Once Upon a Time the review (aka two friends having a good old chinwag)

[Written or rather chatted about by Sharon Ring and Mark S. Deniz]

PLEASE NOTE THERE ARE MASSIVE SEASON ONE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT

Once upon a time there was a publisher and literary agent and they sat down to ponder a recent urban fantasy series…

Some of the main characters of the show

Mark: I’d say it’s all your fault, but seeing as I am very positive about the series now, I probably need to thank you for pushing me to watch more episodes when I was watching one every now and again and was 18 episodes behind the rest of you. What was it about the show that grabbed you right off?

Sharon: It didn’t grab me right off at all. That first episode was full of schmaltz. Well-written but full of so many cliches I was tempted to give up on it. Those in the know who were already watching it persuaded me to persevere, so I did.

M: Ah, so you pretty much started the way I did then but had a head start on me? Cool! So what kept you interested?

S: It’s a combination of factors. The dialogue is wonderful, the inter-weaving of plot and sub-plot is superb, the casting is excellent (one character in particular is genius casting for the show). More on that character in a bit!

M: I think I might know who it is…;-) I only just realised that we haven’t had a proper chat about the show, so this little online chat is our first ‘real’ chat – ooh the spontaneity of it all! Well not surprisingly it seems that we agree on what makes the show great (even with its schmaltzy bits), and I actually know who a few of your favourite characters are (not that our readers do though…). I was immediately impressed with protagonist, Emma Swan, sassy, sexy, pivotal role in the whole thang. I had a couple of characters that really grabbed me later on too, was that fact that it was deliciously character-driven the biggest thing for you or would you say the plots and sub-plots did it?

S: A bit of both. There are one or two weaker characters but I think that’s more to do with my own personal preferences of stories from my childhood. Without giving away too many spoilers there is a revelation later on in the series that was a huge disappointment for me. However, the upside to that disappointment was how the writers of the show played with those expectations. The internet was buzzing for weeks over this one hook.

M: Blimey, I missed all that kerfuffle entirely. I am going to write a spoiler alert at the beginning of this post so that when it goes live those who read this without having seen the show do so at their peril. So spill the beans, Sharon, what did I miss?

S: It was the true identity of August W Booth. Man, that bugged me. I wanted him to be Mr Gold/Rumpelstiltskin’s son, Baelfire, and what did we get? Bloody Pinocchio, that’s who! Yes, it fitted the storyline as we got closer to the truth and it allowed for some wonderful soul-searching on the part of Mr Gold, but ultimately I was disappointed by the revelation. It does, of course, leave room for an appearance from Baelfire in the next series, about whom I have a potential theory.

M: Ah, yes. I actually loved the scene where August announces he is Baelfire, as both he and Robert Carlyle were excellent in the scene. It was quite heart-wrenching stuff. It felt like Pinocchio was a character that didn’t really need to be in the show, as it felt like it was always going to be wedged in (see what I did there)…

S: I felt that was as well for a while. Once he reached the point of a reunion with Gepetto, his real father, that kind of made up for things. As it’s a huge theme for the show those reunions are really something. Still, back to Rumpelstiltskin for a minute. He’s the one I mentioned as a favourite character. I could rattle on about him all evening.

Sharon’s bloke

M: We might well get some of your rattling…I immediately loved his Rumpelstilstkin entrance, with his whiny/weasly giggles…that sort of tipped him into the favourites pile.

S:  It’s one of the most genius castings I’ve seen in a long while. I had no idea he was going to be in it. Just saw him pop up on screen and I was in love from the get-go. The dual characters work perfectly, perhaps better than any of the others. And his long arc behaviour has been exceedingly well thought out by the writers. I expect he has a whale of a time getting to play this odious, mercurial monster. Although, as the show progresses it becomes apparent that his monstrosity is not what it first appears to be.

