I first wrote this article before (2.10) “The Cricket Game” of “ONCE UPON A TIME” aired on January 6, 2013:
“HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE THE CHARMINGS?”
I will be the first to admit that I have become a diehard fan of ABC’s “ONCE UPON A TIME”. It was not easy for me. The concept of fairy tale characters existing in the modern world because of a magical curse really appealed to me. However, I had some difficulty in maintaining interest in the series, due to what I felt was the slow introductions of the major characters and slow pacing in the first half of Season One.
In the end, it took episodes like (1.11) “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”, (1.12) “Skin Deep”, (1.15) “Red-Handed” and (1.18) “The Stable Boy” to maintain a strong interest in “ONCE UPON A TIME”. By the time protagonist Emma Swan broke the curse (somewhat) in the first season finale, (1.22) “A Land Without Magic”, I was a diehard fan. Then Season Two arrived and the series’ hold on my interest continued. Some critics and fans have complained about the storylines and characterizations featured in the first half of Season Two. Many complained about Emma and Snow White’s adventures in Post-Curse Fairy Tale Land, frustrated by Snow and Charming’s new period of separation. Some have complained about the minimal attention toward the Rumpelstiltskin/Belle romance. Some have complained about Regina Mills/Evil Queen’s redemption arc, demanding that she remain a non-redeeming villainess. And some have complained about the revelation of Dr. Whale as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a character from literary horror.
If I must be honest, I had an easier time enjoying Season Two’s first half than I did the first half of Season One. The pacing seemed faster. Unlike many others, I had no problems with the idea of Emma and Snow White being stuck in Post-Curse Fairy Tale Land. The sequence re-introduced memorable guest character Cora Mills/the Queen of Hearts as a more memorable recurring character and a new spin on Captain Hook. I certainly had no problems with Regina Mills’ redemption arc, and my instincts tell me that the character is in for a long and difficult road ahead. And Dr. Whale’s revelation did not bother me one bit. Yes, I had a problem with the writers’ handling of the Mulan and Princess Aurora characters, even if I did like them. Rumpelstiltskin and Belle did not strike me as interesting as they were in Season One. And I was not impressed with (2.07) “Child of the Moon” and its handling of Red Riding Hood’s wolf nature or the King George/George Spencer character. But the one aspect of Season Two that I found truly annoying were the characterizations for the members of the Charming family – Snow White and Prince Charming, their daughter Emma Swan, and her biological son Henry Mills (Regina’s adoptive son). I found them more than annoying. There were many times when I felt bile rising up my throat.
Snow White and Charming were not much of a problem for me during Season One, especially their cursed Storybrooke alter egos – Mary Margaret Blanchard and David Nolan. Superficially, Mary Margaret and David seemed like slightly boring personas. But at least their affair, which really hurt David’s alter ego wife Kathryn Nolan (aka Princess Abigail), made them interesting and somewhat corrupted. Last year, I had viewed the affair as inoffensive, especially since they were really husband and wife in real life. But as far as the pair knew in their cursed state, David was married to Kathryn . . . and that did not stop them from hurting her with an affair. It took a second viewing of Season One to make me realize this. I found the affair distasteful, but I also believed it made Mary Margaret and David more interesting than their Fairy Tale Land counterparts.
After the couple regained their memories of their true selves, Snow White and Charming became very annoying. Season One introduced the idea of Snow White being an action woman. But the writing in Season Two took this concept to ridiculous heights in two particular episodes in Season Two. In (2.03) “Lady of the Lake”, Snow White made a big deal about the dangerous aspects of ogres. Yet, when an ogre threatened Emma, Snow killed him so easily that I found her warnings rather ludicrous. Writers Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg did not even bother to make it difficult for Snow to kill him. I found the ogre’s death anti-climatic and disappointing. The writers’ handling of Snow White in (2.08) “Into the Deep” really pissed me off. One, her fight with Mulan left me shaking my head in disbelief. I realize that the years of evading Regina had transformed her into some kind of action woman. But honestly . . . I really found it difficult to swallow the easy manner in which she got the best of Mulan in a fight over the compass that could lead them to a portal. Mulan was a trained warrior, who had more experience in combat. Yet, the audience was supposed to believe that Snow could easily best her in a fight? This was a fairy tale of the worst kind. Snow’s intitial compassion toward Aurora disappeared real fast after Mulan took the compass to trade it for the younger princess’s life. Even worse, she tried to kill Mulan for the compass. While most fans bashed Mulan for being concerned enough about Aurora to take the compass, I was too busy being disgusted by Snow’s murder attempt. And guess what folks? Her act of attempted homicide has been swept under the rug and quickly forgotten.
