Monday, October 20, 2014

People Don't Really Change

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time 4.04 "The Apprentice" - Spoilers!
"Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us." - from "A Christmas Story"
I had a whole review (more or less) written up about this episode last night. But after stewing about what happened (plus rewatching it a couple of times), I've figured out more or less what I think is going on. Hint: If you think my subject line is referring to anybody but Rumplestiltskin, you are sorely mistaken and I am going to tell you why.

Head Games

If all we had to go by in interpreting what's happening were the events in present day Storybrooke, then most of the blame for everything wrong would lie solely at the feet of Killian Jones. And I admit, I was more than a little ticked off at my precious puppy pirate last week (I am miffed that Rumple took my term of endearment for Hook and turned it into a snide comment, but whatever). However, we also had a flashback to the Enchanted Forest involving Anna of Arendelle. And the key thing about this "Once Is Frozen" story arc is that while Once Upon a Time is not technically doing a straight-up Frozen sequel, they are comparing how the Frozen story parallels with what's going on in Storybrooke right now. Like I've said before, the similarities and the comparisons are so obvious, it would have been a crime not to draw those parallels this season. This go-round, Princess Anna who is the Nicest Nice to Ever Nice going to the Bane of All Our Existences to find out why her parents made the trek to Mist Haven.

In flashback, Rumple is the tried-and-true piece of trash manipulator that we have all come to know and despise. He manipulates good people into doing terrible things. He makes Anna believe that he's sent her to poison the Apprentice, but he really sent her in with the antidote to the poison he's already administered. He tries to make her think that she's succumbed to her inner darkness, which she laughs off because she says she never intended to poison the Apprentice - joke's on you Dark One! But then he brings out that damn contract she signed and tells her only way out of the contract is to kill him. So OF COURSE she's going to think about killing Rumple! And Rumple uses that to get the magic he needs to break into the Sorcerer's Vault (that's what I'm calling it) and steal the Hat Box (that's what I'm calling that too), leaving Anna to feel completely guilty and full of doubt over what she's done. And as a bonus for Rumple - he's also fed her more doubt over her parents possibly being afraid of Elsa and them wanting to find a way to remove her powers. Which, to Anna, would be tantamount to cutting off Elsa's hand. Or something (look, I was trying to work in a hand pun - given what I'm going to address next).

"Unlike me, you haven't changed one bit. Crocodile."

So if Anna of Arendelle - who doesn't have a speck of darkness in her at all and has never struggled with such - can be manipulated by Rumple into believing that she is the Worst Possible Person In All Of Our Lifetimes and Beyond, what chance does the selfish-and-sinister-but-working-on-being-reformed Captain Hook have of coming out of Rumple's convoluted head games unscathed? Even if Killian does think he's got plenty to blackmail Rumple over. Given the way Rumple switched out the real dagger with the fake one that Belle still has (more than likely) - it's highly possible that Killian still has the upper hand (nope, those hand puns aren't going away anytime soon. Not even sorry).

I already did a quick review of the actual Getting Hook's Hand Back scene when the clip was released earlier in the week. The kicker of that scene (according to me) was Killian pointing out that Rumple hasn't really changed from being the sinister Dark One, but Killian is no longer that awful, terrible pirate. And he's absolutely right - while he may not be completely free of it, Killian has proven time and again that his inner darkness is something that he wants to be rid of. Which is a huge part of the battle - it's the desire to do better. Even when you make stupid mistakes - like thinking you can blackmail the Dark One into giving you your hand back and nothing bad will come of it.

But one of Hook's defining characteristics is his cocky, arrogant attitude - which has softened in recent storylines, but it's still very much a part of who he is (and, frankly, if he ever really lost that part of his personality, he just wouldn't be as fun to watch). But it's also a facade to mask all his insecurities. I mean, why does he even want his hand back at all? Because Emma's asked him out on a date. And even though they've both been pretty open and honest with each other all through their relationship (well, so far - it's been a long time in coming) - Killian still on some level thinks that he isn't good enough for Emma. He's gone to great lengths for her - he went back to Neverland for her (which he probably swore he'd never do when he finally left that place), he saved her father from Dreamshade, he sold his ship to get back to her, he faced down the Wicked Witch, he followed her into a time portal - man, I don't know how he could possibly think that he isn't good enough for her. But - the mind is a tricky thing. And sometimes, no matter how often you prove yourself or how much other people tell you that you're good enough, there's always that little voice in your mind trying to bring all that progress crashing down.

