The Great “ONCE UPON A TIME” Costume Gallery II

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Below is a gallery featuring the costumes designed by Eduardo Castro from the third and fourth seasons of the ABC series, “ONCE UPON A TIME” and the 2013-2014 series, “ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND”:

THE GREAT “ONCE UPON A TIME” COSTUME Gallery II
The Ladies

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Five Favorite Episodes of “ONCE UPON A TIME” – Season Four (2014-2015)

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season Four of “ONCE UPON A TIME”. The series was created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz:

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “ONCE UPON A TIME” – SEASON FOUR (2014-2015)

1 - 4.16 Best Laid Plans

1. (4.17) “Best Laid Plans” – While Rumpelstiltskin and the Queens of Darkness continue their search for the “Author” of the town’s Fairy Tale Book, Snow White and David try to stop them in order to keep their daughter Emma Swan from discovering their past misdeed, which is finally revealed in flashbacks.

2 - 4.12 Darkness on the Edge of Town

2. (4.13) “Darkness on the Edge of Town” – Rumpelstiltskin returns to Storybrooke with Ursula and Cruella De Vil in tow. Meanwhile, the Charmings, Regina Mills and Killian Jones (Captain Hook) set about freeing the fairies from the Sorcerer’s hat and deal with a threatening Chernabog demon, which was also freed.

3 - 4.17 Heart of Gold

3. (4.18) “Heart of Gold” – Emma, angry over the discovery of her parents’ misdeed, joins the search for the Author. Meanwhile, a captured Regina learns from Rumpelstiltskin on how Robin Hood ended up in the clutches of her allegedly dead sister Zelena in New York City. And Robin has his first encounter with Zelena in the past Land of Oz, as he sets about stealing a magical elixir for Rumpelstiltskin.

4 - 4.07 The Snow Queen

4. (4.07) “The Snow Queen” – The origins of Ingrid, the Snow Queen in Arendelle, are revealed in flashbacks, along with her relationships with her two sisters. In the present, Ingrid manipulates Emma into losing control of her magic in order to make the Charmings fear her.

5 - 4.22 Operation Mongoose Part 1

5. (4.22) “Operation Mongoose, Part 1” – In the first half of the season finale, Henry Mills tries to undo the changes in the universe created by Isaac Heller aka the Author and Rumpelstiltskin.

HM - 4.04 The Apprentice

Honorable Mention: (4.04) “The Apprentice” – Killian blackmails Rumpelstiltskin into giving him a genuine hand for the former’s first date with Emma and ends up facing consequences, and Emma is constantly taunted by Ingrid about the former’s relationship with her parents. Flashbacks reveal Princess Anna of Arendelle’s encounters with both Rumpelstiltskin and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

“Trapped By a Title”

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I wrote this article following the airing of (4.21-4.22) “Operation Mongoose”, the Season Four finale of ABC’s “ONCE UPON A TIME”:

 
“TRAPPED BY A TITLE”

I feel sorry for Emma Swan. I may dislike her very much at the moment. But I do feel sorry for her. More importantly, she has become, since Season Two, one of the most frustrating characters on “ONCE UPON A TIME”. Which is probably why I have just written my third or fourth article about her.

From the moment her son Henry Mills found her in the series’ premiere episode, (1.01) “Pilot” and revealed that she was destined to break a curse cast by his adopted mother, Regina Mills that currently trapped the citizens of Storybrooke; she has been stuck with the role of “Savior”. Yes, I said “stuck”. Because there is no other way to describe her situation, pre-“Dark One” curse. And she will continue to be stuck in the role, once she breaks free of the curse. Henry was the first to forced the role of “Savior”. After Emma broke that first curse, her parents – Snow White and David Prince Chraming – and other citizens of Storybrooke enforced that role upon her as well. But I think this was a mistake on Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz’s part. They should have dropped the “Savior” title, after Season One. Instead, they have allowed other characters, including the reformed Regina, to insist that she is the “Savior”.

For me, this is so wrong on so many levels. Perhaps Kitsis and Horowitz are trying to re-create another Buffy Summers. Who knows? But this insistence that she has to be this savior who is supposed to be solely responsible for the lives of others and guarantee their happy endings is ridiculous. And it does not serve Emma’s emotional growth as many believe it will. Instead, it has become something of a detriment to her character . . . an emotional straight jacket. As long as Emma continues to allow the others to dictate what she has to do for the rest of her life, she will never grow as an individual or as a character. Being “the Savior” should not have been her job description in the first place. This is something that was enforced upon her by Rumpelstiltskin’s scheming, because he wanted a way to the “Land Without Magic” in order to find his missing son, Baelfire. And the Storybrooke citizens – especially Emma’s parents and Regina – have enforced this role upon her, due to their inability to see her as someone other than a glorified magical vigilante. There is no real law that she has to spend the rest of her life giving people “happy endings”. I see no reason why she always has to be the one who has to defeat some magical Big Bad. Past seasons have allowed others like Regina, Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, Henry and Anna of Arendelle (via emotional persuasion) to defeat or help defeat the Big Bad. So why is everyone still insisting that Emma has to be “the One”?

However, I fear that once Emma is freed from the “Dark One” curse, she will continue to allow everyone to squeeze her into some straight jacket labeled “Savior”. Because of this belief that she always has to save someone, Emma ended up making one of the biggest mistakes in her life in the Season Three finale, (3.22) “There’s No Place Like Home” when she tried to change the timeline and save Maid Marian’s life. She thought that because she was “the Savior”, she had the right to commit the dangerous act of changing the timeline in order to save someone who had died in the past. Yet, she also believed that Rumpelstiltskin did not have the right to change the timeline in order to prevent Neal’s death. Not only were Emma’s actions hypocritical, they also led to Zelena’s resurgence in their lives (Rumpelstiltskin helped with his so-called act of murder). In the Season Four finale, (4.23) “Operation Mongoose, Part 2” she called herself saving Regina’s moral compass – something which the latter never asked in the first place – from an entity that eventually led her to become the new “Dark One”. This new situation led her to make an even bigger mistake in a flashback sequence in Season Five’s (5.08) “Birth”. When her current paramour Kilian Jones aka Captain Hook was mortally wounded by King Arthur wielding Excalibur, Emma tried to heal him by magic. Unfortunately, her effort did not work and she resorted to a desperate measure by tethering Killian’s life to Excalibur and transforming him into a second “Dark One” . . . despite his dying wish that she would allow him to die in peace. Aside from Cruella DeVille’s murder in late Season Four, it was the ugliest act that Emma had ever committed. And it was incredibly selfish.

