Once Upon a Show

I used to be what is commonly called a fangirl of the ABC show Once Upon A Time. I began with the pilot episode when it first aired and I have followed it non-stop ever since… until now. To give you an idea of how thorough my love for the show was, whenever the promos were good enough I would stay up and pull an all-nighter to watch it live, usually with a friend of mine (who has also given up on the show). We would discuss the plot non-stop, make up theories and suffer along with the Captain Swan shippers. We were hooked – pun intended – and we never thought the day would come when we would say “enough”. But here we are.

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What got me into the show was not just its premise of fairy tale characters trapped in our world (that had been done before in the Fables comic series) but the strength of the characters and the depth with which they were written, particularly the protagonist, Emma Swan. Emma was, for a time, the best female character on television. She was independent, accepted no bullshit from anyone, did her own thing, knew that life was no fairy tale but, behind all the barriers she put up, she was still a little girl wishing for a world where everything wasn’t as harsh as the reality she grew up in and a person with a very big heart and capacity for love. She was complex, and her growing process kept me watching the show week after week. The lifting of the curse could have meant the end for her development, but the writers turned it around: now here she was, with the parents she had always dreamed of right next to her but inserted in a magical world that made no sense. After twenty-eight years leading a very shitty life how would she deal with the love being thrown at her? Would she accept it? So her development arc continued, with more situations being added to the plot for her to fight against in order to know herself better. She even got a love interest that made all the sense in the world: Killian Jones, known as Captain Hook, who had also known his fair share of loss and grief, who also had barriers up and feared giving in. They both grew together, mirroring each other’s actions, they both were afraid of love, they both gave in. It was a mutual journey that was just a delight to watch. But then things started to get awry. Why?

My honest opinion is that the writers started pandering to the fan’s wishes and forgot their original intentions. It was clear from season one that they had very clear development arcs planned for each character, but then the show got popular, the fanbase grew bigger, the interactions between fans and the writers became extremely aggressive and they caved in. I think it began with the Frozen arc. It did still have a little bit to do with Emma’s growth – accepting her powers – but she could have easily achieved that without Elsa. And then the whole plot with Rumple and the hat. The rest of the season got a little bit better, digging into Emma’s past and her soul starting to break under so much emotional pressure. Her going Dark was a nice twist and I have absolutely nothing against the reasons why she chose that path and why she gave in to the darkness. After all, it was to protect the ones she loved. But Camelot was poorly executed, it felt so cheesy and can we talk about Regina being all mushy and out of character? Then they redeemed themselves again with that wonderful mid-season finale, only to come up with the horrible Underworld arc. That’s when every character started acting unlike themselves. Emma, the fighter, turned into a love sick puppy who couldn’t do anything without Killian. I get it, she broke down her walls for him and then he up and died, but Emma had enough development so far to manage the situation. Killian turned into a prop. Snow ceased to exist altogether (thankfully the writers took notice of this and gave her back a little of herself in the current season) and Regina did everything the fans wanted her to.

Regina is the main problem here. Regina and Rumple, but mostly Regina. It’s like the writers don’t know what to do with them anymore. Robert Carlyle once said that Rumple’s addition to the dark side was like a drug addiction, and once that was gone the character was no longer interesting to play. So…? As for Regina, it was sad when Robin died, although the actors had zero chemistry, but everything that has happened since then was pure pandering. The fans love de Evil Queen? Let’s bring her back for absolutely no purpose! Let’s put in more kitsch in it, let’s make everything more cheesy, let’s have her flirt with Rumple, why not? Oh, and let’s bring Robin back even though the previous season he had his soul friggin’ obliterated. A show that used to deal with how people dealt with loss now keeps bringing back characters from the dead and their answer to dealing with our own past is creating a potion that separates who we were from who we are. Emma and Killian’s growth? Poof, they’re lying to each other again and guess what!, they’re facing death again.

Once Upon A Time used to be a show that, even though it dealt with fairy tales, felt real. The characters were human, complex, multi-layered. Now they’re just cardboard copies of themselves wondering aimlessly around a show that needs to be put ouf of its misery. Soon.

How ‘Black Mirror’ finally broke me

Three seasons on and they finally managed to approach a subject very close to my heart: nostalgia, love, death and whatever comes after.

