Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What-the-Flying-Fairy-Dust Was THAT! - ABC's ONCE Upon a Time S.3 Finale

While live tweeting during the show, I made it clear the issue I had with the story decision surrounding Neal's death. Now at the end of the season I continue my disappointment with the downward spiral of some bad story decision making. The ending of the finale was like the thick layer of crappy store-bought icing on the cake. Strap in folks! I will first dissect the many things going wrong, but I will still share the few things they got right at the end. Here I go...

First on the menu, the commercialism. Wow... I mean it was more than just the shameless plugs of the Mickey plush doll at the beginning of "Snow Drifts" or the timing of using Princess Leia as a name... yeah very subtle Disney now that you own Star Wars and episode 7 is right around the corner. But that wasn't the problem ultimately, the problem is the greed is really starting to show.

Because of social media being a link between fans and creators, TV creators are now catering to their fanbases instead of catering to their story. This is huge mistake. Story comes first, PERIOD, end of discussion. However, due to the pressure to have high ratings and make money, we are seeing good shows being cancelled left and right. ABC has taken the low road by kowtowing to what viewers might want to see. Captain Swan is a HUGE product of fangirling tweets and facebook comments. I mean why give Neal a half-assed death and knock him out of the picture if not to create a path for the pirate to swoop in and steal the girl? As I explained in my previous post, Neal's death was a rushed, sloppy mess and a pathetic waste of a fantastic character who was not done telling his story. Now he's reduced to being (as my friend Jenny puts it) Emma's personal "Yoda" guiding her in flashbacks. These moments are so sweet though, and because of that it's even more infuriating. His character deserved better, much better, and so does the story.

But Neal wasn't alone, the very last clip of Elsa coming into Storybrooke is another steaming pile of evidence that it's all about the Benjamins. Frozen was an insanely popular film. While I personally don't think it's quite as amazing as everyone else does in comparison to other Disney films, I do still love it. However, it feels completely forced and out of nowhere to suddenly have Elsa be a part of this story. To me, it feels like they are feeding off the leftover fat from Frozen's popularity. The natural flow of the ONCE story doesn't have room for Elsa yet. There are still so many undiscovered and underdeveloped villains to work with, why suddenly bring in Frozen when the theater seats still have butt marks on them from people who just saw the film? It's too soon! But it's also guaranteed viewership because of the roaring fan base and therefore $$$ cha-ching. (I suddenly hear Abbas "Money, Money, Money" playing in my head).

I don't have much hope of Elsa being a very deep or memorable part of the story. My proof? Zelena.

Zelena was unfortunate. Not that her place and her story wasn't interesting, but that it was so much so that the fact it went underdeveloped and rushed through ruined any potential of greatness it might have had. Regina having a sister is a HUGE deal, yet it always felt smaller than it actually was and very soap opera-esque. Rather than really take off this amazing concept of Regina having a sister and this witch's downfall being envy and jealousy, they made it into a melodrama, girl fight fit for a day at the Kardashian home.

There was so much left unexplored with Zelena. Unlike the Peter Pan and Neverland story the first half of season 3, which was incredibly clever, twisted, and interesting, Zelena's story ended up being just a gimmick to get OZ somehow into the world of ONCE. The entire finale she was barely alluded too, and by the end you totally forget about her. It goes without saying, but that is not good storytelling, not the way we know this show is capable of doing. I heard a lot of rumors that fans didn't like her, but who cares! If this is your story, you tell it the way you originally intend, don't worry about appeasing your "fans."

Additionally, since when did ONCE become LOST? I know they have a similar presentation structure as both come from writers from the same teams, but ONCE is not LOST! They aren't even close, so stop trying to use the same gimmicks to keep viewers, it has destroyed everything! I loved LOST, but they made some pretty obnoxious mistakes in that show and it seems the ONCE is following suit.

Mistake #1: Cheap Deaths

We already covered this regarding Neal, so no need to explain again, it's obvious.

Mistake #2: Using love triangles as method to keep a story "interesting."

I cannot express with enough words how much I hate love triangles and what wretched plot devices they make. Especially in cases like LOST and now ONCE where they are only thrown in as an effort to keep people watching by throwing a wrench into relationships.

Now granted, love triangles CAN happen in "real life" and I am not naive enough to believe they don't. However, they do not happen at the level that television produces them where they seem to come flying of the conveyor belt of the plot.

