May 20, 2015

“Once Upon a Time” season 4 works on character development, mostly to good effect

Posted in Pop Culture at 1:08 am by chavalah

Promotional poster for "Once Upon a Time" season 4b

Promotional poster for “Once Upon a Time” season 4b

Would be lying right now if I didn’t admit that most of my mind power is on “Game of Thrones,” and the extremely controversial ending to the last aired episode. Reactions from fans and tv critics have been raining down on the Internet ever since; I’m currently sort of churning in them. But I have yet to form a definitive opinion, particularly because I do think it’s fair to wait and see how the rest of the season will pan out. But a blog post will be forthcoming, yes yes.

So, to focus on the narrative arc of a tv show that is at a resting place, I present my thoughts on season 4 of “Once Upon a Time.” I usually do this as a precursor to a new batch of episodes about to air, but I couldn’t wait this time. Too much to say! 😛

Overall, it was a great season of Once. Although the fandom was divided on the inclusion of “Frozen” in season 4a, I thought it worked well. I enjoyed our little foray into Arendelle, and think that the OUAT writers did a fair bit to deepen the famous Disney story. The actors were all enjoyable, and they had great chemistry.

Mostly, it made complete sense to me to combine Emma and Elsa’s stories. Both young women harnessed a great power that first they were afraid of, and then they learned to control. This was an absolutely essential next step in Emma’s overall journey, not to mention how refreshing it was for her to have a female friend—one who wasn’t related to her no less! 😛 I hope we get something similar with her and Lily moving forward; the actresses who portrayed the girls as teens were superb.

Regina finally ended up being redeemed by the end of this season. Although the mishegas with Robin and Marian/Zelena could get a bit soap opera-y, it was important for her (and by extension the audience) for her to realize that her true happy ending was to feel at home in the world. This is coded talk for the fact that Regina used to play a big part in sabotaging her own happy endings. It’s a lesson that Rumplestiltskin still has to learn, if he even still can, after the death of his son. He spent most of the entire season being the “big baddie,” as fandom calls the primary antagonist of the story, though he ultimately paid a heavy cost for it. My largest complaint about his story is that, despite a few episodic adventures, Belle is still just a glorified assistant cast member in his arc. I’d like to point out how Regina firmly proclaimed that having a man wasn’t a happy ending in and of itself, but I also grudgingly accept that with a cast of characters as large as the group here, only a handful can be primaries.

A few world building details didn’t sit well with me. For the climax of the 4a storyline, Belle found a McGuffin dagger for confronting Rumple, rather than doing so with the knowledge of everything he’d been hiding from her all half-season. Giving Snow and Charming a dark secret was a brilliant move, which made them more complicated than just being one-dimensional heroes, but it came with all sorts of weird conditions. For example, who has “dark” inner potential and who has “light” inner potential, and how can someone retain “dark” inner potential after her parents did a terrible thing to take it out of her, and ugh, my head hurts. 😛

I’m a big proponent of the fact that this story is more about the power of hope and faith than the machinations of magic, but for that to work, the “light” vs “dark” potential of each character should be rooted in his or her own conscious choices. And I haven’t even gotten to The Author yet, and his partial ability to mess with free will, oy. It’s at times like these when I think OUAT is losing its focus.

All of that being said, I’m definitely looking forward to season 5. 4b ended with a major shift in power, when magic that had held steady since the beginning of the show found a new form. We’re shaking things up, and so far it seems we’re not adding in a temporary, half-season set of cast members to do it; it’s all intrinsic to our well-established, main characters. I can’t wait to see how they develop next. So see you in the fall, Oncers, and remember—the ability to hope is a powerful thing. 😀


1 Comment »

  1. […] might be my least favorite first half of a season ever. There’s still a lot I liked about it, particularly making King Arthur into a villain. […]

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