Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Once Upon a Time, Season 6, Episode 8: I'll Be Your Mirror

In many ways this is Henry’s episode – but also Regina and Emma’s episode and shows how awesome the three of them together can be.

But first we have Snow and David tag-teaming each other’s sleeping curse. Surprisingly the whole town is not celebrating about having half of their sogginess being reduced. At least the sogginess is somewhat reduced by David in that vest – but I’ll never understand people who dress in so many layers to sleep (is Snow dressed in a cardigan to bed?) What we do have is Regina’s guilt because of what her alter ego has done to the charmings (really, reducing the sogginess by 50% isn’t nearly good enough if it also comes with this much angst)

Thankfully Emma is there to stop any of Regina’s thoughts of sacrificing herself – because if she is doomed because of her Saviourness, she needs someone she can trust to step up. And the only person she trusts to get that done is Regina. And rightly so.

So the plan is to let Henry escape some of his teenage angst (despite the awesome advice from his mothers) and use him as bait to trap EQ, who still thinks of herself as his mother, in an enchanted mirror

A nice idea – but the EQ is very very cunning and turns the tables on them with Emma and Regina now trapped in the magic mirror with no way to communicate with the outside world and no magic

They’re in a bad place

But not as bad as the EQ would have been because, as Emma points out, they have people out there who will try to rescue them. This has always been a theme of Once Upon a Time but is more so this season – and it’s an interesting one. Especially in this era of superheroes and in a genre that specialises in awesome protagonists or, occasionally, protagonist pairs, here we have a group that has repeatedly sent the message that strength rests in your family, strength rests in the people who have you back, who stand besides you, who care about you. I think the lone hero trope is overplayed and this is a really nice change – especially when we consider that, as the “Saviour” it would be easy to play the lone hero narrative.

With them trapped, EQ pretends to be Regina to play mother to Henry – and show the part of Regina she is that raised Henry. The harsh, tough, critical part of Regina. The one that is uncompromising. The one that makes hard choices. And part of that, of course, raises the question of how much she is right? I mean, obviously some of the things she presents to Henry are generally harsh and uncompromising and not good things for a child to learn – but not all and maybe not when we remove the extreme she pursues. How much of Regina’s drive, her determination is EQ?

She continues to play Regina to the Charmings, trying to push Henry to become more harsh, willing to make what EQ terms “hard choices” – the same choices she made, the same choices that Cora taught her: to do what you must for power.

But is she also following Cora’s other lesson? “Love is a weakness”. Rumple reminds her of this but her attachment to Henry does suggest she’s not taking it entirely. Is this a build on what was raised with Hyde and Jekyll? That there’s more complexity to simple “good and evil”?

I think it may be because also in the mirror dungeon with Regina and Emma is Huge Asian Stereotype, the Dragon. HAS is someone Emma belatedly remembered because he may be able to break the Charming curse (he says he can’t. Or he doesn’t want dual sogginess either). But he also says that the conflict he commented as raging inside Regina was kind of meant to stay there. Obviously this could be a comment on the dangers of unleashing an unfettered EQ but could also apply to the fact that you can’t just rip out a part of yourself without consequence, that there is value in that part

As the EQ continues with her regal demands of Henry, he quickly guesses that she isn’t actually Regina and, with some hasty crafty actions with henry and Violet let them put some space between them and get Violet out of EQ’s sight.

EQ promptly tries to manipulate Henry. Because she not only locked HAS The Dragon in the mirror prison, but she also kept his heart – and now uses him to try and kill Regina and Emma. Henry can stop this – if he will destroy the Dragon’s heart. If he will kill an innocent. If he will embrace the EQ’s – give up morality and hurt innocents to see her own aim through

Henry is completely torn by this as he sees the dragon threaten his mothers – the temptation to kill the dragon is high. Even with Henry outright telling Regina not to “Darth Vader him” which is nifty because layers, pop culture and reminding us that Henry, in this world of fairy tales, is us, the real world person. But goodness wins (of course. I mean if he has killed the dragon, Snow would have exploded. Damn that would have almost made it worth it) and Henry break the mirror at the same time as Emma and Regina manage to focus the dragonfire on the mirror (by working together – refusing to allow each other to sacrifice herself for the other. Again fighting against the whole idea of the sole noble hero).

Emma and Regina are freed… the Dragon just kind of disappeared. Has he vanished? What’s happening to him? Does no-one care?

EQ leaves, defeated but is determined still to turn Henry to her side.

Meanwhile, Belle continues her task to try and get away from Rumple – her plan is to get the Sorcerer’s Wand, give it to Zelena and have her open a portal so Belle can escape to the Enchanted Forest and be away from Rumple. Zelena isn’t entirely sure why she should be on Belle’s side but is persuaded by the idea that both of them are repeatedly disappointed by people they care about. Belle by Rumple and Zelena by Regina. And that’s definitely going to become a complication

Belle and Zelena turn to Aladdin to convince him to steal the wand from Rumple to put this plan in motion (using lots of evil Zelena manipulation). Jasmin isn’t a fan of this – because they have a mission to save Agrabah but Aladdin comes through. This is turned into a learning moment for Jasmin that just because you have a mission doesn’t mean you can ignore people in need around you and dismiss their issues

Which is nice – or would be if one single damn person in Storybrooke gave a shit about their quest to save Agrabah. Anyone? Anyone at all? Instead it comes off as “major character’s random thefts matter more than your entire kingdom” or “no-one cares about your suffering city of brown people, this white lady needs you”. We need more from these two, we need more people to support these two to make this message work.

Rumple continues to be the worst: he decides to chain Belle with a gold bracelet so he can always find her. His declarations of love continue to be the very essence of an abusive relationship. At this point I really really don’t want to see Rumple Redeemed, even if he is a Magnificent Bastard. There is too much here to just have it all shovelled aside without a long, arduous redemption trip.

While Rumple tried to kill Zelena we’re belatedly reminded that she actually healed him once with her magic and has left an insurance policy: hurt her, he hurts himself. Rumple reminds them that this isn’t security – he’s very very good at loopholes

Contrary to what we’ve seen with him and Hyde. But then, Rumple’s intelligence seems dependent on his evil. As we see with him accepting EQ’s sexual come ons and planning to turn her against Zelena