Fearful Symmetry

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.

The One With the Vows

Because the announcement of a serial killer’s identity from a consulting detective is an excellent idea.

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.

Supreme Witches

(Pixie Dust + Selling Your Soul + Abandoning Your Child) > Botox +/- Plastic Surgery

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.

Supreme Witches

Like father like son, rinse and repeat, ad infinitum.

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:

Supreme Witches

Without the Spinsters, Colin and Rumple would never have made it to Neverland. Secret Agenda? I think so.

  • 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?
The Girl Parachronism

I mean, if the fans can put together family trees, can’t the show at least give us a map? There must be one in Gold’s Pawn Shop.

  • 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.

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What’s the opposite of the song the Von Trapp kids sing about saying goodbye?

Whatever that is, imagine that’s us, here and now, singing it to all of you. (Please hold all applause and criticisms on whether we’re in the correct key until the end of the post. Thanks ever so.)

Before we get down to the brass tacks of talking about our favorite TV shows and movies, we wanted to take a minute to introduce ourselves. We are three people who watch a (possibly unhealthy amount and) variety of TV shows and movies – sometimes together, sometimes on our own – and who like to dissect what we watch for quality of writing, plotting, pacing, acting, directing, staging and so on.

We are not experts in this field, but we figured years of observation probably helps. Besides, we’re doing this for fun. (Mostly. A teeny tiny part is our collective desire to offer a different take on some of the popular shows and movies our friends either wind up hating or obsessively loving. But it’s a teeny part; honestly, we have to keep it on a leash or we lose track of it.)

We’re still working out the kinks as we adjust to a new blogging platform and finalize our rota for posting, so bear with us as we get going. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or questions, we’ll be happy to hear them, but, please, keep it civil. We have fire extinguishers, and we’re not afraid to use them.

Finally, a word about our blog’s name. Lots of folks have heard the old chestnut used as an excuse when a fella’s caught with a particular girly mag: I read it for the articles. (I don’t think I need to say the name of the magazine, but it rhymes with bok choy.) Well, ‘we watch for the plot’ may have originated from those same fellas when caught watching a particular beach-centric melodrama, but we’re using it unironically. Don’t get us wrong: We certainly don’t mind a man in a well-cut suit, but for us, that’s gravy on the side. And here’s why:

  • We care about the characters.
  • We care about the writing.
  • We care about consistency, both long term and from shot to shot.
  • We care about the story.
  • We care the overall quality.

And we watch for the plot. No, really: We do.