Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Once Upon A Time. Season 1, Episode 20: the Stranger

In fairy tale land Geppetto and Pinocchio are struggling on a raft in a stormy sea to escape the whale. The raft goes down and Pinocchio hands Geppetto the life preserver and jumps into the ocean – saving his father. But on the shore, Pinocchio isn’t moving and is an inanimate puppet (dead? Hard to take a pulse or be sure). In comes the Blue Fairy to turn him into a real boy (no, a life real boy – turning him into a real corpse would be kind of funny, but also extremely cruel) and so long as he remains brave, truthful and unselfish he will remain a real boy.

Later Geppetto, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket are visited by the Blue Fairy bringing menacing news about the Evil Queen’s Curse – but there is hope if Snow White’s child can be protected until she is 28, she will be able to break the curse. To protect her from the curse, she needs to be put in vessel carved from a magical tree – which, of course, Geppetto can do.

They go to see the magic tree which he can turn into a wardrobe – there’s enough magic in it to protect 2 people and the Blue Fairy plans on it being Prince James and Snow White (pregnant with Emma) who will be safe then at 28 be the one who fights the Evil Queen. But Geppetto is worried – if they go to a world without magic, won’t Pinocchio turn back into wood? The Blue Fairy doesn’t know – and Geppetto insists that Pinocchio takes the second spot inside the wardrobe (much to the consternation of Jiminy Cricket). Geppetto silences him by reminding him that it was Jiminy who killed Geppetto’s parents. They agree to tell Snow White and the Prince it can only protect one.

But the plan is scuppered because the saviour baby (Emma) is to be born early – if Snow White doesn’t go through with her then who will tell her who she is and make her believe in her magical destiny in a world without magic? Geppetto still wants to protect her son – and decides that Pinocchio can protect her and tell Emma her destiny – and in 28 years he must make the saviour believe. He is put in the wardrobe and comes out in the real world before the curse – followed soon by Emma as a baby.

But when they end up in the children’s home – a bleak and uncaring place from the little we see,  Pinocchio runs away and leaves her behind

Emma, Augustus and Mary Margaret are installing some nifty new bars and locks on the door, aware now of the skeleton keys Regina carries around. There’s also some concern about Emma’s threat against Regina to take Henry away from her – not just because Regina is a big bad enemy – but because Emma will have to be Henry’s mother then.

To granny’s to meet Henry with Augustus – and Augustus wants her to look at the big picture and learn more in order to tackle Regina – since she doesn’t believe in the Fairy Tale. Augustus is one of the believers – and he wants her to come with him for a day, but she has to meet Henry.

There’s a new story in the book – an unfinished story about Pinocchio. And then we move to Augustus playing with Pinocchio’s hat! Aha, we have his secret identity! And now he has compromised himself to Gold after the last episode and is spying on Emma for him – is that brave, truthful and unselfish? Apparently not because his leg is turning to wood (on the plus side, that’s really going to help convincing Emma something’s going on)

At Gold’s shop, Augustus runs into Geppetto leaving and, yes Gold knows who Augustus is now and his relationship with Geppetto. With more and more people knowing the truth (or admitting they know the truth) the line between the fairy tale land and the real world is blurring. Augustus still believes he can make Emma believe – but not while she’s focused on a custody battle – so she wants Gold (who Emma is planning on hiring) to direct her to Augustus.

And Gold refuses to take Emma’s case, on the excuse that they can’t win and it would just hurt Henry more. Which, somewhat confusingly, sends her to Augustus as her last possible option. Who then decides to tell Emma his own story.

