When ABC moved Revenge to Sundays this season following Once Upon A Time, I thought the move was a little odd. Aside from the fact that I enjoyed both of them, I saw nothing linking the two to make either a perfect lead in for the other. As I’ve kept up with both this season, I found another link: both have seemed to decline in quality from their season 1 days, and I can’t say that I’m surprised. Even less surprising are the reasons for their declines. For Revenge it has been the lack ability to find a storyline as equally compelling as its season 1 storyline. For Once Upon A Time, it has been adding on additional characters while neglecting the already established ones and not having as clear of a focus as season 1.
When Revenge came on the scene in September 2011, I had no intentions of watching it. I saw the preview and thought, “meh”. I kind of fell into it accidentally by turning on ABC when it happened to be on and thinking, “hmm, this actually seems pretty interesting”, which I was fine with considering how big a fan I am of Emily Van Camp. And Revenge did not disappoint. From start to finish, it was the answer to the night time soap void. It kept you on the edge of your seat. It created complex and interesting characters. Essentially, it gave you a reason to tune in every week. But with Emily coming face to face with the’ white haired man’ in the season 1 finale, the question became, where does the show go from here?
With Once Upon A Time, the appeal was that it was a fresh take on fairy tale characters that we have all fallen in love with. The show presented an interesting take on the Snow White tale, while adding in elements, mainly Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter Emma Swan. With that, the show had a definite story arc in, will Emma break the curse and restore the memories of the fairy tale land characters? I admit to being a little shocked when the show went through with Emma breaking the curse right in the first season finale, especially coming from the people who refused to answer the question, ‘What is the island?’ for six seasons. So, just like Revenge, the question became, where does the show go from here?
Both shows definitely had the potential for compelling season 2 storylines, and until recently both shows have squandered that potential. Revenge set the stage nicely for a season 2 storyline involving Emily’s mother, a storyline that was exhausted in a mere 7 episodes to make room for the show’s ridiculous ‘Initiative’ storyline. Once Upon A Time had so much potential to explore the new relationships that breaking the curse opened up, instead choosing to focus on battles and introducing new characters. With that being said, recently both shows have made some moves that could get them back on track, and I have some suggestions for both shows to keep things going in the right direction starting with:
1. PLAY TO EMILY’S STRENGTHS: The show smartly (and sadly) killed off Amanda. It now needs to use that to its advantage. Emily is at her best when she is fighting for a cause that hits her straight in the heart. And Emily Van Camp is at her best when she is playing out the inner turmoil between exacting the revenge Emily seeks and leading a life her father would be proud of. When Emily forgets the roots that she’s come from, we forget she’s a character worth rooting for. Keep Emily’s heart on her sleeve just visible enough for viewers to see. We like it there.
2. RESOLVE THE INITIATIVE STORYLINE AND MOVE ON: This storyline is in full force, so we can’t really abandon ship on it (sorry, that’s an absolutely horrible reference considering what recently happened aboard The Amanda), but let’s complete it, move on, and forget it ever happened, k? Half the time, no 80% of the time, I don’t even understand what is going on in this storyline. Revenge works best when it focuses on family, a cause that is important to both Emily and the Graysons and one that fans can get invested in, and while this storyline has allowed the show to dangle the family string, it’s not enough. The Initiative has been like an anchor weighing down Revenge this season, cut it off before it sinks the ship (whoops, sorry again).
3. LESS AIDEN. MORE NOLAN: It’s not that Aiden is a bad character. He’s perfectly fine. It’s that the Emily/Nolan dynamic that we came to love in season 1 has been sorely lacking. Emily and Nolan humanize each other in ways that only they can do for each other. This plays into my number 1 above. For me, Emily and Nolan’s friendship is the heart of the show. Let’s keep it going at a healthy beat.
And now on to:
Once Upon A Time:
1. PUT THE FOCUS BACK ON THE CHARMING FAMILY: With the show resolving the curse and finally allowing the Charming family to be together, imagine my surprise when the show decided to put the family on the backburner for the first half of the season. Yes, we had Emma and Snow fighting together (and getting to know each other?). Yes, we had Charming searching for his family. But it all didn’t feel quite like enough. One of the best things about season 1 was Emma and Mary Margaret’s friendship because we knew that the reason they grew close so quickly was because they know each other in a way that only mother and daughter can. I was excited to see this relationship explored to the fullest extent and while they’ve had a few nice moments, it hasn’t lived up to its potential. There is so much to explore here, and the show should be wiser and take a look.
2. MAKE IT HARD (AND EASY) TO HATE REGINA: Regina, like all antagonists, works best when she is completely complicated and we can’t decide whether to pity her or to hate her. The show hasn’t done nearly a good enough job of making this struggle hard for us, which is a problem that goes back to season 1. Regina is a great character because she has so much turmoil going on inside of her. The writers need to do a better job of making us feel that.
3. SLOW DOWN ON THE INTRODUCTION OF NEW CHARACTERS: A lot of fantasy shows go down this path (umm, hey, Heroes). It’s so tempting to introduce a plethora of characters, especially when there are so many to choose from. Take a lesson from Lost though. As it turns out, even though we knew there were a lot of other survivors on the crash, we didn’t actually care to get to know them. The new characters have been a factor in my number 1 above. Some have been great (Hook) and some have left me wondering why precious screen time that could have been spent on the Charming family was sacrificed (Mulan, Arora). Less is more. Those aren’t terrible words to live by.
Well, that’s all folks. Thoughts Revenge and Once Upon A Time fans? Have the shows left you wanting more or do you think they are hitting the right strides?