Thursday, September 9, 2021

Once upon a Time Rewatch 1.14, "Dreamy"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.

1.14, "Dreamy"

Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Directed by David Solomon


The very picture of grace...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Recapitulation of the series' premise being absent, after the title card, the episode opens in the Enchanted Forest with the Blue Fairy receiving a delivery and report from another fairy of much less poise. She rebukes the other fairy and dispatches her, the latter dropping some fairy dust along the way--which settles onto a large egg and alters it in advance of its unexpected hatching a smiling dwarf.

In Storybrooke, Leroy angrily eats his breakfast as Mary Margaret pleads for help with candle sales. She is greeted with silence. Leroy notes their shared pariah status, rattling her; Emma follows after, asking about the candle sale and reactions to Mary Margaret. She laments her status, and Emma is called off to tend to duty; she offers encouragement as she leaves.

Admittedly, I react to glitter similarly.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Preparations for the festival the candle sales underwrite--the Miner's Day celebration--proceed, and Leroy encounters a nun, Astrid, at work on them. He reacts much more happily than might be expected, helping out, and the two seem to connect before going off to their respective tasks.

Emma reports to the scene of Kathryn's disappearance, soon joined by Sidney. Investigation proceeds, and suspicion begins to fall on David swiflty.

The hatched dwarf, Leroy's counterpart, is brought into service, Explanations are offered to him, along with labor-force indoctrination. The dwarf, along with his seven brothers, receives a mattock that gives him his name, Dreamy, and the group are sent into the mines to work in support of the magic underlying the Enchanted Forest.

Leroy belatedly signs up to volunteer to help with candle sales. He overhears Astrid getting into trouble and moves to offer comfort; he learns of the financial difficulties she and the convent face. Emboldened, Leroy resolves to aid. Meanwhile, Emma confronts David regarding Katharine's disappearance, quizzing him about what he knows. Emma affirms that she will find Kathryn. Regina provides records to Sidney regarding the disappearance, as well.

Image taken form the episode, used for commentary.
In the Enchanted Forest, work proceeds in the mines to produce fairy dust, which the fairy counterpart of Astrid, Nova, monitors. She struggles with it and is aided by Dreamy, who recognizes her from his pre-hatching dreams. A series of mishaps ensues, from which Dreamy manages to save the fairy dust and the fairy tasked with its delivery. He encourages her, and the two connect.

Candle sales start off poorly at the event. Leroy takes it into his head to sell door to door. Emma presses Sidney for his promised help as the sales duo tries and fails to peddle their wares.

In the mines, Dreamy sits alone, contemplating his feelings. Belle, present where the dwarves are taking their meal, notes that Dreamy is in love; it is clear to her from his deportment. The other dwarves disbelieve as Belle expounds upon love to Dreamy. She encourages Dreamy to go meet Nova, and he does so.

Leroy makes to report his difficulties to Astrid. He is unable to follow through on doing so, for fear of disappointing her, and Mary Margaret rebukes him for his failure. He avows that he will make good on his promise.

They are cute together.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Dreamy rushes to meet Nova, and the two look out over the Forest together, happily. They confer about their respective situations, and Dreamy offers to sail the world together with Nova. She accepts, and they arrange to meet again and run off together.

Leroy offers to sell his boat to Gold. Gold refuses, citing a history with the nuns. Astrid calls on Leroy after Gold leaves, and she marvels at the boat before finding the unsold candles and silently rebuking Leroy for his dishonesty. Meanwhile, Emma receives Kathryn's phone records, giving her cause to doubt David. Leroy reports his failure to Mary Margaret, and the two commiserate about their common pariah status.

Dreamy rushes away to meet Nova again, sneaking out in the night from the dormitory he shares with his brothers. One, Stealthy, confronts him, the rest waking at the exchange, and they press him. Dreamy relates his reasoning, and his brothers cheer him on his way. A senior dwarf tries to interdict him, citing his responsibilities and a congenital inability to love--which the Blue Fairy, descending, affirms. Dreamy is persuaded to abandon his love for Nova, putatively in her own interest, just as Leroy tries to set aside his affection for Astrid. He resolves to take action, and proceeds to where the Miner's Day festival is in progress. Ascending to a rooftop, he disables the lighting for the festival--and obliging candle sales en masse.

"It's Grumpy, now," understandably.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Nova waits for Dreamy, having found a ship for the two of them to sail away. He relates what he has been persuaded to believe, and she rages at the situation. He denies her love, and they part in sadness. Dreamy returns to work; his old mattock fails him, and a new one declares him Grumpy.

Candles sales proceed at the Miner's Day festival, Mary Margaret and Leroy exhausting their inventory. Leroy delivers the proceeds to Astrid, and he offers to take her aboard his boat once it's restored. They delight in the festival while Emma reviews phone records, her investigation ongoing and under threat from Regina. Mary Margaret even begins to receive some reconciliation from the community, while David looks on in longing, and Emma takes him into custody as the town looks on.


Of some interest is the depiction of fairies as being...not entirely benevolent. It's something at odds with the Disney sources that inform the understandings of neo/medieval/ist materials much or most of the presumed primary audience of the series has; in Disney, of course, the colorful fairies are sympathetic, helpful beings that work selflessly to the benefit of those they encounter, rather than traffickers in exploitable resources. Frankly, the Blue Fairy is something of a jerk in the present episode, outright laughing at her subordinate in a way that smacks of what James Fredal discusses in his January 2011 College English article.

I note, too, with some interest the hatching of the dwarves. Given my background and the Society, the Tolkienian comment about there being no dwarven women comes to mind--but who lays the eggs? More seriously, though, with Labor Day in the US having only recently passed, I am in mind of the labor stratification that is clearly at work with the former Dreamy and his siblings. The idea that certain groups are fated to work in support of others is hardly unique to the medieval, of course; there are any number of execrable people even now who espouse such hateful ideology. But it does line up in broad strokes with the traditional three orders social system many ascribe to and associate with the medieval; the dwarves are a "natural" labor class, conditioned and constrained to work and punished for deviations from that labor. It's...not a good message, really, embedded in them.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Once upon a Time Rewatch 1.13, "What Happened to Frederick"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

1.13, "What Happened to Frederick"

Written by David H. Goodman
Directed by Dean White


Following a restatement of the series's premise and the title card, the episode opens with Princess Abigail arriving at Charming's kingdom. The king greets her amid sudden tumult, and the search for the escaping Charming commences as the prince rides off. He manages to evade pursuit, at least initially; he is ambushed and taken.