Four years have passed since Emma first found herself stuck with the role of “Savior”. This role has proven to be something of an emotional strain for other fictional “saviors” and “chosen ones” such as Buffy Summer, Jack Shepherd, and Harry Potter. I find it odd that other than late Season One when Henry and August Booth aka Pinocchio kept insisting that she has to break that first curse, Emma has never really dealt with any emotional strain over being a “chosen one”. And the only reason she found it a strain was due to her inability to believe Henry and August about the curse. I find this both odd and unrealistic. The longer other“chosen one” or “savior” characters were forced to accept this role, the harder it became for them to deal with it. Instead, Emma dealt with the problems of her relationship with her parents and Neal, the growing strength of her powers, Henry’s amnesia in late Season Three, Regina’s anger in early Season Four over her time travel escapades, her parents’ lies regarding Maleficent and the latter’s child, former childhood friend Lily Page and the whole “Dark One” situation. But not since Season One can I recall Emma dealing with the pressures of being the “Savior”.

It occurred to me that sooner or later, Emma needs to break free of that role/straight jacket in order to dictate her own life. I am not stating that she needs to stop saving others or stop being a town sheriff (despite being lousy at the job). But she does not have to make being the “Savior” a life long job description. If Emma continues down this path, she just might make another mistake on the same level as the one she made in “There’s No Place Like Home” or make a decision similar to the one that led her to become the “Dark One” . . . or something even worse. And she will never have the freedom to be herself.

“ONCE UPON A TIME”: The Frustration of an Outlaw Queen Shipper

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“ONCE UPON A TIME”: THE FRUSTRATION OF AN OUTLAW QUEEN SHIPPER

The latest plot development of ABC’s “ONCE UPON A TIME” has left me in a state of frustration. This plot development . . . or twist has to do with the relationship between the characters Mayor Regina Mills aka the Evil Queen and Robin Hood aka Robin of Locksley. And the ironic thing is that my frustration is not centered on the actual plot twist, but has a good deal to do with the fan reaction to it.

I guess we all know what happened. In a previous episode called (4.17) “Heart of Gold”, Regina learned from her former mentor, Mr. Gold aka Rumpelstiltskin that not only was her half-sister Zelena aka the Wicked Witch of the West was still alive, she had been impersonating Maid Marian since the second half of the Season Three episode, (3.22) “There’s No Place Like Home”. After being defeated by Regina in (3.20) “Kansas”, Zelena was murdered by a vengeful Rumpelstiltskin, who wanted her dead in retaliation for his son’s death. However, after stabbing Zelena, the latter transformed into essence and eventually opened the time portal she had planned to use to wipe Regina, Snow White, Emma and young Henry Mills from existence. Zelena reformed into human shape in the Enchanted Forest past and followed Emma and Killian Jones aka Captain Hook around. She saw that Emma had decided to change the timeline and save the real Maid Marian from execution on the Evil Queen’s order. Zelena took the opportunity to kill Marian when Emma and Hook were distracted and allow them to drag her to Storybrooke and the 21st century.

In (4.11) “Heroes and Villains”, “Marian” decided that she no longer wanted to be with Robin, since he seemed to be very much in love with Regina. However, the Snow Queen’s freezing spell, which was cast on Zelena in (4.03) “Rocky Road”, began affecting the latter . . . despite the former’s death in the previous episode, (4.10) “Shattered Sight”. Regina insisted that she and Robin end their romance for good and for him to accompany “Marian” out of Storybrooke to take care of her and Roland. In “Heart of Gold”, both she and Rumpelstiltskin learned that “Marian” was Zelena. When Regina accompanied Emma on a road trip to find Maleficent’s daughter in (4.19) “Lily”, they end up in New York City. Regina managed to expose “Marian” as Zelena to a very surprised Robin. But she received her own surprise when Zelena revealed that she was pregnant with Robin’s child.

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Not only did this revelation send shock waves throughout the “ONCE UPON A TIME” fandom, it also exposed some very interesting reactions to this plot twist. Well . . . I did not find these fan reactions “interesting” per se, merely annoying. I was surprised by the number of hostile reactions directed at Robin by the show’s fans. Especially the Outlaw Queen (Regina/Robin) fans. They accused show runners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis of bad writing. They labeled Zelena as something of a cross between a psychotic monster and a slut. But most of their hostility seemed to be directed at Robin. They accused him of stupidity, claiming that he should have known that his wife was not the real Maid Marian. They accused him of being betraying Regina’s love. Some idiots even accused Robin of being fickle in regard to his feelings about Regina. Some fans even wondered how Regina could ever forgive Robin for choosing to be with “Marian” over staying in Storybrooke with her. When I read these complaints and accusations, I could not help but shake my head in disbelief. Does anyone understand what a story is about? Anyone? Did anyone understand what kind of man Robin was . . . or the era that he came from?

I wonder how many of the “ONCE UPON A TIME” fans were aware that Robin was not a veteran of the 21st century like Regina, the Charming family and most of Storybrooke’s citizens. Mind you, he had experienced the 21st century longer than “Marian” (let us assume for a brief moment that we are talking about the real Marian). That is why Regina had convinced him to leave Storybrooke with “Marian” and Roland in the first place. In her mind, “Marian” had no real experience with the 21st century – in Storybrooke and elsewhere. And Roland is a mere child. Regina believed and Robin realized that neither would have been able to survive the outside world on their own. It was either accompany “Marian” and Roland to New York or allow “Marian to die from Ingrid’s curse.

