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… You actually come up with a couple I could get behind shipping, and you kill off one-half of that couple in the same episode? OUCH.
On the plus side, this week’s episode was a BIG step up from last week’s, which I found pointless and saccharine. This one felt much less silly, fleshed out Red’s character nicely, had nice friendship moments between Snow/MM, Red/Ruby, and Emma as well as a truly sweet development of the relationship between Ruby and her grandmother, and had several genuinely surprising twists there at the end. Nicely done, writers. And it looks like the next episode is going to be a goodie as well.
I just wish this show would do better when it comes to the romance. So many of their couples seem to be “one-episode wonders”, and while that might work for some people, I can’t find myself rooting for a couple unless I see a more realistic build-up of the relationship. It’s like these writers think they can just TELL us that couples are in love, and feel no obligation to actually show (or even imply) love growing over time. Red and Peter were a step in the right direction since the show at least bothered to establish that they’d been friends for a long time before falling in love. (To clarify, I don’t need couples to have known each other for years before falling in love or anything - all I’m asking for is some genuine build-up, here.)
To end this mini-review on a more positive note, though, this episode also did a LOT to rehabilitate David’s character in my eyes. I’d been pretty much hating him for the last few episodes, but his reaction to Kathryn’s death was genuinely moving (nice acting, Josh Dallas!) and then him immediately telling Emma to arrest him showed the kind of nobility and honor that this character has been severely lacking outside of the fairytale realm. Since David is clearly meant to be the show’s leading man, I’m thrilled to be able to root for him again.
(NOTE: This post contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 10 of Once Upon a Time. Stay away if you have not yet watched this episode and don’t want to be spoiled.)
Right then. Let’s get started.
Tonight’s episode focused a lot on the Mary/David, Snow/Charming relationship. This isn’t surprising. Snow and Charming are basically the show’s Official Couple as of now. And up until tonight’s episode, I had been quite liking their relationship. Sure, I didn’t like David constantly waffling back and forth between Mary and his wife, but considering the situation he’s in, I was willing to make allowances. And he hadn’t actually cheated, which made it easier to excuse. Plus, their interactions were utterly adorable, especially in the fairytale world.
Tonight’s episode changed how I felt about them. A lot.
First, let’s address what we found out about the Snow/Charming side of the relationship.
Tonight’s fairytale flashback starts off with Snow unable to get Charming out of her mind, despite the fact that his wedding is approaching. She is so desperate to be “cured” of her love that she seeks out Rumpelstiltskin and makes a deal with him (never a good idea, and Snow is a smart enough gal to know that). Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Charming can’t stop thinking about Snow either, so he sends her a note, telling her that he loves her, and if she feels the same way, she should come meet him and they will run away together. And sure enough, Snow sets off.
Essentially, he just proposed marriage. Not only that, Charming knows the trouble he can cause for both the kingdom and his mother by running off with Snow. He’s taking a huge leap here, but that’s (supposedly) fine because it’s in the name of “true love”. Both Snow and Charming, in fact, use the word “love”, and the amount that they’re willing to risk to be together clearly shows that they believe it’s the real deal, and the audience is supposed to believe it too.
The only problem? They’ve met each other all of exactly once at this point.
I know, I know. Love at first sight is hardly unheard of in fairy tales. Love at first sight is, in fact, what happened between Snow and Charming in the original fairy tale. But, let’s face it, OUAT hasn’t exactly felt compelled to stick precisely to the original stories. And that’s a good thing - we all know the basic forms of these fairy tales. The fun comes with the unexpected twists and original interpretations. But in addition to adding interesting twists, some of the changes the show has made have very been clearly been done so as to make the story more appealing and accessible to a modern audience - making Snow a much stronger, less passive heroine, for example. While I can hardly speak for modern civilization as a whole, for my part, one of the changes I would have wanted them to make in that vein is establishing a connection between Snow and Charming based on the two truly getting to know each other and falling in love over time, rather than falling in love based on one meeting alone.