Well ain't this just cozy?
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

In Storybrooke, David and Kathryn dine quietly together. Conversation is clipped and tense, Kathryn noting a hitherto unannounced application to law school in Boston; she suggests moving to make new memories and make a fresh start.

Charming finds himself apprehended by Abigail, who notes his love for Snow White. She offers to assist him in his flight, noting her lack of love for him.

David and Mary Margaret confer about Kathyrn's revelation; she complains about their secrecy and deceit, calling for disclosure, and he demurs despite having no real alternatives. She reiterates the call, pressing David to choose; he chooses Mary Margaret, and she bids him tell his wife before she walks off.

Who is this guy, really? (We find out later.)
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In the morning, Emma calls in at Granny's, where she finds the stranger. He reluctantly gives a name--August Wayne Booth--and arranges for them to meet later. Emma follows up by meeting with Mary Margaret, and the confer about the latter's romantic entanglement. Mary Margaret notes that David is supposed to be telling Kathryn. He  tries to confess himself to her, but fails to give an accounting.

In the Enchanted Forest, Abigail takes Charming to Midas's realm, and Charming presses her for her reasons. She notes her ongoing love for another, Frederick, and when he notes that Snow White does not love him, she escorts him to where Frederick, afflicted by Midas's touch, stands. Abigail notes that a means for saving Frederick is available, but guarded; Charming undertakes to face the guardian.

August inserts pages into Henry's book, repairing the physical text with skill. Henry receives a gift of a handheld video game from Regina; he voices a desire to see Emma just before Kathryn intrudes. Henry leaves, and Kathryn presses Regina for details about her husband; Regina notes Mary Margaret's involvement in the affair, which Kathryn had not known, and provides the details requested. They are damning.

The hits keep coming.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

Abigail and Charming approach the means for saving Frederick, a lake with salvific water. David mulls over pictures of Kathryn and calls Mary Margaret, lying to her about his actions. Kathryn arrives to rebuke Mary Margaret, publicly and violently. David's dissembling becomes clear.

Charming proceeds to the lake and is confronted as he tries to take its water. An alluring figure emerges from it.

August arrives for his meeting with Emma, taking her for a motorcycle ride. She reluctantly accompanies him, ultimately to a well at the outskirts of town. The significance is explicated, and they confer about the town and about openness to new ideas and experience. Meanwhile, Mary Margaret finds herself the subject of censure and derision in the town.

Fracas, yes.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

The confrontation at the water in the Enchanted Forest continues, devolving into a fracas in short order.

Mary Margaret confronts David about his dissembling. She rebukes him for his failure, noting that she is paying for his transgressions and she breaks off the relationship.

Emma finds a box wedged up against her parked car. It contains Henry's book, as August sees. Kathryn calls on Regina, apologizing for her earlier outburst. She also notes that David never seemed to love her the way he clearly does Mary Margaret, and she relinquishes her claim on him in favor of moving to Boston for law school, having encouraged David and Mary Margaret after her initial anger.

In the Enchanted Forest, Charming delivers on his promise to retrieve the water for Abigail. She delights in it, and it restores her beloved Frederick to himself and to her. Charming resolves to pursue Snow White, departing in peace and amity--and with a warning about the coming wrath of Charming's putative father, King George.

Regina covertly enters Kathryn's home, purloining a letter she had left for David. Emma greets Henry at school, returning his book to him, to his surprise and delight. He reads of Charming's continued pursuit of Snow White, where he learns from Red Riding Hood that she has gone before he must flee again. Mary Margaret sorrows over what has transpired, Emma unable to offer much comfort or ease. And Regina delights in continuing to meddle as Kathryn seeks to leave town, only to be narrowly missed by a passer-by: Frederick.


I forget if I've made the comment before, but the roads in the Enchanted Forest are remarkably regular, far more than would be expected of the pseudo-medieval milieu. While I am aware that much of medieval Europe--including the medieval England that the series seems most apt to ape--was able to take advantage of existing Roman roads, themselves legendary for their regularity and quality, there is not much to suggest that a similar political body preexists the fairy-tale world in which the characters have their overt origins. It may be inferred, of course, from the medieval(ist) parallels; the medieval was in some ways a reaction to the Roman, so that the Roman is something of a necessary (but insufficient) precondition for the medieval, but there's nothing direct so far, no Classicist ruins or holdovers to be seen. Even Midas, a Classical myth, is not in the series; he's present, but he's solidly medieval(ist). With all that said, that the roads are consistent in size--judged against non-shapeshifting characters for reference--and quality is something of an anachronism, and while I understand that the physical constraints of location-based filming are, I wonder about the choices made.

This dapper fellow, antithetical?
Image taken from Playbill, used for commentary.

I forget, too, if the name of Charming's false father is noted in earlier episodes, but the George is significant for American audiences such as would be expected for a show appearing on ABC. Kings named George are antithetical figures in the United States foundational mythology, of course, but George also has resonance with the medieval England in which the series obliquely traffics. It's not something I'm certain would rise to viewers' attention, but that does not mean it's not present and doesn't have some influence. What it means, though...I do not know.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Once upon a Time Rewatch 1.12, "Skin Deep"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

1.12, "Skin Deep"

Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Milan Cheylov


Perhaps it ought to be called the Kingdom of Generica...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
After the title card and absent a restatement of the series' premise, the episode opens with peril facing the Enchanted Forest and discussion in a noble's court of that peril. Rumpelstiltskin arrives with an offer of a deal to secure the safety of the town--for the price of Belle as a servant in his estate. The deal is refused by the noble but accepted by Belle, who agrees in the the interest of her community and leaves her father and fiancee.

In Storybrooke, Gold confronts the florist French, alter-ego of Belle's father, repossessing his van as a penalty for defaulting on a loan. Regina confronts him, but Gold evades the confrontation. Emma meets Mary Margaret at Granny's, where she and David are "not together." Ashley reports in, conferring with them, and Ruby invites the three out for drinks and revelry. Emma is summoned back to work and reports to Gold's home, where he has found it broken into and robbed.

Nice digs.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Rumpelstiltskin brings Belle to his estate, where he effectively imprisons her, giggling. Her servitude to him begins, with him taunting her amid her initially inept work.

Emma presses Gold about the robbery, and he reluctantly notes that French was the likely perpetrator. Emma moves to investigate amid oblique threats to French from Gold.

