women ride side and men ride astride. But there I go with my logic again. And there they go with the stereotypical value judgments again, because Cora's next dig is about how no one will want to marry her if she's riding off bareback all the time. Remember back in our recaplysis of Skin Deep when we discussed how it looked like they'd gone through a psych textbook and pulled out all the standard button-pushing phrases? They've done that here, too; rather than give a series of scenes with dialogue laid out the way people actually talk they've given competent actors a script made up entirely of overbearing and abusive mother cliches. "I had such high hopes." "You're being/becoming a [insert thing mother disapproves of here, obviously painted as the worst thing in the world]." "I'm not [being mean/criticizing/overbearing]. I'm helping you!" No, no you're not, lady. As with later Regina, Cora doesn't believe that people who aren't her have feelings or wants or needs. And yet because it's all so boilerplate it's hard to even muster a good hate on for her; she's a cartoon villain. All she needs is a mustache to twirl. People who really are abusive in this way rarely see themselves as evil; that's part of the issue with it. Barbara Hershey and Lana Parilla do the best they can with what they've got, and Parilla does a fantastic job selling us on young!Regina as compared to the Regina we all know and loathe from a moment ago. Young but not innocent Regina, she doesn't believe this alleged 'helping' either, and walks away rather than continue to engage in painful and one-sided conversation with her mother. Of course, no one leaves until Cora says they can, which she enforces with magic! Purple cloud magic, gee, I wonder who taught her that. Regina tries to assert some authority and it fails utterly and violently. In case we didn't already know Cora was abusive, we get it underscored with life-threatening violence! Apart from the by now standard anviliciousness of this, do I need to explain how dangerous it is to encourage the concept that all abuse must be physical before it's considered abuse? No? Moving right along, then. We close with a bit of conversation between Regina and Daniel that starts out with Regina apparently being kinder than her sociopathic mother and ends with, well, kissing. Because this is a kissing book show. Awww, twu wuv. Again, this would have a much greater impact if we'd had a shred of evidence that Regina was at some point a sympathetic character any time in the last 17 episodes. But, well. No.

We come back to Our World, in which David is still an asshole who accosts Emma on her way out from getting breakfast because he wants her to pass messages at least and hopefully get to see his lady-love. Uh, dude. You told her that you wouldn't care if she was guilty, implying that you think she might be guilty, and she's under suspicion of murder of your wife. And yes, the situation has been horrible and confusing! BECAUSE YOU MADE IT THAT WAY. Emma, to her credit, isn't putting up with any of his bullshit. Nor do I think she believes that David's heart is in the right place. Lower parts of him are doing all the thinking and feeling right now. David, please stop perving over your lover and wife in another world in front of your daughter, that's creepy. Oh thank god car door. BYE DAVID. Hi Mary Margaret! Who may or may not have actually been asleep, that's left to the viewer to decide in a surprisingly decent bit of ambiguity. She is startled by Regina's sudden presence, but Regina's enough of a drama queen that I would not be at all surprised if she'd taken her heels off for the sake of maximum surprise and head-fuckery. Since she deliberately showed up before Emma normally gets into work. Mary Margaret, I hate to break this to you, but the physical evidence does stack up against you. A lot. No matter that it was all planted. We get a chunk of exposition that serves to transition us back to FTL and not much else, though it's suitably creepy and allows MM to be freaked out by her lack of knowledge. It would be nice if this led to anything, any crack in the curse, any "realization" that Regina is crazy and has dreamed up some story where Mary Margaret really did something heinous to her... anything? No? All right then, back to horses and costumes from Regency England it is! Still with crappy pacing that in no way explains why this is the first hint of any redemptive arc for Regina instead of completely unreliable narrator snippets within her lines.

