TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.02

Before I get started on this week’s post, I wanted to take a moment to offer my condolences to the family and friends of a fellow Oncer who passed away over the weekend. Adri, you are loved and you will be missed. 



Title The Price

Two-Sentence Summary As flashbacks to Camelot reveal that Regina pretended to be the Savior for Emma’s safety, Emma in all her Dark One glory puts the full pressure of being the Savior on Regina in Storybrooke. This involves coming up with a plan to save Robin from being taken to the underworld after Regina asked Emma to save his life using her new dark magic in Camelot.

Favorite Line “I spent over a century trying to kill the bloody Crocodile. I can spend at least that long trying to save the woman I love.” (Hook)

My Thoughts “All magic comes with a price.” This is one of the founding principles of Once Upon a Time. But like all good fairytales, this theme is actually about so much more than magic. All actions have consequences. All choices have ramifications. And the question becomes, what price can we live with?

There’s a defining line on Once Upon a Time between the heroes and the villains in terms of how they handle people who make choices that hurt them. The heroes choose to forgive and to move on. Villains revel in doling out punishment, in making people pay for their choices. There’s a reason “All magic comes with a price” is attributed to Rumplestiltskin at his darkest. And whether it was Regina’s desire to ruin Snow’s life after Snow told the secret that got Daniel killed, or Hook’s quest to seek vengeance for Milah’s death (which led to him trying to kill Belle), we’ve seen time and again that darkness often manifests itself in a desire to hurt those who hurt you. We even saw that last season with Emma, who turned her back on her parents as a way to punish them after learning that they transferred her darkness onto Lily before the girls were born.

Thematic continuity is a beautiful thing, so I’ve loved that Emma’s version of the Dark One is an extension of the darkness we saw in her when she learned her parents’ secret last season. Emma is the most empathetic character on Once Upon a Time; at her best, she understands the reasons people made the choices they did, and she doesn’t hold those choices against them. But at her darkest, Emma wants to make the people who’ve let her down pay. There’s a righteous anger to this version of Emma that’s fascinating. And that righteous anger is allowing those who love her to confront their own missteps and become better versions of themselves in the process, as they work to rectify the mistakes they made in the past—even if they can’t remember exactly what those mistakes were.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/27 – 10/4)

This week in television brought us more returns of beloved shows, which started on Sunday night, with Once Upon a Time‘s season premiere jumping right into the quest to save Emma from the darkness; Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s season premiere giving us a look at Jake and Amy’s new dynamic after their game-changing kiss; and Quantico‘s pilot providing us with plenty of questions to keep us coming back next week. Monday’s Dancing with the Stars honored classic TV theme songs, and it was followed by a controversial episode of Castle that shook things up for the show’s central marriage. On Tuesday, The Muppets introduced a new love interest for Miss Piggy (Josh Groban), and The Mindy Project tackled the topic of new parenthood. Wednesday’s Nashville was filled with heartbreaking drama—from Juliette’s deteriorating mental state and Luke’s decision to cut Will from his label to its fatal final moments. Finally, Saturday gave us the return of Saturday Night Live, which will be remembered for Hillary Clinton’s impression of Donald Trump and her sing-along with Kate McKinnon.

In a week filled with captivating moments, none made me hold my breath like the climactic scene in Once Upon a Time‘s season premiere in which Emma’s loved ones reached her just as she was about to crush Merida’s heart. There were plenty of reasons to love that scene: Jennifer Morrison’s brilliant performance, Colin O’Donoghue’s ability to emotionally destroy us all with his sincerity, the way the scene made Emma’s inner darkness feel visceral and exhausting and real rather than some overly dramatic struggle against evil…

But the thing I loved most about this scene was that it was all about Emma’s ability to save herself. As Hook said, fighting the darkness has to be Emma’s choice. Only she can save herself, but that doesn’t mean she has to do it alone. Watching Hook get through to Emma and support her ability to choose to overcome the darkness in her was beautiful, and it seemed like a great piece of foreshadowing for how this whole arc could play out. Hook didn’t force Emma to do anything; he simply reminded her that everyone has demons that can be overcome, and she’s strong enough to overcome hers. The decision to put Merida’s heart back was Emma’s; she saved herself in that moment, with the support of someone who loves her helping her find the strength to save herself. That’s something I hope we see play out as this arc reaches what we all hope will be a happy conclusion. That scene (including the fact that the darkness seemed to disappear when Emma hugged Hook and Henry) gave me so much hope for the rest of the season, and that’s exactly what I needed in what was a very heavy and sad week for a lot of the other shows I watch.

