Monday, October 13, 2014

No Escape From the Storm

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time 4.03 "Rocky Road" - Spoilers!

...and everything was going so well, too.

I said this over and over during the summer hiatus - especially when the angst over Marian came up from the Outlaw Queen ship. Conflict creates drama and drama creates interesting characters and interesting characters create good stories. And there was no way that Regina and Robin Hood weren't going to be together at the end of the day. It’s all going to be fine eventually. There are just going to be some hiccups and trials along the way.

So, why am I having a hard time accepting this fact when it’s my ship that’s heading for stormy seas?

(there are so many puns in that sentence, I don’t have time to dissect them all)

On the surface, things are going pretty all right for Hook and Emma. I mean, in the last four episodes (including the Season 3 finale), they've gone from “Will they, won’t they?” to kissing every other episode and cuddling after near-death experiences and killing the entire Captain Swan fandom in the process (but it hurts so good!) Neither of them are really good at talking about their feelings and being particularly mushy and gooey around each other (that’s Snow and Charming’s thing), but by their actions - yeah, they’re crazy about each other. And that’s not going anywhere any time soon.

But because good things don’t last long - something’s gotta go to hell soon. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And, like so many things that go to hell in Once Upon a Time, I’m blaming Rumple (mostly).

Never Smile at a Crocodile

The trouble gets started early when Emma, Elsa, and Hook are in the pawn shop asking Rumple if he remembers trapped Elsa in that urn from his vault. Rumple denies it, which, of course the bastard’s lying. He only tells the truth when it suits him. Even worse, the jackass uses Belle - the woman that he claims he loves - to “prove” that he’s telling the truth. And Hook - yeah he’s not buying it.

I’ll admit, I kind of wasn't complete on board at first with this idea of Hook suddenly figuring out that the dagger Belle has is a fake (sorry if you click that link and get distracted by the pretty. Take a moment to enjoy. I'll wait). Like - that happened at the end of last season. Why choose NOW to question it? But then I got thinking about it. And this could very well be the first time that Hook is aware that Gold gave Belle the dagger. I thought back to every instance where the dagger was discussed since Zelena was defeated - Hook was never there to hear about it. And while everyone else is going “Aww.... that’s so sweet of Rumple,” Hook - ever the canny and perceptive pirate captain - twigs that something just isn't right here. He even says it later - there’s no way that Rumple would let anyone have control over him. As much as Hook has changed and tried to leave that life of revenge behind - 300 years of vengeance eating away at you doesn't go away overnight. While Hook and Rumple put their feud aside last year in order to deal with more pressing matters, none of that old hatred is gone. Even if the reasons for that hatred seem to be far behind both of them at the moment (but when you think about it - it’s really just been put on hold).

The funny thing is - while everyone else is scared of Rumple, Hook isn't. He knows to be careful and play his cards just right, but he’s not afraid of the Dark One (and as much as I love Captain Hook and he’s definitely my favorite character in Once Upon a Time - I have spent the greater part of the last twelve hours calling him every iteration of “you freaking idiot!” over this whole thing. Stupid thing is, everyone spent some time tossing around the Idiot Ball during this episode and it was only after letting the events of this episode stew in my head did I realize how dumb he really was in this. Fandom knows no logic, my friends). Which is probably why he thinks that he does have the upper hand. He seriously thinks that he can blackmail Rumple over this whole dagger thing. And what completely kills me is that he uses this information to help Elsa and, by extension, Emma. They need to find whoever cursed Marian. Rumple’s the only one who can do it. So Hook unwittingly makes a deal with the Dark One (credit where it’s due - I didn't pick up on that until this Tumblr post pointed it out) thinking that he really does have one over Rumple and won't his Swan be so happy to see that he's being helpful - but that is where it’s all going to go to hell. Because I’m pretty sure that Captain Swan date night (from the Next Week promo) is going to be the pinnacle of this whole endeavor and it’s all downhill from there. I don’t know how and I don’t know when - but it’s going to go to hell in a hurry. There’s not going to be any sweet and feelsy denouement next week. They've been really nice to us for the past four episodes - it’s time for some big time heartache.

Poisonous Toadstools Don't Change Their Spots

So - let’s look at Rumple. And bring in Snow Queen Prime while we at it. Because this is all going to connect at some point. Rumple and Snow Queen Prime are clearly working together. Probably also doing some weird memory thing in the process. And there’s no changing the fact that Elsa was locked up in Rumple’s vault (and as much as Rumple tries to pass off that he doesn't keep track of everything he collects - the rat bastard was cataloging all his crap in the last episode! Granted, emotions were running high and there were other things that Our Intrepid Heroes were concerned about to not take note of such a detail - but still!), so Rumple’s relationship with the truth remains - HA! ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME? And, apparently, Rumple’s only concerned with helping the Savior when it suits him (like, you know, when he’s being kept prisoner by the Wicked Witch and Emma’s the best chance he has of escaping). But once he’s back in control - he’s only out for himself and no one else. So whatever he and Snow Queen Prime have cooking, it’s all going to not only hurt Hook, but also Emma and likely all of Storybrooke, plus our new friends from Arendelle.