Requisite riding happily across the countryside clip is a go, followed by requisite running up to her lover in the field and kissing him. And just letting her horse wander where it will. Good thing that's a trained horse. There is a whole lot packed into a few lines of dialogue here; unfortunately it's entirely inside references and double-meaning jokes with no major character or plot significance behind them. At least, I don't think Firefly Hill has become anything other the place where relationships go to die horrible deaths. There's a reference to tea-time, both foreshadowing Cora's eventual descent into Queen of Hearts psychosis and possibly a reference to the high-class perception of golf and tee-times. Meanwhile all I can hear is a little voice in the back of my head going "It's pronounced Te-a-ti-me" and think how marvelous it would be if he showed up. Ahem. Daniel would like more than just a few stolen kisses and Regina is scared to death, rightfully, of her mother's ambition. At this point the Twu Wuv anvil isn't even the most offensive part of it, it's the fact that Daniel seems to be implying true love will overcome an emotionally and physically abusive mother. Which, oh John Ringo no. If you're going to do "gritty and real fairy tales," true love does not in fact conquer a life with an abusive mother. We're interrupted from further platitudes by screaming girl on a runaway horse! I've been on a runaway horse. Her feet are still in the stirrups. She's doing surprisingly well. That said, when you're that small and on a full grown horse at that speed it is a fairly body-shaking experience and I can totally see Snow freaking out and not being able to control her mount. I can also see that they hit the jackpot with this child actress, who is absolutely amazing as young Snow. Once the runaway horse aspect is dealt with we get some good up-close shots of her, and the mannerisms and expressions are very, very well copied. We even get some genuine affection in between all the platitudes, this time ones about facing fears and getting back on the horse, etc. More literal than most of the time that's trotted out, so I guess they get half a point for that. And introductions are made, as if we didn't already know this was Snow White.

Moving back to our world, there's some nice fast-talking on Gold's part which isn't really a lie. Rather, it's a set of truths that taken together are a really BIG lie, which is par for the course with Gold. As usual, the best/most nuanced dialogue goes to him, up to and including talk of perceptions forming reality. Aheh. Aheheheh. Thanks for that, guys. Semi-randomly, it must be really weird for Gold and Regina to go from feudalism to democracy and due process. Gold makes an amazing lawyer, but that has more to do with him and his long history of making sneakily worded contracts than anything. And then Sydney interrupts! SYDNEY COULD YOU BE A MORE OBVIOUS MOLE. Meanwhile nobody is smart enough to pick up on this at all, the fuck. I mean, I will grant Emma that she's having issues telling who's lying about what when, because everyone lies in this fucking town, especially the people she has least reason to trust to start with. So superpower or not, she's getting overloaded with falsehoods and tells and because (especially with Gold and Regina) it's so hard to figure out why they're lying, what with them knowing things Emma doesn't. Or what they're lying about. Still, Sydney's tells are the most obvious things in the WORLD and while I feel terrible for him (and his storyline, eugh), this is not exactly contributing to our initial image of Emma as a supposedly-competent bail bondsperson. Sheriff. Whatever. Meanwhile, Gold's been talking Mary Margaret around and what I wouldn't give to hear that conversation instead. There's some nice juxtaposition here that could have been placed closer together in the show's internal chronology but isn't bad on the whole, Gold on the outside of the bars looking in at Mary Margaret instead of Snow and Rumple. It's not made much of as a juxtaposition, probably in large part because Gold's the subtle character who doesn't have tells in 20' neon letters.

And hey, it's another King Fuckhead showing up! Hi King Fuckhead. The subsequent interrogation is just painfully obvious manipulation, and unfortunately we don't have any backstory on what Spencer's supposed history in Storybrooke is, so we end up unclear on how much of this is his initiative and how much is Regina puppetmistressing him. Sigh. Gold tries, not very hard, to put an end to the whole thing several times, because he is a Good Lawyer. Where by good I mean Lawful Evil. Ahem. Gold looks like he wants to facepalm so much. I know it's generally what he wants, or at least in the direction of it, but I think it depresses him every time someone does exactly what he expects them to do. I know it depresses me. Aside from the truly clunky manipulation and somewhat clunky exposition for the sake of new viewers, though, this is at least a well-acted scene, followed with a nice evil smirk from Parilla in the mirror.

