Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Once Upon a Time, End of Season Checkup

If you've read my earlier post about Once Upon a Time, you'll know that my feelings about the show were pretty mixed. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the crap out of it. On the other hand, it kind of sucks. It has a healthy mix of female characters, but they're poorly written and frequently baffling.

Well, I spent today catching up on the rest of the series, and I have to say that while my criticisms (bad writing, stupid plots, obscure character motivations) never really went away, I still enjoy this show with a fervor that I can't quite excuse. It's not good, but it is entertaining.

They also, over the course of the rest of the season, have continued to introduce strong and cool female characters. So where do these characters stack up?


Red is obviously Little Red Riding Hood, with the twist that she's actually the wolf after all. Red's cape is the only thing keeping her from going berserker wolf, but she nightly slips it off and runs outside to escape her over-protective Granny, only to find that somehow tons of villagers have died during the night. It's cool, if a little silly, and very sad when she unknowingly kills her lover, Peter.

After that, though? Once Red realizes that she's actually the wolf, she goes hardcore into being the coolest fighter in the land. She scouts, she hunts, and she at one point wanders back from a reconnaissance mission to have someone say, "You've got a little someone on your...", and wipes sheepishly at her mouth. I love her.

Ruby, in the "real" world, isn't far behind in my estimation. Though a little flighty and frustrated at being stuck working with her grandmother at the diner, Ruby is still well capable of being badass when it's called for. She even goes so far as to solve several investigations with Emma while working for the Sheriff's department. Ruby's pretty damn cool, and shaping up to be a major player.

So that's a win.


Also known as Mrs. Nolan, Catherine is David's (Prince Charmingface) real world wife. A gentle soul who is ready and willing to work on a marriage that she thought was dead and buried, and is thrilled to see alive, Catherine suffered for the first part of the season from seeming like just another roadblock in between Mary Margaret and David. (Incidentally, in my first review, I'm pretty sure I used the wrong name for that guy. It's David. I checked.) She was also the obstacle between them in the fairy tale world, though that really wasn't her choice.

But as the season went on, Catherine became more developed. It became clear that she really did want to work on her marriage, and that David was kind of being a dick about the whole Mary Margaret thing. In the fairy tale world, we found out that Catherine was just as thwarted in love as everyone else, but she did Charming a solid by helping him escape their wedding. He paid her back by restoring her true love, blah blah happy.

In the real world, Catherine found out about the affair, came around to supporting it, decided to leave, disappeared, was thought murdered, and was finally found drugged in an alleyway. She's had a rough year.

The one problem that I have with Catherine's character is that I find her to be a little limited. She only ever talks about or is involved, in the sense that she is the "other woman". Everything surrounding her is related to her status as David's wife. This makes her kind of dull, even when her otherwise awesomeness begs to differ.

The Blue Fairy/Mother Superior

Okay, admittedly she's a minor character, but the Blue Fairy became a pretty cool character in the later parts of the season. She wasn't just instrumental in Pinocchio's story, she lead the charge to create the magic cabinet that would save Emma, and even kicked some evil Queen butt in a direct fight with the army.

As Mother Superior, she mostly hung around the sidelines and offered sage advice to anyone who would listen, but it's better than nothing.


I really really want to like Belle from a feminist perspective. I don't, but I want to. That counts for something, right?

Belle's story, Beauty and the Beast, has my absolute favorite twist, in that it ends up being Rumplestiltskin who is her beast. Bargained away from her family in exchange for the protection of the town, Belle finds herself the queen of Rumplestiltskin's castle, and slowly falls for him/develops Stockholm Syndrome.

On the one hand, she stands up for her town and makes a great sacrifice in order to save them. On the other hand, she kind of then just falls for her psychotic-hundreds-of-years-old-CLEARLY-EVIL captor, and is offended when he won't kiss her. True love's kiss will break the spell that gives him his power and curse, and he's not really having that. So he banishes her, and then she dies.

Oh, and in the real world, she's stuck in a mental institution that no one knows about. Awesome.

[Sidenote: Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold is by far the most awesome character, and I do love this story with Belle because of how interesting their interaction is. It's just that from a feminist perspective, it sucks.]

What's the Damage?

Well, with one strongly for, one against, and two moderates, I'd say that the gender politics of Storybrook remain roughly unchanged. I really do appreciate how much effort this show puts into having cool female characters, I just sometimes (all of the time) wish that they would use that same effort and put it into the plots for their stories. The women are cool, but stories where they are dishrags and men's toys really let them down.

Overall, though, I have to say, I did sit down and watch six episodes of this today. So there's that.

Also the UST between these two continues unabated. It's getting weird.


  1. It really bothers me how little we see about Katheryn/Abigail. I thought she was an interesting character, both as Katheryn and Abigail and both with and without David, who just never got developed.

    Yes, I am going back and reading all your OUAT entries. I can talk about this show with very few people.

    1. Dude, I am super pissed about how they wrote her out of the show. She was one of the most interesting female characters.

      And I am perfectly okay with that. OUAT is an interesting show, and we've kind of talked about it a lot over the years. :)