In this week’s Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows, both episodes deal with men in love. On Once Upon a Time, we see what happens when David/James is forced to choose between true love and responsibility. On Grimm, a former love of Monroe’s returns and reminds him of his wild side. Does he choose love over duty?
The answer in both cases is…. yes and no.
Once Upon a Time, Ep. 6: “The Shepherd”
David goes home to his wife, Kathryn, and attempts to reconcile his inexplicable feelings for Mary Margaret. Meanwhile, Mary Margaret struggles with her own feelings for him, and Regina struggles with maintaining control of the situation she’s created. In the fairy tale world, we learn that James wasn’t originally a prince at all, rather, he was the twin brother left behind with his farming parents as his brother was taken by the king as part of a deal with Rumpelstiltskin. We see how he becomes a prince, and how he meets his snotty bride-to-be, Abigail, daughter of King Midas.
Lost reference tally: 3
First it was the Apollo bars in “That Still Small Voice.” Now, there’s the casting of Charles Widmore…er, Alan Dale…as the king. There’s also the fact that Emma and Mary Margaret shared a glass of MacCutcheon whisky, which Charles Widmore thought worth more than Desmond Hume. Nerdgasm! (If I’m missing any other references, let me know in the comments!)
Script (2): Prince Charming’s backstory proves more and more fascinating with every episode, and Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg’s wonderful script delivered context to events we learned about in “Snow Falls.” “The Shepherd” makes James/David even more complex and human while giving a slight nod to The Prince and the Pauper. James’ journey from farmer’s son to prince gives his character depth, and it makes his love for the woman who disabled his carriage and stole his money make that much more sense, because he and Snow had more in common at that point than they could have if he’d met her after he’d lived a prince’s life for a while, or before her father died and the Evil Queen forced her into the woods. At that moment, they were the same, and the story told in “The Shepherd” makes their meeting and their love inevitable, which is the best thing about it.
Performances (2): Two words: Josh Dallas. Prince Charming is a wonderful character not just because of the way he’s written, but because of Dallas’ grounded performance. Yes, he’s really (really) attractive, but what sells the performance is the way he balances his farm-boy nature and being the kind of person who can successfully convince others he’s a prince. That’s a delicate balance to strike and he does it consistently, with “The Shepherd” being his best work so far. Lana Parilla manages to pack a wallop into small moments, Regina’s desire for real friends betraying itself on her face even as she’s scheming when she talks to Kathryn. Relative newcomer to the cast, Anastasia Griffith, is a warm presence as Kathryn while being delightfully obnoxious as the Prince’s betrothed, Abigail. Lastly, Ginnifer Goodwin continues to sparkle as Mary Margaret, and her flitting back and forth between hopefulness and cynicism is heartbreaking and lovely to watch.
Production (1.5): The costumes, beautiful as always. The farm set, lovely and warm. The castle? Sufficiently castle-ish. So, why am I not giving it a two? Because the ground on which the opening swordfight took place was so obviously computer-generated that it was distracting, and on a show that generally gets their production elements right, I’m going to start being a lot harder on them when they get things wrong. You know, for their own good.
Representation (2): It is rare that a television show gets gender balance so right, and that aspect has become my favorite part of this show. No, there weren’t very many minority faces this week, but I’m giving it a two not just because the women were so wonderful, but because this episode offered an alternative for how men can be written that I think should be an example to other shows.
James’ mother says to him, “Your freedom to choose is more important than anything” when he becomes resigned to marry to protect her and the farm instead of waiting for true love, and in that moment I was amazed. Here we were, watching a man forced into marriage because of economic circumstances; a position in which women in the real world find themselves all the time, and isn’t particularly shocking when represented on television. It’s so not-shocking, in fact, that even as we pity them we will often criticize female characters when they don’t “do right” by their families. We think of their entering the marriage as their “only option” and understand their difficult choice rather than question the fact that they’re put in that situation in the first place. Watching a male character go through the same thing was not only refreshing, but highlighted the inanity of the choice; and on a show with such nuanced female characters, we see that no one should have to live that way, regardless of gender. The same is happening with Sergeant Graham as Regina’s boy toy. Here we have another example of a man being put in a position that would be more easily understood and palatable if it were happening to a female character. Watching Emma consider him with disgust not only emphasizes that difference, but also highlights that certain behavior and situations are less acceptable no matter what the gender of the person/character engaging in it. However, the male characters are still men. They aren’t written like female characters, just as the female characters aren’t written like men to make them “strong.”
The female characters continue to be amazing, and I was particularly impressed by Mary Margaret this week. She’s wonderful, because while Emma embodies the “strong woman” in the standard sense of being “kickass,” working hard to not be vulnerable and shutting people out, Mary Margaret leaves her heart open, damn the consequence. She gets hurt, but she’s strong enough not to let that deter her from loving again. Mary Margaret, Emma, and Regina offer very different versions of what a woman can be, and while we might individually prefer one or the other, they are all complex and realistic.
