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A wish list for Once Upon a Time in 2015: Less Disney, more central cast!

‘Once Upon a Time’ 2015 Wish List

I’ve been a fierce advocate of Once Upon a Time since the series premiered in 2011, but from the time of last year’s mid-season finale, the show seems to have lost its way (at least in my opinion). Last season’s Wizard of Oz storyline was full of promises unfulfilled. There was so much that might have been done; so many intriguing threads woven at the start of the storyline. And too many of them lay dormant for the remainder of the season.Rumplestiltskin

This season, with its emphasis on Disney’s Frozen, to me, diminished the power of what had been started in the land of Once Upon a Time, distracting us from the core characters for too much of the season. And those of us who have always seen Rumplestiltskin as a flawed, tragic character–a villain with a tortured past, there was a dearth of scenes to help us understand (at all) his turn to complete darkness (yeah, except this unexplained quest for power over love). And although it was great to see Regina in love, I really, really miss her saucy spirit, which seems to have fled along with her bad-girl persona.

As much as I may have criticized the show this season, I’m completely convincible, ready and waiting. I want to love this show again the way I did back in seasons one, two and the first half of season three! Eagerly anticipating each episode and excited to tell my readers the treat they’d be in for come Sunday night.

So my wish for season 4.5 is see a return to a focus on the core characters. Although I’m not crazy about the forthcoming appearance of Ms. Cruella de Vile (especially), the presence of three female Disney-esque villains working in tandem with master sorcerer (without his powers) Rumplestiltskin is intriguing. I’d like the villainesses, however, to be icing (pun intended) and not the entire cake.

And I look forward to seeing a possible head-to-head confrontation between these badass ladies and the Storybrooke badasses Emma and Regina. And wouldn’t it be nice to witness the spit and spice of the Enchanted Forest Snow White reappear as they battle the bad guys?

I also hope to see more backstory on Rumple’s turn away from his promises both to Baelfire and to Belle. I know we’re supposed to read between the sparse lines to assume that Rumple had been altered by his confinement by the Wicked Witch of the West, but to me that requires an awful lot of fanwanking. I’d really like to see something in his POV to let us get a little more inside his head.

I’d love to see more of Archie (which hopefully Cruella’s presence will bring–his dog is, after all, Pongo!), Grumpy, the Blue Fairy, and the long-lost Dr. Whale and Red.

I’d love to see the writers mine Charming’s flaws and give him more of an edge, and Belle get something other to do than tend her books and make an occasional guest appearance as Rumple’s wife and baby Neal’s babysitter.

And I know I’ll be pilloried for this, but a little less Hook-the-hero, please! Like Rumple, his history has been revised to the point of unrecognizability. This is the same guy, after all, who had (before Rumple had become the Dark One) humiliated a disabled, weaker man (Rumple), stolen his Milah, his wife,  and then left him to raise their son alone. Wow, what a nice, misunderstood guy. Yeah. Love has redeemed him. I get it. But his journey is a sloppy narrative mess. Yeah, I get it it. He’s hot (despite the guy-liner) and Emma’s main squeeze. But their storyline is so on-the-nose and predictable, I long for a little bit more of the bad.

So, fingers crossed. I’m skeptical, but hopeful. I’ll be writing about Once Upon a Time once it returns from Hiatus in March, so stay tuned. In the meantime, tune into Let’s Talk TV Live Tuesday night, when I’ll be joined by two other critics for a lively discussion of this and other primetime TV, including The Walking Dead, Galavant, Downton Abbey, and more!

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."

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15 comments

  1. Why are people constantly hating on Hook?

    • Seems like this blog always had a problem with him and ppl jump on it. I dont really like BBarrett comments anyhow on the whole show

    • Hook and Emma are the most boring characters in OUAT.

      • Seems like you never heard of Belle, Henry or Snow

        • Henry is non-existent in my book, and if I ignored him, it’s just that he doesn’t register anything at all. I mentioned that Snow and Charming as individuals and as a pair are more interesting than Captain Swann. Belle had a lot of possibilities, which the writers decided to waste. Everything the OUAT overlords have done in the last year or so is in service of Captain Swann. And waste the talents of Carlyle and Parilla. And ignore Belle, Red (Megan Ohry should be available again), Grandma, et. al. The show, since the mid season break last year, has been ordinary at best.

