The Tragedy of Will Scarlet on Once Upon a Time
Once Upon A Time in Wonderland’s problems
I want to get this out of the way. You have to understand how Once: Wonderland grew from its initial unstable start.
I’ll be the first to admit that the beginning of Wonderland was rough. The first half is nothing but slow building blocks to lead to a better second half. There were some pretty big issues that I have no problem pointing out. I don’t mind the cheap CGI. I grew up watching early Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Star Wars. Where a lot of people bitched about it, the CGI has never been my problem. The pacing, on the other hand, is a massive issue. The first half is incredibly slow. About every third episode moved the plot along.
There’s another problem of Alice and Cyrus being separated the entire first half of the show. They’re supposed to be the main couple, but we only have one real episode of flashbacks showing them fall in love. They spend the entire first half trying to reunite, but the audience didn’t have the episode support to root for them. Being apart in the Enchanted Forest worked for Snow and Charming in season one of Once, because we saw them falling in love again in Storybrooke. You can’t have your main couple separated that long. It’s why Will and Anastasia became the power couple of the show. At least with Alice, we got to see what she was like multiple times without having Cyrus define her. She was a badass boss standing on her own two feet kicking the shit out of other men. Cyrus, on the other hand, fell into the bland leading man trope. He didn’t pick up until the second half when we saw his flashback. And boy howdy, he wasn’t a hero. Too bad it came far too late in the series.
The villains were the final issue of the first half. While it never bothered me, I can see why people had problems with Anastasia in the beginning. She was cold, formal, and pedantic. She didn’t show much emotion unless Will was involved. Then, her real character peeked through. I didn’t mind. It was right in line with Lewis Carroll’s description of the Red Queen in Through the Looking-Glass. I can understand why that doesn’t make her the most dynamic character. She’s not as flouncy as Rumpel or fireball happy as Regina. Anastasia was the queen of the slow chess game. Finally, we have Jafar. Oh Jafar, you were a huge mess. A hot mess, yes, because Naveen Andrews is beautiful, but Jafar was terribly written. He should have been a ferocious baddie from the opening gates. Instead, we got a clown on a flying rug who posed half of the time while invading Anastasia’s personal space. It’s a shame. Jafar had a killer back story full of tragedy that shows his clear motivations for revenge.
The only saving grace in the first half was Will Scarlet and the revelation of the Red Queen being his old flame Anastasia. He carried the entire first half and grew into the MVP of the show. It proved why Michael Socha was the breakout star of the series. His opening scene in Storybrooke is one of the greatest introductions of a character in either show. Will easily tricked Ashley and Leroy to break into Granny’s Diner. He started to pay for his stolen cup of coffee but changes his mind. This indicated there were some morals but they’re flimsy. Finally when the White Rabbit shows up, he abandons everything to help Alice. We got everything we needed to know about who he was in less than five minutes. It was awesome writing. Mr. Socha goes onto play Will as someone caught between his morals. He loves Alice even without his heart and rises up to be the anti-hero to help her. He struggles to deal with his feelings of Anastasia. Even without a heart, it clearly pains him. Plus, he flashes his sass and wit and looks good doing it too. It’s the groundwork for season three Regina loving Robin without a heart. Once: Wonderland was incredibly lucky to cast such a strong actor like Mr. Socha for Will Scarlet. He got the show where it needed to be when it comes to the first half.
Throughout the entire show, Will has the most realistic view of love. It’s not about sunshine and unicorns like in the main show. He flat out says it’s messy and hard. It almost seems like it’s not worth it since love is so much trouble. Through all that, love is something Will fights for and cherishes above all else. He’s the best lover in the show. Anastasia and Will make each other better people. Their journey through the series is worlds better than the lying Charmings or the abusive down slide of Rumbelle.
Thank goodness for the midseason finale. That’s when Once: Wonderland kicked it into high gear. It changed directions in tone, brought those building blocks together, introduced the scariest villain ever to grace the Once-verse, and produced some of the best writing in either show.