Charming has been a real pain in the ass in Season Two. Remember the finale of the Season Two premiere, (2.01) “Broken”? I do. The Charmings had learned that Rumpelstiltskin had sent a wraith after Regina to kill her in retaliation for Belle’s incarceration during the curse. They prevented the wraith from killing Regina, but it dragged both Snow White and Emma into Jefferson’s magical hat and Fairy Tale Land. What happened next? An enraged Charming shoved Regina and threatened to kill her if she did not bring back Snow and Emma. Regina retaliated and nearly killed him using magic. Guess which act Henry conveniently appeared to witness? Not Charming’s attack, but Regina. And Henry threatened to never talk to her again if she did not bring back his mother and grandmother. How convenient for Charming. And the self-righteous bastard never admitted that his attack on Regina led to her to attack him, thanks to Horowitz, Kitsis and their writers. Charming proved to be an ineffective guardian for Henry. Even though he knew how to be the kid’s best friend and promised to train him in the arts of being a knight, he never really bothered to discipline Henry. When Regina informed him about a resurrected Daniel in (2.05) “The Doctor”, Charming’s only method in getting information from her was to threaten her with jail time. Honestly, I found the scene laughable. However, I was not laughing in the scene in which he punched Dr. Whale for the latter’s one night stand back in Season One. I was simply disgusted. Whale pointed out that his brief affair occurred during the Curse, when everyone believed that Charming was married to Abigail (Kathryn Nolan). But Snow’s husband had to prove his manhood with a move that left me viewing him as a dick. A good number of the fans shared my views. But there were many others – especially male fans and critics – that crowed with delight over Charming’s punch. The incident merely lowered my opinion of him a step further. His decision to use the sleeping curse in order to communicate with Snow White via dreams struck many as infantile, especially since he discovered that he could not be awakened by her in the dream state.
As I had stated earlier, Emma Swan and Henry Mills have been a problem since the series’ premiere. I personally believe it was a big mistake for Horowitz and Kitsis to make Henry the biological son of Emma. I suppose the pair needed him as a means for Emma to “somewhat” break the Curse with a mother’s kiss. But honestly? Their storyline has been a problem since Day One. One, how on earth did the 10 year-old Henry get from Storybrooke, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts on his own? To this day, I am still flabbergasted by the idea of Emma, who had given up her son while in prison, remaining in Storybrooke to keep an eye on both Regina and Henry. All because Regina had insisted that she stay away from the boy. This was Emma’s excuse? It is only natural that the parent of an adopted child would want the biological parent to stay away . . . especially if the child was a minor. I do not believe that Regina’s antipathy toward her was a good excuse for Emma to remain in Storybrooke. Regina could have easily filed a restraining order against Emma for harassing her and Henry. She even threatened Emma with a restraining order once, but she never made good on her threat, thanks to the writers. And are we really supposed to believe that Regina was an abusive parent? Henry has never exhibited signs of being an abused child. The worst Regina ever did to him was hint that he may be emotionally or mentally unstable in order to maintain the secret of the Curse in the first season, and use magic to keep Henry with her in (2.02) “We Are Both”. Regina may have been a bit of a disciplinarian, but I found that a lot more admirable than the Charmings’ penchant for indulging Henry’s habit of skipping school or putting himself in dangerous situations. I still recall one Season One episode in which Emma allowed Henry to skip school without Regina’s permission in one of the early episodes . . . a habit that Charming occasionally continued in Season Two.
