Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 5: That Still Small Voice

So we begin with a pickpocketing youngster and his parents in fairytale land. And we end up with some very heavy-handed “ideals” which clearly are going to be challenged by the end of the episode (wow, seriously, there wasn’t even a hint of subtlety here). Interesting that we’re going to have some more moral questioning on the programme – like we did with Cinderella’stale that had some fantastic (albeit un-nuanced) messages in it. But a lighter hand would be nicer.

Anyway, little pickpocket boy has been told that good=weak, let his parents do his thinking for him, he’s “free to do what we want”, and he can’t change who and what he is. Oh and the boy is Jiminy Cricket (he grows up to become a cricket, wow, not my dream come true, but different strokes I guess). We continue to follow him working with his immoral, thieving parents objecting to their naughty ways (one thing it does make clear is that the parents steal from greed rather than necessity as their legitimate enterprises earn them enough money. I can understand doing this to differentiate them from many driven to extremes by poverty but at the same time it feels like a simplistic way to avoid any nuance or grey areas. But at least it kind of acknowledges that those grey areas exist).

His fence for all his thieving turns out to be Rumplestiltskin whose scheme is, of course, nefarious and wrong which kills 2 people and leaves their child an orphan. Leading to Jiminy wishing and regretting until the blue fairy (token black inclusion for 5 minutes, at least she didn’t die this time) turns him into a cricket to help him guide the boy who lost his parents.

In the real world Emma is having uniform arguments with the sheriff (yes, remember Emma is a deputy. I can’t say I’m familiar with American law enforcement but I cannot imagine it’s that easy) making it clear she doesn’t need a tie (or traditional masculine clothing) to have authority. Did I mention I liked Emma?

And Henry is having therapy sessions with Dr. Archie (Jiminy Cricket: oh dear gods, can you imagine? I’d squish him by the third session!) who has apparently been pulled into Henry’s minions as well. The mayor is tired with Archie’s therapy and has a big dramatic threat to demand the doctor uses other methods to “cure” Henry of his delusions. She reminds him whose boss and that she can destroy him, an employee (shadows of what his parents said in fairytale land, yes that’s that lack of nuance again). In some ways this has strong echoes of how many people treat mental illness – as something that can be quickly and easily fixed. And also how vulnerable many are to incompetent, prejudiced or agenda driven mental health practitioners

Under instruction, Archie sets about trying to crush Henry’s “delusion;” pretty much crushing him and sending him crying to Emma – and driving him down the mine that’s just opened that the mayor wants to cover up alone while Emma goes to rip the doctor a new one for going against his conscience (did you see what they did there? Jiminy cricket? Conscience? Oh the subtlety! ) and hurting Henry so much.

Archie and Henry end up trapped down the mine together – with Henry determined to prove the truth to Archie and they have long, touching conversations. 

Emma and the Mayor work through their differences to try and rescue them (aww) with explosives (wait, whut?) which didn’t work  but made things worse (ZOMG WHO COULD HAVE GUESSED THIS?!) but eventually they winch him out of the ground.

Archie stands up to the mayor, threatens her with losing custody of Henry and makes it clear he will treat Henry according to his conscience. (Awww moment)

Mary Blanchard (Snow White) is volunteering at the hospital still, trying to help Prince Charming with his amnesia, but his wife, Catherine is still there filling in his new memories. Sexual tension continues between Snow White and Prince Charming as she helps him with his physical therapy (hem hem). I can see its ongoing meta, but I still want to see Mary Blanchard just stab Catherine and get on with it or something

Oh and Jiminy’s Dalmatian? Is called Pongo. I do love these little side references.

The show continues to be erased as possible. Happily Ever After only applies to straight, cis, white, able bodied people alas. I think this is especially problematic not just because, as we’ve discussed before, that fairy tales are often erased and problematic but also because increasingly this programme is presenting moral messages. It is trying to be “more than just a show” with morals and ethical lessons – but even from that standpoint of “deeper thinking”

There is something down that mine, made of glass, though I didn’t recognise it. I do wish they’d found it – I want to see Henry find some tangible clues at last.