((OOC: DID SOMEONE SAY EAGLES?!?!?!?! Here’s Rowena Ravenclaw with her white tailed eagle that may or may not be magical and golden and slightly inspired by marahute *cough cough* I have a thing for witches with affinities for birds. Birds to do bidding, birds to be friends with, birds that nip your fingers lovingly, birds that are completely terrified of your newest sleeping death potion. Caw caw mother cluckers))
I’m grateful to Adam & Eddy for blowing up the myth of the Auteur with 50 tons of ACME TNT.
Previously, I thought there were Artists-with-a-capital-A who Arted, Artily. And then the Big Bad Studio *MINOR CHORD KEYBOARD SMASH* comes in with their Notes and Interference and Focus Group Suggestions and tries to ruin everything because capitalism, or something.
“Art!” yells the Artist, frantically trying to Art Under Duress.
“Commerce,” hisses the Studio, slipping $100 bills into the Artists’ pockets while they smash up the workshop with a baseball bat.
But that’s not what led to OUAT’s fall from grace, is it? I bet ABC put pressure on certain storylines– for instance, I’m pretty sure the original plans for Dark Swan in 5A did not involve talking about, and to, a plastic mushroom for five episodes– but overall it seems like what the showrunners wanted, they got. The problem was they couldn’t handle what they had.
The problem is one of STRUCTURE. The writers set up things that they were unwilling or unable to follow-through on starting in S5: Dark Hook, Merida’s revenge, Guinevere/Lancelot, Merlin’s prophecy, Hero!Rumple vs. Dark Swan, Dark Swan vs. her family incl. Regina, Hades’ motivation, Zelena’s beef with Regina, Land of Untold Stories, EQ vs. Belle, Rumple x/vs. EQ, Hero!Hook, Charming vs. his father’s killer, Gideon and the Dark Realm kids, Belle vs. Black Fairy, Black Fairy’s motivation, Zelena’s magic, Emma and Hook’s 2 day break-up, Black Fairy’s curse, What are the stakes for the Final Battle, Author!Henry’s seizures, Emma’s Jazz Hands of Doom, Tiger Lily vs. Black Fairy, etc.
Stuff that was set up had no payoff (see: the entire Camelot arc, Rumple x EQ, Hero!Hook, Charming vs. his father’s killer, Dark Realm kids); stuff that was supposed to be payoff had no setup (Dark Hook, Resurrected!Hook, you can clone yourself with no magical price, pixie flowers open portals to non-magical realms, a five minute nap can break the Sleeping Curse, the Wish!Realm and everyone in it was fake until it was real). Characters were added, dropped, sidelined, and killed off seemingly at random (Belle’s favorite book had more screentime and agency than Belle did in 6B).
This is oddly inspiring, because no-one is saying Adam & Eddy don’t have good ideas– what I’m saying is they can’t seem to stick the landing. So before, if you had asked me: “Screwball, are you an Artist?” I would have immediately said: “No.” But now if you ask me: “Screwball, can you write a redemption episode where a character does something that shows they may have actually changed?” I will probably say: “Well …yes.” Maybe you don’t need to be an Artist to create Art; maybe you just need to hit your narrative targets.
Ideas are great. Characters are amazing. Art-with-a-capital-A in the Platonic sense is still real. But even more important than inspiration is FOLLOW-THROUGH. Fucking ex-e-cute. A simple idea well executed is more important to me now than a great idea that slips on a banana peel half-way through. And that is the great OUAT takeaway for me.