          And I still say that Hook and Emma are the most boring characters in OUAT. Granted, Emma was interesting once. Once upon a time, quite a long time ago now.

  2. I agree completely, Barbara. Looking forward to a good story line and some explanations which we didn’t get in the “Frozen” story line for the second half of S4. I appreciate that they took the risk and did the experiment, but it clearly didn’t work and the fans weren’t happy with it. So let’s go with what the fans want – the core cast and their interactions.

  3. Would love for the cheating scumbag the OUAT writers turned Robin Hood into to go away as well. He has pissed allover his wife Marian by sleeping with the woman who was responsible for Marion’s separation from her family for 4 years AND doing it while Marian was lying halfdead in the same crypt they carried on in. He has no respect for his family OR Regina. Regina and Marian both deserve better than him.

    And for the love of God, yes, please, less Hook! He was fun as a scumbag villain back in S2 but for some reason the writers decided he is now a good guy without any redemption arc just because he sometimes acts like a decent human being for the sole purpose of getting into Emma’s pants. WTH?

    More original season 1 characters, please!

    • I don’t share any of your major issues with Robin Hood to begin with, but I don’t get where you are pulling the idea from that Marian was in the crypt during 4×07-4×10. She was at the Merry Men’s camp and when Regina and Henry came to warn Robin and his men of the approaching shattered sight curse she was moved from there to some other, unnamed place that was considered safe for her and Roland. This was clearly not the vault either because Regina locked herself in there, waiting to be turned back into the EQ. Marian was brought to the vault only after the curse broke.

    • Yeah this show ruined Robin Hood and I love him outside of this show. What kind of man beds the woman who murdered his wife and made his child motherless and is shown to prefer her over his formerly dead wife that he was still crying over weeks before he started dating the murderer? That entire story line is gross. I’m a wife and a mother, so I side with the woman who was murdered (Marian), not the murderer (Regina) as much as I love Regina as a character. This storyline does nothing for her as a character. It makes her look weak, desperate, and needy. It also does nothing for her move towards redemption when she pretends that she is somehow a victim at all in the entire story and doesn’t seem to care that she made Robin a widower and Roland motherless because she believes she deserves him anyway. The idea that Regina’s happy ending is supposed to be a direct result of what she did to Marian is so offensive and I can’t believe the writers think this is somehow okay. Even if they try and retcon her killing Marian (which I wouldn’t put it past them), it doesn’t change the fact that as of now, Regina believes she murdered Marian, still slept with her husband, didn’t tell Henry apparently what she did to destroy that family in the past, and still believes she has the right to have Robin regardless. If Marian was healthy, Regina would happily start her life with Robin not caring at all about what she did to get there.

      As for less Hook, yes please. He really adds nothing. His best days were being a villain with Cora. How about we get the people back that we originally fell in love with? I miss Red, Blue, Archie, Grumpy, Granny etc. They are all more interesting than Hook and more tied to Storybrooke but they are now never on the show or simply pop up as glorified extras.

    • Hook is a better man. And we all know why he became a pirate and went down the route of being Hook. He was never really a villian. And his redemption arc is that he struggle between right and wrong. And he has given up EVERYTHING to be the best he can be and for LOVE.

  4. I’d love to see the show go back to being more character driven than plot driven. I know Eddy has said he thinks that’s boring but I think a lot of fans would like to have more emotional depth in the storylines/characters. They bring up some great potential storylines and then toss them away with a sentence or two that is supposed to resolve everything. As professional writers, they should be able to balance character and plot.

    The other thing I’d like to see, or not see as the case may be, would be less guest characters. The cast has plenty of great characters without adding a dozen new people every 11 episodes, the majority of who will leave or be killed at the end of those 11 eps. It doesn’t give me much reason to care about them when I know they won’t be sticking around.

    Barbara, I definitely agree with you in that I’d love to see the show TRULY go back to the core characters. I realize Adam and Eddy have said that is their plan but they also said that Frozen wouldn’t take over OUAT. In my opinion, the OUAT characters were stuffed into the Frozen storyline, not the other way around. Maybe I just see things differently than they do. Fitting the core characters into guest characters’ stories/backstories isn’t the same as making it about the core characters. With 3 villains instead of one, I fear the core group will be lost again.

