Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Once Upon a Time, Season 2, Episode 11: The Outsider

Fairyland Past
In a tavern, Belle listens to a group of men rallying support to kill a fearsome beast, the yaoguai. And Grumpy – back in his Dreamy days – pulls up a chair and talks to her about his plans to run away with his fairy love. He advises her to go on an adventure and go face the beast as she dreams of doing, but she’s reluctant since she’s aware that only adventures in books have happy endings and her last run in with a “Beast” didn’t end well. He pushes and, excited, she goes accepting his gift of fairy dust for the road.

She sets off on the wagon and her reading is regarded with contempt by her fellows, when asked what use her book is, she reveals that the yaoguai lives by the lake – and they kick her off the wagon and drive on, leaving her behind. Of course, she’s lying and the nocturnal yaoguai is actually in the mountains, where she goes alone. Armed with a dagger and a hard backed book. Uh-huh, c’mon Belle, you’re supposed to be the smart one. Predictably, the yaoguai leaps out of the cave (it’s like a wolf with a mane of fire) and nearly eats her until it is shot with an arrow and driven off.

Who is Belle’s rescuer? Mulan! Who is less than happy about Belle ruining her hunt. Belle points out she found the yaoguai faster than Mulan – but Mulan leaves. Belle goes to the local settlement to get water from the well and the men she lied to grab her and hold her over it, threatening to drop her in for lying to them. Mulan makes another appearance to save Belle and easily defeat the men holding her. Mulan comments on how she hated dealing with men who dismissed her because she was a woman and agrees to have Belle join her for her superior tracking skills

Unfortunately, Mulan took a cut to the leg protecting Belle which is steadily getting worse as they travelled. When they reach the yaoguai’s lair, Mulan is too weak to fight and kill it so Belle has to. Belle protests she can’t (then why were you tracking it in the first place?!) but Mulan insists she can, everyone doubted her originally but she showed them she had a warrior’s spirit – all you need to do is find something worth fighting for.

Belle attracts the yaoguai’s attention and leads it to a water tower, when it gets close she douses it in water, extinguishing its fiery mane. It falls to the floor, weak – and writes with its claw in Chinese characters “save me.” Belle instantly sheaves her sword (good thing no enemy lies, right?) and pours the fairy dust Dreamy gave him over the creature – and he turns into Prince Phillip. He was cursed by Malificent.

Belle takes Phillip back to Mulan so he can help her to a doctor, while Belle wanders off on her own to go back to Rumplestiltskin. And runs into Regina who has her locked in a tower while she rants that she’ll never stop fighting for him.

Storybrooke Present
Rumplestiltskin hasn’t forgotten Smee, the man who tried to take Belle over the boundaries of the town which would have robbed her of her memory. Rumple uses him as a guinea pig to test his potion to see if it will protect him against the memory loss. It works, he remembers who he is – and who Rumplestiltskin is.

Storybrooke turns out in force to Archie/Jiminy Cricket’s funeral, to say goodbye and make touching tributes. Meanwhile, the very much alive Archie is not enjoying Hook’s hospitality. Hook wants to know Rumplestiltskin’s weaknesses.

After Archie’s funeral, at the wake a new debate arises brought by Grumpy for Emma and Snow– when are they going to return to fairyland, the Enchanted Forest? Snow and Emma are surprised, they didn’t’ think anyone wanted to go back, but Grumpy points out that, with Archie’s death, they’re not as safe as they thought. And even aside from that, there’s a whole world full of people who don’t know they exist – what will they do if they pay Storybrooke a visit? And, beside from that, the Enchanted Forest is their home and they want to go back there.

Back at home Henry is very sad and everyone’s stumbling around trying to comfort him. Emma makes it better by giving Henry Pongo, making him happy. But Snow/Mary Margaret wonders at the idea of 4 people and a dog in a loft and maybe Snow and Charming should move out – though Charming and Emma disagree since their goal all along ever since Emma was born and they were cursed was to be together. Well, yeah, but you lived in a castle then.

Rumple tells Belle the good news – that he can cross the boundary by pouring the potion on something he holds dear (his son’s shawl). Belle is happy for him – but wants to come with him, but he doesn’t have enough potion for two.

She goes to open the library and finds Hook inside. Yes, it looks like Archie has folded rather quickly. She recognises him as the man who wanted to kill Rumplestiltskin and pushes a shelf on him and then runs to the armoured safe room/lift in the back and calls Rumple, but the call is distorted and he can barely understand her.

Trapped in the lift, we continue to hear banging from the outside until the doors open – and Rumplestiltskin is there. He takes her back to his shop so he can plan spells to keep her safe, but Belle wants to go to the Sheriff, Emma. She also wants to know why Hook hates him – and Rumple gives a rather abridged version of events, not mentioning Rumple killing      . They return to the shop to find it ransacked – Hook has stolen the shawl he intended to use to leave Storybrooke. Rumple rages around and is determined to get it back – and Belle insists on helping. Rumple, temper fraying, demands to know how she can help, what does she know about duelling a pirate? He begs her to go to the library and lock herself in to be safe (she asks if he’ll lock her in with magic if she refuses, he protests no, he trusts her to do as he asks so he doesn’t lose her as well as his son). He also gives her a gun. She takes it but asks him to promise that going against Hook is just for the shawl. He leaves without promising.

