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Once Upon a Time: Family Business Review
From week to week, Once Upon a Time’s procrastinating has become hard to ignore. If delivering on its story’s promise meant sitting down with your in-laws for Christmas dinner, than Once served up an attractive entrée it could only eat in sheepish silence. For a while now, the season’s pacing back and forth between relevancy arcs, and it can’t help but wear a hole in the proverbial floor. This week, Once finally got down to business – Family Business – and it’s hard to say which side of the table felt more awkward.
On one side, we have the Snow Queen. We’re told she wants a perfect family and won’t let anyone stand in her way, as well as exhaust this writer’s capacity for snow puns. We’re told she wants to be loved, like everyone does in the show. Yet three episodes into her arc, she’s been hard to believe and harder to take seriously in between her flat dialogue icy stares. It’s grown rather tedious marching Elizabeth Mitchell out in a frilly white gown, rambling on expository drivel, nor is it convincing there’s life behind her eyes.
On the other, we have Mr. Gold and Belle’s turbulent marriage slowly tearing at the seams, and this week gave a very satisfying rip. The troubled direction Gold’s lie has taken the two is a guilty pleasure to watch unfold, if nonetheless stomach-turning. Though Robert Carlyle and Emilie de Ravin’s respective chemistry has flickered on and off, the ever-shifting power dynamic in the relationship is fascinating to watch, as is Gold’s tenuous navigation of it. For Gold, magic’s always come with a price, and seeing him cash in on it emotionally rather than economically is nothing but intriguing.
Belle, meanwhile, can never help but stick out like a sore thumb – or an unpredictably sexy dress – with just about anyone. Whether it’s Belle and Elsa or Belle and Anna, any scene of hers only seems to paint her in a weaker, whinier light. If recollections of Snow White must be mustered, Belle’s too long been the pushover in her romances, and unnecessarily so after all this time. Her lies are wearing thin, but if anything, her flashback with Anna felt like a smooth transition and an interesting avenue to explore in relation to either’s connections with Rumple.
It’s a curiosity, then, how much these rock trolls have fit into the myth. That ABC can only afford so many CGI expenses is one thing – but having Grand Pabbie merely handing out over-the-counter magic orbs? It doesn’t seem right to have the royal court decide that everyone should forget two sisters’ disappearance, much less that through rock trolls. Rock troll ethics would be an interesting class to take indeed.
Another distracting aspect of the show tonight was the high number of digital backgrounds. The point doesn’t need to be beleaguered, but scenes inside Elsa and Anna’s home and Belle’s home are hard to watch because the backgrounds are so obviously not real. It’s frustrating that this hasn’t improved much in four years. They decently animated a rock troll, though. Not so much for Frozen’s comically made-up innkeeper.
It’s not hard to forget how much of an evil step-sister Regina’s become to the series. Her and Robin’s scene-stealer won the night in its brief charms. Brief, but wonderfully acted and written, it’s our unrequited lovers that make the most out of their sidelined screen time, and it’s a wonder how likable Regina’s grown the more she’s blacklisted. Watching Anna and Kristoff, meanwhile, is becoming more and more like watching two Disney theme park attendants cosplay as Frozen characters, though more credit to our former than the latter.
When you watch a series about fairy tale characters and their stories, it’s hard to pass judgment about realism. The devil’s in the details though, and if it’s only Henry – the only freaking kid in this town – realized the Snow Queen had an ice cream truck, then you know something’s wrong. What is engaging is the object (or blonde-haired sheriff) of the Snow Queen’s eye. The implications are unsettling, and if only Once could conjure up a means of scaring us with the prospect, then that would be a step in the right direction.
While this week’s Once happily made forward progress with the Snow Queen’s story (and it was fascinating), it didn’t resonate in other areas. Though we learned when she captured Anna a little about her plan, there are still gaps in the Snow Queen’s history. That said, Family Business made more progress than expected in furthering her backstory in a quiet, dutiful manner. She’s just the kind of villain the series needs. If only she could be that.
- Frozen's Mythology Moving Forward
- Regina's Scene-Stealing
- The Snow Queen's Going Nowhere...Slowly
- Belle Can't Catch a Break
- What's the Rock Trolls' Deal?