M:Yes, agreed, if I’m not mistaken, he’s one of four people that are aware of the curse from the beginning: Henry, The Wicked Queen and August being the others. That’s one thing that if it’s been mentioned then I’ve forgotten it or missed it, which is the explanation about why three others (actually four, I’ve just remembered my favourite minor character, the Mad Hatter) know about something that was only known to the Queen (as per her spell). And why is Henry her adopted son – for plot purposes?

S: The way I see it Henry is her adopted son for a very important reason. Bear with me on this. Rumpelstiltskin was the one who put the idea in the Wicked Queen’s head to cast the spell to take them all out of Story Book Land and into Storybrooke. So far so good. What’s his reasoning behind all this? It’s because he wants to find his son, Baelfire. To do that he needs to cross to our world so he gets her to cast the spell, drags them all over, then waits for Emma to grow up (because time is irrelevant in Storybrooke, he can wait). He then treks off to get Henry in order to eventually entice Emma to town to break the spell. Once the spell is broken he can then bring magic into the world with a spell of his own making, which will then allow him to find Baelfire. Whaddya think?

M: I think I’m with you there m’dear, makes a whole lotta sense that one! I still want an answer for the others knowing about the curse, oh wait Pinocchio went through with Emma. What about the Hatter though, is it because he’s a loon?

S: Actually, I’m not sure on that one. I should probably go through the season again as I know the answer’s in there somewhere. Maybe something he did or said to the Wicked Queen at some point that made her want to punish him by forcing him to stay away from his daughter? That does seem to be a bit of a thing with her – separating people from their loved ones, which, from a psychological point of view is all down to her own heartbreak when she was younger, forcing her to become the person she is.

M: *nods* There is something about her leaving him trapped in Wonderland when she takes her father back through the hat which could link to it – oh there’s a lot I want to know about the Hatter in season two! So, should we argue about one of your faves now and easily one of my least favourites, Snow White?

Not by Mark she isn’t!

S: I love her and won’t hear a bad word said about the woman! Bring your argument forth then but don’t expect any more than short shrift from me on this subject! 😉

M:Erm, was it Snow White I meant? Well there’ll be one thing you can’t stand fast on and that’s the fight scene when she and the seven dwarfs rescue Prince (the most irritating character in the show) Charming from his Dad/Not Dad Jim Robinson – how bad was that done?

S: It wasn’t the best scene in the series but I see no reason to put Snow down for that one scene. Anything else? And you’re right about Charming. What a bland, insipid specimen he is.

M: I just thought casting was a bit off, I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that but wasn’t Snow supposed to be the fairest in the land, not the rough, tough fighting gal that would lose out to Red, the Witch, the dizzy fairy, etc, etc. any day of the week? “Mirror Mirror on the wall, you’ve got bad taste methinks”

S: That’s a little mean, isn’t it? Speaking on a personal level here, I find her very pretty. But I think some of the casting with this character is that they wanted a traditional look – the dark hair and porcelain skin – they certainly got that right. That said, she is certainly not as striking as many of the other female characters. Same goes for Charming and I wonder if this is a deliberate ploy on the part of the show. Standard generic casting so they don’t take over the whole show?

M: A very good point and I’m inclined to agree. They weren’t brave enough to make that decision with Emma, as she is incredibly striking, although has many flaws which make her very human. Her inability to deal with responsibility being a massive part of her arc. That leads me to one element that was very well done throughout and that was Emma’s reluctance to accept what was happening because we were being given the story in somewhat of a third person viewpoint and were aware of the curse immediately. That Emma wasn’t forced us to keep reminding herself that there was no way she should believe what was going on just because a child and a stranger told her similar things. Even when the Hatter ranted on about things you could see there was no way she was falling for it. One of my pivotal moments was when August showed her his wooden leg and it was normal for her. This concept that there is much more out there if we were open to it and not so blinded by logical was summed up at once.

