Your nice but of snark beneath Emma's picture in the finale review was fun... but also kind of true. OUAT has been on a steadily downward curve for some time and plummeted in the last few seasons, that's a given. Many people blame it on the ships; I blame it on the overly convoluted plots that strangled the characters, which were the main focus in S1. Ships got so much focus because that simply was what they could focus the characters on with the little time that was left. Any thoughts on that?
I think OUAT’s One Big Problem is that they can’t stick the landings on their character arcs because they’re trying to smoosh everybody together into one plot. The show routinely shoves its characters aside to try and create “suspense” through people frantically looking for Random Magical Doodads right up until the finales– but we’re not here for the Dollar Store Glitterpalooza Extras, we’re here for the characters. The doodads only matter as a pretext for getting our faves to have some sort of emotional change and interact with others; it’s the character’s emotional payoff we’re after, and it’s that payoff that the show has trouble executing during the finales and that’s led to the show’s creative downfall.
The Doodad Dilemma ™ first appeared in early S2, where the first third of the show was everyone in FTL running around after a series of Lucky Charms side-quests (magic beans! wardrobe dust! magic compasses! squid ink! hearts! etc.). But of course nobody gives a shit about “sparkly dirt,” as Hook so eloquently put it– we only care about the subsequent Hook vs. Cora subplot; we don’t care about a compass, we only care about how Mulan is willing to fight her friends to save Aurora.
What did the compass do again? (No, don’t tell me.)
At its best, the show uses these magical props as a device to link the FTL flashbacks and modern-day Storybrooke scenes together, while showing how the characters are changing. For instance, in S2 “The Queen is Dead,” the Death-swapsies Candle was symbolic for Young!Snow’s innocence, the Mills vs. Snow family vendetta through multiple generations, and how Modern!Snow failed the moral test that her younger self passed. When Modern!Snow picked up the candle in Gold’s shop I let out a little gasp because I was shocked Snow was going to whack Cora by proxy. The candle by itself is nothing– how it symbolized Snow’s dark side is what’s important.
Holy shit, you guys