Audience Engagement (2): The cast has become much more active on Twitter, consistently live-tweeting episodes each week, and engaging their fans right and left during the week, posting photos, tweeting from the set, answering questions, etc. As for the episode, I think it worked well as a standalone, and someone could be introduced to the show by watching “The Shepherd.”
TOTAL SCORE FOR Once Upon a Time: 9.5 (out of 10)
Grimm, Ep. 6: “The Three Bad Wolves”
Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) investigate an arson case in which a blutbad is killed. That blutbad turns out to be related to a friend and a former love interest of Monroe. As Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) becomes reacquainted with his wild side thanks to his ex, Angelina (Jaime Ray Newman), Nick discovers an old rivalry and realizes that the three “little pigs” aren’t so little, and they sure know how to hold a grudge! We are introduced to the bauerschwein, pig creatures who are, for the most part, harmless. That is, until you kill their relatives and start a blood feud. Then, they come after you with guns and fire.
Script (2): Naren Shankar and Sarah Goldfinger’s turned-tables version of The Three Little Pigs in “The Three Bad Wolves” not only provided a great case, but it also gave us the first truly character-based episode in the series. We got to know Monroe, already a fan favorite, a lot better as he relived his wild wolf past. In this episode, he was more than just a funny sidekick. We see a more vulnerable and serious side to him, which is reassuring, and know now that his purpose is not simply to be Nick’s, ahem, lapdog.
Early in the episode, Angelina says to Monroe regarding his regimen, “All this restriction is like its own compulsion.” At the end of the episode, as he’s being carried away, Lt. Orson (is he from U.S. Acres?) says to Nick, “Sometimes being a cop gets in the way of what you have to do.” Nick has already had to deal with where the line is for him between being a cop and being a Grimm. We’ve already watched his cop side allow a hexenbeist to go free at the expense of one of his creature allies in “Beeware.” However, “The Three Bad Wolves” shows how horribly wrong things can go if one gives too much credence to his or her creature side. A large part of Nick’s journey is figuring out that balance. His character has solidified in this episode, too. Monroe works hard to convince his wolf bretheren that Nick isn’t like the other Grimms, and whereas Aunt Marie might have killed Angelina, Nick gave her several opportunities to change her own mind. Nick is trying to find the right balance between cop and Grimm, but he’s also someone who wants to forge his own path. Whatever the “other” Grimms are like, he doesn’t seem interested in being that.
Performances (2): The episode was thoroughly stolen by Silas Weir Mitchell and Jamie Ray Newman. It was great to see Mitchell delve into more dramatic territory, giving Monroe more depth than he’s had before. Newman as Angelina was a fierce, magnetic presence; one that I hope is allowed to return, given the open ending of the episode. Also worth noting is Brad William Henke as Hap, the lovably undisciplined third wolf who replaced Monroe as the show’s comic relief this week.
Production (2): Portland has already been one of the stars of Grimm since the pilot, but this episode saw it used to beautiful effect. The scene where Monroe and Angelina go running through the woods was beautifully shot, and provided an amazing centerpiece for the episode that I was left thinking about long afterward. Also, maybe it’s because I love pigs, but the bauerschwein are the cutest Grimm creatures to date.
Representation (2): While we have yet another male criminal in this episode, we also have a guest star who is an amazing female character for whom a romantic relationship is second to her duty to her family and her freedom. I love the scene when Hank is questioning her at the precinct and asks her about the “dirt” on her shirt. She clarifies, “No, this is blood,” and takes her shirt off and throws it at him, daring him to test it. I thought of Gilda in “Bears Will Be Bears,” and how her stripping down to her skivvies seemed so exploitative. This scene with Angelina was the exact opposite. Yes, she took her shirt off and spent the rest of the scene in a bra, but there was nothing vulnerable, cute, or flirtatious about that moment. Meanwhile, Juliette was less The Girlfriend and more an actual girlfriend in this episode, joking about charging Nick for her vet services and saying things like “don’t piss off a woman with claws.” Could it be that they finally learned to write her like a person?
Audience Engagement (1.5): The cast of Grimm has been surprisingly quiet on Twitter these days, though I imagine that’s because of their shooting schedule. As for the Grimm website, at first I thought it would give us deeper insights into the show, and or exclusive information not in the episodes, based on the intricacy of features like “Aunt Marie’s Trailer.” However, this feature, as well as the production blog are all light on content, despite the spiffy site design. However, there’s been one interesting addition: in the Grimm Guide, once you get past all of the entries that Aunt Marie has drawn/written in, there is an entry on the reinigen written by Nick. So, Nick is actually taking on more Grimm responsibility by continuing to keep a record, a nice touch that I wouldn’t have known about without the website.
TOTAL SCORE FOR Grimm: 9.5 (out of 10)
Cumulative Scores So Far:
Once Upon a Time: 43.5
This was a good week of television Charmings and Grimmsters! Come back next week for more fabulous fairy tale discussion! Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8/7 Central on ABC, and Grimm airs Fridays at 9/8 Central on NBC.
Teresa Jusino doesn’t want to find “a Prince Charming,” she wants THAT Prince Charming. 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.