Fangirl Thursday: A Magical Anniversary

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Three years ago today, the Once Upon a Time pilot aired, bringing some much-needed magic to primetime network television. I will admit; I didn’t watch the show that first night. But I caught a marathon of the first seven episodes on New Year’s Day 2012, and it was love at first sight for me. I knew from the opening of the pilot episode that I was watching something special, and I know I wasn’t the only person who felt that way. And three years (or almost three years in my case), dozens of plot twists and new characters, and far too many hours spent analyzing this show later, so many of us still feel that way. And that’s something worth celebrating.

Once Upon a Time and Nerdy Girl Notes are intrinsically linked. The day I first watched the show was also the day I made the resolution to start this website. In no small way, Once Upon a Time has shaped the look and feel of NGN more than perhaps any other piece of media I’ve written about. Nothing inspires me as a writer like Once Upon a Time (just in case you didn’t already know that from the length of my weekly posts or the number of essays I’ve written about this show), and I am forever grateful that I found a show to write about that challenges me the way this show does with each new episode.

Once Upon a Time has taught me to write from a place of optimism and positivity. It’s taught me that it’s okay to acknowledge flaws, but it’s also important to acknowledge the good stuff—and there’s always good stuff. It’s helped me see that writing for me is a lot like magic for this show’s characters—it’s all about emotion. I write my best when I write from my heart, and Once Upon a Time celebrates the beauty and power of approaching everything with an open heart. Because of that, this show has undoubtedly made me a braver writer. It’s helped me feel like it’s okay to wear my heart on my sleeve, and I know for a fact I’m a better writer because of that.

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TV Time: Castle 7.04

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I wasn’t able to watch this week’s episode of Castle in time to write about it. Thankfully, the lovely and talented Heather was kind enough to step in and write this week’s review!

Source: fandomnesstv.com

Source: fandomnesstv.com

Title Child’s Play

Two Sentence Summary Castle goes back to second grade to help track down a potential witness to a crime. Back at home, Alexis struggles with Castle’s disappearance.

Favorite Lines
Mrs. Ruiz: I didn’t do much to deserve this.
Beckett: Are you kidding? You put up with Castle for two days.

My Thoughts There are weeks when the case on Castle really interests me, and there are weeks where I watch because I love these characters. This week was definitely one of the latter for me. The case itself felt a little bit scattered and never really came together in a way that made me feel much of anything as twists were revealed or the criminal was caught. It was overly convoluted for an hour, with a fake passport ring, the Russian mob, and a war criminal who was felled by marbles (in a very nice move from Castle).

Fortunately for the episode, the character moments were incredibly entertaining to watch. Nathan Fillion is so good at bringing a childlike joy to episodes that allow Castle to believe in the impossible (like last week’s episode), so to surround him with a bunch of actual children was a real treat to watch.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.04

COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISON

Title The Apprentice

Two-Sentence Summary Hook uses his knowledge of the truth about the dagger to get his severed hand back from Rumplestiltskin before his big date with Emma, but that proves to have disastrous consequences when his hand appears to still possess the darkness he’s learned to let go of. As part of a deal to get Rumplestiltskin to take back the hand, Hook is forced to help him capture the sorcerer’s apprentice, whom we’re first introduced to in flashbacks, as Anna learns about the danger of making deals with the Dark One.

Favorite Lines
Emma: I don’t pillage and plunder on the first date, just so you know.
Hook: Well that’s because you haven’t been out with me yet.

My Thoughts There are two ways you could view “The Apprentice.” You could worry about what this episode means for certain characters and their arcs and relationships, letting yourself get caught up in the potential negatives. Or you could choose to believe that the storylines introduced in this episode will actually lead to really good things and focus on the many positive parts of this episode.

I’m choosing the second option. I’m choosing to hope. I’m choosing to be happy. I was reminded recently of the importance of choosing positivity and optimism when it’s easy to believe the worst, so I’m going to apply that little real-life lesson to fandom. And I hope that any of you who feel disappointed or discouraged after this episode can walk away from reading this feeling a little bit better.

Was “The Apprentice” perfect? No. It had its moments of contrived drama and angst. However, this was a “setup episode” if there ever was one, and the potential for character development in the stories it set up is phenomenal.

