Now this is what I’m talking about! The past two weeks in the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows have been lopsided in favor of one show or another. Finally, in week three, we have two solid, entertaining episodes in which each show highlights its strengths. On Once Upon a Time, we experience the beginning of one of literature’s most popular couples; and on Grimm, we delve deeper into the show’s mythology as the term “killer bees” gets a whole new meaning.
Before we discuss this past week’s episodes, go vote for your favorite at the People’s Choice Awards! Both Once Upon a Time and Grimm are up for Favorite New TV Drama! Let the class know who you’re voting for below! Then dig in and let’s discuss two of televisions best genre offerings!
And, um, bee-ware the spoilers. Sorry.
Once Upon a Time, Ep 3: “Snow Falls”
Henry (Jared Gilmore) is convinced that the John Doe (Josh Dallas) in a coma at the Storybrooke hospital is actually Prince Charming and that it’s up to Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) to revive him so that they can live happily ever after. Emma (Jennifer Morrison) thinks she is humoring Henry by making this happen, but begins to believe more strongly after Mary revives John Doe so much that he goes wandering in the woods, and Regina (Lana Parilla), who is inexplicably his emergency contact, thwarts Mary Margaret’s happiness by contacting John Doe’s wife. Meanwhile, flashbacks reveal how Snow White met Prince Charming (whose name is James, thankyouverymuch!), and how they ended up saving each other.
Script (2): Liz Tigelaar has delivered a funny, smart, and adventurous script that managed to appeal to both my cynical, sarcastic side and my romantic, squishy side at the same time. It was such a joy to watch the evolution of Snow White and Prince Charming’s relationship from captive and captor to best friends who love each other so much they want to be each other’s champions that I didn’t even mind when their language got a bit too modern. It was close enough. It was thrilling to see Snow White as a hardened survivor. Unlike Disney’s version of the character, who remains cheerful no matter what, this Snow was given an emotional journey, and we got to watch her learn to trust — a journey that parallels the journey of her daughter, Emma, in the modern world. We also got to see more from Prince Charming, a man who is much more substantive than his status and title might lead one to believe. In the modern world, Regina’s sabotaging of Emma, Henry, and Mary Margaret’s efforts continue to be believable even as her methods have to become more desperate. Despite the fairy tale nature of the show, the motivations and actions of the characters remain firmly grounded in reality.
Performances (2): While she’s given us hints of her talent in the first two episodes, Ginnifer Goodwin finally comes into her own in “Snow Falls.” Her performance as Snow White in the fairy tale world is nuanced and full of fun and a wicked sense of humor, while her performance as Mary Margaret is heartbreaking. It wasn’t until this episode that I noticed the way that Goodwin holds her shoulders as Mary Margaret, slumped and lopsided as if her lack of hope in love is physically weighing her down. Josh Dallas shines as Prince Charming. He plays a man who falls in love without being a pushover; who saves the girl and accepts being saved in return. Whereas few women today would actually want the Prince Charming we hear about in storybooks in real life, Dallas convincingly plays the kind of prince we might all wish for.
Production (2): Snow. White’s. Woodland. Outfit. Enough said. But just in case that wasn’t enough for you — that outfit was awesome. I want it. I want it hard.
Oh yeah, and the rest of the show looked good, too. There were trolls, apparently. But I barely paid attention to how cool they looked, because I was too busy coveting Snow White’s awesome-ass cape, and the worn leather vest with the fur on the shoulders, and the awesomeness of her hair, and the really cool pants. I’m such a girl. Whatever. That outfit owned.
Representation (1.5): With the greater inclusion of Prince Charming into the story, Henry’s being more active than usual, and Sheriff Graham’s help in the search for John Doe this episode is the most gender balanced yet. Whereas it’s been nice to have such female-focused stories, a rarity on television, it’s even better to see what happens when men and women share the story equally. I know right? But believe it or not, it can totally happen! More of this, please.
Audience Engagement (2): Snow White and Prince Charming relationship snark! That was enough to make this an appealing episode, but the rest of the story — Mary Margaret’s search for love, Emma’s increased interest in Henry, Regina’s constant one-upwomanship — was enough to engage an audience. The story included enough aspects of the series premise that anyone stumbling on the show for the first time with this episode would have all they need to enjoy it.
TOTAL SCORE FOR ONCE UPON A TIME: 9.5 (out of 10)
Grimm, Ep. 3: “BeeWare”
A flash mob on a bus leads to a murder. When Nick (David Guintoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) are put on the case, the investigation leads Nick to learning more about the fairy tale underworld. Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz) puts the detectives in charge of guarding Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee), who is both the hexenbeist who tried to kill Marie as well as a woman mysteriously related to the two women murdered in the episode. We are introduced to the mellifurs, bee-like creatures who act as a clarions in the creature world. Their only natural enemy? The hexenbeist. Wackiness ensues. Also, this episode features a crap-ton of bees.
