Monday, December 1, 2014

Once Upon A Time 4x09 "Fall" (One More Adventure Together)

Original Airdate: November 30, 2014

I have a love-hate relationship with being placed in leadership roles. Don't get me wrong, I have been in my fair share of them. In high school, I co-led a trip to Brazil with high school students at my church. In college, I was a co-editor of my school's literary journal. Today, I'm in charge of a client at work. It's not that I hate being a leader, because I'd like to think I'm rather good at it. The problem is that being a leader often means sacrificing your wants and your wishes for the wants and wishes of others. And that's really difficult, most of the time. Being a leader means that you have to make tough calls -- it means that you have to separate yourself from "the greater good," and a lot of the time, that's really difficult to do. It's painful. It also means that being a leader means you sometimes have to separate the part of you that is in charge from the part of you that feels things and feels them deeply.

Emma is trying her best in "Fall" to separate Emma Swan from Storybrooke Savior. Ingrid has cast The Curse of Shattered Sight over the town and Emma knows that if they don't find some way to stop or counteract the curse, they will all be doomed. So she tries desperately throughout the episode to do whatever it takes in order to save the entire town. She has to make the call between saving Anna and saving Storybrooke. In the end, though Emma Swan wants to save Anna, the Storybrooke Savior knows that she needs to protect the town. It's her job. She has to sacrifice one person for the greater good. It's not an easy decision, by any means, and it's also one that Elsa cannot make, as we see.

Elsewhere in "Fall," Rumple (who still has Hook's heart at his disposal and control) decides to take down the fairies who are trying to create a cure to the curse and everyone in Storybrooke braces for the curse to hit, isolating themselves from the people they love and literally locking themselves in prisons. So let's talk about this episode for a bit, shall we?

Emma (+ Elsa, the Charmings, Hook)

Emma Swan is the savior of this story. She's the one who everyone looks to -- the one with light magic who can protect them and WILL protect them. At the end of the episode, Snow and Charming express such heartfelt belief in Emma that it makes her cry. They don't even question the fact that she will figure out a way to save them all; this is where Snow's "blind faith" comes in that Regina lightly teased earlier in "Fall." Snow has blind faith and she has it in her daughter. A few episodes ago, Snow fearfully withheld baby Neal from Emma. Snow couldn't understand that what made Emma special and what made her the savior were the same thing -- that they made her Emma. And even though Snow couldn't understand the magic, she learned to love and trust it because it was a part of someone she loved and trusted.

So in "Fall," Emma and Elsa (and Grumpy, Team Charming, and Regina) scramble to try to save the town from the impending curse. But there's a lot more at stake than just the town in this episode. And it's utterly heartbreaking -- in the best way possible -- to watch as Emma and Elsa grow closer to each other and more in tune with their own hearts as they do so. You see, Emma and Elsa have always been the kind of women who seclude themselves from others; they work best alone. And in "Fall," we see the clear dichotomy between Emma, a woman who has learned to embrace others and sacrifice to save them, and Elsa, who would rather have her sister back than have anything else in the world. For Elsa, Anna will always come first. There is no question, really, in her mind about that. Elsa swipes Anna's necklace and tricks Team Save Storybrooke in order to do so. And this infuriates Regina and Snow. But I think it's because they don't understand WHY Elsa has to steal the necklace -- why she is so intent on finding her sister.

You see, Anna is all that Elsa has ever had. Both of their lives have been intertwined so deeply and intricately that there is simply no question in either of their minds: they WILL save each other, no matter the cost. Elsa places family above everything because family -- Anna, specifically -- has been the only thing she's been able to ever really trust. Emma has never had family to trust or to rely on. Instead, Emma's first instinct has always been self-preservation. We've seen her grow, beautifully, throughout her heartbreaks and successes on Once Upon A Time. We've seen her open up to love and happiness and really allow herself the opportunity to feel worthy of receiving that love and that happiness. In "Fall," we see a different but equally vulnerable side to Emma -- we see the side of her that is the leader; the side that has to choose between saving Anna and saving her people. This isn't an easy decision for Emma to make, but she does so with gentleness and love, consoling Elsa and assuring that this is the best way to help everyone and that somehow she needs to believe that they will find her sister regardless.

