Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 8: Desperate Souls

So after the long holiday hiatus, we’re coming back to the series in the deep end - the story of Rumplestiltskin

And we start in fairy land with teenagers being taken away and drafted into the army to fight the Ogre wars. Rumplestiltskin’s own son is soon to be among the drafted. In desperation he flees with his son but is caught on the road where we learn that Rumplestilskin fled in a past war. He is humiliated to protect his child – he has no money, no power, no position or title. He has nothing to offer and has to submit to abject humiliation to protect his family.

And then begins Rumplestiltskin’s path to power – stealing a dagger to control the Dark One, a powerful magic user – to protect his family he plans to steal the dagger and get the magic word. He uses the dagger to kill the Dark One – but he has been tricked. The beggar who convinced him to steal the dagger is actually the Dark One and by killing him, Rumplestiltskin becomes the new Dark One – all because he didn’t read the fine print of the contract. A lesson he no doubt learns.

With the new power, he humiliates and kills those who once humiliated him

In the real world, Gold (Rumplestiltskin) is showing surprising humanity by letting Emma take some of Graham’s things to remember him by. And we see how he values children – a side to him we’d not have guessed with his bargaining for children before.

And Henry has lost faith in fighting the curse – Graham’s death at the magical hands of Madam Mayor has shaken his confidence and he doesn’t want to see more people die. He believes good loses against evil – because good must play fair.

Also, technically Emma can step in as sheriff now since she’s been acting sheriff for 2 weeks – alas the Mayor, Regina, steps in to appoint Glass, editor of the newspaper (the magic mirror) as her own sheriff – and a clear puppet to Madam Mayor. Ok, really? Is this all it takes to be law enforcement in Storybrook? People who have no experience? No training? The whim of the mayor? This is all it takes?

Emma is not amused by this and is determined to get her job back. And Rumplestiltskin is there to help with comprehensive knowledge of the Town Charter. And there’s a loophole – there has to be an election for the post of sheriff. Setting himself against Regina and in favour of Emma. 

Regina naturally resorts to dirty tricks with Emma’s juvenile criminal record – and then there’s a fire. A fire that injures the mayor and leaves her helpless – unless Emma saves her. It takes a moment to decide, but naturally, the good Emma saves Regina. Harking back to Henry – good has to play by the rules, while evil uses dirty tricks. Behold good! And Emma is hailed by the town for her good deeds.
Except… Rumplestiltskin is the one who set the fire. So has Emma stuck to the good and true path is Rumplestiltskin does her dirty tricks for her? And can she achieve her goal of teaching Henry that good can actually win?

Emma’s conscience can’t stand it and at the debate she confesses all – revealing a somewhat lacking knowledge of election politics – but impressing Henry and giving him hope since Emma stood up to and exposed Mr. Gold and his dirty tricks. Of course her integrity and honesty means she wins the election and sways the townfolk in her favour for being brave enough to stand up to Mr. Gold. Oh… twee. 

Except – how much of this was Mr. Gold’s plan? Oh I like him, I like him I do. And now that debt Emma owes him? It’s now owed by the Sheriff. Oh I’m impressed, yes yes I am.

Mary and her Prince are still do-si-doing back and forth. Mentioning it for the meta

There is a powerful comment on class and position in Rumplestiltskin’s story – the seeking of power for protection for yourself and your family. How helpless you are without power in the face of those who have it – and how power can be abused and how even the abuse victim can turn round, with their own power, and harm those beneath them who have even less power or are in a powerless situation. How many times has Rumplestiltskin –once powerless and humiliated – in turn exploited people?
I find Rumplestiltskin’s sudden respect for parenthood and children odd, considering the amount of children we have seen him bargain for throughout this series – Prince James, Cinderella’s child, etc.
We do have a POC character – Sydney. But he is completely and utterly a tool of Regina, serving his every whim. Murdered faeries may be better

I’m not happy with the way Henry is continually presented as Emma’s child, not Regina’s. Regina adopted Henry after Emma gave him up – the continual denial of Regina’s motherhood really undermines adoptive parenthood. Regina may be the villain, but that doesn’t make her not the mother.
I suppose there’s a moral about good and evil here? How evil uses dirty tricks but good still prospers. Good wins because you do good and people see it and respond to it. It’s awfully twee and shallow, (and convoluted) methinks and not really up there with the messages they’ve shown before – or the messages of power that have already happened.