Weeks V & VI & VII & VIII… – November in a Nutshell

New format – I’m going to catch up on each show individually.

Part 1:

once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME

Season 4, Episodes 5 (Breaking Glass), 6 (Family Business), & 7 (The Snow Queen)

In Breaking Glass, the writers explored the relationship between Emma and Regina. The two of them both went after the Snow Queen with their own agenda and reluctantly ended up working together. Including in their love of Henry, the two women are actually very much alike. Emma spends the episode trying to convince Regina to forgive her and let them be friends again, while Regina tries her hardest to convince herself that she does not want to be friends with her. Regina is not used to having friends – she is accustomed to being used and abused and dishing out the same in return. While Emma puts up walls to her loved ones, Regina lashes out – no need to put up walls if you’re constantly on the attack! Both women have magic power, even if Emma’s are innate and Regina’s are learned (as far as we know). Much like how a grown child prodigy is on an even keel with musicians who trained their whole lives, Emma has much to learn from her step-grandmother.

ouat-regina-emma-breaking-glass-leviathynThe only downfall of this episode is the parallel story with Emma’s past life. On its own, the subplot with Emma and Lily is fine. However, Lily seems much too important of a character to only be a one-episode wonder. For one thing, she looks enough like Regina to be her long-lost daughter! After watching this episode, I was wondering if there was a way that the writers could make such a thing possible. It would be convoluted, but it could work. After all, as Hook says, sooner or later everyone in Storybrooke is related. Why take the time to introduce such an intriguing and mysterious character as Lily if she was only to illustrate an event from Emma’s past? And why make her so much like Regina in looks and mannerisms? (I suppose there is the simple possibility that it was a coincidence that the best actress who auditioned had such looks.) Any young actress would have sufficed. We got the point of the parallel story: once Emma had a chance to forgive a friend who did her wrong and begged for forgiveness, but like Regina now, she had shut her out and never forgiven her.

image157Family Business explored Belle’s backstory and her own relationship with Anna and the Snow Queen. We find out how bad the Ogre War was going in Belle’s homeland and what led her to summon Rumplestiltskin to save them. As it turned out, she found out about him from Anna, who helped her search for her lost memories before being captured by the Snow Queen. As it turns out, her lost memories are of her mother’s heroic death at the hands of ogres.

137019_8132_preTo be honest, Belle’s backstory is not all that interesting and serves mostly to fill in gaps in the established timelines while giving us some insight into Belle’s life. What is interesting, however, is how her past actions serve to have Belle attempt to go after the Snow Queen herself and end up revealing to us the latest evil plot to befall Storybrooke. Belle falls victim to a mirror that turns her against herself and her husband, forcing her to question her deepest fears and dislikes about Rumplestiltskin as well as her own character. Intriguingly, the mirror (or the Spell of Shattered Sight) does not lie. The fears and dislikes are Belle’s own. It reveals that deep in her heart, Belle knows what kind of horrible man her new husband is. She knows what others think of her, how she thinks she needs to save him, etc. These are all true. The mirror distorts reality, showing only the negative aspect of a person or situation. One could easily remind Belle that her husband is complex (albeit quite horrible) and that her dedication to saving him is admirable. Like her mother’s heroic sacrifice, her love for Rumplestiltskin might cost her everything – but she is prepared for that.

Once-Upon-a-Time-4x05-Breaking-Glass-Snow-Queen-looks-in-broken-mirrorThe Snow Queen’s, or rather Ingrid’s, origin story is revealed in full in The Snow Queen. This episode does have the downside of focusing almost entirely on the new Frozen characters. Aside from Ingrid’s attempt to isolate Emma from her family and call into doubt their love for her and her powers, our main plot is how Ingrid became the way she is.

Her own family rejected her out of fear: her sister, Gerda, imprisoned her in the urn after Ingrid accidentally killed their third sister when her powers became uncontrollable. I could hardly blame either of them, really. Ingrid had just nearly been sexually assaulted, while Gerda had just discovered that her sister was dead. Helga, the unfortunate third sister, had been the glue that held them together. Gerda seemed to resent Ingrid for being different – as Gerda was the youngest sister, any attention given Ingrid naturally detracted from her. It was quite clear that throughout their childhood, Gerda held this against her eldest sister. How dare Ingrid have powers that needed to be controlled! (A non-magical equivalent would be a chronic illness or condition.) Without Ingrid, Gerda could get married and rest assured that her future children would be safe from suffering from Helga’s fate. Despite her sadness at her loss, it was much easier for Gerda to accept that both of her sisters were dead than to deal with Ingrid’s powers any longer. She euthanized her chronically-sick sister. It was hardly any wonder that she sought to rid Elsa of her powers. She wanted to cure her of her illness – any mother would.

As an aside, if Elsa and Anna’s mother is named Gerda, is their father named Kai?