Really, throughout "Fall" we see an extremely emotional and vulnerable side to Emma. We watch as she locks her parents in their respective cells, as Anna stands beside Kristoff who shackles himself to the desk. And then there's Hook. Hook -- knowing full well that he probably will not survive to see Emma beyond the curse -- comes to say goodbye. Emma, through her tears, tells Hook that she "doesn't do tearful goodbye kisses" and then, a split second later, rushes toward him saying: "maybe just this once." Let me pause for a moment to reflect on the painful beauty that is the Hook/Emma relationship. Just like in other areas of her life, Emma has always been hesitant to open her heart. And Hook was, too. It took him centuries -- literally -- to get over the death of his beloved. And then he and Emma met and they clashed and challenged each other. And I think through all of that clashing, Hook and Emma accidentally began to slowly chip away at the walls they each had so carefully constructed around their hearts. Hook was smitten with her and she was guarded with him. But in the fourth season, Emma and Hook are open and vulnerable with one another. They honestly and truly love one another and their goodbye is such a tender, emotional moment because even though he doesn't say the words, you can hear the "I love you" hidden in his goodbye. He kisses her, and then her cheek and her neck as if he's trying his hardest to remember everything about that moment between them -- the last and maybe only time he has ever felt completely and truly whole, even with a large piece of him missing.

And Emma? Oh, my beautiful and darling Emma -- everything about her goodbye to Hook exemplifies how much she has grown. She no longer places up walls. It is so utterly symbolic that she TELLS him she does not do tearful goodbyes but then makes an exception. Emma realizes that this relationship is different and special and THEIRS. So she clings to him for as long as she can and then when Hook walks away, we can see in Emma's face (and the way she touches her lips) that something is wrong. She knows Hook so well by now that she knows that kiss wasn't a "I'll see you soon" kiss. She knows it wasn't one of their intensely passion-filled ones either. It was a sad kiss and a desperate one. It was a goodbye kiss.

But Emma never has too much time to dwell on her emotions because that is what happens when everyone relies on you: you very rarely get the chance to take time for you. As the curse washes over Storybrooke, Emma and the others brace for the inevitable.


So Kristoff and Anna returned to Storybrooke thanks to Elsa wishing on a magical wishing star (Anna's necklace!) and refusing to give up on her sister. I think that is what I love the most about Elsa and Anna as they are portrayed on this show: they're not always right about everything, but the things they ARE right about are the ones that matter. Elsa and Anna know each other so deeply and care about one another so completely. They are a beautiful example of what sisterhood means, subverting tropes (like when Ingrid tried to get them to turn on one another) in the process. What I truly think is beautiful is how much Kristoff, Anna, and Elsa all care about and support one another. There is something that defines their relationship so truly and it is this idea of hope and of never losing that hope. Anna, on the verge of drowning, begins to say her wedding vows to Kristoff, but the latter stops her: he will marry her once they get out of their predicament. And they hold onto that hope -- and onto each other -- until the very last moment before they are rescued.

Even in her darkest hours, Elsa never gave up hope that she would find Anna. The snow queen had sacrificed so much in order to try to save her sister that giving up hope was never an option for her. And though others saw it as recklessness, Elsa saw it as love -- as the purest and truest and only form of love she had ever really known how to give or receive. And I think that Emma has already learned a lot from Elsa and her example. Emma has learned how to strengthen her faith in herself and others and the importance of not building walls to shut others out. But out of all of the lessons this season that Elsa has inadvertently taught Emma, perhaps the most important is this: family is sacred, whether or not they understand you. Family is precious and deserves to be treated as such. I think that Emma learned how to trust herself more, how to forgive more, and how to love better thanks to Elsa and Anna's examples. And I think they all have truly grown because of it.

(As an aside, Anna has become one of the absolute best additions Once Upon A Time has ever made to the series. I love her.)

Regina (+ Robin Hood, Henry)

Regina was so wonderful this episode because she was completely and utterly HERSELF. She bids Robin Hood farewell in a feels-inducing scene where she looks him in the eyes and vows to remember how he's looking back at her -- with love and gentleness and kindness. Once the curse hits, no one will look at her that way anymore. (I'll pause so you can gather up your tissues.) Their relationship is really quite lovely when you factor Marian out of the scenario (which the show seems intent on doing for the time being anyway.) Robin Hood sees Regina. No, he REALLY sees her. He looks at her baggage and her past and all of the horrid things she has done and instead of wincing or running away like Regina expects -- like she feels he SHOULD -- Robin moves toward Regina every time, eager to embrace her and console her and love her. And it has been so long since Regina has seen this kind of love and this kind of love expressed toward her that I think she believed it to be about as true as Emma once believed Henry's book to be.

