Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NEW!: Once Upon a Time 1:7 - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Overall Rating: 9.0

Whoa!  Dude....naaaawwww....Regina moves from evil to holy s*** OMGWTFBBQ!! evil...and did this story take a dramatic turn all of a sudden.

Plot Synopsis:

Wikipedia has a good summary of the freaky events of this week here, but don't read it til you watch, because THIS one shouldn't be spoiled!

The Skinny:

Watching this episode was an emotional roller coaster for me...first I was excited for the flashback reveal, then I desperately wanted to HATE the episode for having the lead character say that one night stands were nothing to feel guilty about, then I saw where they were actually going with the story...or thought I did (and was shocked and delighted to be proven wrong), then I (not quite literally) crapped my pants when they busted out the big reveal at the end.  WOW...they took the curse way WAY more literally than I ever imagined they would.  You mean to tell me the Mayor/Queen actually has the hearts of fairy tale characters in her father's crypt?  The still-beating magical!?!

Pardon the degeneration of my speech for a moment, but I thought I had this show figured out.  I rather liked the idea that real world problems in this sad little town could be looked at as mirror images of a fairy tale world with which we are all already familiar.  The show could have been the writers' attempt to make us see the overly obvious morals and cardboard characters of fairy tale lore in a whole new light with added depth.  For that to work, I expected the real world to play by real world rules, other than the mere existence of the curse and the unreal backgrounds of the characters.  I thought the happy endings would be made real when they were restored by human means, while the fairy tale world was filled with magic.  I thought for sure that inside Regina's crypt, the Huntsman would find his heart in a metaphorical sense...that he would break his bond with Regina (which he did) in a human way...and that Regina, in a human way, would destroy him for it.  The crypt could have, for example, contained a vault filled with various types of poison or paperwork she could use to destroy those in her thrall the old fashioned way.  But no!  We got...a magical heart-thingy that when crushed would literally kill you.  I think we went a leeeeeetle bit too far down the tracks on the literal express and straight on past common sense into WTF junction.

Now, the argument could be made that the evil queen, in the fairy tale world, would want to set up a system within her curse where she would maintain control over those she'd enslaved.  And I would agree, except that everything magical seems to have been removed from the real world (other than the time-stopping and the missing birds and insects and the border through which no one can cross lest bad things befall them)...why would her method of enslavement not take on Earthly form too?  Can she do other kinds of magic?  Or just the ones that are convenient to the plot?

And yet...despite that very real objection to this was friggin' AWESOME.

The whole conversation between Snow White and Emma that I wanted to despise at first makes complete sense now from a moral perspective.  Snow was right...Emma has that fundamentally broken philosophy about sex and relationships because she is damaged and trying to run from that fact.  The same is true of the Huntsman until he finds his place in the world (and then dies to keep it).  It now seems to me that they were making a real-world argument against the kind of meaningless sex that now pervades our culture.  And that is just item one on a list of reasons to love this episode from the standpoint of its message.  Other reasons include:

  1. Regina's primary weakness as a character...the reason she went evil in the first place and now continues to fall further and further into darkness and that she wants to own her entire world.  Literally.  Not even in the Hitler tradition of ruling aspirations, she literally wants to have direct possession of everything she fancies.  From the title of "fairest of them all" to a string of boy toys to possess.  You see it when Graham comes to her at night and kisses her passionately (from confusion)...her first reaction to this apparent show of emotion is disgust, followed by amusement, and then power...and nowhere in there is a human emotion like compassion.  All it is to power.  And the show seems to take great pains to show just how impossible it is to truly own another human being.
  2. The show is moving us away from Emma's (and our own) skepticism about the reality and direct tangibility of the curse and into a phase where Emma will now fight the queen directly because she is forced to believe everything her son tells her about Regina's total lack of real love for him, if not every literal word about the curse.
  3. The way in which Regina's real-world evil (right up until the aforementioned heart-crushing shocker at the end) is expressed is filled with all of the manipulative, self-serving faux-emotionalism of evil-doers in the real world (the one outside this silly TV show, I mean. :) ).  She tries everything here to keep Graham.  She tries to intimidate Emma, she tries to show fake compassion for him, she tries back-handed meddling, she even tries getting violent with Emma and ordering Graham around like he's a lost child.  If you're unwary, you might misread any of these things as real caring...some sign that Regina is not beyond redemption.  But a skilled student of human nature can see the deception and peel back the layers covering the devilish psychopath beneath.  Watching all of those layers in one episode makes me skin crawl.  Which is awesome.
Anyway...despite the flaw in the writing...and it will be hard to convince me it's not a flaw...this episode rises to the feature level with phenomenal acting and an out-of-this-world message about the value of living virtuously and taking a more difficult road if it means being free.

Writing: 7.5

I have to ding the script for its heavy-handed was rocking along at feature-level right up until the end.

Acting: 9.5

Even some of the regular cast that put in a lot of over-the-top performances before this week were outstanding.  Regina continues to steal the show...her brand of evil is chilling to the bone.

Message: 10.0

See above...I feel very comforted about the moral direction of this franchise.  Bravo!

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