My father, he drank his life away. My brother accomplished nothing but evil. There was a time I thought I’d be different. Change the world. But I just… I don’t want to only be remembered as the man who kissed a sleeping princess awake 30 years ago.Charming
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire, and Robert Carlyle.
Once Upon a Time is somewhat infamous for its ability to write much more likeable and compelling villains/anti-heroes. Nowhere is that more obvious than with the show’s central couple: Snow White and Prince Charming. By rights, they should be the main reason to tune in, but over the course of the past five seasons, the pair have slowly faded into the background, only appearing to say something mind numbingly boring and overly moralistic.
See, despite trying to bring fairytales into modern existence, Once often still deals in absolutes: certain acts are good (hooray) and certain acts are evil (and must be unilaterally condemned. Unless you are Snow killing Cora, in which case, you shall mope for approximately one episode, and then be entirely exempt from any wrongdoing for the rest of your existence). Obviously, in the real world, no such absolutes exist. Life is not a series of black and white scenarios, but more a quagmire of eternal grey. The characters who are the most interesting to watch on Once are those who make those morally grey decisions.
It’s certainly more compelling from a dramatic point of view, but for characters like Snow and Charming, who, for narrative purposes, are considered “pure”, they’re sort of written into a corner. They can’t do any such interesting things, because they are above that sort of thing, and when they do, everybody’s outraged by their defection from their lofty pedestal. It feels disingenuous for them to be anything other than their angelic selves, and that is one of Once’s true failings when it comes to this pair. They always reset back to whiny do-gooders, which makes them far more two-dimensional than the rest of the cast is.
Personally, I’m not sure what exactly can be done to remedy this problem with the Charmings. Ultimately, it’s probably too late – we’re five seasons in, so it’s almost been happening too long for any meaningful resurgence to happen. We’re a far cry from Snow’s feisty, independent Season 1 days. I entirely digress. My point is, it’s time for our state-sanctioned Charming-centric episode of the season. Please, hold the applause.
Sarcasm to one side, the direction that they took Charming in on this episode was surprisingly apt, though minimally affecting. Charming taking action to be seen as more than just Snow’s husband definitely fits in with what most of the audience were thinking, but did this episode actually enhance and better the character? No. It did not, not least because this isn’t the first time that we’ve had a Charming episode in which we focus upon his insecurities, and then he’s back to the same carbon-copy straight good guy role in every other episode.
Ignoring the fact that ultimately this episode is going to be of very little consequence, and in a couple of weeks we’ll be saying “Prince Charming…the name rings a sort of bell…is he in this show?”, there are some wonderful moments within this episode. The actual forward thrust of this episode in the flashbacks is the obtaining of a MacGuffin – goodness me, so sorry – a magical toadstool that shall permit our heroes to communicate with Merlin within the tree.
Yes, that plot holds as much water as a colander. The ultimate gem of this quest is Charming opening up about how he feels like he cannot actually live up to his own myth. How he feels the pressure to be more than just the guy who kissed Snow back alive again. King Arthur, for his part, also shares the heavy weight of others’ expectations upon his actions, allowing the two men to bond. Of course, Regina and Emma spend many years creating an organic and realistic friendship, but Charming and Arthur go on one road trip and suddenly they’re calling each other best friends. Men.
Ignoring the fact that ultimately this development is going to be completely undone and Charming will revert to his usual type for every other episode we see him in, it is nice to see him involved in a plot that isn’t about Emma, for once. It’s also nice to see Snow focused upon Charming instead of either baby Neal, or Emma. Of course, focusing upon herself would be preferable, but beggars can’t be choosers.
I’m not entirely sure whether rescuing a toadstool together is really quite enough to warrant being gifted the most important chair on the Round Table, but I have always struggled to understand straight men. Personally, I think it’s much more likely that it’s a ploy by Arthur to distract Charming from Arthur’s blatant shadiness.
