Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Once Upon a Time, Season 5, Episode 18: Ruby Slippers

So at the end of the last episode the gang found Ruby, returned from one of her many many stays in the plot box, has made her way to the Underworld. Not looking for her pack – but looking for Zelena (with the silver slippers she got from Dorothy)

Which is why she’s here. When she and Mulan were out adventuring looking for the rest of Ruby’s pack, they made their way to Oz where they came across Dorothy. They became close as they tried to battle Zelena’s various wicked plots, in this case involving kidnapping Dorothy’s wretched little dog (though I give kudos to the poppy reference).

Ruby and Dorothy get closer and closer – before Dorothy, apparently freaked by Ruby’s werewolfiness, ran off and confronted Zelena and got hit by a sleeping potion. Yes one of those that needs a True Love’s Kiss to break it.

In the present and the Underworld the gang rallies round and decides that True Love’s kiss is needed – and for that they need Dorothy’s good ol’ Aunty Em. Except Hades, determined to make Zelena happy, decides to stymie this by turning Aunty Em into a puddle. This has the bonus of telling everyone to not play with the heroes. I’m not sure why he can’t turn the heroes into puddles as well, but apparently not.

That leaves us with Snow White pointing out Ruby’s great concern and the obvious – Ruby herself can give Dorothy her True Love’s kiss. Yes, we have a same-sex romance, bisexual Ruby and bisexual or lesbian Dorothy are magically confirmed to be in love because the kiss works! It’s been a while but Once Upon a Time has finally got there!

But first they have to get to Oz – well they have the silver slippers, but they also have to bring a hitch-hiker in the form of Snow White to make everything sappier. See, Hades has decided a new way to make everyone sad by destroying all the phone boxes that allow the dead to communicate with the living world. In a surprising show of intelligent planning, the Charmings worry that this may not be a simple case of spite – but a way of cutting them off so Hades can get to untold shenanigans in Storybrooke without them knowing. Clearly they need to go home – but Snow is trapped by having her name carved into a grave stone – which holds her in the underworld and they cannot erase. (Cruella does have some delightful Charming snark which I approve of heartily).

But they can change the name with Killian’s hook – after all, Hades intended Killian to carve the names in the first place to make him choose. So they decide to change Snow’s name to David… yes David sacrifices himself so Snow can go see their son

Or… being less pathetically wet, they could have carved Killian’s name (who isn’t leaving without Emma anyway), or even Zelena’s. Y’know sensible solutions that don’t require sappiness and pointless sacrifice. Charmings will always be Charmings.

I have to say I’m kind of annoyed by Snow disappearing now just after Snow has decided to be a lot less soggy. I mean this could be the beginning of her having her own action packed storyline in Storybrooke with some of the characters she left behind… but I don’t think that’s likely.

Meanwhile Zelena is pulling out some awesome acting as she’s all torn between being utterly touched that Hades cares for her, being troubled by the evil things he’s doing in her name, listening to Regina’s advice on how to be worthwhile and redeemed while at the same time thinking she’s just too terrible to deserve that. It’s really well done, nearly entirely with facial expression, I applaud

But, while she’s speaking a lot of great wisdom, I can’t applaud how sidelined Regina is – being the shoulder to cry on and the speaker of wisdom seems to be all she is now. And she’s lost a lot of snark. I did so like her snark.

Aaand time to Belle and Rumple and we all have to remember Belle is an intelligent woman… because you’d be forgiven for forgetting that. Belle decides she still needs to protect her baby and she needs to make up for killing Gaston and she needs to do this without Rumple because his solution is usually all evil all the time

So, plan b – turn to Zelena. For a non-evil solution. She wants Zelena to appeal to Hades to rip up the contract on her baby but that’s unlikely – or even if it were likely, Zelena doesn’t think it’ll work because she has such low self esteem that she can’t imagine Hades would value her so much.

But she also learns that it’s possible to magically speed up a pregnancy – just as Zelena’s was – so she may have no time at all! Her solution is to taking a sleeping spell from Zelena to have her own Sleeping Beauty Curse. A Curse that will put her to sleep until they get True Love’s kiss. Yes Belle just accepted a spell from Zelana, hoping Zelena is acting with good intentions. Oh and her not wanting Rumple to handle things turns into “I’m gonna take a nap, Rumple handle everything when I don’t have to see it.” I can’t say I’m impressed by the decision making here, either sensible or moral. She’s achieved the very opposite of everything she set out to achieve.

For True Love’s kiss she’s relying on her father – not Rumple – because he’s not becoming the man she wants. At some point Once Upon a Time is going to have to address this shaky “love” that requires one participant to fundamentally change who he is. And, again, it’s not just a moral change (though we can argue his cunning and ruthlessness is part of Rumple). She wants a brave – magicless – hero as we saw facing down bear-Merida and that isn’t him. When do we see that Belle doesn’t love Rumple, so much of the idea of a Rumple she wants him to be?

I am celebrating, of course I am, we have so few LGBT characters on TV, even less in the genre and less still who are alive, of course I am. But it’s a muted celebration. It’s muted because this is episode 18 of the 5th season – over which they’ve had 44 characters appear in 10 episodes or more (and way more appear in 5 or more) before they’ve finally FINALLY managed a same-sex kiss. At what point does inclusion go from “yay inclusion!” to “what took you so damn long?” I’m also not pleased that the teasing, ambiguous Mulan situation remains exactly that – are we ever going to resolve that? Is there a reason why it hasn’t been? Instead we virtually import a completely new character to have a moment that will likely be lost in the mists of time. I’d also rather Ruby not have to be told she loves Dorothy – or introduce Dorothy as a “friend” (yes, I get the reference, still). I’m also leery of these characters who are pretty peripheral to the plot (how many episodes as Ruby already spent in the plot box?) especially since both have returned to Oz now where they’re unlikely to play any further role in the plot.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy to finally see this, I am definitely happy to see this very belated inclusion. But it’s good – not supremely excellent because I think this is probably the last we’ll see of them all season. If not forever. There is a part of me that feels they did it this way, not addressing Mulan’s ambiguous story, taking one of the most plot boxed characters, dragging in an almost completely new character with no ties to the rest of the cast and then quickly shunting them off to Oz where no other character is so they can say “there, we did it! Now let us never speak of it again.” I hope I’m being cynical there… but usually I’m cynical AND right.