Bella Notte

Really, the story of Hook and Emma is the story of two outsiders finding a place to belong. For all Emma is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, she's never felt like she's anything special until recently. Hook's pretty much always lost everything he's ever cared about and he's cultivated this loner reputation (along with the fearsome pirate reputation - I guess those go together pretty well). And even though they've already been through so much, actually going out on a formal date where there's no magic or monsters or threats (they hope) and enjoying a nice quiet evening together is a pretty big deal. They both dress up - Emma adorably nervous about how she looks (and bonus points to Snow and Charming for being the incredibly embarrassing parents), Hook gets a new wardrobe (the squeals of hundreds of fangirls - myself included - echoed across the land).

Oh - and you know the best thing? Emma doesn't even notice that Killian's got his hand back! At least, not until Mama Snow prompts her to notice that he's holding out a single red rose for her with his left hand (*squish*). And she has basically the same reaction when he's comes back with the hook instead, of the hand - Emma sees Killian first, everything else comes after that. And someone pointed out last episode in the end scene where they're kissing in front of Granny's, Killian grabs Emma's arm with his hook and she doesn't even flinch. She just accepts that as part of him and moves on because she loves him, flaws (seen and unseen) and all. I'm sure we'll see this aspect of their relationship played out as time goes on, which is going to be absolutely wonderful.

So, they finally get out on the date. Hold on...

I probably will later, though.
(It's Captain Swan Date Night - how could I not?)

Okay, I just adore how Once Upon a Time has some kind of officially unofficial mandate to get a reference to every classic Disney movie in the show. Even the ones that aren't technically fairy tales. So, yeah - totally getting the Lady and the Tramp theme here. And if you don't think it's the most adorable thing ever, you have no soul (even the waiters in the restaurant were dressed like the guys from the movie!) And because I need something sweet to cry about -

(punch me in the face and bury me where I stand - I seriously cannot handle this)

This was me at approximately 6:15 pm MDT.
The date was perfect. We Captain Swan shippers are most certainly going to be going over every little moment and nuance of the date scenes in the restaurant and afterward (given the utter crapstorm that comes in later - look, just let us have this!) Even Will Scarlet running out of the restaurant and knocking a glass of wine over on Emma's dress couldn't completely ruin things. And I say this, even though Killian nearly choked the life out of the guy because his "cursed" hand made him do it (I'll scream about this in a minute).

Oh - and the doorstep scene. Don't get me started on that. Perfect from start to finish. Killian even asks Emma out on a second date (whether or not that actually gets to happen... well, that's another story). And yes, Emma most certainly needs her own place.

(ps - Snow and Charming were waiting up for Emma when she came home and there is nothing about this that isn't emotional and happy).

Good Times Never Last

But the night isn't over. Killian runs into Will again when Will's trying to break into the library. And Killian actually punches Will's lights out. The way all these moments played out - there is no way that hand wasn't cursed. Or that something wonky wasn't going on. Either way, Killian gets scared about what is happening to him and he goes back to Rumple to ask him to take back the hand. And again - we're back to playing Rumple's mind games. It's all these old grudges coming back to haunt them both - they've hated each other for so long that neither of them can (wait for it...) let it go. So, Rumple makes another deal with Killian after claiming that he switched the dagger back again (look, at some point, Belle is going to notice that something is going on. She's not stupid. Rumple, you friggin' ass), so Killian supposedly has zilch on Rumple. And just like Anna, Killian thinks he's got no choice but to accept Rumple's deal - otherwise, he might actually hurt somebody and Killian's come far enough that he doesn't want that to happen.

The next morning (and how heartbreaking is it that Killian spent the night on a bench near the docks - there could be a whole analysis on that), Rumple drags Killian off to help him scare some nice old man, who turns out to be the Sorcerer's Apprentice that Anna met up with in the Enchanted Forest flashbacks. Well, Rumple's got the Hat Box and he's got revenge to enact against the Apprentice. Turns out, the Sorcerer's hat can trap people with magic inside, which is precisely what Rumple does to the Apprentice.

And I'm sitting here going - why did you need Killian to come along on this little mission? Other than to be the intimidating dumb muscle (which pisses me off to no end, quite frankly). Then I get to thinking - and this gets brought up later - yes, Killian did threaten to tell Belle that Rumple was lying to her. He did threaten to muck up their marriage. And now that things are going really good with Emma - Rumple's got something he can hold over Killian's head if he so wishes. Emma's got magic. The hat could be a threat against her. So, unless Killian wants something bad to happen to Emma, I guess Rumple's going to continue playing his stupid games and Killian really doesn't have a way out of it. So, he has no choice but to keep playing Rumple's minion - and... oh crap - this is just like Season 2, isn't it??

Excuse me...