Script (2): After last week’s misstep, it was great to see writers Cameron Litvack and Thania St. John give us a story that starts out with a strong, clear case, and ends by expanding the world of the show in a way that makes the viewer want more. This episode had the brisk pace of the pilot and allowed the stories and goals of all of the main characters to converge. This case brings Nick closer to the creature world than anything has before, which ratcheted up the suspense as Nick was in constant danger. Captain Renard is becoming a more imposing figure, and his interactions with both Adalind Schade and Nick are fascinating to watch. This episode also features some wonderful moments of humor. From Sergeant Wu’s sarcastic comments, to the interactions between the detectives and the mortician, to lines like “Harper’s bee man just buzzed me. Yeah, I went there,” where Hank both makes a bad pun and acknowledges it in the same breath, made the episode fun as well as exciting. It’s nice to see that all of the humor doesn’t have to come from the character of Monroe. The one flaw? Hank attempting to stop the bees coming through the bathroom window by swatting at them with a towel, instead of — I don’t know — CLOSING THE BATHROOM DOOR AND TRAPPING THE BEES IN THERE.
Performances (2): The entire cast brought their A games to this story, but this episode was pretty much a contest between David Giuntoli and Sasha Roiz to see who could deliver the most intense I-Know-All-Your-Secrets Face. The scene in which Captain Renard questions Nick about what he knows about Adalind Schade was fraught with tension as questions and answers were lobbed back and forth like tennis balls. However, Roiz pretty much stole every scene he was in this episode. In his scenes with Nick, he excelled at conveying a cool nonchalance, even as he was making really pointed comments; and in his scenes with Adalind, there’s a hint of tenderness, too. When he says things like “I told you, I won’t let anything happen to you” and “Serena and Camilla are not you,” it not only reveals something about him, but it makes Adalind someone worth paying attention to. Not that Claire Coffee doesn’t make us pay attention. She, too, is wonderful at navigating the tricky waters of duplicity. Reggie Lee adds beautifully to the humorous dynamic that Giuntoli and Russell Hornsby share, and watching the three of them interact at a crime scene is proving more and more enjoyable each time. Oh, and there was an all-too-brief, but fabulous guest appearance by Nana Visitor (Major Kira on DS9!) as the queen bee.
Production (1.5): Excellent make-up on the bloated faces of the victims and on the transformed faces of the mellifurs. The, um, honeycomb hideout looked really cool. However, the best bit was the bees, of course, both the swarms as well as the detailed work on the single bees that interacted with Nick.
Representation (2): It almost felt like a different show entirely! Suddenly, there were all these women around! And they were all doing important stuff! Juliette was actually involved in helping Nick’s partner after he’d been riddled with bee stings. I knew those veterinary skills would come in handy! The mortician, Dr. Harper, played by Sharon Sachs, was a delightful and competent presence, and I hope we see more of her as the show continues. Adalind continues to be awesome, and I’m firmly Team Schade. The creature world brought yet another woman into Nick’s life in Melissa Wincroft a.k.a. the queen bee, who manages to teach Nick a little more about himself before he has to shoot her. The murder victims — and assumed fellow hexenbeists — Serena and Camilla were both women, one of whom was a woman of color. Normally, I’d balk at the victims constantly being female and/or people of color, but I’m not in this case, because these women were a part of something bigger. They weren’t just nameless/faceless victims, and that redeems them. Grimm also continues to be a racially and ethnically diverse show, which allows this episode to be the first to earn the full two Representation Points this week.
Audience Engagement (2): This episode had everything: humor, suspense, excitement, inclusion, solid performance, and a clear, concise story that anyone could get into.
TOTAL SCORE FOR GRIMM: 9.5 (out of 10)
WEEK 3 WINNER: TIE!
Cumulative Scores So Far:
Once Upon a Time: 26.5
There are only two points dividing these two shows, and if the episodes remain consistently solid, this race is going to be close all the way to the finish line! Two really good genre shows on network TV? Not exactly a bad problem to have! Let me know what you think in the comments!
And come back next week to participate in the conversation after you watch Once Upon a Time, which airs Sundays at 8/7 Central on ABC, and Grimm, which airs Fridays at 9/8 Central on NBC.
Teresa Jusino wants Snow White’s woodland outfit. Did she mention that earlier? She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in an upcoming non-fiction sci-fi anthology. Get Twitterpated with Teresa,“like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.