Speaking of mirrors and looking at oneself in them! From older broken Regina to young and in love Regina getting ready to go out for a day of riding! Except no. Enter Cora the Buzzkill of Doom, who magics her riding clothes into something that could not be less practical for riding if it had been designed by Lady Gaga. This is at least a nice reversal of fairy godmother makes pretty dresses tropes, not only because the mother herself is making the pretty dress but because the pretty dress itself is unwanted and represents nothing good. Rather than asking Regina to dress fancier (which she might well do if told the King was coming, straight up front, she's not stupid or lacking in a sense of dignity) or even telling her the King is coming and allowing her the option of choosing her own damn battle dress, Cora dolls her up herself. Not quite literally, but she is dressing Regina as though she were a doll to be played with. Even the compliment is strongly backhanded like a gauntlet across the face, "you've finally done something right!" Ugh. Lana Parilla does a pretty damn good job here of looking uncomfortable without broadcasting it all over the screen, her curtsey is awkward and her body posture is more suited to the outfit she was wearing less than a minute ago, and we know she can wear fancy dresses like the one she has on. But in this case she's been dragged from her comfort zone and forced to put on a show with no time to prepare, and as a result she comes off sharply less poised than her mother. It doesn't seem to bother either of the men and Cora is too gleeful over the points she's scored, er, her daughter has scored. Because yes, part of not seeing other people as human beings with wants and feelings means that Regina is an extension of Cora and any achievements Regina has (or what Cora thinks of as achievements, at least) are reflected back on her and therefore make her look better and better. This culminates, at least for this scene, in Cora accepting the King's proposal of marriage for Regina. I'm sure her daughter and her own husband feel just great about that. And this isn't even going into the fact that the King just pops up to propose marriage out of nowhere, with no grounding in politics or his own emotional issues or any other reason why he's there to propose; he's one of the most blatantly convenient plot devices ever, and it hurts to watch how cardboard this is. They might as well have a tall standee and a speaker box doing his lines for as little acting as this actor is called upon to do.

Well, as expected, Regina reacts poorly to this. In fact, she reacts by fleeing to the stables and seeking comfort in her lover's arms, as one does, though in this case more chastely than the phrase usually implies. It's meant to be touching, but it comes across as more boilerplate and for the sake of advancing the plot in the forms required by their pre-determined fairy tale than anything else. Hey look, more upholstery! We're robbed of what should be an entertainingly subversive marriage proposal wherein the woman proposes to the man by the fact that all of this is blander than bland. The pacing on this entire storyline is atrocious as we've gotten no earlier indication that Regina has a lover, that she was ever anything other than the Evil Queen we love to hate, and thus we have no investment in her as a good person. Lana Parilla does a good job with the hysterical desperation, but we've seen her as a sweet young woman for all of ten, fifteen minutes, and a horrible bitchqueen for over fifteen episodes, and it'd take far better writing than she's given to make the one weigh equally against the other. For the first redemption to come this far into the season is just absurd. Especially contrasted with Rumple's constant little hints that he's something other than a monster in places, mostly in his treatment of Henry. So, blah blah married off against her will let's run away and elope, insert usual objection of but you'll be poor and miserable. I'd complain about their underestimating the actual potential of upward mobility in medieval society, but better works than this have done the stereotypical a peasant is always a peasant crap. Besides, true love conquers all, right? So it should conquer their poverty and such? We don't get a chance to find out because saccharine proposal and kiss and truly awful background music and a wild Snow White appears! Just in time to freak out because this nice woman who was going to be her stepmom is kissing someone else! Which, given that she had no idea who Regina was or what Regina wanted her life to be, is actually understandable. Snow runs off as eight year olds do when confronted with adults doing inexplicably horrible things, Regina chases her into the next scene. It's decently lit and acted, and for all I complain about the costumes there's a nice quiet implication here in the similarity of their dresses of both of them being princesses as well, not royalty per se but princess protagonists of their own stories, which Regina is for the moment. And it's a credit to how inherently sweet and compassionate Snow is because her response isn't "But you're supposed to be my mother you'd be an awesome mother NO BE MY MOTHER", but rather "People should be with the ones they love" and "father will understand this." Well, the King might, but Regina's Mom won't. And, again, Snow groks this somehow. The promise here is pretty explicitly worded, so I can understand why Regina is furious later. That doesn't excuse her actions, however, and the show is really shitty about allowing there to be any separation between emotion and action. Which is one of the things that makes me loathe its messages so much, because that's a very childish thing to believe, that you have no control over yourself and feeling an emotion always leads directly to acting on it. So they agree to keep their secrets and everything seems fine and happy, which of course we know that's shortly to end. And they were forced to eat Robin's minstrels and there was much rejoicing. Yay.

