Once Upon a Time Kicks Off Season 7 in “Hyperion Heights”

 

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Once Upon a Time kicked off season seven with what was dubbed a “requel,” or combination reboot and sequel, of the show we know and love. For me, “Hyperion Heights” felt more like a spinoff: new location, new characters, but with the same tone and themes I’ve come to expect from Once. As a premiere episode, it wasn’t great. It felt pretty overstuffed due to all the new characters, making me wonder why people like Ivy and Sabine, neither of whom played a huge role in this episode, weren’t introduced in the second or third hour instead. That being said, if we’re looking at this as a more of a backdoor spinoff pilot, I get it. Pilots are always setup heavyit’s just how you establish thingsand this show has always required more setup than most.

One good thing about this premiere was that it didn’t make me miss the original incarnation of the show as much as I thought it would. It probably helped that Roni, Rogers, and especially Weaver were more side characters than anything else. This is firmly Henry, Jacinda, and Lucy’s story, to the point where I wonder if it would have been better to completely leave the original characters behind and let this stand on its own. As excited as I am to see Emma next week, for example, that episode probably will make me miss the original version of the show, as will any episodes where old favorites return, or the current cast plays themselves instead of their Hyperion Heights alter egos.

As I said, the tone and themes of this were textbook Once but in a way that felt reassuring instead of repetitive. Henry and Cinderella’s time in the forest, especially, was reminiscent of a lot of things we’ve seen before. Their first meeting wasn’t unlike Snow and Charming’s, the addition of the motorcycle making it a romance for modern times. Plus, how great was it when Henry looked on ruefully as Cinderella stole his bike? The product of two take-charge women—plus Grandma Snow—he can’t have been all that surprised.

In the present-day, Cinderella’s alter ego, Jacinda, bore no small resemblance to Emma Swan, from standing up for herself when her manager treated her like crap to swallowing her pride and apologizing to the same manager, all so she could take care of her kid. Fierce moms are such a hallmark of this show, and it’s another aspect I’m very, very glad made the jump to this season. Though, I do feel like more needed to be done to explain why Victoria is able to take Lucy whenever she wants. She may be powerful, but there are obviously judges and lawyers and all sorts of people who need to be involved in custody issues.

Even with the familiar themes, the most familiar aspect of the premiere was the returning characters: Regina, Hook, and Rumple, here playing completely new versions of themselves. Of the three, Regina’s Roni got the most screentime, and, unsurprisingly, it was a ton of fun to see Lana Parrilla immerse herself in yet another version of this character, though we’ve never seen Regina quite this casually cool. In some ways, Roni is Hyperion Height’s version of Emma Swanor at least seems like she may become that—, and I love the idea of Regina going from the villain of one town to the savior of another. 

One of Roni’s big moments was meeting Henry, though I would have liked that scene to have a bit more warmth. They legitimately felt like strangers, which I guess was the point, but, beyond the winking “Imagine if I walked in here and told you I was your son?”, there wasn’t any indication that either of them felt a connection. A moment similar to Rogers looking at Emma and instantly knowing she was important to him would have been nice.

Killian’s alter ego didn’t make quite the impact that Regina’s did, but I like that Rogers is not only a cop like Emma but also a real “boy scout,” a fun flip on his pirate identity. As mentioned, the look he gave Emma’s picture was nice and also a good way to tee up Jennifer Morrison’s return next week. I also like the idea of Weaver and Hook as partners, particularly because both Rumple and Hook would hate it so much. Weaver was only in a couple of scenes, but he certainly seems like a morally complicated dude, which jives with the Rumple we know.

Other thoughts on “Hyperion Heights”:

At Comic-Con this year, they released the opening scene where teenage Henry says goodbye to Regina, and there was originally a line about Emma and the Charmings knowing that there was no changing Henry’s mind, but it seems to have been cut from the broadcast version. The scene still felt unrealistic without that line—Emma would obviously have been there to say goodbye, even if she approved—but I think cutting it was a mistake.

While explaining the curse to Henry, Lucy started to mention that some of their family was in Hyperion Heights but got cut off before she could say where everyone else was. I’m assuming that’s how they’ll explain the missing members of the cast, saying they remain trapped in Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest.

I loved Alice’s frustration about also being from other places, and it was very in-character of Rumple to use someone else for his dirty work.