How Wonderland became the better of the two shows
The plot finally came together. You see those slow episodes like with Amara and Jafar swing back having a purpose. What’s great is Wonderland does something that Once has failed to do for many seasons. They actually answer questions. Wonderland clearly lays out the laws of magic (which the main show decided to ignore). They also explain two new roads for world hopping. The White Rabbit can make portals, and all waterways connect the worlds. It’s how Ariel can get from Neverland to Storybrooke which was NEVER explained in the main show!
And you know those magical items I pointed out in seasons three and four of Once? Magical items are never the solutions in Wonderland. They’re merely tools for the characters to use. From the Forget-Me-Knot to the genie bottles, they were never the Magical McGuffin that saved the day. The characters saved themselves from every situation…
…Because the characters are the best part of Once:Wonderland. Every single character from the main cast to the supporting ones added something into the show.
Anastasia is a true queen and shifts from being one of the weakest players to the strongest. She goes to her citizens and sees firsthand how wrong she is. She apologizes to people like the White Rabbit for hurting him. It’s a fantastic scene. She flat out says she understands if he didn’t forgive her, but he shouldn’t shirk helping Alice because of Anastasia’s mistakes. He ends up helping in rescuing her from Jafar. When Alice arrives to save Anastasia and Will, our Queen thanks her knowing Alice didn’t come for her. Anastasia has a better redemption arc than both Rumpel and Regina in a shorter amount of time. Emma Rigby absolutely kills it in “Dirty Little Secrets” as Ana’s secrets and flaws are ripped out of her by the Jabberwocky. She should have won an Emmy for that performance.
Cyrus ends up being a great leading man. When we get his back story, we find out he wasn’t a good guy. Cyrus was a conman who tried to cheat death itself. Unlike a lot of characters in the Once-verse (Sheriff David breaking the law three times in season two but everyone overlooks it since he’s King of Storybrooke), Cyrus makes a mistake that ends up punishing not only himself but his two brothers as well. Does he get mopey over his fate? NO! Cyrus learns from his mistakes and uses these lessons to help Alice defeat Jafar. One trait that Cyrus carried throughout the series is he’s incredibly cunning. He’s way smarter than David on a good day. Cyrus constantly tricked Jafar and his men even while our genie was stuck in prison. To top it off, Cyrus isn’t afraid to call out Alice (his girlfriend) and Will (his friend) when they’re wrong. It’s hardest standing up to people you love even if it’s for the right reasons.
Jafar went from being a joke to absolutely cruel and unforgivable. I mean holy shit did Jafar ever have a turnaround. Part of the reason the second half is so gritty and dark is because Jafar got his crap together. Where in the first half he pretty much vogued everywhere he went, Jafar went on a murder spree in the second act. He left a body count behind him. In fact, I don’t think there’s a single episode in the second half where he didn’t kill someone. He’s brutal and nasty. Any ounces of sympathy from his upbringing are flung out the window when he murders his own father. What’s great is that Jafar didn’t die in the end and was his own demise. His hubris got the best of him and was trapped as a genie. This leaves the door open for his return. HA! Like they would ever use such a great character again.
Speaking of awesome villains, can we talk about the Jabberwocky for a moment? She is the best villain in either show. I love that she was a human woman and not some hideous beast they had to conquer. Also, the fact that she didn’t need a background to be a powerhouse shows that not every villain needs mommy issues to be bad. Jabber has the best evil power of all. She can read people’s worst thoughts and make their brains stop in fear. She speaks and they die. No magic. No fireballs. No McGuffin items. Jabber uses her words. She would make Rumpel cry and die in .02 seconds if she ever came into the main series. Even this ruthless monster had a moment of redemption. She left Jafar to help Alice stating she wasn’t born a monster. Jabber portrayed season and seasons of Regina redemption writing in one conversation making you suddenly root for this villain. Please come back to us, Jabber! I miss you!
The relationships fix themselves too. You know how I mentioned one massive problem with Wonderland was the fact Alice and Cyrus spent the first act separated? They reunite in the midseason finale to work together through the end. They’re so realistic too. Once they’re reunited, it’s not easy for our main couple. They’ve been away from each other for so long that Alice and Cyrus forgot how to be together. The audience gets to watch them relearn how to be lovers again. It’s that origin meet cute love story that was missing in the first act. It’s absolutely fantastic. Both Alice and Cyrus can stand on their own, but they also bring out the best in each other as well. Their wedding at the end feels justified to the audience and not like it was forced together like other couples in the show (see Outlaw Queen above).
