Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm, Part 17: The Final Battle

It’s been an exciting season filled with magic, mystery, animal creatures, vengeance, love, and death…but we’ve finally arrived at the end of the first season for two extremely successful fairy tale shows that will both be returning for second seasons later this year! In a way, they’re BOTH winners.

Of course, there can only be one winner in my little battle. Mostly because, you know, I scored with numbers, so there’s math.

Onward, ye Oncers and Grimmlins, and find out which show takes the top prize in the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows!

 

Once Upon a Time, Ep. 22: “A Land Without Magic”

Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) is lying in a coma after eating that magic apple turnover, and this makes Emma (Jennifer Morrison) so desperate and fearful that she is ready to believe that the curse, and everything else Henry told her, is real. She sets about confronting Regina (Lana Parilla) who, in a rare moment of humanity born out of her love for Henry, reluctantly agrees to help Emma approach Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) for his help in recovering the last bit of magic available to save Henry. Mr. Gold explains where the last bit of True Love is, and we see that, in the fairy tale world, after Prince James (Josh Dallas) escaped from the Evil Queen (thanks to The Huntsman! Yay, Jamie Dornan!) and was trapped in the Infinite Forest for his trouble, he makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin in order to get out. Rumpelstiltskin asks him to hide the bottle of True Love, which is encased in a golden egg, in a beast, and The Prince, after a bit of a battle, gets the egg inside the body of Maleficent (Kristen Bauer van Straten) in dragon form!

In Storybrooke, Emma is told where the dragon is, and armed with her father’s sword, goes into the depths of Storybrooke to do battle. She vanquishes the dragon and gets the egg, but when the time comes to emerge, the elevator she took down to the dragon gets stuck. She makes the mistake of trusting Mr. Gold to help her up, only to have him steal the egg from her and leave her to fend for herself. She climbs up the elevator shaft to find Regina tied up, frees her, and they both are about to go after Mr. Gold when they get a phone call from the hospital. Henry is dead.

Except that when they get there — surprise, surprise — Emma kisses him with the kiss of true love, waking him up (from death?), and breaking the curse. Everyone in Storybrooke now remembers who they are, including Belle (Emilie DeRavin), whom Jefferson (Sebastian Stan) freed from the hospital and sent to Mr. Gold to make him want to take revenge on Regina. So, Mr. Gold and Belle are together, and he has his bottle of True Love. What’s he doing with it? Bringing it to the well that brings you back whatever you’ve lost and dropping it in, that’s what. Rumpelstiltskin has brought magic back, and he and Regina both feel it and are way too happy about it….

Script (1.25): Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz didn’t give us a bad script, but a perfunctory one. Everything that needed to happen did happen, and interesting things (like the inevitable Rumpelstiltskin/Regina showdown, Emma’s continued fight for Henry, Snow and James’ fight for their kingdom) were set up for season two.

The problem is that none of this was done particularly artfully, save for the juxtaposing of Prince James and Emma in their respective battles with the dragon, which was thematically lovely. Everything that needed to happen, like Emma kissing Henry with the Kiss of True Love, happened predictably in a by-the-numbers way. And when things were unpredictable, like Emma suddenly believing in the curse despite being so reluctant for so long in the most inorganic moment I’ve seen in a while, they didn’t make much sense. The way that moment was handled, it looked as if she touched Henry’s book and it sent visions of the truth shooting into her, which was hugely unsatisfying. I’ve seen various explanations online that say that she believed in that moment either because “she was ready,” or because “Henry’s condition primed her to believe, the way that people will suddenly turn to God when loved ones are ill even if they’ve never believed before.” I would’ve believed either of those had they been indicated in the script at all, but they weren’t. Emma just went from not believing to touching the book and believing. Had there been moments of her deliberating in previous episodes, or even in this one, that moment might have been earned, but it was not. She’s been so adamant about not believing for so long that I just couldn’t buy this sudden turnaround, and it tainted the rest of the episode, because I couldn’t be as invested in her quest.

There were several moments like this in the episode that felt less inevitable and more the product of writers forcing certain things to happen in order to move the story forward. Jefferson, who is the biggest waste of a character in the whole show (and who starred in one of the bigger wastes of an episode this season), existing solely to free Belle. Emma suddenly getting a case of The Stupids and trusting Mr. Gold by giving him the egg before he helped her up from the elevator shaft in one of the most out-of-character moments they’ve ever given her. Seriously, she’s never made any bones about not trusting Mr. Gold even when she’s chosen to work with him. Suddenly, when her son’s life is on the line, she’s going to give up the one thing she thinks is going to make him better? I was screaming at the TV, “Just zip it up tight in your jacket and climb up!”

Oh, and why is it that, if both Mr. Gold and Regina actually want Emma to succeed in defeating the dragon, they never actually told her she’d be facing a dragon? You’d think they’d want their only hope prepared. Instead, they were like “Um, here’s a sword. You’re gonna have to kill a mysterious something. We know what that something is, and possibly what its weaknesses are, but we’re not going to tell you.” Uh-huh.

And then, there’s the issue of True Love itself. I understand why Emma’s kiss would wake Henry. What I didn’t understand is why that would break the curse on Storybrooke. The whole device of True Love being a magic that can be bottled at all served to distract from its actual power. Emma has been in True Love with Henry all along, with or without a bottle in an egg. That magic has existed in Storybrooke since Emma got there. So, she could’ve kissed Henry at any time and broken the curse? Did he have to be dead or in a coma in order for it to work? Or are we supposed to assume that her love wasn’t strong enough then? What does a drop of True Love potion matter in the face of actual, living and breathing True Love? And what about Mary Margaret and David? Their love was so strong that it defied even the Dark Curse over them both. You mean to tell me that none of their many kisses could break the curse? They didn’t have powerful enough True Love despite its seeping through their magical amnesia? And are no other characters in True Love with each other? Why have we not seeing air-ripples of love all the dang time? Red kissing Peter? Rumpelstiltskin kissing Belle? Nothing? Were Snow and James just “the most” in love?

Yes, I know this is a fantasy, but even fantasy stories have their own logic, and the logic in this story wasn’t very sound. As much fun as I have watching Once Upon a Time, its biggest problem in season one is that everything was built around this Dark Curse. So, in order to be free to tell other stories, the Curse had to be defeated in season one, which means character reactions were rushed, and story elements were imposed where they shouldn’t have been in order to make that happen. While this episode kept me just interested enough in the show to want to see what they do with season two, it was boring and predictable in and of itself, and left me with a flat feeling of, “OK…now what?”

Performances (2): Despite the weaknesses in the story, the performances remained top-notch with Lana Parilla and Robert Carlyle continuing to play off each other beautifully, as well as give us two antagonists who can be villains while remaining entirely human and believable. Jennifer Morrison was heartbreaking as Emma, as she spent the entire episode with Henry on her mind. And I just love Emilie De Ravin as Belle so much that even the smallest glimpse of her as that character makes me happy.

Once again, the weak link is Sebastian Stan as Jefferson, though I know now that it’s more the character as written I don’t like. Still, Stan does nothing to lift the character off of the page.

Production (2): HOLY CRAP, THAT DRAGON. That entire action sequence was awesome, both in the animation of the dragon and the exciting way in which it was shot. All the episode’s other effects — August going fully wooden, the green magical mist, the wave of True Love — were also extremely well done. And there was no tell-tale greenscreen work this time, which is always a plus.

Representation (2): While we only saw Sidney Glass’ initials on a door, and barely any dwarf action, full marks have to be given, because right up to the end of the first season, the story of Once Upon a Time remained balanced between its male and female characters. This was captured beautifully in the dragon battle sequence where we see Emma pick up where her father left off and their battles with Maleficent are cut together. It’s a brilliant thing to watch a father’s legacy inherited by his daughter, and to watch that daughter then pass things on to a son. Rumpelstiltskin and Regina serve to balance each other out, and I know that watching them duke it out is going to be a highlight next season. Whereas female characters are generally called upon to sacrifice themselves for a greater good (as they often are in real life), on OUaT it’s the male characters who do this most often, and none were more poignant than Henry. It’s a beautiful moment when he wakes up and realizes that his sacrifice was worth it. And as far as complex, nuanced characters, Regina continues to fascinate as we see her both as a hardened, evil woman and the loving, motherly woman she’s capable of being.

Audience Engagement (1.5): I watched this with a friend, and we were both equally disappointed. I was also on Twitter during the West Coast broadcast, and reactions seemed evenly split between “OMG, THAT WAS AMAZING!” and “Wait…that was it?” An uneven reaction to an uneven episode. Once Upon a Time is still an intriguing show overall, but the first season finale left much to be desired.

TOTAL SCORE FOR Once Upon a Time: 8.75 (out of 10)

 

Grimm, Ep. 22: “The Woman In Black”

Nick (David Giuntoli) has to worry about both Hank (Russell Hornsby) and Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch). Hank, because he’s still shaken up after having seen two Wesen change in the last episode, one of whom was Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell). Juliette, because she was badly scratched by a cat with big, black eyes and a gold tongue brought into her animal hospital by none other than scorned hexenbiest, Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee). Nick attempts to tell Juliette about his being a Grimm in order to get her to take her cat scratch seriously, but she thinks Nick is insane and passes out from the cat bite just before Monroe can “wolf out” in front of her. She ends up in the hospital.

Meanwhile, Nick and Hank are investigating a string of murders — and a botched attempt on Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz), which was foiled by Sargent Wu (Reggie Lee) — being committed by Akira Kimura (Brian Tee), one of the men responsible for the death of Nick’s parents. Kimura is attacking people he suspects might have the Coins of Zakynthos one by one in order to locate them, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. All the while, Nick and Co. are being followed around by a Woman in Black (Mary Elizabeth Masterantonio) who seems to know her way around a fight (as well as acrobatic leaps onto police cars). As Monroe and Rosalee (Bree Turner) work on testing Adalind’s cat to see what spell Adalind used on its claws, Nick traces Kimura to his own home and fights him. The Woman in Black appears, and Nick starts to fight her, too. But then she kills Kimura, turns to Nick and says, “Nick. Nicky. It’s me.” And Nick says, “Mom?”

That’s right. Nick’s mom is still alive.

Script (1.5): Grimm creators David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf have given us a solid, exciting episode of Grimm that also served to set up some pretty big storylines for next season. The case of the episode moved along at a healthy clip, and both Hank’s deteriorating mental health and the introduction of a new plan from Adalind were handled very well. And the reveal of Nick’s mother was perfect. Overall, this was a satisfying season finale.

However, that doesn’t mean there were no hiccups. The moment when Nick finally tells Juliette about being a Grimm was handled surprisingly poorly. I know that it was important for Juliette not to believe him, certainly not right away, but did Nick have to suddenly forget how to speak English? Rather than starting with the fact of the hair she couldn’t explain, as well as the fact that she brought up the point that perhaps stuff like Bigfoot was real, he just starts naming things around his trailer like a babbling idiot. Meanwhile, Juliette was way too skeptical from the get-go. She wants the truth, and yet everything she says and does leads us to believe that she’s dead set on not believing him no matter what he says. That entire section between Nick and Juliette didn’t play the way I think it was supposed to. Either that, or it did, and the way it was supposed to play was just wrong.

The other thing? There were bits of laughable dialogue all over the script. Like all of the dialogue for the New York City cop, for instance. “‘Cause ex-NYC cops generally get what they want.” Really? Because last I checked, ex-cop meant that people stopped doing you favors. Especially if you’re the kind of ex-cop who’s helping a killer find his marks for the money. He was the most stereotypical, 30s-style “NYC cop” I’ve ever seen. It was ridiculous. (For NYC cops done well, see ABC’s Castle.) Also, Nick’s “How ’bout I give you this?” in his fight scene with Kimura literally made me LOL. It might not have been such a laughable line had it not been followed by weak karate chops to Kimura’s shoulders. Still.

However, the episode was solid overall, and the reveal of Nick’s mother at the end was exactly the jolt the episode needed to take it from competent standalone episode to worthwhile season finale.

Performances (2): While the script required things between them to be a bit unbelievable, David Giuntoli and Bitsie Tulloch completely sold their performances. In Giuntoli, we saw Nick’s relief at finally being able to tell Juliette everything, and I almost bought that the seeming difficulty Nick had in finding his words had to do with all of his feelings rushing to the surface and his not being able to process them. (Almost. I still believe that Nick is a competent enough character that he could’ve expressed himself not  like a crazy person without affecting Juliette’s disbelief.) Meanwhile, Tulloch was heartbreaking, conveying a deep fear and a genuine, unabashed love for Nick. Her eyes did more in that scene than they have in the whole season, and they’ve already done a lot.

It’s a testament to Reggie Lee’s skill that, despite the stories not giving him much to do that he remains as compelling as he is. There is very little of Sgt. Wu on the page, yet the character feels lived-in and real, and that’s all to do with Lee. And Russell Hornsby completely sold his crazy, making my heart race as his increasing paranoia was palpable through the screen. Also, it was nice to see Sasha Roiz’s Renard drop the mysterious, omnipotent royalness for a while, instead just giving us a more simple, yet entirely human, “Oh, crap. I just got my ass handed to me. Now, I must express my pain through casual wear.”

Lastly, I love Mary Elizabeth Masterantonio as Kelly Burkhardt. She didn’t say much, but the way she said, “Nick. Nicky.” conveyed so much history. I immediately imagined her using his childhood nickname with that same tone of voice on the playground when he was ten. Also, she was just so cool. Nick totally wins for having the coolest mom ever.

Production (1.75): Kimura’s monkey-morphing effect was one of the best Wesen transformations they’ve done yet. Seamless, without completely losing the actor’s features. The eye effects on both Majique the cat and Juliette were great and appropriately creepy. Also, having Renard in casual clothes after his attack was a surprisingly effective character choice. I didn’t realize how much I associated Renard with his suits until I saw him in a pullover and khakis, and it was a decision that made sense; that, at his most vulnerable he doesn’t have the wherewithal to pull his “look” together and be his usual pristine and proper self. Bloody corpses, face and hand injuries — great, great, great. So why the point deduction? Majique’s attack on Juliette. It looked so fake it actually pulled me out of the scene. I’m sure it’s really difficult to work with animals, but…surely there was a better way to do that? Maybe?

Representation (2): Two Asians! Oh, MAN! Seriously, though, I was actually happy about the inclusion of another Asian actor and what that means for the future globalization of the show. It’s heartening to think that the show won’t be limiting itself to the stories of the “Old Country” in Europe, but to other old countries. Countries that are much older, in fact.

Love Hank. Poor, poor Hank.

And the thing that thrilled me the most was the fact that Kelly Burkhardt is alive, and will potentially be a new guiding force in Nick’s life! One of the things that upset me in the episodes just after Grimm‘s pilot was that, with Aunt Marie’s death, we lost the opportunity to see a young male hero guided toward reaching his full potential by an older woman, something we hardly ever see in fiction. With the return of Nick’s mother, my hope is that we will get to see that dynamic explored.

Audience Engagement (2): I watched the Grimm finale with friends, and we all enjoyed the episode immensely, both as a standalone and as a satisfying season finale. Enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we spent much of the episode shouting things at the television, because we were so invested. We were also live-tweeting, and everyone in the #grimmlive hashtag, while just as skeptical as we were about Nick’s handling of telling Juliette the truth, all seemed to have just as much fun with the episode as we did.

TOTAL SCORE FOR Grimm: 9.25 (out of 10)

 

THE FINAL STATS

 

Once Upon a Time

Grimm

EPISODE

SCORE

SCORE

PILOT

8

8.5

EPISODE 2

9

6.5

EPISODE 3

9.5

9.5

EPISODE 4

7.5

8.5

EPISODE 5

10

10

EPISODE 6

9.5

9.5

EPISODE 7

9.5

9.5

EPISODE 8

9.5

9.5

EPISODE 9

8.5

10

EPISODE 10

10

9.5

EPISODE 11

9.5

10

EPISODE 12

9

9.5

EPISODE 13

6.5

9.5

EPISODE 14

10

10

EPISODE 15

10

9

EPISODE 16

10

10

EPISODE 17

8.5

10

EPISODE 18

9

9

EPISODE 19

9.25

9.25

EPISODE 20

9.25

6.5

EPISODE 21

10

9.5

SEASON ONE FINALE

8.75

9.25

 

TOTAL:

 

200.75

 

202.50

WINNER OF THE BATTLE OF THE NETWORK FAIRY TALE SHOWS:

Grimm

 

There you have it Oncers and Grimmsters! Grimm has taken the title of Best New Network Fairy Tale Show! I’ll be going into why I think that is in my Post Battle Wrap-Up, which I hope will post tomorrow. However, the biggest reason why I wanted to cover both shows like this is to celebrate the fact that there are two quality genre shows that debuted on television this year; shows that deserve our attention and our scrutiny because of the talent involved, and the quality of the stories. Yes, this was a “competition,” but the goal of that was to bring attention to both new shows, rather than spotlighting one over the other. Hopefully, I got some die-hard Oncers to give Grimm a try, or vice versa. You have the entire summer to catch up on season one’s episodes before Grimm returns in August after the Summer Olympics on NBC, and Once Upon a Time returns to ABC in the fall.

So, what do you think of the final outcome? I look forward to your comments below!

And congratulations to everyone involved with Grimm! Thank you for an amazing season! I feel like there should be a prize of some sort… I’m sure I’ll think of something!


Teresa Jusino is proud of her spoken-word poem about the ladies of Grimm. 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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