S: Emma is striking? Well, there’s no accounting for taste. As you say it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Anyway, it’s interesting that you raise the subject of what’s logical and what’s not because one of the things I love about the show is the comparison between who they are in Story Book Land and who they become in our world. Traits and trades remain – such as Jiminy Cricket becoming local psychiatrist Archie Hopper or Rumplestiltskin becoming Mr Gold the local, hmm, what exactly is he? Antique shop owner, landowner, occasional lawyer. Jack of all trades that one. I digress. The comparison of the dual characters gets me and I think it might be a vital clue to Baelfire’s eventual appearance.

A very striking Emma (I’m sure you agree)!

M: Indeed! One thing I want to mention before I forget, (giving me a chance to pretend I didn’t read your comments about comely Emma) is the issue at the end of the season. Basically I’ve been reading on forums (I know, I know, me reading) that people are suspecting that the storm that came in means that we are wound back to the setting at the beginning with no one rememberiing who they are. If that was the case I would turn off the TV after about three minutes. Surely the ending was that everyone now knows who there were but are trapped in our world, some of them now having power again. What’s your thoughts?

S: Not sure yet. I’d be disappointed if that were the case but I think it might be something different. It’s something of Rumpelstiltskin’s, I’m sure of that. It’s a reversal of the curse, but I believe he may have added a clause to the reversal. A straightforward reversal would mean everyone’s memory restored and a return to their own land. I don’t think that’s going to happen because I don’t think that’s what Rumpelstiltskin wants. Remember I said I think this is all about him getting back his son? Why would he yank them out of our world and whisk them back to their own? I think they’ll stay where they are and I think some characters will continue to remember what has happened. Perhaps characters who are in a position to help him find his son. I do think that we will see many more characters coming in from the outside world, Baelfire being one of them.

M: That would be cool, as characters who know who they are in our world would open up all kinds of plot-goodness! And I agree with this thing about the characters coming in from the outside as they know who they are now and that makes a difference to their lives/motivations. Maybe the Hatter made a deal with Gold, because this would also benefit him, yes?

S: Perhaps, although don’t rule out the possibility of him having made a deal with the Queen of Hearts. Remember he was locked in her world, had his removed and replaced, then set to work to make another magic hat. She was quite an intriguing character. We didn’t hear her actual voice or see her, which was a bit of a thing with everyone in her Court. Lots of covered faces, did you notice? I think she may well be around more in the next season and there’s a fair chance we might discover she’s behind Jefferson/Mad Hatter being one of those aware of the spell.

M: I may well have got that one way off then, as I thought she was the one who the Wicked Queen had a fight with who then became the Sleeping Beauty Queen/Dragon…oh, I’m all confused now…I do remember the covered faces though, which was a tad creepy.

Oh and that apple, genius way of getting Snow to take a bite. Not sure how Gold had planned to deal with the whole thing about Emma eating the pie (if she had) either…

S: Okay, well the Sleeping Beauty Queen was Maleficent so she couldn’t have been the Queen of Hearts. Did you spot who was playing Maleficent? Pam from True Blood. I love that woman, she’s bloody great. Yes, the covered faces were very creepy and I’d like to know more about that. There’s a second series sub-plot right there. Hmm, how would Gold have dealt with Emma eating the apple pie? That’s a tricky one. It’s easy to think, because he’s been manipulating events from before the curse was cast, that he’s capable of stopping and causing all that happens but I guess that’s not the case, unless he has more up his sleeve than we’re aware of at this point. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

M: I noticed our Pam (I can call her that, yes?) and the lovely Amy Acker too (who I have such a thing for, and incidentally is in Grimm as well). Of the main characters in the show there are three I think we need to look at here (we can ignore Prince Charming) and they are: the Wicked Queen, Henry and Red (oh, OK Red is not a main character but she is lovely!).

