season6titleONCE UPON A TIME
Season 6, Episodes 9 & 10 (The Changelings)(Wish You Were Here)

6-9Well, talk about losing the parent lottery! After five years, we finally meet Rumplestiltskin’s mother. Since we still don’t know what happened between her and Malcolm (later Peter Pan), I am actually feeling tentatively sorry for Rumplestiltskin’s father. Despite being a sociopathic coward who didn’t want the responsibility of being a parent, he did at least try to look after his son. I hope the writers reveal this backstory in the second act. Either way, Rumplestiltskin was abandoned twice and both of his parents were selfish enough to pursue evil magic. It is surprising how well he turned out, everything considered.

There are two ways to end an act – everything on a happy note and seeming to go well (just waiting for something bad to happen in the next scene), or everything on a note of anxiety. This year, Once Upon A Time chose the latter. Everything seems hopeless and we as the viewers are wondering how they are going to put the pieces back together.

The Changelings is primarily devoted to Rumplestiltskin and Belle; the latter trying her hardest to protect her son from the former. The Evil Queen also breaks her ties with Rumplestiltskin, since she couldn’t bring herself to kill Zelena, and she ends up further driving a wedge between him and Belle. While I am no fan of Rumplestiltskin, I was quite satisfied to watch him vow revenge on the Queen. Seriously, do not mess with the Dark One on matters of family!

Belle gives up her son to protect him, despite not wanting to do so, and Emma has to relive giving up Henry (although this is only implied) as she stays with Belle in hospital. In both cases, they had to surrender control of their babies to ostensibly give them a better chance in life. They were both estranged from their children’s fathers, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t love the children. They were just in no place to raise them.

Unfortunately, all of Belle’s good intentions go awry in Wish You Were Here, when her son is kidnapped and taken to another realm entirely. One the one hand, at least he was kidnapped by his grandmother; on the other hand, his grandmother is darker than the Dark One. So Rumplestiltskin and Belle, while not reconciled, are now willing to work together to save him.

In the rest of the story, the end of the episode leaves the following situation: Regina and Emma trapped in an alternate dimension, where Regina may have a second chance with Robin Hood but also has a price on her head and a vengeful Alternate-Henry out to kill her; Snow and Charming still only able to be awake one at a time; Hook and Henry left to try to deal with the new threat to Storybrooke (assisted by whichever of the Charmings is awake); Zelena trusting no one; the Evil Queen turned into a cobra; and Jasmine and Aladdin (who has turned himself into a genie) disappeared to find and save their kingdom. Yay, curtain time!

The alternate dimension, created as response to the Evil Queen’s wish that Emma’s desire not to be a Saviour be granted, is quite fascinating. In it, Snow and Charming defeated the Evil Queen, who never cast the Dark Curse, and Emma was raised as a typical princess in the Enchanted Forest. Somehow, she still met Baelfire (who died honourably in battle) and had Henry, who is a young prince on the verge of knighthood. This Alternate-Henry has no connection to Regina and no qualms about attempting to kill her when she inadvertently kills the Alternate-Charmings.

What this does show is that Emma is not really Emma without being a Saviour. Regina discovers her nearly a completely different person – demure, meek, pampered, and living vicariously through her parents and her son. She does not actually seem to be happy, either. So much of our personalities and identities are shaped by our upbringing and life experiences. Emma needs to be finding and helping people. She needs to be doing something.

And now, she needs to do it in a pink fluffy dress!


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Loving the Comedy

murdochseason10titleMURDOCH MYSTERIES
Season 10, Episodes 7 & 8 (Painted Ladies)(Weekend at Murdoch’s)

10-7Refreshing for a police procedural, Murdoch Mysteries is currently on a comedy streak. It isn’t that they are making light of death (although some gallows humour naturally sneaks in), but that the show simply accepts the premise that they need to have at least one dead person per week in order to exist, so they play around with how to keep that interesting.