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

Scandal 5.2: Deeper Into the Scandal of “America’s Mistress”

Let’s all welcome back our newest NGN Team member, Laura, who returns this week with thoughts on the latest episode of Scandal!

Source: ABC/Eric McCandless

Source: ABC/Eric McCandless

As a member of Team Jake, this episode was the ultimate tease! And I don’t mean that in a good way. Still, I have to give Scandal credit—it was compelling TV, as always. The photos stir up the predictable media madness. While Fitz wants Olivia to stand by his side to make a statement, Olivia would rather get the hell out of town. And Liv usually gets her way, as her friends in lighter moments at various times point out. Abby explains to Elizabeth North, “The president’s about to get Poped,” and Quinn (when answering to Jake why she let Olivia take a case) said, “You don’t say no to Liv. And, besides, she took my car keys.”

Mellie Grant
Mellie has, by far, the best speech of the episode when she goes to see Fitz in the Oval Office. Her take on living in the spotlight that is the White House is a brilliant piece of both writing and acting:

“You placed Olivia in a dangerous position. You outed her. You thought by throwing me out of the White House and moving her in you’d be making this grand gesture. Finally she wouldn’t be just a mistress anymore. But the minute she stepped through these doors, the minute she moved in here, she became what we all become when we live here. And what is that? Yes. A statue, inhuman, viewed from every angle, discussed, exposed. She’s not just a mistress now. She’s America’s mistress. History will preserve her as such. Oh, honey, you made a horrible miscalculation, an error in judgment. You didn’t realize, which is why I’m here. You can apologize, I can accept, and then I’ll take care of everything.”

Mellie probably could have put all the rumors to bed, if Fitz (and then Olivia) had let her. Whether she should is an entirely different question.

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Fangirl Thursday: A Matter of Trust




Trust is always a tricky thing to earn. It’s even trickier when you’re talking about the trust between a creator and the fans of whatever it is they create. One wrong move, one misstep in how a character’s arc is handled, one bad interview—and that trust can be easily damaged, if not completely destroyed.

However, there are still those creators we trust—the ones whose beliefs about what makes good literature, films, or television align so closely to ours that we seem to nod along with every interview they give. Those are the creators we’ll follow to the ends of the Earth, trying new books, movies, or shows we might never have been interested in had we not known they were created by someone we trust.

That’s exactly what happened with me and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I don’t regularly watch a lot of comedies. I wasn’t the world’s biggest Andy Samberg fan. The idea of a comedy set in a police precinct wasn’t something I knew I’d love immediately. However, it had Mike Schur’s name attached to it. And I trust Mike Schur.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has done nothing but increase the level of respect I have for and trust I have in Mike Schur. When people act surprised by the show’s diverse characters, its inherent warmth, its successful risk-taking in terms of its central romance, and its well-developed female characters, all I can do is smile and say I’m not surprised at all. This is what Mike Schur does. This is who he is. And this is why I trust him.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.01

Welcome (or welcome back) to our weekly Once Upon a Time discussions here at NGN! I can’t wait to watch this season unfold, and I especially can’t wait to talk about it with all of you! And remember, if you’re interested, this would be a great time to start writing a letter to Emma, Regina, Snow, and any other favorite female characters for my book!