There’s also the fantastic episode where Alice and Cyrus go to Storybrooke to find Will’s heart. Two characters interacting with technology for the first time is HILARIOUS! On a more questioning note, I always wondered how many times the White Rabbit came to this world. He knew what electricity was and how to easily explain it to the couple. Add that to the list of questions that will never be answered. I hoped for more of the duo in Storybrooke, but sadly it didn’t happen.
Once: Wonderland also has some of the healthiest friendships. I miss that in the main show. Since Ruby vanished, we lost that interaction with her and David. Snow never hangs out with the dwarves anymore. Regina doesn’t see Archie who was Henry’s first father figure and influential in her getting a son. Now, everyone is pared off with their Boos sexing it up forgetting that opposite genders can be best friend’s without wanting a good shag. Where are those guy-girl friendships anymore? Where are any friendships in Once Upon A Time outside of Emma and Regina?
This is where Wonderland blows Once out of the water. Cyrus and Anastasia end up forming an alliance to help find their true loves. In the end, Cyrus is the one who convinces everyone to trust Anastasia and saw the good in her. It’s Will and Alice that steals all the friendship cake. It’s clear these two love each other. Will isn’t helping Alice because he owes her. He’s there because he loves Alice. She’s his best friend. It’s even better, because they never once try to get in each the other person’s pants.
Shows with guy-girl friendships that aren’t romances have been incredibly successful in the recent past. Look at Sleepy Hollow, Elementary, and Doctor Who (minus Rose). Once Upon A Time left all this behind the moment they went to Neverland. Will and Alice have the best friendship in the either show. Both call each other out on their bullshit. There’s a moment in the second half where Alice is obsessing over Cyrus and wants to leave Anastasia behind. Will flat out tells her that this story isn’t all about her. She needs to stop being selfish and look at the bigger picture. Right there, Alice shifts to a team format so the group can stop Jafar together.
Earlier in the season, Will threatens her father (not knowing it was Jafar) saying that if Daddy hurts Alice, Will will make him regret ever setting foot in Wonderland. These two are fiercely protective of each other. In a selfless moment during the midseason finale where they’re both dying, Will chooses to end Alice’s suffering over his own. His life was nothing compared to her’s in his mind. It makes it all the more painful when Genie Will must betray Alice to save Anastasia’s life. This show would not be anything without the power of Will and Alice’s friendship. Mr. Socha and Miss Sophie Lowe’s have phenomenal chemistry together. They make the entire series.
The final perfect piece in Wonderland is the supporting cast. Every person makes their mark in one way or another. You know how fans want more people of color in Once Upon A Time? In Wonderland, there’s Amara as a deadly force, Cyrus’ two brothers, Jafar, the Sultan, and Mrs. Rabbit voiced by Whoopi Goldberg who tells her husband to stop being a coward and fight with the good guys. Each get ample amounts of screen time through the show and help the heroes on their quests to defeat the villains. You also have Lizard who is one of the greatest tragedies of the series. Unlike normal love triangles, she accepts Will’s love for Anastasia. I think if she wouldn’t have died so fast, she would be the couple’s number one cheerleader. The Sultan was a huge surprise. He seemed like a jolly old prisoner in Jafar’s castle who would aide Cyrus. Turns out, he was the ruthless father to Jafar who tried to murder him as a boy. When he died, I wasn’t sure to be happy or sad, because the Sultan was never a good guy. It was one of the biggest twists in the series. Finally, you have the Tweedles. I love the Tweedles. You have a set of brothers who choose sides against each other. Tweedledee stands with Jafar to meet his demise. But oh gosh, does Tweedledum make a huge impact. He never stopped being loyal to Anastasia even when everyone else turned against her. He was always her truest friend. He never gets enough love from the fans. Without him, Anastasia might not have made it the entire way through.