Did anyone ever understood the era that Robin came from? He came from a period in time that believed in honoring obligations. You know . . . . doing the right thing in the eyes of society, instead of doing what you want to do with no regard to the consequences. Even Regina came from that period, despite her questionable moral compass and three decades in late 20th and early 21st centuries Maine. When Zelena revealed her true identity to Rumpelstiltskin, she informed the latter that she had hoped to ruin Regina’s happiness by making Robin fall in love with her (as “Marian”). However, Zelena realized that she could not use Robin’s past life with Marian and simply seduce him. His feelings for Regina kept getting in the way. In fact, he spent a good deal of their initial time in New York mourning over the end of his relationship with Regina and causing a good deal of tension between him and “Marian”. In the end, it took conversations with both Zelena and Rumpelstiltskin to make Robin believe he had to put Regina behind him for good and try to rebuild his old family for the sake of peace. Zelena saw Regina’s image on Robin’s cell phone and went into a rant about how his feelings for Regina prevented them from trying to re-establish their lives together in New York (actually, I do wonder how long it took them to get to New York without a car). In other words, Zelena dumped a massive guilt trip on Robin. It did not help that Rumpelstiltskin’s advice about finding happiness wherever he can find it led Robin to believe that he needed to make due with what his life had provided and try to form a stable family life with “Marian” and Roland.

And when Robin found out that “Marian” was Zelena, in his mind he still could not leave her. Especially since he believes that she is pregnant with his child. I doubt very much that Robin cares for Zelena. Chances are he is probably upset that she had deceived him . . . and probably killed the real Marian. But he is also thinking of his unborn child . . . that is if Zelena is actually pregnant. I simply do not believe that Robin is the type of many who would shirk his own responsibilities. He is simply not the deadbeat type. He obviously feels obligated to take care of his unborn child, whether he wants to or not. Robin is nothing like Zelena’s own father, the gardener who had seduced and abandoned Cora after she became pregnant. And for this, along with his decision to take care of “Marian” and Roland in New York City, Robin is being criticized by many fans.

Personally, I find this anger toward Robin rather baffling. When the character was first introduced, no one had a problem with his “code of honor”, along with his open-mindedness (especially toward Regina). But when it got in the way of a“happily ever after” with Regina – THEIR decision that he needed leave Storybrooke with “Marian” and his refusal to give up on the child he had conceived with “Marian”/Zelena – they dumped all sorts or ire on the man. These fans want him to be a good man . . . as long as his moral code does not get in the way of what they conceive as a perfect romance with Regina. Hypocritical much? Worse, they are now questioning Robin’s true feelings for Regina. Why? Because he had moved past Regina . . . too fast. Robin never really moved past Regina. He simply adjusted to a new life and situation. He is still in love with her. Although it took him a while, Robin came to the conclusion that any kind of life with Regina will always be over as long as “Marian” remains affected by Ingrid’s spell. And since “Marian” is still his wife, with whom he still shares a son . . . This is how Zelena was finally able to garner some kind of affection and intimacy with him, after her previously failed efforts to get him to fall in love with her. And she was only able to achieve this, disguised as Marian. Now, she has an unborn child as a weapon to keep Regina and Robin apart. How long this will last, I have no idea.

Personally, I believe this whole situation with Robin and Zelena is karmic payback for Regina. She is paying the price for using the curse (along with Princess Abigail/Kathryn Nolan) to disrupt Snow and Charming’s relationship. Just as Snow and Charming are experiencing karmic payback for not only taking an unborn Lily, but for using it to manipulate Emma’s own moral compass. In fact, I suspect their earlier loss of Emma through the curse might be payback for kidnapping Lily. Even Emma has experienced karmic payback for giving away Henry (even though her action is not a crime). After all, he will never be completely hers. Never. The same could be said for Regina, who was responsible for the Charmings being forced to give up Emma. And for a brief moment, I believe Emma experienced karmic payback for car theft, when Lily drove away with the yellow Volkswagen bug – the same car that she and Neal had stolen in Portland. It remains to be seen if Emma and the other characters will experience consequences for their other questionable actions.

Following the news of Zelena’s pregnancy, cries that Outlaw Queen was through were posted on the Internet – despite the fact that the series’ run was far from over. These naysayers still believe that Robin needs to dump his “code of honor” in order to have a trouble-free relationship with Regina. They also accused Horowitz and Kitsis of transforming “ONCE UPON A TIME” into a soap opera. HUH? Who are they kidding? The series has always been a combination of a fantasy-adventure and SOAP OPERA. I mean . . . really! The number of bat-shit crazy story arcs and plot twists that have popped up on this show, since its debut in the Fall of 2011 is mind boggling. The most obvious aspect of this series’ soap operish trait is Henry Mills’ crazy family tree. His mother is the first born of Snow White and Prince Charming. His father is Rumpelstiltskin’s son. His step-grandmother is Belle (from “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST”) His paternal grandfather is Peter Pan, who proved to be the most evil and selfish character on this show, so far. His adoptive mother and step-great-grandmother is the Evil Queen. Robin Hood almost became his adoptive father (and he still might by the series’ end). There is a chance that Captain Hook, who had an affair with his paternal grandmother, might become his stepfather. The Queen of Hearts (Cora Mills) is his adoptive grandmother. And the Wicked Witch of the West (Zelena Mills) is his adoptive aunt. I mean . . . what the fuck? Is this bat-shit crazy or what? How can any complain about the latest plot development between Robin and Zelena, when the series has been full of these crazy and soap operish plot twists since it began? Quality writing has never been the hallmark of this series.

Part of me suspect that today’s fans of movies, television and novels long for fictional romances that are trouble free? But why? What is it about today’s audiences that they cannot deal with any kind of emotional conflict or drama between a romantic couple? What is this stupid need for an established couple to be emotionally trouble free and only deal with external threats? It is just so fucking pathetic. It seems as if no one understand or appreciates real storytelling these days. I suspect this is what people really want:

“A couple or family are emotionally secure and lack any hints of moral ambiguity whatsoever. They never fight, make questionable judgments or endure emotional conflicts whatsoever. Instead, all of the conflicts they endure are from an external threat, which is quickly dealt with by the end of a television episode or a movie.