Belle's servitude continues, and she asks Rumpelstiltskin about his spinning. He teases her, and she laughs, the two softening towards one another.

Emma retrieves Gold's stolen property. He complains that French remains at large and begins his own ominous pursuit.

It's in the eyes, really.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Belle continues to press Rumpelstiltskin about himself. They continue to soften towards one another, and Rumpelstiltskin notes the loss of his son. He begins to grow suspicious of her, and Belle's fiancee comes to challenge Rumpelstiltskin; he is turned into a rose, which the captor gifts to the captive before pressing Belle about her reasoning. She explicates, noting the circumstances of her betrothal along the way and musing on love. He offers her a deal, letting her go out on an errand in exchange for relating his story.

The revelry ensues, and Ruby acts the virago, leaving Ashley and Mary Margaret to confer about their respective love lives. David tries to navigate his own relationship, and he and Gold confer over purchases about love--as Gold abducts French, taking him to his cabin in the woods and forcing him in at gunpoint.

This seems ominous.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Belle is going about her errand when the Evil Queen happens on her. They walk together a while, the queen pressing her about her relationship with Rumpelstiltskin. She notes that true love's kiss will break a curse, clearly intuiting who her captor is. Belle makes to act on that knowledge, returning to Rumpelstiltskin to hear about his son and confer again with him about love. They kiss, and Belle lets slip that she has been informed of his weakness by Regina, and he sours against Belle, imprisoning her again.

Gold proceeds to torture French, reflecting Rumpelstiltskin's rage over Belle. Emma stops him as Rumpelstiltskin stops himself.

Ashley and Mary Margaret continue to confer, arriving at a mutual understanding. Sean arrives on his break to give Ashley flowers and propose marriage; she accepts, to the applause of onlookers. Mary Margaret arrives at a decision and meets David. He gives her a gift, awkwardly and backhandedly, ruining the moment, and Mary Margaret sends him home to his wife. He agrees, reluctantly, and they part once again.

Emma confronts Gold about his overreaction to French, arresting him for the assault. Belle languishes in Rumpelstiltskin's cell until he arrives and sends her away. She rebukes him for his choice to reject her love, calling him a coward; he rejects the insult, claiming that power matters more to him than love. She departs.

Ominous, ominous, ominous...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Regina arrives at the jail and sends Emma and Henry away. They confer, and Gold tries to strike a deal; the price is his name. He admits to being Rumpelstiltskin, to remembering. They reaffirm their antipathy.

In the Enchanted Forest, the queen confronts Rumpelstiltskin, seeking to strike a deal. He rebukes her, and she mocks him. She also notes Belle is outcast, turned out by her father and provoked to suicide. He doubts, but not fully. And, as it happens, Belle is imprisoned in the Storybrooke hospital...


I note the early ejaculation by Belle's father: "Oh, my gods!" Earlier in the series (such as here), there had been heavy implications that the Enchanted Forest is vaguely medievalist Christian. Certainly, the officiant at the wedding of Snow White and Prince Charming looks very much like a medieval bishop. And while the note has been made that the presumed Christianity of the Enchanted Forest is just that, presumed rather than overt, it remains...present; there are enough references to things (Arthuriana, in particular) that are overtly and explicitly Christian that the references carry through. For a noble to ejaculate polytheistically in that milieu, then, is striking. Admittedly, there was another medievalist property attracting attention at the time, about which no few comments--such as these--have been made, and it's possible therefore that the comment was set thus as a nod to that property, which does admit of several faiths and polytheism. Perhaps it goes to the point that many have made, in this webspace and elsewhere, that neo/medievalist properties influence popular understandings--but that would probably be something better addressed by media studies, in which I am not conversant.

I note, too, that the action in Storybrooke centers on Valentine's Day. For the presumed primary audience of the series, of course, the day is associated with romantic (and usually sexual) love, although the linkage is problematic even within the episode. The association of Valentine with love, especially the often-adulterous courtly love at which David and Mary Margaret are playing, gets going in earnest in the high middle ages; it's certainly amply attested in documentation from the time. So that much comes out as authentic, at least, even if it might not resonate with the prevailing audience of a primetime broadcast...but it doesn't have to do so to be present.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Once upon a Time Rewatch 1.11, "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

1.11, "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree"

Written by Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss
Directed by Bryan Spencer


A relief...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
After the title card, a reprise of the series' premise being again skipped, the episode opens with Emma meeting with Henry at the playground he favors--and at which he has hidden his book; he is concerned that a recent storm has damaged things. Regina soon arrives, searching for her adoptive son and chides Emma--something about which she grouses to Mary Margaret later on. A text from David interrupts, summoning Mary Margaret away; Sidney, the newspaperman, slides in as she leaves, making an offer to Emma of information on Regina.

Robin Williams, he ain't.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In the Enchanted Forest, Sidney's alter-ego languishes in captivity, a genie in a lamp pulled from a lake. He is released by a crowned man and gives a spiel about the wishes he can grant and their limits. The figure refuses to wish, and the genie discourses on his situation, only to be freed from his servitude and granted a final wish; he holds it, praised for his wisdom as he begins to search for love. The crowned figure takes him along with him to his home--the palace it happens he shares with Regina and his daughter, Snow White. He is welcomed warmly, and his attention follows the queen.

In Storybrooke, Henry's playground is demolished at Regina's insistence, and Henry's book has gone missing. Emma chides Regina for her actions and is dismissed; she decides to accept Sidney's offer. Mary Margaret meets David in the woods, where he has prepared a picnic meal for their illicit assignation, and Emma meets Sidney clandestinely. He notes that Regina has been embezzling funds and asks for aid in ferreting out more details about her.

Naughty, naughty.
Image take from the episode, used for commentary.
In the Enchanted Forest, Snow White's father's birthday is celebrated; he praises his daughter, and Regina is disturbed, which the genie marks. He moves to comfort her, and an illicit attachment of their own begins to develop.

Emma and Sidney review records, finding a gap in them. Mary Margaret returns home, and Sidney undertakes to conduct clandestine acts, supported by Mary Margaret; Emma demurs for a time, but ultimately confronts Regina about it--and plants a listening device in her office.

In the Enchanted Forest, the king confronts the genie about Regina's affections. He opines about his wife's feelings and tasks the genie with finding the object of her affections; the genie accepts the task.

