Sunday, December 16, 2012

ABC's Once Upon a Time Season II: A Review

It seems a long time ago since Emma came to the town of Storybrooke and befriended the sweet school teacher, Mary Margaret, and came head to head with Mayor Regina a.k.a. the Evil Queen.  A lot has changed since then!

First of all, there's a new villain in town: Captain Hook. Or is he a villain? He certainly seemed to fool us in the "Jack and the Beanstalk" episode where he and Emma forged an interesting relationship in their pursuit of the magic compass to help them find a portal back to Storybrooke. Captain Hook was definitely a charmer in true pirate fashion. I found it amusing that he was chained to face a giant "beast" and abandoned by a dame by the name of Swann -- sound familiar, Pirates of the Caribbean fans?  But I missed the fabulous red coat and the captain's hat, and I was disappointed that they toyed with the very heart of Hook's essence: his rivalry with Peter Pan! In the original story, Pan cut off Hook's hand and fed it to the crocodile, whereupon Hook swore vengeance upon Pan. The writers supplanted Pan with Rumplestiltskin. I would have preferred if the writers could have incorporated Hook without distorting J. M. Barrie's plot line so much. :-(

We definitely got to see a different side of Regina for the first half of this season.  While I do miss the fabulous evil Regina, I'm also enjoying seeing her attempt to redeem herself for Henry.  We also got to see a more vulnerable side of her in the fairy tale world, as well as her fall from grace through her tutelage under Rumplestiltskin. I'm curious if this path towards redemption is going to be a permanent one or if Regina is going to relapse to her evil self?  Either way, I do appreciate the complexity of her character. (Side note: why can't Regina use her magic for good instead of a total magic abstinence? Food for thought.)
Josh Dallas as David/Prince Charming
and Jared Gilmore as Henry

Perhaps Cora is going to play the new fabulous evil queen.  She certainly plays the evil part awfully well, but I still think Regina does a better job at making evil look great. Speaking of Cora, I'm sure I wasn't the only one that that called her being the Queen of Hearts. I thought that was fun.  It was interesting to see the history between her and Hook, as well as the history between Hook and Regina.

A particular character that really grew on me this season was David a.k.a. Prince Charming. I detested his character in the real world in Season #1, this weakling who couldn't be faithful to either Catherine or Mary Margaret/Snow White.  At the beginning of Season #2, he was still rather annoying -- especially with his threat to destroy Regina. Of course she deserves it, but a noble prince possesses mercy as well as justice. But we saw him become the leader he was in the fairy tale world, a leader worthy of respect! He knows his weaknesses and uses them to help him become a better person ("We Are Both"). It was great seeing him be a dad to Henry as well!

I'm hoping that the characters of Mulan and Aurora will be fleshed out a bit more in the second half of the season. I was not impressed with them for the majority of the first season. Mulan was a royal stick in the mud, even if she's a good fighter, and Aurora was just rather plain in character. She finally showed some spunk in the last episode. However, the two girls make an interesting duo if they follow through this plan to attempt to save Prince Philip. I have hopes that both characters will become more likeable as the season progresses.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Meghan Ory
as Snow White and Rose Red

It was amusing to hear Mary Margaret ask for some quality time with Emma in the first episode of the second season, and *boom* wish granted -- they both were landed back in fairyland. Plenty of time for mother-daughter bonding while trying to get back to their loved ones. It was definitely a teary moment for me when Snow White and company returned to the room where Emma was born: the queen's curse destroyed so many lives and dreams. On the other end, it was refreshing to see the charming school teacher return to the capable fighter. Also, I found it amusing that Snow and Emma almost reversed roles for a while. Emma is the one usually protecting the sweet and naive Mary Margaret, but in the fairy tale world Emma is the inexperienced one whom Snow has to protect.

Speaking of Snow, that brings me to the sisterhood forged between Snow and Red. I find it funny that the skanky Ruby is a bit more conservative in her dress this season.  Perhaps they are trying to make the show a bit more family friendly? :-/ Not that I'm complaining! I wish Gus hadn't died, he was precious. I liked the inclusion of Lancelot, even for one episode.  I wish I could have seen more of him -- he quoted Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott"!

Learning more about Emma's past was insightful, and even seeing August for a few minutes was fantastic.  It was nice to know that Emma's boyfriend wasn't a terrible person, even if he appeared to be one.  That will certainly be an interesting reunion, if I may predict the reunion of Emma and ex-boyfriend.  I miss August's character though and I hope he receives more screen time for the second half of the season.

I was pleased to see more of Belle this season. She's such a plucky dame, and she doesn't put up with nonsense. I appreciated the reference to the traditional Disney Beauty and the Beast when Mr. Gold gave her the library.

I'm not sure what I think about how many literary worlds the writers are incorporating into the tv series.  It's one thing to mix Alice and Wonderland and Grimm Fairy Tales: they're both magic. It's another thing to add in science fiction worlds, namely Frankenstein through Dr. Whale.  The writers have expressed the desire to branch into even more worlds with reference to shoes that serve as a portal (Oz!).  While a fun idea, I'm not sure if it'll work. There's so much to cover and I think it would be very easy for things to get out of hand.

To conclude, I'd say that I was definitely happier with the first half of the second season, mainly b/c there's no more strange "affairs" between Charming and Snow White. I still think that Rumplestiltskin and Regina are the best actors in the series. I hope to see more August in the second season, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the confrontation between Hook and Mr. Gold. Will Mr. Gold finally show some courage? Will he ever have the chance to find his son? Will Prince Charming and Snow White finally be able to spend some time together?  Will Regina continue on the path to redemption? We'll find out soon enough!

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