Season 4, Episode 8 (Smash the Mirror)

What I am impressed with the most about this season of Once Upon a Time is that they have taken new characters – namely Elsa and Anna and company from Frozen – and integrated them into the mythology not just of the show, but of the wider folklore of European fairy tales. While Frozen was based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen and Scandinavian folklore, it was quite removed from the original story such that it is barely recognizable as being related to Andersen’s tale. With this arc on Once Upon a Time, the writers have integrated elements from Andersen’s tale such as the Snow Queen herself, Gerda the protagonist, the Snow Queen seeking family, and a smashed mirror whose shards enter into the victim’s eyes to turn them against their loved ones. In Smash the Mirror, this last element comes vividly into play.

First of all, however, this is a double-episode primarily about Emma. She seeks to get rid of her powers and Rumplestiltskin is keen to add her to his collection, even if it means killing her. Hook tries to stop her, but is thwarted by his old crocodile and has his heart stolen for his troubles. Rumplestiltskin needs him to do his bidding before he kills him, and despite his belief that he is a survivor, Hook is most definitely in mortal peril. Do the writers really want to kill off another of Emma’s love interests? Or will it be Rumplestiltskin who loses? Or will they come up with Plan C?

Emma herself is saved by Elsa, who finally embraces her own powers and convinces Emma that she can control hers. For the most part, Emma has always been able to control her power, but Ingrid planted doubt in her mind, and Elsa drove her doubt away again. Elsa and Emma truly have come to see each other as friends, if not sisters. Furthermore, the Charmings came to their senses and decided that letting Emma get rid of her powers was not giving her her best chance after all. Surprisingly, it took a sharp tongue-lashing from Regina to point out to them that obvious fact. But from a parenting perspective, they did have good points. Emma was suffering because of her powers. If she didn’t have powers, she couldn’t hurt them, their new baby, or Henry. But although she is their daughter, she has been their friend first. Friends do not let friends make rash life-altering decisions.

265px-408ElsaTrappedWe finally find out how Elsa came to be trapped in the urn – namely through Anna being a victim of the Shattered Sight. Elsa never wavered and let her sister capture her rather than give in to Ingrid’s plan to have her destroy Anna. I do believe that repays back Anna’s sacrifice from the film tenfold. Now Ingrid has unleashed the Shatter Sight onto Storybrooke – it will be exciting to see how they break this one!

Finally, Robin Hood and Will Scarlet are in on the plan to find the author of the book. Robin Hood, despite his code of honour, gives in to his desire and enters into an affair with Regina. Well, wasn’t he always a thief, anyhow? He is no saint and neither is Regina, but they are well-suited to each other. He also discovers that the book is not set in stone (er, ink) and that they could still have a happy ending depending on their choices. Regina, for her part, confides in Snow White and allows the possibility of hope enter her life again. Sadly, I don’t think that the Spell of Shattered Sight is going to leave her unscarred, and she is still the mistress and not the wife of Robin Hood.347836-2

Then again, perhaps their romantic interlude will lead to a half-sibling for Henry and Roland!

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The Giver (2014)

The_Giver_posterI really thought that I had read this book in school. Turns out that I hadn’t, or else I would have been expecting the disturbing scenes in the film and remembered the storyline.

Like many books on school reading lists, The Giver by Lois Lowry is one of those stories that one learns the vague premise through popular culture. It is set in a seemingly utopian community (with vague paranormal overtones) wherein all memories of anything that made people different from each other have been collectively erased, save for one person and his apprentice who act as keepers of these memories. Even colour has been eradicated, which is beautifully portrayed in the film.

Naturally, the plot of the story is a typical young adult coming-of-age tale: young person is introduced to injustice and strives to make right society. Jonas is selected to be the new Receiver of Memories and struggles with the inherent contradictions in his society. Eventually, he conspires to destroy the system and give people back their memories.

Despite this predictable premise, the film is beautiful and powerful. I had no expectations from the book, so I was pleased with what I later discovered were changes: Jonas’s age was raised, a romantic plot was added, and the role of the Chief Elder was expanded. The raised age made much more sense, as having the members of a society reach adulthood at 18 is more believable than 12. I was able to relate to Jonas and his struggles, as well as those of his friends, whereas at twelve, his behaviour would be obnoxious and precocious. The romance was understandable as it befitted the increased age of the protagonist: eighteen-year-olds told to stop taking their hormone-suppressants would undoubtedly take a strong interest in sexual matters. Finally, the expanded role of the Chief Elder (a nuanced performance by Meryl Streep) added multiple dimensions to the community and gave us some insight as to the motivations behind why the society is the way that it is. She is the relatable character for us adults.

The main theme of this book is memory and choice. Both are intrinsic to the human condition. One is essential for the other – it is hard to make choices with no memory or basis for them. The society of The Giver is one that makes choices for all individuals to make perfect families and a harmonious community. It is primarily a Council of Elders who make said decisions, although from the film, it appears that a lot of the choice of the Elders are based on computers and machines as well. In other words, the people of Jonas’s community live in peace and harmony, but they have no real basis for living. The Chief Elder wants to maintain order at all costs because she believes (or has been led to believe) that if individual persons were left to make their own choices, they would always “choose wrong”. Her understanding of the past is that constant bad choices led to disaster. What she cannot comprehend is that good choices are what get people through disasters, and that “good” choices can lead to as much disaster as bad ones. Choice is a rather neutral concept: good intentions lead to choices that can lead to good outcomes or bad outcomes (as clearly the community was set up with the good intention of preventing further destruction), while bad intentions lead to choices than can lead to bad outcomes or good outcomes.

