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  1. companionenvy

    S06.E17: Awake

    I hate this episode so much. If the show had actually set up a scenario in which there was actually plausible reason to believe that Snow and Charming raising Emma would put all of Storybrook in real danger, I might have bought them making this painful choice. But that only works if there is - and I can't emphasize this enough - real and credible danger, not a vague and undefined possibility of things having a better chance of working out. We're back to Neal leaving Emma and setting her up because August told him - with no explanation or justification - that it was necessary for breaking the curse. That didn't make sense then, and it doesn't make sense now. Only now, it is worse, because at least Bae was at least sometimes portrayed as in the wrong for that decision, and there's in any case a lot of room for ascribing unconscious ulterior motivations for his choice, i.e, fear of getting drawn back into the magical world and, with it, a confrontation with Rumple. With Snow and Charming, their decision makes as little sense, but their choice is presented unequivocally as the good and noble thing to do. In fact, it makes less sense, because Snow and Charming weren't blindsided by this. They had an original plan for dealing with the curse in which Snow WAS going to raise Emma. That is precisely what would have happened if Snow had gone into labor just a little bit later. Yet ten years later, Charming and Snow, with all of their memories and no reliable new information, except for the unsupported, unexplained assertions of a highly unreliable source, decide that Emma has to be alone to be the savior. I mean...why? What in the prophecy stipulates that Emma has to be separated from her family? Even if the prophecy is contingent -- i.e, Emma is the only one who can save them, but she isn't inevitably destined to save them, if she doesn't rise to the challenge -- there is no reason to think that the scenario in which Emma is a foster-kid who thinks her parents abandoned her is more likely to lead to her becoming the savior than a scenario in which she is reclaimed by her parents at age ten, knows who she is, winds up (likely) better adjusted, and has been prepared for her crucial role. Literally none. A reasonable person would in fact predict that a kid who was, you know, raised to this would be more likely to fulfill her role than someone totally in the dark. This is all especially dumb when we add in the Season 4 mess with Emma and Lily. Snow and Charming were told that Emma was now free of darkness if they made sure to raise her right. So, not only are they abandoning their ten year old, they are abandoning a ten year old that they believe has great capacity for darkness if not given proper care on the logic that this will somehow make her more likely to be the Savior. Just insultingly bad writing. And to add insult to injury, the show doesn't even frame the stakes of the choice fairly, as Snow and Charming glimpse child Emma in what seems to have been a rare moment of relative stability and peace, when we know that isn't at all representative of her childhood. If you're going to have them make the choice, at least acknowledge that they're abandoning their daughter to misery.
  2. companionenvy

    S06.E14: Page 23

    Yeah, this episode is bizarre. Like, let's accept the premise that "our" Regina has had a perfectly handled redemption arc. Even so, if we're supposed to believe that the Evil Queen is a manifestation of her darkest impulses - well, then the EQ shouldn't be redeemable, because she is literally Regina with all of the good parts taken out. I mean, this isn't a nature vs. nurture thing; if it were somehow possible to extract only the most negative parts of a personality, you're not going to wind up with a good and functional human being. Some people's dark selves would be worse than others, but if you are selecting for precisely for qualities like anger and removing qualities like compassion, that simply isn't going to add up to someone redeemable. It is going to add up to a sociopath. Which, as y'all know, I think regular Regina, as depicted in many of her scenes, essentially is, but even if I didn't, that's how they're framing the process that produced TEQ redux. And, of course, as usual, this is magnified by the fact that the show is so wildly inconsistent about it. I might side-eye it anyway, but there are shows that could maybe get away with a Polly-annaish message about even the dark self being redeemable. But this is the same show where we spent half a season on "Oh noes, Emma has darkness inside her" and then another half season of "Dark One Emma is the worst person ever," even though Emma, teenage thief backstory notwithstanding, had never shown herself to be anything but a pretty decent and at times incredibly noble person, and even DO Emma's greatest crimes were a)controlling Violet's heart for about a minute to make Henry cry over (temporarily) lost puppy love and b) trying to kill a serial killer for her own and the greater good. And yet, surprise surprise, we did not get a story about how Dark Emma just needed to learn to love herself. And even a show that could theoretically get away with the more Polly-annish path really couldn't do so without being pretty disgusting if the "dark self" - not to mention the integrated prime self -- was a literal, long-unrepentant mass murderer. It is morally outrageous that we're supposed to cheer for the EQ learning to love herself and running merrily off with her boyfriend and not think about her (conservatively) scores of victims. The EQ/Regina shouldn't have loved herself, because she was an awful person who killed countless lives. There might be a path back where you work to atone for your crimes, insofar as it is possible, and eventually get to a place where you can like the person you've become. But forgive me if I can't cheer for the self-actualization of a genocidal maniac. Oh, and it makes no sense that Regina prime manifests no meaningful change despite having removed the darkness. So...the EQ is dark Regina, who is pretty much indistinguishable from past Regina, while "good" Regina is no different from S5 Regina.
  3. companionenvy

