AGO archives

carpbrina  asked:

when do you think the tone changed in the show? like when do you think Adam & Eddy went from "we're making this show because we want to tell our story well" to "we want to make more seasons of this show so we can make more money"?

Browsing through my blog archive awhile ago in order to at least attempt to satisfyingly organize my tagging system I stumbled upon a handful of posts I made back when season 3B was airing. And - while due to residing in Russia either the stable live streaming or, essentially, live blogging has never been an option for me - I was documenting my observations and frustrations about the direction the show took as the new episodes were released. Revisiting those posts and thoughts that prompted them made me draw out some genuinely unflattering conclusions about the show and about A&E as storytellers.

Season 3B marked the transparently obvious shift within the narrative. The writers’ overt glorification of Regina and their insistence on stripping Emma of all the uniqueness she initially possessed by giving a bulk of her defining traits to the aforementioned - light magic, TLK with Henry - and the framing of Rumple as a sympathetic party in situations where he had proven to be an entitled, sexist, agency removing, genocidal, mass murdering, mutilating deadbeat who just tried to smash his grandson’s skull against the sharp rocks and performed one semi-decent deed on behalf of his formerly abandoned son, after already being saved by Snow and being the one to trap everyone in Storybrooke in the first place (and then immediately coming back to actively hurting everyone said son cared about as well as using his new wife as an unknowing alibi in his crimes. Such as an attempt to murder and then torture everyone in the realm including Belle’s only surviving parent and his grandson’s entire family, before attempting to chop said grandson’s head off and kill him on a second occasion. That is, after assaulting Henry’s mom to the point of unconsciousness after trying to murder her for power and then trying to destroy her very soul to save himself from the consequences of Rumple’s own crimes darkening his heart) fully exposed A&E’s mindset and moral values.

Namely that of profoundly uninformed individuals who exercise their power fantasies through Rumple and, to a lesser extent, Regina. As opposed to being inclined to tell a cohesive story. Now, since back during season 3 the creative team featured a lot of talented, skilled writers who legitimately CARED about character development and continuity we were blessed to get the episodes like Good Form or Snow Drifts which highlighted the issues of oppression and corruptness sensitively and/or provided a necessary pay off to a mandatory (for television medium at least) but unnecessarily stretched out angst. The writers in charge of those episodes were not set out to exercise power fantasies but to tell a story. This isn’t A&E’s goal as it’s become glaringly evident by now.

4X11 was the point where the narrative - and essentially A&E because they’re the ones to decide how certain arcs are wrapped up and the way the issues said arcs encompass are being framed; in this case Killian’s torture at hands of Rumple or the fact that the latter used a former victim of child slavery (which lasted until Killian’s late teens) and an ex soldier to commit genocide (however ultimately reversible) under heart control and when robbed of agency; despite the fact that Killian’s refusal to aid in genocide at age 19/21 and when being a courageous young lieutenant who had fought multiple wars by that point was the reason he converted into piracy in the first place; defying his tyrannical monarch and losing what was left of his family in the process (yet Rumple never did and never will face the consequences for either the maiming or his subsequent and ongoing abuse of Killian. Just like A&E will never wrap their admittedly clueless minds around why that narrative was disturbingly offensive in the light of the aforementioned) - made the bold statement about how it was going to treat serious issues from that point and on.

Specifically: the victims will never get the justice whilst the oppressors will be granted new ways to attain their power pursuing goals. Hence why instead of focusing on the aftereffects of Killian’s enslavement and torture the narrative immediately switches to RUMPLE’S ongoing schemes. As well as his misogynistic tendency to take advantage of women he already once exploited and tried to murder (Queens of Darkness).

Notice how Killian reluctantly taking begrudging mass murderer’s treasured weapon - Ursula’s singing voice she nearly used to kill him and his entire crew while he did his best to help her as a way of thanking her for generously refraining from murdering them the way she and her father murdered sailors daily - and deeply regretting it CENTURIES later (to the point of insisting he didn’t deserve the faith Emma was putting in him. That is, after Killian had already saved the realm three times, including by sacrificing the only home he ever had after escaping slavery and sacrificing his literal heart and nearly losing his life if it meant Rumple was going to “leave the town be”) was framed as a villainous deed that was “worse than breaking a heart”. And Killian was fervently beating himself up about it even after giving Ursula more than he was ever supposed to give her and more than she deserved after TWO murder attempts on him via choking and drowning (all while she worked for Rumple actively aiding him in his plan to destroy Emma emotionally and torture the entire realm).