Emma and Sidney, acting on illicitly gained information, pursue Regina during to a clandestine cash handoff; the brakes on their car fail, though, and they crash. Hampered but uninjured, they find the brakes tampered with; Emma presses ahead, finding that the payment was being made to Gold. He notes the payment was for land, his land, and warns them against acting further.

The genie confers with Regina's father, who notes that she is captive. He asks the genie to take a parcel to Regina, citing his affection for her as reason.

Purely platonic...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

Emma and Sidney ransack Regina's office, being confronted by Regina. Emma offers to help, only to be turned down, and the genie delivers the package as requested. It turns out to contain a deadly snake, which Regina tacitly encourages the genie to deliver to the king's chambers.

Henry confers with the visitor about the material he recalls from his book. Henry challenges the visitor about his motives, receiving a glib answer and sincere encouragement. Sidney and Emma review the information purloined from Regina, Emma coming to doubt their work; Sidney reveals more information, noting his complicity, and the information is presented in an open town hall meeting--only to be revealed as plans for a new playground, undermining the attempt to thwart Regina's power.

In the Enchanted Forest, the genie delivers the poisonous serpent to the king's chambers, where it kills him as the genie watches, attending his death and confessing his complicity and apologizing. 

Oh, ho, ho!
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Regina confronts Emma, rebuking her. Emma is obliged to keep distance from Henry for some time, but engages in a search for his lost book--which is in the visitor's possession. Emma and Sidney confer about their failure, affirming their alliance.

The genie reports the king's death to Regina, only to learn that he is suspected of the king's death and is to be executed for his perfidy. Regina dismisses him with disdain. He refuses to flee, and enacts his final wish: to remain with Regina. He is trapped in her mirror as a result--much as Sidney is trapped in Regina's service even still.


I probably should've read Said more closely than I did and more recently than I have, but it's still clear to me that the episode is reveling in Orientalist tropes that really ought not to be reinvoked--especially in the political climate contemporary to the series. (They don't do much better in the context of the current composition and publication, given events in Afghanistan.) The attire of the genie and the illicit lustfulness associated with him, among others, are both fetishizations, exoticisms, a reduction of what could have been a compelling character down to stereotypes--which is problematic enough on its own, and more so when applied to a person of color and one with a putatively Middle Eastern background. (I have to question the accuracy of the depiction in more general terms; I am not an expert in such matters, so I cannot go into much detail, but I also cannot shake the feeling that it's wrong.) It seems to me to be the kind of thing that was going on in depictions of Middle Eastern people during the Crusades and in many, many presentations of that time and those conflicts more recently. And that is problematic for reasons I should not have to rehearse...

As a reminder, please consider submitting work to the coming roundtable at #Kzoo2020, Twenty-First Century Neo/Medievalisms;
information is here.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Once upon a Time Rewatch 1.10, "7:15 AM"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

1.10, "7:15 AM"

Written by Daniel T. Thomsen, Edward Kitsis, and Adam Horowitz
Directed by Ralph Hemecker


Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
After a recap of the series's premise and the title card, the episode opens with rain coming into Storybrooke as Henry confronts the stranger who arrived at the end of the previous episode. Regina sees the two converse and calls Henry back as the stranger gives a cryptic warning and speeds away. Elsewhere in town, Emma and Mary Margaret make ready for their day as the storm comes in; the latter is hurried, having overslept--for a meeting with David, about which she lies to Emma. It goes somewhat awkwardly, and David leaves to go to work; Emma arrives to confront her about it and her infatuation.

Not creepy at all, guy.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In the Enchanted Forest, Snow White hunts. She is interrupted by the arrival of Red Riding Hood, who brings supplies and reports on current affairs--James and Abigail are to wed, and Snow White frets about her longing for him. They confer about how to address Snow White's concern, Red reluctantly; she directs her to Rumpelstiltskin, and Snow White proceeds thither. They arrive at a deal for his assistance with her difficulty.

Mary Margaret runs into Kathryn while shopping and learns from the encounter that she and David are working on having a child together. Regina, looking on, urges discretion.

In the Enchanted Forest, James ponders his impending nuptials and the state of his kingdom. The king pushes him about his infatuation, urging him to set aside his feelings in favor of the good of the kingdom. After, James sends a message to Snow White.

Walking in the woods outside Storybrooke, Mary Margaret is distracted by a bird call; investigating, she finds a bird trapped and takes it to the animal shelter where David works. The bird is well, and Mary Margaret makes to return it to its flock; David offers to help and is rebuffed. And as the storm comes in, Emma tries to prepare for it as Regina asks about the stranger in town; she directs the sheriff to investigate him due to his interest in Henry, and Emma agrees.

Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Mary Margaret drives out into the incoming storm, and Snow White considers her "cure" from Rumpelstiltskin when James's message arrives. She reads it and is moved to question her choices. Mary Margaret finds a roadblock and proceeds on foot as the weather worsens, and Snow White makes for the impending nuptials, infiltrating easily and being detained just as easily. Another prisoner presents himself: the dwarf Grumpy. He notes a lack of egress as she struggles to find her escape; he notes his own lovesick struggles, and another dwarf, Stealthy, arrives to release Grumpy, and they reluctantly take her with them.

Naughty, naughty.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Mary Margaret proceeds on her intended errand as the weather continues to worsen. She falls down a hill and into peril, from which she is rescued by David. Rescued, Mary Margaret returns to her errand despite David's pleas; worsening weather obliges them to flee--and Snow White diverges from the dwarves to pursue her own agenda as they attempt their escape. Stealthy is slain, and Snow White intervenes, securing his freedom at the cost of her own. The storm drives David and Mary Margaret into a nearby cabin, where they confess their illicit love--and David is surprised that Kathryn thinks she may be pregnant.

Emma encounters the stranger, confronting him. His answers to her are evasive, taunting--until she agrees to let him buy her a drink, and he reveals himself to be a writer, carrying a typewriter.

The storm clears, and Mary Margaret resumes her errand, David pleading with her. She releases the bird, which rejoins its flock in the clearing sky, and she abjures David again despite their mutual confession. In the Enchanted Forest, the king presses Snow White to abjure James, whom he admits is not his son; she does so, breaking his heart to save him and the kingdom.

Naughty, naughty, indeed.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
David and Kathryn confer about their relationship. She notes a desire to mend their relationship, and David agrees to work to that end. He also deliberately misses his usual pattern--and Snow White, aching from her actions with James, rejoins the dwarves, relating her tale as they take her in and dissuade her from taking her "cure" for the moment. Mary Margaret, too, breaks her pattern, Emma offering comfort; James rides in search of Snow White, Red noting that she has departed, and he avers that he will find her--although she has taken her "cure," while David and Mary Margaret still encounter each other...and Regina looks on...