    S06.E12: Murder Most Foul

    Oh, this episode. You were doing so well before that last scene. Shanna has detailed why it is dumb from a logistical perspective (Hook flaunts his crimes, rather than hiding them; there's no reason for Hook to be there at all; if he wants Robert dead, he shouldn't have saved him in the first place, etc), but I'm more concerned about how bad it is from an emotional perspective. Yes, I get that "I killed your father/grandfather" isn't generally the kind of thing you just say "my bad" about and move on. So, in emotional terms, it should theoretically work as a conflict. But in the first place, we have the background in which these people are best buddies with Regina, who killed Snow's father, among a host of others. So even if Hook feels terrible about what he did, as he should, it doesn't work for the show to try to wring serious drama out of it, as there's never any doubt that this is something he'll be forgiven for, as every other villain has been repeatedly forgiven. This is especially true when you add in his more recent history of saving Charming and his loved ones one multiple occasions. But more than that, it is an idiotic conflict for the show to raise now. Hook has proven himself again and again. David has gone to pretty much literal hell to save him. He and Emma are confirmed true love. That doesn't mean that a bombshell like this -- at least in a show that didn't feature everyone being besties with Regina -- wouldn't, in real life, still generate real emotional turmoil. But it simply isn't interesting to watch. For comparison, there are occasions in which, tragically, a person suffers multiple losses of loved ones in a short time period. And, naturally, they're going to grieve for each of them. But if I'm writing a family drama, I'm not going to have my character lose his mother in the first half of season 1, and his sister in the second and his father in season 2, because that would be repeating the same emotional beats over and over again. Similarly, Hook did something terrible/we can't trust Hook/actually now he's a hero and a good man is a plot that has been thoroughly played out by now. If the show had to do this plot, they should have made David and Hook together experience the memory of Hook killing his father (ideally in less stupid circumstances). David's immediate, hot-blooded impulse might have been to kill Hook, who wouldn't fight it. Then he calms down, and tells Hook something along the lines of "I know you've changed. And it isn't like I didn't know you had killed before, or that you're the only person in this town with a lot to atone for. That one of the people you killed is my father doesn't change who you were, and who you've become. But Killian, you have to talk to Emma. Not to tell her that you killed one of the grandfathers she never knew, but to really tell her about your past, so that she can confront what it means to be with someone who has done so much bad." Then, while the viewer wouldn't have had to hear most of the confession, we could end with Hook talking to Emma. Emma, in the next episode, forgives him but tells him she needs a little time to process all of this - emphasizing that she is not rejecting him --, but Hook in the interim decides to go off on another quest to prove himself. This would create a dramatic scenario and give pretext for delaying the Captain Swan resolution while staying true to the characters and the show, and without cheap attempts to wring false tension out of more lies and deceit.