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It wasn’t the story itself that moved me, although brilliantly written by Charlie Brooker. It was the concept of technology being used for good, for comfort, as a solution to something that terrifies most of us – the sheer nothingness that comes after we cease to exist. All those memories, moments, the feelings we had for the people we love, all gone. Zap. What San Junipero proposes is a device that connects us to an imagined, albeit very real, world, where we can choose from multiple decades to live in and where we can stay forever after we die. Not corporeally, of course, but in… I guess, spirit? Anyway, the main plot is about two girls who meet in San Junipero, a party hard town. They fall in love. Cut back to reality and they’re two old ladies, terminally ill. I won’t say much besides this because the ending is obvious; I mean, not Black Mirror obvious (it’s rather too happy for the overall darkness the series has gotten us used to). But can you imagine this sort of paleative care that lets your mind slip away to a happier time when you were young? And not just that, with the option to stay connected to that place forever? To, actually, live forever with those you love?

Of course “forever” is such an overwhelming notion. Would I really want to be with those I love for an unending period of time? Wouldn’t I get tired of being in a place with no possible way out? Maybe. It’s pretty possible. But this episode came a year after my grandmother died. She was like a mother to me. She took care of me every day when I was little, played with me, taught me the basis of everything I know. Whenever I think of her I feel this black hole inside my chest, sucking me in. What if I had the chance to see her again? How good would it be to have the technology illustrated in San Junipero right now? She could have signed in for the programme and I could just stick a little device on my temple, activate it and there she would be. And when I died, there she would be again. With my mother and everything I have lost so far and will lose in the future, because life’s just like that. It would be such a good reward for all our trials, something like “Keep struggling because in the end they will all be waiting for you.”. I wouldn’t really care about the drawbacks, to be honest.

Amazing episode, amazing writing and, I have to say, amazing choice of songs.

The Victoria Letters – H. Rappaport/D. Goodwin

I’m a bit conflicted about this, to be honest.

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As can be told by the jacket design, this is the official companion to the good-but-not-amazing ITV series Victoria. It came out just as the first season ended and, being me and an avid fan of Victoria’s early life and her romance with Albert I instantly pre-ordered it, seduced by the title. I knew there were many publications collecting the Queen’s letters but I hoped this book, aiming as it is at a wider, non-academic audience, would condense them and make a careful selection. It does that – but does it a bit too much.

This should be called Excerpts from Victoria’s Journals with Quotations Taken From Her Letters: A Concise Guide for the Historical Illiterate. The letters are few and very shortened. The journal excerpts are more abundant, but still not very surprising – with perhaps an exception to the two curious references to future Portuguese monarchs and the occasional anecdote or fact. I didn’t know, for instance, that Albert was delivered by the same midwife that delivered Victoria three months earlier. Which makes the fangirl in me believe that it was FATE, OKAY?!

Anyway, the book’s main text by author Helen Rappaport is extremely informative to those who aren’t familiar with Victoria’s life. It’s a very good introduction but those of us who know a bit more finish reading it wishing it went a little further. Also, the way it ends feels rushed. It has a proper introduction, but it ends abruptly with a brief reference to a possible second season, which has since then been confirmed. The Behind the Scenes section is interesting, but it also ends aprubtly. It reads like “sets-costumes-hair-bam-bam-bam-done”. I like my non-fiction books to be fully rounded.

It is, however, a beautifully constructed book with plenty of photographs from the series and scans of 19th century prints. Again, I recommend it if you’re a Victorian era enthusiast or if you’re curious about learning more about Victoria’s early life. I also recommend it as a collection piece, as a companion piece, something to look good on the shelf. But it fails to go a bit further and the title is misleading.

She returns!

I’m coming back to this blog in a bit. Whether it’s a short bit or a long bit, I have no idea. You might be wondering, though, why I’m writing in English. It’s not so I get a bigger audience – I know review blogs are basically obsolete unless they’re part of a huge networking system, which is not the case. I have no idea how to do that, nor do I have the time to leave comments with links everywhere I go. No. It’s because I seriously need to practice. Thing is, I finished my BA in June. I specialised in English and North-American Studies and, you’ve guessed it – you little genious you – English language was a huge component of the curriculum. But, alas!, I’ve run out of places to practice both my written and spoken English since I left school. So there you have it. If this was an important project with lots of followers and lots of potential, I would write in Portuguese, absolutely. But since it isn’t, English it is. I need to keep it fresh and on point in case I get a job where I might need it.

Cue laughter.