PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler – Once Upon a Time – The Season 4 Mid-Season Recap & Progress Report (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “Once Upon a Time” airs on network TV, specifically on ABC, fall/winter/spring Sundays at 8:00 PM.

What: “Once Upon a Time,” a fantasy drama wherein storybook and fairy tale characters are not only real but are living in this world, away from their enchanted kingdoms and worlds beyond reality, and how they all interrelate (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/once_upon_a_time/summary.html).

When: The Season 4 finale aired on Sunday, December 14, 2014, on ABC at 8:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in fictional Storybrooke, Maine, as well as in “The Enchanted Forest,” the fairy tale kingdom from where most of the main characters originate. The action takes place primarily in present day, though there are flashbacks to the characters’ past lives, before they were whisked away to Storybrooke via curse wrought by the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parilla) and before they were made run-of-the-mill real world residents with serious bouts of amnesia.

Why: Two primary reasons: one, I love fantasy and fairy tales, and the Disney network green-lit a live action serial television program about fairy tale characters that they would probably own the rights to, if the characters weren’t already public domain.  Two, the creators are Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, two of the head writers of Lost. Whatever else may be said about the latter program, I don’t think anyone could argue that Lost wasn’t well written.  Once boasted some whopper ingredients that promised to result in an explosive and tantalizing mixture of story possibilities; the show has done nothing but live up to that expectation and then some.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

For recaps of season 3, click here and here.

In reflecting on the third season, I noted that while the Lost alumni who serve as the show’s executive producers seem to have learned lessons from their prior job by keeping the audience guessing and knowing when to provide the key answers at the key times without it becoming frustrating or a story too big to rein in by the time all is said and done, I felt trepidation upon viewing the uneven and disjointed third season, which swung from Neverland to Oz via plot devices that yielded mixed results in terms of successful storytelling (or lack of). I also believed that the tone and hodgepodge of story sources, such as The Wizard of Oz and Frozen, scatter the overall story flow, as if the producers are reaching and may be a bit too in bed with the network heads – or maybe the latter is a bit too controlling of the property.  In fact, the teased Frozen inspiration caused this viewer genuinely, for the first time, to be apprehensive about the future of the show and to question the producers’ and writers’ motivations, particularly since the omnipresence of Frozen has undercut some of its magic for so many people, including me.  While the third season of Once offered some exceptional episodes, particularly the mid-season finale, the quality of the season overall did not live up to that of the first two seasons, and this viewer hoped that this was not the start of a trend governing the fourth and future seasons going forward.

What do you think?  I asked a panel of fellow Couch Potatoes how they felt about Once’s Frozen arc for the third of three pilot podcasts “Around the Water Cooler.”  This podcast was recorded on March 10, 2015.  Listen and let us know what you think; comment below as to whether you agree or disagree.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) Is Regina really going to go full-on evil again because Robin found Marian?  And how will that affect her relationship with Emma, Henry, and the Charmings?

Answer: She didn’t go “full-on evil” for any length of time, at least not against the heroes of the story, though she was considerably grumpy and desperate, pining for Robin Hood – and he for her – while he tried to remain loyal to Marian.  She wanted nothing to do with Emma or her parents for most of the first half of the season, though Henry started to try to help her in her quest to achieve her happy ending, or at least to believe that such an achievement is possible.

2) Is Robin really going to forget his love for Regina just because Marian is around again?

Answer: The answer is a resounding “no!”  Robin and Regina looked at each other longingly.  He gave her his heart, even, which she took with that creepy heart-taking magic.  At one point, they got it on in her vault.  Even Marian expressed understanding about what happened between them and gave them her tentative blessing, but Robin, Marian, and Regina were ultimately concerned for Robin and Marian’s son, and Robin and Marian have gone to live in the forest with him.  Kids always complicate things.

3) Will Belle find the Dark One’s dagger?  She seems to know Mr. Gold’s shop better than he does. And what will finding the dagger do to them if she does find it?

Answer: She discovered that Rumpel had been deceiving her, and when she did finally get her hands on the real dagger, she commanded that he leave Storybrooke forever.  Unfortunately, “forever” didn’t last long.

4) Is baby Neal magical like his sister?

Answer: At this time, baby Neal’s “specialness,” if it exists, is still unknown.

