Once Upon a Time Vs. Grimm, Part 16: Wood and Beavers

 

Heh. Heheheheheheh. Last week, Once Upon a Time was about a boy who used to be made of wood. Heh. And Grimm was about a whole mess of beaver. Heh-heh. Clearly, I’m a twelve year old boy trapped in the body of a 32-year-old woman. It happens.

You know what else happens? Sometimes I perform spoken-word poems about Grimm. Like this one.

Also, you can vote for your favorite Network Fairy Tale Show as Best New Show as part of TV Breakroom’s Monday Madness. Grimm‘s currently in the lead (#Grimmsters are workin’ it!), but I know there are plenty of Once Upon a Time fans out there! #Oncers, #Snowers, and #EvilRegals? You’ve been served.

Now, on with the reviews!

Once Upon a Time, Ep 20: “The Stranger”

Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is now determined to focus all her attention on winning custody of Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), so August (Eion Bailey) has trouble convincing her to trust him enough to take the day off with him so he can show her how to defeat Regina (Lana Parilla). Regina is having a hard day, too. Not only is Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) more openly defying her, but so is Henry. She has some sort of weird plan that for some reason involves seducing David (Josh Dallas), but that doesn’t work out. With Mr. Gold’s (Robert Carlyle) help, August succeeds in getting Emma to travel with him. We learn that, in fairytale land, he was Pinocchio!

When Geppetto (Tony Amedola) created the magic cabinet that would send Emma safely into another dimension until she could come back and save them from the curse, it was under the condition that Pinocchio (Jakob Davies) could travel with her, so that he wouldn’t risk being turned back into a wooden boy. So, the Blue Fairy (Keegan Connor Tracy) telling Snow and Prince James that the cabinet only had magic enough for one was a lie! Pinocchio came through with Baby Emma, and was in a foster home with her. But, when presented with an opportunity to escape the harsh conditions there, he leaves her behind, thus shirking his purpose. When Emma arrives in Storybrooke as an adult, August starts feeling the pangs of, um, his wood coming back….

Sorry.

Anyway, so he came back to Storybrooke to let Emma know the truth of her destiny. And after all that…

…she wants no part of it.

Script (2): Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg have given us an amazing episode, and it’s a shame that the success of this episode makes me look less favorably on last week’s episode. Feigning a connection between Rumpelstiltskin’s history and August’s did both a disservice, as each of them is fascinating enough on their own, and deserves his own story told.

Two things stood out during this episode. The first, of course, being the clever retelling of the story of Pinocchio. We all know the ending of Pinocchio — the Blue Fairy turns him into a Real Boy. But what happens after that? We don’t take into account the fact that the Blue Fairy did leave him with a challenge to remain “good, brave, and true,” and so it’s interesting to see that what has brought Pinocchio (now August) dangerously close to reverting to his wooden self is his inability to be true. It was inspired to put him in a long-term situation, like protecting Baby Emma, that would challenge the most difficult of the three things expected of him.

The second thing that stood out was the fact that Regina’s life is starting to crumble around her, and it is good to finally see this happen. No one, no matter how good at manipulating people and rigging the game, has a completely uninterrupted streak of good luck. It was amazing to see Mary Margaret find her inner Snow White and stand up for herself. And Henry telling off his mom and stating as a fact that he would not be transferred out of Mary Margaret’s class? Priceless.

Lastly, I love that Emma wasn’t written to immediately accept the role of Savior. Saving a town, be it from a magical curse, or from more Earthly dangers, is hard, trying work. It’s understandable that someone might not want to take that responsibility on, and Emma’s response was real and perfectly in character. Henry will bring her around, of course, but it’s great that there’s space now in which that can happen.

Performances (2): This episode belonged to Jennifer Morrison and Eion Bailey. Morrison’s finest moment, I think of the whole show so far, was at the end of this episode, where Emma fends off the role of Savior. She believed, but was trying so hard not to, and it was written all over her face. She was heartbreaking in that moment. Equally heartbreaking was Bailey as August, who had come so far, and done so much to convince Emma of the truth, only to have her reject his efforts. Bailey conveyed a beautiful vulnerability, first with his father, then with Emma. Also worthy of mention was Jakob Davies as Pinocchio. Once Upon a Time has as much luck with talented child actors as Grimm usually has with guest stars, and Davies is another in a long line of young actors on this show who deliver intelligent, but not overly-precocious performances.

Production (2): The scene where Geppetto and Pinocchio face the whale was beautifully done. The animation was flawless, and Pinocchio as a living wooden boy not only looked realistic, but had an expressive face that elicited an emotional reaction. Later, I was impressed with the beautifully carved wooden doll used when Pinocchio had died. The Blue Fairy effects have gotten better. Whereas before she was obviously superimposed into the action, in this episode it looked as if she was genuinely flying above them and interacting with them. And then, there are all the small touches – August’s copper phone, Pinocchio’s clothing, Geppetto’s cuckoo clock – that successfully evoke the fairy tale world.

