Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It's All Over But The Crying

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time Episode 5.19  "Sisters" - SPOILERS!

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thought of the Fallout 4 soundtrack when Hades played "I Don't Want To Set The World on Fire" on his little date with Zelena. Then again, Underbrooke would probably fit in nicely with a nuclear post-apocalyptic setting. I get the feeling Hades would enjoy that, honestly.

Where oh where to begin with this episode? For one thing, I'm glad that the Once writers room got their social justice pandering bullshit out of their systems last week and got back to good storytelling with interesting characters and plot-points, rather than trying to appease the Twitter and Tumblr trolls that have done their damnedest to make fandom life as hellish as possible (no pun intended - that was an accident). Storytelling works MUCH better when you're not trying to push some overt virtue-signaling message - that "Hey, we're TOTES NOT homophobic, so don't get mad at us, pretty please???" (You're fooling no one, guys.)

For another - wow. A Cora-centric episode that I actually enjoyed! If next week's episode doesn't involve Underbrooke getting slammed with a monster blizzard, there is something INCREDIBLY wrong with the world (maybe Elsa will make a cameo appearance in the mission to defeat Hades and freeze his living room).

I said since the beginning of the Underworld storyline that I would LOVE to have Zelena and Cora meet and their meeting did NOT disappoint. I was a bit worried that they would unnecessarily compromise one or both of those characters' fundamental qualities in order to get some half-assed, shoehorned-in happy ending that doesn't make a damn bit of sense - but no. They didn't. Not at all. They played with Zelena's tragic backstory and Cora's ruthlessness - coupled with the idea that people in the Underworld have unfinished business, as well as Hades shoving Cora back into her role as a poor miller's daughter (that was the key touch to this, I think) - and came to a satisfying conclusion.

Applause, OUAT Writers' Room. Mucho Applause.

Even the flashback stuff worked in this case. Sometimes, it can feel forced and stupid. And on paper, this episode's flashback probably would have sounded absolutely idiotic. But the way it was presented - I can TOTALLY buy that tiny!Regina would poke around her mother's magical objects and there would be an accident. And I can TOTALLY buy that Cora would go find tiny!Zelena to make Regina better. Even the whole "Surprise Sister!" discovery thing was done surprisingly well.

Everything worked. None of the characters' backgrounds were sacrificed to make things work - Cora actually seemed like she had a genuine change of heart. I think her initial trickery made a good contrast for when she came clean and actually leveled with Zelena about abandoning her in the woods. Regina's redemption storyline also provided something context to what was going on - that if the Evil Queen could become good again, maybe there's hope for the Wicked Witch (though I still love Zelena's brand of sassiness and attitude - I hope that will continue because I would hate for her to lose that core part of her character).

I'm not quite sure how I feel about "Let's Help The Lord of Death Have a Change of Heart" thing yet. Maybe because it's still early in that plot twist - but this episode made me want to hang with it a bit longer until I have more details (hey - getting rid of Princess Rainbow Sparklepoo actually DID contribute something to moving the plot along! WHOO-HOO!) But I feel like progress was made.

Well, until this little shithead showed up (and his dad) -

Why, when everything seems to be going okay, does Rumple feel the need to show up and muck it all up? Whyyyyyyyyy?

Ugh... whatever.

Oh - and David met his evil twin brother and had an epic fistfight at the docks. Cruella sneered at everybody and buggered off like the weasel she's probably wearing as a scarf. Robin is most likely a dead man walking because of his paternal affection for his Wicked Hood Baby.

NEXT TIME! Oh... oh...crap...

Um... how about no? How about I just stay here and enjoy the Mills women having their tearful happy ending and pretend that Hook and Emma just make it home and move into their new house and get married and have lots of little pirate babies? NO MORE ANGST, PLEASE?

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Devil's In The Details

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time Episode 5.18 "Ruby Slippers" - SPOILERS!

Well... now we know why OUAT!Dorothy looks so much like Snow White. They basically redid that entire storyline - right down the short people mooning after the not-dead-just-sleeping!Dorothy. No points for creativity there, guys.