It is of some interest that the recap came again in the present episode. I have to wonder if it is due to some out-of-order production. I do not wonder about the effect, though; it takes the series back to its neo/medievalist underpinnings, for reasons discussed with the previous episode.

Here's your pseudo-European neomedievalist fantasy...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
It is of more interest that Snow White is shown hunting turkey in the episode. As I've noted once or twice, and as many who read this kind of thing will know, turkey legs are mainstays of faire food; they are commonplaces at mockups of the medieval and early modern, and so are associated strongly with the English / European Middle Ages in the minds of many in the United States--despite being entirely alien to them. The bird is North American, and the fairy tales from which the series takes its indirect inspiration--because they are filtered through Disney--hail from the European continent for the most part. The presence of the turkey is thus incongruous; yes, I know, it's a fantasy world, and the flora and fauna can be what they want to be--but not including a bird is easier than including it, and getting the context right's not that hard, dammit.

Except that Disney knows its audiences well; it has to to get as much of their money from them as it does. And it doubtlessly knows that most of its audiences will not think about where turkeys originate or that it's an oddity to have them pop up in a pseudo-medieval-European setting. Even if they might, well, you can get smoked turkey legs at Renaissance fairs, so maybe they were over there's an issue of the inauthentic matching audience expectations, something others have spoken to at greater length and with greater eloquence and insight than I can summon. The mistake makes sense in that context, even if it rankles for me.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Once upon a Time Rewatch 1.9, "True North"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

1.9, "True North"

Written by David H. Goodman and Liz Tigelaar
Directed by Dean White


Following the title card, the episode opens with Henry reading comic books. A girl, Eva, asks him about it and confers briefly with him; her brother, Nicholas, joins them, and they invite him to hang out with them. They are stopped as they try to leave the store, Eva and Nicholas having exploited Henry to shoplift.

That's not a cutting remark at all...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In the Enchanted Forest, a woodcutter plies his trade. Eva's alter-ego Gretel asks him, her father, about helping; he puts her and her brother, Hansel, to work gathering kindling. He also gives them a compass to help them be safe. They spend long in the woods, during which time, their father abandons them, and they are nearly run down by soldiers upon the roads, accompanying the evil queen. She regards them harshly.

In Storybrooke, Regina takes Henry away from the scene of the shoplifting. Emma arrives to take Eva and Nicholas into custody, and they plead in a scene that mirrors their counterparts in the Enchanted Forest; they try to flee from Regina, to no avail, as she captures the wayward children. She enlists them in a task in exchange for finding their father. Emma drops the pair at their home, accepting their story for the moment; they flee as soon as she is out of sight, absconding to the basement of a ramshackle home where they appear to be squatting and where they are caught by Emma--to whom they announce they are orphans.

Emma and Mary Margaret confer about Eva and Nicholas; their situation is glossed. Emma notes the problems of putting them into foster care, speaking from painful experience, and they arrive at the idea of finding the children's father. Emma proceeds to investigate their father, finding that the documentation on the children is absent, pulled by Regina; Regina notes having contacted social services to take the children--to separate homes--and directs Emma to take them thence.

Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

In the Enchanted Forest, Regina takes Hansel and Gretel deeper into the woods. There, she sends them to the home of the Blind Witch to retrieve an item for her; she cannot enter, though the children can, and she sends them in to steal it from her. She also notes the perils of the house itself, bidding the children eat nothing.

At her office, Emma reviews documents. Henry arrives and notes Eva's and Nicholas's storybook identities. He also affirms that their father is in town, owing to the unique nature of Storybrooke. Henry also asks about his father; Emma offers some glossed answers about their meeting and relationship--and his brave death. Their conversation gives Emma an idea about how to proceed in her search for the children's father; she acts on it, trying to get from the children an item from their father as a means to find him. Eva produces one, the compass, and Emma proceeds.

Sweet. Seemingly.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Gretel and Hansel approach the Blind Witch's home, sneaking into it and finding it a cornucopia of confectionery. They find the item they are meant to recover, and Gretel retrieves it, but Hansel eats of the offerings, and they are found out and captured in anticipation of being eaten.

Emma calls in at Gold's shop, asking him about the compass. He assesses it and notes knowing the former owner; he provides the information for a price--tolerance. The name is given, and Emma continues on her way--even though the record Gold reports working from is blank. She finds the father, the auto mechanic, and he denies being the father; Emma presses him about them, and he nearly relents after being confronted with the compass. Nearly. Emma reports the problem to Mary Margaret--and notes her lie to Henry regarding his father. Regina confronts Emma, reminder her to take the children to Boston and foster care.

Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In the Enchanted Forest, Hansel and Gretel are confronted by the pedophagic Blind Witch. As she prepares to cook Hansel, Gretel lays out plans to effect their escape and begins to enact them. They extricate themselves and return to Regina, delivering the retrieved item. The queen exults in the retrieval, and she offers to take the children into her own household; they refuse in favor of their father, and she performs a working on them.

In Storybrooke, Emma makes to take the children to foster care. Henry tries to interdict them, and Emma affirms she has to do her job, driving off. They do not get far before the car stalls out, and Emma calls a mechanic.

The evil queen summons Hansel and Gretel's father, whom she had imprisoned and whom she interrogates. His answers do not satisfy, and she has him released--to another place, far away from his children, who have themselves been sent far away.

Wow, that's not portentous at all...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
As the mechanic approaches, Eva's compass begins to point to him. He is confronted with the physical reality of the children, and Emma pleads with him to take them. He is moved strangely, and he agrees to take in Eva and Nicholas. Emma reports the happy event to Mary Margaret, musing on finding her own parents--and noting Henry's conceit that Mary Margaret is her mother, Snow White. And Henry meets with Emma as she reviews her own adoption file again; he commends her for her intervention with Eva and Nicholas as another visitor arrives in Storybrooke, looking for a place to stay....