Representation (1.5): There were no performers of color in this episode at all, save for Lana Parilla. Women fared better, however, as Mary Margaret found her backbone, Regina dealt with the complexity of her plans beginning to unravel, and Emma dealt with her powerful feelings as a mother, coupled with her recognition and subsequent denial of her responsibility.

Audience Engagement (2): “The Stranger” is a wonderful standalone episode that uses a story familiar to most, that of Pinocchio, to tell a much larger story, drawing an audience in and then subverting everything they expect.

TOTAL SCORE for Once Upon a Time: 9.25 (out of 10)

 

Grimm Ep 19, “Leave It to Beavers”

A beaver creature — an Eisbiber — named Arnold (Kevin Carroll) witnesses a murder, but is afraid to report it. The murderer (David Zayas) is a Hasslich, a troll who extorts money from vesen who want to use the bridges he builds. As Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) investigate, Nick gets the help of Bud (Danny Bruno), the Eisbiber handyman who met Nick first, and attempts to rally the eisbibers against the Hasslich. While the Eisbibers as a group are too afraid to help, Bud and Arnold prove themselves brave enough to stand up and speak out. Meanwhile, Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) invites Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) over for dinner to thank him for saving her life, leading to the most gleefully awkward dinner scene.

Script (1.75): After a streak of really successful episodes, Nevin Densham has written one of the most uneven retellings of a fairy tale in the series. Ostensibly a retelling of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, not only was it not a particularly enthralling modern version of the fairy tale, but the crime and its perpetrator were both not fleshed out enough to be interesting.

However a majority of the episode, most of which had to do with Nick coming into his own as a Grimm, was wonderful. The humorous opening scene of Nick doing weapons training with Monroe set the stage for more humor between them as they try to navigate their relationship during dinner with Juliette. The humor of those interactions then proved a wonderful counterpoint to the end of the episode, where Nick is flipping over Reaper scythes to kill two Reapers who’ve come after him, and Monroe helps him chop their heads off so that he can send them to Europe as a warning. It was a delight to see Nick be his most badass self, Monroe at his most clingy and flustered, and the cracks starting to show in Juliette’s tolerance.

Interesting, too, was the exploration of Eisbiber society. It’s great when Grimm allows us a deeper insight into one of the wesen species, and I’m glad to see the Eisbibers have more of a presence. Also, the line “I move to request that the Grimm not cut off our heads for opposing him on this question” was pretty sweet, as was Nick and Bud’s burgeoning friendship.

But can one really just send human heads in the mail? No, really. I wanna know.

Performances (2): The trio of David Giuntoli, Bitsie Tulloch, and Silas Weir Mitchell gave their comedic best in this episode, and their dinner scene was one of the highlights of the entire season. Danny Bruno as Bud, after being a solid performer throughout the show, was finally given the opportunity to shine, and it paid off. Bruno conveyed warmth, humor, and a quiet heroism that we know will be valuable to Nick in the future.

Production (2): Other than the usually excellent wesen morphing, the thing that stood out most in this episode was the Eisbiber lodge where Bud brings Nick. Again, Grimm is great at making scenes feel both modern and old-world, and this overgrown, torch-lit location did just that. Oh, but those heads. Those fake heads. Those were awesome.

Representation: (1.5): Wu and Hank had very little to do. However, there were some solid moments for women in the episode, from Juliette calling both Nick and Monroe on the horrible holes in their story at dinner, to the female Eisbibers being the ones to do most of the debating on both sides at the Eisbiber lodge.

Audience Engagement (2): The best part about engagement the week of this episode was that Grimm scribe, Akela Cooper (@AkelaCooper on Twitter), was live-tweeting during the episode and would not stop making beaver jokes. Apparently, I’m not the only immature one! “Leave it to Beavers,” while a bit tedious as far as the crime plot, more than made up for it in its exploration of the characters and furthering the Grimm mythology.

TOTAL SCORE for Grimm: 9.25 (out of 10)

 

Cumulative Scores So Far:

Once Upon a Time: 137.50

Grimm: 137.75

Well, that’s it for this installment of the Battle of the Network Fairytale Shows! This week’s episodes will be posted tout de suite!


Teresa Jusino has decided that the Eisbibers are her favorite Wesen. She was selected as one of the Top 11 Geek Girls of 2011 at the Geek To Me blog at Chicago Redeye, and 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! She is Geek Girl Traveler when she travels. 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming non-fiction anthologies, and her “Moffat’s Women” panel will be featured at Geek Girl Con in August!  Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

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