Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 11: Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

So we begin with Regina being, well Regina. Snarking and nasty she goes on to destroy Henry’s castle (on the excuse that it’s unsafe) and stealing his book and generally being mean and unpleasant and, well Regina

She’s also apparently cast aside Sydney, the ex-head of the paper – and he’s turned on her. He wants to work with Emma to expose Regina – and the $50,000 that is apparently missing. But while Emma will investigate her, she refuses to break her ethics as sheriff. But Sidney and Snow are both quick to play the “ends justifies the means” card. Oh dear, I sense high handed moral lessons incoming no doubt.

Emma succumbs to the temptation and bugs the mayor’s phone so they can go gatecrash the Mayor’s secret meeting where the mayor is buying land from Gold. Emma promptly leaps off in the deep end and starts breaking into the mayor’s home, hacking her computer

Emma then starts having doubts about her methods – but Sidney is driven and determined to destroy Regina. Of course the naughty bad wrong methods blow up in their faces. Because evil never prospers! Regina looks like a saint and is applauded. And in the aftermath, Regina now has power over Emma and forces her to stay away from Henry – see, the consequences of awful actions!

Except, of course, Sidney is still in Regina’s pocket and being used as a puppet against Emma. He’s still a fawning tool.

Meanwhile David and Snow White are being lovey-dovey and twee. And the strange writer guy is still hanging around Henry. Oooh and he has Henry’s book, the meta-plot thickens

In fairy land we get to see Sidney’s tale. And yes, I’m, surprised, I never thought he was more than a bit character.

I have to say, I do like the sarcastic, caustic snarky genie (I’m going to use genie since that seems to be used rather than djinn), yes yes I do. And he is picked up and used by a ridiculously compassionate king who sets whole new records of saviourdom (and yes, we have a white man technically owning then magnanimously freeing a black man) but at least the genie of the lamp isn’t white because that would be dubious.
The genie seeks true love and returns with Super Kind King (Snow White’s Father. It’s possible this is where Mary Margaret gets her stunning Sogginess from) where he meets Snow White and Regina – the evil queen.

We quickly see the source of some of Regina’s upset in that the king, her husband, is clearly enamoured with his deceased first wife (and his daughter by her who keeps reminding him of her) and there’s a distinct impression of Regina being forced to play second fiddle to this. I’m actually glad to see this, too often evil characters are evil for the sake of it (especially in fairy tales) here we see the source of a lot of Regina’s pain and it’s very legitimate pain indeed.

And, of course, the genie is there to comfort her – he has fallen for Regina and he loves her. Oh dear, do we have to consider the trope here? Of the black man seducing the white woman away from her white husband? Oh dear. Of course, kingy learns about this by reading Regina’s diary (clearly he’s not as compassionate and kind as we imagined). And he is most outraged and betrayed by the fact Regina dared to accept a gift of a mirror from the genie. He openly admits that he cannot love her as she deserves, yet he resents her caring for another even though she has not even acted on these feelings? That feels more like ownership than any value of affection or respect.
To further this very obvious ownership, the king imprisons the queen in her own rooms. The genie rushes to help her by tasking her a box of deadly snakes that her father wants to give her. Not exactly what I’d choose to escape with, I have to say. But it’s apparently for a dramatic suicide – the genie can’t have that, and offers to off kingy instead – so he gets a late night visit from the snakes. Can’t say I entirely disagree but I see poor genie being turned into a tool.

Of course, Regina has been crafty – and the genie is recognised as the killer because the snake is from his country – tracing it back to him. Regina has set him up from the very beginning, manipulated and betrayed him. Faced by this betrayal the genie uses his last wish to stay with Regina forever – which ends up with him being cursed into the magic mirrors, into her reflections. She betrays you and you want to spend the rest of your life with her? Ye gods man!

Not an awful episode, especially – but it has some gross tropes that are hard to ignore, they also don’t make a lot of sense. And the moral messages that this show often does very well is just so grossly over the top and heavy handed. It was lacking, I felt – it was clumsy, it could have been better.