Once Upon a Time Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Once Upon a Time
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: ABC
  • Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Sean McGuire, Rebecca Mader, Liam Garrigan, Gregg Germann
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD

Last season, both halves of the season, “Frozen” and “Queens of Darkness” featured female guest heroes, villains, and storylines. This season was decidingly more male, though there is a lot and I do mean a lot going on. Stories, myths, and Disney/Pixar films that Season 5 of Once Upon a Time did their own take on included:

  • Dark Swan
  • King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
  • Brave
  • Hercules (and his girlfriend)
  • Hades, King of the Underworld
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (mention only)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Plus the return of the following characters from previous seasons:

  • Ruby, the wolf (of Little Red Riding Hood)
  • Evil Peter Pan
  • Mulan
  • Zylena, the Wicked Witch of the West (Oz)
  • a grown-up, more bad-ass Dorothy (Oz)
  • Cruella deVille
  • Liam, Hook’s brother (and a more detailed look at the brother’s back story)
  • Cora, Regina’s mother
  • Henry, Regina’s father
  • Neal, Henry’s father and Emma’s ex

If that sounds like a lot – it is. The first half of the season is extremely confusing. However, the second half of the season, though at times also pulling in a great deal of conflicting plot threads, manages to pull things together, as well as return to Once’s theme of redemption for characters oft thought as “evil”.

The season opens where the previous season left off, with Emma as the Dark One. With a little help from Zylena, our characters travel to another realm, and immediately meet King Arthur, and search for a way to get Merlin out of the tree he’s trapped in, which, eventually leads to a quest to find Excalibur. However, the first season cuts back and forth in time – and it’s some of the most confusing time and realm jumps that Once has ever done. In the first episode, the main characters return to Storybrooke, with Emma as the Dark Swan, having, apparently embraced the darkness – and everyone else having lost their memories of the six months they were in Camelot. Emma is angry about something but we don’t know what. I found the switching back and forth between Camelot and Storybrooke, not to mention the various time-jumps in Camelot to be really confusing. Several times, I’d watch a scene then realize, “Oh, they are in Camelot. Or, oh, wait, this must be Storybrooke.” Since Arthur, his knights, and many of the main characters are transported back to Storybrooke with our main characters, it adds to the confusion. That Emma, Regina, and the Charmings wear their contemporary clothes from Storybrooke in Camelot on all but the most formal occasions, such as the ball, also adds to the confusion.

In Camelot, Arthur turns out to be a really bad king, and not the king of legend. This Arthur is manipulative, insecure, has a really bad case of impostor syndrome, and over-compensates for his own inadequacies by shifting blame to everyone else. He uses magic to control his wife and kingdom. He acts like a teenager who never grew up and has far too much power. Whereas I liked Evil Peter Pan from season 3 (and the young actor was fantastic!), I did not like Arthur at all. When I watched part 1 of the season last year, I thought they had simply cast a bad actor as Arthur (because it was hard to follow the plot week to week). Re-watching on DVD in a much more compressed time-frame, it wasn’t the actor’s fault – but Arthur was poorly written. Other than all his faults, there wasn’t really a reason for his behavior. Regina became the “Evil Queen” because her mother told her she could be with her beloved boyfriend – then killed him horribly in front of her for her “own good”. Zylena became the Wicked Witch because Cora abandoned her, leaving Zylena with a deep-seated sense that she was unlovable, worthless, and incapable of being happy. Zylena also was incredibly jealous of Regina. But Arthur? All we can tell is he doesn’t feel like he deserves to be king, or he’s so afraid people will find out he’s a fraud so he goes to incredible lengths to stop them (including trapping Merlin in a tree, exiling Lancelot, putting his wife under an obedience spell, and doing the same to his entire kingdom). What was disturbing about the Arthur plot was it takes a hero and makes him a villain – and it doesn’t give Arthur a good reason for being a villain. This Arthur also kills one of his loyal knights (talks him into suicide) for absolutely no real reason. Arthur frames his own knight for stealing from the Camelot camp near Storybrooke, then when he’s placed in jail by David (Prince Charming), kills him and disappears the body – so he can claim the man used a “magic bean” to return to Camelot. This is ploy the Charmings and the rest of the heroes see through immediately, so there’s really no point to Arthur’s actions. Done right, Arthur and the Knights of Camelot can be a very good story, for me, Once Upon a Time did not tell the story right.