S: Where do we start? How do we solve a problem like Regina? She is fantastic. One of the things I’m most impressed with in her character development is allowing her to have a reason for her behaviour. It certainly doesn’t justify it but it serves to help the viewer understand that she was once a lovely young woman in love. It’s well-played. The show’s writers could have gone for a cardboard cut-out evil queen but they’ve chosen to humanise her. I think, though this is a massive speculative leap on my part, that we may just begin to see more of this side of her in the next season.

We love Regina here!

M: Yes, she starts off very cardboard but gets all those human traits as the season goes on. She’s a complex character who has had to adapt to a world in which she doesn’t belong but one which she forced herself (and all the characters) to. She’s also rather striking too…

And Red is just an interesting character through and through, there we have this little throwback to Twin Peaks and all of a sudden she comes into her own in one episode. I loved the whole thing with the cloak too, the fact that the cloak was her protection from the wolf inside her.

Henry is a little love, thankfully not one of these hugely irritating child actors that we are overwhelmed with in other programs (Terra Nova anyone?). I like the way he maintains his faith in his mum and is so determined to see ‘justice’ done that he’ll break any rule to do it.

S: You’re going to have to explain your Twin Peaks comment at some point. The cloak device was very clever and I wonder how soon it will be in the next season before we see its reappearance. If their powers are returned but in our world, that could make for an interesting moment or two. Henry’s initial determination to find his mum and then to make her believe what he knows to be real is a wonderful side of the show. It taps into something many children feel at some point in their lives – a feeling that mum or dad is not really their parent, that somewhere out there is the real parent who will truly love them, not like the wicked ‘other’ with whom they are forced to live.

M: Good point – I realise we have chatted a good long while now, you think any of our readers are still reading? Any conclusions on the show/last thoughts?

S: Yes, one. The thing that keeps drawing me back time and again, beyond the things I’ve already mentioned, is the delight the show takes in booting the viewer’s cynicism out the window. It is unashamedly fun and funny, and it also demonstrates that no matter how evil or bad to the bone a person may appear, there’s always a story beneath the surface and we should perhaps remember that next time we decide to judge another person.

M: A cracking point to end on, thank you ever so much for joining me on this and I can honestly say I can’t wait for our next banter!

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The Sexy Fae of Lost Girl by Melanie Marshall

The Sexy Fae of Lost Girl

by Melanie M

There I was casually flipping through the channels, a little bored and trying to find anything to keep me from doing the laundry, and then I found them. Be still my heart! Hello new addition to an old addiction.  The fav fae of Lost Girl.  The central main characters are Bo the bisexual succubus in search of her past, Kenzi a gypsy and Bo’s best friend, Dyson,werewolf, a member of the Fae and Bo’s lover, then there is Lauren,  human doctor ,pet of the Light Fae (also Bo’s lover), Hale, a male siren, and Trick, Blood King and Fae barkeep.

Lost Girl is the story of Bo, a succubus raised by human parents and unaware of her true identity.   A succubus feeds on the sexual energy or chi of humans, usually to the detriment of the human as Bo discovers when she hits puberty.  On a date with her boyfriend, Bo’s first sexual encounter ends traumatically as she drinks her boyfriend to his death.

Understandably freaked out, Bo lights out on her own, on the run from city to city, obtaining new identites even as she leaves dead bodies behind her.  This pattern is broken one night when she saves a young gypsy thief from a guy who slipped her a date rape drug.  Bo drinks the predator to his death and carries the drugged girl to the abandoned building Bo is hiding in to recover.  As Bo packs her things, ready to flee the city, the little thief, Kenzi comes to.  It seems that Kenzi recorded Bo’s feast on her smart phone before passing out and thinks Bo her hero.  And before Bo knows what hit her she has a new BFF whether she wants one or not.

Let’s say right up front that Bo is spectacularly hot.  She wears black leather like a second skin, has dark eyes that can turn hard like obsidian when angry, and packs a punch forceful enough to cold cock any thug or dark fae. I love her.  And Kenzi?  Adorable, funky, gypsy goth girl whose backstory is still waiting to come out.  I heart her too.  Any how back to the story.