At its heart, “The Apprentice” was an episode about Rumplestiltskin, and it was so much fun to see my two favorite sides of this character come out to play: the impish, evil glee of the Dark One in flashbacks and the controlled malice of Mr. Gold in the present-day storyline. Of course I enjoy watching him be romantic with Belle (or at least I did before he was constantly lying to her) and trying to be a better man, but I like my Rumplestiltskin best when he’s working in the darker shades of gray. It’s when he’s at his most compelling as a character, and it’s when Robert Carlyle is at his most compelling as an actor. He makes me furious as I’m watching him, but I can never look away.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (10/12 – 10/19)

This week kicked off with another strong Sunday night of television. On Once Upon a Time, we spent some more time with a mysterious new villain; on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we were introduced to the “Jimmy Jab Games;” and on The Good Wife, we were reminded what brilliant blending of comedy and drama looks like. Monday’s Castle put some spice back into Castle and Beckett’s relationship. Tuesday’s New Girl featured a new phone for the loft and a new man for Jess, and The Mindy Project featured a fun cameo from Shonda Rhimes. On Wednesday, Black-ish tackled the differences between moms and dads, and Nashville made my heart ache for Juliette more than ever. And Thursday was a night of big twists—from the president’s daughter’s sex tape on Scandal to the last nine words of How to Get Away with Murder.

It was impossible for me to pick just one standout moment for this week, so I’m going to talk about two moments that shared the same theme: vulnerability. The final scene of this week’s How to Get Away with Murder was absolutely astounding in the complete vulnerability showed not just by the character of Annalise Keating but also by Viola Davis as an actress. As I watched her take off her makeup, peel off her eyelashes, and show her real hair, I was floored by the honesty Davis brought to that moment when Annalise stopped hiding and let her guard come down completely before confronting her husband. It was a moment that showed total honesty for this character, and Davis brought total honesty to this moment as an actress. While watching the restrained emotion in that scene, I was ready to give Davis her Emmy immediately.

The second moment of vulnerability that floored me this week came from Once Upon a Time. Emma opening up to Hook about why she was pulling away from him was such a huge moment for a character who has been given every reason to fear vulnerability. To say she trusts Hook was a monumental moment of growth, but even that was topped by her telling him she can’t lose him. It was the most open and vulnerable we’ve ever seen this character, and I loved that her vulnerability was met with love and reassurance from the man she was opening her heart to. In opening her heart completely, Emma finally let hope in. In a way, it was the opposite of what happened with Annalise. Annalise admitted to her husband that she didn’t trust him at all, while Emma finally let herself trust. Both moments were outstanding portraits of character growth, and both left me incredibly excited for what’s next for these two great characters.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.05

TMP 305

Title The Devil Wears Lands’ End

Two-Sentence Summary Mindy’s attempts to win over the new hospital administrator lead to disaster when she almost breaks up a marriage. Meanwhile, Peter and Jeremy’s friendship gets its groove back during a Dartmouth beer pong tournament.

Favorite Line “Am I the new mayor of Shondaland?” (Peter)

My Thoughts After a bit of a misstep last week, I really enjoyed this week’s episode of The Mindy Project. I thought it was the funniest episode of the season so far, and it was also the most balanced. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this was another episode where I liked the B-plot better than the A-plot, but this time it wasn’t because the A-plot was terrible. It was because the B-plot was really good.

I’m happy that Peter and Jeremy’s story was as strong as it was because Mindy and Danny’s was a little weak and clichéd in terms of its basic plot. I know that Mindy Lahiri is supposed to be a character who’s hard to like at times, but that doesn’t mean I can just excuse episodes where the character is really grating just because she’s supposed to be that way. I did, however, like seeing Danny act as her conscience because that’s what a partner is supposed to do—tell you when you’re not being your best self.

It was a bit unbelievable that one night out with Mindy would be enough to not just make the new doctor think she was lesbian but also to cause her to cheat on her wife. But I was happy to see that this episode didn’t focus on mining comedy out of Mindy pretending to be a lesbian (which could have gotten really offensive really fast) but instead on Mindy pretending that Danny was upset about the kiss.

And while the A-plot wasn’t terribly compelling on a plot or character level, it did give us the comedic genius of Danny trying to interpret what Mindy wanted him to say during his rant about her “infidelity.” This was such a great use of Chris Messina and Mindy Kaling, and it might have been the single funniest moment I’ve seen so far this season. When he interpreted hanging as “I will go to the Statue of Liberty,” I was actually crying from laughing so hard, and it was all because of Messina’s perfect delivery. Danny was trying so hard to be convincing even as he was saying ridiculous things, which made it even funnier. And all of that was topped off with the brilliant bit of physical comedy that was Danny throwing the wine in Mindy’s face and then yelling “I can’t have a baby!” Once again, Messina’s commitment to the joke was a thing of beauty.