In other words, they want ideal relationships with not moral ambiguity whatsoever and quickly resolved story arcs. I cannot even count the number of times I have spotted comments by television, movie and literary fans on the Internet, who long for an idealized and trouble-free romance between two fictional characters. And I not only fear that storytellers – in all mediums – might give them what they want, but that today’s culture is really going down the drain.

It is rather ironic that when Regina and Robin finally became romantically involved in late Season Three, some fans had complained that their romance seemed a bit too rushed. I had suggested that their story might be far from over. Ever since Emma and Hook brought “Marian”/Zelena to Storybrooke, I proved to be right. But now, these same fans are complaining over the numerous ways that Horowitz and Kitsis seemed to be complicating Regina and Robin’s romance. I swear . . . people can be incredibly fickle.

“LOST RETROSPECT”: (5.02) “The Lie”

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“LOST” RETROSPECT: (5.02) “The Lie”

Season Five of ABC’s “LOST” has always struck me as the series’ Odd Man Out. It is not the first season to break the rules of the series’ format. Season Four not only featured flashbacks, but also flash forwards. But Season Five seemed to be all over the place. And I believe this was due to the cast being split up for the first half of its season.

Before I talk about the season’s second episode, (5.02) “The Lie”, I feel I should do a recap of what led to its events. As many of the show’s fans know, at least five of the original Oceanic Flight 815 survivors made it off the island. They were Dr. Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, Sayid Jarrah, Sun-Hwa Kwon, and Hugo “Hurley” Reyes. Five others inhabitants also managed to leave – including Claire Littleton’s son Aaron, who was born on the island; Desmond Hume, who had been stranded on the island for three years; former Others leader Benjamin Linus, who left around the same time as the Oceanic survivors; Frank Lapidus, an airline pilot who had been hired to join an expedition traveling to the island aboard a freighter called the Kahana; and John Locke, whose later departure would be revealed in details in a future episode. The Season Four finale, (4.12 – 4.14) “There’s No Place Like Home”, viewers discovered that the original five survivors, Desmond and young Aaron were floating in a Zodiac raft, when they were picked up by a yacht owned by Desmond’s love, Penny Widmore. While Desmond and Frank remained aboard Penny’s yacht; Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sun, Hurley and young Aaron arrived on Fiji with a cover story about Oceanic 815’s crash and how they ended there. They became known as “the Oceanic Six”.

The first half of Season Five seemed to be divided into two major time period. The episodes and scenes featuring the survivors back on the island are set during the time following the Oceanic Six’s departure from the island and how they dealt with the various inhabitants they encountered, while flashing back and forth through time. Rather confusing . . . eh? The episodes and scenes featuring the Oceanic Six focused on their lives nearly three years after being off the island and Benjamin Linus’ efforts to get them to return. “The Lie” continued the story of the Oceanic Six during the latter period of those three years and the efforts of the island castaways to survive the constant shifts in time, which seemed to have caused a good deal of upheaval for them.

In this particular episode, Hurley finds himself labeled as a fugitive, when the police blames him for the deaths of two men whom Sayid had killed in the previous episode, (5.01) “Because You Left”. With a barely conscious Sayid as his companion, Hurley appears at the Reyes family home and seeks refuge from the police with his parents. During his stay, he reveals to the latter the truth behind the lies concocted by Jack Shephard for the media and Oceanic Airlines. Meanwhile, Jack, who is forced to deal with withdrawal symptoms, and Ben try to round up the other Oceanic Six members and John Locke for their return to the island. According to former Other and island inhabitant, Eloise Hawking, Ben has seventy (70) hours to get them on a plane for the South Pacific. In the previous episode, two men had approached Kate for a blood sample to determine Aaron Littleton’s bloodline. Fearful that Aaron might be taken away from her, Kate decides to go on the run with the toddler. However, a visit from Sun-Hwa Kwon prevents her from doing so. And when Kate tells her about the two men, Sun suggests that she takes excessive steps to prevent them from taking Aaron.

“The Lie” also featured the further adventures of those castaways left behind. Unlike those who had managed to leave the island, their story is set two to three years earlier – following Ben Linus and the Oceanic Six’s departure. “Because You Left”revealed that when Ben left by turning that Frozen Donkey Wheel inside the DHARMA Orchid Station, those left behind found themselves flashing back and forth through time. In “The Lie”, the remaining castaways attempt to start a fire at the old beach camp. Daniel, who had instructed a past Desmond Hume to find Eloise Hawking, join the others before they are attacked by the Others with a barrage of flaming arrows. Fortunately for James “Sawyer” Ford and Juliet Burke, John Locke comes to their rescue before they can be killed.

Wow! That seemed a lot for one particular episode. Was “The Lie” supposed to part of a two-part episode with “Because You Left”? If not, one could easily describe this episode as convoluted. There seemed to be at least three . . . perhaps four story arcs going on. At least a few of the episode’s story arcs seemed to relate to its title. Hurley and Sayid’s stay at the Reyes home and the former’s confession to his mother about the lies Jack had concocted for the media and Oceanic Airlines seemed to be one. I could also say the same about the story arc featuring Kate’s anxiety over losing Aaron. And Daniel did fail to tell Sawyer and Juliet that he had instruct the past Desmond to pay a visit to Eloise Hawking. The episode’s title seemed to suggest there were consequences in the Oceanic Six’s lies about their survival of the Flight 815 crash, their time on the island and return to civilization. But honestly, these consequences only seemed apparent in two story arcs – Hurley’s survival guilt and Kate’s anxiety over losing Aaron.