Interwoven through the first eight episodes of season 5, we find out Emma’s story. As the new Dark One, she has visions of Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) who encourages her to embrace her dark powers. Since we see her as Dark Swan in Storybrooke, it appears that she will. At times, the discussions of Light vs. Dark, whether it’s Emma’s Light Magic or just her general decision she has to make for which Side she will serve sound very Star Wars. There are characters who seem to quote Yoda, when talking to Emma about her choice.

The first actual person Emma meets in the Enchanted Forest is Merida, aka “Brave”. Merida and Emma both want a “wisp” to led them somewhere. The wisp is a McGuffin, though Merida needs it more than Emma. While Rumpelstiltskin urges Emma to kill Merida and take the wisp – David, Mary Margaret, and the rest from Storybrooke arrive and take her to Granny’s Diner which landed in the Enchanted Forest thanks to a magical tornado. Merida goes on her quest, finds the wisp, and loses it. Merida later on meets up with Mulan who teaches her how to fight, goes on a quest herself to find a magical helm (which Arthur had stolen from her father or so she thought) and discovers her father is an honorable man. She also learns how to be a good and just queen. Part of her learning is that even though she finds the helm, she doesn’t turn it over to the “evil witch” citing that, as a weapon, it’s too dangerous for anyone to have and she will destroy it. Merida’s test however, was just that – if she had turned it over, or even just kept it, she would not have been a good queen.

Mulan is also having issues – but teaching Merida, and meeting Ruby (of all people), helps her over-come them.

Ruby, in turn, ends-up in Oz, assisting Dorothy (now grown-up and bad-ass), whom she’s fallen for. In the end, the feeling is mutual (when Dorothy is put under a sleeping curse, it is Ruby’s “true love’s kiss” that wakes her). Their kiss is magical. I loved the new Dorothy (not to mention that Ruby, Mulan, and Dorothy – although an odd mix when you consider the source material – sparks on-screen). I enjoyed those episodes, and wouldn’t mind somehow seeing more of Dorothy and Ruby. Maybe Ruby could adopt the name Ozma?

At the end of the Camelot plot, we find out what’s happened to Emma. Hook was wounded in the throat during a skirmish with Arthur. The cut is from Excalibur. When Emma tries to use her magic to unite the two halves of Excalibur (the Sword, and the Dark One dagger), Hook collapses. His wound re-opens and he starts dying. Emma, in tears, cannot face the death of her true love. She stops the spell to reunite Excalibur, places everyone under a forgetting spell, and sends Granny’s, everyone inside, and the population of Camelot to Storybrooke. This returns us to the beginning of episode one, where everyone arrives but with no memory of the previous six weeks.

Emma is saved from being the Dark One. But Hook becomes the Dark One. Emma has to kill Hook with Excalibur to save him and he dies. But Rumple had tethered the Dark Magic back to the Dark One dagger. Rumple is now the Dark One again and Killian’s been taken to the underworld. Emma, Snow, David, Rumple, Belle, Regina, and Henry travel to the Underworld to rescue Hook. They are in a town that looks like a destroyed Storybrooke with red skies, where they discover Hades is Lord of the Underworld. Regina meets Cora (her mother) again. Cora tries to use Regina’s father to manipulate Regina, but Regina, much more grown up now, doesn’t fall for it. In the end, Henry Sr. is able to finish his “unfinished business”, make his peace, and literally walk into the light. Freeing Henry’s soul let’s the broken Underworld Storybrooke clock move forward one minute – and angers Hades. Soon Emma (now having prophetic dreams), Snow, and Charming meet Hercules and his girlfriend. Discovering that both were killed in a quest to destroy Cerebus (who now guards the path to where Killian is being held), the Storybrooke heroes help Hercules and his girlfriend – who walk into the light. Fortunately, this doesn’t become an every episode thing. Bringing back the dead, though, is a theme. Rumple runs in to his dad, Peter Pan. Pan is just as evil as ever, and at first it seems Rumple will work with Pan. But instead, having found a way to destroy Pan forever, with water from the River of Souls, Rumple actually destroys Pan. However, Rumple is too late to stop Belle, who discovers he is now the Dark One, from putting herself under a sleeping curse. Meanwhile, Killian, once rescued by Emma and company, meets his brother, Liam. In “The Brothers Jones”, we discover their full background. Their father sells the two into servitude on a ship. When Liam gets old enough to try to break the contract by joining the Royal Navy and getting a signing bonus (for both him and his younger brother, Killian), Captain Silver gets Killian drunk and steals all their saved money. Liam tears up his papers with the Navy, and stays with his brother. When the Captain Silver steers the ship into the eye of a hurricane to get a fabled gem, Liam attempts to raise a mutiny. It works somewhat, but Liam still feels forced to make a deal with Hades to see to it that he and his brother survive. Hades even “gifts” Liam the fabled gem. The two brothers survive, are found by the Navy, and we know much of the rest of the story from season 3. In Underworld Storybrooke, both Killian and Liam show an incredible amount of hero-worship vis-a-vis each other. They are both willing to sacrifice themselves for each other. Fortunately, Killian is able to save Liam, who, with his dead crew, who now know the truth, also all go into the Light. But, the details of Hades story are lost. Still, having now lost close to a dozen souls, Hades is very angry, not only are Snow, Regina, and Emma tied to the Underworld by having names on gravestones – but the entire group is now trapped in the Underworld.