The body Bo left behind comes to the attention of the local police who just happen to be two members of the light fae.  Dyson, a werewolf and police detective and Hale, a male siren,Dyson’s friend as well as cop partner.  They track Bo down and force her to visit The Ash, leader of the light Fae and The Morrigan, leader of the Dark Fae.  During this confrontation, Bo learns she is a succubus and a member of the Fae, an ancient group of beings at war with each other.  One thousand years ago, a truce was called and there has been a shaky peace between the light and dark Fae.  One part of that peace calls for all fae to align themselves with one side or the other.  You can be a Dark Fae or Light, but not “free”.  So Bo has been called before both sides to prove through battle that she is worthy (years of thinking she is human has left her clueless as to the ways and rules of being a Fae).  If she is not killed in combat, then she must choose to be either a Dark or Light  Fae
.
As Bo fights her way through different opponents , Kenzi is desperately trying to find Bo after being left behind.  Humans are thought of as pets or meals by the fae, definitely not something to be bothered with.  Bo wins the last fight, with Kenzi’s assistance, and let’s the Fae know that she choses the Human side.  Meanwhile, there is a side thread with Dyson and Trick, owner and barkeep of The Dal Riata, the only Fae pub in town and neutral ground for all Fae.  They know more of Bo’s history than they are letting on, a mystery that unravels over the remainder of the season.

And that’s just the first episode!  After you get past a very hot Bo, and adorably sexy Kenzi, you meet Dyson who makes me want to squeal like a fangirl.  Irish, inked, and primal, he makes the wolves of True Blood seem civilized (and I like them).  The love scenes between Bo and Dyson are so hot the screen sizzles and walls shake. They get very physical.  No dainty love here.  And then there is Lauren, the Doctor who works in a laboratory for the Light Fae.  She is “owned” by the Ash right down to her pet tag. We don’t have her full backstory yet.  She is also hot for Bo.  And when they hit the sheets, the sex is sensual, believable, and steamy.  OK, look at Bo.  Who wouldn’t go to bed with her?

Hale grows on you as the  Dyson’s colleague and another Fae undercover agent in the police force. He is a male siren, able to render humans and even other Fae unconscious or stunned with his whistle. Over time, Kenzi and Hale become good friends. Hale’s family is Fae royalty and they find his job disdainful. Last, there is Fitzpatrick aka Trick, owner and bartender of The Dal Riata.  He is much more than he seems.  He is a Blood Sage with the ability to alter fate. As we learn more about Bo’s heritage, Trick’s history comes forward as well as the two of them entwined through their pasts.

Lost Girl presents us with rich stories peopled with mythical beings, complex characters, and beautiful sets filmed as through a glass darkly. A Canadian series, it is shown on the SyFy Channel here in the US.  Filming on the 3rd season starts this Spring which makes this fangirl extremely happy.

I have loved reading about Faeries, the Fae, the Tuatha Dé Danann since childhood, stories from my grandfather and my introduction to The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.  Being of Irish and Scottish descent, my fascination with the Fae grew stronger with each year.  Whether it is tales of Peter Pan or Oberon and Titania, I cannot get enough of the wee folk, the fairies, the Fae.  Lost Girl is a great way to feed my need for all things sidhe.

You can find all episodes of the first season here at Showcase .ca.  There is also a list of songs used for each episode.  So join me in my Lost Girl journey.  Tell others.  We can all drool together.  Come on.  Really.  You will thank me!


I am a retired Park Naturalist living in Maryland. I have always loved to read and books in every form, from baby picture books to paper, have been a constant companion from my earliest memory. I was one of those kids reading under the covers with a flashlight and who could recite whole passages from favorite stories. My love of horses lead me to Marguerite Henry and Misty of Chincoteague, my love of dogs to Fred Gibson and Old Yeller, my love of raptors and wolves sent me to Jean Craighead George and her books My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves …well, you can see where this is going. Basically, I have been on a journey all my life where my love of books and my other loves/passions have fed each other, intertwining until they are inseparable. Still am. When I go, my books are going with me.