The consequences of Oceanic Six’s lies seemed to stem in the episode’s flashback aboard Penny Widmore’s yacht, where Jack presented the story he planned to tell Oceanic Airlines and the media. There were two very interesting reactions to his revelations. Hurley seemed very reluctant to accept Jack’s lies, making it clear that he found them unnecessary. But . . . being Hurley, he caved in from Jack’s pressure to accept the false story for them to tell Oceanic Airlines and spent the next three years being haunted by his decision and the lies, until he finally confessed them to his mother. Another interesting reaction to Jack’s suggestion came from Kate, who seemed unusually quick to accept it. Did Kate believe that his suggestion enabled her to pretend to be Aaron’s mother? This seemed rather surprising to me when “LOST” was still on the air, considering that between the time she helped Claire Littleton give birth to Aaron in (1.20) “Do No Harm” and Oceanic Six’s flight from the island in (4.14) “There’s No Place Like Home, Part III”, Kate had expressed very little interest in Claire or Aaron. Yet, nearly three years later found Kate willing to flee from Los Angeles with Aaron, due to her fear that the courts would have a legal reason to take him away from her. These two story arcs seemed to have the strongest connections to the episode’s title.

However, I had trouble making any connections between the Oceanic Six’s lies and the other story arcs. If there were any connections, they struck me as a bit weak – in the case of Ben’s visit to Eloise Hawking and the butcher shop that was holding Locke’s body, or barely non-existent – the remaining survivors’ travails with time traveling. Mind you, I found both story arcs fascinating. Ben’s visit with Ms. Hawkings eventually played out in a near future episode. And the story arc surrounding those left behind on the island proved to be action-filled and very exciting. But again, their story arcs seemed to have a stronger connection to the island incidents in “There’s No Place Like Home” than the Oceanic Six’s lies. Speaking of the latter, I do have to give Horowitz, Kitsis and director Jack Bender for injecting a good deal of mystery regarding the island inhabitants’ time traveling experiences, along with both drama and action. I am sure that many viewers were on the edge of their seats over the identities of the castaways’ attackers – especially the two uniformed men who tried to kill Sawyer and Juliet.

But the crux of the episode seemed to be all about the climax over Hurley’s emotional dilemma over his return to Los Angeles, along with his guilt over leaving behind many of his fellow castaways. I have rather mixed feelings about this particular story arc. On one hand, I thought Hurley’s confession to Mrs. Reyes about the island seemed like an emotional payoff of his survivor guilt that first manifested in the flash forward scenes from the Season Four episode, (4.01) “The Beginning of the End”. But Horowitz and Kitsis undermined this emotional payoff by having Hurley turning himself in to the authorities, after Ben Linus confronted him about returning to the island. What was the point of that? Ben gave him the opportunity to finally return to the island and put his mind at ease over leaving some of his fellow castaways behind . . . and “poof” . . . he decides to ignore Ben’s offer? Even after Ana-Lucia Cortez’s ghost had warned him to avoid the police?

There are some who believe that “The Lie” is an unevenly paced episode. Perhaps. I thought the episode featured too many story arcs. And if it was supposed to be the second half of a two-part episode, I wish that show runners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindehof had not given the two episodes different titles . . . with different themes. Their actions only left me in a conundrum over whether “The Lie” is a two-part episode or not. Regardless, the opening episodes of Season Five struck me as unevenly handled, despite some very memorable scenes and performances, especially from Jorge Garcia.

“ONCE UPON A TIME”: Tolerating Ambiguity

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“ONCE UPON A TIME”: TOLERATING AMBIGUITY

A good number of the “ONCE UPON A TIME” fandom seemed to be divided over what was revealed in the series’ latest episode called (4.16) “Best Laid Plans”. This division seems to be especially apparent in the episode’s flashbacks and the moral implications hinted from those sequences.

Since the second half of the series’ Season Four began, there have been rumors and hints on the Internet that two of the series’ leads – Snow White aka Mary-Margaret Blanchard and Prince Charming aka David Nolan – may have done something questionable or even terrible in their past in the Enchanted Forest. The first hint appeared in the episode,(4.12) “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, when the couple had protested against allowing villainesses Ursula the Sea Witch and Cruella DeVille to enter their Maine community, Storyrbooke. Later in the episode, both Snow and Charming warned the villainous pair not to say a word about their past to anyone, especially their daughter Emma Swan.

The episode, (4.13) “Unforgiven” gave further hints of the royal pair’s ominous deed. The Storybrooke sequences featured Snow and Charming’s failed efforts to prevent Ursula and Cruella (with Rumpelstiltskin’s help) from resurrecting their former comrade, Maleficent. The latter had been trapped in dragon form by Regina Mills aka the Evil Queen in a cavern underneath Storybrooke during those 28 years of the first curse, until Emma killed her in the Season One episode, (1.22) “A Land Without Magic”. But the flashbacks for “Unforgiven” revealed that the Charmings had briefly formed an alliance with Maleficent, Ursula and Cruella to find a way to prevent Regina from casting the first curse. The alliance fell apart after Maleficent killed a pair of guards who blocked their way to a magical tree that could give them advice. Snow and Charming eventually learned – ironically from Maleficent – that the former was pregnant with Emma. They also learned that their unborn child would not only have the potential for good, but also for great evil. To anyone with common sense, this would be an apt description of any sentient being. Yet, the idea of their future child – who became dubbed as “the Savior” – possessing a potential for evil frightened the Charmings . . . especially Snow White.

So, what actually happened between the Charmings and the “Queens of Darkness” in the Enchanted Forest? “Best Laid Plans” provided the answer. The episode revealed that the royal couple had stopped to help a roadside peddler, who warned them that Maleficent had torched a village after becoming a dragon and laying an egg. He also advised them to seek advice from a “man in a cottage”. The latter turned out to be the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the same elderly man who had directed Queen Ingrid aka the Snow Queen to our world and whom Rumpelstiltskin (with Hook’s reluctant help) had entrapped inside the Sorcerer’s Hat. It was the Apprentice who told the Charmings that their child would grow up with the potential for both good and evil . . . like everyone else. He also added that if they wanted to ensure Emma would remain good, they would have to find another sentient being to serve as a vessel to absorb their unborn child’s potential for evil. In the end, the Charmings kidnapped Maleficent’s egg, which carried an unborn child to use as a vessel for Emma’s inner evil. And the Apprentice, who cast a spell that sent Emma’s inner evil into Maleficent’s unborn child, took the royal pair by surprise by declaring that such evil should not reside in the Enchanted Forest. He sent Maleficent’s child to “the Land Without Magic”, sucking Ursula and Cruella into the portal, as well.