5) Elsa?  Really?  I vote no.  Oh, sorry, question: what the hell does she want, and how the hell did she come through that portal?  And most importantly: why did she come through that portal?

Answer: She (Georgina Haig) was trapped in a bottle by her sister, Anna, who had been tricked into doing so by the sisters’ aunt, The Snow Queen (Elizabeth Mitchell), who had a magic mirror that induces anyone who looks into it to see the worst in people. The Snow Queen’s story and actions are recapped in the podcast, but Anna saw Elsa as dangerous and threatening to their Frozen kingdom, and she and Hans, via the Snow Queen’s manipulations, trapped her in this magic bottle.  Rumpel got a hold of it when he encountered the Snow Queen.  I don’t actually remember how, though…weird.

6) Is Henry magical?  Did Emma and Baelfire have true love, ever?

Answer: Apart from being the “true believer,” we don’t know yet if Henry has any special magic.  Emma and Baelfire did have true love, presumably, at least for a time.  Perhaps, they were star-crossed.

7) Is the fourth season of Once going to be good or predictably mediocre, now that so many story lines have been resolved and the only inspiration the creators could find was from a movie that is six months old?  PS: Sellouts.

Answer: Listen to the PODCAST!

New Questions

1) What did Snow White and Prince Charming do with Maleficent (Kristen Bauer von Straten) and her baby to ensure that Emma is imbued with a good heart and light magic?

2) How the hell did Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit) get magical?  Where does she come from?  How did she come to know Maleficent and Ursula (Merrin Dungey)?

3) Why did these particular Queens of Darkness band together at any point?

4) How did Rumpel (Robert Carlyle) come to make their acquaintance?

5) What did Rumpel do for the six weeks during which he was ousted from Storybrooke, without magic and disabled?

6) WHO IS THE AUTHOR? And can changing the book really change Regina’s, or anyone else’s, fate?

7) Will Emma go bad? She has the potential; this we know.  Did everyone catch the Fantasia reference?

8) Grown-up Pinocchio, August, is returning to the show.  Will he and Emma canoodle?  They were kind of flirty in the past.

9) How did Will Scarlett (Michael Socha), aka the Knave from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, end up in Storybrooke and without Anastasia, the former Red Queen?  And how did he and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) decide to hook up?

10) Will Rumpel and Belle ever reconcile?

11) Where are Robin and Marian nowadays?

12) Why does Emma keep talking about her “superpower” of being able to detect lies when she has actual real superpowers?

13) Why have Snow and Charming chosen to lie to Emma?

14) What is Rumpel’s endgame?  What power does he really want?

15) The Frozen story was wrapped up neatly, so most of these questions come from the first episodes of the second part of this season.  What is the writers’ endgame now?

PARTING SHOTS

The podcast panel was generally lukewarm about the Frozen story line, finding it to be not altogether as bad as expected but still a less-than-ideal choice to shoehorn into the first half of the season, particularly given the revelation about Disney’s demand to the producers that their cash cow be incorporated as a plot device.  The panel was generally more optimistic about the Queens of Darkness arc but also more cautious: this viewer still holds Lost in the back of her mind, one panelist thought the producers stood on a precipice of potentially losing control of the show, and the other two panelists were hopeful but mitigate their hopes in lieu of their reactions to less popular preceding story arcs.  The panel was, overall, more eager to return to Storybrooke and/or the Enchanted Forest as a mainstay, reconnecting to the core group of characters (the Charmings, Regina, Rumpel, Belle, etc.) and developing their stories rather than introducing new characters and/or story devices that veered away from their focus.  The panel was also generally interested in seeing more flushing out of the Enchanted Forest flashbacks, either by incorporating more frequent or more expanded back stories or, perhaps, returning to the event series concept that motivated OUAT-Wonderland as a means of providing additional detail and dimension to those known and beloved characters.  In any event, one panelist made an interesting prediction about Maleficent’s child, and all panelists plan to continue to watch to see how the Queens of Darkness conspire to usurp reign over the magical town of Storybrooke.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Once Upon a Time returned from hiatus on March 1, 2015, airing new episodes on Sundays at 8:00 AM on ABC.  Renewal for a fifth season is all but guaranteed, but no formal announcement has, as yet, been made.  Stay tuned, Once-ers!

EDITORIAL:

Would you like to see Couch Potatoes Unite! continue to cover this show via PODCAST or via traditional recap? Please comment with your vote!

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