Yet the freedom to experience both the good and the bad is what makes us human. We are not machines, nor are we simply animals going about our instinct. Emotions, arts, conflict, dissent, criticism, inquiry, and nuance are all important to humanity – without them, there is no point to existence. Yes, they can lead to disaster, but they also can let us overcome it.

Jonas decides that he cannot live in a society that does not love, nor remember it. However memories have been wiped away (perhaps through some type of machine-induced hypnotism), he sets out to return them.

What, however, is the first memory that leads him down this path? That of Christmas music. Religion is seen as something dangerous – and rightly so. Religion even today is seen as something that violates our standard belief that humans are the same. It is seen portrayed as something artificial that divides us, but at the same time, the feeling of peace that comes from remembering a childhood Christmas carol is universal. Yes, many of us do not have childhood memories of Christmas (and those that do have thousands of songs that may be attached to our memories), but we all have memories of peace. They may not be long, permanent, or relating at all to a holiday. Thousands of children have lives plagued by war, but even they have memories of something peaceful, even if it is hard to define.

Back to the story. My point is this: religion is one of the many things that causes discord in humanity, but it also is something that is essential to our understanding of ourselves. Moreover, without conflict or discord, there can be no harmony, because there is nothing to define it. There is no point of human existence.

Essentially, we must remember conflict and it must happen, and we must honour and remember those that have striven to overcome it. Without memory of war, there is no peace.

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The man stared into his drink on the counter, his uniform ratty and unrecognizable.  He was not a very remarkable-looking man at first glance – very ordinary, the very everyday-hominess that made him seem friendly and approachable.  In another life, he might have been a good lawyer or politician.  Or, with such a trustworthy face, he could have been a doctor or teacher.  Even as a decent, honest working man, he might have made a name for himself.

But now he had no name.

The bartender asked him who he was waiting for.

The new guy in town, he replied.

I’ll pour him a drink, the bartender announced.  He did so and sat the pint next to the man’s before he retreated into the corner again.

I wondered about this man.  Where had he come from?  Did he have family? Did he have pets? Were there great-grandchildren somewhere?

Did he enjoy music?  What was his favourite song to sing to pass the time in the trenches? Was he a learned man who got lost in his books?  A sportsman?  A sportsman who got lost in books, in dreams of glory far away from the mud?

Was he the friendly type, or would he be embarrassed about all the attention he now had? Sitting there at the counter, he seemed so approachable, so kind and loving…but was that real? After all, I was the one dreaming.

A small bell rang as the door of the pub creaked open and another man walked in.  He was in full regimental uniform – I recognized him immediately.  He shut the heavy wooden door behind him and looked around, smiling widely at his fellow comrades scattered about the room.

The man at the counter turned to face the door, and although his back was mostly to me, I could tell that his face, too, had broken into a wide grin.  I imagined his eyes sparkled as they met those of the newcomer.

He raised his glass, leading the others in a toast.

Welcome home, buddy! He cried out in an accent that I couldn’t place.

Come sit over here by me.

Let me tell you my name.

copyright 2014


Memory eternal.

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The Black Cauldron (1985)


As the black sheep of the Disney family, The Black Cauldron is certainly undeserving of its lack of recognition. It is a lovely film in that it is beautifully animated. The characters are interesting but we really do not get a chance to learn much about them. This is a movie about going on an adventure. We watch the adventure and then it is done, all being well with the world.

There is no singing, no dancing, no amusing side plots, no plucky sidekicks…the most well-rounded character is a dog-like creature. Even the protagonist falls flat. He does go through character development, but it feels forced. Meanwhile, the sidekicks simply appear alongside him (characterized as a band of misfits) and while they all pull together, they still miss the mark on character depth. Princess Eilonwy is an airhead and Ffleddur is a buffoon – neither are particularly memorable.

Overall, I enjoyed this film. I see why it was not well-received, however. Even in the 1980s, this was not up to Disney’s usual calibre. Most importantly, it was not all that entertaining.

The feeling that I get from this movie is that it was rushed. Disney needed to get the movie done because it had languished half-made on the shelf for a long time. It needed a family movie for a deadline. It needed something that was a bit more edgy to compete with other animated films at the time. Whatever the reason, like a school project close to the deadline, it fulfils all the required elements and gets a passing grade, but lacks anything substantial or impressive.

It is not as though the source material for the film, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, are lacking in character and plot. Rather, the film attempted to adapt the books into a) one story and b) a family film. While they did an incredible job bringing the story to life visually, they forgot that the story and characters themselves are essential for it to live as well. You can buy a baby all the toys and cute outfits that you want, but it will be deprived if it has none to little food, water, and love.

On the other hand, Hen-Wen the pig and Gurgi the dog(?) are absolutely adorable. They made this film all worthwhile. I imagine their cuteness does not transcend the novels well.

Otherwise, read the books.

And Disney – do a remake…a much better one.

