Monday, May 27, 2013

Once Upon a Time...Beauty Was a Barfly

Once Upon a Time Season 2 Episode 19: "Lacey"
In the fairybacks, more of Belle's time as a captive of Rumpel is revealed.  One night, a thief breaks into the castle to steal one of Rumpel's magic wands, but is caught and imprisoned.  After failing to convince Rumpel to let the thief go, Belle frees the man herself, refusing his offer to escape with him.  A furious Rumpel points out that the thief took the wand he had previously failed to steal, but Belle believes him to be a good person. Rumpel insists Belle accompany him while he searches for the thief, arming himself with the thief's own bow, said to be enchanted to never miss its target.

The two track the thief to Sherwood Forest, where they encounter the Sheriff of Nottingham, who asks Rumpel for a romp with Belle.  Rumpel temporarily removes his tongue as punishment for such lascivious statements, returning it only to gather information about the thief (Robin Hood, of course).

When the two find Robin Hood, Rumpel casts a paralysis spell on Belle, so she will be forced to watch him kill the thief.  But the two see that he stole the wand to cure Maid Marian, who is sick and with child.  Belle pleads with Rumpel not to leave the child fatherless, and Rumpel fires the bow, missing the couple.  The spell released, Belle embraces Rumpel, thanking him for sparing the thief's life.

In Storybrooke, Rumpel has a disturbing dream in which he kills Henry at the boy's birthday party.  Remembering that Belle always had the ability to bring out the best in him, he visits her in the hospital, where she is much more receptive to him than previously.  However, when he goes to visit her again, he finds that she is gone, the only clue a matchbook for a bar called the Rabbit Hole, cursed by Regina to give Belle false memories.

At the bar, Rumpel finds Belle, now called "Lacey," playing pool and invites her to dinner at Granny's Diner. She agrees, although Rumpel is surprised when she orders a bottle of wine and chicken parmesan instead of her usual burger.  The wine is spilled on her blouse, and she goes to the bathroom to rinse it.  When she doesn't return in a timely manner, Rumpel goes to check on her and finds her outside, making out with the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Rumpel beats the man with his cane and removes his tongue magically, paralleling the earlier scene.  Only this time, Lacey is pleased with how dark Rumpel can truly be.

David and Snow tell Emma about the magic beans Anton has been growing and take her to the fields.  Regina uses a spell to track them and discovers the beans herself.

And Greg and Tamara bring Hook, who has been bound in the back of a U-haul, into Storybrooke, hoping he'll do their dirty work.

While I do love my Rumpel episodes, and I enjoyed the flashback well enough, I heartily dislike Belle's cursed persona.  I'm also a bit perplexed by it.  For example, when Snow was cursed, Mary Margaret was an exaggerated version of her, being exceptionally kind and empathetic.  Archie, too, as a counselor was the epitome of conscience.  So why, then, is Belle's persona antithetical to her?  Shouldn't she instead become the stereotypical librarian, preferring the company of her books over people?

I understand why they made Lacey this way for story reasons.  And I have to admit that I do like the reversal (Belle brings out the best, Lacey brings out the worst).  But it doesn't seem to follow the model used for all of the other characters.

I realize the commentary portion is ridiculously short, but there's not much to say.  I feel that this episode really only exists to further Rumpel's story, not the overarching plot.  Both the protagonists and antagonists are barely in this episode.  And as much as I liked the episode, I think it probably could have been condensed, so that more plot elements could progress.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sara's Library: Girl of Nightmares

I had an unexpected hospital stay, which has delayed a number of my posts.  I'm going to try to get at least two up a week until I'm caught up, but a friend just asked me to critique his manuscript, so I'm not sure how I'll be dividing my time just yet.

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood
Tor Teen 2012

Summary from Goodreads: "It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on. 

"His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

"Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

"Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor."

Review: Readers will remember that when I picked up Anna Dressed in Blood, I had rather low expectations but ended up enthralled with the characters and story.  I am happy to say that Girl of Nightmares is a worthy successor and conclusion.

As stated in the description, Cas is seeing Anna everywhere, but it's after a ghostly encounter that endangers both Thomas and Carmel that Cas decides that something must be done.  His intuition tells him that Anna is not properly at rest, and cryptic statements made by Thomas's uncle, Morfran, and Gideon, Cas's advisor, lead him to believe that Anna is in Hell.

While the adults in Cas's life warn him not to meddle with the afterlife and move on, Thomas and Carmel support his decision to investigate Anna's whereabouts and free her, if necessary.

Ms. Blake continues to write a likeable Buffy-esque gang of ghost hunters, who manage to deal with normal teen problems while juggling their eerie escapades.  With this installment taking place over summer vacation, we get less of Cas's interaction with the general student body and more of his growing friendship with the unlikely couple Thomas and Carmel.  As with the first book, Ms. Blake shows a penchant for writing sarcastic, disaffected teens.

