Ever since I watched (3.01) “The Heart of the Truest Believer”, the Season Three premiere for ABC’s “ONCE UPON A TIME”, I have been experiencing troubling thoughts about the series’ writing. And those troubling thoughts centered around the deaths of two recurring characters.
Anyone who had watched both the Season Three premiere and the Season Two finale, (2.22) “And Straight On ‘Til Morning”would know to what I am referring. The latter episode saw two recurring characters, Greg Mendell and Tamara, attempt to destroy Storybrooke in an effort to rid the world of any magic. Before Regina Mills aka the Evil Queen and Emma Swan could foil their plans, they kidnapped the pair’s son, Henry Mills, and took him to Neverland using a magic bean. Apparently, the leader of their anti-magic organization called “the Home Office”, had ordered them to take Henry to Neverland, claiming that his presence was more important than destroying magic.
Upon their arrival in Neverland, Greg and Tamara discovered that “the Home Office” had never existed. They had been tricked by Peter Pan and the Lost Boys to bring Henry to Neverland, because Peter wanted the boy he believed possessed the heart of the truest believer. Realizing that the Lost Boys wanted Henry, Tamara ordered him to run. Meanwhile, an entity called “The Shadow” ripped Greg’s shadow from his body. One of the Lost Boys shot Tamara with an arrow, badly wounding her. While all of this occurred, the Charmings, Regina, Rumpelstiltskin aka Mr. Gold and Captain Killian Hook arrived in Neverland via the latter’s ship, the Jolly Roger. Rumpelstiltskin left his companions behind and appeared on the island. He eventually found the wounded Tamara, ripped her heart and crushed it, killing her in the process. All of this happened before the end of the episode’s first half.
My reaction to Tamara and Greg’s fates really took me by surprise. I realized that the pair were merely recurring characters. But I never thought that the series’ creators, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, would get rid of them so soon. I, along with other regular viewers of “ONCE UPON A TIME”, knew that Sonequa Martin-Green, the actress who had portrayed Tamara, was scheduled to resume her role on AMC’s “THE WALKING DEAD”, which had been upgraded from recurring to regular, during this new television season. But I had no idea that Horowitz would get rid of her character so soon. Too soon, in my opinion. If Horowitz and Kitsis realized they would not be able to employ Martin-Green for more than one episode, they could have recast the Tamara character with a new actress. Would it have really killed them?
Why do I have such a problem with Tamara and Greg’s fates? It happened . . . too soon. And too fast. The writers of “And Straight On ‘Til Morning” gave Greg and Tamara’s kidnapping of Henry and journey to Neverland such a big buildup. To have them killed off – or in Greg’s case – shadow ripped from his body in such a quick fashion left a bitter taste in my mouth. Unlike many fans, I never disliked the pair. But I have to admit that Horowitz and Kitsis really mishandled their characters. Their handling of Tamara proved to be even worse than their handling of Greg. Do the two creators plan to reveal how Peter Pan and the Lost Boys created an anti-magic organization in the first place? I hope so. After all, Greg was first contacted by “the Home Office” thirty years ago, after losing his father to Regina and Graham in Storybrooke. And what about Tamara? What led her to embrace this anti-magic agenda? When was she first contacted by “the Home Office”? Since Rumpelstiltskin had murdered her halfway through the episode, I now realize that viewers will never know the truth.
If I have to be honest, Tamara’s death bothered me a lot more than Greg’s. Greg merely had his shadow ripped from his body. Audiences do not really know whether he is still alive or not. Horowitz and Kitsis made it very clear that Tamara was killed. Now, this might have to do with the fact that Martin-Green was scheduled to appear on “THE WALKING DEAD” set. But as I had stated earlier, they could have simply hired another actress to replace her. And there are other aspects of Tamara’s death that bother me. She was killed off before any attempt could be made to reveal her background. Audiences know how she became acquainted with both August W. Booth aka Pinocchio and Neal Cassidy aka Baelfire. Otherwise, we know nothing about her past. The writers did not even bothered to give her a surname. And judging from the comments I have read on the series’ messageboards and forums, along with television critics from the WALL STREET JOURNAL blog, the HUFFINGTON POST blog and DEN OF GEEK; no one really cared that Tamara’s background and her surname were never revealed. Instead, they crowed with glee that the pair was quickly killed off. They especially crowed over the manner of Tamara’s death – either deliberately dismissing her remorse with sarcasm or ignoring it altogether. Their attitudes did not merely bothered me, it angered me beyond belief.
I am coming to believe that Tamara’s death merely confirmed what many critics have been complaining about “ONCE UPON A TIME” – their shabby handling of characters portrayed by non-white characters. Tamara was a prime example. Between her and Greg, the latter was given a background story, a surname and a questionable “death”. Nor did the fans and critics regard him with the same vitriolic hatred leveled at Tamara. Horowitz and Kitsis could have developed Tamara’s character in Season Three by recasting a new actress for the role. They did not bother.
But Tamara was not the only example of the series’ poor handling of non-white characters. I still cannot help but shake my head in disbelief over that fight scene between Snow White and Mulan in Season Two’s (2.08) “Into the Deep” in which the less experienced princess quickly defeated the more experienced and non-white warrior. Mulan, who was portrayed as a young woman from a well-to-do Chinese family in the 1998 animated film, was portrayed as illiterate in another Season Two episode, (2.11) “The Outsider”. Her illiteracy prevented her from being able to read Chinese characters. Yet, the very white Belle, was able to reach Chinese characters after reading a book. I just . . . I just could not believe this. Poor Lancelot, who was portrayed by African-American actor Sinqua Walls, was killed off in the Season Two episode, (2.03) “Lady of the Lake”, his only appearance on the show. In fact, his character was already dead and being impersonated by Cora Mills aka Queen of Hearts. And Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, who was portrayed by an African-American actress, was killed by Rumpelstiltskin during the first three-to-five minutes of the Season One episode, (1.04) “The Price of Gold”. Only Sidney Glass aka the Genie-in-the-Lamp and Regina, who are portrayed by Giancarlo Espocito and Lana Parrilla respectively, avoided such poor handling. Well . . . somewhat. Espocito could not reprise his role in Season Two, due to his obligations as a regular cast member of NBC’s “REVOLUTION”. However, he could have been replaced by another actor. It would take another essay to write about the handling of the Regina Mills character, especially in the last five to six episodes of Season Two. But I found it annoying that she was the only major character described as “the Villain” by ABC’s promotion for Season Three, when there was a bigger villain worthy of the title – Mr. Gold aka Rumpelstiltskin.
I am amazed. I had started this article with the intent to complain about the series’ handling of both Greg and Tamara in“The Heart of the Truest Believer”. I am still upset over their fates and the piss poor reactions by the fans and critics. But I now realize that what pissed me even more was that the show’s handling of Tamara merely confirmed my worst instincts about “ONCE UPON A TIME” and the creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis – their inability to write or maintain decent characterizations for those roles portrayed by minority actors and actresses. But I should not be surprised. Despite the Hollywood community’s pretense at being liberals, in the end it is just as narrow-minded and conservative as the worst bigot or pop culture geek.
Filed under: Essay, Television | Tagged: colin o'donoghue, disney, emilie de ravin, ethan embry, giancarlo esposito, ginnifer goodwin, jamie chung, jennifer morrison, josh dallas, lana parrilla, literary, michael raymond-james, once upon a time, peter pan, robbie kay, robert carlyle, snow white, sonequa martin-green, television |