Meanwhile Emma is all but chewing the edges of Henry's book in an effort to find answers, and HEY LOOK IT'S A LAMPSHADE. Thank you guys. Fucking finally. In which she's doubting all her vaunted ability to read people. Well, it's like this, Emma: when two realities love each other very much... er, wrong show. Overall, this is actually well scripted. It's a bit of a shock. It's simplistic conceptualization, but it's a good bit of dialogue to get Emma to a place where she needs to be to arrive at the conclusion she needs to arrive at, and it doesn't sound half as forced as most of the rest of the dialogue in this show. And once again, Jennifer Morrison acts up to the level of the person she's in a scene with, and Eion Bailey, for all that he makes a career out of playing dicks, is actually pretty skilled. I'm pretty sure there's an Easter egg on that paper that gets tossed around but I can't be arsed to look for it, I'm more focused on the part where August is the second biggest asshole in this show and also the second most interesting character. And then I'm facepalming over the fucking T(r)oll bridge. That, at least, I will give them as a ridiculous and moderately hilarious insertion of fairy tale tropes into our world. Again, it would help if there didn't seem to be some kind of Disney allusion quota, but that one's more generic and thus less grating. We get another lampshade about what kind of person/being August probably is, and the part where he knows about FTL, and we will be over here banging our heads against the wall of NO SERIOUSLY EMMA HOW LONG BEFORE YOU ADMIT IT. I know that there's sometimes some use to keeping a protag in the dark/in denial for a longass time, but this is just absurd. Clue achieved! I think without the godawful musical cues at the end of this scene going into the next one I would feel less like we were in a video game, gotta collect all the right tokens before you can move on to the next part of the quest, but as it is I'm just gonna sigh and go on.

Because then we get Henry being awesome. I love you Henry. That is exactly what I would have done at that age with radios and a secret infiltration mission. And still would do, really. I question Emma's inability to translate a really basic code like that from memory, but whatever. Hey look, Emma's doing illegal things in the name of her job again! TAKE A DRINK. Even though we haven't seen as many of those instances in the three eps we've done, it's a constant refrain through the series. If there was ever an episode for the title Fruit of the Poisonous Tree it would be ALL THE BITS WHERE EMMA BREAKS THE LAW IN THE NAME OF HER JOB. Dear fucking god. I mean, yes, she would still have gotten screwed by getting a warrant first, in all likelihood? But not necessarily. That tends to be a lot of paperwork, and Emma tends to make a lot of official sheriffing phone calls when she's not at the office, which would have left Sydney's bug completely screwed. I will also be over here giggling at August waggling his leather-glove-covered fingers at Emma when she tells him not to touch anything. Oh August. You're an ass, but at least you're a smartass. (Yes, I had to.) And, look. I know that Regina is always fucking with Emma's ability to do her job, but if Emma pretended very hard that she was upholding the law and waited for Regina to get sloppy it would be a much better tactic. Is all I'm saying. But nobody in this show can think in the long or even the medium term, so so much for that.

There are all kinds of things I can say about flowers and being gentle and not plucking things before their time, but so many, many people have said it before me. In this case, given that the writers and particularly those of this episode are about as subtle as a sack of bricks to the face, it probably is a comment on everything from virginity to the marriage bed. At once. Not that anyone's explicitly saying that Regina's prize commodity is her virginity in the show, so I'll say it out here! It doesn't even have to be real virginity (in fact it probably isn't), but the fact that she's as yet unwed means everyone pretends she is. Means Cora was saving up her daughter's virtue for "the right time," i.e. a prince at worst and a king at best. Let's all take a moment and go 'ew,' shall we? And then let's take a moment on how Snow jerks her hand back and looks apprehensive and worried the second Cora speaks; she's been here a couple of days and she's already taken the lesson to heart that this is not a woman to be crossed. Oh honey. Cora come here so I can punch you in the face. Snow doesn't look at Cora until Cora practically turns her, bodily, and openly describes Snow's fear. Snow doesn't warm to her immediately, remaining formal while Cora tries to win her over by praising Regina and her relationship in words that would be a lot sweeter if they were actually genuine. Instead we see that Cora's face is sort of frozen in this mask of fake-friendship. Cora pushes on the mother-daughter bonding aspect a bit harder while Snow stares fixedly ahead, then she starts pushing on the loss buttons, first her own feelings of loss projecting onto and segueing into Snow's loss of her own mother. Just in case we didn't get it the first two or three times that she's creepy, manipulative, and abusive. It works, and it's bog-standard because it works, but dear god. Right in the buttons, with almost mad-lib typical text. Pretty much the summation for this is the same as it has been for all the fairy tale land scenes in this episode: brilliant acting, shitty writing, passable directing. Oh, and Snow coughs up Regina's secret, of course, in case you hadn't figured out that that was the foregone conclusion from, well, the start of the episode. This is another hallmark of shitty writing; when you can see the plot laid out before you like a railroad track, that writer had damn well better have some good style to make brilliant scenery along the way. These writers? Not so much.

