It’s Week 2 of the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows, where the real winner is genre television! Once Upon a Time hones in on the motivations of its most sinister character, while Grimm introduces us to a new breed of creature as it teaches us a valuable lesson about not eating other people’s food or sleeping in their beds.
So, how did Once Upon a Time and Grimm‘s sophomore efforts fare this week? Clicken-zee! And beware the spoilers.
Once Upon a Time, Ep 2: “The Thing You Love Most”
Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) has decided to stay in Storybrooke for a week as Henry (Jared Gilmore) requested, still not convinced that what he’s told her about the fairy tale nature of Storybrooke is true, but wanting to make sure Henry is all right. This displeases Regina (Lana Parilla) immensely, and she does just about everything in her power to get rid of her. Emma is not easily bullied, however, and she proves a worthy adversary. The modern scenes are balanced out by flashbacks having to do with Evil Queen, and the lengths to which she was willing to go in order to acquire the Dark Curse, illuminating not only a surprising connection between Henry and Regina, but the nature of the relationship between Regina and Mr. Gold, aka Rumpelstiltskin.
Script (2): After a flawed pilot, OUaT rebounded and went from zero to AWESOME in a week. Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have figured out their groove, and the modern and fairy tale halves of the show complimented each other this week in a way they didn’t last week. I probably shouldn’t keep comparing the show to Lost, but as the writers and the flashback device are the same, I’m gonna. The glimpse we’re provided of the Evil Queen’s backstory felt like a Lost flashback, and that’s a good thing. It gave us all the character and story information we needed to enjoy and understand the modern half without doing so at the expense of suspense.
And boy did that suspense pay off! Just when you thought you got a great shock (The Evil Queen killed her own father to sacrifice his heart and acquire the curse!), you were blindsided by another one (Henry is her father!). And just as you’re getting over THAT, there’s the revelation that Rumpelstiltskin actually does remember his life before the curse, and can hold that over Regina’s head at any time with one simple word: “Please.”
Another thing I have to praise about the writing is that Regina’s true intentions are never telegraphed in the script. We never have a modern moment of her being all “Ha, ha! My plan is working!” Even as Rumpelstiltskin is pointedly referring to her past, she never says a thing, which only makes the moments in which she either gets what she wants, or she’s thwarted, all the more powerful. Helpful, too, is the fact that the Evil Queen’s dialogue never slips too far into modernity, even in her slightly campy scene with Maleficent.
Performances (2): Lana Parrilla owned this episode, infusing both the Evil Queen and Regina with a touching humanity. She plays a woman who would kill her father to get what she wants, and yet you understand that she loved him deeply, and are forced to acknowledge that there is a reason why she was driven to such devastating sadness. Jennifer Morrison continues to shine as Emma, and the scene in which she cuts down Regina’s apple tree rocked. I was also happy to see True Blood‘s Kristen Bauer van Straten as an intriguing version of Maleficent. She, too, made a character that could have easily been made a caricature human. And Jared S. Gilmore is growing into his role as Henry, bringing both humor and depth to the role. Robert Carlyle remains creepy as hell.
Production (1.5): There was some beautiful work in the fairy tale realm. The Evil Queen’s home, as well as the forest where she released her curse were appropriately lush and dark. Yet, I had to deduct half a point. It’s distracting when computer animation is obvious, and it was painfully obvious in the fight between the Evil Queen and Maleficent, which probably wouldn’t bother me so much if The Curse and all the other effects weren’t so good by comparison. However, the apples on this show look amazing. I don’t know if they’re real apples, or prop apples, or what, but I’d be curious to find out what their apple budget is, and I’d love to congratulate the person whose job it is to make them look so damn shiny.
Representation (1.5): The women continue to rule the world of this show, and I realized that OUaT totally passes The Bechdel Test! Woo hoo. And we had a bit of improvement in the casting minorities department, with the addition of Giancarlo Esposito (half African-American, half Italian) as Sydney/Magic Mirror, and Latino actor Tony Perez as the Evil Queen’s father. However, the minority actors all seem to be turning up on the side of evil—not as evil characters themselves, mind you, but on the evil side of the story, supporting the story’s villain. I’m trying to not think too much about that. Yet.
Audience Engagement (2): An exciting script, coupled with brilliant performances from the entire cast made this episode one that anyone could enjoy even if they’d missed the pilot and just happened upon it while channel surfing. As for engaging with the audience IRL, cast members have been live-tweeting episodes and Ginnifer Goodwin continues to post really fun behind-the-scenes photos both on Twitter and on the OUaT website.
TOTAL SCORE FOR ONCE UPON A TIME: 9 (out of 10)
Grimm, Ep. 2: “Bears Will Be Bears”
As Nick (David Giuntoli) attempts to protect Aunt Marie (Kate Burton) in the hospital, he and Hank (Russell Hornsby) are assigned to a case in which a young thrillseeker’s boyfriend goes missing after they break into a wealthy family’s home, eat their food, break their stuff, and sleep (and do other stuff) in their bed. We are also introduced to the Jagerbars, bear-like creatures whose males celebrate their coming-of-age through a ritual called Roh-Hatz, which is like a Bar Mitzvah, except with more hunting and disemboweling. Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) is brought further into Nick’s life with gruesome consequences (that guy didn’t need that arm anyway), and Captain Renard’s (Sasha Roiz) attempts on Marie’s life are successful, albeit indirectly.
