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Emma stands behind Snow, who is dressed in her curse world contemporary clothes but holds a bow and arrow

Once Upon a Time’s first season brought us a wonderfully campy fantasy show with a cast full of all kinds of women. Its second season lost the thread a little bit, but Jodie and Clare were already hooked. Watch them tackle the show’s second season, from beloved ships to skeevy pirates to the show’s race problem.

Jodie: So, after series one I had a lot of thoughts about this program and most of them could be summed up by 'Eeeeee - ladies'. After the end of series two my thoughts were more complicated because WOW, there's a lot of dudes talking to dudes in this series. I know that's a shallow reading but in series one "OUaT" felt like one of the few TV shows which was 90% ladies interacting (I know Henry was a round a lot and Gold, but they spent all their time talking to women too). And I loved it for that focus on women despite its low production values on the fantasy side.

In series two, Charming has been provided with the chance to be temporary sheriff (I made such a face at that - it's Emma badge you jerk!) and is in charge. Two of the program's three main ladies (Snow and Emma) were moved to what often felt like a secondary storyline. Mulan and Aurora got added to the cast, but there were episodes where it felt like that storyline was barely focused on and a lot of time in their storyline ended up turning into the Hook show (UGH Hook I hatesssss him, he is a worse love interest than August. There's Gold and David and Henry and Jefferson (booo). Also Lancelot got dead really fast (that's one guy I wanted around a lot more).

Mulan and Lancelot next to each other

You also had a big post full of thoughts after series one and were blown away by the variety of female characters. I know that you're now deep into series three, so just wondering whether you feel the program has maintained its focus on female characters across the three series?

Clare: In terms of the nine characters credited as the main cast, there’s three women to six men in the first season and five women to four men in the second. (To be fair, one of those six men in the first season is Graham, who, uh… well, let’s just say he’s starring in Fifty Shades of Grey these days.) But the first season’s focus on female characters came from the constant use of flashbacks to the Enchanted Forest to tell the stories of major and minor characters, as well as Emma and Regina being set up as main hero and main villain. While we still get plenty of flashbacks in season two and season three, they’re focused on the major characters. Emma, our hero, gets less flashbacks than the others, and her flashbacks never have her interacting significantly with other women. (Meanwhile, Snow White’s flashbacks almost always involve her defying Regina and/or befriending another fairy tale heroine. BLESS.)

Season three is also the first season in the show to feature a male villain, which affects the balance. Plus… oh, Jodie, there’s more Hook. I’m so sorry.

So, yeah, I feel the focus has definitely shifted, but not from ladies to men—rather, it’s shifted from ladies to families. But that is different from the show I mainlined over a weekend so I could start season two one.


Cora is holding an open book and appears to be sayinging something, presumably she is casting a spell

Clare: I did not expect to love Cora as much as I did. I have a long-standing thing for power hungry older women with glares that cut like diamonds; see my adoration of Mama Petrelli from Heroes. Cora showing Regina how evil queening in the name of making everyone too scared to look at you sideways works worked for me. "The Miller's Daughter", especially with Rose McGowan seemingly being possessed by Barbara Hershey, is one of my favorite episodes of this past season.

Jodie: See, Cora sits weirdly with me. I really wanted to invest in her because she is the belle dame of wicked but... Ok, Regina is the queen of my heart and Cora is SO terrible to her, so manipulative. I just can't forget the first time we meet Cora in series one and she binds Regina, then forcibly changes her clothes with magic. So, I found it hard to get behind their mother/daughter evil bonding spree. I really wanted Regina to break free from Cora.

And I don't necessarily mean I wanted Regina to be good and denounce her mother's ways; I would have taken her evil and free too. I just wanted her to get away. Bizarrely though, at the end when Cora died I was quite sad. I suppose it's because Regina is so heart broken and I want her to have everything she wants, maybe? I feel similarly about Regina's relationship Henry (I still do not care for him).

Saying all that, "The Miller's Daughter" broke my heart. It just showed so clearly how people can be forced to push their hearts away in order to gain power. And I thought that episode made Cora's character feel like it was rooted in reality as history is full of queens who were required to be steely in order to keep power.

Anyway, I think I would enjoy watching her more in the Wonderland spin-off series that's on its way. There, she can be the excellent wicked, older queen and she won't threaten the emotional stability of my favourite lady.

By the way, Rumple and Cora - two people cast aside by a prejudiced world who take refuge in a dark, abusive power - I would have shipped it to the heavens! Although I would have been torn because it would have conflicted with Belle/Rumple and I do love that ship. And I do like redemptive relationships - I'm kind of a sucker, romantic for that kind of deal. Or maybe I just watched too much Buffy at an impressionable age.