With a perfect finale that tied up all the stories, Once Upon A Time in Wonderland ended up being the better of the two shows. Season four of the main series didn’t come close to the stellar second half of Wonderland no matter how much I loved the Queens of Darkness. It’s a constant reminder of what season four could have been if the writers had implemented some of the same devices into Once. Instead, we got a crap Frozen arc and a rushed second half that left a weak performance on all parts. It’s sad that Wonderland isn’t on DVD. I want to see deleted scenes, a gag reel, and behind the scenes featurettes. I never bought season three of Once, because I disliked Oz and wanted to save my money for Wonderland. The tough debate now is whether or not I can buy half of season four. I do not want to pay for the Frozen arc, but I loved the Queens. Can I only get half of the DVDs please?
Will Scarlet saved the Frozen arc for me
Oh boy, here we go.
As much as I’m bashing the Frozen arc, I actually went into it with a very open mind. When they revealed Elsa in the season three finale, I was automatically on the fence. I like the movie Frozen, but I wasn’t sure what to make of this reveal. I decided I wanted to wait until I had more information to make a logical assumption. Comic Con last summer helped a lot. I liked the sneak peeks we saw, but I still wasn’t sure of some of the stories they said they would focus on.
Then, it was announced that Mr. Socha was joining season four as a series regular. I knew then that even if I hated the Frozen stuff, I was assured it would be carried by Will Scarlet. He’d make everything alright. Mr. Socha saved Wonderland. What was stopping him from saving the main show as well? Will Scarlet was the only real plot I looked forward to going into season four.
Turns out, there were a lot of writing factors going against him.
I watched every episode of season 4A with an open mind, but it was all a dumbed down version of the show I once loved. You could tell Disney got their grimy fingers mixed into the writing. I mean come on! There was a walking broom who had no real reason for being there other than the fact it was from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice! Seriously, no one in town thought to go, “Hey, why are Hook and Gold following a walking broom? I guess it’s a normal Tuesday in Storybrooke!” The entire season was one “Let It Go” musical number from being able to tour in Disney on Ice. Where are the smart people in this show anymore? If this were season one or two, Ruby or Archie would rush to the Charming Family to warn them about a weird ass broom makin’ it’s way downtown, faces pass, and it’s home bound.
The sad thing is that Will Scarlet was far stronger in 4A than he was in the Queens of Darkness arc, because they gave him more to work with. He’s mysteriously digging for something that was never explained and duped Snow. He showed clear turmoil over the Alice in Wonderland book from the library for unknown reasons. He also appeared by accident in the middle of many Captain Swan scenes which is a shame. I wish Will and Killian met on different circumstances. They’re such similar character types that they would have been amazing friends. Then moving into 4B when Killian is still holding a grudge, it just made the pirate look incredibly childish when it was Killian’s fault to begin with. Way to destroy two characters in one go, Once.
Will and Robin Hood made up far too quickly as well (see the troubles of a half season format above). In Wonderland, Will had not only tricked the Merry Men to steal a looking glass from Maleficent’s castle, but he could have gotten the entire group killed in the process. Robin had no problems casting Will out of the Merry Men. Yet in 4A, it took one sad conversation over Popsicle Marian for them to be friends again. Um, if someone left me to die, I would not forgive them that fast. Sean Maguire did say in an interview they “may be dealing with those issues down the line.” The two key words here are “may be” meaning, no, they will completely overlook it for lack of time. Damn you, half season format!
“How to Lie to fans” a narrative by Adam and Eddy
This was so disappointing to me, because we were told by the writers we would get Will Scarlet stories like what happened to Anastasia and why Will was in Storybrooke. Last we saw in Wonderland, he was the White King ruling the world with his love. Now he’s homeless in Storybrooke with no explanation?
This is just like what they did to Meghan Ory when they brought her on as a series regular in season two only to drop the character completely.
I’m pretty tired of getting promises from these guys only for them to play with new toys. It’s jerking the fans around making them lose faith in the show. A Couplet Short from tumblr summed it up best when speaking about Archie in season four, but it applies to all the broken promises when they said, “I just wish A&E would keep their stupid mouths shut instead of teasing with stuff they have no intention of giving us. The false hope, the dashed hope is much more painful than the dull resignation that Archie won’t return in the capacity I wish he would.”
What’s worse was during the mid-season hiatus, we got EVEN MORE promises for the return of Will Scarlet in the second half! I decided to let it be seeing a ton of opportunity for Will to return. I mean he had a run in with Maleficent who was coming back to the show. Surely they would have a story together, right? That makes sense to me.