Zylena, having had Robin’s baby earlier in the season, becomes a character similar to first and second season Regina – she’s “Wicked” but we want her to become good. And similar to how Regina’s love for Henry made her a better person, and eventually her own sort of hero; Zylena, though still manipulative, does honestly love her baby daughter. Sadly, Zylena also believes she is not lovable and that no one could ever love her. Part of why she wants her baby at first, is she thinks a child will love her. But we also have an episode where a young Regina plays with one of Cora’s magical items and is knocked cold and remains unconscious. Cora finds Zylena and convinces her to use her magic to save Regina – something Zylena does easily and effortlessly. However, as she sees the two young girls becoming friends, and even almost acting as sisters – though neither knows they are sisters, Cora decides to separate the two. Cora tells Regina she can’t have friends or rely on anyone but herself. Then she has Zylena taken away, and wipes the memory from both of them. Throughout the back half of the season, Regina is constantly trying to help Zylena, trying to work with her – but since she also seems to always be asking Zylena for something, Zylena thinks Regina only wants to use her. When Cora decides to tell the two the truth, that they met as young children, and were, for a time, sisters, it becomes enough for Cora to also walk into the Light. And Regina and Zylena are more united.

However, to make things more complicated, Hades also appears to fall in love with Zylena. At first Zylena rejects him because she feels she can’t be loved. Then Zylena tries to figure out if Hades is honest about his feelings. At first Regina tries to convince Zylena that Hades doesn’t love her, but someone will. Later, as the two are united as the sisters they are, Regina tells Zylena to try – try to make Hades a better man. Yeah, the god of the Underworld, a better man. It doesn’t end well.

Hades and Zylena return to Storybrooke. Hades meets Arthur, and kills him. Hades then tries to convince Zylena they need to attack first against Snow, and David, and Regina, and the rest of the Storybrooke characters, whom he tells Zylena are after them and will never let them live in peace. Zylena points out they can live in peace, just find a nice house in Storybrooke and settle down. Hades reveals his hand that he’s a lot more interested in power and destruction than in settling down. But before Zylena can leave on her own, Robin and Regina show up. Hades unleashes a magic attack towards Regina, but Robin gets in the way. Robin dies. Zylena is appalled. But it’s Gold who uses a magic crystal from Zeus to get rid of Hades – in another bid for power. Gold is also still trying to bring back Belle, who is still under a sleeping curse.

Zylena opens a portal (at David’s request) to send the various extra characters back to the Enchanted Forest or where ever they happen to have come from. However, it back fires and Zylena, Snow, and David are caught in the portal and immediately end up in a jail. They are in the Land of Lost Stories, though, being in a jail, it’s a while before they know that. In that land, they run into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gold has gone to New York, with Belle, to perform a spell to revive her – a spell that must be cast in the Land Without Magic.  Also, Henry and Violet, his first crush, run off to New York. Henry’s decided to destroy all magic because he thinks it’s bad. The two teenagers go to the New York Public Library to do research, and find dozens of storybooks. Emma and Regina follow Henry to New York. The two get a txt from Granny telling them what went down in Storybrooke. By the time they catch up with Henry and Violet, Henry has found the anti-Grail, which will destroy magic. In the midst of Gold’s spell to wake up Belle, Henry destroys magic. Opps. Henry immediately realizes he’s made a big mistake, because without magic, they can’t get Snow and Charming back.