Then there’s Rumple who used Ursula and her female friends as pawns to mind-wipe the entire realm so he could reunite with - and also mind-wipe/de-age - the son he chose to selfishly abandon on behalf of power (and chose to NOT reunite with earlier when he could have refrained from being a sexist and murdering his wife for saying she never loved him, choosing Killian over him and subverting against conventional maternal role while Rumple himself had gratuitously failed his own parental obligations, a fact he conveniently omitted when lecturing Milah on her “responsibilities” right before crushing her heart as a punishment for romantically rejecting him. Had Rumple NOT been a misogynist who murders women for rejection and subversion and maims men for endorsing said subversion, upholding their agency and supporting their right to decide how to go about their lives and make their own choices Rumple would have gotten the bean. Whilst he and Milah would have been able to co-parent Bae despite no longer having marital ties the way Milah planned to do as she wanted to come back when Bae was old enough to decide which parent to stay with). Rumple was helped by the Queens of Darkness and proceeded to set them up to be violently shredded by a heart ripping monster while locking them up in the same room with said monster (for no reason other than to be a sadistic misogynist) and giggling about it.

Yet Rumple was allowed to manipulate Ursula into helping his temporarily privilege-deprived self AGAIN in NY, not express an ounce of remorse and make misogynistic comments about how she hadn’t accomplished anything (while living in HER - more than decent and furnished - apartment in NY and eating HER food) and supposedly was never going to unless she conformed to his superior male demands.

How is this arc resolved? Right, with Killian being robbed of his military background (”I’m a deckhand, not a soldier”) in Rumple’s twisted AU fantasy of a Nice Guy, essentially enslaved by Blackbeard and eventually murdered by someone who in real life happens to be his friend (and who, like Killian himself, was subjected to mind-wiping and identity alteration in the AU where Rumple and Isaac decided everyone’s fate and subjected everyone to what was supposed to be eternal misery), as an act of sacrifice to save Emma and Henry (whom Killian considered strangers in AU but still gave up his life for them). Emma was locked up in the remote tower and tortured by her own parents condemned to permanent insanity as a “punishment” from Rumple for daring to reject his son, not be an object owned by Stiltskin males and for being “Killian’s girlfriend” Rumple vowed to “destroy” (when he isn’t conning either her or Killian into purposeless suicide to gain power or attempting to assault Emma with a cane or his magic or murder her before Henry’s eyes or that of Killian while tying him to a fence and gloating about his murder of Milah that Rumple still basks in his total immunity for. Or, alternatively, locking Emma and Killian up in the vault to die of starvation after they helped him. The vault where Rumple also held an innocent girl in an urn as a piece of property/bargaining fodder to tame her “mouthy and uncooperative” sister and get ransom from their aunt). Henry was nearly beheaded by Rumple who laughed as he was attempting child murder (when forcibly rewritten as a “hero” he needed to kill a child to remain, per Rumple’s direct assertion).

What happens in the end of THIS arc? Does Killian get to finally confront Rumple on physical and emotional torture the latter has subjected him and his loved ones to? On the fact that he had to sacrifice himself to fix the situation Rumple had created with the purpose of making everyone miserable, raping Belle to get “the last taste” and wiping his son’s adult version - who Rumple does not even acknowledge as his son (quite a striking and stark contrast to “when I look at you all I see [now] is a man but […] underneath it all you are STILL that boy I looked after all those years ago”. However problematic Neal’s character might have been it’s admittedly pleasing that one of the last things he heard was this sentiment from Killian. Who made sure to address it to Bae/Neal that he was proud to know him BOTH as a child and adult and wanted to “put the past behind them” and start all over. After making up to Neal for failing him in a situation where Killian had zero obligations towards the aforementioned in the first place, had no better choice and originally saved Bae from drowning. Yet Killian ended up pardoning his abuser - Neal’s father - and risking his life repeatedly to save Neal’s son before he even developed any sort of feelings towards Emma. Then when Killian DID develop them he ended up sacrificing what he believed to be his only chance at happiness - after centuries of anguish caused by Rumple who maimed him after murdering Milah before Killian’s eyes and left him alive “to suffer” - in order to save Neal, make sure Henry has a dad and later risking himself protecting Neal as well as Emma’s father from murderous shadow. Despite being of a belief Emma was inclined to rekindle her relationship with Neal when she actually wished he was dead and markedly stood him up. Killian also made sure Henry honors and cherishes his father’s memory even if it meant never being accepted by the aforementioned as a father figure. Versus “Neal Cassidy was not my son, only Bae was” which graphically demonstrates that Rumple’s “love” for his child or anyone for the matter is measured by how effectively people might stroke his ego. And if they fail to do so Rumple can just re-write the reality to erase the traces of their true selves, paint himself in a glorious light and/or substitute his abused and/or murdered - by him - children and wives respectively with brand NEW ones) - out of existence?