Regina doesn't feel like she deserves love, but the funny thing is that none of us really deserves love when you think about it. We all screw up pretty royally on a daily basis. We hurt people intentionally. We make mistakes. And what Robin Hood reminds Regina of is the fact that he doesn't see any of those things when he looks at her. When he looks at her, he sees a woman who is smart and fun and beautiful and lovely. He sees a woman who is deserving of love not because of what she has done but because of who she is. And isn't that beautiful?

Before the curse hits, Regina sets out to protect Henry and to isolate herself from him and Robin Hood. Everyone is in isolation when the curse hits, which I think is really fitting and telling (and kind of sad in a way), don't you?

Rumple (+ Hook, Belle)

I loathe Rumple. Have I mentioned this? First of all, I loathe the way that he's been written this year. I loathe that he is not an anti-hero. He is not even a really well-written villain. He's the kind of man who is so self-centered that he would do anything if it meant he could benefit in some way from it. Then there is pure-hearted Belle who married a deceiver and whom I take pity on. Basically, all you need to know about Rumple's trajectory is that he wants to get the heck outta dodge and doesn't care who he hurts or kills in the process.

I desperately want Rumple to be a flawed and layered villain like Regina once was (and still is, to a degree) but instead, The Dark One apparently is just pure evil without much else holding him together and he always will be.

But that's what happens when you are a leader, for better or for worse, right? When you are in charge, when you call the shots, YOU decide how your story and the stories of those around you end. You either sacrifice your wishes for the greater good, or you cling to the idea that you know what is best and what is right. The truth is that we aren't right all the time, though. Sometimes it takes acting against our human nature in order to accomplish a task or save the day.

Emma and Elsa are now headed into battle with Ingrid. So the question is: how will they save their friends and family? And... at what or whose cost will it be?

Additional magical moments:
  • MVP without question is Jennifer Morrison. I can't even articulate how much I have loved seeing Emma Swan grow throughout the years and this season, she has developed more than I could have hoped for. Her tearful goodbye scene with the Charmings and Hook was some absolutely beautiful acting by Jennifer, who has done her fair share of crying scenes in this series. Those scenes really were heartbreaking and beautiful. Brava, lady!
  • "Sometimes sentimentality pays off." "Point Elsa."
  • "You are literally hanging a big assumption on a really tiny straw."
  • "If i have to choose between everyone else and me, I choose me. Every time." Ugh, this is why I don't like you at all, Rumple.
  • "I'm just trying to memorize you like this." "What? Nervous and alone."
  • So did everyone just forget about Marian? Or do we not care about her anyway? Asking for a friend.
  • "Oh, so my choices are evil wizard or pirate?"
  • "I should know better than to trust blondes by now."
  • "Time for a hope speech? Virtues of blind faith?"
  • "You rolled around in gold bars? Weird."
  • "... But it is still a cold miracle and we are all wet."
  • David and Anna reuniting was amazing. It is only topped by David and Kristoff commenting on each others' haircuts.
  • "Looks like one more adventure together." I don't know why, but this line was really beautiful and hit me hard.
  • The spell is quite visually stunning, not gonna lie.
All right dear friends and readers, that is all. Come back next week for more thoughts on how the spell affects everyone in Storybrooke! Until then. :)

1 comment:

  1. [" In the end, though Emma Swan wants to save Anna, the Storybrooke Savior knows that she needs to protect the town. It's her job."]

    No, it's not. Emma was merely a tool used by Rumpel to break the first curse. That's it. Why she and other characters continued to call her the Savior is beyond me. It makes no sense whatsoever . . . unless Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz are trying to shape Emma into some second-rate version of Buffy Summers . . . which is how I regard her.

    And when will Emma do the following? When will she admit that saving Marian and changing the timeline was a DANGEROUS MISTAKE? As long as she continues to believe that she had done the right thing, because saving people is her "job", she'll never grow in my eyes. When will she give up that yellow VW? It's a stolen vehicle. And she knows it. I don't care if it's a sentimental reminder of Neal. I don't care if Neal had changed the car's registration so that she wouldn't be arrested for being in possession of a stolen car. It's still STOLEN. Are the showrunners advocating car theft, because the main character is driving a stolen piece of property?

    I'm sick of Emma being regarded as "the Savior". And I'm sick of her getting away with a lot. Why can't the writers allow her to face her real failings and truly grow as a character?