Augustus takes Emma to the diner where she was found as a child by a 7 year old boy – by Augustus. I’m not sure of the acting here, on the one hand, stunned and overwhelmed would fit, but it looks a little frozen and wooden (TOTALLY UNINTENDED PUN. Honest).  He also tells her about the blanket Emma was found in – proving he was that child. Then tells her she was found in a tree and that Henry’s book is allll true. And that he’s Pinocchio  - and Pinocchio’s story hasn’t been finished because it’s still going. Shockingly enough (and ye gods he actually looks shocked!) Emma doesn’t believe it so he starts pouting because she doesn’t believe. And it turns out when Emma decided to come back to Storybrook – that was when he started turning into wood. Because rather than helping Emma – he was out there having fun and breaking that whole “be unselfish” thing – so he shows her his wooden leg. But all Emma sees is a flesh leg – she doesn’t see the wood.

They then have the oddest argument in the world – which becomes about Emma being in denial because she doesn’t want to be responsible for everyone’s happiness. She doesn’t want that vast responsibility, she doesn’t want to be the champion.

Feeling like a failure he confesses how he feels like a failure as a son… to Geppetto – who reassures him in a touching scene that adds Augustus as Geppetto’s assistant.

Emma decides to fix her problems by luring out Henry in the middle of the night, asking if he wants to live with her. And when he agrees – she wants to run away from Storybrook entirely.

Meanwhile, at the school Mary Margaret is trying to verbally duel with Regina, but her Wet Lettuceness makes her seem more snippy than cutting or at least it seems this way – but then she gives Regina an “apology” which must be like a gut shot. I think it’s unintentional partly because there’s no way Mary Margaret could know how perfectly targeted those words are and partly because she’d be far too Wet Lettucey to ever deliver such an epicly crafted take down. (And I say, because I really should say it more often, Lana Parilla, the actor who plays Regina, is truly excellent). She follows this up with a conversation with Henry that gets her slapped down again.

Then  it’s David’s turn – Regina is stuck with a car full of shopping and a dead battery and David comes and gives her a lift home with her shopping. She tries to invite him for dinner but he makes an excuse – and even Hanry is having dinner elsewhere – leaving Regina all alone yet surrounded by these super-nice, friendly people who, gosh-darnit, would have been such good friends if she weren’t soooo mean. Yes it’s laid on really thick, but I still kind of admire how it’s been done. But Regina’s wretched state encourages David to stay for dinner.  But it is just a pity dinner – and when he leaves Regina throws a glass at her mirror in rage.

Storywise I loved the many back-references in this episode – as we approach the end of the season, all the old stories are being linked in. I was also really glad to see how Augustus both aged (when none of the denizens of Storybrook have except those who left – Emma, Augustus and Henry) and how he knows the truth. I can feel the conclusion getting closer and it's actually reached a stage where I'm really eager for each episode

But that argument between Emma and Augustus about Emma not wanting all the responsibility for everyone’s happiness and everyone counting on her. Ooookaaaay… how about the guy with the flesh leg trying to convince you it’s made of wood and saying you were magically transported by a tree? I mean, isn’t the argument more “this is ridiculous and impossible – how can you possibly EXPECT me to believe this?!” Not “I don’t want to believe, the implications are too much!”

There is still very little inclusion in this show and with just 2 episodes left I doubt we’re going to see more. There are no GBLT characters and the recurring POC are Sidney/Magic Mirror/Genie who are eternally dedicated to Regina as a servant – and slave.   

Regina is played by a Latina actress – but she’s cast as a villain, which isn’t much of a step up even though the character is very compelling. And that’s about it for recurrent inclusion. We had one POC fairy way back in the beginning but even she died (after serving)

I also don’t like the reference to Augustus hanging around in Phuket when he felt Emma return – Phuket (and Thailand in general) has a horribly stereotyped reputation as some kind of hedonistic paradise in western culture and fiction and this played into it not only because Augustus was slacking off there rather than helping Emma – but this is Pinocchio. Part of the Pinocchio story is that he was led astray to an island full of depraved and hedonistic pleasure (albeit, in the Disney version that’s smoking, drinking and playing pool). To have Pinocchio slacking off on an island stereotyped for its hedonistic pleasures… yeah I see a parallel there.