Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time
Episode 13: Tiny
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!

Fairy Tale Story:

The fairy tale world is so simple that it frequently goes into silly territory. The idea that Dwarves only exist for the sole purpose of mining fairy dust is ludicrous. At least Dwarves get to be blue-collar workers as the whole reason for existence for giants is that they grow magical beans. They are basically peaceful farmers and that's it. There is one giant, Anton, who isn't satisfied with this life. It might be because the giants have stopped selling the beans to humans which basically means no-one uses them. In case you didn't get this: giants dedicate their lives into growing beans that nobody will use. When Anton brings this up, the leader of the giants tries to explain that it's not the product that's important but the work that goes into making the product. It appears that the writers follow the same philosophy because there's so many weak episodes of this show that I've lost count by now. At the end of the fairy tale flashback, there's a scene where the head giant gives Anton a seed from beanstalk. The idea is that one day Anton will need to plant this seed so he can start growing magical beans once again. This is just after every giant besides Anton was wiped out for these beans. Seriously their dedication to these beans is unhealthy. When Anton gets transported to Storybrooke, he's able to remember this seed. So he decides he needs to plant the seed because he's a giant. So a giant basically exists for the sole purpose of growing magical beans. Anton's whole purpose in Storybrooke is to now plant a magical bean so the characters can go home. It doesn't help that the characters all treat these magical beans with a lot of reverence that makes it difficult to take them all seriously.

The fairy tale story was technically more about beans. It was all about how Anton didn't fit into his world. It's not just because he questioned why they're wasting their time growing beans but because his brothers bully him. Why? He likes the human treasures. That's right: giants also like to keep treasure that they don't really value. Why? It's never explained. Anton decides that he'll sneak into the human world to try and learn more about them. He's only able to do so when James (Charming's evil and more fun evil twin brother) and Jack (actually a girl and possibly Alice) give him a magical mushroom that makes him temporarily small. They basically do their best to befriend him so that they can steal his magical beans. This works because Anton is desperate to fit in somewhere. When the two and their unseen army manages to wipe out the giants with poisoned swords, Anton decides that human beings are just the worst and he hates them all. The actual story isn't necessarily bad but the acting and world-building is. The more time we spend in the fairy tale world and the more it looks like a seven-year old thought it up. I understand this is based on cartoons (and short stories) but there are literary works that have been inspired by the same sources that have put more thought into making a realistic world with predefined rules.

Storybrooke Story:

This is an episode that revolves around Anton and it should come as no surprise that he gets transported over to Storybrooke. Cora had managed to bring this giant into our world but only after permanently making him normal-sized. This basically means he's no longer a giant but just an overweight human being. Anton freaks out when he sees David because he thinks that David is James. This basically sets the stage for an episode where Anton tries to kill the good guys because he hates humans and all. The bad guys try to help him by making him temporarily giant-sized. That is until he goes back to being small and David is able to save his life. Anton becomes a good guy and decides he'll plant the magical seed because he's a giant and what else is going to do? He doesn't have to do it alone as the dwarves will help him. They give him an axe and it's implied that he's finally found a place where he belongs. It's not that bad of a story except Jorge Garcia struggles to sell his bloodrage and the special effects budget is clearly stretched to it's limit. The real problem with this plot was that Regina is basically back to being a two-dimensional villain with very little of the depth that this season had been working on. This inconsistent characterization for the sake of the plot remains a sore spot for the series. I'm still holding out hope that she's secretly undermining her mom.

In other news, three characters leave Storybrooke so that Mr. Gold can find his son. He takes Emma with him who in turn brings Henry along. There's some brief dramatic moment where the characters wonder if the shawl is going to work when they cross the town line. I could be forgetting but I could have sworn that it had already worked. It was Belle who had lost her memories and that's because she didn't have a magical shawl. They do cross but then they decide to head into the airport. Only at the airport, they have to take off shows (like barbarians) and magical shawl. A brief scene meant to increase tension comes up when Mr. Gold is afraid that taking off the shawl will make him forget who he is. Wait, what? When was this established? If you're going to try and sell this information to create tension then the viewer needs to know before going into the scene. Having it randomly come up feels like a cheap attempt to create drama. After this scene, Mr. Gold gets angry. I'm not sure whether it's because he took of the shawl or he's suffering PTSD or what. He punches a toilet paper dispenser until his hand bleeds but he can no longer do magic. Why? The plot demands it or maybe it's because he took of the shawl. I don't know. At least Henry is happy with Cinnabon because this plot moved like a snail and tried to force conflict into the scenes.


Look, I like this show. I like a lot of the characters and I enjoy watching it a lot. This is the kind of show I would love to write for because I love the genre and because I think it would be fun It's just that it's so wildly inconsistent in quality. One episode will be great and I'll love it and another week I'll get an episode like this. I don't think it's a lot to ask for a fantasy show that is able to keep it's rules straight and develops a universe that is believable. I need to be able to believe that the fairy tale world can actually exist because at this point there's no way it can. The rules for the magic of the show are too inconsistent to really work and Regina's complete character regression is frustrating. I'm a big fan of allowing writers to tell the story they want to tell but I don't think it's much to ask that they at least develop their world. If they could then maybe it wouldn't be losing a lot of ground in the ratings-well that and not competing with special live events.

Other Notes:

There's a scene where the lead giant is shocked that Anton showed humans where they're giant beanstalk that goes into their kingdom is located. Which is stupid because it's a GIANT BEANSTALK THAT GOES INTO THE SKY. It's not like it's hidden very well.

Belle and the guy who came from outside Storybrooke are now talking about the magic that they saw. Fun!

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