Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 4: The Price of Gold

Beginning in fantasy world, we start with Cinderella this time – and an entirely new twist to the tale. Cinderella meets her fairy godmother – who is then killed by Rumpelstiltskin to steal her wand. Instead of a benevolent fairy godmother, a desperate Cinderella instead has to sign a Faustian bargain with Rumpelstiltskin for a future favour. Which, after all the wishes are granted and she has her prince, turns out to be her firstborn child.

In response, the Princes have a prison built in a mine to trap and imprison Rumplestiltskin – which works, but the consequences of it make Thomas, her prince, disappear until the debt is paid.

And in the real world Emma continues to stalk someone else’s son. I’m sure there would be some way for the mayor to get round this if she truly wanted to throw legal consequences at Emma. Instead she decides to make snarky comments about Emma’s multiple moves in the past. And because Emma helped find a coma patient last episode (well… followed the sheriff who found him) the sheriff decides to offer her a job as a deputy. Really, it takes this little to become a cop?

And we get to see real world Cinderella. A 19 year old cleaner and heavily pregnant single woman – a story that is very similar to Emma’s own past. I have to say I loved Emma’s speech here, and it was powerfully acted as well. Emma encourages Ashley (Cinderella) to change her life – so she does, she maces Rumplestiltskin (Mr. Gold) and steals from him.

Mr. Gold turns to Emma to find her – and Emma agrees to help her so the police aren’t called in. She meets the Prince – and his father who has convinced Ashley to sell the baby. To Mr. Gold. She has some great speeches for Sean (the prince) telling him to make his own choices – and she completely resists, challenges and slaps down his father who is shaming Ashley for being a teen mother. There’s a recurring theme of not judging her, not shaming her and how out of line people are to assume she’d be a bad mother.

We also see the truth that they cannot leave Storybrook. Ashley’s car is crashed at the entrance to Storybrook. Ashley ends in the hospital giving birth – but Mr. Gold is blocked by Emma who is quite willing to drag his contract through the courts and see if it stands up. In the end, she agrees to owe him a favour if he will let Ashley and her baby go

Not only is this a bad idea – buying and selling a child is monumentally illegal. His contract won’t only not hold up in court but it’d get him locked up. Is there no legal system at all in Storybrook?
Speaking of dodgy legalities, Emma decides to stay in Storybrook and accept the job as a deputy – but it’s also revealed that the sheriff is sleeping with the mayor…

There is a strong theme throughout this programme of not relying on wishes and changing your life – if you don’t like your life, you have to get out there and change it, there’s no-one to help. Which is a strong, empowering message and often very true – especially for the most downtrodden and marginalised in society. I don’t like how casually it’s thrown around though, as if it’s that easy to change your life and overcome the barriers that are out there – again, especially for the most downtrodden and marginalised. So mixed message – I like that they make it clear you can’t rely on help, I dislike how simple they make it seem (apart from anything else, presenting it as simple places blame on people who cannot change their lives).

Similarly, Snow White describes Cinderella as being an inspiration because she shows that anyone can change their lives – yeah with magic to catch themselves a man? Not exactly the most empowering way to turn your life around, really.

There’s also some great messages of not letting other people make decisions for you, not letting other people control you and not letting other people dictate to you. And not letting them define you either – not letting them put you in a box and decide what you can and cannot do or what you are or are not. Emma has some really powerful speeches in this episode.

But, again, I think there is an element of simplicity in that it ignores how dependent people can be, how the consequences of defiance can come back and bite you. And a teenager dependent on their parents, an employee dependent on a job etc isn’t always in a position to ignore the demands and dictates of their authority figures

There were a lot of good messages in this episode and they were really well delivered, but I feel a few of them were a trifle simplistic. But at the same time, I’m not sure television is the best medium for the nuance necessary

We have another POC on the show – one of the very few – Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Hmmm… is that the ultimate mammy stereotype? Or just generic serving stereotype? Either way, it’s not as ideal as it could be. But she only lasts 5 seconds before Rumpelstiltskin kills her within, oh, 5 minutes of appearing.  Sadly, this show is not doing well at all diversity-wise.

Emma and Henry still bounce off each other really well and I like Emma as a character. I just love to see all these fairy tales with new twists and new aspects, it’s a very fun concept. I also love fairy tale character spotting – I think we saw Red Riding Hood with Ruby this time. I’m still really enjoying this series and I really didn’t expect to.