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Week IV – Deeper Into The Quagmire

once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME

Season 4, Episode 4 (The Apprentice)

This week expands the story from a Frozen sequel to introduce the overarching storyline for the season: Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin is still addicted to magic and still trying to find a way to be free of the magic of the Dark One’s dagger while still retaining his powers. Even Belle’s influence and Baelfire’s memory cannot keep him on the straight and narrow. However, Gold probably believes that by freeing himself from the dagger, he will also free himself from his dark impulses. He wants to do this for Belle’s sake, even as it will likely end up destroying her. Unfortunately for Gold, his dark impulses are not caused by the dagger any more than Captain Hook’s dark impulses are caused by his hand. The two men are not that much different in character. They both want to change their ways for love in order to be worthy of Belle and Emma, but neither of them want to give him their ways of life. Gold wants to keep his power while Hook still wants to be a pirate. The big difference? Magic and power are an addiction, not a character flaw. Hook is not an addict like Gold is. Even after all that has happened between them, Gold still sees Hook as an evil man who stole his wife. He desperately wants to be a better man than Hook. He has to keep Hook down in order to feel as though he is doing the good thing, the right thing. He still feels that he is the victim.

Skipping over Emma and Hook’s date and Will Scarlet’s drunken antics, both of which considerably lightened the mood of the episode, Henry decides to get a job working for Mr. Gold. He insists to Gold that he wants to get to know him better and maintain a connection to his father, but he only proves to the viewer that he is as much of a manipulator as his grandfather: he really wants to help Regina get her happy ending. Sweeping the floor of the shop at the end of the episode, it is blatant that we are to wonder if Henry is not setting himself up to follow in Mr. Gold’s footsteps. He may set out to be heroic, but even the most well-intentioned heroes can turn into villains.

After all, evil isn’t born, it is made.

Continuing the Frozen plotline, Anna discovered that her parents were indeed searching for a way to rid Elsa of her powers. Anna is devastated that her parents were so scared of Elsa that they would think of doing such a thing. She outwits Rumpelstiltskin and gets to go home to Kristoff, but her realisation that her parents thought their own daughter monstrous is enough to ruin her happy return. The Snow Queen may have been right after all…or it might all be a ploy by both the Snow Queen and Rumpelstiltskin.


2013-4 Murdoch Mysteries Season7 castMURDOCH MYSTERIES

Season 8, Episode 3 (Glory Days)

For being the first episode after the return of the status quo, Glory Days delves into deep topics and controversial issues.

For one, Dr. Ogden decided that since Det. Murdoch’s Catholicism was very important to him, she was going to “marry all of him” and ventured into discussions with the priest despite her convictions that the Church and God were poisonous and cruel. Naturally, this led to the priest having to defend himself and his Church. However, this was done gently. There was no bickering, fighting, or name-calling. Dr. Ogden approached the aptly-named Father Clement calmly and respectfully with an inquiring mind. She did not want to believe that the God whom Murdoch loved was the cruel slave-driver that she thought she knew. Father Clement, for his part, openly engaged her in discussion and allayed her fears. He did not chastise her, but also treated her respectfully and kindly. Was his attitude anachronistic? Perhaps – I rather think that his attitude could easily be accurate, but the attitude of the overall Church would not be so lenient. Dr. Ogden would at the very least have to nominally convert to Catholicism in order to be married in the Church. There would be papers to be signed. Did the show not want to be any more controversial than it already was? Or was this portrayal of the Church rather wishful thinking on the part of the writers – the Church as it ought to be, rather than what it was?

As a Christian, I was pleased at this portrayal of the Church and God. Father Clement is a kind, rational, respectful man who seems to genuinely want to serve Christ. Dr. Ogden is inquiring and her confusion, disbelief, and anti-theism are all shown to stem logically from her mind. She asks questions and gets rational answers from Father Clement. Most importantly, she recognises how much his faith means to Murdoch and is willing to be a part of that faith because she wants to be a part of him.

As for Father Clement’s answers, I only nod my head. There is a difference between God and the Church, and between the Church as God intends and the Church as a human-lead institution with moral failings. The episode comes down on the side of God and faith while still leaving us wondering if Dr. Ogden truly had an epiphany or if she just wanted to keep her man happy.

For another controversial topic, the case of the week involved bank and train robbery possibly perpetrated by American outlaws. The legendary Bat Masterson happened to be in town writing sports columns and decided to go after the outlaws (with the help of Murdoch, Crabtree, and Brackenreid). This would merely be a wild adventure were it not for the blatant contest between the “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset of the American system and the “calmly and rationally solve the case without hurting anyone if possible” of the Canadians. Masterson is embarrassed that the Toronto police don’t carry guns. This contrast is brought up repeatedly. Both methods ultimately solve the case and the audience is generally to conclude that the Canadian values are more just, while the American values are more fun to watch.

Lastly, Masterson is suffering from feeling inadequate in his new career as a sports writer. He misses the old days of hunting down outlaws in the West. Fortunately for him, a bystander remarks that he really loves reading his articles. Masterson leaves Stationhouse 4 with a new appreciation for his abilities, both past and present.

In the end, the episode returns to the status quo by showing a raucous but still proper bachelor party for Murdoch. I do hope the wedding is not too delayed!