I like Hook and I like Emma APART, but I don't like Captain Swan at all. I find it incredibly forced and contrived, but the real atrocity done here with romantic relationships happened to my beloved Outlaw Queen. Regina's redemption and story arc was one of the best things about this third season. She rocks my socks, and FINALLY we got to see her have a shot at a happy ending with her destined True Love, Robin Hood. Their relationship represented and symbolized so much, but especially themes like: guarding your heart, right timing, and second chances. They have one of the hottest romances I've ever seen, but it's also one of the most beautiful because of what they mean to each other, it's so much deeper than meets the eye.

So then why, for the love of heaven, WHY did they have to go an ruin it by going... "Surprise! Emma brought back Robin's wife from the past who would have died but they ruined the timeline and saved her, so here she is!" REALLY? An insanely forced love triangle was the best you could do to give Regina and Robin some battles to overcome? Personally, I waited excitedly all season for them to get together, they finally do, but then this happens and it completely destroys the payoff. It also reverts Regina's character back to the way she was with hating Snow White for destroying her happiness, now it's going to be with Emma... been there, done that.

Love isn't easy, duh, but there has to be at least a dozen more clever ways to give Regina and Robin something to work through than to bring back his "dead" wife to throw a wrench into things. Especially because Regina already went through this with her first love she lost. It's almost identical. It totally cheapens the development of her and Robin and the meaning of their new life and second chance. Additionally, we already went through this true love struggle in the first season with Mary Margaret, David, and Kathryn. Again...been there, done that. This move does little more than frustrate the audience with it's pointlessness. I can bear Captain Swan for now (though I don't think it will last) but I cannot bear what has been done to Outlaw Queen. One of the worst mistakes this show has ever made.

Mistake # 3: Making Characters Take 180 Degree Turns for No Reason

Speaking of cheapened developments, what the heck was that with Rumple's proposal to Belle? That was horrible! Finally we get the proposal we've been waiting for from one of my favorite love stories ever, and it's drenched with lies and deception. Rumple is a changed man, everything he went through with Pan should have re-birthed him into the new person he was becoming. Instead, we find him making a choice that sets his character back lightyears in development. I'm sorry, did you mean to completely destroy everything you've built, ONCE writers? Because that's how it looks from here. It made absolutely no sense. Rumple reverted before he had a chance to even relish in his redemption. STUPID.

But yet here we are finally getting to witness the wedding of Belle and Rumple. Their vows are just exquisite, every word brought me to tears, but even moreso the tears of knowing they are setting out on their life together with this huge lie underneath their feet that one day will trip them. It was just another bad story move. We were finally getting to a good place with Rumple, but instead being forced to endure it drag out even longer simply to keep things "interesting." It' isn't a good enough reason, dang it!

So basically, season 4 has A LOT of fixing and explaining to do, but at this point, I am losing some of my hope. Things like Neal can obviously not be undone. But what amazes me is that this is a show based solely on fairy tales. They've barely hit all the characters and stories they could dive into, their pool of ideas and is boundless, yet they are turning to overused, ordinary television plot devices to keep the story interesting? I can't fathom that! Rather than reverting the story and it's people backward, move them forward by giving them new challenges to overcome, not recycled challenges that ultimately belong on soap operas. I know in my heart that these creators have it in them to blow us away by tapping into that pool of endless fairy tale possibilities. Please, please start doing that and stop using conventional methods of contemporary television. This story is better than that!

Okay I've been scathing enough for now, I will go on to say there were some completely awesome moments and messages in this messy second half of season three. Namely, The Charming family. I really loved Emma's journey to finding home and to finally feeling like she is truly apart of this fairy tale world.

The bond that holds this whole show together is Snow, David, their children, and their legacy. They symbolism of family holding together through literally every evil storm is so beautiful. Of course in playing with time, their daughter Emma has missed out on growing up with them and being a part of their fairy tale world, her REAL world.

Emma is definitely her father's daughter.
I love the dynamic of the actors so much. Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin have been able to pull off being the parents of someone who at the time they meet her is the same age. Especially Josh Dallas, his fatherly presence is so perfect. One of my favorite scenes was his dream he had about Emma. Even though it ended up being sad, the way his face lit up seeing her in her ball gown and him saying "This is what I always wanted for you." I mean come on, who wasn't choking up? Then they shared a beautiful father/daughter dance. The feelings between this family are so believable, which is an amazing accomplishment considering they are fairy tales characters.

