If there’s one thing Horowitz and Kitsis do well it’s have fun with a fairy tale. And 5B has definitely been an enjoyable ride this far. Once Upon A Time excels at combining reality and fantasy in unpredictable ways, throwing the rule book out the window and showing us unbelievable sides of well-known characters. But like every hero, Once Upon A Time will fall. The only question is how fast will they dust themselves off.
Once Upon A Time follows the lives of our favourite fictional characters after the happy ending credits have rolled. Created by Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis in 2011 (Lost). Once Upon A Time focuses on a cursed town, the child of Snow White and Prince Charming and a series of characters, including Belle, the Evil Queen, Robin Hood and Captain Hook, as they fight for their ultimate happy endings, one villain at a time.
If you haven’t been keeping up with Storybrook’s heroes and villains, avert your eyes. You will find spoilers here.
A worrying sense of normalcy has developed within Once Upon A Time‘s drive for drama. We’re not talking about normal in the sense of a boring story or arc. It’s more a matter of acceptance – an acceptance that should not have even factored into a show controlled by strong women as both heroes and villains. When you think of Once Upon A Time, you think of those women. Not the men. Not the princes. The women.
Yet somehow, at some point, Kitsis and Horowitz’s moral compass went out the window. We’re just six episodes into season 5B and in that short time, a downward spiral for Emma and Belle has emerged. Oh it’s subtle right now but when the season finale rolls around and both are taking every hit thrown at them by men who have betrayed and broken them on numerous occasions, will we all stop and wonder when it became normal for strong women to take abuse in the name of good drama? Or will we just shrug it off and pretend it’s not niggling away at the back of our minds?
Rumpelstiltskin, played by the wonderful Robert Carlyle, got what was coming to him in last week’s episode. Somehow it isn’t surprising that even after all his years alive he still hasn’t got a clue about women. Do men actually believe that they can betray everyone they profess to love for power over and over again and still walk out the other side unscathed? But then again, Rumple definitely has a psychotic streak in him. It’s highly likely that he really is disconnected from reality. Trading one child for another isn’t exactly a morally sound decision to make and believing that Belle will get over it isn’t a great reaction either. The sad thing is that if Horowitz and Kitsis continue on their current trajectory, she will take him back. Five seasons and he still hasn’t learnt? Boredom is setting in Rumple. Tick tock.
Captain Swan. I’m probably one of the few people obsessed with this show who was ready to wave goodbye to Hook as Hades tried to push him over the edge and literally into hell. Whatever is driving Emma’s burning need to save Hook, it can’t be love: we’ve veered straight past reality and into harmful. Emma has endured so much for Hook and stood on the wrong side of his abuse far too many times now. It’s unhealthy to depict a woman as strong as Emma Swan taking abuse from a man who she loves and tried to save from death TWICE. Yes, by the end of last week’s episode, Hook had seen reason.
These damaging developments in Emma and Belle may be realistic. There are thousands of women and men who put up with abuse from their partners every day. But Once Upon A Time isn’t actually intended to discuss that issue – really the show is rolling over and accepting it as a norm. Surely that isn’t right for a writing team who have carefully considered how to introduce LGBT elements into a Disney controlled TV show?
On a more positive note, Horowitz and Kitsis are very good at taking an evil specimen of story lore and flipping the entire narrative to the point that you’ll have a hard time judging right from wrong. There is no black and white in this world and these two are masters at dabbling in the murky grey. Once again they pulled off the unexpected. Horowitz and Kitsis actually created yet another redeemable villain. Hades in love? I’m still reeling. Beyond the brotherly revenge and betrayal, Kitsis and Horowitz have unveiled the core of death’s keeper. I don’t think anyone could have predicted Hades and Zelena’s past connection, let alone paint them as each other’s saviour.
It also helps that Zelena finally has a purpose and a future that isn’t centred on taking from Regina. In last week’s episode, an arc was unveiled for Zelena and that arc is irrevocably tied to Hades. But as always a thousand questions remain. Where does Persephone fall in all of this? Does she exist in Horowitz and Kitsis’ universe? And if so, is she past or future?
Catch Once Upon A Time on Netflix every Wednesday.