Emma tells Henry a story about a wishing fountain – and everyone goes there – where Henry makes a stirring speech, a lot of people throw pennies into the fountain, and the wishes bring back out characters. This includes Jekyll, who uses his separator formula to tear the Evil Queen out of Regina (who has, apparently, been like a recovering alcoholic – and who fears returning to evilness).

Season 5 of Once Upon a Time was, well, I don’t want to call it a mess – because, overall, it was entertaining, and parts of it were really, really, really good. The large guest cast was excellent. Although I found Arthur annoying at first, on a second watch-through, he got better. Hades Shatner-like diction became annoying by the end of the season though. However, I’m getting a bit tired of the idea that every single one of the storybook characters is so obsessed with the idea of Predestination, destiny, and fate. The “evil” characters, such as Regina, and even Zylena, are determined to believe that because they were once “evil” they are fated to never be happy. And in a sense, in the show’s universe and worldview they are right, because Regina has lost, what, three boyfriends now? And the first time someone really seems to love Zylena for who she is – he turns out to be a raving meglomanic who simply wants power, no matter who he has to crush to get it. Even Gold (Rumple) continuously chooses power over the love of a good woman. And Belle is finally fed-up with his choice of power over her. Unfortunately, Belle’s response is to put herself under a sleeping curse – effectively “refrigerating” a fiery, intelligent character who keeps Gold both honest and as a character the audience can relate to.

Secondly, season 5 of Once Upon a Time, was one of the most unFeminist seasons ever on the show. Season 4 had women as leads in both halves of the season, and showed use both good and evil women. Season 5 starts off praising the male hero by bringing in Arthur and his knights, as well as Merlin. That might have been OK, if Arthur hadn’t been quickly shown to be a weak, ineffective king with an inferiority complex. Showing Arthur as a lousy king was a bad move, in my opinion. And, if they were going to do that, the strong Storybrooke woman, especially Regina, Emma, and Snow, should have been able to take the king down. Instead, Regina and Snow (and at times Belle – who’s become the group’s “researcher”) are pitted against Emma. Yes, the early part of second half of the season explains that – Emma did it all for Hook. But at much as I ship Emma/Hook, having Emma make bad decisions due to doomed love puts her right back at the beginning of Season 1, where she’s in jail and pregnant. We also see Snow having to run off some bandits when she is still young, and her father is away. Snow as always been remarkably strong. Feminine, but very strong, and often badass. Yet, who teaches her to fight? Hercules. That completely takes Snow’s power away. It diminishes her. It destroys her agency. It says she couldn’t possibly become a hero without the help of a man. And that she couldn’t learn to fight without a man either. It was much more satisfying to see Mulan teaching Merida how to fight. Besides, Merida was already kick-ass with a bow and arrow, Mulan only helped her to learn hand to hand combat. But taking one of Once Upon a Time‘s strongest women and having her completely unable to fight without a man showing her how? I didn’t like that at all.

 

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Once Upon a Time Season 4

  • Series Title: Once Upon a Time
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: ABC
  • Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Sean McGuire, Georgina Haig, Elizabeth Lail, Elizabeth Mitchell, Kristen Bauer von Straten, Victoria Smurfit, Merrin Dungey
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD

The fourth season of Once Upon a Time, like season 3, is again split into two halves. The first part of the season is based on Disney’s Frozen, and the second half is more like what the first two seasons of the show were like – it brings in three well-known Disney villains, the Queens of Evil, and has them working with Mr. Gold to “find their happy endings” by finding “the Author” to write those happy endings for them.