When Charming and Snow finally get a chance to have a second child and get to truly experience parenthood since their first experience was taken from them, things blossom even more gloriously. They name their son Neal to honor the father of their grandchild who was a hero. It's a beautiful moment.

But leading up to that, I thought it was clever that Emma ended up going through Zelena's time portal to the moment her parents met. She and Hook mess up a few things, but she gets to witness Snow and Charming coming together and see them fall in love. Like Hook tells her when she begins to cry, "It's okay Swan, not many people get the chance to see their parents fall in love." It is at this point that Emma realizes she is a part of their world 100% and she can't wait to go back to tell her parents how much she loves and misses them. This whole thing really got the waterworks going, it was wonderful. Even in the midst of all these mistakes, ONCE remains true to it's roots of family and true love being the bonds that hold all things together.

Though I am sure Captain Swan shippers are ecstatic right now, are there any of you who had the same problems I did with the second half of season 3? It felt to me like the writers were drunk or something for this last half and it steered the show off course. I am a Oncer to the end, but season has been a true trial for my hope in the show.


  1. "Rather than reverting the story and its people backward, move them forward by giving them new challenges to overcome, not recycled challenges that ultimately belong on soap operas."

    This. Exactly.

    1. Thank you! I truly believe that is what stands between a good show and a GREAT show. Thanks for reading and commenting. :-)

  2. Hmm.... I loved the finale. But Once is literally the only television show I watch (besides Big Bang Theory, but that's entirely different), so I can't compare it to much else.
    I definitely ship Emma and Hook. I've been rooting for Hook for a long time (since the Jack and the Beanstalk episode). However, I agree with you about Neal. Despite the fact that I wanted Hook to be with Emma, I didn't think they needed to hastily KILL Neal in order to do it.

    I'm also a hardcore Elsa fan, so I'm ecstatic that she's going to be on the show. (Plus The Snow Queen has been my favorite fairy tale since I was small.) However, I am very worried about it. Since it is so soon I feel that Elsa's character will be underdeveloped and shallow. I'm looking forward to seeing how they will bring her in, and I desperately hope I won't be disappointed.

    "If this is your story, you tell it the way you originally intend, don't worry about appeasing your "fans.""
    This is the only thing I didn't agree with. From a business standpoint, not pleasing your fans would be a terrible idea. They're the ones keeping the show going. It's different with novels. You can write whatever you want whether people read it or not. But if your fans stop watching your show, then it might get canceled, and it won't continue at all.

    Sorry for such a long comment. I've just had quite a few thoughts about this finale as well, and haven't actually written any of them down yet.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I too am worried about Elsa because its so soon and they totally didn't develop Zelena and I feel like Elsa will be Zelena the sequel. Personally, I want Jafar, he was a freaking amazing villain in Wonderland!

    2. Beanstalk episode laid down - Hook/Emma foundation, past v present. You dont give Emma a romantic centred episode to and see her on a journey with Hook, and she feels something to make her think of last time she felt something and got burnt and left by a person she loved and trusted. Hook was always going to be present/future from that episode.

      Neal and Emma showned us what happened in one episode, how she got her walls and she ended in prison coz one man was a coward and didnt choose her

  3. I agree with you 100%. It's so nice to see someone who feels the same! I am an avid Oncer, but I'm really disappointed into where things will lead. I think that it is WAY too soon for Frozen, and I don't see it flowing well with the story at all. The Regina/Robin thing is just tragic and I don't see any good coming out of it. Regina being mad at Emma?? Really? That is totally unnecessary repetition. And the Rumbelle wedding and proposal was very disappointing, because it's something we have been waiting and hoping for and I believe that they really just checked the block with it. Why didn't they give it more time, rather than simply throwing it in there. This show was so refreshing compared to a lot of shows out there because it was creative and different. And it really fleshed out these characters like we've never seen them. Not only was it clever and entertaining, but it also had a lot of depth.

    To be honest, I am not at all okay with Captain Swan. It is the most forced relationship, and how is Emma all of a sudden in love with Hook?? When she has been pushing him away? Are we really supposed to go with the cliche playing-hard-to-get story? To me, she was simply not interested. Also, Hook has not completely changed. He finally did a heroic thing, but I don't consider him a hero. He should be changing for MORE than just Emma. She can inspire change, but not be the sole reason. We saw how changing FOR someone worked out when he returned to the Enchanted Forest... He reverted right back. Are they spreading the message that because someone is so attractive and pushy that the girl will eventually give in?? It's total fan pandering.