  4. For me, the Author/Book plot is way worse, both because of what it did to the characters and the sheer level of world-bending lack of logic. The Savior retcon is dumb, but essentially, it is a baked over but more or less inoffensive Chosen One story. Hero is chosen, hero must sacrifice herself - it's all very paint by numbers. With a little more thought, the writers could even have mitigated some of the inconsistencies (i.e,revealed that there had been a second prophecy about Emma, rather than going with the "in every generation there is a Slayer" nonsense). Or, given the frequency of prophecies in traditional fairytales, it could have been revealed that the "saviors" of various prophecies nearly always met bad ends once their destinies had been fulfilled. I also think that, illogical as it was, given the explanation we did get, the idea of Rumple's mother thwarting his savior destiny was clever and potentially interesting -- had Rumple himself not been so thoroughly ruined as a character by that point. The Author/Book plot, on the other hand, marked the point at which the show reached the true point of no return with Regina's arc, and started warping all the other characters to serve it. The show was already on really thin ice in trying to redeem Regina at all after depicting her consistently as a sociopath in S1 and then having her fall back into genocidal plotting in S2, but with a little forgetfulness and suspension of disbelief, I could accept her as a grudging member of Team Hero in 3A. 3B was worse, as it went heavy on the Regina pity-party, made her improbably chummy with Snowing, and glorified her more than she deserved with the Henry TLK, but it wasn't irreversible. Once she spent a season convinced that some meanie author had prevented her from getting her happy ending by writing the complete and utter truth about her, however, she was past saving. And that all the other "good" characters backed her in her asinine plan just showed how little the show actually cared about any of those people anymore. Plus, the idea of the author raised an existential bombshell that no one seemed interested in addressing. Like, if all of these characters accept that there is an author who might have the power to influence their actions, aren't they a tad concerned about what that means re: free will? Are people in the LWOM also subject to the whims of some other storyteller, or is that just for the fairy-tale folk -- and if it is the latter, are these people in some respects less real than people who weren't being controlled by an author? Yeah, we eventually find out that the author isn't supposed to interfere, but for much of the season, the characters are taking it as a given that the Author is controlling Regina's destiny, and it doesn't seem to bother anyone except on the level of "Oh noes, we must get Regina her happy ending!"
  5. companionenvy