The reaction to the Charmings’ actions in the Enchanted Forest and their subsequent lies in present-day Storybrooke proved to be very emotional and mixed within the “ONCE UPON A TIME” fandom. Many fans accepted what the Charmings did and recognized what they had done was wrong. However, other fan reactions to the Charmings’ actions and “Best Laid Plans” has been . . . well, interesting. Some fans have accused show runners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis of retconning Snow White and Charming’s characterizations . . . and bad writing altogether. Others have made excuses for the Charmings, claiming they could understand the couple’s need to save Emma from a life of evil. Others have used the peddler, who turned out to be the Author that many have been seeking, as an excuse for the Charmings’ terrible act. The episode revealed that instead of recording the going-ons in the Enchanted Forest, the peddler had been occasionally manipulating the actions of the inhabitants to “make a better story”. And since the episode revealed that the peddler/Author had manipulated the Apprentice into sending Maleficent’s unborn child to “the Land Without Magic”, he must have manipulated the Charmings into kidnapping the child in the first place. Ironically, the charges of bad writing and excuses reminded me of the reactions to Snow’s murder of Cora Mills aka the Queen of Hearts in Season Two’s (2.16) “The Miller’s Daughter”. For some reason, a certain portion of the series’ fandom find it difficult to accept any signs of moral ambiguity from either Snow White, Prince Charming or their daughter, Emma Swan. And there are those fans who have raked the Charmings over hot coals for their deed. I get the feeling these particular fans are angry at the couple (or at Horowitz and Kitsis) for shattering their ideal image of innate goodness.

Personally, I had sighed with relief over the revelation of the Charmings’ past misdeed. No one was more happier than me when Snow and David proved how low they could sink. Some might view my comment as crowing over the couple’s downfall. Trust me, I am not. I am happy that Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis has finally resumed portraying the couple’s moral ambiguity after . . . how many seasons? I believe the last time audiences really saw any signs of questionable morality from either Snow or David was in Season Two’s (2.16) “The Miller’s Daughter”, when Snow murdered Cora Mills aka the Queen of Hearts by cursing the latter’s heart and emotionally manipulating Regina into placing that heart back into Cora’s body. Many fans – to this day – have used Cora’s own moral compass and goal to become the new “Dark One” as an excuse for her murder. These same fans continue to claim that Snow’s intent was to save Storybrooke from Cora’s machinations. But Snow White’s declared intent to murder Cora in revenge for her mother’s death in (2.15) “The Queen Is Dead” makes it clear that Snow White’s only intent was to exact revenge.

There have been other signs throughout the series of Snow’s moral ambiguity. Flashbacks revealed in episodes that she was a kind, yet spoiled and slightly bratty child. I have always wondered about her attempts to redeemed Regina on her own terms, instead of allowing the latter to make the choice to seek redemption, herself. Was this some effort on Snow White’s part to regain the affection of the young woman who first saved her when they met? Or to be the “loving” stepmother and mother substitute she had assumed Regina was before King Leopold’s death? Who knows. I also recalled Snow White’s attempt to murder Regina in the flashbacks featured in Season One’s (1.16) “Heart of Darkness”. Many fans had attributed Snow’s murderous intent to the potion given to her by Rumpelstiltskin, which stripped away her memories of Charming. Those fans seemed to forget that the potion merely erased her memories of Charming. It did not make her murderous. I suspect that the stress of being a fugitive, along with anger and resentment over Regina’s part in Leopold’s death had finally got the best of Snow and she decided to resolve her situation with an act of murder. Thankfully, Charming managed to stop her.

And for quite some time, I have brought up Snow’s action against Mulan in Season Two’s (2.08) “Into the Darkness”, in which she and Emma were trying to leave the Enchanted Forest and return home to Storybrooke. As many know, Mulan had snatched a magical compass that mother and daughter were planning to use to return home. But Mulan wanted to exchange the compass for Princess Aurora, who had been kidnapped by Cora. Snow and Emma managed to catch up in time, before the former engaged in a tussle with Mulan that led to an implausible victory for her. Angry over Mulan’s theft, Snow demanded to know the reason behind it. Even though Mulan admitted that she stole the compass to save Aurora’s life, Snow gave into her anger and tried to kill the former. Fortunately for Mulan, Aurora (who had been freed by Killian Jones aka Captain Hook) stopped Snow from committing murder. Emma, on the other hand, had done nothing to stop her mother. Wow. Snow managed to commit two murder attempts before finally achieving one, when she arranged Cora’s death. Now, her body count is a far, far cry from the likes of Rumpelstiltskin, Regina, Cora, Zelena and other villains. But for someone with a reputation for innate goodness, her penchant for murder (whether successful or not) is at least worth contemplating.

As for David, one of his major character flaws has always been his penchant for judging others with extreme prejudice. Not only has this trait been apparent in his attitude toward Regina – even when she finally managed to achieve some form of full redemption – but also toward others whom he would view as different. This is a trait that Snow White also shares. How else could someone explain the couple’s willingness to use Maleficent’s child as a vessel for Emma’s inner evil? As far as they were concerned, the baby was nothing more than a replica of her mother – a personification of evil. Transferring Emma’s inner evil to her would cause no harm . . . or so they would believe. David was also willing to destroy the book’s page that contained the entrapped Author – an act that could have killed the latter and robbed anyone else of a future “happy ending”. He wanted to destroy that page to hide his and Snow’s theft of Maleficent’s child from everyone . . . especially Emma. His willingness to destroy the page struck me as a stark example of his own personal cowardice that has manifested itself, time and again.