Painted Ladies is in of itself a dramatic episode, but it still fits the old-style comedy criteria with a happy ending and an overall light tone. Despite there being a serial killer around, our lead characters keep their wits about them and there is never any sense of panic. (This is likely due to the very specific nature of the murders – none of the police initially fit the profile of the victims.) Dr. Ogden determines that the killer used a poisoned lipstick, leading to several hilarious scenes where Murdoch and Ogden visit ladies’ shops. Murdoch is entirely out of his element and is rather surprised to find out that his wife does go giggly over jewellery and even wears makeup upon occasion. In 1904, makeup was still primarily worn by actresses, dancers, and ladies of the night. Lipstick (or “lip rouge”, as it was then called) was a seductive thing to wear. The straight-laced Murdoch is downright jumpy in these scenes – likely not wanting to mix his personal life with his murder investigation. Either way, it makes for a good mood. The actors have great comic timing.

The other main plot of this episode is Crabtree coming to terms with the possibility that his girlfriend, Nina, is involved in the crimes. Nina is a burlesque dancer with plenty of admirers, but she clearly loves Crabtree differently. Even today, such a relationship would have trust issues on Crabtree’s part. How serious is Nina about him? Well, by the end of the story, she throws out the calling cards and flirtation cards that she has received. The episode is written in such a way that the viewers are not sure which way the relationship will go. Either they would break it off, or they would confront the fact that Nina makes her living entertaining men. The viewers are left with a sweet reunion scene, but still uncertainty over whether or not things will work out. I do feel bad for them both and feel that the writers are not done with the drama of their relationship.

The actual murder plot does bear mention – it turns out to be revenge-motivated due to the bullying the murderer received as a child and teenager. It is revenge served very cold in this case. Does the murderer really get any satisfaction from it? It does appear so. Furthermore, the murderer is still feeling misunderstood and righteous once they are caught. They have so absorbed the victim mentality that they do not even care about being hanged. This is a serious consequence of repeated bullying and persecution. Even if the victim does not end up flipping out and killing their tormentors, they absorb this “us vs. them” mentality. The murderer in this case felt entirely justified.

By contrast, Weekend at Murdoch’s is an entirely comedic episode – so much so that they are able to bend the rules of police conduct in order to tell their story. It is a tribute to Weekend at Bernie’s, which I admit to having not seen, but heard much about. In order to solve their case, they need to maintain the fiction that their star witness is still alive. This involves having to parade his corpse through down with a chair that turns him into a puppet, hosting a lecture on his behalf, and spreading false news to reporters. Does it work? Well, that depends…

I do wonder what is going on with Crabtree and the reporter – they have some interesting chemistry going on. She seems to be flirting with him as much as she is interviewing him. Are the writers trying to cause more conflict in Crabtree’s life? Or is the reporter just flirtatious by nature and using it as an advantage in getting her information? Time will tell.

Also, Higgins should, in all normal situations, be suspended or even dismissed from the constabulary for his bungling of the case. Toronto is not a small town in the middle of nowhere, in which case I could understand not disciplining him because there would be so few police officers on hand. I suppose he was disciplined offscreen. Higgins is such a likeable character (even if he is annoying) that it would have hurt the comedy to see him get raked over the coals by his superiors. In the end, the case was solved. It just came unfortunately at the cost of an innocent man’s life.

But it certainly got some good laughs! We can all hope to be so useful after death.


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No-Holds Barred Villainy

season6titleONCE UPON A TIME
Season 6, Episodes 7 & 8 (Heartless)(I’ll Be Your Mirror)

ONCE UPON A TIME - “Heartless” - In a flashback to the Enchanted Forest, Bandit Snow dodges a bounty hunter known as the Woodcutter while shepherd David goes on a fateful journey to sell his family’s farm. In Storybrooke, the Evil Queen threatens to destroy the town and everyone in it unless Snow and David surrender their hearts. As Emma, Hook and Henry prepare to defend Storybrooke, Snow, David and Regina search for a magical sapling created by the first spark of true love. Regina uses Gold’s and the Evil Queen’s burgeoning romance against them, and Zelena offers Belle some friendly advice, on “Once Upon a Time,” SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand) LANA PARRILLA, JOSH DALLAS, GINNIFER GOODWINThere is definitely something fun about watching villains relish their success (at least when it is in fiction). Perhaps it is because we know that either a) they will get their comeuppance eventually or b) they will only be able to enjoy their win for a short time because things will get worse for them, even if they don’t fully get a comeuppance. Perhaps even a bit of both!

