5 unsettling turns OUAT has taken in season 6

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Those of you who read my blog know that I’m devoted to ABC’s Once Upon A Time. In fact, this blog began on Tumblr as “My Own Little Storybrooke”. Because I’m generally busy most evenings, I’ve been saving this season’s OUAT episodes to binge watch over the holidays, which I’ve been doing, and a few things strike me as I do.

  1. I’ve forgotten how amazing the show is and how much I enjoy it.
  2. I’m shocked at how dark the show has become.
  3. I’m surprised at how what once would have made me squeal with delight now makes me cringe in discomfort.

Let me explain point number three.

From season one, the storyline establishing Rumplestiltskin as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast was incredible and I loved watching Robert Carlyle portray Rumpy’s developing character. I was thrilled to see Rumpy flirt with Cora in the story of The Miller’s Daughter, and even hoped to see him paired with Regina when he was mentoring her.

But this season?

This season seems to be bringing a whole host of unenchanted storylines that are too close to real-life disturbing situations. Here are my reasons for saying this season is quite unsettling:

1. Emma may be suffering from a serious neurological disorder.

Emma has begun to have visions of her fatal future. These visions are accompanied with hand tremors that may be evidence of something as benign as hypoglycemia, anxiety, or fatigue, but which could be indicative of something more serious, such as a brain tumor, hyperthyroidism, or Parkinson’s disease. Rather than consider she may be seriously ill and in need of medical attention, Emma is treated by psychiatrist Jiminy/Archie. Her condition is especially foreboding when you consider that her visions are about her death, and something like a brain tumor can be quite deadly.

2. The children of Zelena and the Evil Queen.

Having struggled with their inherent evilness, Zelena and the Evil Queen have resolved to show their children just how wicked they can be. Rather than hide their affinity with the dark side of their personalities, the sisters hope their children will follow in their footsteps. None of this hits closer to home than the scene where the Evil Queen is coercing Henry to smash the heart of the Dragon to release Regina and Emma from their mirrored prison. Let’s unpack this: the Evil Queen is trying to convince her son to kill an innocent man to save his moms. This is particularly unsettling when you remember that the Evil Queen is the one who had created the mirror prison in the first place. Rather than wave her hand to release them, she attempts to bully Henry into committing murder, dragging him down into her dark pit alongside her.

3. Rumplestiltskin and the Evil Queen getting it on.

Though not technically adultery, Rumpy continues to profess his love for Belle while engaging the Evil Queen in some hanky-panky. Though I find the scenes incredibly sexy, there’s something not right about it. First of all, Rumpy had an intimate relationship with Cora, Regina and Zelena’s mother. Zelena had admitted she tried to get Rumpy into bed. The Evil Queen said they’ve always had a chemistry and now their relationship has been taken to another level. This means that Rumpy has, at the very least, bedded mother and daughter, and come close to bedding mother and daughters, which is kind of gross. Furthermore, Rumpy/Gold is grandfather to the Evil Queen’s adopted son, which adds another rather freaky layer to a really messed-up storyline.

4. Belle is an abused wife.

Having heard that Gold wants to sever his child from his destiny the moment he’s born, Belle goes into warrior-mom mode and tries to escape Storybrooke. When Gold gets wind of her plan, he slaps a gold bangle onto her wrist, binding her to the town. This comes hot on the heels of him keeping her captive on the Jolly Roger to protect her from Jekyll and Hyde. Belle is essentially emotionally abused by her ex-husband, held against her will, and in fear for her unborn child. Though she has said she doubts it will happen, she would gladly get back with him if he would only live his life as the good man he was meant to be. This is essentially battered wife syndrome. How many times has Belle returned to an abusive and emotionally unavailable Rumple, only to regret her actions? The poor woman is destined to live her life under Rumple’s thumb, as there is no way she will be able to combat the magic he can employ to keep his child with him. At that point, we can add Belle’s son’s name to point number two above.

5. A study in Stockholm Syndrome

In addition to battered wife syndrome, Belle is the poster child for Stockholm Syndrome, though she really can’t be blamed for it, as Beauty and the Beast is a textbook case. In the story, a girl goes to live with a literal beast to save her town. She is held captive, enslaved, and winds up falling in love with her captor. This story is meant to teach us not to judge a book by its cover, but the deeper story it tells is much more nefarious, especially where OUAT is concerned. Belle is kept in a dungeon until she’s given house privileges. She must remain captive in the castle or Rumpy will allow the ogres to kill everyone she knows and loves. She is essentially his slave, cooking and cleaning for him, living in fear of his temper, walking on eggshells lest he hurt her or worse, someone she loves. Cue the abused wife argument above.

Honestly, I don’t know what is more disquieting: having to watch pregnant, optimist, bookworm Belle being abused by her ex, or watching my favourite character lose any and all of the redeeming qualities that made him my favourite character in the first place. And while Robert Carlyle plays the part with depraved aplomb, there’s something that’s not right about deriving pleasure from from something so vile.

What do you think about the malevolent turn OUAT’s taken this season? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

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