Back over to our world, where the costume designer is still having fun playing merry parallels with Emma and Regina's costumes. I have to say, this was clever the first couple eps, but now that trope's just kind of gotten overplayed. Yes. We get it. Emma and Regina (and Mary Margaret, when she's in a scene with them) are all connected. I promise there are ways that aren't costumes to make that point. But that would require you to have the slightest goddamn shred of faith in your directors to pull it off with blocking and camera angles, and we can't have THAT. Or the slightest bit of belief that your audience is anything but dunderheads. Again, we can't have that. I would like to reiterate my point from last scene in our world, which is that Emma could have done this without tipping Regina off and BEEN LEGAL ABOUT IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Bad cop no cookie. Even if she's planted evidence in the past for catching bail jumpers (and I wouldn't put it past her), she's smart enough to know how to do that. And do it properly. And so on and so forth, and if we had some explication of this before she gets thrown into Storybrooke, any intimation that she was ever a less-than-upstanding bail bondswoman? Sure. I could buy it. As it is, all the sudden illegal maneuvers (maybe more like gestures? ahem) just reads like lazy writing. Which it is. Anyway, the shovel's gone, Emma has some truly awful dialogue, Parilla chews some more scenery, it's just another day in Once.

To August's! It's okay, Emma, I would blame him too. I would blame him more if she'd gone to get a warrant, let him out of her sight for a slightly longer period of time right after the shovel business, and thus left him with more than... a night? Half a day? Chronology is so fucked up in this show that it's hard to tell, but it seems like the warrant was pretty much first thing the next morning. But, yeah, all it would take would be a phone call. Also I would like to pull a Carol Kane Princess Bride style LIIIIIIAAAR at August for all his protestations in this scene, even though he's not lying about this instance of betrayal. At least there's a little bit of continuity between Emma flailing over his lies and her flailing over her inability to figure out who's lying about what when with August earlier. It would be nice if we had a little more of that throughout the show. Protip, Emma: the answer is everyone all the time except Henry and maybe Archie.

This next scene, apart from the blatant costume parallels again, is really quite chilling and well played on the part of both actresses. I don't have a lot to say about it other than that; Regina is creepy and has absolute conviction in the validity of her actions; Mary Margaret has no idea what's going on and really does wish she could make it better, mostly for her own sake but also because she has some degree of empathy at all. It's a nice contrast between the two, in that regard.

Meanwhile, back in the barn of ill-thought-out badness! Regina and Daniel are running away together with... a knapsack full of stuff. Which is only to signify that they're running away together because really? Smart people would lay in more preparations. And maybe saddle a couple horses. I'm just saying. But hark! A watcher! This time it's the considerably nastier Cora instead of poor Snow. And BOOM goes the dark magic! Ominous music is ominous! Inexpensive special effects are a go! You know, thinking of special effects, yet another sign of how weak the scripts are is how often the characters have to resort to magic to do things like keep people where they are or send them away or what have you. By way of an example, Rumple gets all the good lines, all the good dialogue, and rarely has to resort to magic. When he resorts to physical violence, it's usually because he's just freaking pissed off. Cora, on the other hand, has to slam doors and tie Regina up to get her to stay still and listen. It's a sign of weakness of character, which if she were the manipulative bitch she's made out to be all the way down, she'd be as bad as Rumple. Anyway. Regina tries to reason with Cora, which obviously won't and doesn't work. Cora runs down the a checklist of Narcissistic Parents Say The Darndest Things and hits every fucking point. Seriously, that's what this reads as, and the fact that it's so chilling is a credit to the actress more than the writing. The so-called 'hope spot' isn't much of one because no one believes Cora's actually going to give up that easily. That's not the way the story's written, and at no point are we ready to believe that anything other than these events caused Regina to become the psychopathic control-freak she is now. So, the events must fall out as they were written from the start of the show! Oh, and the kissing again. Do we have to hear about the kissing? At least it's never explicitly stated that Regina, in her fucked up mental state, assumes that True Love's Kiss is going to fix Daniel, it's just one more nail in the coffin of Regina's last chance for redemption in FTL. Blah blah power, blah blah power is the only thing in life, blah blah never trust or rely on anyone, blah blah bitchcakes. It's all about Cora, just as it's all about Regina later.