Clare: Ha! I have not watched Buffy enough, and yet I feel the allure of that ship. But I do kind of prefer that Cora used it to get the better of him. It's the magic that comes with having ALL THE LADIES; we can have other ladies having redemptive romances, so other ladies can do other things. Given the show's message about the power of LOVE and FAMILY, having her throw Rumple's chance for another family in his face is quite a blow to the powers of good.

The Charmings

Snow and David hug Emma after the curse has been broken

Clare: Josh Dallas is the most charming man on the planet. I can't tell you the number of times I've watched him on Once Upon a Time and have just been directly charmed. This show has some great casting, and I particularly like him. I agree that the show is tilting towards more gender equity in terms of story instead of season one's ALL THE LADIES ALL THE TIME, but when it comes to Charming, I don't mind.

I don't mind, because we see Snow and Charming talking and negotiating like a couple with actual communication skills (adjusting for Once Upon a Time's infamous character waffling) and generally being both a functioning couple and the matriarch/patriarch of the convoluted House of Swann. There's a bit in "Selfless, Brave, and True" where Mary Margaret asks him not to get upset when she tells him something and he visibly stops himself, because he promised her. They are actively working to be a good couple and good parents and good heroes, even though they mess up. That's why I find them so engaging.

Jodie: 'I don't mind, because we see Snow and Charming talking and negotiating like a couple with actual communication skills...'


There is a little bit of me that does, in the end, miss cursed David. Not because I liked him, but because I thought he was such an interesting character in his own right. Usually I hate 'my wife just doesn't understand me' storylines, but because of the curse "OUaT" made that kind of storyline actually work. In a larger narrative scale I do not want more of that - let's not start having a rush on creators using magical reasoning to justify middle age male characters having affairs.

And I thought the way that the show complicated his Charming nature by showing him messing up so much in series one, but let the viewer know that if the curse should be broken he'd become Charming again, was such an interesting twist on the usual revisionist fairy tale character. I was actually a bit disappointed that they seem to have fudged taking a hard look at how character interaction before the curse was broken affected post-curse relationships. Surely, the way David treated Mary Margaret of his own free will (the curse only causes memory loss and isn't responsible for adultery, or broken promises) should have impacted their post-curse relationship somehow?

At the same time I love them and NEVER want them to break up.

Clare: TPTB definitely could stand to not fudge things like that and actually glean stories from it. Although I am a sucker for couples reuniting happily after so much time and so many ordeals apart.

Jodie: How did you feel about Snow's big storyline in this series - the blackening heart? I really love that the recurring theme of this program is about the goodness of heart and what they've done with the magical heart idea. And, I've enjoyed seeing a character good of heart pushed so far that she does something she deems despicable. I loved seeing the fall out of Cora's death, as Snow tried to deal with it, ultimately couldn't and then, after Regina put her heart back in, started a whole new strategy for coping. I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about any magical fix for Snow's heart... I would rather she fixed it through her actions and her sorrow. Maybe that's what we'll get?

Clare: I like your take on Snow's heart. For me, seeing a hero ask "Why aren't we using the other side's means to get our way?" is always fascinating (HEY MAGNETO), but I thought it was a thread that got lost a little towards the end of the season. The idea of having Snow earn her pure heart back by deeds rather than magic is a fascinating one, and I'm interested to see what deed could do it. (DON'T BE SACRIFICE. DON'T BE THAT ONE.)

Jodie: I'm going to stake my heart on this - Snow as sacrifice will never happen. It would need a whole new set of writers to come in and make such a horrible mistake. I believe in you show!


Belle sits at a counter in Granny's diner dressed in an approximation of the golden ballgown that Disney's Belle wears at the end of Beauty and the Beast

Clare: The other important ship of the show. How did you feel about the whole Lacey situation? Because it's… odd. That episode in particular wastes Robin Hood - why not use Rapunzel and seed that, since a pregnant couple is so important?—which could have been used so well. My kingdom for a "Robin Hood, what a fox!" joke. (I just want everything to be A Knight's Tale, let's be real.) I do like the idea that, on some level, Belle is attracted to Rumple's darkness: it's a part of him that she accepts and loves, because she loves so powerfully. But it also just seemed like a bit of shock value to have her be his devil, instead of his angel. I dunno—I prefer Belle daring Rumple to be a better man, to be the man she knows he can be, to be so defiantly loving and generous but also an agent in her own right (which she points out in "The Crocodile"). So Lacey sits weirdly with me.

