For example, Glee followed up a stellar first season with a lackluster second that lost at least one viewer (me). Even one of my favorites, Fringe, stumbled starting from the second season block, abandoning its direction to maneuver back on a strong course, and why not?
After the first season, you’ve hit your stride. You’ve told a story. You’ve come to a conclusion. More than starting the first time, starting all over again is hard.
In contrast, Once Upon A Time hit season two running. Curse is broken. Things are moving.
Once Upon A Time hit its stumbling point in season one. The show seemed aimless, turning into name dropping, introducing new characters each week while the original narrative spun out of control. By adding some new voices to the team, OUAT was able to turn around and close with an amazing finale.
Did they go full dragon? Yes. Yes, they did.
So, what makes the second season strong?
How about a mob marching on the queen? A few new characters are snuck in, some in our parallel universe. The most curious new character came in at the very beginning. I refuse to conjecture at this point. On top of that, a new Evil is unleashed in the wraith.
But what’s a big source of conflict? A bunch of suddenly self-actualized fairy tale characters are trapped in a town, each individual seeking their own happy ending. It’s a clash of storytelling. Everyone has the potential for conflict, even without being an evil queen or corrupted immortal.
Which brings me to the “bad guys.”
In Regina, our evil queen, Once Upon A Time has given me the villain I want to root for. They muddied those waters by giving her a weepy backstory (I don’t need my evil queens to have backstory; just make them kick ass and I will be pleased). She’s not misunderstood. She’s not trying to simply create her own happy ending. She has power and it has corrupted her. She’s smart and manipulative. Chillingly evil. I love it. She foils those annoying do-gooders and it looks like a team-up is on the way.
By the end of the episode, our smart, spunky modern girl is transported to fairy tale world with her same-age mother. So, like Revolution, we’ve fallen into another commonly used YA trope, but at least we’re dealing with grown-ups this time, right?
While I still think Once Upon A Time is an advertisement for Disney movies (Whistle While You Work is not from the Brothers Grimm; Pongo is an overt reference to 101 Dalmatians), it’s still doing wonderful things for the fantasy genre in making it accessible and acceptable to the masses. If you haven’t seen Season 1, it’s out on DVD and available through Netflix. Catch up and we can talk about it.
Are you watching? What are your thoughts? If not Once Upon A Time, what should I be watching?
Guilty Pleasure: something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it.
Revolution has become my guilty pleasure.
Let me back up.
I have a love/hate relationship with J.J. Abrams and when I say “love/hate” I mean I mostly love every project that he is involved in. LOST and Fringe were defining shows in my television history. I remember Regarding Henry and Forever Young as staples in my childhood movie diet (okay, I was a weird kid). The “hate” part happens when he makes something that I find simply unbearable. Like Alcatraz.
For me, though, Abrams has been more hit than miss.
So, when Revolution came along, a creature dwelling in the middle of my gut rolled over and seized control of my brain waves. I knew it was too high concept for lesser mortals, but Abrams has the chops, right?
The pilot was less than impressive. I wasn’t sure why. Perhaps it was because everything was revealed in the trailers. There wasn’t any new ground covered. Maybe it was because of a shallow Katniss-wannabe in the lead (no one would accuse me of being a Katniss fan). Revolution wasn’t breaking any barriers. It wasn’t something I hadn’t seen before. While the main mystery of the show is “what caused the blackout?”, I have a hard time wrapping my head around why I should care. I wanted to see people moving on with life, rather than dwelling on a 15 years gone past.
Is Abrams attempting to reach the young adult post-apocalyptic dystopian audience? If so, he’ll need a few more bread references (Panem? Peeta? Tell me I’m not the only one loafing around…)
But, the worst, most unforgivable maneuver? My favorite actress in the show was killed off in the first episode.
Or was she?
Elizabeth Mitchell is the J.J. Abrams secret weapon. Her appearance in LOST at the beginning of Season 3 reinvigorated my passion for that show. Finally, I was watching the intriguing people. Finally, we were seeing a new side to the mystery that had history and context.
After LOST, Mitchell went on to star in V. Though not an Abrams project, Mitchell again brought something to the series that was undeniably her.
So, when I was told in episode 1 that Mitchell’s character was dead, I signed off. But, she was in the promos for the next episode. Kids, when Elizabeth Mitchell shows up in a scene, there’s only one thing you need to know: Shit’s going down.
Episode 2 of Revolution was again underwhelming. Something about the American flag referred to as a rebel symbol, as though it was something lost in history (while only 15 years has passed, so it’s still within working memory). The episode bounces from the “present day: 15 Years Later” timeline to the days immediately after the blackout. During one scene, when I was practically yelling at the television for someone to grow a pair and DO SOMETHING, Mitchell picked up the gun and did.
Following my emphatic “thank you”, we flashed back to 15 Years Later and, lo and behold ***SPOILER***, she isn’t dead at all.
No, no, my friends. Elizabeth Mitchell lives on in both timelines. The strong, powerful woman is playing a con, or being kept prisoner, or God knows what. So here’s the thing:
Rachel Matheson is the most interesting character on the show. She doesn’t need that complexity nonsense or fabricated teen angst. All she needs to do is take action. I will be watching gleefully as she takes matters into her own hands and kicks ass.
If he pulls a Joss Whedon, so help me…
If you’re looking for something extra exciting, don’t miss J.J. Abrams on Conan coming up this Thursday, 10/4. It will be a-mah-zing!