Season 7, Episode 4 (Child’s Play)

Losing loved ones is devastating, all the more so when it is sudden and total.  Being granted the chance to have a lost loved one back, Alexis is terrified of losing her father again and proceeds to do everything that she can to protect him.

Unfortunately, Castle is an adult who shadows the police for research, thereby naturally being difficult to protect, and Alexis is only twenty.  Fortunately, Castle understands her behaviour (because he went through it when she went missing) and is able to reason with her by the end of the episode.  Why the end of the episode?  Aside from the comedy factor of her being overbearing (as opposed to clingy), Castle himself seemed to be enjoying her indulging him and worrying about him.  Much to Beckett’s annoyance, he still needs a bit of a safety net and is clearly happier investigating in a second grade classroom than hunting down Russian gangsters with her.

While the scenes at the school were not very believable – nowadays a grown man would not be allowed to be alone inside during recess with a little girl, for example – they were endearing and refreshing contrasted against scenes of gunfire and torture.  Castle enjoys interacting with children and has a chance to fill that void in his life now that Alexis is grown.  We get to watch him get down and dirty on the playground, teach children about writing stories, and having fairy princess tea parties.  As it turned out, his investigation proved crucial in finding out the identity of the murderer.   Without him, Beckett was simply finding corpse after corpse and making little headway.

This episode felt safe.  It was lighthearted in the scenes with the children and with Alexis, but it maintained a sense of urgency and suspense common in gang thrillers.  It was fun to watch Castle happy in a school setting (as opposed to his dislike of high schools) and makes me wonder if the writers are considering expanding Castle and Beckett’s family.  Most of all, it continues a run of episodes that are comedic and childlike in their wonder – toys, invisibility, and now elementary school and ice cream.  Is Castle rediscovering the joy of being home and alive?

It seems so.

Meaning, of course, that we must be due for a serious and terrifying episode soon.

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Season 6, Episode 2 (No Rest for the Convicted)

Speaking of lost family members, Jake Doyle’s wayward daughter is found again. She is genuinely contrite about the fact that the Doyles couldn’t get insurance to cover her stealing their savings without pressing charges. Jake, for his part, refuses to charge her because he knows that jail would not help Sloan. Despite being devastated at her betrayal, he lets her run away after agreeing to take on her debt to a gangster. Whether or not Sloan will continue to be an important character or whether she disappears for the rest of the series remains to be seen. I would be happy if she did the latter for the sake of the story, but her character likely would end up in a terrible situation if she merely vanished. Character-wise, Sloan needs to find her own path until she (hopefully) realises the error of her ways.

As for Jake himself, a former client of his enlists his services in exchange for posting his bail. Unfortunately, said client is mentally unstable and causes havoc for the desperate Doyles, including setting their van on fire for the second time.

All in all, the mystery in this episode was a fun caper. However, there was just the right mix of despair within the comedy: Leslie is struggling with being back among the living and refuses psychiatric help – even going so far as to push away Jake; Sloan is in mortal peril; Jake finally confronts Sloan about how much she hurt him; and there is a general sense that being in dire financial straits has put a strain on all of the relationships within the Doyle family. The comedy has a darker edge to it than usual, and we are left with the uneasy sense that all of the characters are frustrated and sad as the screen fades to black.

Hopefully, they are only eight episodes away from a more satisfying ending.


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Week III – Getting Back To Normal – SEASON PREMIERE WEEK (#3)

16862_bannerREPUBLIC OF DOYLE – Season Premiere

Season 6, Episode 1 (Dirty Deeds)

Like the last book of a series, the last season of a television show is a chance to up the storytelling level.  There is no chance of cancellation, no chance of rejection, no need to fear for the future.  One has the freedom to do whatever one wants with the plot and characters to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.

The last season of Republic of Doyle has thus been able to depart slightly from its usual formula and tell a longer, interconnected story (albeit in a shorter span of time) to bring the show to an end.  The premiere episode broke the tradition of skipping significantly forward in time between seasons (except for between the first and second season) and picked up only three weeks after the finale.  Granted, that is still longer than immediately following – we skip the discovery of the missing money, Leslie’s immediate treatment in hospital, Jake’s bail hearing, and all of the characters of the ensemble cast catching up to each other.  Clearly, despite the drama involved, this is actually a good thing!  We don’t need to see any of that when a few lines of explanation delivered in context will bring us up to speed on what we’ve missed.  After all, we watch the show for the hijinks, not for screaming matches.

Within minutes, the story has moved on to Jake’s adventures in the jail, surrounded by inmates whom he caught, and trying to solve a new mystery while keeping the ongoing storyline moving along.  For being a season premiere, it was actually quite watchable as a standalone episode.  The loss of their savings means that the Doyles can’t afford Jake’s bail money, so they are scrounging around while comatose Leslie prevents them from finding further evidence to prove Jake’s innocence.  By the end of the episode, Jake is still in prison, the Doyles still have no money and a bad reputation, and Leslie has only just woken up.  Whether or not she even remembers what happened remains to be seen, although it appears that Jake gets out of prison by the end of next week’s episode (judging from the promo).

However, since this is the last season, there is less of a need to get back to the status quo.  This is a race to the finish with only nine more hours left to go.