On that subject, my suspicions about Arthur were entirely correct (not that it was hard to spot – he was acting really weirdly). It’s interesting that the show is taking him in such a drastic new direction from the original lore, but that’s generally where Once thrives. He’s a compelling type of villain, in the sense that, instead of actually getting his own hands dirty, he manipulates his followers into killing themselves. He almost has the opposite problem to Regina, really. Regina has good intentions but she’s never really managed to gain public approval, while Arthur is nought but nefarious and people want to kill themselves in his name. (Having said that, does Arthur know anything about the security cameras in the sheriff’s station?)
Elsewhere, the progression with Hook and Emma was interesting. Jennifer Morrison is really selling the crap out of this Dark Swan storyline. There’s enough of the old Emma there for it to be familiar, but there’s a new sense of confidence and comfort in her that was absent before. The way that she explains to Hook how before she was so closed off, it really makes her transformation to the dark side seem much more authentic.
I suppose my only qualms with the storyline is that Emma doesn’t quite feel evil enough. Sure, she’s wearing an awful lot of black, and, as we know, wearing black means that you’re a terrible person with a dark soul. Well, it apparently does if you’re a costume designer, at least. Apart from turning Sneezy to a statue, which was only evil insomuch as it not being Leroy who was the victim, she hasn’t actually done anything, except call herself the Dark One. I’m not convinced that she’s actually planning something villainous. She seems to level headed, and too much like the original Emma, to be going down that route. Colour me unconvinced. You can’t fool me, writers.
Part of Emma’s plan seemingly involves Rumple, which is bound to be interesting. I can’t say that I’m thrilled at the prospect of Rumple becoming a hero. I’m sure he’ll resist it because he’ll be untrusting of Emma and whatever her intentions are, but I don’t like the implication of just pinning all of Rumple’s actions on the Dark One. As Belle pointed out, he loved the power too and gave into it. How much of his actions can actually be attributed to the Dark One instead of him?
Another small element in this episode was a (horrendously) brief conversation between Zelena and Regina about what they plan on doing with Zelena’s baby once she gives birth. Apparently Regina wants to raise the baby and keep her safe, but does not extend the same courtesy to Zelena. Personally, I think that Regina is out of line here. She understand what it’s like to be damaged in the same way that Zelena was. Sure, Zelena has been given multiple chances, but how many opportunities did Regina have to turn good before she actually took it? According to the flashbacks, I can think of at least six occasions where Regina turned down the opportunity to reform.
Not to mention that Zelena actually has a point, and Regina literally silencing her with magic does not eliminate that fact. Zelena has always been defined by not being accepted for what she was, which is an entirely understandable plot line. While she definitely has an irritating chip on her shoulder, her reasons for wanting to keep the baby are genuine, and Regina should know better than to try and take it from her, especially considering her massive connection to Henry.
Ultimately, “Siege Perilous” is an entertaining-enough episode. Nothing especially remarkable: it’s an episode that pretty much screams filler. It’s nice to see Charming actually do something and not be irritating, but I just don’t trust the show enough to actually continue to present him in this way before he just becomes irritating. At its heart, the episode just introduces us to the idea of Arthur being villainous with the intention of turning Storybrooke into the new Camelot.
Once Upon an Additional Brainthought
- Why…I mean why…would Regina have simply written a question mark on a piece of parchment for that bloody toadstool? If you’re going to write a post-it note, at least include some pertinent information – not least because of how many memory spells seem to fly around this quaint town in Maine. Do better, Regina.
- Regina has a very key eye for her own handwriting, such that she can detect even her own question marks.
- Hello, dwarves. Meet big picture. Big picture, dwarves. Let me make one thing clear: Emma is the Dark One. She has some sort of nefarious plan, probably, maybe. Stealing a dwarf axe? That’s a small problem. Sheriffs are for big problems. Now whistle while you get the fuck out of here, thank you very much.
- Hook’s outrage at Robin describing the ultrasound as “a picture of up inside Zelena” will forever be hilarious.
- How did Grif not die from David literally whacking him with a massive plank of wood while riding from a car? I’m surprised his head wasn’t knocked clean off?
- Siege Perilous is a ridiculous name for a chair. I know it’s the actual name, but it’s still silly. It makes no sense. There. I said it.
- Doctoberfest? Love it.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.