Wednesday, September 28, 2016

One Upon A Time Opener Adds Refugees from The Land of Untold Stories

"Nothing is more dangerous than an untold story..." 

So begins the 6th season of Once Upon A Time. And we truly hope this is a promise and not just a catch phrase (though it appears it's going to take a few episodes to get to the 'untolds' in question #wevoteCinderellastepfamily).

In this season Storybrooke will be "invaded" by "The Land of Untold Stories", where characters from the series have discovered that "there are more stories and tales out there than we ever dreamed..". (Note: while this was the teaser, the first episode treated inhabitants from this land more like refugees, given blankets after surviving the crashed dirigible.) Our optimistic hearts leapt at the thought that perhaps the producers and writers were finally open to delving into the myriad fairy tales (and myths and legends) from around the world. Where the lands of Storybrooke and other realms of Once Upon A Time had seemed limited and going in circles, it seemed there was finally the possibility of developing and exploring the hundreds and thousands of unexplored tales. Our optimism was abruptly bridled on reading the cast from the series had expressed thoughts that it "seems like we're running out of tales" at ComiCon, even though they hastened to add, "but of course that would never happen". 
It's a strange dichotomy: the series becoming open to "the land of untold stories" and delving into 1001 nights of Scheherazade's stories, while the show seems to be struggling with finding tales to tell. They're also making sure to mention that they're going "back to basics" with this season so the hope is that rather than just watching another version of having the reset button hit, that any first season story lines that are revisited will be explored in greater (and we hope, fairy tale related) depth. We do know Cinderella is set to return (although living in Storybrooke this whole time, we really haven't seen, if nay of her), but this time we'll see more of her stepmother and stepsisters as well. Since Cinderella has already been given her "happily ever after" (she was Emma's first success story, which, in part, led her to stay on in the town) we're curious to see if this will be dismantled and redefined or if indeed the show is taking a serious look at what "happily ever after" really means.
Meanwhile, the season opener on Sunday reported boosted ratings, due to the expectation of Aladdin, Jasmine and flying carpets, further exploration of the Disney version of the Beauty and the Beast story, along with a resurgence of the Wicked Queen persona. It probably helps that the budget seems to have had a boost as well. (Cue full sized dirigible set/prop piece #piratescaribbeanleftovers? and decent 3D animation for its appearance.) Though the special effects continue to be less than stellar from time to time, (#oraclebirdredeye) the production values are better and the sets, props vehicles and costumes seem to have noticeably improved (or the photography of those has improved - either way - things look better overall than they did).

The Belle-Rumpel story line (we left Belle pregnant and in an enchanted sleep at the end of last season) has its usual complications, though, without spoiling too much, it was refreshing to see "dream Belle" resist falling into her old ways with Rumpel. Children give you strength to do the most difficult things, which it seems will be a theme that will be explored in this season. And hers isn't the only baby around. Zelena (the Wicked Witch and sister of Regina/Evil Queen) has a baby too. But we're wishing on stars that isn't the only role these children will fill. With so much fairy and fairy tale lore surrounding births and babies, we sincerely hope the writers will be exploring some of these aspects as well, rather than just having infants complicate a situation (not to mention there is potential for both children to be "magical" given their parentage). Pregnancy, birth, infants and new motherhood in fairy tales is a fairy new area being explored in depth in fairy tale scholarship and, along with related fairy lore, there's so much potential for furthering fairy tales here.

Regarding the plot for the opener, not a lot happened, (other than the set up for which certain moments were included) so there's not much, if anything to truly spoil. Things should begin to develop in the next episode though, so we have eyes-on to see if any of these potential threads are followed.
The preceding hour recap of the series and introduction to season 6 with Kitsis and Horowitz 'answering questions', was much more intriguing. Things often take a long time to happen on the show just due to the enormous amounts of conversations and discussions so extracting the moments of magic and the touchstones for different characters and putting them together for discussion and review is interesting. While we understand the "drama" aspect appeals to many of the viewers, we find it often gets in the way of the storytelling, especially when retelling various fairy tales which tend toward flatness and are spare on unnecessary details. Highlights remind us that there have been many different explorations of tales of the show that are worth attention, and often work to bring different themes and threads into clearer focus as well. 
In the recap, there was a discussion of Easter eggs from the final episode of last season, confirming possible characters and classics that would appear this season. Agrabah folk, which have been the main teasers before the season premiere, Victorian London, which we already saw with Hyde, along with Paul Bunyan and other clues. There were also many mentions of fairy tale motifs and moments that were presented differently, which are interesting to reflect on. The exploration - and promise of exploration - of Snow White's character is something the teasers have pushed during the hiatus but the story that started it all (Snow White and Charming) has been "background soap" for the last few seasons, confirming for us that many writers are a little lost in trying to find "the magic in marriage" and make it "exciting TV". That they're promising to bring it front and center again is interesting (and we could suggest some great  tales for them to use to do that) but without the threat of terrible things (and Stockholm syndrome) as shown in the Belle/Rumpel dynamic, making it the equivalent of a train wreck you can't look away from, Snow and Charming are likely to have to deal with something extreme to bring back the fan-obsession. We have to wonder if part of the problem isn't to do with the lack of Charming's own mythic story. Although he's been given interesting background, matching the level and strength of a Snow White myth is a tough call, and for Snow to be wedded (literally) to a weaker arc, has the result of making her appear weak too. If that turns around to indeed become central again (and hit those' epic fairy tale' heights), it might make all the difference. We choose to cheer them on toward this goal.
A last aside: among the various questions asked of the creators, one random one was: "If Henry is the Author, who is the Illustrator?" We weren't happy with the lack of acknowledgement of the people who create the visuals - including those of the Once Upon A Time book, and the reply that the magic pen gave the Author powers of illustration as well was a blatant cop-out. It was also a missed opportunity for expanding the OUAT mythos. Given this is a visual information age, and that fairy tale illustrations have been key in keeping fairy tales alive in our time, not to mention that illustrations are a unique way of relating fairy tales and stories and a completely different skill set from writing, we felt let down by the lack of understanding here.