She goes to the library and starts reading – comparing a knot she got from Hook to her books she finds it’s from a ship. Revelation, Hook the pirate came on a boat. Wait, what? Are we actually going to pass off “concludes that a PIRATE comes from a BOAT” as some kind of feat of research? Really? While Rumplestiltskin is busy turning Smee into a rat, Belle decides to go to the docks. Alone of course. Mirror mirror on the walk, who is the spunkiest of them all?

She finds the invisible ship (because seagulls are perched on it) and goes exploring – and finds Archie on board. She cuts him free and sends him to go fetch help while she… while she… actually I have no idea why she decides to hang around. Maybe a sense of fairplay, if you’re going to rescue one kidnap victim you have to replace them.

Belle puts the gun down out of her reach to search the ship and then Hook arrives and takes the gun off her. She’s a funny girl, that Belle. Of course, Hook gives the full story of what happened to Rumple’s wife – that Rumple killed her. But Belle insists Rumple has changed and hits him in the head with some wooden shippy thing (what? I’m not nautical), grabs the shawl and runs.  They both reach the primary colour painted deck together and Rumplestiltskin arrives. Hook asks him what magic he’s hiding behind and Rumple promptly smacks him a good one with his walking stick.

Belle’s wet lettuce heart begs for Rumple to stop hitting the man who has sworn vengeance against Rumple and sworn to kill him and just take the shawl and leave. Rumple tells Belle to look the other way while he continues to beat Hook to death. He protests that Hook has to die while Belle tells him that hook wants to die and destroy the good in Rumple and he mustn’t. Look, there are many reasons not to kill Hook, not least of which because he rocks the eye liner and looks mighty fine in leather, but “killing the good in you” for killing someone who is on a lifelong quest to destroy you? That’s not even in Rumple’s top-10 evil kill list! Of course the begging works and Rumple let him live

As for Hook – this revenge thing is looking shaky, even without his magic Rumple beats him to the ground.

Back to mundane worries, Snow and Charming are in Granny’s discussing buying a new home. But he doesn’t want to – he wants to go back to fairy land. Snow points out the ogres are back and Cora rules there now – they don’t have a home there. He wants to fight to get it back and Snow is tired of fighting. He think it’s worth fighting to get what you want and Snow places an Ace – what if they don’t both want the same thing? This seems to be treated as epic, horrifying news.

At Emma and Henry’s Archie arrives which is rather surprising. Oh the apology you owe Regina is truly epic in scope.

At the town border Rumple and Belle stop and Rumple asks why Belle hasn’t given up on him. Well, y’see Rumple, she’s not actually the brightest spark. Apparently it’s because she learned you don’t give up on something worth fighting for. He puts on the shawl and crosses the boundary – memories intact. She promises to be there when he comes back

Which is when Hook shoots her and she collapses, over the boundary, to the floor. Hook claims she’ll lvie (and Hook knows HOW much about firearms again?) but, of course will have no memory. Rumple prepares to lay down some righteous smackdown when a car comes racing down the road, runs into Hook and then crashes off the embankment.

And this is why sparing people who have sworn to destroy you is a bad idea.

Mulan is, again, rescuing, protecting and guiding white ladies. This is becoming a full time job. Also, let’s note that Belle’s tracking skills involve reading a book about the yaoguai’s habits – a book the men couldn’t read because they didn’t understand the Chinese it was written in. Mulan can’t find a copy of that book? Mulan can’t push Belle down the well and read that book herself? Belle gets the title of plucky detective because she can read? Mulan’s injury and not killing the creature in the first place all comes down to Belle’s involvement. So instead of being a story of how Mulan killed a monster and protected her village it became a story of Mulan saving Belle’s life then giving Belle the courage and self-confidence to prove her worth.

Uh-huh, not impressed.

I am torn over Rumple’s protectiveness of Belle. I dislike him sidelining her, but also do have to ask his question – what in her skill set prepares her for facing down pirates when she’s already been used as a tool against Rumple? Unfortunately this fits into an old trope of a female love interest being the “weakness” of the male character. And Belle’s actions are classic Spunky Agency. In fact, I am outright stunned by how amazingly foolish Belle is.

In the past we’ve commented on how all fairy tale re-enactments centre on European fairy tales (in this case, primarily German with a smattering of French and English) which, in turn, means the plot tends to centre on white people (because, while many things can be changed in these retellings, race is one that is rarely touched). Once Upon a Time is little different – with a token inclusion of Mulan and Lancelot’s extremely brief appearance being the tiny attempts at challenging this. I would love to have more incorporation of myths, stories and legends from different areas of the world – but only if they come with POC from those areas and cultures actually leading the story – not deciding to grab a Chinese monster (I believe a yaoguai is a generic term for demon) and then make it Belle’s story, aided and saved by Mulan.