Both Rumplestiltskin and the Evil Queen are in full villain mode in these episodes, albeit in different ways. Rumplestiltskin is still trying to bide his time to get Belle back and uses soft threats against her son to try to get her to cooperate. Since the character of Rumplestiltskin is well-known for stealing babies, he is eschewing any attempt to be good in order to simply get what he wants. He is a master manipulator and simply assumes that he will be able to manipulate his new son as well.

The Evil Queen, meanwhile, is providing him with a ready-made wench to manipulate, namely herself. She sees herself as having outgrown her need for a teacher and thinks that he will leave her alone, which he does initially but changes his mind toward the end of these two episodes. While the Queen is living out her long-time fantasy in an affair with Rumplestiltskin (which revolts her heroic counterpart), Rumplestiltskin is simply using her for fun. We will see how much they actually care about each other.

The short synopsis of Heartless is that the Queen wins the battle and seemingly the war. Snow White and Prince Charming surrender to her, convinced over the course of the episode that they have had a good run of true love. (Who is going to look after their infant son gets left unaddressed – were they thinking Emma would take him?) Instead of outright killing them, the Queen puts them under a mutual Sleeping Curse, so that only one of them can be awake at the same time. Emma and Regina, the latter especially, get to simply watch. Regina tries her best to help, but one can tell she is starting to get discouraged against herself.

I’ll Be Your Mirror is a much more positive story, despite the Charmings still being cursed with no end in sight currently. With them mostly out of the picture, Emma and Regina take on the Evil Queen – but the Queen figures out their trick and turns the tables on them. Trapping them in a world of mirrors, the Queen then tries to take on Regina’s persona and get her hands on Henry.

This is where the hopelessness and despair set in. Regina is convinced that she will be trapped forever. Just as she underestimates her evil counterpart’s intuition and skills, she underestimates herself. The Charmings are starting to lose their positivity about their situation, and in their despair, they fail to notice anything unusual about “Regina”. The only one who is suspicious is Hook and he is quickly knocked out by the Evil Queen.

But thankfully, Henry is a very perceptive teenager. While he initially believes the Evil Queen, she cockily admonishes him about his posture and he quickly realises who she really is. He may be very nervous about the school dance and worried that Violet doesn’t like him anymore, but his first loyalty is to his family. Yes, this is not typical teenage behaviour, but I think this series has well-established that Henry is not a typical teenager, and there are indeed many young people who buck the trend and pay more attention to their families than their friends. The Evil Queen fails to realise this.

In the end, Henry not only saves his mothers, but he refuses to follow the Queen’s orders and kill anyone to do so. He stands up for his beliefs and his family, and reminds the Queen that she has none of that. (Which only leads to her deciding that she wants her own…hmm…what does she want from Rumplestiltskin?) While the Charmings are still cursed, Henry has his mothers again and he has a lovely date with Violet. Violet isn’t a typical teenager either, after all. Emma and Regina get to be proud and grateful mothers.

Hope is restored, for now.


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Branching Off From the Formula

murdochseason10titleMURDOCH MYSTERIES
Season 10, Episodes 4, 5 & 6 (Concocting a Killer)(Jagged Little Pill)(Bend It Like Brackenreid)

10-4After many years, it can be easy for a procedural show to fall into a rut. The genre is prone to formulaic episodes. It is quite common in these shows to try to combat this by either creating long dramatic arcs or by having the crimes be more and more outrageous and sensational. In doing so, the overall quality of the stories suffer.