Good to see that Killian’s sword fighting lessons paid off for Henry, and he channeled Emma in the best way possible when he told Lucy that Cinderella needed to save herself.

I’ve written some version of that “Poetic opening line goes here” placeholder in pretty much everything I’ve ever written and can guarantee most writers have done the same. Henry finally writing that first line—”Once upon a time,” naturally—was very reminiscent of the end of the original pilot.

What did you think of Once Upon a Time’s “requel”? Let me know in the comments!

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Let’s Grade Some Pilots!

Last season was a great one for new network shows, with This Is Us, The Good Place, and Speechless all breaking big. This fall’s batch of shows isn’t quite as promising, but I still found a few to check out:

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Young Sheldon (Thursdays at 8:30 on CBS)

As I mentioned in my What I’m Watching post, I enjoy The Big Bang Theory while still recognizing that it’s, as the kids say, a problematic fave. Young Sheldon isn’t something I’m going to feel guilty about watching, which was nice. It’s very different from the mother ship: kind of a combination of an ABC comedy and the This Is Us flashback scenes. That’s not a criticismI love both of those thingsbut it is new ground for CBS, king of the multi-cam comedy and procedural drama. One concern I have going forward is that we know what eventually happens to Sheldon’s dad, as well as that Sheldon doesn’t have a good adult relationship with either of his siblings, and, for me at least, that knowledge made the pilot sadder than it was probably intended to be.

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Ghosted (Sundays at 8:30 on Fox)

Of the four pilots I checked out, this one grabbed me the least, though I still think I’ll tune in a couple more times. Adam Scott and Craig Robinson were the whole reason I watched in the first place, and, as expected, they have great comedic chemistry. There’s a scene with the two of them involving improv and a fax machine that took a delightful turn and became my favorite moment. A lot of critics warned that the pilot was pretty expository, and I largely agree with that sentiment. There also wasn’t a lot of time to get to know other characters, even though it’s a pretty small cast. This feels like a case where the second episode will be much more indicative of what the show looks like on a weekly basis. At the very least, it piqued my interest.

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The Gifted (Mondays at 9 on Fox)

This was one of the most effective pilots I’ve seen in awhile, when you consider that the entire point of a pilot is to grab the audience’s attention and make sure they tune in next week. It was tense, action-packed, and twisty; it almost played like a mini-movie up until the killer cliffhanger. There are quite a few characters, but they spent adequate time introducing each one, no small feat in a pilot. My hope going forward is that they find a way to inject more humor; there was a fun little moment between Amy Acker and Stephen Moyer’s characters after a parent/teacher conference, and that levity helped make them feel like real people. The pilot reminded me of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.not a surprise, considering the Marvel connection—which is a show that uses levity very well.

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The Mayor (Tuesdays at 9:30 on ABC)

My only complaint with this one was that it didn’t breathe quite as much as I wanted it to. They went through a lot of story for a half hour, and it made some moments feel a little disingenuous, such as Lea Michele’s Valentina assuring Brandon Micheal Hall’s Courtney that he’s far from hopeless. But, other than that, this was a strong pilot with a great castespecially the always excellent Yvette Nicole Brownand a very timely premise. It’s almost the reverse of our current political situationwhat if a good outsider had won?but it’s also far enough removed to be the escapism it wants to be. It had shades of Parks and Rec or another show of underdogs, and it’s nice to see ABC branch out from standard family comedy. It also smartly showed that Courtney and his friends do take some things seriously and, on the flip side, that Valentina does have a sense of humor. My biggest concern after watching the trailer was that she would constantly be the buzzkill, a role female characters fill way too often, so I’m glad that wasn’t the case.

What pilots have you watched so far? Any coming up you plan on checking out? Hit the comments, and let me know!

 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Finishes Strong in “The Big House Part 2”

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I thought Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s season five premiere was good, if a bit tonally weird. I had no such qualms about this episode, where, at long last, the Nine-Nine freed Jake and Rosa.

It certainly helped that the prison scenes were slightly less dark than they were in the first episode; Tim Meadows’ cannibal hung around, but there were a few less overt references to eating kids, which I appreciated. Jake’s time in solitary, as well as his meth, er, blitz experience, also provided some nice levity. His Lion King impression was the funniest non-Holt thing I’ve seen in awhile, and I honestly would have watched another five to ten minutes of it. DVD bonus feature, perhaps?

