Sunday, November 2, 2014

Once Upon A Time 4x06 "Family Business" (Sometimes The Answer Isn't What You'd Want)

"Family Business"
Original Airdate: November 2, 2014

Have you ever waited for something for so long -- be it a toy when you were a child, a boyfriend when you were a teenager, or a job when you were an adult, etc. -- that this thing you waited for didn't live up to your expectations? Sometimes the waiting is the most frustrating part but it's also the most exhilarating part because we idealize and romanticize everything so much as human beings. It's part of our nature. While we hate uncertainty, we also weirdly revel in that feeling because we know the in-between parts of our journeys are also the only parts that are solely OURS. Once we get what we're waiting for, there's always the potential for disappointment. Maybe the toy breaks. Maybe the boyfriend hates your favorite band. Maybe the job is perfect but the boss and co-workers are not. 

"Sometimes the answer isn't what you'd want."

Sometimes living in the daydream is better than living in the reality; sometimes not knowing is better than knowing and being disappointed at best and distraught at worst. Our characters in this week's Once Upon A Time learn that pretty clearly and no one more so than Belle when Anna speaks the words above to her. Because answers, like magic, always come at a price. In "Family Business," we learn a lot more about Belle and the kind of woman she once was and still is; we learn a lot about The Snow Queen (Ingrid, as I'll refer to her from now on though I was quite partial to The Dairy Queen) and Emma's relationship, and we also get a tiny glimpse into how this theme applies to Robin Hood/Regina. So let's discuss what makes a hero or a heroine, shall we?

Belle (+ Anna, Rumple)

In the animated realm, Belle has always been my favorite princess. She's smart. She's kind-hearted. She's resourceful. And she loved books. As a child who adored reading, this was extremely encouraging to see in Beauty and the Beast. In Once Upon A Time, I've always liked Belle well enough but she's never been my favorite character. "Family Business" takes a great deal of time and care, however, to show another side to this perfect princess. Namely, it shows us how imperfect she really is. Belle's mother died during the ogre wars and Belle could not remember that day, nor what happened when an ogre stormed their library. Her father refused to divulge anything and so, defiantly, Belle set off to a land where she would be able to gather her memories back... from some trolls.

Funnily enough, Anna was also headed in the direction of the trolls in order to determine whether or not The Snow Queen was lying when she said she was a part of their family. What was so great about the Belle/Anne meet-up is that these two are presumably alike in personality and pureness of heart. Anna, after all, sacrificed herself for Elsa and continues to put everyone else's happiness and needs over her own. We've always assumed that Belle was the same -- that she was perfect and always had pure motives and always did the right thing like a good Disney princess is supposed to do. But what happens in "Family Business" is that, when forced between the decision to learn the truth about her mother's death (in order for Belle to put her own mind at peace) or the decision to save Anna from falling off a cliff... Belle chose the former, not the latter. And she paid dearly for it, as we saw.

Belle learned the kind of person she was on that mountainside. That's the thing about decisions, isn't it? We always think we will make the right one until we're forced -- actually forced -- to choose. And then we realize that the decisions we thought would come easy actually do not. Belle's always believed a few things to be true about herself and I think that one of those things was shattered on the side of that cliff. In present-day Storybrooke, we see just what the guilt from that decision leads Belle to do. It leads her to use the dagger on Rumple. It leads her to lie to both him and Elsa. It leads her to actually hurt, physically, her husband. It adds a tinge of darkness to the character we once assumed was made out of pure light.

But I loved it, honestly. I believe it was in one of my early Once Upon A Time reviews this season, but I noted that I don't like angelic characters. I like my heroes and my villains to be complex. Perfect characters bore me because they're unrealistic. No one says and does the right thing all the time. And the fact of the matter is that Ingrid's dark magic mirror projected Belle's subconscious fears. Because of Belle's decision to try and save the magical rock that could tell her what happened the day her mother died over her decision to try to save Anna, Belle has suffered from guilt. But it's more than just guilt, I think, because what the mirror also revealed to us about Belle is that she doesn't view herself to be a hero. In Once Upon A Time, we usually find that our characters fall into two different categories: heroes or villains. We -- and they -- tick boxes and judge them. Emma? Hero. Zelena? Villain. There are also more ambiguous characters like Regina and Hook and Rumple who have swung from villain to hero (and, in Rumple's case, I would argue, have probably not really left the villain category at all).

And then there is Belle, who classifies herself not as a villain or a hero in "Family Business" but as a coward. That, I think, was the most painful thing to hear that Belle believes to be true about herself. She believes that she is weak and that the only reason Rumple could ever want to marry her is because he can manipulate her and she will not just accept that but also believe him. I've never felt that Belle was a more complex and dynamic character than this episode, honestly, and I'm glad that we got the opportunity to saw what her demons could do to her. Desperation and fear tend to do pretty radical things to characters (as we also saw this week in Doctor Who with Clara), and Belle ends up physically hurting Rumple because of that pain and fear and guilt over what she had done to Anna. And though Rumple blames it on the dark magic of the mirror, I think Belle realizes in that moment -- again -- exactly what she is capable of, when pushed to make a decision. And I think it terrifies her. And I think, truly, that I love her more now because I know what she's capable of.