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Fangirl Thursday: A New Dress and an Open Heart

This post is a little different from my usual Fangirl Thursday ones, but sometimes you just have to go where the inspiration leads.

I love clothes. I love to shop for them, to look at them in magazines and on red carpets, and to talk about them. As such, dissecting a character’s costume choices is one of my favorite ways to analyze any piece of media. From the evolution of Kate Beckett’s hair to the bright colors worn by Mindy Lahiri, the outward appearance of a TV character gives us a lot of insight into exactly who they are.

Therefore, when a character shows up wearing something different from what we’ve come to expect, it’s important. It’s worth talking about.

JENNIFER MORRISON

This—Emma Swan in a soft pink dress with her hair pulled back, ready for her first real date with Hook—is worth talking about.

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TV Time: Castle 7.03

Source: http://castlecaskett.com

Source: castlecaskett.com

Title Clear and Present Danger

Two-Sentence Summary The murder of a pool shark and former MIT student by an unseen force leads Castle to theorize that the killer is the Invisible Man. As the team works to solve the case, Ryan tries to hide his second job as a bouncer at a male strip club and Castle and Beckett try to get romantic.

Favorite Lines
Castle: And you thought Zombie Apocalypse Survival Camp was a waste of time…What?
Beckett: You just kind of make nerdy sexy.
Castle: That’s true.

My Thoughts As much as it pains me to do this (because this was such a great episode), I’m afraid this will be a rather short review. Duty calls at the job that pays the bills, so I’m going to quickly share with you the three most important things I took away from “Clear and Present Danger.” I’ll hopefully be able to expound on these in more depth later tonight and into tomorrow as I respond to your comments, so please share all of your thoughts with me and feel free to discuss amongst yourselves this thoroughly entertaining episode.

1. This episode was smooth. “Clear and Present Danger” was a great transition episode from the darker and more mythology-heavy first two episodes of this season into the usual tone most Castle fans know and love. I know the new mystery of Castle’s disappearance is a divisive one (I happen to love it), but I think it’s safe to say that this episode did a nice job of reminding us that this new mythology exists but also allowing life to go on for us as viewers and for the characters, too. Castle’s disappearance was brought up in a surprising but realistic way (with the focus on how that disappearance has impacted their intimacy), which was a nice way to still include this new layer while opening the door for a little more lighthearted fun than the previous episodes allowed for.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.03

Title Rocky Road

Two-Sentence Summary In flashbacks, Elsa and Kristoff work together to eliminate a threat posed by Hans and his brothers, which leads them to the urn that will later be used to imprison Elsa and was also used to imprison a woman claiming to be her aunt, who also has freezing powers. In Storybrooke, that same woman freezes Marian in an attempt to turn the townspeople against Elsa, but her villainous identity is uncovered by Hook and Elsa (after Hook blackmails Rumplestiltskin) and Will Scarlet (after Emma and Charming discover him in the woods).

Favorite Line “Hey, Dairy Queen!” (Emma)

My Thoughts The first two episodes of Once Upon a Time’s fourth season were very strong, but I think we can all admit they were a bit imbalanced. The season premiere was fairly heavy on the plot, while “White Out” favored focused character development over really moving the plot forward for a variety of characters (which I didn’t mind one bit but I know was an issue for some). “Rocky Road,” however, struck a really lovely balance between plot progression and character growth for the entire main cast.

What made “Rocky Road” work despite the sheer number of storylines was its thematic cohesion, which was my favorite part of “White Out,” but was even more impressive in this episode because of the broader scope of its storytelling. Despite the sheer number of stories being told, each one was—at its core—the same: a story of a person who believes they are fated to be unhappy and alone struggling to let themselves hope that their fate can be changed.

