Once Upon a Time S03.06 – Ariel

Another belated review of an episode themed around a much-loved character – this time it’s everyone’s favourite pre-teen allegory, Ariel!! TBH I kind of envy anyone yet to watch this ep, because it has the most *amazing* Disney callouts all through it and they. Were. Amazing. I squeed a lot. It was pretty awesome. Ahem. Right, no (more) time to waste, on with this week’s recap of last week’s ep…

More of Snow’s backstory, and thus terrible wig. Ugh. I get that she lives in the forect, but get a friendly hedgehog to be your brush, ok? Also why do we have more inexplicable Antipodeans? In more plot-related news, Ariel is a friendly mermaid. Like, super-friendly. Like as friendly as Robin Hood of ‘hi stranger let me give you my child to use a bait’ fame. Also, if this was Snow’s first ever mermaid encounter why was she so suss of the ones who attacked the boat? Did she later find out that Ariel is the Only Nice Mermaid Ever? Maybe something about the Fairytale lands accelerates bonding but does nothing to inhibit basic species-based mistrust. Anyway, she and Snow are BFFs 4 Lyf now, five minutes after meeting, and Ariel tells Snow about this boy she likes who she’s planning to meet! Yay! But once again we get to see that according to all agents for female change in this show (Snow, Tink, Regina), the only happiness that counts is with a man. Ugh. I don’t even think I’m that ardent/aware a feminist and this is pissing me off. Can we have one character who’s not motivated by the pursuit or loss of love? Just one?

Anyway, back at Emotioncamp, Snow’s hair looks shorter, like it got brutally hacked back since last ep. Just me? Looked weird. Anyway, I’m quickly distracted by more classic Emma/Regina banter: “You’re a pathetic waste of talent” “And you’re a monster”. Luckily, turns out rage is the magic-trigger Emma needs to end their little witchy lesson, which will be useful as long as she wants to be the protagonist of any 70s/80s horror movie starring mentally unstable teenagers with supernatural abilities. For combat-magic, less ideal. Elsewhere, Hook tells MM and Charming that Pan has told him Neal’s alive. This is smart – it means he’s not hiding the info, but he also has a chance to discuss it before releasing the bombshell on Emma, which would suck for him personally, but also possibly play into Pan’s hands. The Parentals react predictably – Snow’s all ‘No More Lies’ while Charming repeats his mantra ‘Don’t Upset Teh Wimmins’. Also, point of order, “it’s not lying, just not telling the truth” – between this and the “it’s not evil unless you do it yourself”, this camp is all about the shaky justifications that kind of suck when examined in even the most cursory way…

Back in the flash (lols), I am deeply concerned by Ariel’s costume. It makes heavy use of illusion netting, which is never appropriate unless you are an 80s figure skater, or costumed as such for a Tonya Harding biopic/sports stars of yesteryear themed dressup party. Also I love Snow, Queen of Truth, advocating a relationship based on a pretty monumental deception (Ariel’s actual justification – “just let him fall for me [and then I’ll tell him I’m a mermaid and we *literally* live in different worlds and we can never be together unless one of us gives up *everything* about who we are as a person right now]”). And then we go back to the now-forest and she’s blurting out the truth to Emma. Huh. Regina rightly points out that saving Henry from certain danger is kind of more important than trotting off to see if Pan was lying about Neal being about, but Team Emotion win again and they traipse off to find Neal, with Regina deciding if you want a job done, it’s best to do it yourself and leaving. Gotta say, if I was Henry I know which mum I’d prefer right now!

Moving sideways to Somewhere Else in the forest, we see Rumple – yay!! A characters who isn’t Pan or Camp Hairsplitting. Also, this means he’s not Neal’s wicker-bunk-mate, hrm. Gods I hope it wasn’t Tamara. She better be deaded; if she pulls a Padma I am OUT. Could be Marc though? Anyways, Pan shows up to suggest Rumple give up, go back to Storeybrooke and try to get a replacement family (noting that Belle “looks fertile” *sound of uncontrollable retching*), gets shooed off and is replaced by Imaginary!Belle herself! With whom Rumple argues as a figment of his subconscious. Of course, because that’s… rational and totally sane. But then Regina shows up, chokes Belle like a badass mofo, reveals her to be the Shadow and castigates Rumple for being taken in. She is awesome. And I’m still unconvinced about the Shadow being a Big Bad. So far it seems keen to snuggle with Rumple but has shown no agency of its own – it’s just doing Pan’s bidding. Anyway Regina brings Rumple up to date on the Neal news and stops Rumple’s ‘woe is me’ chat about how hard it is to kill Pan (he [still?] believes his own death is necessary to bring about Pan’s, not sure why or how that happened but assume it’s to do with the Henry prophecy?) with a cute one liner: “You’re not going to die at anyone’s hands but my own”. Bless. Their relationship is actually kind of super cute. I like this team up, carry on.