For the past three weeks, Murdoch Mysteries decided to branch off slightly from the predictable formula, but keep the core of the series intact. Various characters were each given their moment to shine while Murdoch eventually solved the crime as usual. This has the effect of keeping the stories feeling fresh and interesting, although it does mean that some characters are missed once in awhile.

Concocting a Killer took the idea that since science was advancing quickly in the 1890s and 1900s, crimes that Murdoch and Ogden could solve in 1904 could not have been solved in 1892, or shortly before the series began. Thus a convicted murderer was freed on the grounds of insufficient evidence, and Murdoch is determined to prove that he had been right despite the evidence.

A new detective is brought into the mix to take on the case with fresh eyes. This detective is young and philosophical, but fairly good at his job. Crabtree remarks that he reminds him of a younger Murdoch. Crabtree, having not been hired yet in 1892, gets to help the new detective solve the case, but keeps getting tripped up by a young reporter who sensationalizes the story. Meanwhile, a murder takes place in the present that Murdoch soon realises is connected to the past case, and eventually both detectives (and the rest of the cast) end up solving the cases together. It was a different style of episode, but one that was enjoyable. It raised all sorts of questions and was hilarious as well.

10-5Jagged Little Pill put the focus on Rebecca James, who is working at the morgue and studying at the Women’s Medical College. Because of this, she does a lot of her work at night, and when she shows up at the station, while Murdoch is there (since he often works late into the night), Brackenreid and Crabtree have gone home. In fairness, I only really started to miss the latter two characters about three-quarters of the way through the episode. It was an exciting story.

A young woman who studied at the college arrives in the morgue as an apparent suicide, but Miss James is not convinced. She decides to investigate the death herself, leading her to question instructors, classmates, and acquaintances of the deceased. While it is clear that many of them find her annoying, they do give her answers, which shows that she personally commands respect despite her skin colour. She is also able to use this to her advantage by pretending to be a cleaning woman. She solves the case, assisted by Murdoch and Ogden, and exposes one of the instructors as someone who really cannot handle women as doctors. That does raise the question – if you can’t handle a woman as a doctor, why take a job teaching at a Women’s Medical College?

We also get a chance to see more of Miss James’s personal life. She is still dating the young man from Colour Blinded, and it seems to be getting serious, as one would expect in 1904. But he does not fully understand her fascination with working in the morgue or studying medicine. Understandably, he worries for her safety in solving crimes. While he seems like a wonderful man and I would like to see them have a happy relationship, I do wonder if she will have to break it off with him if he wants to her settle down and give up everything to just be a housewife. Time will tell, I guess.

10-6Finally, Bend It Like Brackenreid gives us a chance to see Inspector Brackenreid as a sports fan and athlete, and also for us to see his son, who has appeared periodically and certainly grown a lot taller since the earlier seasons. The episode takes place shortly before the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, and two teams are playing each other in the lead-up to the Games. The winning team moves on to represent Canada. Murdoch is still the detective solving the murder of the week, which happens to be a star soccer player, but just as much time is devoted to the soccer itself and to the relationship between Brackenreid and his son, John. John has spent his life trying to negotiate being in his father’s shadow, alternating between wanting to be just like him and wanting to be nothing like him. Brackenreid simply expects that his son will be a miniature version of him, but slowly has come to realise that while his son may not be exactly like him, he still has the important qualities that Brackenreid wanted to instill in him. In the end, the Brackenreid of the title is not the Inspector, but John. Both end up on their way to St. Louis, leaving Murdoch in charge temporarily. (Murdoch is seemingly jealous that he cannot go to the World’s Fair, which also took place in St. Louis at the same time.)