I have not seen Frozen, though I’m familiar with the song “Let It Go” and its parodies. However, I really enjoyed the “Frozen” section of Season 4. The actors playing Elsa and Anna had incredible chemistry. And the Snow Queen was also excellent. The interesting thing about the Snow Queen is that she really isn’t evil – she’s extremely manipulative, and she’s quick to jump on anything negative anyone says or does to her, but really, her story is that of a classic misunderstanding. Ingrid is afraid of her powers, but she’s also afraid of how people, even her family and kingdom will react to her powers. Because of this – she takes everything in a negative way. For example, she sees her sisters off to the ball, but refuses to go herself, because she fears rejection from the kingdom. She forgets her sister, especially the older one urging her to go anyway. This older sister is pursued by the Duke of Weaselton. Weaselton then makes moves on Ingrid, and threatens to reveal her secret. But when her sister shows up, she believes Ingrid – and attempts to banish the slimy duke. The duke then threatens both the sister and Ingrid. Rather than being happy that her sister believes her and believes in her, things get heated (so to speak) and Ingrid attacks Weaselton. The sister steps in the way out of instinct to protect the duke, and Ingrid freezes her – then the ice shatters, killing her. At this point, Gerda, Anna and Elsa’s mother (to be) shows up – sees her sister dead, and for all intents and purposes sees Ingrid over the body with the murder weapon – Gerda jumps to conclusions, and traps Ingrid in the urn. But we actually find this out at the end of the Frozen section which runs 12 episodes. Ingrid’s issue is she, somewhat rightfully so, feels utterly betrayed by her sister – so she, without good reason, assumes that Anna will betray Elsa the same way.

Meanwhile, Anna and Elsa actually have a very good relationship, and Anna accepts Elsa including her powers. And the actors playing Anna and Elsa had great chemistry. If they weren’t playing sisters, you’d think they were together. Watching the two, especially in the flashbacks, then at the end of the Frozen section of the story, when Anna is found in Storybrooke, is a joy.  Anna is also engaged to Kristoff, who’s simply adorable. He’s cute, and funny, and he let’s Anna take charge.

The flashbacks to Arendale, and Anna’s quest to Misthaven (the Enchanted Forest) were also very well filmed, as were the sections in Storybrooke. I’ve always liked just how good Once Upon a Time looks and most of Season 4 is no exception – the mist in the forests of Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest just looks so good, as do the rays of sunlight filtering through the mist.

In the end, the Snow Queen decides to get her revenge by controlling her “magical sisters” (Emma and Elsa) with magical ribbons that Ingrid had shared with her real sisters in Arendale. She also casts the Spell of Shattered Sight which awakens everyone’s darkest impulses and turns them all against each other. The Spell is one of the scarest curses we’ve seen on Once Upon a Time, but it’s realized only with the characters saying very nasty things to each other, and some scuffles in the street. In the end, though, to break the spell, Emma, Elsa, and Anna convince the Snow Queen to sacrifice herself to end the curse – which works. It’s Anna who finds the information needed to break the Snow Queen, finding a letter in a bottle from Gerda, her mother, in which Gerda has decided she made a mistake, and Ingrid must be released from her urn and the forgetting spell cast by the rock trolls reversed. However, since Gerda and her husband never returned to Arendale because their ship was sunk in a storm – Gerda was never able to return to set Ingrid free.

What the Frozen section also did, however, was it integrated well with the second half of the season. The last episode of the Frozen section actually is a transition to the second section with the “Queens of Evil” (or Heroes and Villains, which is the theme of the entire season). In the Frozen section, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s hat – a magical portal that can absorb magic – appears several times, and although it’s use seems self-contained, it’s not. The Hat even appears in the finale of the season. Also, in the Frozen section, we see a flashback to Emma’s past – which we think is there to show us that she knew Ingrid – Ingrid was one of her foster mothers, someone who became so close to her that Ingrid wanted to adopt Emma. But what you also see in those flashbacks is Emma meeting a girl called Lily – and Lily will turn out to be very important to the second half of the story – in many, many ways, the catalyst of the second half of the story. So, in Season 4, the season feels much more like a cohesive season – not two completely different half-seasons, like season three with Peter Pan at the beginning and Wicked second.

In the second half of the story – the “villains” are in search of their happy endings. Regina, one of my favorite characters, is now “good” really – she’s Henry’s mother, she’s friends with Emma, and she gets on with Mary Margaret and David. Regina is strong, smart, and a sharp dresser to boot, which I love. Regina becomes convinced that to really have her happy ending she must find the Author of the Storybook and ask him to write her a happy ending. And what she’s lost is Robin Hood. – Regina falling for Robin was one of the best things about Season 3 (well, that and Evil Peter Pan) – but just as Robin and Regina are getting together in Storybrooke, Emma returns to the present with Marion – Robin’s wife. Robin then tells Regina he can’t break his marriage vow, and he has to stay true to his wife.