I will say this, Lana Parilla does do a good slowly icing over. We have disbelief and grief, a commercial break, and then she looks like she's trying to be numb and hold it all together and mostly succeeding. Snow comes up and gushes at her, complete with Yet Another Disney Reference (take a drink!). Okay, less a Disney reference and more a wholesale fairy tale reference that sounds woefully out of place, even more so for all the allusions they've hammered into the plot with not a care for where or how they might fit. Regina tries to be as kind to Snow as she can but she's clearly disassociating to cope with Daniel's death and her mother's ... whatever you want to call that. Horror, homicide, atrocity. Atrocity is a good word. Right up until Snow babbles on about how happy Regina will be with Daniel because, poor girl, of course Regina getting all dressed up and beautiful must be for a happy occasion like a wedding to the man she loves. Mention of Daniel's name shakes Regina out of her dissociative state, and between that and Snow saying she knew Cora would let them get married because all Cora wants is her daughter's happiness (aheh. aheheh. Aheheheh.) she figures it out pretty quick. She's shocked, hurt, and angry, as one might be in her situation, and Snow picks up on it pretty quick, as a child as sensitive as she's been painted would, and there's a moment of tension as Snow asks if she's mad. Regina wrestles it down and plasters on a face we've seen before, hi Evil Queen! Only with this there's much more Evil than Queen because she hasn't quite learned to hide her hostility yet. Still, she does a good enough job for Snow (heh, snow job?) to believe that her love for Daniel, which she'd so earnestly pled for only a couple nights ago, wasn't real, and that Regina really does want to marry Snow's father and be a family with her. Aww. That's... touchingly naive, kiddo. Really. It's even more heartbreaking when Snow says they're both going to love it there and she's the only one who's actually happy. Oh honey. Both of you.

Cora, of course, compliments Regina on her queenly mask. Which Regina keeps on as she looks like she wants to bite her mother's throat out. A couple more bits of praise and something clicks for Regina, whereby she figures out that her mother is the one who put the burr under Snow's saddle, literal or magical. Cora, dear, a hint, if you're going to lie, control your damn blink rate with the rest of your face. No one believes her when she claims not to know what Regina is talking about, and Regina stalks off to the Evil Queen leitmotif muttering about how she should have let Snow die on that horse. I should care more about this, but I can't bring myself to; for all that both actresses sell their lines well, there's nothing here to latch onto.

From temper tantrum to Regina's supposed ultimate triumph! We now know, of course, what that ring is, and it seems as if she still loves Daniel. Or whatever passes for love, with Regina. I will also note that it's pretty common for an abuse victim to blame the immediate person at fault for bringing their abuser's wrath down, rather than the abuser for being abusive. (And now abuse and all its variants no longer looks like a word.) She can't retaliate against Cora, has no power over her, and as such takes it out on Snow as the best substitute. Where I run into problems is: nobody tried to fix this between this ep and Regina getting magic? Nobody bothered to take this broken young queen in hand and try to explain that she's learned a shitty way of relating to the world but there are others? We get hints of it from time to time, and I realize that there are never therapists in fairy tales, but fuck's sake. This would be a more interesting story if Regina had had chances that we knew about already, albeit it out of context, and seen her reject them. I can live with a villain who chooses evil for its own sake as long as that's a conscious decision. Sydney offering her an out doesn't count because it's hard to figure out if they wrote a brain into the Genie character, or a spine, or any other useful body part. Really, at this point I just want to smack all of the supposed protagonists and find out where the fuck any of the older ones were when the shit with Cora was going down.

