Season 3, Episode 1 (The Heart of the Truest Believer)
The third season premiere starts with a flashback (unusually, the only flashback of the episode) to the birth of Henry. While the scene itself focuses on the character of Emma, it also sets the tone for this season, which is that young Henry is the centre of the story. He has been kidnapped and it is up to his highly dysfunctional and fractured family to get him back.
For the fact that Henry is only eleven (and played by a thirteen-year-old) and thus subject to tough restrictions on how much he can work, the creators of this episode have managed to keep him central to the action even when he is not onscreen. When he is, he does a fabulous job and is well-used. Not a moment is wasted. As one would expect of the grandson of Snow White, Prince Charming, and Rumplestiltskin, Henry does not take his kidnapping lightly. Despite never having travelled much outside of Storybrooke and never having lived in a world with magic, he does very well. Yes, he ends up in a worse position than he started, but it wouldn’t be much of a premiere if everything was resolved at once. The episode ends with him surrounded by evilly gleeful Lost Boys, but we are left wondering if he managed to land a few good punches before being taken down.
The rest of Henry’s family spend the episode on a boat (except for his dear dad, who is instead in the Enchanted Forest, but equally trying to find him and his mom).
Boats (ships, cars, space vessels, houses on hills, etc.) are excellent for storytellers. They bring together an assortment of characters who are forced to contend with each other and work together, be it for a common goal or just to get to a common destination. This episode is no exception: Rumplestiltskin, Captain Hook, “the Evil Queen” Regina, Prince Charming, Snow White, and Emma are all somehow related to Henry and want him back, but that is about where their list of common goals end. They are all strong leaders and terrible followers. They have tried to kill each other in the past. Yet, here they are, all on a small wooden ship smaller than a house.
The writing on this show is such that the characters call each other out on their behaviours. Despite these being archetypal, classic characters, they feel real and relatable. Watching them debate each other’s motives and opinions was both hilarious and poignant, as well as cathartic for the viewers. If they had managed to get through this episode without fighting, we would have felt deprived.
Ultimately, the premiere’s goal is to set up the upcoming season for us. Very little is resolved. Emma takes charge of the group – already abandoned by Rumplestiltskin – by the end of this week’s installment, but her leadership won’t likely last long.
Neverland in Once Upon a Time is a terrifying place. Even the environment fights against our heroes. Peter Pan controls the elements and the creatures within it, toying with our heroes and apparently pitting them against each other in subtle ways, if next week’s preview is any indication. Emma very explicitly refers to Henry as “my son” directly to Regina – the woman who is responsible for Henry being able to walk, talk, use a toilet, eat, read, etc. Surprisingly, Regina bites her tongue and seems to agree with Emma – but I can’t imagine she did. In the preview, Emma is further isolated from the others and it appears that Peter Pan wants to exploit the rivalry between Henry’s two mothers. Hopefully, that ends well for Henry, not Peter.
Whatever is in store for our heroes, the season is shaping up for excitement.
Season 7, Episode 1 (Murdoch Ahoy)
It has been sixteen years since Titanic hit the big screens, even though that event is still eleven years away for Murdoch and company. Titanic was an award-winning, groundbreaking film that had a strong influence on popular culture. It even had a re-release last year in honour of the 100th anniversary of the sinking. However, it has once again faded from our cultural radar – which made it all the more surprising to have the seventh season of Murdoch Mysteries kick off with an episode that could have been subtitled An Homage to “Titanic”.
The cinematography matches the film in shots: the crowds waving, Dr. Ogden standing on the upper decks in the manner that Kate Winslet’s character did, the main characters evaluating a map, the hull having bulkhead doors, a character in mortal peril as a room fills with water, the ship sinking in a like manner to the Titanic as lifeboats row away, etc. Furthermore, common elements such as young love, a morally-questionable fiancé, and the prospect of a young lady falling overboard remind us of the film without detracting from the main plot.