No, of course not. Focusing on interesting characters is far too hard now for these guys. Look at Cruella’s corpse for proof of that!
There was one thing that peeked both my interest and confusion for season 4B which was the spoiler that Will and Belle would date. Despite still wondering where the hell Anastasia was, this meant that Mr. Socha would finally be folded into the main cast being paired with another series regular. He would probably have his own episode, right? Don’t all the main cast members get one episode about them in a season? Also, I could see the logic in putting Will and Belle together. Here you have two single people who had recently been hurt by love. Belle needed someone who was down to Earth and smart like Will. She had only been in a relationship with a lying Dark One who kept her unconscious for much of the season. She needed a realistic lover who would treat her like a person and not a possession to be won. I already established above why Will Scarlet is the best boyfriend on the show. There was no doubt in my mind he would help Belle grow as a person and learn to move into a new phase in her life. It would have been amazing material for both Mr. Socha and Miss de Ravin to play! I prayed so hard to the television Gods that we would see Will make Belle laugh more times than Rumpel made her cry.
Pardon me as I go scream in pain and frustration into the oblivion of what was never meant to be.
Two things happened to Will Scarlet in season 4B:
1. They completely stopped using him altogether.
2. What he got was shit writing that Mr. Socha still managed to pull off, because he’s a fan-fucking-tastic actor.
Once again, I blame the half season format. If this had been season one or two, it would have been a completely different turnout.
The end of Will Scarlet
So what did actually happen during the Queens of Darkness arc?
We didn’t get any interaction between Maleficent and Will other than one glance before he jumped out her window. He stole from her A SECOND TIME! We see that she holds grudges. Why not go after him!? Will and Maleficent should of had SOMETHING more than this one tiny interaction.
“Heart of Gold” was Will’s best episode in the second half, but even then, it raised some odd questions. For one, I knew when non-regular at the time Sean Maguire got a featured episode and Mr. Socha didn’t, the writers were already building a Will Scarlet sized coffin for the characters. Mr. Socha delivered with an A+ performance with what was given to him. We have the resurgence of his little sister who was mentioned in Wonderland. We find out how Robin and Will met. It looked like things would turn around for my character.
There was one huge plot confusion for me in this. When Robin arrives in Oz, Will is already there. To our knowledge, Will has no ability to world hop without a magical item. Does that mean Will is actually from Oz? Is that his home world? If so, then how did he get to the Enchanted Forest to meet Anastasia? If not, how did he get to Oz in this episode? Was he friends with Jefferson maybe? Does Will know of Zelena from Oz? Or Walsh the (should have been Whale) Wizard? In that one moment, so many questions popped up. The worst thing is we’ll never have the answer to them. This is Once Upon A Time we’re talking about! If it’s about a minor character which Will Scarlet is now, we’ll never learn the truth.
Man, Once seriously needs a monthly comic with Marvel. I’d read it.
Now to the Scarlet Beauty relationship. I think cutting out my own uterus and selling it on the Black Market as I bled out would be less painful than watching two fantastic characters get utterly destroyed. Just like Outlaw Queen, we were told that Belle and Will were a couple, but we never saw it happen. Show your audience what happens instead of telling us! OH MY GOD! I learned that in high school writing class! Certainly professionally paid writers could do that! What should of happened is in place of some of the Frozen arc, there should have been more cute stories of Will and Belle chatting, forming a friendship, and giving each other advice on love. It’s in the realm of Will’s character to tell Belle to stand up to Rumpel. That would have been a clear progression to her kicking Rumps out of Storybrooke at the end of 4A.
I’ve been writing this blog for a week now, and I still don’t know even where to begin on the Scarlet Beauty ship. It’s just awful. It really could have been great. There were definitely fans out there in support of Scarlet Beauty. The worst part is we never even see Belle and Will have a conversation. Their one date is crashed by Rumps-A-Hook. How is the audience even supposed to root for this couple if they were never even given a chance? Eddy even went onto say that Will was only ever a rebound for Belle.