I’m impressed by how well they developed the cast of characters at the prison, to the point where I wouldn’t mind seeing some of them pop up in a future case. I feel like they barely scratched the surface with Tank, especially. You know that guy’s got a crazy backstory, and it might be fun to have Jake show Amy or Boyle around the prison, relive his not-so-glory days, etc.

Over at the precinct, the team worked together to get Jake and Rosa out, and I was glad for the references to how intensely the team has worked the case since their conviction. Even Hitchcock and Scully mentioned staking out the farm, which was a good indicator of how seriously everyone was taking it. Boyle, of course, would argue he took it the most seriously, what with his true crime podcast. It was very Boyle of him to have such a specific plan, right down to Debra Messing being his first celebrity listener and Sean Hayes the second (TV is really taking advantage of Will and Grace being topical again).

I’ll admit to getting a little emotional over Amy’s willingness to sacrifice her career to free Jake. When the strictest of rule followers is considering that, you know the relationship means something. Going into the first episode, I actually thought one of them might propose when Jake got out of jail. I do still think it’s coming this season, and, at any rate, their reunion was appropriately sweet. I also wouldn’t be an English major if I didn’t mention how much I felt for Amy when she had to tear a page out of a library book.

Finally, it’s not an episode of Nine-Nine without some great Holt moments. His straight man impression is always a delight, particularly the reference to his “female wife.” However, even better was the great little twist at the end that Holt accepted help from a hilariously mobbed up Paul Adelstein after convincing Amy it would ruin her career if she did so. I loved what a totally in-character Captain move it was, knowing it needed to be done to save Jake and Rosa, but not wanting the rest of the team to take the fall. It’s also just the kind of dangling thread I like on this show: not significant enough to affect every episode, but something that will likely lead to a great story when the time comes.

What did you think of “The Big House Part 2”? Let me know down below!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Takes a Departure in “The Big House Part 1”

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If Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one thing, it’s consistently goofy. It has great characters with good and realistic relationships, and it takes itself seriously enough to comment intelligently on social issues—take the discussion of transgender prisoners in this episode, for example—but, for the most part, it’s very well-done goofy escapism. Even when they explore the more dangerous aspects of being a cop, the tone of the show remains intact.

This premiere had its share of goofy moments, but they couldn’t quite compensate for the realistic danger of Jake, a hated cop, completely unprotected in jail. I still liked the episode overall—it’s nice to see a show stretch its muscles—but it was also more tonally jarring than I’m used to seeing. I think Jake’s child-eating roommate was the main reason why; Tim Meadows was great, but that’s just a hard thing to laugh at, as was one prisoner’s sinister promise that Jake would die in jail.

Still, even with its inconsistent tone, I enjoyed individual aspects of this episode. As I said, there were great, goofy, very Nine-Nine moments, from the Picante Beef of it all to Captain Holt’s stellar “Yas queen!” We also got that fantastic cold open, with hilarious insight into Boyle’s state of mind, as well as—purely superficial comment alert—a beard that Jake should consider making permanent. Many of the other prison scenes were enjoyably tense while still feeling inline with the show’s usual tone; Andy Samberg is at his most hilarious when Jake approaches full-on panic, and there was a whole lot of that this episode.

The prison scenes also allowed for some nice subtle bits of dramatic acting from the cast, particularly in Jake and Amy’s last conversation (“Everything’s fine, I’m talking to you.”), as well as Rosa’s admission to Holt and Sarge. The Rosa scenes were just generally an episode highlight, from Holt writing Rosa’s name on his hand to Sarge’s hilariously horrifying smile.

As I said, it’s nice to see a show push itself a bit, something Brooklyn Nine-Nine does often in its finales and premieres. Even though aspects of this one didn’t quite work, I’m not too concerned. At the very least, we’ll be back to the Nine-Nine I know and love after “The Big House Part 2” next week.

What’d you think of the season five premiere? Hit the comments, and let me know!

What I’m Watching This Fall

It simultaneously feels like May sweeps just happened and that it’s been forever since I’ve had new TV to watch. But, either way, fall TV is upon us! You can see what I’m watching below (with some very quick hits on each show). Or, if you’re so inclined, check out my gif-ed up version on the li.st app. You can also find what I watched this summer over here.