Jodie: Honestly, I think the whole Lacey thing was bad writing. The creators wanted to introduce some shock and tragedy into Gold's storyline, and then they realised they had no idea what to do with a Belle who'd forgotten her life. I think they started off thinking she might investigate the magic with Greg, but that didn't pan out for whatever reason. And so we ended up with Lacey. I wasn't really into it. I'm so glad you told me that the Rumple/Belle ship was coming back because otherwise I would have spent so much of the series unhappy.

Gif shows Belle looking tearfully at her cup and text reads Rumpbelle feels


What seeing Lacey did make me think is that a.) I should watch Roswell again, because Tess and b.) Emili de Ravin should absolutely play a bar fly character in a character piece film - something with all the feelings of "Thelma and Louise", and "Crazy Heart" but with a female lead, and a totally different story.

Clare: You are welcome! It was rough there for a bit, right? Can de Ravin keep her Australian accent for this hypothetical film? Because it is dreamy.


Neal and Tamara are sitting together looking at Henry's book of fairy tales

Clare: Normally, I love and adore science versus magic storylines. I adore everything we get about Dr. Whale, because we get Universal monster cinematography and David Anders is so good at that. (Some of the other actors… not so much. But he's great!) I look forward to learning more about Home Office, which was totally started by Wendy Darling. But Tamara's character is so vaguely written and poorly motivated that I don't know what to do with her. Plus, the lone person of color on the show now is a not-so-well-written villain. C'mon, show.

(Although I will point out that Naveen Andrews is playing Jafar in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. My question: where is Aladdin and Jasmine? I want them. I want 'em bad.)

Jodie: This program has a race problem. Am I right in thinking "OUaT" shows on the CW network in the US? I've heard the CW network is kind of notorious for this kind of things. Does that seem accurate?

Clare: I don't watch too much CW, honestly, but I do know that Supernatural has a problem of killing ladies off? I can't comment too much on that. Here, it airs on ABC on Sunday nights, and ABC also boasts Scandal, which features Kerry Washington and is one of the more critically claimed and visible shows featuring a female lead of color. Plus, it also has Agents of SHIELD, which has two ladies of color in the main cast. So it's a brighter spot than it could be, but still not where it needs to be.

Jodie: I am really excited to find out what Tamara's sympathetic backstory is. Everyone gets one, so I bet she does too. And I bet magic did her wrong in a really interesting way. Also, I would like to know how she and Greg got together (they seem like an adorable couple). Hopefully this is all to come in series three.

Also AAHAHAHAHA do you know that Wendy Darling is behind Home Office for sure? If so, that would be totally excellent! Imagine Neil and older Wendy facing off!

Clare:It's only my theory, but come on, it's Once Upon a Time, it would be such an awesome, heartwrenching reveal! Imagine Wendy angrily declaring "I did this because of you! I did this to keep my family safe from those monsters!" and Neal and Emma having to negotiate that! Plus: love triangle. Not my favorite, but delicious, delicious bait for the Once Upon a Time team.

Jodie: I love your Wendy ideas. Just the thought of Neal and Emma having to confront the monster made with good intentions while Snow tries to make her heart clean again is so exciting! Parallel storylines, yay :) If that doesn't happen you absolutely have to fan create it!

On Neal/Baelfire - do you ship him and Emma? I totally want them to happen! I'm still really annoyed that his new GF turned out to be a villain, clearing their path for love though. That's one of the many tropes I do not enjoy.

Clare: Given the show's emphasis on family, I kind of wanted Neal and Emma to decide to be co-parents and awesome friends, so I'm not completely behind the ship because I was hoping for something else.


a small blond boy in a red hat and green dungarees looks up fearfully - it's Pinocchio

Clare: …That is not how to write August out of the show, show.

Jodie: This was weird! I didn't like it at all or the convenient 'unfortunately I can no longer remember what I was going to tell you now that I'm a small boy' angle. And, does this mean no more flashbacks of hot, morally compromised August? I has a sad. Making August Pinocchio has always been odd to my mind though. Even though I'm usually 100% open to drastic revisionism, I found it too weird to be asked to find Pinocchio sexy.

Clare: Yes, we're all out of hot, morally compromised August. The actor has gone on to better pastures. (As, rumor has it, Ruby's actress as well, which leaves me howling in despair.) I kind of liked the idea of what they did to Pinocchio; less the sexification, but more running with his moral dilemmas until they couldn't go any further. I liked the commitment to it.

Jodie: I'll also be really sad if Ruby is going. They just haven't made enough of her which is shocking because werewolves are so in right now. I'd have thought they'd have wanted to massively crank her role up to catch fans of other werewolf media.