I know what everyone from Twitter to Tumblr and everywhere else inbetween is talking about with this episode - they finally put in an LGBTQ couple in Once Upon a Time. Even gave them a ship name and everything (I will give them points for creativity there - that was actually kind of clever). Pretty much everyone and their dog is acting like this is the Greatest Thing In All Of Our Lifetimes And Beyond And If You Don't Think So, Then You Are A Hatey-Hate-Hateful Person Who Deserves Death Threats And To Be Called Every Mean Name In The Book.

I have also been around fandom long enough to know that someone, somewhere is complaining about some aspect of it - that it wasn't done right, it was the wrong characters. That's how this value signaling crap works. You give a subgroup of fandom what they want, and they'll still find reason to whine about it.

For me, this is how I feel about it -

Seriously - you want to ship Ruby Slippers, you freaking be my guest. If you don't want to ship Ruby Slippers, you freaking be my guest. It's no skin off my nose what you do and do not like about this show. But if I get crap for not giving a crap about this, I will come uncorked one way or the other. And whichever side you're advocating for, I will probably take the other one. Because I'm obstinate like that.

I write about politics on the internet for a living. I know how this goes. I'm going to get crap no matter what I say about this episode - even if I say I don't care about it. *shores up email inbox for incoming onslaught*

I have my ships and favorite characters and storylines. And you all know what those are (CAPTAIN SWAN, baby!) Dorothy was randomly dropped into the Underworld plotline without rhyme or reason a few episodes ago - I joked then that she was pretty much generic Strong Female Character/Snow White expy and I wondered why they brought in Dorothy and not another Oz character. I do appreciate that they gave us a reason for Dorothy being back in Oz, though a small part of me wishes that could have been it's own separate thing. Part of me wishes that they'd done something like Once Upon a Time in Wonderland for Oz - have Dorothy against the Wicked Witch with some crossover with the main show. Especially given how fantastically awesome Zelena's been in this storyline - I would LOVE an Oz-centric spinoff. But we're probably not going to get that, so I will be content with what I do have.

Because I do not want to risk falling into the Legend of Korra trap and only focus on the itty-bitty social justice bullshit portion of this episode as the expense of everything else that was noteworthy and interesting, what else did this episode feature that the clickbait enterprises will be falling over themselves to talk about?

- The prospect of splitting up Snow and Charming into separate plotlines - OH NOES! WHATEVER SHALL WE DOOOOOO??? Probably be a lot more interesting and less fluff... oh, it's Charming that's leaving and Snow that's staying. Hmphf... Not helpful.

- Oh - Hook carved David's name into the headstone! PRAISE THE LORD AND ALL THE LITTLE FISHES IN THE SEA! (More Captain Charming bromance AND Daddy Charming awesome - HERE FOR IT!)

- Belle and Zelena talking about motherhood and pregnancy, with Zelena giving Belle a much-needed reality check. Look, I just adore Zelena. I probably shouldn't, because she's the VILLAIN. But she's so deliciously awful that I don't care.

- For a while, I wondered where the hell Mulan ended up? For an episode that's supposed to be all about lesbian sisters doing it for themselves, they seem to have left behind someone who's kind of key for that fandom lobby.

- Hades melted Auntie Em and I hate him for it. Bastard.

- Zelena's dastardly plan to kill Dorothy was actually really clever. It didn't work - but points for creativity.

- As is Belle's plan to fall under a sleeping curse to prolong her pregnancy. I also quite liked her plan that her father will be the one to wake her up and not Rumple. Because Rumple is a piece of rotten garbage when it comes to these things.

So, we got a fluffy filler episode that was just kind... there. There were a few good moments that I liked. Most that I don't care one way or the other about. Rumple still sucks and Hades is looking to join his clubhouse. Business as usual.

Next week - FAMILY FEUD! (Ooooh - will Cora and Zelena meet face to face? *crosses fingers*)

Will we get some actual PLOT DEVELOPMENT in this next episode instead of just randomly loitering around the Underworld and listen to Princess Rainbow Sparklepoo cry about giving people hope like they're handing out popcorn at a circus? Well, they sent Princess Rainbow Sparklepoo home, so maaaaaaaybe they'll finally get something significant done here for once.