New character Jestine, raised by a British cult, is a great foil to Cas, who never asked for the power and responsibility of the athame.  She also provides fresh perspective on the task at hand, as she is not affiliated with Cas and has motives of her own for crossing the threshold to Hell.  Her presence definitely raises the stakes.  The book wouldn't likely have been a flop without the Jestine subplot, but it's certainly greater for her presence.

The ending offers an unexpected resolution where Anna is concerned, but leaves room for further adventures with Cas and the gang should Ms. Blake choose to deliver them.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Once Upon a Time...There Was a Wooden Puppet

Once again I'm behind.  I had hoped to catch up while on vacation last week, but the house my family rented ended up having no Internet connection.  Anyway...

Once Upon a Time Season 2 Episode 18: "Selfless, Brave, and True"

In flashback, August wakes up to discover one of his legs is transforming into wood.  He travels to Hong Kong where he heard about a man called "The Dragon" who can grant any wish for a price.  The Dragon asks August to give him a precious possession and $10,000 before he agrees to proceed.

August goes to a local bar where he encounters a woman he had seen in the Dragon's office.  The two talk over drinks, and the woman reveals that she has an incurable form of cancer.  While she steps away to take a call, August riffles through her purse and steals an envelope stuffed with cash.  He then returns to the Dragon, using the cash and the puppet strings from when he was a marionette to pay for the potion that will return him to human form.  As he exits the office, though, he is chased by the woman, who steals the potion from him.

The woman returns to the office, demanding answers about the otherworldly substance.  As the Dragon begins to transform (as he is truly the mythical creature), she kills him with a taser, stating that she could not allow for anyone else to gain possession of such a potion.

August returns to America and meets up with Baelfire in New York, where he explains the plan for when the curse is broken by Emma.  Right after August drives away on his motorcycle, the woman from Hong Kong "bumps" into Bae, spilling her coffee on herself.  He lends her his scarf and the two seem to hit it off.

In the present, Snow discovers a trailer in the woods while practicing her archery.  August has been living there and is now completely wooden.  He begs Snow not to tell anyone he is living there.

Bae's fiancee, Tamara, shows up in Storybrooke and eats breakfast with Emma, Henry, and Bae.  The two tell the story of how they met on the street when she spilled her coffee and he lent her his scarf to cover the stains.  Henry leaves the storybook with Bae while he and Emma walk to school.  Bae shows Tamara the book and explains that he is from another world, but Tamara thinks it's just a story he's concocted so he can get back together with Emma.

At Granny's Diner, Snow tells Geppetto that she found August living in the woods.  Tamara overhears the conversation and goes to the trailer, where she confronts August.  She tells him to leave Storybrooke and gives him the keys to her car to do so.  Snow, Geppetto, and Emma arrive to find the trailer deserted.

While driving, August finds a photo of Tamara and her grandmother in the car.  She had said this was her special object when the two met in the Hong Kong bar, so discovering it proves that she lied about having cancer.  He drives back to town and calls Emma from the sheriff's office, but Tamara arrives and cuts the line.  Realizing that August had figured out who she was and had planned to tell Emma, Tamara tases him.

Emma and company arrive to find a dying August, who attempts to give Emma the information he uncovered but dies before he can do so.  Henry asks the Blue Fairy if she can do anything to save him, since his last act was selfless, brave, and true.  She turns him into a real boy leaving him with no memories of his adult self, much to Tamara's satisfaction.

Regina, having realized that Greg is Owen, confronts him and shows him the lanyard he had when he was a child.  He refuses to leave without his father, but Regina claims to know nothing of his whereabouts.  The episode ends with Greg and Tamara meeting in his hotel room for a romantic encounter.

The string of good episodes had to end eventually, right?  While I appreciated bringing August back into the current storyline, I felt that killing his character in order to further the plot just as he had redeemed himself was a miscalculation.  Although if the CG budget is to remain the same, I suppose I can understand the studio wanting to be rid of him.  That CG was pretty distracting.  And reviving Pinocchio as a child was a huge disappointment, unless he somehow recovers his memories at some point.

What I felt was a greater detriment to the show was bringing in a second mundie antagonist.  And not just any antagonist, but Bae's fiancee.  I had liked the development with Greg/Owen.  Why couldn't the writers run with that without adding some superfluous unlikable character?  Unless the writers have a great backstory that ties the two together much more strongly than they are now, I will be annoyed.  It's just too easy to create these "coincidences."

While not nearly as terrible as the Smash episode, "The Phenomenon," this was definitely one of Once's weakest outings to-date.