Let’s look at Snow Queen Prime for a second. First of all - what’s her name? Even her cursed Storybrooke name? Or was she not cursed? Did she somehow come to Storybrooke on her own and insinuate herself into the town as the resident ice cream lady? Clearly, she is the new mystery of the season. But, credit where it is due, I do like that the reveal that she’s Elsa’s aunt came early. So that’s obviously not the Big Thing they’re leading up to (I hope this means the writer’s room took some notes on that whole “Peter Pan is Rumplestiltskin’s Father” debacle and wisely decided not to repeat that mistake). Personally, I’m getting a sense that there’s a bit of a Lily and Petunia Evans things going on here - but possibly in reverse. I mean, Elsa’s parents haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory regarding magic. And clearly there was some kind of falling out between Snow Queen Prime and Mama Arendelle (who also doesn't have a name - and neither does her husband. Though he’s less important in this whole thing. Maybe). So much so that - did Mom trap Snow Queen Prime in that urn? No wonder they freaked out when Elsa’s powers became too much and she was encouraged to “Conceal, Don’t Feel.”  And if that’s what it turns out happened - Oh. My. Sweet. Fresh. Hell. Hi - I’ve been begging for some good Elsa backstory ever since I saw Frozen! Like - why did they never try to find someone to teach Elsa to use her powers? Why did she have to be locked away and kept hidden from people until she became queen? Why was she basically taught and trained to be afraid of herself? And the cherry on the whipped cream of this scrumptious banana split of character development - is Snow Queen Prime is working to turn Elsa and Anna against each other, just like (presumably) Mama Arendelle turned against Snow Queen Prime!

We Have One Answer and More Questions!

So - where does Emma figure into all this? Why is Snow Queen Prime so interested in her? And why doesn’t Emma remember? Popular theory (one that I see no reason to discount) is that Snow Queen Prime was one of Emma’s foster mothers. Though that brings up more even questions (of course it does). And Emma, who was in and out of foster homes so many times, probably never thought anything of the woman. Or it could even be that something went sideways in the course of Emma losing her memories of Storybrooke and getting new memories from Regina in that whole missing year thing and then getting her old memories back again, so things are kind of jumbled for her. I’m sure - whatever happened - we’ll get those questions answered. there is an Emma-centric episode Tcoming up that’s going to show some of her childhood in the foster system - and while we’ve been clamoring for something like this since the Pilot episode, Once Upon a Time never shows us a flashback just for the sake of showing a flashback (unless it’s Snow and Charming’s honeymoon and they’re going off to find a gorgon in order to stop Regina from casting a curse that she clearly casted a long time ago in terms of screentime - yeah, that was kind of pointless).

Oh yeah, PS - Emma’s kind of having a bit of a personal crisis of her own. Because while all the character stuff from “White Out” was just so good and delicious and emotional and - yay! - there’s also a HUGE problem leftover from that. Namely that Emma still isn't accustomed to having other people look out for her. And it doesn't matter if it’s her parents or Henry or Hook coming to her rescue - she doesn't like having to be saved. She has to take care of herself. Getting trapped in the ice cave was scary for her. But I think what’s even worse in Emma’s mind that she should have been able to get herself out of that - whether by her own magic or by convincing Elsa to do it. And she couldn't do anything. So, she’s mad at herself and mad at the situation. And it doesn't help that Regina comes in with her brand of snark - which is even more cutting and hurtful toward Emma, given what else is going on with the whole Marian thing (between that and that little jibe about Operation Mongoose - I don’t think the Swan Queen friendship is faring very well these days. Yeah, I went there). So Emma takes even more control - she’s Head Sheriff in Charge. She orders Hook to take Elsa back to the sheriff station and chews him out when he doesn't do what she says. She deflects David’s benign attempts to give fatherly advice. She even takes control when Will Scarlet is breaking them into Any Given Sundae to ask the question “When is an ice cream parlor not an ice cream parlor?” Thankfully, she eventually does get to take out that frustration in a productive way when she’s confronting Snow Queen Prime and she saved Hook and David from getting skewered by killer icicles (huh - guess her magic works great when she’s saving people she loves. NOPE. NO PARALLELS OR HIDDEN MEANINGS HERE. NOTHING TO SEE. MOVE ALONG!)