(This storyline still isn't as bad as Neverland. I will give them that).

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Art Imitating Joy - A Few Thoughts On Bollywood

Man, these guys can dance.
Of all the random things I never thought I would have gotten into, Bollywood certainly ranks up there. Honestly, I never would have watched a Bollywood film had Jared not introduced me to the genre (is that the proper term for it? I have no clue). But now - I'm really glad I agreed to sit down and watch a few.

So, here's what I've learned about Indian films - they are happy. Not in a naive or simple-minded way. The characters have to earn their happiness. They may be presented with an insanely pessimistic circumstances, but as one Bollywood movie (Om Shanti Om) says - if the ending isn't happy, the movie isn't over yet (I'm paraphrasing, but that's the basic idea).

Take the premise of this movie for example, In Bachna Ae Haseeno, this guy named Raj is the biggest douchebag when it comes to women. The movie shows him breaking the hearts of two women who were utterly crushed by his actions. Later, he has a girlfriend who he falls completely in love with, but she breaks his heart and he realizes how much he's hurt other women, so he sets out to beg their forgiveness (in one instance, it's been at least ten years since he's seen one of the women). And, yes, he gets a happy ending - but I'm not going to spoil it for you :) But I will show you one of the musical numbers because - yes, there is plenty of music and dancing in Bollywood. That just adds to the fun of the story (and, damn, can these guys dance).

This scene has Raj trying to convince Mahi - the first woman whose heart he broke - to love her husband because he loves her, but she doesn't believe in love because she got hurt before (this was an arranged marriage). He crashes her cousin's wedding in order to talk to her and a musical number ensues -

That's the fun of Bollywood. You know things are going to turn out okay, but the question is how are they going to turn out okay. Another movie I watched, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, is about a royal family who is all kinds of divided against each other - to the point that one of the brothers wants to kill the other one and the sisters want nothing to do with the rest of the family. Some random dude shows up who looks like one of the princes and when as assassination attempt leaves said prince in a coma, he has to take his place (oh - and did I mention that the random dude has a ridiculous fanboy crush on the woman the prince is engaged to?) You really want Random Dude to get together with the Princess (and I'm awful for forgetting the characters' names) - but you also know that Jerk Prince is going to come out of his coma and... hopefully not get killed by his conniving brother. But if he does live - he's engaged to the Princess. Sooo... how does that one turn out? (It's on Netflix, if you're really curious).

Here's my favorite thing about Bollywood - it's not like India hasn't had more than its share of difficult times in history. But somehow (and someone who's more knowledgeable about India's history and culture could probably explain better than I could), the stories they tell in movies are about hope in the midst of conflict. Whether the characters go through guilt, betrayal, violence, poverty, loneliness, disappointment - somehow, they still come out on top. I mean, I love American movies - don't get me wrong. There are great stories and characters to be found there too. But there's something refreshing about going into a movie that is about humor and happiness, while also not shying away from the realities of life. It's a nice contrast from some Western films, where the more dark and gritty and "realistic," the better they are. To which I say - BLAH!

(Watch - someone will come along and say "That's not really how it goes" and tell me about some dark and seedy underbelly of the Bollywood industry that I had zero clue about. Because the world is nothing if not pessimistic.)

Anyway - this is just me thinking out loud (or on my keyboard, anyway). For now, here's another of my favorite Bollywood musical numbers - from the first Bollywood film I saw, actually (Happy New Year starring Shah Ruhk Khan (guy in the dark blue suit), who's actually pretty good looking) -

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cupid Works For The Devil

Recap/Review of Once Upon a Time Episode 5.17 Her Handsome Hero - SPOILERS!
What Could Have Been... (had Gaston turned out to be an okay guy, that is)

I have a feeling this is the song that OUAT Writers' Room plays when they're working on Rumbelle episodes -

Tell me where I'm wrong. Because from where I'm sitting, OUAT!Belle is an idiot. A certifiable dunce.