    S05.E15: The Brothers Jones

    In fairness, in this case, I think Liam really was confronting extraordinary temptation in a no-win situation. I can buy him as a generally good man who did a terrible thing under great pressure, as opposed to certain other killers I've named many other times before. The issue I have is that if Killian and Liam were going to meet, it would have been a lot more interesting for them to have Killian and Liam have to come to terms with Killian's dark past than to reveal a previously unknown crime in Liam's backstory.
  6. companionenvy

    S05.E08: Birth

    This arc is a major reason I just couldn't continue with my rewatch. Because in some respects, season 5 was a return to form after a dreadful 4B. A lot of the ideas are genuinely interesting, both from a character and plot perspective; I think the twist with Hook being a dark one - even if it was a little illogical - really worked. But the moral scales are so woefully unbalanced that I simply can't enjoy it. Emma isn't justified in everything she does. But her "evil" deeds - especially in the context of a world in which so many arch-villains have now been accepted as part of team hero -- aren't nearly as bad as they're being portrayed, and I agree that, if the other characters were being written like actual human beings, other people would have agreed with her. It is one thing for Snowing or Henry to be horrified by DO Emma's Slytherin-esque plotting, but her idea of killing one villain for the greater good should have been taken a lot more seriously than it was. It hearkens back to season 2 and the unanimous horror at her suggestion that just maybe letting mass-murderer Regina die to save the town that she herself had imperiled was a better option than hoping for the best. That's on top of the absolute unfairness of her situation. I get that life can be unfair. But it isn't always, and it screams of manipulation when a show repeatedly punishes its hero for doing heroic things and blames her for acting like a human in impossible situations while simultaneously letting other characters off the hook for egregious crimes. Worse, it simply isn't enjoyable to watch.
  7. The thing is, I often like the move from "Good vs Evil" to "Its Complicated." The issue here is that it wasn't actually complicated at all. EQ era Regina was written as a narcissistic sociopath who actively enjoyed causing people pain whether or not it was necessary to her goals. While she had legitimately suffered in the past (abusive mom, Daniel's murder), that suffering was laughably inadequate as a meaningful explanation for her crimes; there was never a sense of "Well, obviously she's doing terrible things, but I can understand how a fundamentally decent person might be twisted into this under the circumstances." This is especially true given the horror show that is the backstory of most characters on the show. Compounding it is the fact that her life was, for pretty much the entire period of her reign, one of extraordinary power and privilege, and one that left her with tons of agency. Within the "present day" timeframe, Regina is the acknowledged villain of season one, and in that capacity is as sociopathic as she is in her flashbacks. She reverts to form in the second half of season 2, and as late as season 4 is doing things like contemplating murder as a solution to her sads. Inexplicably, we are asked to sympathize with her throughout this. To compensate, the show then has to drag down other characters. But the showrunners consistently demonstrate a warped sense of both context and proportion. Sometimes, they frame legitimate acts of self-defense or moments of righteous anger as atrocity and darkness. In other cases, they have heroes do legitimately bad and sometimes OOC things, but even beyond the character assassination of it all, it doesn't work because even the worst actions by the "heroes" don't hold a candle to Regina's crimes. Like, Snowing were dead wrong to do what they did to Lily, but there's simply no comparison for an isolated, selfish action taken guiltily on behalf of one's own child and a parade of gleefully performed atrocities. The reason, I think, that the show wound up being commercially successful in spite of this is that casual viewers - the vast majority of any audience -- generally accept the narrative being presented on screen at any given moment. They may not even have seen every other episode, and certainly haven't watched them twice or pored over them on internet forums. So, if the show is being written as if Regina is redeemed and has a sympathetic past and is now worthy of being a member of team hero - or, you know, Queen of the world -- the casual viewer isn't going to go "Wait, that's a total retcon." They may question the morals of individual episodes, or sometimes have a "Why are Regina and Snow suddenly besties?" reaction, but it isn't going to become the show-killer it is for more attentive viewers.
  8. The explanation is Regina being the unlikeliest Canon Sue to ever Sue. She wasn't the only factor that kept the show from achieving its potential -- but she was a big one, and had a ripple effect on everyone and everything else.
  9. companionenvy

    S14.E15: Peace of Mind

    This wasn't the best or most ambitious episode SPN has ever done, but it was the most purely enjoyable MOW I've seen in a while, one with a humor and energy that's been missing for me for some time. Yeah, the retconned depiction of soullessness still bugs, and Dean's part was pretty minimal, but he's gotten plenty of focus this season, and I liked the opportunity to explore the rarer team-up of Sam and Cas - with Cas winding up taking the lead, no less. This is also the first time in a long time I've been interested enough in the case of the week not to fast forward through the non-main cast scenes. I hope this writer gets another chance. For me, she got the humor/angst balance of an MOW episode of SPN just right, and I wouldn't assume that she can't write the bro-bond or Dean just because it was mostly MIA for this particular episode.
  10. companionenvy


