Monday, August 15, 2016

TV on DVD Review: Once Upon a Time - Season 5

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Amazing characters still entertaining with fun stories
Cons: One episode’s storyline that I didn’t like
The Bottom Line:
Camelot, Hades
Settings for character growth
And magic action

“It Seems You Brought a Hook to a Sword Fight.”

As much as I do enjoy fairytales (I am a Disnerd, after all), I don’t think I would have ever expected to be as hooked on Once Upon a Time as I am.  This show continues to entertain me.  Each episodes flies by all too quickly, and I can’t wait to find out what will happen next to the characters I love.  That continued for season 5.

If you are new to the show, I don’t recommend you start here.  This is one of the many serialized shows on TV these days, and to fully appreciate all that happens in season 5, you need the background on the characters and their relationships.  They are complicated, which is frankly one of the things I love most about the show.

As with the previous two seasons, this season really breaks down into two arcs.  In the fall, we get one story with a resolution and a cliffhanger that sets up the spring episodes.  Even better, all these episodes aired on back to back Sunday nights with only one or two breaks in the scheduling, allowing the viewers to truly get lost in the story since we know that there will be more next week.

This season opens moments after season 4 ended.  Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), who originally came to town as the fairytale character’s savior from a curse, has turned to darkness.  Very specifically, she has become The Dark One after this ancient darkness left Mr. Gold, aka Rumpelstiltskin, (Robert Carlyle).  She is struggling with the power, however, trying to keep from succumbing to the evil, and her family and friends are going to help her.  They think they can defeat the darkness once and for all by going to Camelot.  However, when they return home weeks later, no one has any memory of what happened during their time away and Emma has embraced being the Dark One.

The back half of the season find the gang heading down to Hades to try to rescue one of their own and bring him back to Storybrooke.  While down there, they meet many people, friend and foe, who have unfinished business.  Can they help these people move on?  Or will they get trapped down there by Hades (Greg Germann) instead?

I know, I know, I haven’t talked as much about the individual characters in my plot teasers as I usually do in a TV show review.  Believe me, everyone is still here and involved in the story.  Regina (Lana Parrilla) tries to help Emma avoid becoming evil while dealing with the weird relationship between herself, Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), and her half-sister Zelena (Rebecca Mader), aka the Wicked Witch of the West.  David (Josh Dallas) develops a bromance with King Arthur (guest star Liam Garrigan) much to the dismay of his wife Mary Margaret, aka Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin).  Gold, meanwhile, tries to deal with being human again, and it’s not an easy transition for him and his wife Belle (Emilie de Ravin).  And Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) develops his first serious crush.  We also get to meet Merida (guest star Amy Manson) and get an update on Ruby (Meghan Ory) and Mulan (Jamie Chung) as well as return to Oz before the season is over.

Why this show continues to enthrall me is the way they build the characters.  These are complex people who have grown and changed as the seasons have gone along.  When this show is working well, we have a story, but that story is showing us things about the characters and allowing them to be better developed.  It’s again why I will tell you to watch the show from the beginning.  It’s well worth it.

Not to mention that our time in Hades allows us to see quite a few people again.  The second half of the season opened with the 100th episode of the show, and the writers did a fantastic job of using that to bring back some characters we loved (or loved to hate).  Plus the flashback that episode filled in a gap in the storyline from the season 1 flashbacks.  Not that I would have complained if we’d never gotten that answer, but I was thrilled to see them address it.

Yes, we still get flashbacks in each episode.  Sometimes, they focus on the new characters, like Merida or King Arthur.  Sometimes, they tell us a bit more about our main characters.  And sometimes, they fill in the missing time for the characters from their time in Camelot.  (And yes, I was ready to roll my eyes at the characters having their memories erased again when the characters did it for me.  I had to laugh at that.)

While quite obviously I love the characters, I’m not trying to take away from the plot at all.  Each episode is jam packed with storylines, twists, and surprises, and they are over all too quickly.  The writers are still doing a great job of telling a story that is compelling and entertaining.  The fact that they have created such rich characters to play with only makes it better.

Of course, I’m giving the actors their share of the credit for the rich characters.  They take the material the writers give them and bring it to life perfectly.  This is clearly as case where the actors and writers are on the same page, and the result for us is magical.

The only thing I didn’t care for in this season was a much publicized lesbian storyline.  Honestly, the show didn’t need it.  But, at least in this season, it was kept to one episode, so it is easy to ignore it and enjoy the rest of the brilliance that is this season.

There are 23 episodes in season 5, and they are all included in this set in their native wide screen and full surround.  Extras include a look at bringing Merida to life for the show, the fate of a minor supporting character left up in the air at the end of the season (I’m being vague on purpose), a look at the 100th episode, and the usual audio commentaries, gag reel, and deleted scenes.

The final two hours set up the upcoming season, and I am excited about the possibilities with what they’ve done.  Not only do I think it will be fascinating from a plot standpoint, but the potential for theme and character development are brilliant.  I can’t wait to see what they do with it all.

So if you aren’t up to date on this wonderful show, you’ve got time to catch up.  And if you are already a fan of Once Upon a Time, you’ll be glad to you picked up season 5 so you can revisit these characters any time you want.

Season 5 episodes:
1. The Dark Swan
2. The Price
3. Siege Perilous
4. The Broken Kingdom
5. Dreamcatcher
6. The Bear and the Bow
7. Nimue
8. Birth
9. The Bear King
10. Broken Heart
11. Swan Song
12. Souls of the Departed
13. Labor of Love
14. Devil’s Due
15. The Brothers Jones
16. Our Decay
17. Her Handsome Hero
18. Ruby Slippers
19. Sisters
20. Firebird
21. Last Rites
22. Only You
23. An Untold Story

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