I mean, I had my suspicions before. I thought that maaaaaaybe the writers had something in mind for her. That her character could be salvaged and she'd have a good character arc. But this episode confirmed the worst. She's just bone-headed stupid.

Actually - that's not really fair. She's more of a cautionary tale. An example of what happens when you think you can change bad people for the better. That the wide-eyed, innocent, hopeful pure true love soaked in unicorns and rainbows and sparkly fairy dust will turn even the evilest rat bastard piece of shit jackass into a honorable man.

Nope. Not even. All that's missing is Rumplestiltskin in a wife-beater tank top and the run-down double-wide trailer, and you would have every beat-down barefoot-and-pregnant woman I knew in the white trash town I grew up in. All the while, insisting that "Oh, he'll change. He'll be better." And the sum'bitch never does. He just stumbles into the house at some godforsaken hour of the morning, drunk as a dog.

The only purpose the flashbacks serve is to show that Belle was this dumb from the beginning. She trusted Gaston, despite everything she'd been told about him. But all he had to do was flash his "aw, shucks" sad little smile and she thought he was this honorable hero underneath his crappy reputation.

But nope - he's just as bad as they say. But Belle is in the impossible position of having to marry the guy so she can save her kingdom. And that worked SO WELL, that Belle then (covered back in Season 1), has to give herself up to Rumplestiltskin so he can save her kingdom from the ogres.

Moral of the Story: Not everyone gets to be Snow White and Prince Charming. Not everyone gets a Happily Ever After.

Instead of the fairy tale ending, Belle gets the "Girlfriend Of The Villain" treatment. She's the naive stupid idiot who falls for the criminal who's on parole for armed robbery (or whatever) and she helps him with this "One Last Job," but then she ends up with her life ruined. She never meant to hurt anybody - it just happened. Because she looooooves him. Merlin knows why.

And here is the most insulting part about the whole thing: the Underworld arc has already introduced an unapologetic villainous True Love Couple. We have Hades and Zelena (or as I've taken to calling him, Wicked Hell) who are just happy as can be in their dead and decaying "Underbrooke." They want to make people suffer - but they want to do it together. And, I'll be honest, I'm surprised at how awesome I think that is. Like I said last week, it's refreshing to have a villain (or villains) be evil for the sake of being evil. Not everything has to be explained - and even if it is, the villain just doesn't care. Their morals are GONE. They live solely to make life hell for the heroes.

Rumple used to be on the road to redemption, but his stint as being a Sans-Darkness-Dark-One has transformed him into a full-on Dark One. He's done playacting for Belle. He's fully committed to the darkness. And she still thinks she can love that asshole. So - why not just make Belle the Harley Quinn to his Joker? (Actually - now that I think of it, that's EXACTLY what's happening here! The Joker never actually loved Harley, did he? She just loved him, right? Please correct me if necessary - I'm not up on my DC Comics lore).

At this point, it might be better if Belle's baby ended up with Hades after all. At least the kid would have a father-figure-type mentor who's honest about his evilness. And if Zelena's raising the kid too, then there's less of a chance that they'd be confused as to whose morals they should follow. Yay for a happy villain family!

Ugh - I can't even do a "Things I Liked" section. Hook is concerned that Emma isn't getting enough sleep. Surprise!Ruby. And - that's it. This episode can go rot, honestly.

Next week - well, Dorothy is back. In her pseudo-badass-warrior-princess "Strong Female Character(tm)" motif that's virtually indistinguishable from all the other "Strong Female Characters(tm)" in this show (well, the secondary ones, at least).

Still wish they'd done Ozma or Tik Tok. That's all I'm sayin'

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Lid For Every Pot

Review/Recap of Once Upon A Time Episode 5.16 "Our Decay" - SPOILERS!

Well... Zelena has a true love. Sort of. Who knew?

(Side Note: Why am I not surprised that the Wicked Witch's birthday is Tax Day? I guess giving her Hitler's or Stalin's birthday would have been too on-the-nose.)