Notably, the series's premise is not restated at the beginning of the episode. It seems that the audience's habituation is expected at this point--sensibly enough, since two months of initial broadcast have passed to this point, the series premiering episodes weekly. It does mark a difference from the fairy tale and medieval/ist antecedents of the series, however; how many fairy tales open with "Once upon a time" said openly? How many Arthurian tales start with history and context (such as SGGK opening with "Siþen the sege and the assault watz sesed at Troye / The borȝ brittened and brent to brondes and askes" or Malory with "Hit befelle in the dayes of the noble Utherpendragon, whan he was king of Englonde and so regned)? It's a small enough thing, to be sure, but it does mark some shift in audience expectations, and that's worth considering; I'd be interested in hearing from those more up on media studies than I.

Similarly, someone more up on historical depictions of witches than I might have something to say about the Blind Witch. Disney has certainly made some adjustments, to my eye; I don't recall the witch in the Hansel and Gretel story being blind, for example, but that may just be the edition of the stories my father read to me from. In either event, she does not align to depictions of the anthropophagus or the Blemmyes with which they are sometimes conflated--although that can be explained easily enough by the constraints of medium. Still, it seems...strangely shaped, although I am not entirely certain how; others who are, please comment--I look forward to the discussion!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Once upon a Time Rewatch 1.8, "Desperate Souls"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

1.8, "Desperate Souls"

Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Michael Waxman


Awkward effects. Ostentatious attire. Yep, that's Evil®.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
After another restatement of the series's premise and the title card, the episode begins with Rumpelstiltskin spinning thread. He limps out into the small village of his home, where soldiers are conscripting children into a war effort, aided by powerful magic. Rumpelstiltskin, holding his son and leaning on a crutch, looks on helplessly; his son notes that his own conscription is coming.

Gold works in his pawn shop as Emma enters; he offers condolences on the loss of the sheriff two weeks past. Gold notes also that Graham's belongings are in his possession, urging Emma to take something that had been his and to tend to Henry due to the transience of youth.

Emma meets with Henry, giving him one of Graham's radios as she tries to comfort him. Henry notes reluctance to proceed against Regina in the wake of Graham's death. He also refuses the gift and, saddened, makes to return home. Emma resumes her law-enforcement duties and is informed that Regina has appointed Sidney Glass to the sheriff's office and dismissed her.

Quite the thing to walk in on...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
That evening, Emma is somewhat dissolute when Mary Margaret returns home. They confer about Emma's dismissal and are interrupted by the arrival of Gold at their apartment. He urges her to challenge Regina.

In the Enchanted Forest, Rumpelstiltskin wakes his sleeping son, Baelfire, purposing to flee before he can be conscripted. He notes the horrors of war before soldiers come upon them; one recognizes Rumpelstiltskin and accosts him for his cowardice. In an attempt to save his son, Rumpelstiltskin humbles himself before the soldiers' leader and is kicked in the face for his trouble.

In Storybrooke, Regina holds a press event to announce the appointment of Sidney to the post of sheriff. Emma intrudes, citing the legal obligation to hold an election and announcing her candidacy for the position.

Rumpelstiltskin continues to fret about how to help his son escape conscription and likely doom. A benefactor confers with him about following another path, and Rumpelstiltskin notes his cowardice and incapacity. The benefactor notes the Dark One's Dagger, an artifact that allows for control over the Dark One whose magic supports the soldiers; he urges Rumpelstiltskin to steal that dagger, thus coming to control the Dark One and the power the Dark One wields. When Rumpelstiltskin demurs, the benefactor urges him instead to become the Dark One.

Gold receives Regina at his shop. She confronts him about his involvement with Emma, and their tête-à-tête soon treats Henry--whom Emma meets in a diner and with whom he discusses his birth in jail. Henry reminds Emma that Regina is underhanded--and he advises her that Gold is even worse than Regina. And when Emma confronts Regina about the news reports of Henry's birth, an explosion blasts the city offices; Regina is immobilized and cries for Emma's help.

In the Enchanted Forest, Rumpelstiltskin has Baelfire help him prepare to take the Dark One's power. The father notes to his son the certainty of his death in battle if he goes to war, warning him against the terrors he himself had fled. Baelfire asks Rumpelstiltskin about the truth of the soldiers' claims of his cowardice, and his father cannot deny it. He makes to help his father even so.

Emma seems to flee Regina, only to return moments later with a fire extinguisher to clear a path for them; they extricate themselves from the town hall. They are met by a crowd and the press, including Sidney. Emma's heroism is noted, and campaign activities begin to coalesce around her--which Henry notices. And Emma notices Gold's handiwork, moving to confront him about it. He does not admit to aiding her, though he lays out hypothetical tactics as he admonishes her.

Aaaaand obligatory castle shot.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Back in the Enchanted Forest, Rumpelstiltskin works his infiltration with Baelfire, committing arson. In the ensuing confusion, Rumpelstiltskin retrieves the dagger.

Mary Margaret runs into David as she campaigns for Emma--and he for Sidney. They confer briefly and awkwardly. Elsewhere, debate preparations are finalized, Emma doubting her victory. Mary Margaret offers encouragement.

Rumpelstiltskin returns to Baelfire with the dagger. He sends his son home with the note that he will follow soon after; when Baelfire leaves, Rumpelstiltskin summons the Dark One--finding that it is his benefactor as he kills him and himself becomes the Dark One. The power begins to work on him swiftly.

The debate between sheriff candidates gets underway somewhat raggedly. Glass gives a polished opening statement; Emma's is rougher but more authentic, even as it admits culpability. She departs, leaving Regina smiling and the room quiet. After, Emma consoles herself with drink; Henry approaches her with hope. Regina and Glass join shortly after, congratulating Emma on her victory; Regina warns her about Gold.

The soldiers make to conscript Baelfire. The empowered Rumpelstiltskin interdicts them and humbles the soldier's leader who humbled him before--and slays the lot of them before his son's eyes, to his horror. And, in Storybrooke, Gold offers his own congratulations--in sinister fashion.


An interesting point comes to attention early in the episode when Regina fires Emma from what would have been a promotion from deputy to full sheriff. In some early English legal structures, the sheriff was a royally appointed officer, one working with local authorities but answering to the crown. (Echoes of the arrangement sound in Disney's Robin Hood, with its parallels to Isengrim and Reynard.) That the sheriff in Storybrooke answers to the mayor may come across as somewhat odd to the mainstream United States audience expected of the series; the sheriff is typically a county-level official, while the mayor is a city-level official who would not normally "outrank" the sheriff. It does, however, make sense in the fairy-tale context; the mayor is, after all, the queen, and so the sheriff would answer to her. The tension makes for interesting interaction of neomedievalist and modern precedents, something good to see handled directly in contemporary media--and (pleasantly) surprising in a series that shows the problems it has negotiating complexities.