A Humble Request

Okay, Once Upon a Time writers - can we just have a heart to heart for a second here?  Do you remember last season when I was all annoyed and pissed off that we were revisiting Neal and Rumple angst for the umpteeth time and why couldn't we be done with this damn plotline already??? And then Season 3B happened and we got something new with Rumple and everything just felt right? And I was eternally impressed with "The Jolly Roger" episode and all the character development and awesomely cool stuff you were doing with Hook and that became my favorite episode ever??? Do you remember all that?

I know it's still early in this season and that you all thrive on the long game and I have no way of knowing where this is going. But if Season 4 Hook is just going to be Rumple's minion and running off to do Rumple's dirty work because of this stupid guilt trip and karma doesn't come back to bite Rumple in the ass big time - I think you and I are going to have some issues. I sat through all that in Season 2 with Hook going back and forth between Cora and Regina and even those two morons from "The Home Office" (whatever the hell that was supposed to be) - and he is so damn better than that!

I serve notice on you all - you've got two episodes (only because I've seen a few spoilers and those make me think this is going to happen in the next two) - Killian Jones better be spilling the beans to Emma about this whole situation so she and the Charmings can help him out of it. We did the whole "Hook keeping secrets from Emma" thing last season and that was fine for what it was, but this is a new season with new stuff and you've done really well so far. Do NOT blow it now!

Okay - I'm done. I'm good.

Other Things I Liked/Noticed

- Anyone else think it was awesomely hilarious that Rumple turned the Sorcerer's Apprentice into a mouse?
We're all thinking it. I'm just saying it.
- Anna is no pushover. I love that she got hold of the dagger and made Rumple send her back home - with the Hat Box (thank goodness). And we get the sweetest little reunion between her and Kristoff (with bonus commentary from Sven - seriously, just give the reindeer all the awards).

- Maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing, but did this thing with Henry at the beginning bug anyone else? Why wouldn't he be okay with Emma asking Killian out on a date? I mean, I know he's all hyped up on Operation Mongoose and helping Regina find the author of the book - but... yeah... that was weird (if anyone has any insight - I'm open to suggestions).

The Dark One Lies, The Dark One Tricks

Rumple is a total and complete piece of shit. I never liked him before and this episode sealed my opinion of that rat bastard. Just so we're clear on that. If he is meant to be fully redeemed, it's going to take some big-time groveling to get to that point (at least, as far as I'm concerned). I do not for one second believe that Killian's hand was not cursed. Like I said earlier, the way those scenes were played and framed and even the music - there was definitely something weird going on. And it all comes down to Rumple planting seeds of doubt and despair in Killian's mind - though maybe it's less about planting doubts and actually feeding the doubts that are already there. It started when Killian wanted his hand back for his date with Emma and Rumple's just toying with those evident insecurities. And I want to kick Rumple for doing that at all.

However - in a huge shift from last season, this means that Emma's going to have to fight for Killian - to prove to him that he is more than good enough for her (for reference, please see all of Season 3). Personally, I kind of hoped that we'd see something like this where Emma finally admits to herself that she loves Killian and she'd do anything for him, just like he'd do anything for her. We've already seen a lot of that in these first few episodes, but their first huge test is coming. And maybe this is the start of it - where Killian feels like he has to push Emma away because he doesn't deserve her and he doesn't trust himself not to hurt her. So, it'll be up to Emma to convince Killian that she doesn't care about what he "might" do or what he "could" do. And, really, I think she's already started.

(How can you not ship these two? They just fit).

However (again) - there is a bit of a wildcard. Because Henry - sweet, innocent, awesome Henry - is going undercover in Gold's Shop. And this is merely speculation, but I wonder if Henry isn't going to find out what Rumple really did and he's going to help get Killian out of this situation. Even though Henry is all over Operation Mongoose, there was a reason that he was there for Emma when she went to ask Killian out. He is still very much on Team Emma's Happiness and Killian makes her happy (even if I still don't get that whole Henry not okay with Emma asking Killian out - again, someone explain this to me).

Basically - 

The first three episodes were all about establishing Emma and Hook's relationship - that where it was very new and exciting at first, it's also quite solid. Which is good, because they are both in for some high-end angst (and I didn't even mention anything about Emma nearly wrecking her car because of Snow Queen Prime's ice slick in the street or everyone searching Storybrooke census records for Anna). Truly, I did ask for this. I hoped that there would be an amazing Captain Swan storyline in Season 4 and so far, I'm quite pleased with it. They've managed to evoke every emotion from me that's possible in a good romantic storyline - happiness, excitement, fear, anger, sadness. And they're all very strong emotions (if you were to film me watching Once Upon a Time, you wouldn't be able to understand a single word I said. It's not so much words as high-pitched squeaking, though). This continues to be my favorite part of the story and I am here for it - no matter what happens.

(Even if I break Tumblr with my keysmashing).

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