In the Season Two episode, (2.02) “We Are Both”, he told the citizens of Storybrooke that the cursed David Nolan who was too cowardly to be truthful about his adulterous affair with the cursed Mary Margaret Blanchard; and the heroic Prince Charming were one and the same. In Season Three’s (3.14) “The Tower”, he resorted to hiding from others for a few nips of booze in order to hide from his guilt over Emma’s upbringing away from the family and a fear that he might prove to be an ineffective father to his son, Neal, with whom Snow was pregnant at the time. In “Unforgiven”, Snow woke up in the middle of the night following a nightmare about Maleficent, and found David drinking on the staircase to hide his worries over Ursula and Cruella’s arrival in Storybrooke. I am beginning to suspect that he might be a secret lush. Oh dear. And most addicts, if not all, tend to resort to this behavior because they are afraid to face the complete truth about themselves – especially their less than admirable traits. Charming has always struck me as the type willing to face external dangers like evil magic practitioners, dragons, a dangerous water temptress and his malevolent adopted father. Facing his flaws, personal mistakes and demons has always been a problem for him.

Why is it so difficult for some fans to view the Charming family – Snow White, David, Emma and Henry – as morally ambiguous? I never understood this attitude. “ONCE UPON A TIME” is not a television series solely for children. If it was, ABC/Disney would have aired the show on Saturday mornings, instead of during the usual prime time hours. This is the same series in which other heroes and villains have been portrayed in an ambiguous light. Why should the Charmings be exempt from such ambiguity? Because they are among the show’s main protagonists? Some would point out that Emma is a morally ambiguous character, due to her past as a thief and ex-convict. But Emma has committed some questionable acts since the series began – destruction of property, breaking and entering, accessory to her mother’s attempt to kill Mulan in “Into the Deep”, changing the timeline and lying to Henry. In fact, she is still driving the same yellow Volkswagen that she and Neal Cassidy (Baefire) had stolen when they first met. However, many fans tend to brush aside these acts – including the stolen Volkswagen. With the exception of her lies to Henry, which they saw as a threat to the Charming family’s reunion, many fans were willing to brush aside Emma’s questionable acts as long as she was not guilty of murder. Personally, I find this viewpoint rather hypocritical and an example of certain fans’ insistence upon viewing protagonists like the Charmings as morally ideal.

I personally do not care for morally ideal characters. I find them rather boring and unrealistic. I remember reading in a few Agatha Christie novels in which the main character – usually Miss Jane Marple – tend to express the view that just about anyone is capable of murder, given a specific situation. I agree with this assessment. I sometimes feel that human beings like to regard themselves as better than we really are. Perhaps this is why they love the idea of fictional characters – especially those dubbed “the protagonist” or “hero/heroine” – as being morally ideal. Mind you, this is merely an opinion of mine. I tend to find morally ambiguous characters more interesting. Such characters are very entertaining and really do make a story bridle with energy. Characters of one-dimensional morality do not. Even one-dimensional villains. Both Regina and Rumpelstiltskin had struck me as a pair of uninteresting villains in Season One, until episodes like (1.08) “Desperate Souls” and (1.18) “The Stable Boy” revealed just how ambiguous and interesting they truly were.

After Season Two, both Snow White and Charming seemed in danger of becoming a pair of rather dull characters. Between (2.17) “Welcome to Storybrooke” (in which Snow tried to me avert the emotional impact of Cora’s death) and“Darkness on the Edge of Town”, they were not that interesting to me. Well . . . there was the (4.11) “Shattered Sight”episode, in which Queen Ingrid of Arendelle aka the Snow Queen’s spell in which the couple exposed their . . . um, inner resentments and anger toward each other. But for me, that was not the same as deliberately indulging in or utilizing one’s unpleasant traits. After all, they and other Storybrooke’s citizens were under a spell. However, this story arc featuring Maleficent’s stolen child is an entirely different matter. Yes, Snow and Charming’s crime happened in the past. But they were not under a spell.

But there is one potential problem. Earlier, I had revealed that in “Best Laid Plans”, audiences learned the true identity of “the Author” – a peddler who had been commissioned by the Sorcerer and his apprentice to record the happenings in the Enchanted Forest and other “fictional” realms. After the Apprentice had sent Maleficent’s child to “the Land Without Magic”, he confronted the Author and accused the latter of manipulating him into banishing the unborn (or unhatched) child to our world. He also accused the Author of manipulating past events in the “fictional” realms. Certain fans jumped on this narrative turn-of-events and claimed that the Author had manipulated Snow and Charming into stealing Maleficent’s child. Yes, it is possible that the royal pair had been manipulated by the Author. Then again, the Apprentice never accused the Author of that particular act. So, the audience will never learn the truth, until Horowitz and Kitsis decide to reveal it. If they reveal that the Charmings’ act of kidnapping had been manipulated by the Author, then I will be sadly disappointed.

But you know what? Even if the show runners decide to include that Snow and Charming had been manipulated into kidnapping Maleficent’s child, the royal pair still managed to commit some morally questionable acts since the Apprentice had entrapped the Author in that book. And because both of them, along with other characters in “ONCE UPON A TIME”, have shown they are capable of both decent and very questionable acts, I can never regard them as innately good. Frankly, I see that as a good thing. Because in my eyes, there is nothing more boring or damaging to a good story than a morally one-dimensional character.

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (3.07) “Not in Portland”

 

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“LOST” RETROSPECT: (3.07) “Not in Portland”

As I have hinted in a few articles in the past, I am not particularly fond of Season Three of “LOST”. Let me rephrase that. I am not fond of the first half of the series’ third season. But despite this dislike of mine, I cannot deny that this period of “LOST” managed to produce one or two memorable episodes. One of those episodes – at least for me – just might be (3.07) “Not in Portland”.

This episode marked the first one to feature the back story of one of the Others – the island inhabitants who help protect it from outsiders. In the case of this particular episode, the Other in question is one Dr. Juliet Burke. The episode’s flashbacks focus upon the circumstances that led Juliet to the island. In Miami, Florida, Juliet is a fertility scientist determined to help her cancer-ridden sister Rachel become pregnant with a child. Juliet’s goal is more or less stymied by her controlling ex-husband, Dr. Edmund Burke. Not only is he also a gynecologist, Edmund is Juliet’s supervisor at the Miami Central University. After she finally succeeds in impregnating Rachel, Juliet is approached by two members of the Others – Richard Alpert and Ethan Rom – who falsely offer her a job as head researcher for Mittelos Bioscience in Portland, Oregon. When she reveals that Edmund would never allow her to leave her current job, the latter is conveniently killed by a moving bus. And Juliet accepts the position at Mittelos Bioscience, believing that it will last six months.

