ONCE UPON A TIME
Season 4, Episode 15 (Poor Unfortunate Soul)
Three villains are a lot to take on – and that’s not counting Rumplestiltskin or reformed villains such as Regina and Hook. It was inevitable that at least one of the three Queens of Darkness would be dispatched with sooner rather than later. Luckily, in this case, “dispatched with” only meant “given her happy ending.” The heroes gained an ally in Ursula, inasmuch as she told Hook what she knew of Rumplestiltskin’s plan and what she understood to be the part that he wanted Emma to play in it. We also learned about her backstory (she was a young girl who rebelled against her father, got punished by him, and then ran away from him). Is Ursula “gone” for good now? Or will she be back for the finale? Her story was a great chance to explore the world of mermaids, sailors, and ships again, but otherwise felt as though it was a break from the main plot of the season. We got a refreshing episode wherein Snow and Charming stayed in the background. Hook was given the chance to shine as the “hero” of both the past and present storylines as he attempted to help Ursula and figure out what Rumplestiltskin’s plan was. We got to see that even at his bloodthirsty pirate best, Hook did not want to corrupt a young girl. He was always a lost soul at heart.
As for the season’s arc, this episode was crucial to learn that August/Pinocchio had figured out that the Author was actually trapped inside the book, so the villains were looking in the wrong place to find him. Now both our villains and heroes are catching up to each other in terms of their mutual plans. Really, the present-day storyline moved the plot along slowly but significantly. I much preferred the search for the Jolly Roger.
Ariel made a quick appearance (barely more than a cameo), but she did deliver one of the most important lines of the episode that reinforces the theme of the show: taking your own happy ending is possible, but what seems to create a stumbling block for villains is that they go about it the wrong way. (I am paraphrasing, of course.) It comes down to choices: how far is one willing to go? What gets sacrificed along the way? Who gets hurt? At whose expense does one try to get one’s happy ending?
Season 8, Episode 17 (Election Day)
In this episode, we are treated to the seriousness of the early women’s suffrage movement combined with the whimsical case involving Detective Murdoch’s favourite Canadian spy (Terrence Myers). As the plot progresses and they further investigate the case, it becomes stranger and stranger until they realise that there just may be no conspiracy at all!
Meanwhile, Drs. Ogden and Grace are on the front lines of trying to prove the point that women belong in politics as much as men. The fact that they are deliberately excluded and then dismissed as jokes is troubling. From over a hundred years in the future, it seems incredible that women could be excluded from voting at all, and we have been raised on images of women valiantly fighting for the cause (thank you, Mary Poppins) such that we forget that they were indeed treated like jokes and laughingstocks. Women who wanted to make the point that their voices ought to be heard faced the same looks of frustrated pity and amusement that children receive when they get upset over unfair treatment by their parents or peers. Indeed, the women were seen as children – children who were being uppity and spoiled brats, as the suffrage movement was primarily the domain of elite and upper middleclass women who had the finances, education, and time to be fighting. The view of the men of the time was that they had let such women play at being doctors and lawyers, but actually having them involved in the goings-on of the state was going too far. Education was primarily seen as a way to occupy women and prove how wealthy a man was that he could spend money to educate his daughters.
The general view toward women’s suffrage of the women of the Edwardian era themselves is exemplified in Mrs. Brackenreid’s character. She is indeed very involved and interested in politics: she reads newspapers, studies up on candidates, and educates herself on the issues of the election. Her husband could not care less, but still exercises his civic duty because he trusts that his wife will inform him of who to vote for. Women found many ways to express themselves while still maintaining the status quo. Influencing the political choices of their husbands was indeed popular. Such was one of the arguments against women’s suffrage – namely that they would just vote the same as their husband (either by influencing him or by having him tell her how to vote, depending on how one viewed women’s intellectual capacity). Mrs. Brackenreid is lucky in that her husband listens to her and lets her educate herself politically. Despite his bravado about being bossed around by her in public, he trusts her opinion and values her. If all marriages worked so well, couples casting one vote would be potentially feasible.
The other subplot in this episode involved Constable Crabtree proposing to Edna, seeing as he was in line for a promotion and a raise. She accepted and all seemed well…until her dead husband showed up in the dining room, very much alive indeed. Suddenly, what had been a lighthearted, joyful, and socially positive episode took a dark turn, setting up for a grim season finale.
Season 7, Episode 18 (At Close Range)
Detective Ryan gets his moment in the spotlight in this episode, having been working security at a high-profile charity event when the murder of the week occurs right before him. His despair and helplessness at being unable to prevent the incident is only amplified by the fact that his brother-in-law seems to be involved in the crime. The rest of our main cast helps him to uncover the truth. Ryan’s close affiliation with Castle becomes apparent when he phones him in the middle of the night to test a theory. They both exclude Beckett because “when you have a crazy theory, you don’t call the voice of reason.” Nonetheless, the team works well together to deliver an emotional episode that retains just enough comedy to keep the tone of the series consistently upbeat.
What is special about this episode is that the murder occurs onscreen. The audience watches along with Det. Ryan. We are not sure who will be killed and we are looking for threats in the crowd just as he is. We are shown many potential candidates. Also, thanks to the occasional first-person camera angles, we get increasingly confused and frantic about the situation and we are privy to Ryan’s trauma. I cannot imagine being a security guard at a high-profile event. You certainly don’t get to enjoy yourself, but you also have no time to relax. Everything and everyone is a potential threat. People are constantly moving. Weapons are easily concealed, or created out of non-threatening devices such as a cream pie. Situations that seem safe, such as backstage in a relatively enclosed space, end up being highly deadly due to lots of corners and curtains.
Nonetheless, the story was engaging and unusual. We were kept guessing as to who the killer was, and even afterward, we were more concerned about Ryan’s family situation than that of the victim. Sadly, I predict that family gatherings are going to be a bit awkward for the next few years. The only grievance I had with this episode was that we did not get to see much of Ryan’s sister’s relationship with her husband, nor did we get to see Ryan’s wife and daughter. One would think that there would be reason enough to have Det. Ryan discuss his sister with his wife, even just to contrast their own marriage with hers.
Overall, this was an excellent dramatic storyline and character study, all the while keeping a hint of typical Castle fun.