I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!


once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME

Season 4, Episode 3 (Rocky Road)

Such a thing as the status quo is non-existent in this show.  The closest that we come is finally meeting this half-season’s main villain: the Snow Queen, who may or may not be Elsa’s aunt.  She believes (or leads us to think that she believes) that eventually, non-magical individuals will turn to hating magical individuals and call them monsters.  Her motivations in Storybrooke are less clear, but she chooses innocent Marian as her sacrificial lamb: by attacking her with a poisoned ice cream cone, she easily shifts the suspicion away from her and points it at either Elsa or Regina.  Since the ice magic isn’t really Regina’s style, suspicion around her is cleared.  Instead, she chooses to help save Marian rather than letting her die and making Robin available again.  This proves what Henry has always known about his adoptive mother (and what Snow White strongly believed about her): she is a very caring and loving person who easily gets hurt and who could be wonderfully heroic if she makes the choice to do so.  She wants to help Marian because the woman is a) suffering needlessly for something she didn’t do, and b) incredibly important to Robin and Roland.  She knows what it is like to lose a mother, after all, even if that was the best thing for her.  For her good deeds, unfortunately, all she gets back is the satisfaction of knowing that Robin has fallen in love with her but is going to remain faithful to his wife.  Were it not for Henry’s support in her newfound mission to change her fate (is her middle name Merida?), she might have melted into a puddle of wax.  For his part, it was incredibly trusting of Robin to admit to Regina that he no longer really loved Marian – did he have a smidgeon of hope that she would let Marian die and then make his decision for him?


In other news, Anna is still missing, Emma decides to let Hook into her life (even if it means he might die and she would be hurt), Hook successfully blackmails Rumplestiltskin, Jiminy Cricket schools Snow White on her being too attached to her son (in my opinion, she really should invest in a sling or backpack carrier if she insists on carrying him everywhere), Grumpy is still mad at Elsa for freezing his truck when he was about to run her over, and Elsa does not remember the Snow Queen.

Once-Upon-a-Time-Rocky-Road-RecapReview-650x433I guess in many ways, this episode is indeed back to the status quo.  We await next week’s new developments!

2013-4 Murdoch Mysteries Season7 castMURDOCH MYSTERIES

Season 8, Episode 2 (On the Waterfront – Part II)

With On the Waterfront – Part II, the mystery of the dockside murders is brought to a conclusion and we can indeed come back to the status quo, albeit a little shaken.  Brackenreid’s fate is sealed, as much as his replacement was likeable.  I do hope that they keep Det. Slorack on the back burner as a guest character in the future.  If he had indeed become the new inspector permanently, it would have changed the dynamic of the show but ultimately, I think audiences would have warmed up to him.  He is lighthearted whereas Brackenreid is tough and cynical.  For the purpose of the show, someone needs to be the darker character – so I am happy that Brackenreid will be back in office.

Murdoch_Mysteries_S08E02_2014-10-13Drs. Ogden and Grace avoid extensive jail largely through connections, including the first female lawyer in the British Empire, and Lesley Garland’s horrible plot against his former sister-in-law and Det. Murdoch comes back to haunt him.  The doctors and a few remaining suffragettes vow to continue on fighting for women’s rights, perhaps leading to an ongoing side-plot.  I would love to see a flashforward of them at the ballot box in 1917!  For us in the present, we know that women did indeed receive the right to vote only a few years later, but while they in 1901 sensed that women’s suffrage was achievable, they had no idea how soon it would be.  Furthermore, it was a hard-won fight and while the opinions of many men in that era seems laughable in 2014, in reality, it was not funny at all.  A woman voting and having political rights (let alone run for office) was as offensive to tradition and order as homosexuals being able to get married.  Science, religion, social order, government, tradition…all of these supported that women should not be able to vote.  That a woman currently is Premier of Ontario, working the very offices depicted in the protests in last week’s episode, and that a woman is currently one of the top three contenders for the office of Mayor of Toronto, is only because of a lot of campaigning along with a world war or two.  That campaigning was necessary to change the minds of society, women as well as men.



Season 7, Episode 3 (Clear and Present Danger)

Last week’s episode brought back Castle’s status quo, but this week was the first episode in which we felt truly at home.  Here was a murder with a quirky, possibly supernatural explanation, and plenty of time for Castle and Beckett to interact and flirt with each other.  Everyone seemed lighthearted and jolly.  It was a fun adventure that the viewers have come to expect after six years.

The long and the short of the plot is that a man is killed by a seemingly invisible force.  The killer is brought to justice thanks to Castle and Beckett getting their groove back (sorry, mind melds), thinking quickly alike to catch an otherwise un-catchable murderer.  We had pool hustling, demonic spiritualism, online gaming, science, and government conspiracies all rolled into one logical story.  It was colourful and enjoyable, if somewhat unbelievable.

Moreover, I really don’t want to believe that it is technologically possible to render a person completely invisible.  Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak should remain something of fantasy, or else it should remain a big, bulky, awkward blanket, not a suit or anything that would make it easy for a concealed person to move.  Imagine what criminals could get away with!  The fact that someone could be entirely invisible would indeed make them feel powerful and outside the law, no different than a firearm.  An invisible suit would be a weapon of a different kind.  One could alter data, rig elections, steal items (if they can make a suit, surely they can make an invisibility tote bag), and attack people both psychologically and physically.  Even the threat of being caught later would be little deterrence if the damage got done.