While still keeping this a lighthearted episode focused on the Brackenreids, the case of the week did delve into the topic of sexual assault on college campuses. It was dealt with briefly, and little focus was actually placed on the incident except as a good motive for murder. It seemed that our main characters were more sympathetic to the murderer than the victim because of this. They are police officers and have to enforce the law, but they are quite aware of the difference between moral and legal. In the end, the murderer felt justified, young Brackenreid proved himself a good soccer player, and it was an overall festive atmosphere as the team left for the train.

It remains to be seen how the writers tweak the formula next week!

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Meditations by a Grave

copyright 2016

I stand beside your grave today,
Only a wooden cross to mark it,
Amid many more, small and large,
In the woods away from all we know.

I fought for you, but I bury you instead.

I stand here in a foreign land,
And yet one not unlike our home,
With trees and rivers and birds,Reminding me of what I fought for.

I fought for King and Country, but for my family and my home.

I stand where I will keep fighting,
Only battles of a different kind,Memories of distant battles,
And of those still too near.

I fought for the Crown, but for our rights.

I stand here believing still,
Though others taunted me,
Told me that I deserved to die,My family too, my land gone.

I fought for you, but I bury you instead.

I stand here amid my men,
Men that I led in battle,
Men that have died for following me,
And who still await my orders.

I fought for them, but with them.

I stand here beside your grave today,
Your future gone,
Myself somewhat to blame,Amid the desolation.

I fought for you, but I bury you instead.

I stand here with my head bowed,
But then I raise it high,
Shoulders back, I call attention,
And we salute you as we march away.

I fought for you, and I will fight again.


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Delving Deeper Into Old Favourites

season6titleONCE UPON A TIME
Season 6, Episodes 5 & 6 (Street Rats)(Dark Waters)

6-5bDisney’s Aladdin came out when I was seven years old, so after Beauty and the Beast, it was the first of the Disney animated canon that I watched repeatedly and actually understood the story the first time around.

While never my favourite, I nonetheless really enjoyed the story (and the songs) and it reminds me of being seven, so I have a strong affection for it.

Thus I was concerned with how the writers of Once Upon A Time would address the story of Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Jafar, etc. I trusted that they would do a good job, considering that they have a great track record at weaving the various tales together, but I was nervous about whether or not I would like it.

I was not disappointed – Aladdin and Jasmine are just as I pictured them if the animated characters had come to life! In the flashback scenes, they are wearing beautiful versions of their classic Disney film costumes, although Jasmine’s is more tasteful and realistic, while Aladdin’s is appropriately rough-looking. Aladdin is a charming, rogue thief who needs to be persuaded to accept his destiny. Like Emma, he has a tough exterior.

In fact, Aladdin is a lot like Emma, down to wearing a leather jacket and having a penchant for stealing cars, as well as being Saviours. As it turns out, to avoid the tragic fate prophesied to befall Emma, Aladdin forswore his Saviour powers. In Aladdin, Emma has a chance to see what she does not want, and she is determined to both help Aladdin and Jasmine and figure out a third option to her fate.

Albeit due to the Evil Queen’s meddling, the Charming clan finally find out what is troubling Emma. Naturally, they are as determined as she is to figure out how to save her. Hook is not entirely convinced that what Aladdin did was a bad idea – after all, he is still alive. The episode Street Rats serves as an important chapter in that it introduces our new characters and storyline as well as finally puts all of our heroes on the same page.

6-5The story continues in Dark Waters, wherein Hook and Henry take centre stage. I enjoyed the integration of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the theme of forgiveness vs. vengeance. Was it a tad heavy-hitting? Yes, but it is the type of message that needs to get out.

Most importantly, the Evil Queen is trying to drive a wedge in to our family of central heroes. Instead of going after Emma directly this time, she plants discord between Henry and Hook. This is an already fragile dynamic, since Henry does not want a new father and is a moody teenager besides. As his mother, the Evil Queen knows how to push him to be distrustful. (In this case, rightly so.) What this leads to is ultimately reconciliation between Henry and Hook, but also between Hook and his half-brother as well as between Hook and Emma. Thus, the Queen is no closer to her goal except that she has roped Rumplestiltskin into helping her…sort of.