This episode gave us more of Zelena's backstory - which I never will say no to. It also gave us more of Oz, which - YES PLEASE! *grabby hands* Though... I'm not sure that I really like bringing Dorothy back to be a pseudo-Snow-White-Strong-Female-Character(tm) expy. Feels cheap and gimmicky. Why not bring in Ozma or General Tik-Tok? Or even one of Zelena's former associates from the Sisterhood of Witches? (not Glinda, for obvious continuity reasons. But there were two others). Dorothy's story was ended quite nicely in Season 3. Why stick with the wide-eyed-innocent-turned-Xena weirdness that kind of bothers me about the rewrite of Snow White?

Sigh... anyway.

Everything else about the Oz parts of the story was pretty good. I will never get over how gorgeous OUAT!Emerald City looks - or the fact that Zelena's made it her base of operations. Also, I was glad that Hades got more to do than be a smarmy ginger dude in a suit who sometimes lights his hair on fire for no good reason. Kind of gave him some more depth to his character. Which I appreciated.

I also appreciated that Zelena - both past and present iterations of her - was hesitant to reciprocate Hades's affections. The first time was because she was obsessed with revenge. The second was because... she just wasn't sure. That's understandable - new/old relationships take time to get used to (and she'd already been through a lot).

But what I ADORE about their relationship (and this will sound strange, but hear me out) was that they're still both unapologetically evil/wicked/villainous. True Love hasn't changed their core roles in the story as adversaries to the heroes. Oh sure, I've enjoyed Regina's and Hook's redemption stories. But I want at least ONE of the villains to stay villainous. And not just stay villainous, but be HONEST in their villainy. Which is why I'm not counting Rumple. He's just an asshole.

So - having a villainous True Love Couple? Sure! Why the heck not? It's new and different and would bring a whole different dimension to the character dynamics the show already has. I'm up for some fun. And they already have their incredibly-crappy kingdom of evil to rule over, so - yay!

Other things I liked:

- Henry as a grumpy teenager who seems to also be speaking for the OUAT Writers Room. Because if I've learned anything about fandom and social media, it's that fans are never satisfied. And, quite honestly, many OUAT fans are a bunch of spoiled brats who want the Writers Room to cater to their stupidly unnecessary fanfic bullcrap. Part of me wonders if that "What - are you all Authors now?" line from Henry wasn't actually Eddy and Adam sending a pointed jab at their detractors who keep telling them how to tell THEIR story (and if it wasn't - well, then I am well-and-truly Over It with regards to the little shitwits of fandom).

- The explanation of why Robin and Regina haven't named Baby Wicked Hood - because there hasn't been time and giving a child a name isn't a good idea when Hades can do awful things with names in the Underworld. That's... actually a really good reason not to name the kid yet. I will accept it. So, hurrah!

- Snow and Charming "haunting" Baby Neal from the Underworld. Yeah... it's cuter when Henry wrote about it in the book.

- I'm holding out hope that Zelena and Cora will come face-to-face in the Underworld. Might seem like that ship has sailed, but I still kind of want it to happen. I will live if it doesn't, though.

I close out with this thought on the Household of Darkness, shall we. 'Cause Belle FINALLY stumbles upon the truth about Rumple (good grief, OUAT!Belle is kind of an idiot. Which I hate to say because Emilie de Ravin does so well with what little she's given. And Belle is one of my favorite Disney princesses). Rumple just basically says "This is who I am, sweetheart. You can either love me or leave me, but I'm not changing." Which is refreshing from the past teary-eyed blubbering "Oh please don't leave me I'll change for realsies this time I promise cross my heart and hope to die.... oh look - another Dark One dagger! Where did THAT come from I wonder?" I'm glad that Belle walked away and was steadfast in her disapproval of what Rumple was doing. My hope is that she finds her spine and she finds a happier ending for herself.

OUAT sure better figure out what they're doing with Belle and Rumple and do it fast. Because if they have me actually CHEERING Gaston next week, there will be words. And none of them very nice.