Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time
Episode 8: Into the Deep
By: Carlos Uribe

Once Upon a Time is a show about fairy tale characters who got sent to our reality, which has magic now.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Into the Deep is an episode that largely deals with one singular plot point: using the shared dreamspace caused by the sleeping curse as a way to communicate between characters. The characters in fairy tale land are trying to figure out a way to defeat Cora and the only person who can potentially help them is Mr. Gold. They decide to use Aurora to try and relay the message through Henry. This creates an entire episode where two characters from two different worlds are attempting to share information. This seems like it would be an interesting idea but the conflict it actually does generate is largely forced. That's because of one reason. The way that the characters are able to talk with each other leads to what should generally be an easy way to get any points across. That means that the show has to keep finding ways to complicate getting that point across but these obstacles are largely convoluted. It also means that we see an entire episode spent trying to have characters relay information in order to set up the next episode. Into the Deep manages to stretch this entire plot point for most of the episode but it's simply not done in an entertaining manner. This creates an episode that is largely dull. The ending of the episode does build up enough narrative momentum to hype up the winter finale. In reality, one could watch the entire last arc of the episode and get all the information they need for the finale. The rest is really just filler.

I've already noted that the reason that conflict is forced is because of the way the characters are able to talk. The characters are able to fall asleep and share a single room. The fire is a natural obstacle to being able to have a conversation but it's not large enough to actually prohibit it. It is entirely possible to reveal how to defeat Cora at the beginning of the episode rather than the end. Why doesn't this happen? Aurora is pulled out of the netherworld when she's awoken by Mulan because they're being attacked by zombies. Aurora is promptly captured by one of the zombie creatures and she's held hostage by Cora. The fairytale world becomes about two things: communicating with the real life world through the dream world without Aurora and Mulan trying to trade the magical compass for Aurora. The first makes sense but it's easily solved when the show reminds viewers that Snow White was under a sleeping curse. This means that she can go back to the netherworld but the obstacle is that she needs to be put under the sleeping powder. They go on a journey and Mulan makes the powder for her. Snow White goes back to the netherworld and she's hoping that she will find Henry there. The problem with each obstacle is that they each have an easy solution. Aurora is kidnapped? It's okay because Snow White can take her place. Mulan manages to steal the compass from a completely awake Emma? It's okay because Snow White easily tracks her when she awakens. The episode keeps setting up obstacles but most of them are always easily overcome.

The real life story is also filled with multiple obstacles. Henry is willing to go under the curse but he's burned when Aurora is woken up. This convinces the adults that it's too dangerous to send the boy back to the netherworld. They all decide that the only solution is to put David under the sleeping curse. David is okay with this because he believes that Snow White can wake him up while he's under the dream world. This creates a plot hole since they magically know that Aurora isn't going to go back to the netherworld when she goes to sleep and that Snow White will take her place. David does go under the sleeping curse. The major obstacle he's able to solve due to the magical necklace is how to get into the fire room. He's able to tell Snow White what she needs to know but he finds out that Snow White can't kiss him in the netherworld because they're both not actually there. A huge question arises at this point. If Emma can wake up her son from the curse, couldn't Henry wake up his grandfather? Isn't that a version of true love? A lot of the obstacles in this plot are once again are largely there to fill time but at least the solution to one of them leads to somewhere significant. David is stuck under the sleeping curse which provides more motivation for Snow White to defeat Cora and return home.

It's really the ending that makes this episode not be a total waste of time. Snow White and the other characters now know how to defeat Cora. Daniel is stuck with a sleeping curse until they can find their way back. The biggest twist is when Aurora is able to escape due to Hook's help. What he fails to mention is that he has taken her heart from her and given it to Cora. This allows Cora to control Aurora and find out what the actions of our heroes are. Cora is able to figure out where the characters are heading and she'll be able to trap them. That all of these significant plot points happen at the end of the episode helped to create an ending that did build up to the next episode. There is a concern that some of these plot points will be able to easily be solved with magic. Which is a major problem the show has to solve: how to properly use magic without cheapening the obstacles. It's fine to have a magical ink that can be used to stop Cora but there has to be more than just getting it. The show is currently using magic a bit too liberally and it's making all the obstacles be easily overcome. That makes each obstacle feel more like it's there because it has to be there rather than to actually test the resolve of our characters in order to prove how much they want it.

Into the Deep advanced the plot at the end but it largely felt like it was mostly filler. The obstacles were all easily overcome which cheapened the stakes. This led to an episode that was largely dull until it reached it's final act. Hook's betrayal of the characters was not only devious but it helped to define his loyalties better. This betrayal helped to bring the episode to life in a way that nothing else could. Into the Deep was therefore an episode that really wasn't exciting, it wasn't very entertaining, and it simply wasn't very good.

Other Notes:

It really doesn't look like any of the actual characters are ever actually in the fire room. It always looks like it's fake and it really takes you out of the immersion-more than fake CGI could ever possibly do.

Red doesn't make an appearance in this episode but her granny does.

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