Friday, October 19, 2012


I don't know about you, but it seems to me they can't bring on the Captain Hook character soon enough in the second season of TV's Once Upon A Time.

The curse was broken at the end of last season, and the suddenly un-enchanted denizens of Storybrook remember their fairy tale lives, although for some reason that escapes me at the moment, they can't go home to their fairy tale realm. But now, the scriptwriters have no idea what to do next; like the proverbial spaghetti noodle test, they're throwing everything at the wall to see if something, anything sticks.

Evil queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) is under some kind of house arrest in her mayor's mansion, out of the action. There are early indications that the writers are trying to soften her character up this season by re-introducing an even more dastardly wicked queen, the mother who made her what she is, previously seen only in flashback. This would be fatal to the show; Regina's ruthlessness is one of the series' few constant pleasures.

The other one is the great Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold. You never know from one week to the next if he'll prove to be a good guy or a bad guy, but he always has a private agenda, some angle of self-interest, and that's what makes him so interesting. (Along with Carlyle's deliciously acrobatic and insinuating voice.) But we haven't seen enough of Mr. Gold this season, either.

Instead, the bulk of the narrative action so far falls to the designated "heroes" in the cast, and you've never seen so many shades of vanilla. At the moment, storylines are unfolding on three fronts, none of them interesting: the folks in Storybrook are trying to figure out how to get home, under the dubious leadership of Prince (yawn) Charming; angsty Emma and virtuous Snow (as in White) have tumbled though a mystic portal into some other enchanted plane, where they team up with another couple of personality-challenged females—Sleeping Beauty, and the so-far-underwhelming warrior Mulan—to battle ogres and elude Regina's poisonous mommie dearest; meanwhile, everyone's backstories continue to play out in flashbacks to the original fairy tale kingdom.

The mystery of how these stories fit together may be more trouble than it's worth solving for an increasingly disenchanted audience. (Okay, for me.) The writers must know it; the end of last week's episode teased a shot of a sailing ship, with a promise to introduce "one of the most despicable villains of all time." Hmmm...that's a bit harsh, especially if you've read my History of Captain Hook on stage, page, and screen.

Even if this Hook is still a villain, if he can hold his own against Gold and Regina, he'll be worth his weight in bullion in a show that desperately needs a breath of fresh sea air. It's promising that they have a sexy young Irishman playing the part, although the fatality rate for sexy young males on this show is pretty, er, grim.

Remember the hunky Huntsman/Sheriff? The queen squashed his heart like a bug. Mysterious stranger August/Pinocchio was last seen turning into wood (and I don't mean in a good way). And didn't Ruby/Riding Hood devour her own sweetheart during a werewolf interlude in her backstory?

If Hook is a hit on the show, I'll be waiting to see what kind of backstory they invent for him, and how it differs for the one I wrote for him in my upcoming novel, Alias Hook.  That's the great thing about a character who's been around as long as Captain Hook (107 years and counting)—he's always ripe for a new interpretation.

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