Title The Dark Swan

Two-Sentence Summary As Emma struggles with fighting against the darkness she’s continually tempted by after becoming the Dark One, her loved ones search for the best way to get to her. However, even after they find her, it appears their mission to save her didn’t go as planned, since six weeks later, Emma is the only one who can remember what happened in Camelot—and whatever it was that led to her fully embracing the darkness.

Favorite Line “It has to be her choice.” (Hook)

My Thoughts Once Upon a Time has always been a show about belief. On the surface, it’s a show about believing in fairytales and magic. But it’s really about the power of knowing someone believes in you and how that helps you believe in yourself. From the pilot through this Season Five premiere, Once Upon a Time has showed us that belief is power and love is strength. Those themes have woven themselves through every storyline and every character’s journey, and they were at the heart of “The Dark Swan.” By taking the core themes of the show and bringing them to light in a fresh way, “The Dark Swan” became my favorite Once Upon a Time season premiere since the show’s pilot episode.

Fighting to be your best self when you feel like no one cares about you is exhausting. It’s easier to just give in to your darker impulses, and sometimes we just want to do what’s easy instead of what’s right. I think that’s been something Emma’s struggled with at different times in her life. It was something we saw right from this episode’s first moments—with little Emma (How is the casting department so good at casting younger versions of the show’s actors?) stealing the woman’s candy bar because it was easy. Emma has always had those darker impulses; she spent a formative portion of her life as a thief, and she never had anyone to encourage her to make better choices when she was younger. (She had Neal, who was also a thief.)

Emma has also struggled at times with doing wrong things for the right reasons. (Changing the timeline by bringing “Marian” back from the past is a prime example.) And in the opening flashback, we saw one person give Emma a very important bit of advice about the choices she’ll make in the future concerning this idea. I don’t know how many of you follow casting spoilers, but the shots to the movie screen while the usher was talking pretty much gave it away anyway: He’s Merlin, and he knew Emma was going to be tempted at some point to do something wrong for the right reason. I’m intrigued by the prophecy that she’ll want to pull Excalibur from the stone, because for all we know Excalibur is now with Arthur. However, he could be talking about the dagger as part of Excalibur and “pulling it from the stone” as willingly taking on its power. No matter what comes of this prophecy and advice he gave young Emma, it’s clear Merlin knew of her importance long before our present timeline. I liked the idea that the Apprentice went to see Lily and Merlin went to see Emma when they were young, because I was upset last season that the Apprentice never sought out Emma to help her as a child. That small flashback set up what I’m sure will be an interesting dynamic in the future between Merlin and Emma, and it further emphasized the idea that choice is going to play a huge role in this Dark Swan arc.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/20 – 9/27)

This was the week Fall TV really kicked into high gear, and it was as fun and exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I already covered Sunday’s Emmys in last week’s Best Thing on TV post, but I’ll say that I’m still re-watching Viola Davis’s speech a week later. On Monday, Dancing with the Stars showcased the hometowns of its celebrities, and that was followed by a bold season premiere of Castle. Tuesday gave us a charming series premiere of The Muppets, a hilarious return for Fresh Off the Boat, and another strong episode of Dancing with the Stars—this time focusing on the stories behind its professional dancers. Tuesday also featured an episode of The Mindy Project that introduced an adorable new character and made me fall in love with Danny all over again. On Wednesday, Black-ish tackled a controversial topic in a great way, and Nashville balanced hope (Rayna and Deacon’s continuing love story) and heartbreak (all things Juliette) in its season premiere.

There were so many great moments on the scripted shows I watched this week—from Danny helping Mindy through her contractions to the introduction of the “three men and a baby” story on Nashville. However, my favorite moment of the week came from the world of reality television, and that was Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess’s foxtrot on Dancing with the Stars.

I love nothing more on television than good partnerships, and that’s what this dance was all about. During what was clearly an emotional dance for Sharna (She was dancing for her father and grandmother, who can’t ever travel to see her dance because of health concerns.), Nick was there for her every step of the way. From Nick’s little nod at the beginning to the solid, strong way he partnered Sharna throughout the routine, it was clear he was dancing this for her, and it elevated his dancing to new heights. It’s not often that a dance on this show genuinely moves me this early into the competition, but that’s exactly what this one did.