Script (1): This was me watching Grimm this week. While the concept of a family of Jagerbar being The Three Bears was interesting, the rest of the Goldilocks-inspired story fell flat. First, the title card at the beginning with the quote from Goldilocks and The Three Bears? Not necessary. We get it. Or we might’ve gotten it sooner if the episode didn’t start out with a pair of people. Goldilocks didn’t have a boyfriend. The original story was her versus The Bears. It’s in the title. One of the weaknesses of the episode was this unnecessary change that resulted in the boyfriend being the one who is captured and Goldilocks—I mean, Gilda Darner—having to report the crime. Then, because that pulls her out of the story, they suddenly make her vengeful enough to go back to the scene of the crime just so she can be captured herself so the story can move forward. It didn’t make any sense, and it made the story drag. What was successful about the pilot was that the viewer got to see some of the episode from the point of view of the victim and the perpetrator of the crime before Nick and Co. even got to them. We spent part of the episode with Nick and his new ability, and the other part with the scared little girl in the creepy guy’s basement, and the two halves didn’t come together until the end. In “Bears Will Be Bears,” it would’ve been simple, and the story might have moved faster, if Gilda were captured, and we got to see her resentment of the rich revealed as she faced her captors, while her family (or her boyfriend) reports her missing, bringing Nick and Hank into the story. There are additional script issues, but they are pertinent below, so I’ll discuss them there.
Performances (1.5): While the actors portraying the Rabe Family (the family of Jagerbar) were solid, the actors playing Gilda and her boyfriend were as flat as the script, which is a bad thing when they’re the ones we’re supposed to be rooting for. Most of the regular cast remained solid, but David Giuntoli seems to have trouble with the more demanding aspects of his role. Nick’s aunt, the only family he’s had since he was twelve, dies, and it doesn’t seem to affect Nick much at all. Also, I generally like him and Bitsie Tulloch as Juliette individually, but they had very little chemistry as a couple in this episode. I hope that evolves and gets better, but they spent much of “Bears Will Be Bears” in various stages of making out, and… nothin’. His bromance with Russell Hornsby has much better chemistry.
Production (1.5): The production design of the Rabe Family home, with all its graven bear imagery, was beautiful. The morphing of the fairy tale characters, particularly the jagerbar this week, continue to be believable and effective, and boy did that arm being ripped out look gruesome! Aunt Marie’s trailer, filled with the nick-knacks and doo-dads of her Grimm lifestyle, is a wonderful location that seems at once homey and slightly frightening. I kinda want one of my own. Yes, with all the weapons in it.
Representation (1): The script issues and issues of representation collided in a way I couldn’t ignore. As I mention above, there’s no dramatic reason for Gilda to have a boyfriend with her when she breaks into the home of the “bears.” The original Grimm fairy tale has lasted for hundreds of years on the strength of Goldilocks’ actions alone. Then it dawned on me. Without a boyfriend with her in the house, there’d be no opportunity for this:
Which is clearly the important thing.
One element of the script that I found interesting was in the character of Mrs. Rabe, the mother of the jagerbar clan. It was predictable that one of the parents would have to be in cahoots with the son, but I was glad that it turned out to be the mother. She actually had a fully-realized guest starring role where we saw the interest she displayed in the artifacts of native cultures foreshadow the intense pride in her own that would allow her to support her son in a violent traditional ritual. It’s sad that one of the most fully-realized female characters on Grimm was a guest star.
Which brings me to Aunt Marie’s death. Last week, I praised the fact that in Grimm, we finally have an example of an older woman guiding a male hero along his path. Except now, that older woman’s been cut down in episode two and replaced by Monroe acting as Nick’s “Grimmipedia.” Now, I love Silas Weir Mitchell, and think Monroe is one of the highlights of Grimm, but would it have been impossible for Nick to have help from both sources? Would it have been detrimental to the show to watch the relationship between Nick and Marie develop? Apparently so, and they’ve replaced her with yet another male character.
And oh, Juliette. I desperately want there to be more to her than meets the eye, but it’s difficult when all she does two episodes in is comfort Nick. And in this episode, when she looks over his shoulder to read his research on bear totem poles and tries to engage him in conversation about what he’s learned, he basically shuts her up by kissing her and telling her she makes it “sound sexy.” Really? This is the woman Nick wants to marry, and he can’t engage in serious conversation with her about something other than her being nurturing for a second?
My hope rests entirely on Adalind Engel, the hexenbeist, who gets more intriguing with every scene she’s in, and seems to be a major part of next week’s episode. While the relationship between her and Captain Renard is unclear, if they weren’t so close in age, I’d be tempted to guess they were father/daughter. As it is, it feels very much like he’s invested in her; like he’s grooming her for something. And while this falls into the tired pattern of Older White Man Leading Young Female to Empowerment, this relationship, as well as her creature-status, means there’s more to her than being young and pretty and a comfort to a man.
But so far, Grimm seems to be a wasteland for female characters.
Audience Engagement (1.5): I watched “Bears Will Be Bears” with a friend who hadn’t seen the pilot, and she was bored to tears. I swore up and down to her that the pilot was so much better! Clearly, this one episode on its own was not enough to engage an audience. As for engaging with the audience IRL, NBC continues to use Twitter to the fullest and has been intelligently using giveaways to promote the show. The cast is friendly and responsive to fans.
TOTAL SCORE FOR GRIMM: 6.5 (out of 10)
WEEK 2 WINNER: Once Upon a Time
Cumulative Scores So Far:
Once Upon a Time: 17
Yowza! I wasn’t expecting quite such a drastic flip from last week! What do you think of my analysis? Let me know in the comments below!
And continue to participate in the conversation next week 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 wishes she were as badass as Emma Swan. 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.