Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Once Upon A Time: Season Two Wrap-Up

A few weeks ago, the second season of Once Upon a Time ended with a shocking cliffhanger.  Well, shocking might be strong, but it was definitely surprising and after the chaos and confusion of the preceding season, I was surprised to be surprised.  Let me explain, and be warned: I will mention plot details.

Season two has been a bit cumbersome.  Now that I look back at it, I can say it has been heavy on the plot development, as it was building towards the cliffhanger that ended this season.  The trouble at the time was while we were in the midst of all that plot development, it was hard to see clearly where everything was going.  Sure, that can be good storytelling, but the larger plot was moving so fast that wrapping up pre-existing subplots became simplistic or mere after-thoughts.  Who knew that Evil Cora could be dispatched with so little consequence or preparation?  New characters came in and out too quickly. 

Yet, season two continued to keep at its core the dangers of magic and living with the consequences of choices.  Mary Margaret for one had made the wrong choice for what she believed a good reason and was living with the consequences of murdering Regina’s mother, Cora.  The repercussions of Cora’s death haunt Regina, Mary Margaret, and all that are connected to these two.  In the remaining episodes of this season, Regina, lost and hurt again, seeks to find a way to steal Henry away from Emma and take him back to where they all come from.  Suddenly (and not to mention all too easily) there is a fail-safe that Regina hid in Storybrooke that once engaged will destroy the entire town and everyone in it. Regina develops her plan, however, only after she overhears that David, Mary Margaret, and the rest of the town are planning to return to their home (with the help of magic beans) with Henry, leaving her behind. Once again, there is lack of trust, hurt feelings, and no forgiveness.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gold is struggling with the Belle’s false memories of who she is in Storybrooke – Lacey, who apparently drinks too much, wears tarty clothes, and likes bad men.  Gold wins this shadow of his love back to him, but only because he is bad.  Lacey is weirdly attracted to his power and his use of magic. In throwing himself openly into his old Dark One ways, he is satisfied by having Lacey in his life, but we the viewers know this won’t be enough.  Gold’s relationship with his son Bae, who is now in Storybrooke to get to know his long-lost son, Henry, is still on the rocks (more trust and forgiveness issues abound).  Gold has yet to reconcile himself with his actions that lost his son all those years ago in the Enchanted Forest. 

Things come to a head when Bae needs Gold’s help to thwart the new danger in town – Tamara and Greg – and once again Gold makes the wrong choice.  The result: he loses his son (he was shot and fell through a portal) and Storybrooke is about to be demolished by the fail-safe.  Not wanting to die without Belle – the true Belle – he gives her this magic potion that the Blue Fairy concocted (sure, this plot development was a bit thin – suddenly she developed this potion?) and Belle is Belle again and she knows who Gold – or rather her Rumple--is, but alas they are all going to die!

But they don’t.  That isn’t the surprise.

What lessons are our friends, both in Storybrooke and in the Fairytale land in the Enchanted Forest, learning in all this?  How do they forgive and trust those they love?  Sure, David and Mary Margaret’s bond is fairly solid, but does Emma trust her parents? This is actually a nice touch of the writers. In the midst of the potential destruction of Storybrooke and all its inhabitants except Henry, Emma has to remind her parents what it is like to grow up without parents. Beyond family dysfunction, when is it OK to use magic?  When it goes towards personal gain?  When it helps the greater good?  Magic is power, and power must be used wisely.  Magic (and for the matter power) should not be used as an easy way out of a bad situation.  Why else would Emma and Regina be able to use magic together to try to save Storybrooke, but Mary Margaret should not have used it to kill Cora – even though her death potentially saved many others?  Nothing good ever comes from taking a short cut. 

This brings us to the last major (and arguably busy) plot thread – Tamara and Greg. When we first meet Tamara she is Bae or Neal’s fiancĂ©.  But we soon learn she is really an evil person looking to control and destroy magic.  (Why? This is not really all that clear.   Magic doesn’t belong in their world.)  And Greg, poor Greg, who lost his father in Storybrooke and who has come to the town as an adult to figure out what happened.  We learn through Regina (as Greg is torturing her for information) that he is dead and she had him buried at father and son’s old camp site.  (To be frank, even though Greg dug up the body, I don’t believe the father is really dead.  Sure, sure, Regina has killed a lot of people, but this was too easy, too neat.)  Magic has destroyed Greg’s life, apparently, and he is working with and secretly romantically linked to Tamara to destroy Magic and get vengeance for all that he and his father suffered!  In the process, because he is so vengeful and decides to maniacally torture Regina, we cannot have any sympathy for Greg.  (Can we?)   His anger and bitterness have corrupted him, just like it did Regina. 

At the end of the episode, after Regina and Emma use magic to contain and destroy the fail-safe, they discover that Henry is missing and Tamara and Greg have kidnapped him, taking him to the one who is really controlling everything – Peter Pan.   This is when I gasped at my television and said to myself, “I never liked that Peter Pan, even the Disney version.”

The line between the magical lands and the Real World are blurring and crumbling, fast.  At the end of the episode, Hook, David, Mary Margaret, Emma, Regina, and Rumplestiltskin set off in Hook’s ship to find Henry.  They leave behind Belle to help hide the residents of Storybrooke to protect them from the outside world.  The episode ends with Rumplestiltskin telling everyone that a more dangerous enemy then they have ever known awaits them in Neverland.  Peter Pan.  What?  Peter Pan is good, right?  He rescues Lost Boys and they have good frolicking times in Neverland.  Nope.  Looks like this Peter Pan is something altogether different, something sinister and evil and he wants Henry.

What is ahead of us for next season?  Did Bae survive his gunshot wounds, not to mention the fall through a portal? Will Emma and the Gang find Henry? I must confess the plot (or plots) of Once Upon a Time are starting to get a little overwhelming. I mentioned before that there seemed to be an unending introduction of new characters.  Many of the difficulties faced by our heroes (even Mr. Gold) were resolved rather quickly and easily.  They are all on the same side now as the float off through their portal.  For now.  They chose Henry over their anger and mistrust.  Have they forgiven each other for their trespasses? 

But that cliffhanger sucked me in again. I am hooked once more on Once Upon a Time, and I will wait all summer to find out what will happen.  ABC has decided to capitalize on reactions like mine to Once Upon a Time and has created a spinoff – Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.  Is this the beginning of a new franchise of programming?  Personally, I am intrigued by the desire to have a scripted drama on television verses yet another reality show.  These stories, despite my complaints, have given viewers a healthy dose of reality in the form of morality tales and portrayals of anger, bitterness, love, fidelity, and family.  Apparently, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland will put Wonderland in opposition to mental health professionals of Alice’s nineteenth century Britain.  If the trailer for the new show is any indication, the contrast between the cruel, cold, and not to mention gray world of Alice’s real life and the colorful, adventurous, and fanciful Wonderland is quite dramatic.  I guess we will have to wait and see.

By Mary Beth Connolly