So despite being a hilarious episode, the underlying premise was terrifying.

Thank God for pots, pans, and fire extinguishers!


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Week II – Picking Up From Where We Left Off? – SEASON PREMIERE WEEK (#2)

2013-4 Murdoch Mysteries Season7 castMURDOCH MYSTERIES – Season Premiere

Season 8, Episode 1 (On the Waterfront)

There is something to be said for feigned normalcy, such as when one goes about one’s business at work while battling an illness or dealing with a significant life event…or in the case of a television show, starting off your premiere episode as though this is merely another installment of your police procedural.

The opening scenes of On the Waterfront are almost the same as they would be for any other episode of the series.  A seemingly random and unknown group of characters meet up and either one of two things happens: they discover a body or one of them is murdered.  In this case, it is the latter option as a nervous businessman is clobbered to death in front of a group of horrified hotel restaurant patrons, all of whom are untouched by the assailants.  The only difference is that we’re treated to a teaser scene first of a woman being quickly murdered – again, a random woman by a seemingly random thug in a random alley.  The two scenes do not appear connected, but any viewer of a police procedural can assume that a connection will be established at some point.

At the end of the previous season, Inspector Brackenreid was left in mortal peril.  Instead of going straight to the question of his survival or demise, we are presented with a new investigation and our other main protagonists going about their business…with a new police inspector.  Much to the viewers’ frustration, it is fifteen minutes into the hour before we find out whether Brackenreid survived the finale.  (Though the opening credits are a good clue, they can be misleading and occur right at the start of the program.) The rest of the episode proceeds with not only the murder investigations, but also an overarching plot about the police taking/maintaining control of the 1901 Toronto dockside and of Drs. Ogden and Grace joining the suffragette movement.  At the end of the episode, we discover that it is, in fact, On the Waterfront – Part I.  Any conclusions have to wait.  The premier episode thus feels like we are at once stepping back into a nice groove (this is the eighth season, after all) and also breaking into new dramatic territory.  It is a satisfying story that holds a lot of promise for future episodes.

BrLUxzXIIAAn7fNRather than go into spoiling the surprises (until next time, at least), I want to point out that I appreciate the storytelling device of keeping the audience waiting for resolution from the season finale cliffhanger.  Too often, writers fall into the pattern of picking up where they left off, wrecking the timelines of shows and also making it difficult to get audiences engaged beyond the first few minutes.  To use the example of the other shows that I track, Once Upon a Time has such a compressed timeline that even the “current” timeline is two years behind the real world, while Castle frequently has to figure out ways to get across summer jumps after resolving the cliffhangers, which basically puts the brakes on the story in the premiere.  Neither of these methods are bad – they work for their respective shows.  However, for those who are watching the premiere just to get resolution from the finale, there is little to keep them watching if the writing doesn’t throw a curveball at them.  (In the case of aforementioned shows, the plot does indeed offer viewers something else to chew on before resolving the cliffhangers, but not to the extent that this season of Murdoch Mysteries does.)

This episode could have started right away with the discovery of Brackenreid’s body and the immediate investigation into his attack.  They could have kept his health in critical condition for the entire hour as the rest of the cast worked to figure out who attacked him or prove their culpability.  Next week could have moved into the new season in earnest, or kept the investigation going.  But that is not the spirit of this show.  No matter what liberties Murdoch Mysteries takes, it is a detective show and strives to maintain lightheartedness amid the drama of the Edwardian era.  So true to form, we begin with new murders some months later, to match with the time that has passed since the finale, with the finale’s consequences still fresh in our characters’ memories, but faded enough into the past so as not to immediately disrupt routine.

But something is different about this episode – we are treated to a lot more character development and background.  After seven seasons, the show can explore not only its main cast, but also its supporting cast.  Some of the police officers, after all, have been around for seven years with little more than the occasional funny scene.  It is about time they got some more scenes.  Overall, this season is shaping up to be very exciting, thought-provoking, informative, and funny.

Murdoch Season 8

once-upon-a-time-season-4ONCE UPON A TIME

Season 4, Episode 2 (White Out)

Last week’s premiere was as much about tying up loose ends as it was about setting up new plots.  This week’s episode, however, kicked off the new season’s plot in earnest.  Our main characters made contact with the new Frozen characters, Elsa’s motivation was revealed, and we caught a glimpse of the new season’s actual villain.  (Unsurprisingly, it is not Elsa.)