This all circles back around to the end of the episode. Back to probably our last truly good Captain Swan moment for a while (I’m trying to be optimistic about our chances for next time, but so far - no luck). Emma’s still pissed that Killian didn't listen to her when she told him to take Elsa to the sheriff station - but, again, that’s just deflecting the real problem. And this - this right here is where I totally lost it.  Because it’s not that he didn't do what she asked. It’s that he was in danger. And everyone that Emma has ever loved or come close to loving has gotten killed. And this time - she’s in so far deep that if Killian dies, she’s probably going to become a full-on wreck (don't believe me? Take a look. And read the tags [they're hidden off to the side - stupid fancy Tumblr layouts...]). Forget Regina moping around because Robin’s dead wife is really alive - yeah... I don’t even want to finish that thought, let alone the sentence.

And Killian - bless his patient, perceptive, puppy pirate heart - with that stupid cocky attitude hiding not only years of hurt and loneliness, but the biggest soft spot of any reformed not-villain, breaks out his complete and total romantic soul that just kills me every time he lets it show. He assures Emma that he’s really good at surviving and that she doesn't have anything to worry about (which makes his deal with Gold even worse - you freaking idiot why do you have to do these beautifully stupid things and why do I love you so much????) and the episode leaves them kissing in the middle of Main Street Storybrooke - likely for the last time for an episode close-out (I hope to heaven that I’m wrong - but I’m pretty sure that everything’s going to go the way of the penguin next episode).

Other Things I Liked/Noticed - 

- Have you ever seen a guy be more ineffectual and unhelpful than Archie Hopper? Could the guy have - I dunno - helped get Snow’s stroller in the car? Or held the baby while she got the thing in? Instead of giving Snow a guilt trip about being too clingy toward her child? (though - to be fair - holding a newborn throughout a mayor’s fireside chat was a bit much. Especially with her husband sitting right there and more than willing to hold the baby while she conducted the meeting).

- Captain Hook with a cell phone. Pure. Unadulterated. Genius. Not only does it advance the plot with getting Emma where she needed to be, but Hook’s attitude and reaction toward the phone itself (“I press the Emma button” - oh my gosh), plus when his call went to Emma’s voicemail... friends, I don’t know how I can love this guy anymore than I already do (but he’s trying).

- I’m really glad The Kristoff and Sven Show wasn't just a one-off thing for the premiere. Because that reindeer needs an award.

- Will Scarlet makes his Once Upon a Time debut! And he’s just as perfect as he was in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. The best was when he found out that Storybrooke has two sheriffs and it’s his worst nightmare come true. Lovable idiot (and I say that with the most affection possible).

- Henry being really excited about finding the Writer of the book. Okay - maybe this won’t be so terrible after all (um... maybe?) But anything that gets Henry in a position to help his Evil Mom not be so evil. Even if she did call it "Operation Mongoose" because mongooses (mongeese?) kill cobras and Operation Cobra was Henry's thing with Emma. Well - whatever.

- Wanna know the most tragic thing about the ending of this episode? The ice cream parlor isn't Snow Queen Prime's hideout anymore. Which means no more ice cream for Roland. Sad day.

- Snow putting her own personal touches on the Mayor's Office and Regina being disgusted by it. No reason for that other than it's funny.

This Week’s Frozen Parallel - Kristoff and Elsa discussing how different Elsa is to everyone else and how that the only person that really has a problem with it is Elsa and that there are people who care about her, even if they don't fully understand her (but they still try). This is obviously a theme that’s running throughout this entire episode - and it comes up when Hook and Elsa head out to the forest to find whoever cursed Marian. In a way, that moment was instructive for Hook in understanding where Emma is coming from. Emma certainly isn't ready to have that conversation about herself with Hook - but Elsa can certain give him some insight in how best to help Emma and be there for her when she needs help. Which is precisely what he wants to do (which is why he's out tracking down imminent danger when he could/should be elsewhere). Again - just showing how perfect it is that Once is playing around with the Frozen storyline at this particular point in its own narrative. It would have been a crime for them not to draw these parallels and comparisons.

The drama of Season 4 is really getting going. With the proper introduction of the Snow Queen (wonder where she’ll be hanging out now? The ice cream parlor cover’s been blown) - the conflict with the villain can begin in earnest. And while we still don’t quite know the Whys and Wherefores of what she’s up to - I’m actually looking forward to what she’s got going and how it all came about. So - even though I know I’ll regret this - bring on the conflict, the drama, and yes, bring on the angst! I’m in no way ready for it, but I’m cautiously optimistic that it’ll be okay.

Next Week - It's Captain Swan Date Night! (prediction - all hell breaks loose. I dare any of you to argue with me about this).

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