    Most of 4B is, IMO, utterly unsalvageable. But if you wanted to preserve the germ of the Author/Storybook idea, the plot should have been, not Regina trying to get the author to write a happy ending for her, but Regina trying to get the author to undo her own evil actions (she would presumably first have to have some reason to believe that a version of Henry would or could be guaranteed to exist in this altered reality). This would genuinely show the extent to which she has changed. Henry would be on board with the plan, improving his relationship with Regina -- but, ironically ,acknowledging at the same time how compromised that relationship has been, as Henry cheerfully accepts the possibility of a change that will be for Regina the ultimate sacrifice. Emma would be appalled; as grim as her life has been, she doesn't want to change the person that life has made her. She would also be highly skeptical of the idea of some external power impinging upon her free will. Hook would fervently agree on both counts. But as, theoretically, Regina's plan is one that will have the effect of saving countless lives, this means that, in this scenario, Emma is really being the selfish one, creating a thorny moral issue far more credible and complex than the tacked-on darkness scenario. The townspeople at large catch wind of the plan, and those of them who lost the most under Regina's reign are furious with their former savior Emma for refusing to sacrifice her present life for the lives of their loved ones, especially as Emma's life would also improve in this scenario. Snowing would hedge - they'd be on Emma's side, for the most part, but it would come out that the reason that they don't want to change the past is because of their fear of losing Snowflake to the altered timeline; if not for him, they'd be Team Regina because of their remaining guilt and grief over missing Emma's childhood. This throws into relief the complexities of Charming family dynamics, and forces the adult Charmings to work through these complications. The AU world Isaac and Regina wind up creating should legitimately be, in many respects, a better world. Emma prime should be the one who has to go over and set things right, but this brings her into conflict with Wish!Emma, a strong woman who is every bit as willing to fight for this world as our Emma is to fight for hers. Ultimately, our Emma, though still reluctant to trade her life even for this objectively better one, concedes that this is the world that should live on. But wish Henry -- not knowing that he is the next Author -- tells Emma prime that he'll preserve her reality as a story. Because he is the author of this world, just as much as Isaac is (currently) in Earth prime, this generates two equally valid planes of reality, pre-emptively solving the problem of the ontological status of the wish-verse; by the end of the arc, both realities exist in parallel timestreams.
  11. companionenvy


    I can’t see Snowing forcing Emma to give up her child if she didn’t want to, but they could have done something where Bae still left Emma “for her own good” (maybe he hadn’t realized she was a princess) and she made the decision to quietly give the baby up for adoption. A Bae who had been forcibly brought back to the EF by Rumple and then run away from him might even have become a small-time crook a la Neal Cassidy – and a rebellious Princess Emma could have met him during a brief stint as a runaway. You could have even had a sort of flip on the Lily-Emma situation, where Emma is the one who lies about her background to the point where Bae sees her as a kindred spirit, and then feels betrayed when he finds out she’s actually a princess with loving parents, leading him to split before he knows she’s pregnant. I will even acknowledge that it is possible that Snowing would have been overprotective of Emma because of how close they came to losing her – and, as a result, that they wouldn’t have raised her as a badass. But the episode is still insulting, because a) if you care about these characters, you should be invested in explaining how they got to the place they did and b) even if they had been overprotective, Emma should still have possessed enough of her core personality – and enough of Snowing’s values – to be very different from the Wish!Emma we met. That the episode basically turns the entire family into a joke shows how little respect they have for characters whose names don’t begin with an “R.” I agree with you that Hook could plausibly have wound up a drunk in a world without the curse – until season 7, where, while I generally like the WHook-Alice plot a lot, I don’t believe that Whook would have become a useless drunk while he still had a daughter to fight for. If he thought Alice was dead, sure, but he wouldn’t have given up after Gothel cursed them. Comparing this whole episode to Buffy’s “The Wish,” its most direct influence, just shows how inferior Once is. In that episode, the writers take obvious care to come up with a plausible and interesting version of how this reality might look if Buffy hadn’t moved to Sunnydale. Buffy is still acting as the slayer (albeit elsewhere), but she’s harder and colder without her friends, which in the end makes her less effective. Giles is still fighting, and even has a version of the Scooby gang, although it is mostly comprised of different people (which is interesting in itself – one very minor character who isn’t in the know about the supernatural in Sunnydale prime apparently had the potential to have been part of the gang if things had gone differently). Xander and Willow are evil, but not just because it would be fun to make them evil, but because they’ve been turned into vampires; Angel still turned good and tried to atone for his past through helping the slayer, but failed without her, and is now nearly (but not quite) broken after extended torture. In other words, it isn’t simply Bizarro-world, but a thoughtful extrapolation of where these people would be if a crucial event hadn’t occurred.
  12. companionenvy