Ever since the character was first introduced, Emma has boasted of her ability to sense when someone was lying to her. I found this boast a joke, especially since newspaper editor Sidney Glass/the Magic Mirror in Season One and Regina’s mother, Cora Mills in Season Two; have both been able to successfully lie to her. Many fans have also complained of Emma’s talents as a law enforcer. If I must be frank, I have not been that impressed myself. Think about it. She has no real experience or training to be a police officer, let alone a town sheriff. She spent her adolescence either as a thief or a prison inmate. And she spent the rest of her years before her arrival in Storybrooke as a bails bondsman. Emma was qualified to find a missing person, not police a small town, let alone a city neighborhood. And how did the writers ensure that Emma would maintain her job as sheriff? By having her run in an election against Sidney Glass, the town’s newspaper editor? Who were they fucking kidding? It got worse in Season Two. After her first encounter with Cora in“Lady of the Lake”, Emma regained her ability to sniff out a liar when she met Captain Hook for the first time in “The Doctor”. She first proved that she was her mother’s daughter by killing Maleficent in dragon form in “A Land Without Magic”. I found the scenario of a bail bondsman successfully killing a dragon just as implausible as her father Charming killing his first dragon with ease in(1.06) “The Shepherd”. Although Emma displayed a lack of familiarity in Fairy Tale Land during the season’s early episodes, she became another ideal action woman – like her mother Snow White – in episodes like (2.06) “Tallahassee” and“(2.09) “Queen of Hearts”. The latter episode featured a sword fight between Emma and Hook before she and Snow White jumped into a portal in order to return to Storybrooke. I realize that Emma had difficulty in defeating Hook. I simply had difficulty in believing that she was able to defeat him at all. He is an experienced swordsman. The series has never hinted that Emma knew anything about sword fighting. Hook should have sliced her up in bits within a minute. I do not know how to explain this phenonemon. Perhaps his feelings for her led him to merely toy with her. Between Snow White and Emma, the producers and writers seemed to believe that portraying the Charming women as badasses, while maintaining near ideal personalities is a sign of good characterization. Audiences also discovered in this episode that being the offspring of “Twu Luv”, Emma’s heart is impregnable from being ripped out by magic. Oh God! I guess no one can spare me from this ridiculous crap. Some fans and critics found this revelation brilliant, romantic or both. When I saw Cora fail to rip out Emma’s heart because she is the emodiment of “Twu Luv”, I merely rolled my eyes in disgust.
I have saved the worst for last – namely Henry Mills, Emma’s biological son, Snow and Charming’s biological grandson and Regina’s adoptive son. God, I cannot stand him. I really cannot stand him. Henry has to be one of the most unreal child characters I have ever come across in recent years. I have discovered that in one-and-a-half seasons, he has not developed as a character one whit. He has remained the same, self-righteous child with a desire to be a fairy tale hero. How did he discover that Emma was his natural mother, let alone discover that she lived in Boston? The series has never revealed this and honestly, his possession of the Fairy Tale storybook is not much of an excuse. And not only do I find his ability to track down Emma in Boston and travel to said city without his stepmother’s knowledge implausible, I also find his ability to identify nearly every citizen of Storybrooke with their Fairy Tale Land identity hard to accept. Did the fairy tales book in his possession provide him with this information? I became increasingly weary of his penchant for skipping school. His self-righteous claims of “magic has a price”got on my nerves. To be honest, I got tired of many characters – especially Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold – making the same claim. I also became weary of Henry’s constant and self-righteous “good always defeat evil” declarations. Are we, the viewers, supposed to regard this ten year-old as the voice of morality? Dear God! I hope not. But what really irks me about Henry is that he seems to be the driving force of many of the actions of the major characters. Regina decided to redeem herself in order to win Henry’s love. It was Henry who lured Emma to Storybrooke so that she would act out her role as savior. It was Henry who reunited Jefferson/the Mad Hatter with his daughter. It was Henry who drove Emma to finally break the curse. It was Henry’s dreams that provided Rumplestiltskin with the opportunity to communicate with Emma and Snow so they could return to Storybrooke. Henry, Henry, Henry! I am so sick of him. Then I remembered. Both Horowitz and Kitsis used to be among the staff writers for “LOST”. And that series did a piss poor job in its portrayals of children characters. With Henry’s characterization, the tradition continues.
Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis need to do something about the Charmings. By mid-Season Two, they have become ridiculously ideal and at times, self-righteous. I get tired of certain fans wallowing in the crimes or mere mistakes of other characters, while making excuses for the mistakes of this increasingly annoying family. Please do something. Provide the family with some real character development or moral complexity, instead of portraying them as badasses and ideal leaders. And please have another character call them up on their bullshit. Just for once. As for Henry Mills, the only change in his character that will truly please me is his death. Yes, I realize that I sound cruel. But that damn brat simply brings out the worst in me.
POST SCRIPT: Judging from the last scene of the Season Two episode,(2.15) “The Queen Is Dead”, Snow White has plans to kill Cora Mills, Queen of Hearts; in revenge for the death of her mother, Queen Eva. Alas, Horowitz and Kitsis barely explored this dark turn in her character. Not surprising.
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