WEEK 4 – The Plot Thickens While We Have Some Fun

ONCE UPON A TIME

Season 2, Episode 3 (Lady of the Lake)

Arthurian legend joins the tapestry of Once Upon a Time, and it is interwoven seamlessly.  I was impressed that they kept the religious element of the Arthurian saga intact.  This is not a God-less world, and anyone who says fairy tales can’t mix with religion is missing the forest for the trees.  Our folklore – indeed, all folklore – arose in a society of religious believers.  Many were the equivalents of Christmas-and-Easter-Christians, but they were believers nonetheless.  There is no reason to believe that God does not exist in fiction unless He is explicitly said not to.  Many of our folkloric heroes are allegories for the devout life, or its opposite.  Furthermore, depending on the ethnic origin of a story, God can be explicitly mentioned.  Perhaps the hero carries a blessed object that protects them from evil.  Perhaps they must make the sign of the cross, or douse the antagonist with holy water.  One can say that these are carry-overs from paganism, but that makes little difference.

Once Upon a Time takes the characters from fairy tales, folklore, mythology, classical literature, and now Arthurian legend, and expands on their stories.  Those heroes (allegories or otherwise) are being increasingly fleshed out and played with.  In doing so, the writers are delving further into the themes of the stories than possible in a short narrative like a picture-book, or even in a full-length feature film.  The entire first season of the show plays out the like a novel.

This episode was primarily about Snow White and Emma bonding as mother and daughter, along with the parallel parental relationship stories involving Prince Charming and Henry and that of the Mad Hatter and his daughter.  Snow White never got a chance to be a mother to her daughter, but this is the episode where Emma realises how much her mother was looking forward to it.  For the girl who grew up in a series of foster homes, here was her first glimpse of the life that was actually stolen from her: a palace, a nursery full of toys, and a loving mother who would risk her life for hers.  Furthermore, Snow White would have missed out on mother-daughter moments growing up and was undoubtedly hoping to be able to have them with Emma.  All of this because Cora was an abusive mother…

Speaking of which, Cora is back, and she has a particular interest in Henry.  (If at first you don’t succeed…)  I am hoping for a showdown between her and her daughter at some point.  In what is probably one of the most scary magical innovations shown so far, Cora has the ability to shapeshift into other people.  From now on, I’m not trusting any new character not to be her in disguise.

Also, we see Snow White and Prince Charming’s actual wedding, which was a small one compared to the lavish ceremony in the premiere.  Clearly, they had their marriage blessed/renewed their vows in a public celebration that coincided with their victory.  The wedding in this episode was arguably a lot more meaningful.  It was a beautiful scene.

CASTLE

Season 5, Episode 4 (Murder, He Wrote)

This was Castle’s version of the “cozy mystery” genre, wherein our lead characters sneak off to a country mansion for a romantic weekend and end up in the middle of a murder mystery in a small town.  Of course, unlike in actual cozy mysteries, the investigation ties in with New York and the only guests at said mansion are Castle and Beckett themselves.  Come to think of it, Castle owns the mansion, so he is not even a guest.  The variation on the theme is clearly present, however.

Due to the format of a television episode with only 45 minutes to get everything told, much of the story seemed rushed.  The format of a cozy mystery best fits a short novel.  The writers managed to fit in a half-dozen quirky characters (that seemed a little too small-town naive for being so close to a metropolitan area) and also a side mystery for our other detectives – namely, Ryan and Esposito try to discover the identity of Beckett’s new boyfriend.  Naturally, this included some amusing phone calls between them and Castle while Beckett made mute gestures at the speaker-phone.  While Ryan and Esposito were being brotherly in both the caring and bratty sense, I couldn’t help but think that this was really not a good way for them to spend their weekend.  This type of investigation is something you do when you are bored on a Wednesday.

However, the resolution to this episode, with all of the little comical dilemmas that occur, is still well-executed and satisfying for the viewer.  When Ryan solves his portion of the mystery in a bizarre interrogation scene, he neglects to share all of his discovery with his partner.  This subplot is beginning to turn into a dramatic sitcom and I do wonder where the writers are going with it.

Unfortunately, it will be two weeks before another new episode.  In the promotion, Castle is in trouble with the law – again.  This episode appears to be heavy on the dramatic, although trailers can be quite misleading.  Hopefully the mystery still resolves neatly.

MURDOCH MYSTERIES

Season 5, Episode 5/3 (Evil Eye of Egypt)

Welcome to 1899, when political correctness did not protect non-Western cultures, archaeology was seen as a romantic and exciting field of study, and people were fascinated by the supernatural and the spiritual so long as it made for a good show.

Actually, that really has not changed much.  There is still a lot of controversy over the rights to antiquities, mummies, tombs, sacred sites, and artefacts.  We don’t have “unwrapping parties” anymore, but we don’t want to leave the dead in peace either.  We also tend to value such things as mummies as objects rather than former humans.  They may be museum showpieces, nationalist propaganda, curiosity items, or Hallowe’en monsters, but people?  Even the ones with names and biographies, such as King Tutankhamun, have been turned into macabre spectacles.  The lesser-known mummies are sometimes chopped to pieces for scientific research, which is hardly better than being chopped to pieces and ground into powders for quack medicinal remedies.

Archaeology is still seen as a romantic and exciting field of study, but our focus has shifted to their cousins, forensic scientists.  This is probably because the latter are a) more gruesome; b) more relatable to our everyday world; and c) actually able to help the police solve crimes and bring criminals to justice.  (If anyone did murder King Tut, that murderer is long dead.)  Still, archaeology allows us to travel to exotic locations and makes for a good show once in awhile.

Of course, we are still fascinated by the supernatural, so long as it makes for a good show or a deep controversy.  At least once a year, a news story featuring Biblical archaeology appears.  Whole documentaries founded on ridiculous premises will arise to appease our need for entertainment.  Meanwhile, blockbuster films still proudly feature cursed mummies, ancient tombs, death-traps, evil spirits, demonic artefacts, and all of that together.

This episode was originally the third episode in the lineup before being reshuffled to the fifth.  I don’t mind watching episodes out of order, but the storytelling is always a little bit off when this happens.  At the end of the second episode, Det. Murdoch’s lost love Dr. Ogden leaves the police station to open a private practice, leaving Dr. Grace to take over her role entirely.  There is a lot of tension between Murdoch and Dr. Grace in this episode, since Murdoch resents the fact that she is not Dr. Ogden.  It seems misplaced here, since they were interacting quite well in the previous two episodes.

Finally, it was nice to see Constable Crabtree get some respect for his crazy ideas by writing a bestselling adventure novel.  It made for some light comedy and character development, two of my favourite things.  Despite my heavy-handedness, this was a fun, lighthearted episode – especially when next week, a terrorist plot is suspected.

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