Thursday, September 26, 2013

Trending Topics: Once Upon A Time Season 2 Review - [a case of the summer]

Yeah, I know summer has officially been over for almost a week now, but I've been pretty tired and worn out, and haven't had much time to post the final Trending Topics -- which was supposed to be completed last week.  And my "go to" topic for the entire summer, should I have nothing to discuss, was always going to be a review of the second season of Once Upon A Time.  And since the next season premieres this Sunday, this is really the last opportunity for me to discuss what happened last season.

If you recall from my review of season one, I questioned the decision to break the spell within the first year.  While not a bad move, I felt like there was still fuel in the fire.  Perhaps have Emma realize the truth and have to spend the rest of the year trying to convince the others.  There could be some interesting scenes between her and Henry and the "villainous" in-the-know pair of Regina and Mr. Gold.  And there could be some humorous scenes where Mary Margaret attempts to get some love advice from gal pal Emma, who is grossed out knowing that her friend is actually her mother.  But after seeing how the season played out, I really didn't have a problem with the curse being broken.  The characters still had a certain level of complexity -- attempting to reconcile their heroic fairy tale personalities with their flawed Storybrooke ones -- which meant that the two stories being told (the present day storyline and the flashback from the Enchanted Forest) felt different, while still connected.

Even the introduction of magic -- another mini-criticism I had -- ended up being a wise decision.  Quite frankly, with everybody now in the "know," how on earth could somebody like Mr. Gold or Regina protect themselves from a town full of angry and justifiably vengeful former warriors?  Magic was a necessary evil in order to level the playing field, so to speak.  And the existence of magic in this world ended up being an important plot point as well.

This season also saw the introduction of some fun new characters, particularly Hook.  We also met Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, Cora (who appeared last season, but fleshed out a great deal this season), and of course Neal/Baelfire.

And while the Neal/Baelfire reveal was anything but shocking, it added a really fun, complicated level to some disturbing relationships.  Let's see....Regina is Mary Margaret's stepmother.  Mary Margaret is Henry's grandmother.  Regina is also Henry's adopted mother.  And Mr. Gold is his grandfather.  So deliciously twisted!  And, again, it created some fun new relationships.  I loved the scene, for example, when Regina came to Mary Margaret's apartment and Mr. Gold protected her, partially because favors were owed but also because she was family.

And I loved the deeper connection between Regina and Mr. Gold.  These two have always had a tense, complicated relationship, and this season really solidified that.  It seemed like a constant wrestling match to see which of these two were actually the lesser of two evils.  At the beginning of the season, it seemed like it might be Regina (who had mercy on Mary Margaret and Emma when they returned from the Enchanted Forest, while Gold didn't seem to have an issue with them dying).  However, as the season progressed, it was Mr. Gold who seemed more likely to see the light.  Between Neal and Belle, Mr. Gold had proverbial angels on his shoulders urging him to be good.  Regina, meanwhile, was being manipulated by her mother, who wanted her to be as dark as possible.  As a result of this evolution, these two had some fun scenes together.  I particularly enjoyed when Mr. Gold paid his respects at Cora's grave, and urged Regina to let go of her hate and to not seek vengeance upon Mary Margaret.  It seemed like.....friendly advice.  It was also interesting to learn that Mr. Gold was the one truly responsible for Regina's journey into the darkness.

My one criticism of the season was that the show came dangerously close to falling into a Sylar/Heroes situation.  Heroes suffered a great deal, in my opinion, because they couldn't commit to a direction with Sylar.  Sylar was the show's breakout character (although I still favor HRG) and it seemed like the showrunners wanted to capitalize on his popularity by featuring him more prominently.  Yet the evidently didn't want to make him such an explicitly evil villain, so as a result he kept wavering from one side to another.  It seemed like he might have seen the light, but then he'd do something incredibly evil (at a whim).  Then when it seemed like he'd returned to the darkside, he'd just as quickly show some compassion.  In the end, he just seemed like a sloppy character without any relatable motivation.  Once Upon A Time came extremely close to doing this with Mr. Gold and ESPECIALLY Regina.  Much like Heroes, these two were your breakout characters and the ones the audience seemed to most enjoy.  And much like Sylar, they both seemed to sway depending on the direction of the wind.  I would say Mr. Gold had slightly more motivation and, as a result, seemed more grounded.  But I didn't feel the same way about Regina.  She seemed at the peak of evil when the season began and then just as quickly seemed to try to integrate herself into the very group she had tried to kill.  Then, out of no where, she seemed to reconcile with her mom and went back to her killing ways.  And then, again, she's suddenly back to being selfless.  She just seemed to switch sides too quickly and without the strongest motivation.  And even Mr. Gold wasn't completely spared -- his war with Hook had me wondering who I should root for from time to time as well.

Ultimately, the show seems to have settled on both of them becoming reluctantly "good," and I think that's the wisest decision.  Having the curse broken dramatically shifted the relationships that were established in the first season.  And putting Mr. Gold, Regina, Hook, Emma, Mary Margaret, and David on a boat heading towards Neverland significantly changes things once again.  Hook stole Mr. Gold's wife.  Mr. Gold killed her and then cut off Hook's hand.  Regina had Mary Margaret's father killed.  Mary Margaret was responsible for the death of Regina's mother.  Emma is the birth mother of Regina's adopted son.  And now, they're all together in close proximity fighting for the same cause.  The possibilities are endless and intriguing.

I was disappointed to learn that Once Upon A Time had experienced some ratings woes, because overall I thought it was a strong season.  And I stand by my assessment that it's one of the most clever shows on television today.  While I won't be able to watch the finale "live" (the second hour conflicts with the series finale of Breaking Bad, which will be FAR harder to avoid spoilers from), I'm looking extremely forward to its return.  Here's hoping for another great season!

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