    I guess with Bae, if the writers wanted him to still have a child with Emma, there could have been a scenario in which Rumple found a different way of getting his son back from the LWOM against his will (as many have pointed out, there were plenty of ways of crossing realms). Adult Bae could have gone off to help Snowing defeat Rumple, which would have brought him into contact with Emma. While he wouldn't have been a good match for a Princess, she (or at least a non-ninny version of wish Emma) could have still gotten involved with him as an act of teenage rebellion - possibly, with unplanned out of wedlock pregnancy included. In the EF, this probably would have resulted in a hasty marriage.
  13. companionenvy


    Also, while it is a nitpick, but even if somehow there were a wish Henry, he shouldn't have been named Henry; that was the name Regina gave him. Presumably, Emma would have chosen something different. If we assume that somehow Emma and Nealfire were destined to meet and have a child together - and that somehow, that destiny applied even in an altered timeline with no curse -- one could fanwank scenarios where they still met and had a son. But the writers, of course, didn't feel the need to put any thought into the issue, so we can only fanwank. And even if we do, we're still left with the most insulting and nonsensical part of the episode, which is Snowing raising Emma to be a nitwit.
  14. I would agree, but they probably would have made Emma's life even more canonically miserable (likely in the form of having her and Hook lose baby Hope and not meet her again until she was at least as old as pilot-Henry), and might have character-assassinated Hook to the point where I couldn't even enjoy Captain Swan fanfic.
  15. companionenvy

    S03.E13: Pandemonium

    One thing that isn't clear to me from this finale is how they are going to replicate the torture element from the original neighborhood. The initial scenario was set up to be the perfect torture for all four humans. Eleanor thinks she is in TGP by mistake, and has to keep up her disguise in front of tons of people she is going to see as disgustingly perfect. Depending on what she chooses, either a stick-in-the-mud ethics professor is her only confidante, or just the hardest person to keep the façade up in front of. Indecisive, always tormented Chidi is going to, at minimum, have to deal with being paired with a soulmate who is obviously unsuitable for him -- and, likely, going to deal with the ethical crisis caused by figuring out/being told that Eleanor is here by mistake. My guess is if Eleanor hadn't fessed up, at some point, Michael would have engineered the situation so that Chidi found out another way. Tahani, who is consumed with a sense of inferiority, has to be around a whole group of perfect people. She is paired, to all appearances, with a silent Buddhist monk who isn't going to lavish her with praise and is going to make her feel even more inferior with his presumed nobility. Jason, of course, is stuck pretending to be a Buddhist monk, committed to an acetic life. Throughout, Michael and the other demons were helping things along. From giving Eleanor the small, creepy clown house to letting Tahani see that she was the bottom point scorer to bringing in "real" Eleanor, the whole neighborhood was designed to subtly torture them while appearing to be a paradise. Now, the other residents are neutrals, not demons, and as it doesn't seem Shawn has a say in the day to day running of the neighborhood, there's really no one left to be an obvious source of torture - which is going to change the dynamic significantly already. In addition, Simone can't logically take the Eleanor spot, since everything we know about her suggests that Simone is a thoroughly decent person. She would have no reason to think she wasn't legitimately in the Good Place, and even if she somehow figured it out, there isn't an obvious reason for her to need to seek ethics lessons from Chidi. None of this is necessarily a problem, but it raises a lot of interesting possibilities. Do Michael, Eleanor et al realize they have to start torturing Chidi and the new four humans to jump-start the process? How do they engineer things so Chidi plays ethics teacher again? Not that I think the experiment is going to work anyway - or at least not in the way Team Cockroach 2.0 expects; four new people aren't likely to wind up in the same place that the original four did.