So let me get this straight? You took one of the best characters with the most realistic views of love to use as a rebound plot device to get an already borderline abusive relationship back together? Is that really what you want your audience to support? I don’t mind Belle being uncertain about dating Will. That’s actually quite a natural thing coming out of a rocky marriage. We never had the episode support to see her progression to reach this point. Everything was so sudden and we were never told why or how it worked out that way. What’s worse, it left Will in limbo post-Anastasia to be alone. Does anyone ever stop to ask how he might feel about this? Finally, you would think Will would have recognized his girlfriend didn’t have her heart. He lived YEARS without a heart. You would think he would be able to see a difference in her. Or at least go off at Regina for taking it in the first place! Will also dropped everything to save Belle’s heart. He does that for people he cares about. Rumpel didn’t need to threaten him. Will would have done it anyway just like he risked everything to help Alice. He also had the decency to look away while Rumpel and Belle had an intimate moment together. He’s an incredible man who didn’t deserve this treatment. At least Belle and Will had one more thing in common. In the finale, he was Roland’s babysitter for Robin.
Belle and Will Scarlet could start a nanny service for the forgotten children of Storybrooke. Granny can work there too.
We finally move into the finale mini movie “Operation Mongoose.” Like I mentioned above, I really did enjoy this finale minus the last anti-climatic and predictable fifteen minutes. I searched and searched every scene desperately looking for Will. I wanted to see what kind of character he would be in this alternate timeline. Would he be the opposite of his anti-hero self and be a golden boy like Cyrus? Or since this was Rumpel’s world, would Will be the villain of the tale that tried to kidnap Belle from hero Rumps? It was then my worst fear came true. Will was only in one brief scene in the finale during Robin’s wedding. He didn’t even speak. It was that moment I knew it was the end of Will Scarlet. The writers didn’t give two flying fucks about him. They were way more invested in their soap opera tale of baby mama Zelena, Dark One Emma, and sticking Belle back into a horrible situation with Rumpel. It was the final nail in Will Scarlet’s coffin.
I cried. I’m not even kidding. I cried. This wasn’t my show anymore. This isn’t what I watched Once for. As someone who went through three abusive relationships, I didn’t want to root for Rumbelle like I used to. I felt for Robin who had been raped by Zelena, because I had been there myself. I stopped supporting the Charmings who once embodied true love. All they do now is lie to their daughter and push her towards the dark side. Season one Snow would have talked to Emma a long time ago about the entire situation.
They always say this show is about hope, and Will Scarlet gave me hope. He showed me you could be a flawed and broken person and still find love. He showed me that you could fuck up and still have friends. You can yell at people who you love and still be forgiven. Will Scarlet showed me how to be a whole and complete human being again in the wake of my own personal troubles. I learned to pick myself up again, because Mr. Socha is a fantastic human being and gave life to a phenomenal character.
I don’t know if I can bring myself to support Once Upon A Time without Will Scarlet. I’m not excited for season five. The only story I was looking forward to was Will’s tale. Maybe if they bring back Sinqua Walls as Lancelot, I’ll be on board. Though, that was another broken promise back in season three so I doubt it.
I should be more honest with myself. I’ll watch Once Upon A Time probably until it ends. More than likely though, I’ll be hate watching it.
This isn’t my show anymore.
Onto season five!
Mr. Socha isn’t a regular, but have no fear dear fans! You’ll get the same boring Charming story arcs from season one. They’ll revisit Evil Queen Regina again to show no character development! You get baby mama Zelena to get those amazing soap opera moments. You’ll have Stockholm Syndrome Belle with grade A+ abuse from Rumpel. As well as the same wishy washy Emma flip flopping from a forward moving character to a brat teenager. Pretty Killian will chew the scenery since they won’t give him interesting stories (his father is Davey Jones, right? Anyone else think this? Oh well! They won’t address that!). The season will be complete when Magical Item #12 saves the day and not explaining why. Oh, and those favorite characters like Ruby, Whale, Archie, Leroy, Granny, and now Will Scarlet? Don’t even ask. You might as well pretend they’re dead. They will probably have cardboard cutouts of the characters in the background instead of leaving in these interesting people.
SOUNDS LIKE AN AWESOME SEASON!
This anonymous post to Confess Upon A Time from tumblr sums up my final feelings perfectly: