Wed
May 9 2012 4:00pm

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm, Part 16: Stepmothers and Stepsisters

Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm, Part 16: Stepmothers and Stepsisters

Welcome to your second helping this week of the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows! Please note that this here post catches us all up to the most current episodes! Huzzah!

Fairytale families are effed up. No, really. Single-parent households where at least one of the kids is being treated like crap. On Once Upon a Time, we got to see how the Snow White’s evil stepmother really got her to eat that apple, while on Grimm we watched as Cinderella got her revenge on her stepmother and stepsisters.

If you haven’t got time, here’s the short version: Once Upon a Time whupped Grimm’s butt this week. Severely. Whupped. (and this pains me to say, because I love Grimm!)

For those of you who have the time to spare, read on to find out why!

Once Upon a Time, Ep. 21: “An Apple Red As Blood”

Regina (Lana Parilla) is not having her best week ever. It feels as if everything is closing in on her, and even her sometime ally, Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle), is willing to leave her high and dry. Emma (Jennifer Morrison) tries to take Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) from Storybrooke, but he refuses to leave, insisting that she stay and help the others from the curse. Henry tries to enlist August’s (Eion Bailey) help in getting Emma to believe, but his Wooden Boy condition makes it impossible for him to remain part of Operation Cobra. After a conversation with Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), Emma realizes that perhaps abducting Henry is not in his best interests, but she talks with Dr. Hopper (Raphael Sbarge) just to be sure. Regina gets the idea to enlist the help of Jefferson (Sebastian Stan), aka The Mad Hatter, in order to use his magic hat to retrieve something from the fairy tale world that would provide enough magic to get rid of Emma once and for all and make her curse stronger than it was before. Jefferson agrees to help her if she will make it so that he will no longer remember his fairy tale existence and be as oblivious as his daughter in this world. Regina agrees, and she gets the object she needs — the magic apple with which she put Snow White into eternal slumber.

Meanwhile, in the fairy tale world, we see what happened after Prince James (Josh Dallas) was captured by his “father” (Alan Dale). Just before the King can put James to death, the Evil Queen saves him, and asks the King if she can have James instead, promising he will suffer. She holds him prisoner, knowing that Snow will try and rescue him - and try she does, with an army of dwarves and fairies in tow. But it was all a trick to lure Snow to the Queen, who upon meeting with her, tells her that she must bite the magic apple, or James will die. In Storybrooke, Regina has that same apple (with a bite missing, of course), and she bakes it into a turnover for Emma. Emma doesn’t have a chance to eat it, however, because Henry, knowing what it is and what it will do, eats from it first, knowing that if Emma sees him in danger, she will have to stay and save them all.

Script (2): Holy magic apples, Batman! Jane Espenson and David H. Goodman have delivered one of the best episodes of the season in “An Apple Red as Blood,” both from a character perspective and a plot perspective. Opening the episode with a glimpse into Regina’s worst fears by showing us a dream she has in which the whole town gathers to watch Emma kill her was a stroke of genius that was balanced out by the fact that she had to give up the ring in which she still sees her true love’s face in order to gain the magic she needs to keep up her curse. So, even as we’re rooting for the inevitable day in which she’ll be defeated, we also feel sorry for her, because we know what she’s lost and why she’s so angry.

And Henry. Wonderful, fabulous Henry. I knew the moment that Henry came over to Emma’s apartment that the only thing that would spur Emma to action would be if he ate it. But honestly? I wasn’t sure if they’d do that. Putting kids in danger, even fairy tale danger, is less palatable in a real-world setting than it would be if, say, Henry existed in the fairy tale world and we watched him be trapped by a witch. However, I’m so glad that the show was brave enough to allow this young character to do the necessary thing. One of the things I love most about this show is that it treats children with respect, and allows them to make choices for themselves, even questionable or harmful ones. In this moment, Henry got to be as noble and heroic as any fairy tale character, and watching him do it was magic.

This episode was perfectly paced and was wonderfully distributed among all the main characters, giving just about everyone - leads and supporting characters alike - the opportunity to shine. And it put a wonderful emphasis on choice. Snow wasn’t tricked into eating the apple, she had to choose it. Henry chose to force Emma into action by putting himself in danger and his faith in her completely. And now, I’m sure that Emma will choose to do whatever it takes to save Henry and the town. That’s one hell of a royal family!

My only question: Where did Jefferson come from? Didn’t he go through a hat that broke?

Performances (2): As I said, everyone had the opportunity to shine, and the script allowed every cast member to put their best performance forward. Ginnifer Goodwin had an amazing moment when she scolds Emma for abducting Henry and lays some tough love on her. Lana Parilla was brilliant as always as she navigated between Regina’s insecurities and her absolute certainty in her new plan. Josh Dallas was wonderful as an imprisoned James. But I need to shine a mother-son spotlight on Jennifer Morrison and Jared S. Gilmore. Morrison has been doing some of her best work lately, and in her conversation with Henry at the end of the episode, she broke my heart with the way she had to convince both Henry (and possibly herself) that the curse isn’t real, and that staying in Storybrooke without her is the best thing for him. And Gilmore is so good, I can’t even comment on his performance as a “child actor” anymore. He wasn’t good “for a kid,” he was just good, and he gave such a fearless, amazing performance in this episode.

Production (2): As usual, the costumes, make-up, and sets were gorgeous. Add to that how fabulous the fairies looked as they were flying over the palace wall, the impressive fight choreography when Snow and the Dwarves fight the palace guards, and August’s now wooden arm, and the production aspects of this episode were damn near perfect. Oh, and then there was stuff like setting up the shot above and the shot below....

Representation (2): This episode used amazingly nuanced female characters as if they were going out of style! Not only did Regina, Snow, and Emma have some breathtaking moments, but we got to see Red and Granny get in on the action, as well as all the fairies. Meanwhile, the dwarves were representing, too, and  Archie and James continue to be some of the best-written male characters on TV. Having some Sidney Glass/Magic Mirror action would have made this episode absolutely perfect on the representation front, but I guess with Sidney in jail, that would be difficult.

Audience Engagement (2): If this episode doesn’t suck in fan or newbie alike, there is something wrong with that person.

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

 

Grimm, Ep. 20: “Happily Ever Aftermath”

Blah-blah rich family having money trouble. Blah-blah Cinderella character’s husband and “fairy godfather” go to evil stepmother’s house for money and she says no. She turns up dead, having been killed by a bat creature. Nick and Hank are called to investigate the crime, but it feels like they’re hardly in the episode even though the show is called Grimm and not Annoying Rich Family With First-World Wesen Problems. Blah-blah stepsisters. Blah-blah Cinderella seems naive and vapid until of course she is predictably the murderer (whilst still being vapid), the red herring of her fairy godfather having done it not nearly herringy enough. Blah-blah Nick has yet another random creature-specific weapon in Aunt Marie’s trailer, and Monroe has to go fetch again. But it doesn’t actually work, and the family members kill each other. So, Nick’s really done absolutely nothing. The end.

Oh, and blah-blah Juliette randomly helps Nick find out that one of the dudes responsible for killing his parents is still alive.

A propos of absolutely nothing.

Script (1): This episode was so bad, I found myself getting progressively angrier as it went on. Not since Episode 2 (ie: Gilda and the Stupid Bears) have I been so disappointed in an episode of Grimm. And they both contain blondes stripping down to their underwear for no good reason. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The fact that this was actually an episode written by the show’s creators was hugely surprising to me, considering that the biggest problem I had was that the main characters and plot were hardly a part of it. This felt like an episode they handed off to someone else, and that someone else got it wrong, but they had to use it anyway. This was not the case. *sigh* “Happily Ever Aftermath” was way too unbalanced in favor of the guest stars.

This might not have been a problem had the Kerfield family or the Jarvis couple actually been interesting, but there was nothing in the script (or in the performances, but I’ll get to that) that made me care about any of them. Yes, they were the stock characters from Cinderella, but that’s not enough to make me care. The most successful episodes of Grimm (like “Lonelyhearts,” “Tarantella,” “Three Bad Wolves,” etc) have compelling antagonists that are both a challenge for Nick and have intriguing personalities and back stories of their own.There was nothing unique, sympathetic, or interesting about anyone in that family, which made every scene they were in (which seemed like way too many) drag on endlessly.

Also, random info-dump about Nick’s parents? *double sigh*

On the plus side, I always love when Monroe is given the opportunity to geek out over some piece of Grimm weaponry... so at least there was that.

Performances (1): The only thing worse than the script were the performances, particularly Amanda Schull as Lucinda (aka Cinderella) and David Clayton Rogers as her husband. Schull spent most of the episode wearing a vacant, happy stare, looking as if she was high, and when she’s finally “revealed” as the killer and stops the act, she isn’t capable of pulling off cold-blooded murderer. Rogers was just annoying the entire time. I’m not entirely sure if it was their performances or the script that made these characters so unsympathetic and boring (and annoying), but I suspect both.

Grimm’s regulars were solid as they worked with what they were given, and Silas Weir Mitchell was the one bright spot in an otherwise infuriating episode.

Production (2): I’ll give the episode this: Lucinda’s dresses were really pretty, and the bat creature looked really gruesome. Also, the blood effects as the victims are killed via high-pitched sound waves and the destruction whenever those sound waves are going on were very well done.

Representation (1.5): It’s sad that one of the worst episodes content-wise had so much opportunity representation-wise. Since Hank and Wu were hardly in the episode, they were supplemented with Spencer and the random Asian guy whom Nick must now hunt down. Most of the guest stars - Lucinda and her stepsisters, as well as their mother, were women. Having a “fairy godfather” instead of a fairy godmother was an interesting take, and his resolution to the problem - killing Lucinda - was unexpected. Everything was in place for a wonderfully diverse episode. If only Hank and Wu had had more to do, or the women of the Kerfield family were actually nuanced characters rather than just stand-ins for characters we know from literature.

Audience Engagement (1): Anyone who saw this as their first episode of Grimm would probably think the show sucks. And that would be unfortunate, because it clearly doesn’t. This was just a huge misstep.

TOTAL SCORE FOR Grimm: 6.5 (out of 10)


Cumulative Scores So Far:
Once Upon a Time: 147.75
Grimm: 144.25

(Please see my explanation of the scoring/numbering in the comments of my last post here.)

And just like that, Grimm is side-swiped out of the lead. Emma Swan is not messing around. Mayhaps next week, Nick Burkhardt will give her what for as he searches for...Bigfoot? Wait, that’s not even a fairy tale character...

Oh, Grimm.

You can watch Grimm on Friday night at 9PM ET on NBC and Once Upon a Time on Sunday night at 8PM ET on ABC, then come back here for more conversation!


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.

13 comments
Bernardette
1. Bernardette
I have found Grimm more consistently watchable and enjoyable than "Once Upon A Time" - over all the story arc and acting are much more even. I found large swaths of this week's Once episode largely unwatchable and fast forwarded through about 1/3. I am completely confused about the Snow/Prince timeline and HATE the Prince's character IRL. Emma has two expressions - puzzled or pained - and the world isn't convincingly drawn at all.

I agree this week's episode of Grimm was weaker than the others this season but it was still more convincing and enjoyable than Once.
Bernardette
2. Noirkat
I would agree. Overall, I find Once has really disappointed me. The actual storyline, Emma is here to save Storybrook, has not progressed one inch since episode two. It's just been backstory and the Snow/Prince storyline has gone backward!
Grimm however, has grown their characters. The backstories advance the overall plot. And the twists and turns reveal more potential for even better storylines.
I would say that this episode of Grimm was their weakest in a while. Still, enjoyed it more than Once though.
N. Swain
3. Jabberwocky
I was really digging the past couple episodes of Grimm but I'm hoping there won't be m(any) more like this one. My thought process was much like this: (eye roll) "Oh, she's the killer." (eye roll) (eye roll) "Uh-huh." "Oooh, bat!" (eye roll) "Oh, he's dead too. Figures." (eye roll)
Bernardette
4. diddlysmom
I agree with ya chick! after watching the beaver episode, this one sucked eggs......... big time. It was a big let down to say the least. It was like what the hell??? Oh well, I think the show needs to be on a more even keel. Needs a smoother transition from one episode to the other. It's kinda jumpy right now don't you think? From what I am reading from all the other sites ppl want to see more Monroe integrated seamlessly into each episode and also wu and hank and I guess the jury is still out for Juliette. Renard is better in small doses here and there, and ppl are liking Rosalee also. The Beavers are cuteeeee! Squeee! I just want to eat them up! lol! The message is not so much cop procedure and more interaction between characters I think is what I'm seeing. What say you? Been out there trolling the mean streets of the webways?
John Massey
5. subwoofer
I am not sure that this episode of Grimm was that bad, it is just that the last episode was ultra spectacular- Nick vs. two Reapers. Which begs the question- why didn't the last episode garner a 10?

I saw Once, but let us be honest here, after the much and mire of the past several episodes, the bar has been lowered enough for this episode to shine. As Noircat mentioned, we have not had a whole lotta progress on the book angle of things. As a stand alone, this epi was good, as far as the series, Once is going to sum up the amount of seasons it will run.

Woof™.
Lucas Vollmer
6. aspeo
I thought this was a great episode of OUaT. I agree that the Storybrooke plot hasn't progressed as quickly as I would like, but I kind of understand why it hasn't. This show is probably designed to run for quite a few years, and you can't have the hero save everyone in the first season because you'd be left without much to do afterwards.

I hope they have a clear view of where they are taking the show in the future because I have a feeling that viewers will start dropping off pretty quick if the plot seems to stall and the episodes only seem like filler. Having said that, however, I really enjoy the flashbacks to the fairy tale world and that's where I have felt that the story has been progressing as we come up on the season finale.
Margot Virzana
7. LuvURphleb
I do not watch grimm and so can give no comment.
However i loved Once this week. And last week. I mean i get so well emmas fear about what it would mean if she chose to believe this curse. The weight of two worlds on her shoulders. I love henry's devoted belief in the book despite everything. He risks so much. Maybe its inpulsive but its also brave.
However i was just as confused with jefferson popping back up.
Bernardette
8. Lsana
I find it interesting that you thought Regina's sacrificing the ring made her sympathetic. I had the exact opposite reaction: I thought her decision to toss away the ring in order to get Emma proved that this is no longer about Daniel any more, if in fact it ever was. It's all about her own power now. I might even have called it a Moral Event Horizon moment, if I didn't believe she crossed the MEH back when she killed Graham.

Reading the comments here, I wonder how useful continuing this "competition" between Grimm and OUaT is. They are very different shows, and seem to have split into two distinct audiences. Other than the fact that they draw inspiration from fairy tales, they have nothing in common. It feels almost like we're doing "The X-Files vs. Desparate Housewives."
Teresa Jusino
9. TeresaJusino
Just so everyone knows, I love both shows, with only a slight preference for Grimm in that that show was more my bag to begin with.

subwoofer @5 - and you'd be WRONG! :) Once Upon a Time was just renewed for its 2nd season. And honestly? It was inevitable. Their ratings have been spectacular. And it's a well-done show.

aspeo @6 - I agree, and am very curious where the story could go if the curse is lifted. Then again, we've been introduced to the possibility of myriad dimensions through hats. In that case, the possibilities are endless. And of course, there's the will they-won't they element between Emma and August now that their special relationship's been revealed! :)

LuvURphleb @7 - I agree with that, too. I totally understand Emma's not wanting any part of this, which makes Henry's sacrifice so compelling. He knows her well enough to know that he's the only way she would ever stay and help. I thought that was such a beautiful moment.

Lsana @8 - I found it sympathetic in that I thought it was sad. We watched her give up the last remnant of humanity she had in order to do something that to her was still about that, but we see as her letting evil take her over. I find her sympathetic, because I'm fascinated by her inner struggle between her best and worst self. What's funny is that, at first, I thought she didn't love Henry at all. Now? I'm not so sure. I think she does love Henry. Maybe it didn't start that way, but she's certainly come to love him, and I think her fighting Emma for him is about more than just Snow White. I think she realized that she genuinely loves her son. All of this is warped, of course, because of the years she's spent stewing in her own hatred....But "evil" characters are never completely evil to me once we see why they've become what they've become. Now that I've seen her with Daniel, everything she does is tragic to me.

As for the "competition," it's all in good fun! :) Plus, I enjoy watching/writing about both shows, and I pair them up like this in the hopes that if someone watches one but not the other, they might think about watching the other if they read these reviews, so they can take part in the conversation. I wouldn't call it X-Files vs. Desperate Housewives. I'd say it was more like X-Files Vs. Buffy. Both genre shows, but different formats.

I may write about them separately next season, but for now this is what you get. :) There's only a couple of eps left for each anyway.
Bernardette
10. cyan
For Grimm, frankly, I would have dropped the "Representation" score down to a 1. The shadowy-conspriratorial-mysterious-bad-guy is some random asian, seriously???
Teresa Jusino
11. TeresaJusino
cyan @10 - I was thinking about that, too, honestly. Thing is, we only get a glimpse of him, and he's clearly going to come into play in the last two episodes. And remember, the other shadowy-conspiratorial-mysterious-bad guys who were responsible for killing Nick's parents were all white guys. They were a team. So, I'm willing to see how this plays out before judging it. After all, while not every minority is a criminal, sometimes they are, and I don't hoot and holler at the mere sight of a criminal on TV who's not white. I need context.

But if he's a stereotype, I'll totally hoot and holler later. :)
Bernardette
12. AlBrown
I thought this was a good episode of Once Upon A Time. I was getting frustrated that the overall story arc was stalling out with all the mooning around between Snow and Charming, so it is good to see things moving forward, and some alarums and excursions (those are a bunch of real kick-butt dwarves, by the way).
Myself, I didn't care for the scene where Mary Margaret lit into Emma, it seemed a bit out of character for her to be so angry and unsympathetic (kind of a moment where the writer thinks something needs to happen for plot purposes that doesn't quite fit what we would expect a character to do).
I am not liking Prince Charming at all lately. Maybe it is because the writers have reversed the old theme of prince rescuing princess, and made him the prisoner requiring rescue. The passivity that I have accepted from captured love interests in so many stories grates on my nerves when it is a man who is the prisoner. I suppose that says more about my own preconceived notions, though, than the story. But, bottom line, if I didn't know that Snow is supposed to love him, I wouldn't see why she does.
I have to admit, I just dislike the fairies, and seeing them swooping in like an attack of pastel fighter-bombers was just a bit too twee for my taste. But I have to keep reminding myself that is what I get when I choose to watch a fairy tale...
I thought Grimm was pretty good. The Cinderella character was a bit wooden, but that is a characteristic you often see in murderous sociopaths, so I thought it was more intentional than just poor acting or directing choices. And I liked the fact that it was Cinderella who turned out to be the heavy in this story. The B plot about Nick's parents just came out of nowhere, though. When you use an A plot and B plot within an episode, there needs to be some resonance or common theme to the two plots, and that didn't happen there.
Debbie Solomon
13. dsolo
I have to agree with Teresa on this one. I prefer Grimm, but the Cinderella story was weak. I did love the final 2 episodes of OUaT. They were much stronger.

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