Another interesting point comes up in the episode's fixation on lanolin and wool. It firmly fixes the fairy-tale notions of the series in an Anglophone context, despite most of the stories Disney reworked coming from the Continent (several of the "classic" Disney movies note working from Perrault, for example). The wool-focus does so due to the centering of the wool trade in (late) medieval England, to which no few scholars in several disciplines (including Eileen Power) have attested. Again, given the presumed audience for an ABC broadcast, the Anglophone-centering makes sense, even if it might be more subtle than many viewers would necessarily catch. That said, such details do help solidify the context of the series, offering a more stable frame for interpretation--and that is decidedly welcome.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Once upon a Time Rewatch 1.7, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

1.7, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter"

Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Directed by David M. Barrett


Impressive even for a sober guy.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Following a rehearsal of the series' premise and the title card, the episode opens in Storybrooke with the sheriff seemingly drunkenly playing darts. After winning a bet, he is confronted by Emma, who makes to stalk off before a running argument that spills out into the street, becoming harassment as the sheriff has sudden flashes of images of a wolf. Emma rebukes him, justly, and departs.

Some of the earlier architecture stretches points, but this is just silly.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
The sheriff then calls at Regina's, kissing her in the search for more images; she recalls an episode in the Enchanted Forest in which she, as evil queen, looked over Snow White laying a flower on her father's tomb. The queen offers such comfort to her as can be done, averring her alignment to her stepdaughter. Later, she consults her servitors, exulting in her impending victory; rather than acting directly, she considers a huntsman--the sheriff's alter-ego in the Enchanted Forest. And the sheriff wakes in Regina's bed, remembering dimly; when he leaves, he encounters the wolf from his recollections.

Emma finds a bouquet on the table in the kitchen she shares with Mary Margaret and discards it, only to be chided; the flowers had been a gift to Mary Margaret. The two confer about the latter's relationship with the physician, Dr. Whale. Conversation soon becomes decidedly uncomfortable.

You know this won't end well.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
The sheriff, Graham, runs out into the forest, where he encounters Gold, with a cane and a shovel in his hands. They confer tersely, and Gold heads off after offering cryptic advice; the scene shifts back to the Enchanted Forest, with the huntsman coming into a tavern and being accosted by others therein. A melee ensues, which the huntsman gets the best of; Regina bids him be brought before her.

Graham continues through the woods outside Storybrooke, following the sounds of wolves. He sights the wolf again, approaching it closely and remembering more as he touches it--and it vanishes. Stupefied, he returns, going to speak with Mary Margaret about what he recalls.

The huntsman reports to the evil queen as bidden. She presses him about his upbringing and assesses him as she tasks him with the assassination of Snow White. He presses for the protection of wolves as his fee and accepts the commission.

Conversation between Graham and Mary Margaret begins to point out gaps in their memories, startling both. It also goes to strange places that Mary Margaret connects to Henry's views of the town's fairy-tale origins; she recommends he go home and rest, which advice he heeds.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, the huntsman accompanies Snow White on a walk in the woods, where he means to fulfill his commission. He finds himself unable to do so, however, as Snow White susses out his intent and flees.

In Storybrooke, Regina calls in at the sheriff's office; she and Emma converse regarding Graham. Regina warns her against a romance with him, confusing her. Graham calls on Henry in the meantime, asking him about his stories.

Not the normal pleading, no.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In the Enchanted Forest, the huntsman catches up with Snow White, and the two confer. She gives him a letter to be delivered to the queen after her death at his hands. He accepts the letter, reading it, and finding that he cannot go through with the act of killing her; he gives her a whistle and sends her on her way, sacrificing a deer to enable her escape. And Graham confers with Henry about his memories and identity, tracing out implications and future events. Henry also notes the location of the sheriff's heart, and Graham rushes off to find it.

Along the way, Emma confronts him, noting his evident illness. His report to her confuses her, until she sees the wolf. Graham gives chase, Emma following, and they find themselves in the town cemetery, standing before a burial vault. He tries to enter, Emma assisting him; they effectively break into it.

In the Enchanted Forest, the huntsman reports to the evil queen, delivering the letter and the deer heart. The queen bids him read the letter aloud, which displeases her. She intimates the source of her enmity towards Snow White and demands the heart; with it delivered, she stalks off, only to recognize the ruse belatedly and punish the huntsman by taking his heart, in turn, effectively enslaving him.

You know this won't end well.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In the burial vault, Graham searches to no avail. Regina confronts him and Emma, and Graham cuts off the relationship he had had with Regina. And Emma rebukes Regina, as well, only to be punched in the face for her trouble. Emma responds in kind, and is restrained by Graham; later, he tends to her at the sheriff's office. They confer, and Regina enters the inner sanctum of the burial vault, where she enacts a working that kills him--just as Emma moves to return his affections and his memories come back to him.


I'm struck in the present episode by the relative cleanliness of people in the medievalist milieu, as well as the relative lack of accoutrements carried by those traipsing about the forest therein. I know it's a fantasy depiction, of course, and I know it's Disney--which tends to mean sanitizing happens (although there is a fairly frank and open note from the putative savior and clear protagonist that extramarital adult sexuality is fine, which surprises in a prime-time series from the company)--so some cleanup is perhaps to be expected. Too, keeping dirtiness consistent is difficult, which vitiates against its inclusion in a weekly series; production demands would seem to argue against it. But it's still a bit disconcerting to see so many people who are shown as involved in agriculture and outdoor pursuits not getting anything on them; I live and grew up in central Texas, and that does not line up with experience, even with ready access to laundry and shower facilities.

No carts, no packs, just some nobles living their best lives...
Image taken from the Bayeaux Tapestry online, used for commentary

Similarly, the fact that people running around forests without so much as a backpack or a waterskin grates on me. It's one thing, of course, when someone is chased out of their home without time to gather materials; it's quite another when characters deliberately go out on a walk or a ride. Look at hikers now, or joggers; how many go for more than a quick trip up the block and back without at least a water bottle? And consider royal and noble processions, which would, as a matter of course, involve many people, all of whom would want to eat and drink along the way...but then, after looking at some medieval visual depictions of hunting, I have to note that expected baggage trains and carry-ons are absent. I guess, then, that while the series may not have such things true to life, it gets them at least true to (relatively) contemporary depiction, and that's something.

