Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers for episode 3.08 of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, “Think Lovely Thoughts.” It also contains spoilers for episode 6.08 of CBS’s The Mentalist, “The Great Red Dragon.”
Tiger Tiger. burning bright, / In the forests of the night; / What immortal hand or eye. / Could frame thy fearful symmetry? – William Blake, “The Tiger”
I love poetry. It’s not something I usually advertise (and I don’t normally talk about the poetry I’ve written. Yeesh.) because I tend to go in for older poetry, rather than works written in the last 20 to 30 years. I mean, there’s a reason I used a Yeats poem for my Tumblr address.
(Psst! Speaking of Tumblr, WWFTP has taken the plunge. Follow us there if you don’t already follow us here on WordPress, through an RSS feed or on Twitter. We’re only using it to share our posts here at the moment, but that may change. Who knows? It’s super new.)
My love of poetry was part of why I bought into the weird premise of CBS’s long-running procedural, The Mentalist. (Because hiring a man publicly known for having questionable morals to solve cases is something that really only works on TV. Man, I hope it’s really only true on TV.) After all, I could excuse the repetitive nature of the cases and the uneven nature of the character development when the recurring Big Bad (Red John) regularly quotes William Blake. As I mentioned in our Mid-Term Report Card, it’s nice for there to finally be some progress on the Red John case after six long seasons. I’m not yet ready to assume Patrick Jane’s reveal of Director Bertram as Red John is true, but it set things in motion.
I hope next week’s episode will offer a chance at redemption for the CBI team, who were woefully off their game this week. (I’m willing to accept their collective shock at learning they’ve been working hand-in-hand with corrupt, murderous cops and judges as an explanation, but it’s no excuse.)
And this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time, whatever faults I may have taken issue with, was similarly concerned with betrayal. While the show has been hinting at this week’s big reveal for several episodes, it was nice to have it unequivocally stated at the top of the third act Sunday evening.
Learning Peter Pan is actually Rumplestiltskin’s father, cursed/blessed with near-eternal youth at the cost of his son, gave the story a pleasing symmetry: Fathers choosing power or freedom over their families.
In particular, the confrontation between Rumplestiltskin and Peter Pan had a lovely sense of closing a circle: Rumplestiltskin’s disgust, whether intentional or not, when Pan offers him the choice of staying in Neverland – of starting over – mirrors his own son’s reaction when he offered to make Neal 14 again.
However, as with so many of the stories Once chooses to tell, we were left with more questions than answers. We talked here at WWFTP, and these are only a few of the major questions we had after Sunday’s episode:
- Who are the spinning spinsters Rumplestiltskin’s father left him with? Are they relations of Colin, Rumple’s father, or of his absent mother? How did they come by a magic bean, and why were they so eager to separate Rumplestiltskin from his father?
- Where is Rumplestiltskin’s mother? For a show so eager to point out physically or emotionally absent mothers – Snow White and Emma; Emma and Henry; Regina and Henry; Cora and Regina; Milah and Baelfire; Queen Eva and Snow White; Anita and Ruby – not to mention those characters who are only ever shown with their fathers (Belle, Grace, Hansel and Gretel), it’s strange not to mention Rumple’s mother, even in passing. Exactly how much of his own childhood was Rumple cursed to reproduce?
- Was Colin always a ne’er do well, or did he commit some offense that forced him to resort to hustling on street corners to feed himself and his son?
- For that matter, what exactly did Rumplestiltskin’s father a coward? In season 2’s “Manhattan,” Rumple says he won’t leave his child fatherless, a statement now clarified, but there is talk of his being the son of a coward. So what did Colin do, or what did people say he had done?
- Who or what is The Shadow? Considering we now know it predates the ‘birth’ of Peter Pan, is it a portent of another layer of mythology the show will revealed? Is it the force that’s been pulling strings all along, stripping the characters of their free will? Or are we expected to believe something with that much power is a footnote in the real story, about the Charmings and their struggles?
- Can we, for once and for all, have some clarification on the timeline? And the geography, for that matter? Clearly, traveling between realms has always been possible, thanks to magic beans, but is Rumplestiltskin’s original home the same world he lives in once he’s married? Is it the same as the one where the other main characters eventually meet each other? And if Rumple’s abandonment is zero on the chain of events that lead us to the events of “Pilot,” how long has everything between then and now taken?
- Are we ever going to find out how Hook and Tinker Bell know each other? I’m assuming it doesn’t involve him trapping her in a lantern, but it’s got to be a story thread worth mining for a little comedy gold.
While confining the vast majority of the show’s action to Neverland in the first half of this season has gone a long way toward simplifying the narrative, it also means those scenes that take place either in flashbacks or Storybrooke must be that much better – well paced, tightly written, soundly structured – to warrant their inclusion.
When an episode of a police procedural where the officers are the definition of ‘camp’ when trying to keep a secret manages to forward its plot more than a family drama almost entirely focused on one character’s origin, it’s troubling. But when the family drama has a greater potential for performances fraught with genuine emotion and pathos, it’s more frustrating than anything else.