Is there a semblance of pay off or social commentary on how damaging it is that the oppressors and abusers tend to triumph over those they victimize? Nope, the justice is not served per established pattern and the situation is NOT framed as reflective of a devastating unfairness power imbalance typically entails for the abused parties. Instead Rumple’s biggest victims choose to generously save his pathetic life after he attempted to murder Henry on a second occasion and tortured them all (on top of trying to kill them all and violently murder Emma and Killian - after torturing, enslaving and abusing the latter while Killian begged Rumple to murder him but leave others alone - with his bare hands just six weeks prior. In addition to genocide of an entire race of magical women - the fairies - and multiple kidnappings. And attempt to forcibly separate Emma and Henry planning to brainwash the aforementioned into considering him - Rumple - a hero after leaving Henry a complete orphan).

Rumple’s victims unwisely refrained from shoving him over the town line to die like he was supposed to, due to centuries of heinous crimes he never regretted (”I’ve been a villain thousand times over yet watch me take my happy ending”) and never chose to give up the Dark One’s power using which he committed said crimes in the first place. Power that Rumple claimed through arson, murder and on free will (conversely, Killian chose to give it up after unwillingly being a DO - actively - for mere two days. And already believing he deserved an agonizing death for being influenced by the world’s greatest evil he tearfully begged to not force upon him even if it meant saving his life - after he sacrificed it for the SECOND time to fix the situation Rumple had set in motion). As the result, Emma had to absorb the DO magic to save everyone in town, Killian had to die both in Camelot and SB when he absolutely didn’t have to sacrifice himself (but chose to nonetheless) and all of it was treated as a PLOT DEVICE to not only allow Rumple to reclaim his power but multiply it a dozen.

In the Underworld, Killian - after MORE brutal physical, mental and psychological torture, beating and enslavement that was never explained by the narrative beyond the fact that he is an “inherently dark” underprivileged inferior who supposedly deserved it due to BEING “dark” and underprivileged (if you’re an orphaned disabled ex slave and a victim of governmental corruptness you get whipping and gory torture as a reward for your sacrifices. Because apparently seeking relief in drinking at age 16/17 when being an enslaved child who was supplied with alcohol by your abusers means you have “always struggled with the darkness”. If you’re a privileged able bodied dictator or a wealthy misogynistic mutilating deadbeat sadist/genocidal sociopath who maimed yourself in order to neglect your direct duties, hypocritically murdered your wife for not fulfilling hers and then fixed your self inflicted limp through magic obtained by murder AND had said limp fixed by a man YOU have maimed TWICE and vowed to maim again - with it being framed as a comedic relief moment where the narrative was framing RUMPLE as a sympathetic party who “bested” the supposed “villain of his drama” - you get MORE power, your victims still consider you a family and label themselves as brats and/or villains in your story. While you get away with centuries/decades of mass murder, rape, genocide and tyranny) - outwardly acknowledged that his sacrifice was partially in vain (partially because Killian giving up his life - when Nimue set out to “stop Emma from interfering” by magically restraining her - did save everyone from Nimue and other Dark Ones. As well as saved Emma from the Dark One’s curse, something that would have only been possible if Emma had died or murdered someone like she initially planned to do with Zelena before Killian stopped it). That it “all went to give Rumple back his power”.

Does Killian or anyone for the matter do something about it? No, Rumple is allowed to preserve the power obtained - this time - through trying to con a mother of his grandson into suicide (on a second occasion) and manipulating Killian into said suicide instead. He is allowed to condemn Milah’s soul to eternal torment after reducing her to a sexual object again (”Do you really think he [Killian] would swap the blonde for a dead woman?”) without anyone knowing about it (after a flashback showcasing Rumple stealing Milah’s reproductive rights and implying she would have to undergo a painful and potentially fatal in Medieval times-inspired environment of EF procedure of abortion if she gets pregnant for the second time), slut shame Emma, sell out his grandson to serial killers again (Hades&Hyde, after already transferring Henry to Cruella and smirking at his torment), insist Belle will “see he is right” when talking about how she should compromise her views/principles in order to remain an object he can possess (after raping her by deception again) and choose power over Belle&his unborn child. All of it accompanied by kidnapping, assault/choking of an innocent party, knocking out Henry and his 14 year old girlfriend (Rumple assaulted a teenage girl with magic for NO reason other than the fact that she stood by Henry in his - misguided but benevolent/well intentioned - quest to destroy magic). And trying to murder both of his grandson’s moms again (thus nearly orphaning him - again).