Tapestry with scenes of a boar and bear hunt, probably made in Arras or Tournai, Netherlands, 1425-30. Museum no. T.204-1957
Not a lot of packs, but perhaps a lot of baggage...
Image taken from the V&A, here, used for commentary.

Also, please consider submitting to the Tales after Tolkien Society's offering for the 2022 International Congress on Medieval Studies, discussed here: Twenty-First Century Neo/Medievalisms (a roundtable session). The session seeks to investigate "how a given twenty-first century work (any medium is accepted, and a diversity of media will be appreciated) makes use of the medieval or makes use of earlier works that themselves make use of the medieval, interrogating briefly how the mis/use of the earlier material serves to transmit ideas of the medieval forward. Prepared remarks should run some five to seven minutes, with open discussion to follow as time permits. Ideas in early stages of development are welcome." ***The formal call is here.***

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Once upon a Time Rewatch 1.6, "The Shepherd"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

1.6, "The Shepherd"

Written by Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg
Directed by Victor Nelli


Doesn't look bad, actually...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
After a recapitulation of the series premise and the title card, David Nolan returns to his putative home in Storybrooke. He and Kathryn confer about it, and David betrays a lack of memory as he is led into a surprise party and introduced around. The party proceeds, with Henry continuing to propound his ideas about the true identities of the town's residents. David asks about Mary Margaret as Regina presses Kathryn, who does not know how to handle matters. Meanwhile, David wanders out of his party and finds his way to Mary Margaret in town. He pursues her, and she seeks to demur in favor of his present marriage; he avers his choice of her as a beloved, and she refuses him again.

So it's that kind of party...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Back in the Enchanted Forest, melee proceeds, to applause from an assembled royal delegation. The victor is praised and tasked with slaying a dragon in exchange for a supply of gold generated by the touch of one of the present kings--Midas. Details of the arrangement ensue, as do preparations for assault on the dragon--and the erstwhile victor is slain amid boasting of the victory.

The other king, whose son had been the victor, attends the body in a chamber with a round table. The body is borne out, and plans to replace the slain are made--involving Rumpelstiltskin. The two confer, arriving at a new deal that provides a duplicate heir. Said heir is a shepherd.

In Storybrooke, Emma confers with Mary Margaret about David. Emma advises against Mary Margaret pursuing a relationship with him. David, meanwhile, attempts to reconstruct his memories with Kathryn as he looks over photos from their life before; he ineptly reacts to her marital advances.

In the Enchanted Forest, or near it, the shepherd gathers in a sheep as his mother returns from market and notes an advantageous marriage prospect. He deflects it in favor of wedding for love, and Rumpelstilstkin arrives to strike a deal. Revelations of old dealings are made, and the shepherd resists the notion of accompanying Rumpelstiltskin to the king's assistance.

Or it's this kind of party...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In Storybrooke, Regina confronts Mary Margaret about Kathryn and David. She warns her away from David; David has left Kathryn, and Regina advises Mary Margaret against further engagement with him.

In the Enchanted Forest, the shepherd makes ready to face the dragon, uncertain of himself and his position. He is advised of his intended role, and the expedition against the dragon proceeds. The ruin it has caused is shown in some detail, and the putative hero is bidden remain in place as others proceed and melee begins--going badly for those who have gone ahead. The shepherd rushes in to assist as he can, which is little enough against the dragon, given his lack of training--but with some cunning and luck, the shepherd emerges victorious.

In Storybrooke, David approaches Mary Margaret. She again tries to deflect him, to push him away, and he refuses, pressing her for acceptance. The sheriff asks Emma to cover a night shift until interrupted by Mary Margaret, who rushes in to seek advice. And David considers matters.

She looks thrilled. Who wouldn't be?
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Back in the Enchanted Forest, the shepherd is lauded. Midas offers his daughter, Abigail's, hand in marriage to the shepherd. After some protestation--taken as humilitas--the offer is accepted.

Once again, my inner Hank Hill...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In Storybrooke, Regina confronts David, seeking to persuade him back to Kathryn. She gives him directions to his intended goal and sends him on his way--somewhere other than he had intended, away from where Mary Margaret awaits him. But he calls in at Gold's pawn shop, where Gold gives him better directions, and parts of his memory begin to return, to Gold's amusement.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, the shepherd returns to his mother, victorious. She exults in his return, but he tells her he cannot return, being obliged instead to wed Abigail under threat of death--and his mother's death--from the king. In tears, she gives him a ring which she says true love follows, which ring is on Mary Margaret's finger as David finally reaches her. He announces what he remembers to Mary Margaret, noting that he remains confused about his current feelings. She rebukes him for his folly and leaves in tears.

Later, Emma sees a shadowy figure leaping from a window and gives chase. Said figure is the sheriff absconding from Regina's home after an assignation. In disgust, she sends the sheriff on her rounds--and David returns to Kathryn, his memories returning. They confer about the status of their relationship, David noting the need to work and his willingness to do that work--much as he had done with her in the Enchanted Forest. And Mary Margaret begins to find comfort elsewhere.


Several points come to mind for me in the episode. One is the bit about the victorious son being slain amid boasting. I find myself put in mind of the Malorian Sir Kay, about whom I've done...some work. And, if I may borrow from Shiloh Carroll's excellent work, well, this comes to mind. I forget my chronologies, so I don't know which example's earlier, but they do certainly both speak to a theme, and it does seem to be one that suits neomedievalist works well enough.

A second, related, is the decidedly Arthurian twin-story--not so much because of the twinning, but because of the backhanded approach to the Beaumains / La Cote Male Tayle type involved. The Fair Unknown would seem to apply, at least in part, here; the heroism seems to be inborn, though there is no exalted lineage on display as yet.

The greatest of the points that come to mind has to do with the adulterous impulses David has in Storybrooke. The whole courtly love trope commonly associated with chivalric romance--and which is attested at least in part by Andreas Capellanus, thus giving it an "authentically medieval" imprimatur--hinges on adultery, on nobles philandering about with more and less success. The perils of such are amply attested, of course; the later parts of Malory offer the example clearest to my mind, although there are certainly others to be found, and penalties for violations of sexual ethics are noted in medieval English law and literature (one example among many is here). Even aside from "true love" moving to the fore, the actions of Prince Charming David seem consistent with the behavior expected of medieval/ist nobility (and, indeed, people in power in most times and places); it's something that the series evidently gets right.