Marion becomes the first and only victim of freezing sickness – and it becomes Regina’s duty to try to save her. Yep – Regina has to save her lover’s wife, so her lover can go back to his wife, and she won’t be happy. It’s to Regina’s credit, and her much more heroic status, that she actually agrees to this with no tricks up her sleeve and no force being used against her to get her to “do the right thing”. Marion is unconscious for most of the Frozen section, Regina and Robin do have an affair, and Robin keeps doing things like telling Regina he loves her but he can’t leave his wife. (Seriously, has the man never heard of divorce?) Robin even admits he no longer loves Marion. At the end of the section, Marion recovers, but then collapses again. But rather than dying and solving everyone’s problem – Regina realizes that the only thing that will cure Marion’s sickness to to send her away from Storybrooke where she will no longer be touched by magic. Robin takes his son, Roland, and leaves for New York with Marion. It’s a sad moment for Regina, but it doesn’t turn her evil.

Regina then goes undercover with the other Queens of Evil to find out their plans. And again to Regina’s credit – she reports everything back to Mary Margaret, David, and/or Emma. And again, she’s not dragged back into darkness.

But, not all is over with Marion. It turns out, she’s not Marion at all – she’s Zelena – the Wicked Witch, and Regina’s sister – who had killed Marion and taken her place years ago. This would be fine, but Zelena is also pregnant with Robin’s child. Or claims she is.  I didn’t like the Wicked section of Season 3 because I just wasn’t convinced by Zelena’s backstory, and I just didn’t like seeing her again. Plus it seemed too convenient that it was Zelena, disguised as Marion, that Emma brought back from the past, and that the minute Regina finds that out – Zelena also reveals she’s pregnant with Robin’s baby. Really?

Maleficent’s story was excellent, and a prime example of what Once Upon a Time does well – which is to show us that everyone is the hero of their own story – and from the point of view of an “evil” character things might look different. And, her story is the story of a wronged mother. I haven’t see Angelina Jole’s Maleficent film, so I don’t know if that’s where the plot came from, or if it was original to Once Upon a Time – I’d like to think it was original, because then it’s more impressive. Snow White and Prince Charming are manipulated by a peddler (whom we later discover is the Author, but more about that later) into a quest in the Enchanted Forest with Maleficent, Cruella, and Ursula to find the tree of knowledge. They do, but are unable to ask their question because Snow is pregnant. That her child might have the “potential for evil” freaks out Snow White (because she’s apparently never heard of “nature verses nuture”) and she ends up talking Charming into seeing a Wizard (actually the Apprentice) who then tells her there’s a spell which will remove all evil from Snow’s unborn child. To cast the spell, they need a vessel. So Snow White and Prince Charming go and steal Maleficent’s dragon’s egg – not entirely realizing that it’s her child. And that the reason she burned down the forest was to make a nest for her child (Maleficent being, well, a were-dragon, a human who can turn into a dragon, but also must reproduce in dragon form). Snow and Charming take the egg, bring it to the Apprentice, get him to cast the spell – and are surprised when the darkness not only goes into the egg, but it breaks, revealing a human-looking baby, who then falls through a portal. Taking away her dark impulses is what gives Emma her strong light magic – and possibly her “real world” superpower of being able to tell when people are lying.

As the story is told, Mary Margaret and David are keeping what they did to Maleficent from Emma and the town – they reveal their mistake to Regina, in part to get her to spy on the “Queens of Evil”.

We also get Ursula’s origin story – and ironically she’s the only one to get her happy ending as Killian (Hook) not only gives her, her voice back – but helps her to reconcile with her father.

Cruella’s origin story, and her relationship with the Author is also explained, but very quickly and in a single episode – so it just didn’t seem to work. At first, Cruella seems to be the victim of a cold and cruel mother. Later, it seems Cruella is a psychopath who had killed three of her mother’s husbands, including her own father, and who uses her superpower of controlling animals given to her by the Author to kill her mother using her own dogs, and then kill the dogs to make a coat (fortunately off screen). Cruella is also killed by Emma Swan to protect Henry whom she had kidnapped. But killing Cruella doesn’t make Emma dark. And in a sense, since Cruella is a psychopath she can’t be redeemed (and she seems to have no goal for happiness either) so dying is, for her, the best path, really.