Anyway, we go back to the police station where Mary Margaret is being led away in handcuffs for, as near as I can tell, the drama of it all. Nobody leaves Storybrooke, so we've got her plus the guards as casualties of the invisible line if they get out, and frankly they've had shit for demonstrating that there are even lines of communication outside of town. So I don't know why we keep getting implications that anything outside Storybrooke exists when the writers ignore it when it's not convenient to their plot. Oh wait, I just answered my own question, didn't I. Sigh. Requisite yelling at Gold time and double-speak from him is a go! Gold, put your fangs away, nobody wants your magic. And then it's the requisite I AM SO ANGRY EMMA SMASH scene which, of course, dramatically reveals the bug we knew was there from the second Sydney turned up. Really, I don't know what she expected. This is also incredibly shoddy writing; again with the railroad tracks which MUST lead to the most obvious place. I'm just too damn tired of this kind of writing to get into detail on how many different ways they could have screwed with our expectations for any of the episodes we've done. Someone could have bumped the vase and knocked it off the desk. (Bonus points if it had been Regina.) Emma could have had the brains to get suspicious of it in the first place and laid a false trail for Sydney. Anything would have been better than this. As we had the requisite Emma Hulkout, so we must now have the requisite apology to August. Yay! Sigh. Whose defenses are now back up. Yes, Emma, you have been fucking up. No, you should not be trusting August. Please don't trust August, in fact. Whatever reconciliation they were going to have is interrupted by Ruby shrieking, the way you do if you've just found a body in the alley. Oh look, Kathryn was never dead and Gold's dumped her in the alley for people to find! I'd hold up the jar except this doesn't even merit it.

And that, folks, was all we wrote for this series. We promise never to inflict our opinions of a show we wholly dislike on you again.


  1. Re: no one fixing Regina after the Daniel incident.

    No one gets an opportunity to, really. From what we're shown, the only ones who know the truth of Daniel's death-- or, more accurately, who know about Daniel at all-- are Cora, Regina, Rumple, (probably) Henry Sr., and Snow. (Who apparently doesn't find out until years later on the day Regina gives her the poisoned apple, which makes no sense but whatever.) With the exception of Snow, none of those people had Regina's best interests at heart-- even Regina's father tries to coax her to put on a happy face and bow to her mother's wishes after Regina confesses that she can't bear the thought of marrying the king.

    Rumple is the only one who APPEARS to want her happiness, and more importantly the only one since Daniel who believes in her. He's just manipulating her of course, something Regina suspects early on but ultimately ignores because the powers he's offering her mean that she'll have control of her life for the first time, and that's a deal that's too good to pass up no matter the consequences. The time for someone to convince her that waging war against a ten year old MIGHT be a bad idea would have been before she started training with Rumple. After that, though, she became too obsessed with seizing her version of Happily Ever After to hear reason.

    1. That's... interesting. It doesn't make me think any better of K&H as writers, in fact it kind of detracts from my opinion of their dubious skills, but it's interesting! And good to know.

      I think at this point the overall... something. The pacing and chronology is really awkward, depending on what message they were trying to send as far as Regina's supervillain-ness. If they'd put all THAT information in the first season with Regina's Start of Darkness, we could have had a less unilaterally evil villain. If they'd left out Regina's Start of Darkness until the second season with all this about Snow and Rumple and her father, we could have had an Evil Villain of Evil in one distinct block and then started working on the turn to make her more sympathetic and human in the second distinct block/season.

      (A says "Hiding shit from the viewers just to go HAHA I KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON'T KNOW is juvenile at best and destroys your story at worst.")

      ... actually, thinking about it, if we HAD had that chronology straightened out better it could have added a whole other element of tragedy to it, that no one cared about her enough to try to fix her.

    2. That's the main complaint people have with Regina is S2-- the back story we're getting on her isn't bad, but it's poorly placed. They invested so much energy in portraying Regina as 100% Evil in S1 that they now need to overcompensate in order to make her sympathetic. I agree that they either needed to put her back story entirely in this season (to go along with the idea that with the breaking of the curse she's an ordinary woman again, and now we can explore what turned her from ordinary woman to Evil Queen in the first place) or they needed to expand on it more in S1.

      Knowing what we know now about the relationship between Regina and Rumple, I think that the show could have laid the foundations for both of their redemption arcs in S1, and dedicated S2 to seeing whether or not they were capable of pursuing that redemption. As it stands now, though, this season has been almost 100% about Regina's redemption arc; all of the development Rumple got in S1 has been thrown by the wayside in favor of portraying him as the REAL reason why Regina's so evil. His entire character arc has pretty much stalled besides a few token scenes with him and Belle. It's frustrating, because if K&H had balanced the two stories better they could have had a really strong interplay between them this season, which would have been great given how deeply intertwined their lives have proven to be.