Flashback again, we’re at the ball and… ok. Ladies. This is a ball. Ariel, it’s your first so I’m not gonna talk too much about how scandalously, mullet-ally short and floofy your outfit is, and the bodice is cute, so you get a grudging acceptance. But Snow. No, Snow. No. Are you hiding a baby bump? That dress is ill-fitting, graceless and generally dreadful. Just, NO! However, the clever, clever writers managed to deflect my anger by referencing the amazeballs Diz fork scene and also possibly TBBT? Happy little fangirl looking for references which probably don’t exist. Also, Eric is introduced and he is pretty. I was gonna make a comment about how I couldn’t see how his parents hadn’t married him off to further political chicanery, but then he starts talking and you realise a) he’s adorably credulous and easily swayed and b) a little intense. Dude, just because you’re a prince doesn’t mean you can meet a girl, dance with her for two minutes, then tell her she IS your future (though nice to see a male equating future with mating partner for once) and invite her on your Gap Yah. Later, when Ariel confides this to Snow, she advises Ariel to ask Eric to give up his plans and dreams to be with her… despite his dream (travelling) being hers also. Whut? It doesn’t always have to be a zero-sum game, doll. There can be a win/win. Ariel, prompted by a comment from Snow, goes to ask Ursula for more leg-time, and ends up insulting her/the empty ocean. Srsly, girl, don’t sass a powerful Goddess, especially one whose bounty you’re enjoying, *especially* without giving her time to answer between your backchat lines! At least pause dramatically! But then, shock! Ursula surfaces! Oh, no, it’s Regina!Ursula, and she is delightfully sassy. This is an epically wonderful nod to the Diz, one of my favourite of the ep. Everything is shiny and right and sassy and happymaking. Except Ariel, who is still a ditz. Watery bints handing out favours is no basis for a system of Government! I mean, not something to be depended on, or trusted! Also her casual assumption that Snow would go along with the tail/leg swap plan was hilarious, as it reflected Snow’s casual assumption that Ariel would want to give up everything to solve her immediate problem (being with Eric). But, when they swap back after the cute use of Checkov’s Fork (/Mini-Trident), why couldn’t Regina blast them? Does her magic not work underwater? Is she a fire-based Pokemon? Silly. Anyway, they escape, yay, but when Ariel takes the (belated) advice of the soggy but safe Snow, to maybe just tell Eric the truth, Regina is waiting and steals her voice. So thwarting true love is becoming kind of an Evil Queen hobby in these flashbacks…

[Parenthetically; Ariel’s whole ‘should I leave everything I know, my family and friends, and venture into the unknown for the chance of being loved by a man I’ve never spoken to / danced with once’ is covered better by DISNEY than this episode. This made me cross-face. I genuinely can’t remember it being discussed. I think there was a throw-away line by Ariel herself, but otherwise the whole issue is kinda ignored. Admittedly, she doesn’t turn irrevocably lose her tail/swimability in this iteration, but she sure as hell wouldn’t be going home every weekend, and it would be super awkward for Eric to visit her parents. Be PRACTICAL, fantasy fairytale tv show writers!!]

Meanwhile, Camp Hairsplit’s been on the move, and Emma tells Snowmom about kissing Hook. Slightly rudely, Snow’s response is “Why?”, so Emma justifies herself. Sigh. Emma, the answer to “why did you kiss Hook” is equal parts “because I wanted to and am a grown woman who’s allowed to kiss who she damn well wants” and “have you *seen* his dreamy eyes/hands/face and heard his melodious and sensual voice?!” Just because he isn’t Henry’s (absent, kind of shitty) dad doesn’t mean you can’t love him. Equally, rescuing Neal doesn’t mean you have to get back together with him – see: Neal’s own indifference towards a relationship while trying (and failing) to rescue you, earlier this season!!!! Grr… They reach the Echo cave, and I gotta say, this place is lame. This may be because I was brought up on the Dead Marshes and the Bog of Eternal Stench, and later came to fear lakes filled with Inferi and cities filled with worse, but this place was weaksauce. ‘Tell your secrets and the bridge appears’. Ok, Hook says outside that the idea is that your secrets will destroy you, but Hook’s is that he loves Emma – no real shock to anyone with eyes who gives him half the credit he deserves (i.e., probs not Emma, and certainly not Snow or Charming), Snow wants another baby, again no shock to anyone (and not particularly interesting, either, unless they’re setting her up to stay in Neverland and ‘mother’ the Lost Boys to be close to Charming?), Charming comes clean about the Dreamshade, which earns him the silent treatment but nothing more, and Emma admits she has feelings for Neal (more on which in a minute). Not so destructive. In fact, most of them are good things to have gotten out. Bullshit psychological mumbo-jumbo is bullshit.

Ok, but actually why does Emma still love Neal?! It’s not love, she just needs closure after all the shit he put her through. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Which may just be because I love Hook so hard. So gorgeous and sad and wounded and rejected and brave and argleblarglewah!! I know the ‘bad boy redeemed by love’ is a rubbish cliché, but when Colin O’Donoghue is involved, it’s just so much more attractive. I mean, believable. And attractive.

We end with Regina and Rumple (I’m’a call them R&R) calling up Ariel, Regina returns her voice and they convince her to carry Rumple to Storeybrooke, where Eric apparently lives. Huh. How’d we miss such a cutie in ss1+2?! Humph. This feels rushed, again. But yay more Ariel, and Belle (if Rumple’s going back, no way she’s not becoming a regular again)!!!

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**Also I have just discovered that Once Upon a Time in Wonderland has started and I have missed three episodes already?!? So, that will have to go on the to-do list. Along with this actual week’s Once (Original Flavour). Eep!!

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