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

Scandal Season 5 Premiere: Setting Up Another Intense Storyline

I’d like to introduce all of you to our newest NGN Contributor, Laura! She is a talented novelist, blogger, and passionate fangirl who runs the excellent site Fangirl Forum. I’m very excited to have her as part of our awesome NGN Team, and I hope all of you make her feel wonderfully welcome and check out her site, too!

I love the writing on Scandal. As a writer myself, I need to start this post by acknowledging the incredible team who writes for Scandal. Thank you, as always, for such great entertainment! We finished the “Rowan/taking down Command” story arc, and without delay (except for the summer break) moved straight into the political storm of Olitz, a divorce, a new chief of staff, lies between friends, and Huck coming apart.

Now, let me say straight off, I’m Team Jake all the way, so I was really disappointed in the Season 4 finale. I’m sick of the Liv and Fitz relationship, and personally I think Jake is better for her. I know this will upset some of you diehard Olitz fans, but please hear me out before you stop reading. Because having said that, I did enjoy the season premiere.

Team Fitz or Team Jake?
Olivia Pope is an amazing woman. She’s formidable, brilliant, compassionate, and confident but with human foibles and vulnerabilities. She deserves a man who appreciates and respects all of that about her, which I will grant you both Jake and Fitz do. But, in my opinion, Jake is more honest about the man he is now and the man he’s been in the past. There’s no duplicity about him anymore. He owns the horrible things he’s done, whereas Fitz will condemn others (like Mellie) for actions similar to ones he’s done himself. (But more on Fitz and Mellie in a minute.)

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Fangirl Thursday: 10 Reasons Why We’re All a Little in Love with Danny Castellano

Let’s face it: It’s hard to watch The Mindy Project and not fall a little bit in love with Danny Castellano. Is he perfect? Not at all. There are even some times when it’s hard to like him, but we still love him. Because when it counts, Danny is a man straight out of our best rom-com dreams.

Maybe it’s the complex and nuanced way his character is written. Maybe it’s the way Chris Messina brings him to life with such sincerity. Or maybe it’s the dancing. (It’s definitely the dancing.) Whatever magical combination is responsible for Danny’s charm, it’s been working on me for years, which is saying something, because after the pilot of The Mindy Project I might have ranked Danny my least favorite male character on television.

Danny was allowed to grow and evolve, and the show grew and evolved with him. The Mindy Project became a great TV rom-com when its leading lady was given a male character to play off of who’s as great as she is. In order for us to believe that Mindy could fall in love with Danny, we all had to fall in love with him, too. And the show gave us plenty of moments that helped us do exactly that.

Without further ado, here are 10 reasons why The Mindy Project made it easy for us to fall in love with Danny—starting with the most recent example. Click on each reason for more gifs to help you fall in love with him all over again.

1. He appreciates a strong woman—and he’s not afraid to say it. (4.02: “C Is For Coward”)

This entire post was inspired by the fabulous final minutes of “C Is For Coward.” When Mindy went into labor and fear started to overtake her, Danny stepped up in a major way—reminding her of her strength at a time when she was feeling weak. Danny telling Mindy she’s stronger than him was such a powerful moment because Messina made us feel that Danny believes that with his whole heart, and he loves her all the more for it. And Danny naming baby Leo after Leo the Lion because he’s strong like his mother would have been perfect enough on its own, but the adoring, awestruck look that accompanied those words just about killed me. Danny doesn’t just love Mindy; he respects her, and he respects her strength more than almost anything. And who doesn’t love a man who knows his fiancee will draw strength from being called a “stone cold bitch”?

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Five Reasons “XY” Gave Me Hope for Castle’s Future



Hello, fellow Castle fans! While I won’t be writing about every episode of the show this season here at NGN, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on important episodes and moments as they present themselves, and this premiere seemed like the perfect place to start.