Learn more about Melanie at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.

The Fae in True Blood by Jodi Lee

The Fae in True Blood

by Jodi Lee

True Blood -- Season 4

I am a huge fan of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels. They are light, easy reading fun – and after a day of Belfire editing, errands and writing, I’m ready for Sookie’s humor.

HBO’s True Blood, starring fellow Manitoban Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse, is often a great show, though the last two seasons have been lacking in that something that was in previous seasons. Last year’s season opener was less than stellar, and after a few more had passed, I felt a little (okay, a lot) let down. The only shining point throughout the season was Sookie’s developing relationship with Eric Northman. Not Fae-related, but the Wiccan storyline was also weak, felt a great deal like it had been tossed together at the last minute, and while I loved the actress that played Marnie (also known as Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter movies), she did not shine in this particular role.

Far and above any of this, I felt the way the Fae storyline was handled was deplorable. Claudine, Sookie’s faery godmother and cousin, is meant to be a woman of supermodel beauty and youth, a good Fae who likes a good time and pops in and out of Sookie’s life at random. She wasn’t. Her twin brother Claude is meant to be tall, dark, luscious and gay. He wasn’t.

Sookie and Claudine

Sookie and Claudine

In fact, Sookie was lured away to the Fae lands, where she finds her ‘grandfather,’ Earl. He thinks only a few moments have passed since he ventured into Fae, but in actuality it’s been over 20 years. Sookie soon discovers a darkness behind these Fae, including Claudine. With help from her grandfather and Claude (whose appearance was brief and to the point), she escapes through the portal which Queen Mab is rapidly closing. At some point, Claudine manages to re-enter the mortal world and is quickly ‘eaten’ by Eric Northman.

And that, seemingly, is that for the Fae storyline on the show.

Nothing about Sookie’s full-blooded fae great-grandfather Niall, nothing about his son Fintan, who seduced Sookie’s beloved grandmother, Adele. In fact, from the way the show’s storyline went, it appeared Earl was the one with Fae blood, passing it to Sookie that way. The books have a much more intricate (but familiar) tale of Fae mischievousness, shape-shifting and romance.

I suppose they could re-introduce the Fae line in future, and bring Niall around then. It would be a wonderful opportunity for the writers to develop something outside the current story branches, something focused more on Sookie than the other, minor characters. Claudine and Claude were such a large part of several of the books, and a vital part – along with Niall, his other son Dermot, and murderously cruel Brendan, Lochlan and Neave. Bringing the Faery War to the little town of Bon Temps would liven the show, even though they would have to find suitable replacements for Claudine and Claude.

Admit it – even if you don’t watch True Blood as a general rule – watching a flock of ethereally beautiful people rip each other to shreds in a supernatural battle royale would get your attention.

Mr. Ball, if by some flight of Fae-fancy you see this, please – PLEASE – give us the Faery War!


Jodi Lee was born and raised on the Canadian Prairies, having ventured only as far as Edmonton to the west, Kenora to the east and Langdon, ND to the south in her entire life. Even so, she feels home is probably somewhere in Galway (Ireland), Ceredigion, Powys (Wales) or Manchester (UK).

Living in Manitoba has given her a vivid imagination, however. Nothing breaks the daily monotony of snow, rain and road construction quite like alien zombies or flesh-devouring mosquitoes. She’d like to blame it on leftovers from the experimentation during her moderately wild youth, but won’t; besides, as a single mom she should at least try and set a good example for her two daughters, at least one of whom is definitely more mature than her mother.

Jodi has been writing and editing professionally for over a decade, dividing her time between her own works and those of her clients via numerous outlets. A detailed bibliography is available onsite.

She is the publisher and EiC of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project.