Clare: It's a shame that they haven't made more of her as a character! Meghan Ory is a treasure. (I also loved the slinky, tomboy style she was rocking last season.) I wonder if ABC/Disney is thinking that the audience Once draws isn't the same audience that Teen Wolf draws? I've seen arguments that Once Upon a Time is meant to be much more family friendly, thus the diverse (albeit not racially) cast, weekend airing night, and tone.


profile picture of Hook brooding on the deck of his ship

Clare: Please make him stop hitting on Emma. It's not cute or charming or sexy, it's him being weird and Emma straight up saying "YEAH, NOPE."

However, given the show's emphasis on family, I find the idea that Hook wants to be Baelfire's father fascinating, because it, in a roundabout way, reminds us that Mila was Baelfire's mother too. That she shared her hopes and fears for her son with her lover and wished that she could give him the life that a "coward" never could—the open sea, adventure, the like.

Of course, it would be a lot better if Mila could have been there to tell him that herself—pause. Let us imagine Once Upon a Time where Mila is Hook. It would be a lot different, of course, but the possibilities!

I do love the evil Peter Pan theme, though. I look forward to that next season.

Jodie: I agree about him hitting on Emma. Get away from her! What I do like it that the program can't seem to make up its mind about whether Emma likes Hook. And now there's Neal, so perhaps any hint of potentially reciprocated romance will die its deserved death? I hate Hook in general though - partly because he's an ass, partly because he's exactly the kind of ass we're all supposed to love-hate and partly because of the way his character's pain is built on female fridging. I only really found myself liking him when, as you were talking about, he reaches out to Baelfire (that kid never stood a chance did he - his mother is dead, the Dark One is his dad, and a homicidal pirate want to be his step-father).

And, OMG imagine Mila the live lady pirate, or Mila as Hook. I'm so sad the only gender swapped character (Jack) so far got cut down after one episode.

Clare: Yeah. It's really hard to stomach a traditional antihero with manpain on Once Upon a Time: Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves. Hopefully, Emma will kick his butt.

I was really disappointed with Jack, especially since Jack characters are pretty common in fairy tales, giving them a prime opportunity to tie several stories together, the way they do with Rumple. I hope to see more gender swapped characters as we progress, given Once's loose idea of adhering to the original story.

Mulan and Aurora

Mulan and Aurora stand side by side - Aurora appears to be looking at something while Mulan is thinking hard

Clare: Their plotline gets dropped towards the end of the second season, which is a shame. I assume they'll go back and show how Mulan and Aurora revived Philip, but just ignoring it felt… weird. I, like tumblr, enjoy the warrior and princess interplay between them, especially how devoted Mulan is to Aurora's protection, although I don't like the idea that Mulan has a crush on Philip. I hope Aurora is just making that up.

Jodie: Yeah pretty much agree. Criminally under-used. Totally shippable, but love seeing them as female friends in canon too. More please show!

I do think Mulan loves Philip though. I'm hoping they'll find a way around that in the next series which doesn't involve friendship breakups, sad Mulan, dead ladies or evil Philip. If they managed it they'd have produced a unicorn though so... But I live in hope as always!

Clare: I don't know how I feel about that… on the one hand, I don't want Mulan to be given no romantic interests as the most overt lady warrior on the show. On the other hand, Aurora and Phillip's biggest connection to canon is being wide-eyed morons at each other, which I kind of really love. They could take it in the hero worship direction, a la Eowyn and Aragorn—Eowyn wishes she was Aragorn, that she was as celebrated as he is for what they both are, and that can come across as one-sided love. IDK. I will keep my eyes peeled and my heart light.

Here’s a non-spoilery tidbit from Eagleland: the Mulan and Aurora storyline resolves the best possible way it can. I will only say that I spent the evening after that episode doing victory laps around my apartment to Janelle Monae.


Here’s hoping that Once Upon a Time starts being a little more cohesive and lady-centric come season three. Jodie is waiting for season three to come to her side of the Pond. Clare is watching season three Stateside on Sundays with increasing delight and incredulity.

Date: 2013-12-14 06:12 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
Ladies, this was a lot of fun to read even though it's been ages since I failed out of this show. I decided to ignore your spoilers warning and read onwards because realistically I don't think there's much of a chance I'll catch up now, and all I can say is wow - a LOT appears to have happened since I stopped watching :P Boooo for the shift away from the ladies, but I hope S3 brings you everything you desire and that there will be more victory laps to come.

Date: 2013-12-19 10:56 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I'm glad you liked it :) Also YES a lot went down in the second series (and there were a lot of new back stories). I'm looking forward to S3 and maybe to Wonderland too?


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