On a pro note: we were told very specifically that Dopey, who was turned into a tree some time back and has generally been forgotten about, will make a return appearance and fill in the gaps in relation to that story as well. We haven't had tree-related stories for a while (though the Merlin story line made use of one) and they were a key foundation, with Regina's apple tree in the first few episodes helping set the tone, twists and mythology for the series, and there's so much tree lore in fairy tales, it's a rich mine to pull from. We hope this will be a wonderful addition.
From Jennifer Morrison, who plays Emma, Snow White & Prince Charming's child and the Savior of Storybrooke:
"It's also showing that it's a return to returning to happy endings. The original concept of the storytelling of Once Upon a Time was that we were going to restore the happy endings," Jennifer explained. "So as we look at our characters in more depth and sort of introspectively deal with some of their baggage and all of the things that have happened over the last six years, they're also returning to the identity that they have. As the heroes, they're going to help save these happy endings." (source)

Bonus OUAT Season 6 Opener Drinking game:
(created by our Once Upon A Blog newsroom team)
Do a shot:
- every time you hear the word "story" in episode 1 
- every time you hear refrains from Beauty and the Beast 
- every time you hear the word "Savior" 
- every time Emma does her "anguished" face
Enjoy your OUAT hangover! 
Fairy Tale Bonus of the Day (or at least a OUAT bonus):
In case you haven't been keeping up with the OUAT buzz over the Summer, there are reports that for two episodes and once story arc, Princess Leia (yes, Star Wars Leia), will be, not only making an appearance but add some twists to the twisted family tree of the Once characters. I'll just include extracts as taken from an interview with the creators earlier this year after the jump:

✑  ✑  ✑  ✑  ✑  ♛ (click the "Read more" link below this line) ♛  ✑  ✑  ✑  ✑  ✑

Said Horowitz, “We’re super excited to be able to bring Princess Leia to Once Upon a Time! The Frozen arc was so well received by fans last season, presumably because people were still hyped about Frozen. Well now there’s a lot of Star Wars buzz, so what better time to bring Leia on the show?” 
Kitsis continued, “We want to do with Leia what we feel has been lacking in the films. We have a lot of badass women on Once Upon a Time, and we want to include Leia in that, and bring her to the forefront.” 
When asked whether that means Leia will have the Force, Horowitz replied, “Of course! The fact that Leia doesn’t have the Force in the films is ridiculous, and it’s something we want to correct on our show. Not to mention, the Force is just space magic, so it fits in perfectly with the lands of magic in Once Upon a Time.” 
Horowitz continued that, while Jedi won’t be in the show by name, we’ll still get to see them. “Leia having the Force opens the door for so many possibilities. There won’t be Jedi as we know them, rather, space witches and wizards. Space witches of light magic and space witches of dark magic. And they’ll have some unique robes, robes of varying colors with stars on them. And instead of pointy hats, their hair will be styled up into a point. Like a cone.” 
The inclusion of Leia begs the question though, does this mean Once Upon a Time will be going to space? 
“Absolutely,” answered Kitsis, “We couldn’t tackle Star Wars and not go to space. Not to mention, we’ve already introduced portals to other worlds, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to see places like Tatooine or Hoth. Hell, we could even visit Jar Jar in Naboo! That’d be fun!” 
“Yeah, we’re really looking forward to introducing a whole new array of characters who will become unimportant after one episode,” continued Horowitz. “Lightsabers too. We definitely want to include lightsabers in some capacity. And genderless droids. And right now we’re toying with the idea of Killian captaining a space ship, because how cool would that be?” 
It also seems that Once Upon a Time will even use this new storyline as an opportunity for yet another family relation bombshell, ala Luke and Vader’s “No, I am your father.” 
Horowitz and Kitsis were pressed for more information, but the two are remaining fairly tight lipped, “We can’t give everything away!” laughed Kitsis. “Let’s just say that Rumple’s tree is about to get crazy, and it may or may not have something to do with Leia’s visit.” 
“Emma isn’t exempt from that craziness either. Her life is about to get even more complicated,” Horowitz added. “Some things you thought to be true may not be all that true. Let’s not forget how vast the Star Wars universe is, and who’s in Leia’s family. Some questions people had at the end of The Force Awakens will be answered in Once.” 
You can read more of the details shared by the Creators on Leia's addition to the characters and show mythology HERE.
(Important Note: the original article with these details was posted on April 1st... we just couldn't resist.) 

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