Mr. Gold also returns to Storybrooke, let in by the “Queens of Evil” after being banished by Belle for lying to her, primarily about the dagger, but about other things too. Mr. Gold represents chaos much of the time. Once he’s no longer Rumplestilskin, and falls in love with Belle, he often doesn’t do outright evil – but he’s not on the side of good either. His return to Storybrooke isn’t really motivated by love for Belle, though there’s a scene or two where we see that – Gold is motivated by self-preservation. He’s dying, his heart is turning completely black from all the evil he’s done, and he also knows that once all the flicker of life has left his heart, the dark one will be free. Gold really wants to prevent that. So from that perspective, Gold’s actions with the Hat, and bringing in the three villains, and trying to find the author to re-write his story, even his actions towards Belle make sense.

In the search for The Author (called by Henry and Regina “Operation: Mongoose”) the characters follow several leads. One leads them to Pinocchio, who, as he’s become a child, doesn’t remember anything. Gold & company bring him back to being an adult, August, who tells Henry, Emma, Mary Margaret, and David, that “the Author” isn’t a person – it’s a job description, there have been many authors recording stories. The one they want is trapped in the book. Our heroes then learn from the Apprentice, that one author went bad – manipulating the stories. For example, he was the peddler that changed Snow and David’s path so they ended-up stealing Maleficent’s child. The Sorcerer and his Apprentice get very upset at this and trap the Author in the book.

In the finale, while Mary Margaret, David, Emma, Hook, and Henry figure out the last clues – the Author (Isaac) is with Gold, who’s collapsed in his shop, writing the story Gold wants – “Heroes and Villains”. Everyone is headed to Gold’s shop when poof. Henry wakes up, alone, and everyone in Storybrooke is gone. Henry heads to the local gas station/diner outside Storybrooke, finds Lily, who’s no help, but also find the “Heroes and Villains” book and from there goes to the film premiere where the author is speaking and signing copies of his book. Henry confronts the Author and they both end-up in “Heroes and Villains” – where the heroes lose and the villains win. There Henry, with help from Emma (now a Cassandra figure – doomed to remember everything from before the Author, Isaac, changed everything but to have no one believe her), and ultimately, from the alternate reality, Regina, who’s a bandit on the run from Snow White the Evil Queen. Regina’s sacrifice and literally her blood allow Henry to change things back.

With another poof – everything is back to normal in Storybrooke. Regina and Hook, who had died in the alternate realm are alive. Everyone goes to Gold’s shop – and finds him dying. The hat is used to draw the evilness and the dark one from Gold and the dagger show’s no name at all. Gold still doesn’t look well, but we suspect he’ll recover. However, the hat cannot contain the evil and it escapes – heading straight for Regina. Emma sacrifices herself, becoming the new Dark One to save Regina and give her her happy ending with Robin.

Overall, I liked season 4 of Once Upon a Time, especially the Frozen section which had a real innocence to it compared to the back end of the season. But I couldn’t help but notice that all the Fairy Tale characters believe not only in The Book – but predestination. Every single one of them believes they are fated to be either good or evil – and they can’t change that fate. That even if they try to be “good” they will still end-up doing evil things, and as such they won’t be given their happy ending. This really does defy a certain logic. Regina is the loudest mouthpiece for the “because I was evil I can’t be happy” mantra – but she fails to see that Henry is her happiness. Mr. Gold, also, at a point in the previous season, marries Belle – which should be his happy ending. But his search for power, and determination to be “free of the dagger” breaks apart the one happy thing he has – his relationship with Belle, which was why I saw her banishing him to be one of the saddest scenes in the show. Still, Once Upon a Time works best when it takes characters like Maleficent, like The Evil Queen, and not only gives us an origin that explains their actions, but also makes us want to root for these characters and see them happy. We do see, for example, Lily (Lilith) reunited with Maleficent – and I hope they are in Season 5 as regular or at least semi-regular characters. And since I totally ship Emma/Hook, I hope that while dark, Emma doesn’t permanently harm him in the upcoming season.