The show’s decision to do otherwise is especially baffling considering that they specifically altered the original story by having Snow White and Prince Charming know each other before the scene where he wakes her up from the poisoned sleep. When I saw the first episode, this was one of the things I liked the most, as I thought it meant that the show meant to establish a genuinely deep and meaningful relationship between Snow and Charming, as opposed to falling back on the tired old “love at first sight” cliche. Yet here we are ten episodes later, and we find out that they supposedly fell in love after meeting only once after all. I find this unrealistic, and frankly disappointing. To me, love is about truly knowing the other person, inside and out. It’s about knowing their good sides, their bad sides, and the little things that make them unique. It’s about being able to trust the other person completely, to confide in them, to support them and get support back. Snow and Charming had not known each other long enough to have that.To be sure, their first meeting had laid a strong foundation. They had learned important things about each other, found themselves able to trust each other and be honest with each other, and worked together as a team. They might well have started to fall in love, but the process was just beginning. They hadn’t yet formed a real relationship. One meeting, no matter how much it affected them, is simply not enough for me to find the supposedly deep and powerful love between them believable.
Now, on to the Mary/David side of things.
First of all: I hear a lot of people saying that it isn’t really cheating because Snow and Charming were married in the fairytale world, and David isn’t really married to Kathryn. This is invalid, IMO. I judge people’s actions based on the information that they have or don’t have. David thinks he is married to Kathryn. Mary thinks he is married to Kathryn. Kathryn thinks he is married to her, and will be genuinely hurt and betrayed if she finds out about his affair. Furthermore, David chose to go back to Kathryn. He could have separated from her (if not actually divorced her) until he figured things out, but instead he chose to go back to her, and promised to try and make things work. That promise was not something he was forced into or a circumstance beyond his control. It is a choice that he made of his own free will, and, as such, he is obligated to honor that commitment to Kathryn. If all the relevant parties think that David and Kathryn are married, and David and Kathryn have promised to be committed to each other and try to make things work as a couple, then, for all intents and purposes, they are married. Legalities aside, it’s cheating, plain and simple.
There’s also the fact that, as in the fairytale world, Mary and David are claiming to be in love despite the fact that they barely know each other. This is somewhat more excusable since they subconsciously remember the relationship they had in the fairytale world and what they meant to each other, but for the most part, it once again feels like the show is simply trying to tell us that these two people are deeply in love, without taking the time to establish a genuinely meaningful relationship between them.
Possibly the most aggravating aspect for me, though, was Mary and David acting as though the two of them having an affair would be fine (or at least less wrong) as long as David’s wife wasn’t pregnant. Uh… what? Since when is adultery okay as long as your spouse isn’t pregnant? I get that the thinking was that if Kathryn was pregnant, it would be that much harder for David to leave her for MM, but the fact remains that either way, David hasn’t left her, and he doesn’t seem to really show any signs that he intends to leave her. Instead, he reassures her that he’s committed to her and intends to make their marriage work whenever she questions him. And then he goes and pines after Mary Margaret, and tells her about how he has all these feeeeeelings for her, and tries to kiss her. This is monumentally unfair to both women, although of course Mary does her part in this tango too. In any case, if David intends to explore his feelings for Mary Margaret, then he’s obligated to do the honorable thing and leave Kathryn first. And if he isn’t going to leave Kathryn, then he and Mary Margaret have to keep their hands off each other and let it go. It’s as simple as that.
Bottom line: I get it. David and Mary Margaret are Snow White and Prince Charming. They’re soulmates. They’re destined to be together. I get it, I really do. But this is quickly turning into a case of Strangled by the Red String. You can’t just tell me that they’re meant for each other, and expect that to be enough. You have to make me believe it. You have to make me want them to be together. Ginnifer and Josh’s chemistry and acting talent helps in that regard, but it’s not enough. You have to establish an actual relationship between the two of them, you have to create a genuinely deep bond, not just try to convince me that such a bond already exists between two people who barely know each other. Show, don’t tell.