Once Upon a Time "Review".

December 11, 2015

Warning: Character reveals and minor plot points for all seasons.

So last night at about 3am I finally finished every episode of Once Upon a Time which is on Netflix. If you've been following my twitter feed for the last few months you'll have seen the flurry of Caps Lock tweets and tears that have documented this mammoth journey. Specifically last night I did a lot of crying, everything from Rumple saying goodbye to Belle to the whole family scene where Emma left the note. I cried so much I had to get our of bed, wash and change my PJs because they were so covered in tears. It was disgusting but very releasing.

The general message of this is watch it because I think it’s genius but read on to find out more.


Firstly I'd just like to say congrats for some phenomenal storytelling. Once Upon a Time in a craft sense commits to the story it is telling so well and doesn't often cut corners. The narrative itself is usually pretty clear, truthful, engaging, exciting and tightly written. Towards the beginning of my experience I thought the dialogue itself was a bit obvious but now I'm not sure if I've gotten more used to it or if the writers got better (I think the writers got better). Truly I have never seen a better example of a piece of TV committing to the story it is telling. 


Also it was pretty clear that by season 4 someone had demanded that the modern Disney characters should be brought into the whole thing so we saw the arrival of Elsa. Although I was really resistant to this at first because I hate it when good shows do things like this just for the ratings, I thought the way it was handled was exquisite. Some parts of this story arc were a little rushed but the characters from her world were so well integrated and such an essential part of the story that I really bought into it. I feel like Merida in season 5 appeared for a similar reason, I am still confused as to why the episode "The Bear King" about her father happened, considering we were on the run up to a climax, the consequences of it don't seem to have been realised as of yet. It was a well written episode but it also seemed a bit of a lose canon amongst the focused writing around it. Merida as a character was great though and I thought her world was well integrated. 


One thing which is currently on my mind is the most recent climax. I massively applaud the writers' ability to find the next step in the narrative once a climax is reached but I thought this might be the end so I was craving some finality. I'm not sure if there will be more episodes or not but I hope there is not considering the ending. For me, if all the heroes had united and vanquished evil that would have been such a powerful moment, when the army assembled. HOWEVER saying this I understand the choices that were made, the entire show can be seen as a life-matrix (something that allegorises the conditions of life) and to finally vanquish the ultimate evil would be to solve the problem of evil which is not something we have the ability to do yet in the real world. I genuinely think that true creativity in narrative is when solutions to problems are solved in narrative which can then be implemented in real life, storytelling is like an experiment in understanding the damage that has already been done and to solve that.


A lot of people question my view of narrative like this, they say that all drama needs conflict which is true and therefore if we solved all conflict we would have no drama. I would argue that what we crave in drama is conflict AND resolution therefore drama is our exploration of problem solving, not of problem causing. At least, this is the drama I am interested in. Imagine a world where we had solved conflict, maybe that's what The Garden of Eden (I am an atheist, I use this as a literary not religious metaphor) was, if we could reach that state again maybe we would begin to exceed the bounds of our human capabilities. Being human is to make mistakes, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't account for them. 


Aside from that digression I would also like to congratulate the representation in Once Upon a Time. Nearly every single narrative driving character in the show is female, something a lot of people do not notice unless they look for it. Emma Swan as the saviour, Regina, The Snow Queen, Snow White, The original Dark One, and many more. It takes a lot of skill and bravery to create such mass media which successfully manages to do this that I think this might be the thing I love most about the show. 


In the spirit of YES AND now I have some comments on furthering representation. Currently people of colour play a good part in the show, Merlin, Rapunzel and various other characters were not white however it might be nice to see a recurring driving character that is also a person of colour. Furthermore something that is really personal to me is the LGBTQ representation in the show. Considering what the show did for female representation this is not in anyway a negative point but I would like to encourage the writers to being to draw in some LGBTQ representation to the show.


Personally where I see it is in Mulan and Merida right now (at one point I thought Mulan and Aurora but that wasn't to be) but aside from my own dreams, I personally would say this might be a good next step. There's a lot of room for it in this show. 


Now comes one of the problems of representation, in a relatively mainstream show which has done so much for female representation, bringing in other under-represented identities might jeopardise the platform it already has for feminism. It's quite a sad situation we have in terms of representation, therefore my suggestion should be taken as a plea for the LGBTQ+ identities. If it is possible then please take the opportunity. 


I mean to end off the review I'm just going to share my hashtag #OnceUponAGay (#OUAG) which is something I started kind of as a joke for spotting moments for LGBTQ representation in the show but which might be a useful community thing. I know there are also representation issues in the hashtag, but I am happy to take responsibility for those in exchange for the engagement that we might begin to gain from it.



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