white-out-once-upon-a-timeAs far as how well-crafted this episode was, it stuck to one main plot with a small side plot involving Anna and David in the past.  It was the type of episode that actually could be watched on its own.  While Emma and Elsa got a chance to have centre-stage, they shared it with David – who in my opinion often gets overlooked on this show.  He is more than Prince Charming and it is always refreshing to see him without Snow White.  As the generic “good man”, it is easy to perceive David/Prince Charming as having few layers, especially compared to Rumpelstiltskin and Captain Hook (or even Robin Hood).  However, this episode shows him as a vulnerable young shepherd, trying to provide for his mother and survive to live another day.  We learn that his father was an alcoholic who tried his hardest to quit, but eventually succumbed to his addiction and left young David to be man of the house at six years old.  This, combined with the loss of his twin (although he was not conscious of this, but it has been proven that twins form bonds from before birth and that the loss of a twin, even at birth, can cause trauma in the survivor), could have set David on the path of villainy or of cowardice, but a chance encounter with Anna cemented his belief that he could be heroic and fight back against the hard-knocks in life.  Unfortunately, this episode did not go into much detail of just how far David could have gone the way of Hook or Rumpelstiltskin were it not for this encounter and it was left up to the viewer to discern this.  Thankfully, I found that this plot on its own was enjoyable.  David as an individual is just as exciting as Snow White as an individual, and while they are held up as the ideal married couple, it is refreshing to see them on their own.

Once-Upon-a-Time-4x02-White-Out-David-and-Anna-as-JoanSpeaking of on her own, Snow White had a very small part in this episode, but it was hilarious.  As a new mother, all she wants to do is sleep, but a power outage causes the townspeople to look to her for direction.  Since Regina has holed herself up in her house and absconded from the office of Mayor, they turn to Snow – whose kingdom they fought for and so who they rightly believe is their queen and leader.  Baby in tow, she finds herself trying to figure out the power plant as Grumpy, Granny, and several other dwarves badger her.  Finally, she screams at them that they are overwhelming her – which is cathartic to watch because we all have been in similar situations – and once they have left, she promptly figures out the problem.  It certainly doesn’t take a new baby to know that feeling.  Snow even tells them that she could sympathize with Regina turning evil because the people’s constant demands were so annoying.  The best line: “You have lived your entire lives without lightbulbs!  Go buy a flashlight!”  She certainly didn’t need her Prince Charming to defend her.

As for the actual main plot, which is Elsa freezing out the town in attempt to find her sister, it is a straight-forward story about Emma, David, and Hook discovering that Elsa really just wants to find her family and has little control over her powers.  Emma inadvertently gets stuck in an avalanche, but David and Elsa manage to save her.  By the end of the episode, Elsa, for the time being, has joined the Charming family on a quest to find Anna.  I enjoyed this story very much, but it was not very memorable.  It was merely a suspenseful way to open up this season’s plot.

Meanwhile, Henry refuses to be rejected by Regina and is rewarded for his efforts by her welcoming him home.  I presume that her rejection of him was more of a knee-jerk reaction on her part and likely stemmed from her not wanting to see anyone at all.  Even her mirror was not really all that helpful, seeing as he only reminded her of her evil past.  Regina probably thought that Henry would be happier with Emma and the Charmings while she herself wallowed in misery.  Not entirely a selfish move, but not entirely a nice one, either.  We don’t actually get to read what her note to him said, but I assume that she meant well.


Season 7, Episode 2 (Montreal)

In considering how much mystery to give their viewers before really resolving last year’s finale, the writers of Castle decided to keep it going over multiple episodes.  Rather than be two parts, Montreal merely offers more clues and more questions.  It is a more traditional episode in that Castle and Beckett are back to solving a murder case completely unrelated to Castle’s disappearance.  It is comical, albeit comical in a manner more fraught with tension than usual. Castle is still not back to his old self and Beckett is still finding it hard to trust him.  In some ways, their relationship appears to have regressed a few years – their behaviour seems more like it was in the second or third season.  However, Castle seems more desperate and aloof than funny, and Beckett seems more frustrated than amusingly annoyed.  As Castle discovers more clues as to his disappearance, his demeanour improves – and consequently, so does Beckett’s.  Perhaps the writers intend to slowly bring their relationship back to where it was last year over the course of the next few episodes?  It is still highly uncomfortable to watch, but quite believable.  The portrayal of both Castle and Beckett dealing with the trauma of his disappearance with realistic, albeit usually couples are dealing with illness or job loss, not abduction.  Beckett has lost her Castle, and Castle has lost himself.

That said, I am still enjoying this turn that the writers decided to take this couple on.  They could have had them get married and then started off the season with them as a married couple investigating crimes (or have Castle disappear after their nuptials rather than before), but they chose to make a great change in their relationship dynamic instead.  They did not choose the marriage route, which (let’s face it) in TV land means that they would next be on the baby route.  They instead chose to portray something that happens in many relationships, albeit not usually in such a dramatic way: that of a profound shift or loss in identity that results in a loss of built-up trust.  Castle was abducted and lost his memory; usually, outside of television, a spouse falls ill, develops an addiction, loses their job, or suffers a great family tragedy.  While the afflicted spouse looks for meaning for what happened to them (much as Castle is trying to solve his abduction case) and to their spouse for solace, the other spouse feels robbed of the spouse that they had and lose their confidence in the afflicted spouse, even when the affliction (illness, job loss, death of family member) is not the afflicted spouse’s fault.  After all, while Castle can’t help what happened to him, a small part of Beckett still wants to be angry with him, which is all the more frustrating for her because he does not deserve it.  In this case, neither of them do.

That said, more cases together will definitely help repair their relationship.  I only hope that they involve more toy pianos!


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