This episode is not “Titanic on the Great Lakes” by any means. The brilliance of it is that, were it not for the visual and factual nods to that film, the episode feels like any other Murdoch Mysteries episode. There is at least one murder, plots to foil, characters that are not what they seem, historical trivia being brought to life, and lots of comedy from Crabtree, Higgins, and Dr. Grace. For the first time in three seasons, Murdoch and Dr. Ogden are free to be a couple again, although how fast that progresses will remain to be seen.
One of the most hilarious subplots is Constable Crabtree being concerned that the newly-created Victoria Day (now that Queen Victoria is deceased) is not getting the respect that it deserves. When one considers that many parts of Canada now refer to that weekend as “May Two-Four” for the fact that they will consume a two-four of beer, Crabtree’s attempts to get people to be respectful seem all the more amusing. Unless, of course, one is making twenty-four toasts to the late Queen Vicky…
Season 5, Episode 1 (Bon Cop, Bueno Cop)
Republic of Doyle has finally grown up. Mexican drug cartels have moved alongside the small-time criminals in Newfoundland that the Doyle clan is used to dealing with. The fifth season opens with an hour of suspense, comedy, drama, romance, and lots of action-packed fight sequences. In fact, all of those and more were delivered by fifteen minutes into the premiere, and the remaining forty-five only gave us more. There was hardly time for a break for the loo – thank God for the PVR.
The episode opens with Jake Doyle still trapped in a shipping crate, but he is soon set free…in Mexico, by gangsters who were definitely not expecting him. He narrowly escapes execution and ends up in prison, where he is still not safe.
Two months later, he is still missing, and his family is rather worried about him. Everyone but the Doyle clan believes that Jake is dead. Leslie turned down a job in Ottawa so that she could stay and search for Jake, but her superiors are only infuriated with her seemingly pointless quest. Malachy and Rose are at their wits’ end with each other, and the detective agency has been locked up and shut down. Des doesn’t know what to do with himself. Tinny has a boyfriend who is a lout and yet hard to break up with, and she still can’t stop wondering about her missing uncle.
Enter a Mexican cop trying to take down the cartel (which is expanding operations in Newfoundland and Canada) who enlists Jake’s help and takes him home. The catch? He still can’t tell his family that he is alive.
Needless to say, the crime is solved and the family is reunited, as this is the premiere and is setting up the status quo for the season, but the journey to get there takes many turns and detours before ending at the Duke with champagne. Oh, and a mysterious stranger with an eye for Leslie.
Season 6, Episode 2 (Dreamworld)
Most seasons start and end with a bang, with several “big” episodes scattered throughout the season’s run amid reliable, formulaic, fun episodes.
This year, Castle decided to forgo this convention by having its premiere consist of a cliffhanger and its second episode as equally dramatic as the premiere. Castle’s life is in jeopardy (despite having his name in the title) and Beckett races to save him. The gang in New York weigh in some clues, but this is primarily about Beckett saving Castle with the help of her new colleagues in D.C. Luckily, due to Castle’s likely impending demise, he is allowed to assist them on the case, and we are treated to Castle and Beckett working together again.
The case from the premiere comes to an exciting and surprising conclusion in this episode. Castle confronts his mortality much as Beckett did in last year’s Still, with Beckett in as much denial as Castle was in that episode. While Castle was trying to determine whether Beckett would be okay without him, Beckett was insisting that he would be all right. It was a lovely contrast. Castle maintained most of his sense of humour, although he suddenly was sensitive poor word choices. English has a lot of metaphors about dying – which we only notice when we realise how insensitive we are being or sounding when we refer to, for example, “dying to know.”
Next week finally promises a return to the more humourous status quo, allowing viewers to breathe again and go back to New York. As much as this episode was exciting, I am relieved to see things return to normal.
Everyone is back, the shows are back on, and the weather has definitely decided that it is “stay in and watch the telly” time.