heroes, heroines, philosophy

Once Upon a Time, and Good vs Evil

Once Upon a Time is one of my favorite shows (I almost wrote “new” favorite shows, but since it is more than halfway through its second season, I can’t really call it new anymore, can I? I still think of NCIS:LA as new, though, and it’s in its fourth season. I guess it just takes me a really long time to get used to a show!). I am not quite as enamored of it as I was in its first season, but I still really enjoy it. I’d enjoy it more if all of the characters except, possibly, Gold and Granny, didn’t do really stupid things on a really regular basis, and then act shocked when said stupid decisions come back to haunt them, but even so. It’s a fun show to watch.

Last Sunday’s episode really got me thinking. (Ahead lie theme-spoilers, though I won’t be giving any details away. Still, stop reading if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know anything about it.)




Still here? Right.

At the end of this episode, it looked like Evil had taken another giant leap forward toward defeating good. And Snow was sick of it. Tired of doing the right thing every time, and coming out poorer for it. Tired of always showing mercy and having it come back around to haunt her. Tired of always taking the high road, when it seemed only to hurt those she loved.

David tried to comfort her, but let’s face it, David is really good at hitting things and making noble-sounding proclamations, not so much at … well, anything else. So his comforting speech and meant-to-be-encouraging words fell flat. In fact, he was lucky, because if I’d been Snow, I would have decked him for his lame, cliched words. She just basically ignored him. Kind, kind Snow.

Here’s what he should have said:

“You are absolutely right. We have been fighting evil our entire lives, and every time we think we’ve won, it crops back up and steals our happy ending. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? We aren’t fighting for our own happy ending. We’re fighting for Emma’s happy ending, for Henry’s. If we are just fighting for ourselves, how are we any different? Regina wants her happy ending, and we want ours. The means we take to that end are different, but they’re both driven by selfish motivations.

“What makes us different, is that we aren’t just fighting for ourselves. We are fighting to make the world – both this world and our other home – better for everyone. Safer. We are fighting so our daughter and grandson can live in freedom, instead of in bondage to evil.

“And yes, I know that you are tired. It’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to want to lay this burden down. It’s understandable that you feel it isn’t worth it. That’s why I’m here. I still believe. I’ll carry you through this period of doubt, and someday, when I’m the one struggling, you’ll carry me. That’s what we do for each other.”

I think sometimes, especially in fantasy, it’s almost easier to make Evil nuanced than Good. We’re been trained to go against the cliched “bad for the sake of being bad” guy, giving them all kinds of depth and interest, but in this era of anti-heroes, it can be hard to remember what it is that makes the true hero stand out.

I recently re-read Stephen Lawhead’s Taliesin, and while it isn’t the brilliant, gripping prose I remembered it being when I was eleven and enthralled by it all, parts of it did still stand out to me with a shining, brilliant light. The notion of true heroism being fighting against the dark even when you know it’s hopeless, even when you know you will lose, simply because it is the Right Thing, and because you have faith that eventually, even if you’re not there to see it, light will overcome the darkness, and you want to be a part, however small, of that light.

I’m interested to see where OUAT goes with this “Dark Snow” theme they’ve brought up. I hope they’ll use it as a chance to bring in some of these deeper motivations behind “being good.” Given their track record, I kind of doubt it, but I can hope, right?

Do you watch Once Upon a Time? Are there any TV shows that you do watch that cause you to ponder philosophical questions on a semi-regular basis? Do you think it’s harder to make a hero interesting than it is to make the villain sympathetic?

4 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time, and Good vs Evil”

  1. I have to admit that I kind of gave up on OUAT. Though I do have to say that I think the writers did a remarkable job with Rumpelstiltskin–he was a wonderful villain.I've been enjoying Grimm–though my favorite characters in that show are the supporting characters and the police chief villain, who isn't quite a villain. I love the ambiguity of his character because I'm still not sure that he's a "bad guy." He's more of a stand-in-the-breach character, who's really fascinating.

  2. I watched OUAT last season and liked it. It's too bad I haven't watched this season. I loved your recreation of what David should have said. My favorite line of your post: "but let's face it, David is really good at hitting things and making noble-sounding proclamations, not so much at … well, anything else. So his comforting speech and meant-to-be-encouraging words fell flat. In fact, he was lucky, because if I'd been Snow, I would have decked him for his lame, cliched words." Loved that – made me laugh. Happy (upcoming) birthday!

  3. Rumpelstiltskin's story arc this season has been marvelous. One of the things that keeps me coming back week after week, even with all the show's other flaws.I tried Grimm, but I couldn't get past the first episode. Too dark for me at the time. I might be better able to enjoy it now, though. I'm a little more mentally and emotionally healthy than I was when it first came out!

  4. Thank you! I'm thinking of doing some "just because my birthday is coming up" baking today. We'll see if I get the rest of the housework taken care of in enough time or not …

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