I was most impressed by how natural the steampunk submarine fit into the series. Despite being somewhat more scientific, Captain Nemo and the Nautilus felt right out of the fairy-tale books. It is a different era to pirates, but it is still far from being realistic.

The strength of this show is that the writers, directors, costume designers, set designers, etc. all manage to create a world where everything flows together despite being a mash of cultures, eras, architecture, and story types. The various worlds fit together neatly, moreso now than they did in earlier seasons. The characters are believable and work well with each other.

Yes, it is contrived, but it is meant to be. It is an epic tale of adventure, mystery, romance, and magic.


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A Fitting Tribute

murdochseason10titleMURDOCH MYSTERIES
Season 10, Episodes 2 & 3 (Great Balls of Fire Pt. 2)(A Study in Pink)


The second half of Great Balls of Fire pays tribute to the Great Fire of Toronto of 1904 – an important event that often gets overlooked, since it was fairly local and – like most tragedies of the era – would pale in comparison to the First World War. Nonetheless, the fire levelled much of the city of Toronto at the time, destroying many people’s livelihoods.

Rather than trying to recreate the fire entirely, the producers chose to film short segments interspersed with archived footage of the event, blending them together in black and white to create a connection between them. It was slightly jarring, but well-edited. This is not a show about fancy effects and pyrotechnics, after all. Instead, we were reminded that this was a real event, and while our characters are fictional, their historical counterparts would have done what they are shown doing: filling buckets, evacuating citizens, and trying to douse the flames. We forget that there is a murder mystery going on, because in the moment, it doesn’t matter.

Also, Dr. Ogden gets an existential moment as she confronts the ghost of Eva Pearce in the flames. Killing her was understandable and in self-defense, but Dr. Ogden is conflicted about it nonetheless. First of all, it goes against her medical training. Secondly, she is a kind and empathetic person who always sees the best in people. Thirdly, she killed her at close range and looked at her in the eyes as she died. Feeling that rush of power must have been exhilarating, terrifying, and exhausting all at once.

But luckily, Dr. Ogden is saved by Murdoch and then modern medicine (well, “modern” for the time). She gets the chance to discuss her visions with her husband, albeit reluctantly, and by the end of the episode, she is reassured that she did the right thing and that she can move on with her life. They are excitedly planning their own house again.

The rest of the episode merely continues the mystery from the premiere and resolves it nicely. As a viewer, it was fun to play along and try to figure out who did it and how. Was it contrived? Yes, but it is a murder mystery, after all. It was fun to watch the detectives try to figure out who was involved and all the while being treated like uppity tradesmen.


The status quo was restored for A Study in Pink. From the way Dr. Ogden referred to Ms. Freddie Pink, it seems that she has become a family friend, and it was refreshing to have her back. This time, however, she was on the wrong side of the table, being set up for murder and having to match wits with Murdoch in order to solve the crime. The two of them make a good team for figuring out clues, but they are two stubborn and cerebral to work together well on an ongoing basis. What I did find annoying is that Murdoch kept giving her information about their investigation even as he was ordered not to. Was he that naïve to think that his friend could be trusted? Why did he ignore his superiors? It almost seemed as though he didn’t even realise that he was doing so.

I like recurring characters and Freddie Pink is enjoyable, but I hope that if she returns again, she is not in the position of being a suspect. She is best when she is working with Detective Murdoch. I would like to see how she works with him and Dr. Ogden together – we have seen her interact with each of the separately so far, but always in dramatic and suspicious circumstances. Could we see them have dinner together? Laughing and joking?

Overall, I enjoyed these stories. They were dramatic and entertaining, as well as presented in such a way that I could try to solve the mystery myself. We even got to see some of Murdoch’s crazy inventions again – I am glad that Inspector Brackenreid hardly questions him anymore.

After all, if they catch the murderer, does it matter that there are constables gallivanting through the streets of Toronto with big buzzy electric machines?

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