Supergirl (Mondays at 8 on the CW)

This became my favorite DC show last season, though Legends is a close second. I’m still not over Alex’s beautiful coming out arc.

The Big Bang Theory (Mondays at 8 on CBS)

I recognize that this show is kind of problematic on a few levels (particularly their treatment of female characters), but I continue to watch. At the very least, it’s a good laundry show.

The Gifted (Mondays at 9 on Fox)

I don’t know a ton about this one, but I love Amy Acker, and I obviously have a history of enjoying superhero shows. The buzz has been pretty good, too.

The Mindy Project (Streaming Tuesdays on Hulu)

This is actually already back, and I’m so bummed it’s the final season! It feels like the right time, but I’ll definitely miss having Mindy Kaling on my TV regularly.

The Flash (Tuesdays at 8 on the CW)

Is it weird that I’m super bummed Tom Felton isn’t coming back? He and Caitlin were so sweet together. TPTB keep saying that this season is going to be lighter, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

This Is Us (Tuesdays at 9 on NBC)

I really, really do not want this show to drop off in quality. You have Mandy, Sterling, and Jess. Don’t mess this up.

Legends of Tomorrow (Tuesdays at 9 on the CW)

This show is just ridiculously fun. It sounds like they’re going to lean into the absurdity even more this season, and I’m totally here for it.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Tuesdays at 9:30 on Fox)

I adore B99. Also, have you see the scruff Andy Samberg is rocking in the premiere? I know he’s in jail, but Jake should consider making that his permanent look.

The Mayor (Tuesdays at 9:30 on ABC)

This looks cute! Great cast, and it sounds like most critics liked the pilot.

Survivor (Wednesdays at 8 on CBS)

The tribe distinctions this time are even more ridiculous than usual, but that doesn’t usually affect the quality of the season. I’ve never missed an episode of this, and yes, it’s still on.

Speechless (Wednesdays at 8:30 on ABC)

If you read my summer list, you know I just binged this. Very excited to experience its excellence in real time.

Modern Family (Wednesdays at 9 on ABC)

I think Julie Bowen said on Kimmel that this is their last season? Look, this is not even close to ABC’s funniest or most distinctive comedy any more, but it definitely laid the groundwork for the awesome lineup they have now.

Grey’s Anatomy (Thursdays at 8 on ABC)

This is another show that TPTB have said is going to have a lighter season. They’ve been making that promise for awhile now, but I’ll be the first to get on board if this year’s the one.

The Good Place (Thursdays at 8:30 on NBC)

If you haven’t watched this and somehow haven’t gotten spoiled yet, go watch the first season. It’s only thirteen eps, I’ll wait.

Young Sheldon (Thursdays at 8:30 on CBS)

I’m actually checking this one out because so many critics have said it’s basically the opposite of TBBT. Also, Jim Parsons and young Sheldon presenting at the Emmys was the cutest thing.

Arrow (Thursdays at 9 on the CW)

Three words: No. More. Flashbacks. Also, last season’s finale was great, and I’m looking forward to the fallout.

Once Upon a Time (Fridays at 8 on ABC)

I’m nervous about this, mostly because I love the original version of the show so much. I can’t help but feel like it’s going to be a watered down version of my fave. Regina’s my girl, so I’m at least glad she’s one of the returnees.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Fridays at 8 on the CW)

This show is aces, and I’m convinced Rachel Bloom is a next-level genius. The promo art for this season is too, too good.

Jane the Virgin (Fridays at 9 on the CW)

I think they’ve also said this one is going to be a bit lighter this year? I’d be o.k. with it, mostly for Jane’s sake. Lady deserves some happiness, ideally with Tyler Posey.

Saturday Night Live (Saturdays at 11:30 on NBC)

I mainly watch this because I live in constant fear of being left out of the pop culture conversation. For what it’s worth, I vastly prefer Seth, Sam, and John Oliver to Che and Jost.

Ghosted (Sundays at 8:30 on Fox)

I’ve heard the pilot for this is particularly pilot-y, but it definitely has potential. I would watch Ben Wyatt and the Pontiac Bandit in anything.

Madam Secretary (Sundays at 10 on CBS)

If you read my summer list, you’ll know that I also binged this one and am now obsessed. Elizabeth and Henry are relationship goals.

What are you watching this season? Hit the comments, and let me know!