The present day sequences of the episode continued where the previous one – (3.06) “I Do” – left off. While operating on Others leader Benjamin Linus for a malignant tumor on the latter’s spine, castaway leader Dr. Jack Shepherd holds his patient hostage in exchange for the escape of fellow castaways Kate Austen and James “Sawyer” Ford. While on the run, Kate and Sawyer encounter Alex Rousseau, who reveals that she has a boat they may use to escape to the main island. In return, she asks them to help her rescue her boyfriend, Karl. Jack genuinely begins to operate on Ben, but the latter awakens during the surgery and demands to speak to Juliet. She leaves the surgery to help Karl, Kate and Sawyer escape the island. She also kills Other Danny Pickett to help them escape, and informs Alex, who is Ben’s adopted daughter, that she must remain. Later, Juliet tells Jack that Ben would allow her to leave the island after three years, if she helps Jack save Ben.

Many fans have expressed their disappointment in the flashbacks that revealed Juliet Burke’s past. I do not share their disappointment. Juliet’s background as a fertility doctor and researcher seemed to foreshadow the revelation of the fertility problems endured by the island’s current inhabitants. Her background also foreshadowed the revelation of Ben Linus’ obsession in overcoming the Others’ fertility problems. With Richard and Ethan’s help, Ben went through a great deal of trouble to trick Juliet into traveling to the island in the first place. A fake job offer at a fake organization? No wonder this episode was titled “Not in Portland”. More importantly, Juliet’s flashbacks highlighted how three years on the island as an Other had changed her personality. Or improved it. Despite being divorced from Edmund Burke, Juliet still managed to be controlled and intimidated by him. Although Ben proved to be just as controlling as Edmund, Juliet still managed to become a more self-assured and as this episode proved, dangerous woman. By this time in her life, Juliet was about to discover that she had enough of controlling or manipulative men in her life.

The present day events in this episode seemed more like a part-time psychological thriller and adventure story. And Juliet played a major role in both aspects of this episode. Jack used her as a means to have Ben to his mercy by manipulating Tom Friendly in having her removed from the surgery. And if Juliet had not intervened and killed Danny Pickett, chances are Kate, Sawyer and Karl would have never successfully escaped to the main island. I do not mean to sound cold-blooded, but Juliet’s killing of Pickett was a sight to behold. I found myself wondering about Edmund Burke’s fate, if she had been just as ruthless back in Miami. Another aspect of “Not in Portland” were a few minor scenes that caught my attention. One featured an exchange between Jack and a tearful Kate over short-wave radios, in which the former tried to convince the latter to leave him behind and escape. The emotional barrage between Jack and Kate seemed to have briefly caught Sawyer’s attention. Perhaps this was the first time Sawyer realized that Kate’s feelings for him were not as strong as he may have imagined after their sexual tryst in the cage. In another scene, Sawyer was so intent in beating up Pickett out of revenge for his mistreatment that he ignored Kate’s cries to run. Was this another hint of Sawyer’s destructive penchant for revenge? Who knows.

Was there anything about “Not in Portland” that did not ring right with me? Hmmm . . . well, yes. I never understood the scene featuring Other Karl Martin’s brainwashing in a place called Room 23. What was the point of this scene? Are we to believe that brainwashing was a method the Others used to “recruit” members? Was there another reason why Ben ordered Karl imprisoned inside Room 23? I realized that Ben tried to put the kibbosh on Karl’s relationship with Alex, but . . . honestly? Brainwashing? Or was this scene simply a shallow form of thrills for the television audience to talk about? I am also a little confused about Juliet’s relationship with her ex-husband. Why would she allowed this man to continue controlling her after their divorce? Was Juliet responsible for initiating the divorce? Or was Edmund? I guess we will never know. Speaking of Edmund Burke, I must admit that I found the circumstances of his death just a bit too much. I thought screenwriters Carlton Cuse and Jeff Pinkner were rather heavy-handed in their use of “coincidence” by having Edmund die in the very manner that Juliet had earlier expressed in a conversation with Richard. I mean . . . . c’mon!

“Not in Portland” featured some excellent performances from the likes of Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Michael Emerson, Željko Ivanek, Blake Bashoff, Robin Weigert, William Mapother, Tania Raymonde, and Michael Bowen. But there were four performances that I really enjoyed. One of them came from M.C. Gainey, whose portrayal of Tom Friendly naturally ranged from suspicion toward Juliet, slight hero worship of Jack and a sickening intolerance of the sight of blood. By the way, Tom’s hilarious reaction to blood was one of the episode’s highlights, thanks to Gainey’s performance. Nestor Carbonnell made his first appearance as Other immortal Richard Alpert. With his eye-catching physical appearance and strong and mysterious screen presence, Carbonnell made quite an impression on many fans, including myself. Once again, Matthew Fox gave a superb, yet unappreciated performance as leader of the castaways, spinal surgeon Jack Shepherd. I was especially impressed by Fox’s portrayal of an intense Jack, desperate to resort to anything to ensure Kate and Sawyer’s escape. But the best performance in this episode came from Elizabeth Mitchell, who gave a superb performance as Dr. Juliet Burke. I am flabbergasted that Mitchell had never received any award nominations for her performance in this episode. She did an excellent job of conveying Juliet’s character development from whipped ex-wife to a dangerous and desperate woman. I have always considered her to be one of the best actresses on the series and “Not in Portland” certainly proved it.

Despite being one of the episodes that aired during the dreaded first half of Season Three . . . despite being part of the dreaded story arc that featured Jack Shepherd, Kate Austen and Sawyer Ford’s time as prisoners of the Others, I managed to enjoy “Not in Portland” very much. For me, it is a bright sunshine during what I view as an artistically dreary period for “LOST”.