And Rumple is REWARDED with a new child, a wife who “knew what she was getting”, is willing to re-murder/condemn Rumple’s murder victim (her ex fiance) to save him and still has faith that Rumple fulfills Merlin’s prophesy about being the virtuous hero wielding his power for good (power he first murdered and then conned someone into suicide to get - and laughed in the face of a woman he initially attempted to con into it, threatening her with NINTH murder attempt in a row).

Which leads to a heavily aggravating conclusion boiling down to the fact that OUAT has ALWAYS been designed as A&E’s power fantasy they are living out through the character of Rumple.

Regina’s place of privilege absolves her of being an ableist, oppressive, classist bigot because that’s how our society has been functioning since the invention of hierarchy and A&E are not interested in defying oppression. Liam who tried his best to find a way out of an impossibly horrendous situation and dared to place his little brother’s life - and that of his own - over that of their slavers and abusers and spent every waking moment trying to be a hero (and regretting not being one from the get go) is vilified. Yet a deadbeat who oppressed the entire EF taxing innocents unfairly and murdering them when they could not pay (and brought his underage son delightful presents in a form of murder trophies when he wasn’t killing people in front of said son’s horrified young eyes), who starved a kingdom, committed racial genocide (referring to the race he was destroying as an “infestation of fleas” that needed to be “eliminated”), engaged in child trade and attempted child murder, promoted all kids of domestic abuse, torture and misogyny (akin to the one that gets women killed for saying NO to entitled men. “You never loved me! You won’t get away with it” is an actual canon line from Rumple), who reduces women to maids and wombs to bear children he later uses as pawns in human trafficking, who kidnaps women from their houses to hold them hostage as leverage against their powerful aunts, who mutilates people and holds their limbs on public display to validate his masculinity, who murders and rapes women who reject him or deviate from the sexist mold of a submissive, tea serving housewife (which Milah was killed for not being and Belle was turned into in the AU Rumple “had Isaac use magic to write” per direct canon exchange between the two men) and who erased his own child from existence to make HIMSELF feel better about being a neglectful, abusive pile of deadbeat scum is being UPHELD, rewarded and slated for a happy ending.

OUAT is a power fantasy - and Rumple is meant to be an ever triumphant party in it. The reason the Charmings call him an enemy yet never actually go up against him? It is because he is considered a “family” - since apparently your son being a sexual abuser of underage girls and impregnating them unknowingly automatically qualifies you as a family member (no matter how many times you attempt to kill your only link to said family - your biological grandson). The reason Killian gets brutally tortured after sacrificing himself repeatedly, never gets to attain the justice for the abuse he and his loved ones have suffered at Rumple’s hands, the narrative never confronts Rumple with any repercussions for him murdering Milah (twice) or countless other crimes (yet Killian’s past as a pirate - which he converted into in order to stop a racial mass murder even if it does not justify his subsequent misdeeds - is constantly brought up. With him branding himself as a “villain who succumbed to darkness”, who does not deserve a happy ending, who “deserves to go to Underworld”, who was “weak and needs to make up for that by being strong” and dying, who had “no excuse” to be enslaved by his abuser, who considers himself a villain in said abuser’s “drama” as detailed above and who risks his eternal soul to SAVE HIS MURDERER) is BECAUSE the writers never planned to have him get any justice at all.

It’s been stated innumerable times and is a well documented fact that OUAT and subtlety are mutually exclusive. Therefore if it SEEMS like the mistreated parties and genuinely self aware, remorseful and heroic characters never get the justice it is because they do not and never will. If it seems like the narrative rewards Rumple for his atrocities and he never faces an ounce of consequences it’s because this is what’s happening on the show.

There are no grand, well constructed plans to have the tables flip and for the justice to finally triumph. OUAT is and has always been A&E’s power fantasy which was fortunate to - for however devastatingly short while - be temporarily (during s1-3) overshadowed by the competent and skilled writing of other storytellers; most of whom are no longer a part of the creative team, alas.

Hence why there is MORE of an inevitable - and promised via multiple interviews - character assassination, retcons and ludicrous “sabotaging information” where the Charmings and/or Killian’s backstories are concerned in store for the upcoming (and hopefully - last) season.