 

The Full Monty

  • Title:  The Full Monty
  • Director:  Peter Cattaneo
  • Date:  1997
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • Genre:  Comedy, Drama
  • Cast:  Robert Carlyle, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Addy
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“When women start pissing like us, that’s it, we finished, Dave, extincto.”  – Gaz

“I like you. I love you, you bugger.”  – Gaz, to his son, Nathan

“And they won’t say nought about your personality, neither, which is good, ’cause your basically a b…..d.”  — Dave

The Full Monty took the upper Midwest by storm, much to the shock of Hollywood and perhaps even the film’s makers. First released as an “art house” film — it became a blockbuster in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio, and probably other “rust belt” states as well. Critics praised the film and it moved from “art house” slots to main theater venues. I saw the film when it came out and I remember how excited the crowd was. But, the thing is, the success of the movie had to do with the fact that audiences in the Midwest, in steel towns and auto manufacturing towns could identify with the story.

The Full Monty isn’t really about stripping. It’s a film about a group of unemployed steel workers. The film opens with a promotional film about Sheffield, in England, a place that is attracting workers, full of attractions and night life, and is built on steel. Then, comes the caption, 25 years later, and the film starts in earnest. The mills are shut down, most everybody is unemployed, and the few who have found jobs are working low income service jobs, such as security guards at the local superstore or at the abandoned plant.

One night the Chippendale male dancers come to town and perform for one night only at a women’s only night at the local “workingman’s pub”. Gaz is disgusted he can’t go in for a drink, but when his pal Dave tells him his wife’s inside, Gaz decides to pull her out by sneaking in through the bathroom window. Dave is to accompany him but can’t get through the window. Just as Gaz and his son are heading into the pub, three women come into the men’s room. Gaz hides, and watches as they check their make-up and chat. When he sees one of the girls stand and pee in the urinal (something she learned at “girl guides” she says), Gaz is shocked. The next day at Job Club, the unemployment center, he’s complaining about how useless he feels.

The men are poking fun at the Chippendales, when someone points out how much money the one night made. And Gaz comes up with a plan — getting his mates together as their own “Hot Metal” strippers. No one seems to take his idea seriously, but when his ex-wife and her new husband threaten to sue for sole custody of his son unless he comes up with £700 pounds, Gaz becomes more and more persuasive. He holds try-outs, but only gets one guy that way. He sees his old boss, whom he doesn’t get on with, at a ballroom and recruits him. But mostly, it Gaz, his friend, Dave, and guys from Job Club. In total, the six men decide to teach themselves how to dance, and find a venue so they can make their money.

But again, the heart of the movie isn’t in the stripping. And it’s not the “humor” of a group of overweight, too old, or too skinny steel workers becoming male strippers. The tale is in the people, and the little moments of characterization. Gaz and Dave are walking along and they find a guy, sitting in a car, that’s not working. Dave gets the car started, failing to notice the hose running from the tailpipe inside the car. The guy inside rolls up his window, Dave walks back to Gaz – then notices, and pulls the guy out of the car. At one point he argues with him, throws him back in, then pulls him out.  The guy ends up being one of the six.

It’s moments like Gerald, Gaz’s boss, who goes to Job Club every day because he hasn’t told his wife that he lost his job. She finds out when everything, including the house is repossessed, and she throws him out — the same day he received the notice that he’d got the job he applied for at a different factory.

Even Gaz’s story is about his need to continue to see his son, rather than just trying to make some money.

But the film is also very funny, with great music, which prevents the dire situation of the characters from being too much.  And, again, plant closures, families torn apart, increases in crime, desperation, are all themes anyone from a one industry town like Detroit, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh of the 1970s can identify with.  But the humor prevents it from becoming too much.  In a sense it’s a film that asks, “What if?” as well as “What would you do?”

In the end, despite a near arrest, and various problems, the six men all go on stage and strip. And, as they promised, they do “go for it” and bare it all (tastefully shown from the back). But it’s the characters that make the film. Though the freeze frame at the end is really a brilliant way to end the film.

Fair warning – like Billy Elliot and The Commitments this film has plenty of swearing and blue language. It’s not for young children for that reason. It’s a film for adults, but not in the sexy sense.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Galaxy Quest