    I also agree with you about Hook. I liked Hook as a villain, not so much as a “good guy”/love interest. I don’t really feel like love has truly redeemed him. He doesn’t seem to do good for the sake of doing good. He does things that he thinks will score points with Emma. It doesn’t come across that he feels bad about anything he has done, just look at the “apology” he gave to Belle. If they are dead set to make him a good guy, give him an actual redemption arc. Don’t make every good deed he does be about getting in Emma’s good graces. If that is his only motivation, it makes him a shallow character and it certainly doesn’t make him a true good guy. And please Adam & Eddy, stop writing him as a puppy following Emma around everywhere she goes and whining about Emma avoiding him because 12 hours have passed since their last kiss. Also, let him deal with some consequences for his actions for a change. Again, it might give the character some more depth and a purpose beyond being Emma’s love interest.

  5. I only want more Rumple, Regina and Emma. I hate all the other characters in the show, because slowly they have lost their importance in the story. Also I’d like to see a villain to last more than 11 episodes.

  6. First Hook did NOT steal Milah, she left by her own choice, Milah was not some weak woman, she was in trapped in a town and marriage where ppl looked down on her and them. Also Hook told us she begged to be taken away. This was all said and was made to understand. Also lets not forget Dark One Rumple also took advantage LOADS of time of Hook now so far. First when he wanted to dual him in EF coz he has magic and it was Hook in disadvantage over that and also CUT his hand off. And now took his heart….

    Also Milah didnt leave Bae in some gutter but WITH his father? and also it was Rumple WHO LEFT HIM when he CHOSE POWER over his son and oh Belle too!!!

    I dont understand what you are watching and understanding here of Hook? do you like Rumple so much that you forget other things? or you dont understand the bigger picture?

    Guess what Hook CHOOSE love/Emma, Much more then Rumple ever did!!!! so no i dont look down on Hook and guess what Hook has a hard time seeing himself as a hero and tries to be worthy and better and he is better man, love has inspired him.

    I really wish i could like you Barbara and your thoughts but sometimes i do not get what you watch and actually understand on the whole in this show?

    • Agreed. I want to see more of Hook and his past. And he also has walls like Emma and so on. He is better man for choosing love!

  7. There is too much Hook. Period. The show’s best actors have always been Robert Carlyle and Lana Parilla. This season has been a betrayal of what Rumple and Regina were originally supposed to be (at least from my point of view) – flawed, weak (but really strong) characters haunted by a lack of love and in search of balance and redemption in their lives. The worst thing that OUAT has done is make Hook and Emma front and center of the show. To me, they aren’t that interesting. Sorry Captain Swann shippers, but those two characters are just don’t appeal to me, especially as a pair. At least Snow and Charming have a certain funkiness that makes them likeable. In smaller doses than Rumple and Regina.

    Less Disneyfication. After watching “Into the Woods” – it is clear how clever Soundheim and James Lapine were in their depiction of fairy tale characters. And how the OUAT overlords have succumbed to pleasing the Captain Swann shippers to the great detriment of what was once a great show. There was no reason to kill Neal other than clear the way for Captain Swann. Pathetic.

    I barely watch the show now. If they decide to go all in with Hook, it might as well be “Revenge.” All glitz, no substance.

    ABC is capable of putting very good shows in the air. Agent Carter is a a darn good show.

    More Rumple, More Regina (not in love, but back to her saucy, flawed self). More Belle and Rumple. Less Disney. More character development.

    And as an example of a great show returning, the second series of Broadchurch is amazingly unpredictable. What a cast! And Chris Chabal. Though Gracepoint was a good show, Broadchurch has a certain chemistry that is hard to resist. David Tenant, Olivia Coleman, Jodie Whitaker. Andrew Buchan. Charlotte Rampling. Marianne Jean-Baptiste (I still miss Without a Trace). Arthur Darville. Eve Myles. James D’Arcy. Talent utilized well. In the service of a riveting story.

    OUAT overlords need to pay attention. Stop catering to your Hook/Emma shippers and give us something worth watching.

    Another show that has jumped the shark is Downton Abbey. The whole fifth season, sans the Christmas special, is like an extended Captain Swann moment. Melodrama for the sake of what, exactly? Thank the heavens for the Christmas special. Unfortunately, OUAT does not have a Christmas special to make the season worth watching.