Sunday, October 28, 2012
Once Upon a Time: "The Doctor"
We’ve run through many of our favourite fairy tales on Once Upon a Time now — many of them Disney, many of them Grimm. We’ve seen Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio, Aurora, Snow White and Prince Charming and the Seven Dwarfs, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Belle, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel… and we’ve even moved to JM Barrie with Captain Hook, and Lewis Carroll with the Mad Hatter (though technically, both those properties were handled by Disney at some point as well).
What brings these worlds together is simple: they’re fairy tales, if we take “fairy tale” to mean a story in a world that’s not our own, where magic rules (and there are often queens and kings and flying dragons and castles).
So when Dr. Whale was introduced in Season 1, we all went to our collective knowledge and began working through any fish stories we could think of. Was he… the whale who swallowed Pinocchio? Was he… okay, I was fresh out of ideas with that one, frankly.
And then this week we finally discovered who he was: Victor Frankenstein, the scientist bent on discovering a way to bring the dead back to life. Why Whale? The director of the 1931 film Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff as the monster, was directed by James Whale. And the only reason I know this is because of the elegant portrayal of the man in the film Gods and Monsters by Ian McKellen. Nice trick, Kitsis and Horowitz, nice trick indeed.
But the question becomes: can you really include Mary Shelley’s masterpiece in the genre of fairy tales? Clearly not: there’s no magic at work in this book; it’s all about science. The writers get around that by suggesting Frankenstein went to such lengths to procure a heart to bring his creature to life that he somehow came across the Mad Hatter (huh?) who proffered him a way over into a magical world (but… wait…) and he came over and met with Rumpelstiltskin (er…) and then tricked Regina into becoming evil, and got the magical heart (but… I thought…) and then headed back home to insert the heart into the corpse of his brother (brother? What did his brother have to do with this? The creature killed his brother… not…) and because of MAGIC, science prevailed.
I LOVE when the writers on OUAT take the fairy tales and turn them in on themselves, making us think one thing and then switching them. That Red Riding Hood was actually the wolf suddenly turns this innocent little tale into something quite sinister and Freudian, and we begin to think that maybe that’s what the story was telling us all along. Red Riding Hood just wanted to kill Granny, yo. Or that Belle was taken by Rumpelstiltskin — who was the “beast” in her story — and the tale is played out by crossing two of the fairy tales.
But there was something about incorporating Frankenstein into this that not only completely changes the original story by Shelley (a book that had absolutely nothing to do with magic) but brings someone from our world into that one, and just makes it rub together like sandpaper. It didn’t work.
I found the Mad Hatter jarring at first, as well. Last season we saw him trapped in Wonderland, where he stayed until he was zapped to Storybrooke where he was stuck in a little house by Regina, making hats all day long. He was a man torn apart by the loss of his daughter, something that happened in the fairy tale world of Wonderland (when Regina left him there) and carried over into Storybrooke. But in this episode he’s out and gallivanting around, acting like a bit of a jackass (but still very hot doing it… my daughter still disagrees with me on that assessment, “Mommy, STOP saying he’s handsome!!”)
Of course, you don’t have to think about this long to realize if Regina is still young here, then this part of the Mad Hatter’s story actually preceded him becoming a father, and him being part of the plan to trick Regina into becoming evil actually turns his later incarceration into a form of karma: he created the monster, so to speak, and now he pays the price for it.
I do like the tie-in with Victor Frankenstein and who he was last season. He had a patient who was in a deathlike coma all season, and forgetting who he was, he didn’t realize he had the power to “raise the dead.” And ultimately, he WAS the doctor on watch when the dead arose and left the hospital.
Then again, that begs the question: if Victor is not ruled by magic, and is not part of the fairy tale world, then why is he in Storybrooke, and why were his memories taken from him, too? The writers would suggest that if you even pass through the storybook world, even briefly, then you’ll be stuck in Maine. But he was in that world and left.
Like Rumpelstiltskin’s son.
Both had passed through the fairy tale world but weren’t actually physically there when the curse took effect. So… was Whale? Was he there? Or is this an inconsistency on the part of the writers?
I did love the little nod to Oz in this episode, though. Rumpelstiltskin has charged the Hatter with finding “the slippers” because he needs something that can travel from a magical world to a non-magical one. Clearly he’s referring to Dorothy’s ruby slippers, which took her from Oz to Kansas. I can’t wait until we actually do see Oz!
I’ve been enjoying this season of Once Upon a Time, by the way, even if I haven’t been very good about posting on it. My daughter and I watch it every Sunday night, and I think Lana Parilla is putting in a hell of a performance this year as Regina. (Her reaction to Daniel this week was incredible and almost had me in tears.) Though I will admit, two weeks ago when we followed Emma and Snow through the fairy tale world I wanted to throttle Emma for being SO STUPID at every turn. This week, thankfully, she redeemed herself.
I thought last week’s episode involving Captain Hook and Rumpelstiltskin’s wife was amazing. His story is becoming more and more fascinating, and is clearly the central story of the show. Robert Carlyle is putting in an equally stunning performance.
Next week: we go back to Emma’s pregnancy with Henry. We briefly saw a man at the beginning of this season who lived in an apartment building (remember he dropped his iPod off the balcony by accident?) who received a postcard saying “Broken.” I’ve suspected that man might be Rumpelstiltskin’s son, and in the preview for next week we see him with Emma. Could fans have been correct in thinking he’s the father of Henry? Hm…