March 9, 2014

I Do Believe in Neverland on “Once Upon a Time”

Posted in Interfaith, Pop Culture at 12:01 pm by chavalah

Promotional material from the Neverland story arc

Promotional material from the Neverland story arc

The spell isn’t broken yet. Every year, I seem to love ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” more and more.

If you read my update from last year, you know that I loved season two. As I’ve been interacting with more of fandom, I’m surprised by how alone I am here. I mean sure, there were some flaws, most notably the one-dimensional villains of the latter half of the season, Greg and Tamara. They were both killed off at the beginning of season three. Tamara was undoubtedly the worse of the two characters, which was especially annoying since she was the only African American actress on this largely white show. I’m hopeful that Alexandra Metz, who is joining the cast in the role of Rapunzel, will provide a character of more substance.

But beyond the whole debacle of these anti-magic extremists with their zappy tazers, season two was, to me, about family, and particularly the evolving relationships between mothers and daughters (not to mention the fantastic Baelfire reveal, which cemented the “Once” family tree as too crazy for even Jerry Springer to handle. 😛 But seriously, I think “Manhattan” may still be my favorite episode ever in the series.) The magical component to the show gives it a super special feel as well. It often strips away the logical and scientific buffer, and instead peoples’ emotional connections and beliefs drive the plotty action. I find it a little ironic, perhaps, that I listen to a Christian-centered podcast about “Once” where the hosts often try to quantify and rationalize magic, as though if it worked like this before, it can’t work another way after. To me, “Once” is very much a show about the power of faith.

I feel like much of the fandom has a sense of nostalgia for season one that I just do not share. Sure, for awhile it was fun to meet new fairytale characters and figure out where they fit into the curse’s narrative. But if the showrunners continued in that vein, and if they had left the curse intact, the series would have become convoluted and stagnant. Personally, I’m much more happy with focusing in on our main characters, with occasional trips to the sidelines, but mostly I want to see how they grow and change. There’s been phenomenal character growth thus far, particularly for our “villains,” who may not be so villainous after all.

Season three has so far, without a doubt, been the most compact season of the series. These first 11 episodes have gone largely uninterrupted week to week, and they’ve focused on telling us a complete story about Neverland and Peter Pan. Another strange admission—I’m a fan of Barrie’s original “Peter Pan.” I personally see the story as Wendy-centric, since she is the one who comes to Neverland on the cusp of her womanhood and ultimately leaves again, whereas Peter, perpetually a child, is incapable of change. This is largely turned on it’s head for the show’s adaptation. Wendy is a sideline character and a pawn, and Peter Pan in fact goes through a great many changes. Instead of being a child who never grows up, he’s a man who chooses eternal youth as a justification for his greed and cowardice. He is the villain of this piece. :O And actor Robbie Kay did such a good job of it that I’m having trouble going back to canon. 😛 Honestly…I’m going to miss that little shit. 😛 Precocious and driven, his mind games were a lot of fun.

Peter Pan being Rumplestiltskin’s father added such dimension to both characters, and even to their descendants, Nealfire and Henry. “Once” isn’t exactly the show that is applicable to real world issues, but there’s something very genuine in how they deal with family relationships. It is our family relationships that often hold the most power over our lives, to whatever end.  This season also heals a bit of a rupture when it comes to Regina vs Emma about Henry–the two women may not be friends, but they are allies and consider each other to be equal mothers (as does Henry himself, for the first time in the series.  *swoon*)

So tonight, ABC starts airing the final 11 episodes of season three, which, with the promotional hashtag #WickedIsComing, promises to revolve around a certain Wicked Witch of the West. 😀 One of our principal cast members may be dead, according to the explosive mid-series finale that aired three months ago, but personally I’m not giving up hope yet. I’m not too thrilled with the clichéd “love triangle” between Emma and two dudes (though it is pretty geeky, on a macro level, that Captain Hook is a contender. :P) Personally, I’m far more interested in the continuation of the Mulan and Aurora (acronym “Mulora”) subplot. I’m very grateful that the showrunners assumingly listened to fandom complaints, and decided to diversify the sexual orientation playing field, particularly with a female character who’s in love with another woman. This show has been really dynamic in writing complicated, well-rounded ladies. I look forward to seeing where they go next.

“Once Upon a Time” airs on ABC Sundays at 8 pm.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] fall TV lineup is upon us, and my favorite show of the season returns this week. :D. In perhaps one of the more controversial decisions for the series, the first […]


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