TV Review - Once Upon a Time & Revenge: Season 4

Georgina Haig and Scott Michael Foster
as more new characters in "Once Upon a Time"
Once Upon a Time and Revenge are two shows that were guilty pleasures but had the potential of being really good shows. As both roll out their fourth seasons, I feel most if not all of that potential has been squandered at this point and both shows have supremely fallen off.

Once Upon a Time in Season 4 is not an expression of artistic creativity. Not anymore! It's now clear that it is nothing more than an apparatus in the Disney marketing and merchandizing machine. It's just an expression of branding. Arguably, so are other shows, but one would expect them to try to be their own things.

The film Frozen (2013) won two Oscars and it was one of the biggest blockbusters of the year. Given that it is yet another Disney princess story, the inclusion of its characters on this TV series is a no-brainer. If nothing else, it's a desperate attempt to boost ratings for the show. In the least, it's laziness on the part of the writers.

Elsa was the magical character from Frozen who could generate and manipulate ice. She's been teleported into Storybrooke, the small town in Maine that is home to a ton of fairy tale figures like Snow White and the seven dwarfs, as well as a ton of related characters.

How the writers are lazy is that despite being a live action sequel to Frozen, the writers here have taken Elsa a step back in being able to fully control her powers. In the film, the whole plot was Elsa's sister Anna trying to find Elsa. In this series, it's simply the reverse. Elsa is trying to find Anna. One big device that the writers have used over and over is memory loss, and it's the same with Elsa, and it's just lazy and annoying.

The writers are also lazy because the villain battling Elsa and the town of Storybrooke is another character with ice powers. She's called the Snow Queen, but a magical, evil queen has been done to death on this show. This is got to be the fourth or fifth, evil queen with magic that this show has made the season-long nemesis. The one time that the show diverted from that, when Peter Pan was the season-long nemesis, the show was good. Twisting Peter Pan was different and genuinely surprising.

With all this lazy retreading, the show continues not to live up to the potential and promise of its premise. This show has fairy tale characters in the real-world and just often, if not all the time refuses to do anything with that or even acknowledge it. The only time it is acknowledged is in brief one-liners. In Episode 3, the character of Captain Hook, played by Colin O'Donoghue, makes a joke about not knowing how to use a cell phone.

The show began as the show being about a single mom reconnecting with her son. It just so happened that the single mom was the daughter of Snow White named Emma, played by Jennifer Morrison, and her son was a total believer in magic, despite all reason, named Henry, played by Jared Gilmore. That relationship has been completely lost. Henry was a prepubescent boy when the show started, but now he's becoming a teenager. As such, maybe we'll get more of him, but so far I feel like I have no clue if he has any friends his age or what he does for swaths of time when he's not on screen, which lately has been a lot.

The love triangle between Regina, played by Lana Parrilla, the first evil queen of the show with Robin Hood, played by Sean Maguire, and Marian, played by Christie Laing, is interesting. Yet, the Snow Queen casting a spell on Marian, proving that Robin is with her out of obligation because Marian is the mother of Robin's child, more than for true love, would have been better if it were Regina who cast the spell.

Emily VanCamp and Brian Hallisay
cross paths in Season 4 of "Revenge"
Revenge in Season 4 has committed two offenses. It's undermined its own premise, and it has completely jumped the shark. The show could have reinvented itself, but honestly it should have ended last season. There is no reason now for it to still be on.

The premise of the show was that Emily Thorne aka Amanda Clarke, played by Emily VanCamp, lost her father David Clarke when he was framed for mass murder, or essentially for being a terrorist. The corrupt and dysfunctional but rich and powerful family of the Hamptons called the Graysons was the family who framed her father, which ultimately led to David Clarke's death. Therefore, Emily decides to exact revenge and bring down the Graysons.

How the show has undermined this premise is that now in Season 4, the writers have revealed that David Clarke isn't dead. He's alive. Yes, this show is a prime-time, soap opera and has always purported itself as such, so bringing someone back from the dead is a total, soap opera tactic. However, this resurrection directly goes against what has been the driving force of the show.

On top of that, by this point, Emily has exacted her revenge. She won! She decimated the Graysons. She took everything away from them. Emily should just pack up her bags and leave. Yet, she's still living in the Hamptons. There's nothing really tethering her here. Her character in the first three episodes doesn't know her father is alive, so she should be gone. She does find out her father is alive in the fourth, so now she has a reason to stay but not prior to that.

The writers have indicated that there's something in Emily that makes her love what she did to the Graysons. If the show wanted to reinvent itself, it could have sent her to New York City with her gay tech nerd Nolan, played by Gabriel Mann, and had Emily become an avenging angel there.

The Graysons themselves were at once interesting characters, but now there is no reason to care about them. It's somewhat of a compelling change to make Jack, the childhood sweetheart of Emily, played by Nick Wechsler, into a cop. Going back to the avenging angel idea, making Emily into a vigilante who helps to exact her own form of justice in New York City a la Batman or Green Arrow could have been great if coupled with Jack being a cop and butting heads with her. Other than that, there is little to no purpose to this show.

Once Upon a Time.
One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-V.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Sundays at 8PM on ABC.

One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-LV.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Sundays at 10PM on ABC.


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