    To me, Emma and Neal was a real love story. It had great development and would have continued to be one of the best storylines on the show. That's the best part about tv, which is that you get to see characters and relationships grow, and they take time. Neal's character had SO much potential! Way more than a certain handless pirate. He had connections with his father, his son, obviously Emma, and even with Belle and Hook... So WHY kill him off?? The reason why: Emma would have NEVER gone near Hook if Neal was still alive because she was in love with him. It's so aggravating that I will never see their story become anything... And that flashback was proof of how amazing they are together. Neal was the one who taught her about home and also how to escape jail. He really helped her more than Hook did during their trip to the past. Emma and Neal were a modern fairytale amidst the recreated characters.

    I often accept the creators decisions and have hope that they did it for a good reason. Sadly, I have less hope about what they did in the end... In that ending, they kind of lost their depth. Of course, I am not including the Charmings, who have remained the core of the show. The reason I fell in love with this show are for the scenes like when Charming brings back baby Neal to the hospital room and Emma and Henry meet him. And also, Emma in the Enchanted Forest watching her parents fall in love. I really liked that idea and despite Captain Swan, I still love Emma's character. What I really love is her relationship with her family. It is beautiful. And I always forget that Ginny and Josh are the same age because they play Emma's parents so well! The Charmings are really what will draw me to watch season 4.

    Sorry. This is a really long response. I just have a lot of passion for this show and good characters and storytelling.

    1. And I agree with YOU 100%! Glad to see someone is on the same page too.

      Captain Swan is a forced and contrived relationship, Neal was her true love, they ruined the Rumpbelle proposal, they ruined Outlaw Queen. What you said about CS is totally true too. This whole time Emma was like rigid and awkward around Hook, it feels like they just made her fall for him to appease the fans. To me, Emma is too smart to fall in love with a guy like Hook haha. Also, soon Hook will realize he can't live the life Emma wants. His heart is for the sea and he likes constant change, Emma likes consistency, so that is why I said I don't see it lasting very long. I always felt like Ariel was the right choice for Hook and in the Jolly Roger episode it couldn't have been more clear. Plus Prince Eric is completely 2D and dull!

      Anyway, thanks for commenting. I am with you too and I also have a lot of passion and love for the show. If I didn't, I wouldn't be so upset in the first place hehe.

    2. Neal told her the concept of home but he never brought her home, HE LEFT HER, coz he was running from his dad!!! And it was all Henry who found her and brought her home , and same way as Henry,. Hook did!

      Neal left her and never came back, if Neal was it for Emma, it would of been done differently and he would of FOUND her and came back, you know this show that says you find them if you love them. Neal NEVER did,. their scene in the finale wasnt romantic, their visualisation was with Emma behind bars, when he is opening up a playfair, and sitting on a ride, with chains around them...... innocence, but visual aspect was that, and with Emma closed behind bars and chains. HE NEVER CAME BACK!!!!

  4. Unrelated, but I loved your piece on X-Men: First Class a while back. I personally enjoy taking whatever inspiration there is from a film or story and applying it to living. That said, you muuuuuuuuust do one on Days of Future Past!

    1. Thank you so much Richard! That post was actually my highest viewed post too of all time on my blog too. ;-) I am so excited because I am finally seeing Days of Future Past tomorrow and I WILL be doing a post on it. Stay tuned!

  5. Neal dying imo was always going to happen, and no Neal wasnt Emma's true love. Coz you dont do what Neal did to her and give her such issues, there hasnt been one instance where Emma said she wanted him back, she wanted to move forward. Emma was never ever was going to be right with Neal, that was burnt long time back, and Neal was a plot device.

    As for Hook and Emma, she always was attracted to him, the whole point of her pushing him away was coz she was heartbroken after the whole Walsh debacle... she just didnt think she was worth it, or have anyone who puts her first and supports her. And thats the thing, she was pushing him away so she didnt have to deal with her feelings coz she was always thinking well im gonna go back to New York the whole way through. There is one man who has put her first and came back to her always, and who also didnt move on and also couldnt go back to being a pirate - HOOK, and traded his home aka his ship for her, that indication was laid in the season 3b episode, when Henry foreshadowed he wants to be with you... us and he wants us to be his home,