Belle makes amends as best as she can with Elsa, which is noble and admirable. I don't think that she is a villain. I think she made a decision that had consequences and I think she realized in this episode that sometimes consequences of those decisions are long-lasting, even if we don't realize they are. Moreover, sometimes the consequences hurt us just as much as they hurt other people. And that realization in addition to what Belle does to remedy not just her mistakes but her behavior, quite honestly, makes her strong, even in her weakest and most vulnerable moments.

The Snow Queen/Emma

The Emma parts of the storyline during "Family Business" are pretty plot-centered rather than character development-centered (I presume I'll have a novel to write about Emma next week). Emma and Elsa do learn about their connections to Ingrid, namely that they are both tied to her family tree. As both women realize that Ingrid's plan involves wiping out the entire town so that she can get the family she's always deserved (magical and special, containing only herself, Emma, and Elsa), Emma also learns something important in terms of our episode's theme: villains aren't always what they seem.

Emma Swan has dealt with her fair share of villains, but I think apart from Regina, Ingrid is the most complex of them all. What Emma and Hook realize in the forest as they rifle through Ingrid's possessions is that the woman really cared about and loved Emma when she was her foster daughter. (Until something changed, but she cannot recall what that was.) Ingrid is an interesting villain because her motives are noble, but her methods are warped. All the Snow Queen wants is a family who will love and accept her -- a family of people who are special, just like she is. And that's not wrong, really. Clearly Ingrid loved Elsa and she loved Emma. The problem, of course, is that Ingrid's motives to reach her happy ending are warped and flawed. But how do you deal with a villain who just wants happiness? How do you deal with a person who -- on their path to finding love -- has gotten lost and made a lot of mistakes? How do you confront someone who is willing to protect themselves from pain and rejection in order to find a home? How do you tell them that they are wrong when you, apparently, once loved them too?

I love that Ingrid is really complex and I love that "Family Business" allowed us to see a glimpse of that complexity as it pertains to Emma. Because now, knowing that Ingrid once loved her -- truly loved her and did not just try to get close to her for personal gain or an agenda -- will Emma approach the fight to stop her differently? Will she be able to destroy someone who just wants to find a family and be loved in order to preserve the greater good? Would you be able to?

Regina/Robin Hood

There isn't much to say about Robin Hood and Regina in this week's episode, but the theme of "sometimes the answer isn't what you'd want" can be felt clearly by Robin Hood when Regina admits that she has tried every possible idea she can think of to save Marian. Nobly, Regina then says that there is only one option left -- true love's kiss. And in order for the kiss to be successful, she knows that Robin will have to find some way to fall out of love with her and back in love with Marian. That was not the answer Robin Hood wanted to his problems. He wanted to have a wife and be in love with Regina. But that would have been easy and -- honestly -- a bit of a cop-out. Instead of proposing a way for her to save Marian, Regina proposes a way for Robin to. This move is so painfully and beautifully sacrificial. I'm interested to see how Regina develops as she tries to let go of her love for the greater good (a nice parallel, might I add, to Emma's story).

Once Upon A Time has always been focused on the happy endings, right? It's a show that has taught us the lengths characters are willing to go to in order to achieve their own sense of happiness and purpose in life. But what "Family Business" reminded us was that everything -- magic, happiness, and truth -- come at a price. And sometimes, that thing you desired most of all leads you to do things you never thought you would to get it.

Additional magical moments:
  • MVP for this episode is Emilie de Raven. I've always enjoyed her as Belle, but I absolutely LOVED the scene in the Snow Queen's lair. And the moments that followed -- the breakdown in Gold's shop, particularly -- were so great and really powerful acting from her. Seriously, I love the added layer of complexity that we got to Belle's story during the episode and everything about how Emilie portrayed that complexity was on point.
  • Oaken was brought to life in this episode, which was absolutely fantastic and I loved every moment of him on-screen (including the "yoo-hoo!")
  • "Who is that? I mean, who are you? I mean... hi!"
  • "I was young and naive." "... You met me the next day." "I was younger."
  • "In case you haven't noticed, I'm about to storm an evil ice cream truck."
  • "We don't make eyes at each other." It's like the Once Upon A Time writers had this scene in mind when they wrote that moment.
  • "Believe it or not, I was once a child."
  • "Looks like you've just lost your leverage. Dearie."
  • "You spend a little more time in this town, love, and you'll realize just about everyone is related." God bless Hook for that moment right there.
Thank you all for reading this week's review of Once Upon A Time! See you around next week for some magically good times. Until then. :)


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