Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Once Upon a Time, Season 6, Episode 5: Street Rats

Time for a history lesson back to Agrabah, suffering under the yoke of Jafar, with poor people turned into rats for stealing (honestly this seems like a terrible way to deal with any problem, creating a plague of rodents).

Jasmin sneaks into the city to find someone she is sure can help her – Aladdin, the thief who can help her steal the Diamond in the Rough. He’s not exactly eager to help the dedicated Princess, but when she threatens to frame him for theft he gives in and joins her to the cave of wonders

Along the way we get some interesting little hints at more depth. While Jasmin is furious that Aladdin is so selfish, Aladdin points out that their city wasn’t exactly a utopia before Jafar arrived and really Jasmin only cares because Jafar has breached her happy rich bubble as a princess. It’s a nice analysis and suggests more nuance than Once Upon a Time usually applies to their monarchy. Of course, we could point out that we’re getting a nuance of a less than perfect but not outright evil royalty with Jasmin and the Sultan but not the oh-so-pure-and-inept Snow White.

In the cave we learn the obvious truth – Aladdin is the Diamond in the Rough and he even has magic, Saviour Magic. He can save Agrabah… though Jafar shows him the cost of that, Jafar shows him that Saviours have a short shelf life. He has a solution to that – the sheers of fate. They will cut Aladdin from his destiny as a Saviour – no longer a hero but no longer doomed to die.

Of course he doesn’t take it and swoops in to rescue Jasmin. Though Jafar leaves him with the sheers for the future. He also is still out there doing mischief. Despite chemistry Jasmin and Aladdin don’t become a couple because they’re focused on duty- or Jasmin is. She’s taken Aladdin’s words to heart and won’t run off with him when there are still flaws in their kingdom to address.

In the present Emma finds Jasmin, following birds and dead oracles. She’s sure that Jasmin isn’t the killer though because of that rarely remembered lie detecting power. Instead it gives Jasmin chance to talk about Aladdin the Saviour which offers Emma hope: because Aladdin is apparently alive. Aladdin alive means all Saviours don’t die. It means maybe Emma’s visions won’t come true, maybe Emma can live.

Except the Evil Queen is out there causing all kinds of chaos. She kidnaps Archie and pressgangs him to be a babysitter for little Robin while assuming Archie’s identity and spilling Emma’s secrets to her family.

EQ then returns to her wooing of Zelena – promising again the family she wanted. A sister that accepts her as Wicked. A sister who will let her be who she is. And she offers a future for her daughter Robin, a daughter who will accept her Wicked mother. A daughter who may become Wicked herself: unlike Regina who EQ thinks failed to be accepted by Henry because she tried to be something she wasn’t.

Hmmm, y’know this could be a glorious storyline about self-acceptance and being yourself except, y’know, evil. But they do seem to be drawing a distinction between “evil” and “wicked”.

Back to the Charming family and we have the effect of Emma’s revelation. Snow and Killian are both well and truly upset that Emma has been keeping secrets from them

Ok, look I hate this narrative. Emma isn’t “keeping secrets”, she’s choosing not to share deeply intimate, personal issues she isn’t ready to share or discuss. That isn’t secrets, that’s boundaries. That isn’t being secretive, that’s having some sense of privacy, some sense that there are some things you get to keep to yourself, some things you get to think about and process before you share. Sometimes you get to keep part of your life to yourself, even with family.

Regina and Emma also have a minor issue when Regina realises that she isn’t in Emma’s vision and could be the enemy – but they get past it quickly because they’re more mature than that and Regina has a new finding spell to look for Aladdin, one using Saviour magic

But when they get there, they find a corpse. It not only crushes Jasmin, but it crushes all their hope that being a Saviour isn’t a death sentence. It’s a really brutal depiction of desperate hope dashed. But Jasmin and Henry have their own guilt as well – both them encouraged Aladdin and Emma respectively to embrace their role as Saviours. Aladdin and Emma wouldn’t be Saviours if not for Jasmin and Henry. In effect, they handed out death sentences

Which leads to an awesome scene with Henry and Emma – because even if this kill Emma, she wouldn’t change anything. She wouldn’t give up the family she’s found, the literal magic she’s discovered – it is worth the cost.

Except twist – Aladdin is still alive. He is still alive because he has those sheers and used them, cutting off his destiny and, apparently, dooming Agrabah. But with this decision he now has a chance to pursue romance with Jasmin, something they couldn’t do when they were both duty focused: except Jasmin still apparently thinks there’s something to save.

Aladdin offers the shears to Emma but after some difficult deliberation she decides no. She’s the Saviour, this is who she is. And they can find another way – they can find another way because she trusts her family, she has a support net unlike Aladdin. She is willing to take the risk and, to stop someone using the shears against her, she passes them to Killian to get rid of them

Of course he keeps them. Of course he does.

I’m leery – while I’m interested in the idea of the sacrifices of the Saviour and the emotional conflict I’m very concerned about the potential storyline of Good Saviour vs Bad Saviour. With the epic, heroic, self-sacrificing Emma contrasted with the failed, selfish, in need of redemption Saviour Aladdin. Especially in this show which has a truly epic problem with the treatment if POC – and already had a shed load of problems with the whole pure Snow White vs evil Regina