ONCE UPON A TIME
Season 2, Episode 4 (The Crocodile)
I confess: I was a giddy schoolgirl over Once Upon a Time’s depiction of Captain Hook. He is handsome, witty, nasty, and Irish. (Contrary to pattern on the show, he survives the episode – unlike others with British/Irish accents, save Rumplestiltskin.) He is not buffoonish. In fact, something about how he is portrayed makes me wonder if the writers are going to blend his character with that of Peter Pan.
I was not a fan of Peter Pan, either the Disney version or the J.M. Barrie book. I enjoyed the former film as a child – the flying, the music, etc. Rewatching it recently reminded me of how racist it is now (horribly glaring – you can’t get away from it and just enjoy the story) and how sad Neverland is. I read once that the Lost Boys were inspired by all of the children who died young in Barrie’s late nineteenth-century London. Even if that is not true, the Disney film makes it easy to see Neverland as a sort of Purgatory: the Lost Boys as children who never grew up (the mermaids are the girl versions), the Indians as the 95% who died after 1492, and the pirates as the unfortunate criminals who were trapped endlessly in a circle of never-ending crime. Yes, I am overthinking a film aimed at children – but it is impossible for me to “underthink” it back to a fun adventure story.
So I was relieved to see a new interpretation of Captain Hook. I love pirates – well, the romantic depiction. They were nasty, but they were freedom-seekers, adventurers, and protectors of the downtrodden as well – and not just in fiction. Captain Hook in The Crocodile is this stereotype, but like all characters on this show, there is depth to him. He is a smarmy git in the eyes of Rumplestiltskin. To a certain woman dear to Rumplestiltskin, Captain Hook is a ticket to adventure and love. To some, he is a paycheque. To others, he is a menace. He is also smart and relatively fearless. He stares down two of the biggest villains on the show and isn’t dead by the credits.
He also gets a name, as he doesn’t have a hook for most of the story. The Captain has a good Celtic name, albeit one with a not-too-subtle hint at his nastiness included. Really – Killian? Especially when there is no ‘k’ in Gaelic. Even a punny name is humanizing, though.
I really hope that my theory about Peter Pan pans out. I’ll wait for now.
Season 5, Episode 6/4 (War On Terror)
In this episode, a shop is blown up right where our two favourite constables (Crabtree and Higgins) are phoning the police station. The plot thickens as anarchists and secret agents for the Americans get involved. Once a season, a recurring guest character makes an appearance to deal with a case of national security. This year, that Canadian spy teams up with Murdoch to infiltrate the anarchist meetings. Will they discover who is behind the bombing? Or is this all a red herring? Just an excuse to see Murdoch out of uniform?
On the other hand, having his best friend nearly killed by the explosion makes Crabtree all the more determined to step up and attempt to solve the case (checking out all the leads that have nothing to do with anarchists), thus making him more attractive to Dr. Grace. Amazingly, Dr. Grace fits into the cast this season as though she had always been there. Dr. Ogden was getting much too melodramatic and simpering. Dr. Grace is not romantically interested in Det. Murdoch, but she clashes with him and challenges him. Being new, there is also a lot more mystery to her. Throughout the season, more of her background is revealed. She seems to be the heroine of a different genre of novel altogether.
Historical fiction is a foregone conclusion when it comes to politics. No matter the conspiracy theories and intrigues and close calls, one quick look at Wikipedia or a map can ruin any suspense in a story. Of course we know that an invasion was imminent, averted, or a non-existent threat. Of course we know that someone was assassinated while another unlikely became president. Of course we know which technologies took off and which scientific theories were completely wrong. With the right comic timing, jokes in historical fiction seem to write themselves.
The people living at the relevant time, however, know nothing of what it foregone. At any point, people were on the edge of their seats, wondering at the outcome of a negotiation or crisis. Those living in the early twenty-first century mostly remember September 11, 2001, and remember being unsure of what was going to happen next. Some of our guesses were right, but others were not.
Compared to the First World War (1914-1918) and what followed it, most of the conflicts in the late 1800s seems relatively minor in hindsight. However, the tension that resulted in the war was boiling for about forty years before it began. The late Victorian and Edwardian eras were powder kegs. This was the era that saw the birth of women’s suffrage, trade unionism, radical communism, and the like. The world was an exciting but dangerous place. New ideas clashed with old. Anarchy was bubbling under the surface of a calm, collected façade.
1899 was particularly intriguing for North Americans because it was the first time that the United States truly acted like an international colonial power. They had resolved their civil war and its outcomes, conquered and tamed the Wild West, and were now branching into wars with Spain over the Caribbean and the South Pacific. Canada had real cause to be concerned for its safety.
This episode captures all of the above tension in a dramatic and yet humourous way. Although we all know that the Americans did not invade Canada, the writers are always a step ahead of the audience, keeping us guessing as to how they will resolve the story so that it will fit historically. When they do, they even have a nice historical joke to end the episode with. We know it worked out in the end. The last laugh is always reserved for us.