Once Upon a Time- Episode 3.12 "New York City Serenade" Review- Character insight is sacrificed for plot progression, but the episode is still good
Posted by Pablozky at Monday, March 10, 2014 9 Comments
We have two stories here; for one, Hook is trying to open Emma’s eyes while she enjoys her new life with Henry and her new boyfriend (Walsh), and for the other one, we have Snow and company returning back to the Enchanted Forest and finding out new threats. Both stories work, but they don’t completely work.
My main issue with the whole Emma/Hook portion of the story is that it relies in the super cliché “You have to do it! Believe me”: this cliché is an easy escape route to make the plot progress while sacrificing character development. I say OUAT handled this cliché fairly way, but it was so utterly predictable that Emma would end up believing in what Hook had to say that it wasn’t really impressive at all, as I’ve seen that done in many, many other fantasy shows/movies. It’s the classic quest for restoring lost memories that depend solely on the magic of relationships; it’s not that it’s terrible, because it’s not and the show makes good building up to that moment, it’s just that you know what you are going to get.
On paper the episode feels right and Jennifer Morrison continues to deliver on a season that has been her strongest acting wise yet, but the show is so worried in settings things up as quickly as possible (while still being believable) that it sacrifices insight. However, Emma and Hook’s chemistry is able to carry on this plot, and so is Emma’s interaction with Henry (and I have to say that, while still not good enough, Jared S. Gilmore did make some improvements acting wise), their mutual concern for maintaining the happy lives they got is one of the few moments in which I can connect with their current situation, and that’s really impressive, as if the show has finally found a way to make Henry work (but the character still needs some evolving to do).
Once Emma regains her memories, she decides to tell Walsh that they can’t be together. Plot twist: he knows it’s because she drank Hook’s potion and he is actually a flying monkey who tries to kill her. It looks better in the episode than what it looks written down. I was actually surprised (I saw the episode with my sister and we both yelled “WHAT?!”) and it set up a nice change of pace to an otherwise slow episode. While I don’t usually like slow paced episodes, this one needed said pace and this moment is so abrupt and it breaks along the relationship drama so fast that I was left unsure if I liked it or not. I think the show would have gained more seriousness if Emma’s boyfriend was actually a human person and he walked out the door hurt, and it would resonate with how Emma is always forced to sacrifice the good things on her life for being the savior. The choice to make Walsh a monster actually makes Once Upon a Time dive on its silliness, and sometimes I like its silliness, but it didn’t feel like the right time.
That’s the same trouble Neal gave me around the episode: it’s been too short and he already seems to be losing his mind over Emma and Henry, and so Charming and Snow. The show seems so hurried into settings things up that they don’t actually feel organic. I have always liked more that people show love instead of saying “I love you”. The same goes for missing them; it would be much stronger if the characters looked upon something and remembered their lost ones instead of them saying right off the bat that they miss them, it feels as if the writers are yelling at you “hey! Our characters miss these other characters!”. It’s not that they’re not allowed to say that, it’s just that they say it so soon that there is no time to build up those emotions. I think the episode’s biggest flaw is that, on how much it hurries in order to set things up.
Robin Hood’s addition to their party feels a little bit too convenient, but this is a show about fairy tales and true love, so it was inevitable that at some point Regina would meet the man she was meant to be with, and one can feel the sparkles in the air, there is some ongoing chemistry there even when it is not supported by the dialogue (Robin Hood: “Your black knights gave us a lot of trouble”, Regina: “I’m sure you did something to deserve it”). I’m all in for a love interest for Regina, but they still have some kinks to work out.
I liked the episode, it makes good use of the show’s character chemistry, the plot is mostly thought through and there are some very good dialogues that entertain, but more often than not it feels like the show is trying to set everything up as fast as it can so it can to the next chapter, and that makes this episode feel like it has less value while it could have been used for better insight of our characters.
-Henry and Emma play Diablo III, product placement? I must say, I didn’t think that game would be their cup of tea (I always imagined Henry playing games closer to Final Fantasy franchises, or RPG games anyway).
-Emma: "Since when you became so wise?"
Henry: "Since level 16 when I became a knight."
That's a clear shout out to Charming being an actual knight, and the fact that he appears in the next scene with sword and everything makes it even more obvious.
-Emma showing Hook some pictures of her and Henry in Storybrooke.
Hook: "That's proof of what I'm saying"
Emma: "These could have been photoshopped!"
Hook: "Photo... what?"
Before Emma said the word photoshop I said to myself "a normal person would think those are photoshopped" and then she says that! Sometimes I don't give the show enough credit.
-Snow talking Hood up to Regina: “He’s kind of cute, uh?”
Regina: “He smells like forest.”
Regina is still unable to be honest about her feelings.
-Aurora and Phillip don’t warn Snow’s company that something has happened in the Enchanted Forest; I foresee conflict in future flashbacks.
-In many moments I felt like this was a whole new pilot until the moment Emma drank the potion, then it felt like the show returned to where it was at the winter finale.
-Can’t wait for Robert Carlyle to be back! We all know Rumple isn’t dead (Belle makes it obvious).
-And that’s it! See you for next week’s “Witch Hunt”, something tells me it’s going to be a good one! (Or I hope so, now that the setup is all done)
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