I’ll admit it: After Castle’s spectacular Season Seven finale, I was skeptical about Season Eight’s premiere. How could any episode follow “Hollander’s Woods,” which was written as a potential (and, had it been necessary, satisfying) series finale? How would the show survive without Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller at the helm? How would it bounce back after a season with a handful of strong episodes but far more mediocre ones?

“XY” was the answer to all those questions, and what a confident answer it was. With Rob Bowman directing and new show-runners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter penning the script, “XY” was an episode with a point to prove—that this show could still be exciting, engaging, and surprising in its eight season. And the way it chose to prove that point made me wonder why I ever thought the show might have been better off ending with “Hollander’s Woods.” There’s still plenty of story left to tell, and if this is how the show is going to tell it, then I’m more than happy to keep watching until the final chapter is written.

Here are five reasons why this season premiere made me feel confident that this show still has a lot of life left in it and has found the right people to bring that life out of it.

1. It went back to the show’s storytelling roots.
I know that Season Six’s “Veritas” felt like the perfect ending to the Johanna Beckett murder arc that drove much of the show’s drama in its early days. However, after the 3XK plot was wrapped up last season, the show was missing something without a familiar dramatic arc to push these characters to new places emotionally in ways that still made us care. Castle’s disappearance never quite became the new dramatic arc I think it was supposed to be, so I found myself eternally grateful that this episode’s intensity was rooted in a familiar conflict: Kate Beckett vs. Senator Bracken—as well as Rick Castle vs. the secrets Beckett keeps when dealing with Bracken. Those conflicts have produced some of the best episodes in the show’s history, and they’ve always allowed us to explore deep things about Beckett. I loved that this episode was driven by the idea that Beckett’s obsession with Bracken and all he’s done wouldn’t just automatically stop once he ended up in prison. He’s the root of so much emotional trauma in her life, and it makes sense for her to be unable to put that behind her. Bringing Bracken back also allowed us to see Jack Coleman in all his twisted, evil glory once again. It’s good to have a familiar foe to root against, and I liked seeing these writers embrace that familiarity with a new twist that kept things exciting.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/13 – 9/20)

As television shows are slowly awakening from their summer-long slumber, we were treated to the first taste of this new TV season over the past week. On Monday night, Dancing with the Stars returned with a very promising new crop of celebrities. And on Tuesday, The Mindy Project started the next chapter of its life after its move to Hulu.

I was all set to write about the ending to the season premiere of The Mindy Project for this post. I had a lot to say about Chris Messina’s ability to say so much with so little and the beauty of Mindy Kaling’s smile. I also wanted to talk about how important it was for Danny to tell Mindy he’d like to be wrong about marriages never working out. Because that’s what mature love is—it’s a leap of faith that you choose to take instead of something you blindly fall into. It’s knowing that there’s a chance this could end in disaster but choosing to believe there’s also a chance it might not. Love is belief—belief that the person you love is worth the risk and belief that your own happiness is worth fighting for. All those themes were wrapped up in one moment—in one line, really. And it gave me so much hope for the future of this show.

I had all that planned, and then last night’s Emmy Awards happened. Viola Davis happened. And now I don’t want to write about anything else.

Viola Davis is class, elegance, and power personified. When she talks, you listen. And when she talks about the struggle for African American women to find their voice and their own place on television, you don’t just listen; you cry.

You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.

What an honest and deeply moving statement. There’s still so far to go for women—and especially women of color—in television, but progress and change are happening. And it’s happening because of a community of writers, creators, and actors who believe in what they’re doing and believe in each other. As Taraji P. Henson embraced Davis with such emotion on her way up to the stage, as Kerry Washington cried her way through Davis’s speech, and as Davis mentioned so many of her peers who are making their mark on the television landscape, I was moved to tears by the power and beauty of women supporting other women.

The Emmys weren’t perfect, but they gave us this moment. And for that, I am so grateful.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week? And let’s use this post as a post-Emmys discussion group, too! What were your thoughts on the night’s winners, snubs, and overall entertainment value?