Regina’s story this season seems to be the most literal interpretation of that overarching theme. When it comes to the “changing the book” plot, I’ll admit to still being very confused by the details. I was always under the impression that the book ended with the casting of Regina’s curse, so I don’t know what exactly she’s planning to have them change in order to get her happy ending. Does she simply want the book to reflect her point of view as well as that of the heroes, or does she actually want to change the events of the past so she looks less villainous? Because she may be changing in the present and may not a villain anymore, but it’s not incorrect to say she was a villain in the past. I was hoping Henry would ask for more clarification, but I think he was so happy to be spending time with her again that he just went along with it. It was cute to see him excited to embark on “Operation Mongoose.” Also, did anyone else notice that Regina’s name was a subtle—but very in-character—dig at “Operation Cobra?” (Google “mongoose versus snake” if you need proof.)

What I find the most interesting about Regina’s story so far is that she’s already changing her fate without changing the book, simply by being a better person. It makes sense for Regina to feel as if she needs the validation of the book claiming she deserves a happy ending, but I hope she comes to earn that happy ending by continuing to do the right thing in Storybrooke. I loved her choices with Marian in this episode because they were so selfless. There was a part of her that did it for Robin (because true love is selfless love), but there was also a part of her that seemed to want to do the right thing simply because it’s right.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (10/5 – 10/12)

This week in television started with another stellar Sunday night, featuring a second episode of Once Upon a Time that was even better than the season premiere, a fantastically funny look at Jake and Terry’s friendship on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and another wonderful episode of The Good Wife. (Who knew Christian arbitration could be such a comedy gold mine?) Monday’s Castle gave us some more clues to Castle’s disappearance. On Tuesday, Selfie‘s second episode improved on its pilot, and New Girl and The Mindy Project both took on some racy material, with divisive results. On Wednesday, Black-ish continued its strong first run of episodes, and Nashville continued to break my heart with Juliette’s story and Deacon and Maddie’s father/daughter perfection. And Thursday gave us another hour-long master class from Viola Davis on How to Get Away with Murder.

I’m going to be honest with you: I knew what my pick for my favorite thing on TV this week was going to be as soon as I saw it almost a full week ago. Sometimes you see an episode and just know nothing else is going to be able to top it because it gives you everything you could ever ask for as a fan of a certain character. And I think everyone who is a fan of Emma Swan found a million little (and big) things to love about the latest episode of Once Upon a Time.

As many of you know, I’ve spent a lot of time writing about Emma Swan. To say this character makes me feel very strongly is probably the understatement of the year. We all have those characters we want happiness for so badly because we’ve watched them struggle with believing they were meant to be unhappy, and Emma is one of those characters for me. From the pilot of Once Upon a Time, we’ve watched Emma grow from a woman who believed she was better off alone to a woman slowly learning to accept and tentatively reach out for love in her life. And in “White Out,” we got to see just how many people Emma has in her life who love her and genuinely want to take care of this woman who spent so long with no other option than taking care of herself.

In this episode, we got to see Emma surrounded by her father, her son, the man who’s in love with her, and a new friend. It was beautiful to watch Emma and Elsa instantly begin a friendship based on learning that they things that made them feel isolated from everyone else are things that can connect them—not just as people with magic but as women struggling with a life they didn’t choose. And it was also beautiful to see Emma—this woman who spent so long feeling like she was unable to trust anyone in an intimate way—embrace Hook’s love to the fullest extent we’ve seen yet, letting herself be completely vulnerable with him and leaning into him instead of pulling away from his obvious devotion.

As someone who has spent a lot of time thinking and writing about Emma Swan’s journey towards accepting love after so many years without love in her life, I was so happy with her story in “White Out” that I still smile just thinking about it. From being a lost girl who didn’t think she would ever matter to being a woman literally surrounded by love, Emma Swan has come so far, and I am enjoying every moment spent watching her embrace so many different kinds of love in her life.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

Fangirl Thursday: Hope, Happiness, and Hockey

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I love sports. March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. I celebrated my 25th birthday at Yankee Stadium. And I love Sunday afternoons spent watching my beloved Buffalo Bills.

Although there are several sports teams that I love beyond reason, there’s only one that holds the top spot in my heart. And that’s the Buffalo Sabres, whose regular season happens to start tonight.

Hockey is a passionate game that inspires passion from its fans. And I’ve never been as passionate about another sports team as I’ve been about the Sabres. I’ve cried more tears over them than I have over any TV show or fictional character. I’ve spent more money on them than I’ve spent on probably all of my other fandoms combined. Being a Sabres fan led me to start my first blog, so I give them credit for being the first to really get me out of lurking around fandoms and into becoming an active participant. The Sabres taught me about communities of fans, families of blog commenters, and the importance of the connections we make with others based on the things we love.

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