What a wasted opportunity Sunday’s episode was.
When it was announced that the second half of this season would focus on the Underworld and Hades, I was stoked. Because I love Hercules.
Yes, in the great pantheon of Disney animated features, it doesn’t quite live up to the best. The music is all over the place and anticlimactically arranged. The only things they’ve actually taken from Greek mythology are names. Everything else is Disney mythology. But it’s filled with great moments. Hades is a brilliant villain, fast-talking, witty, and smarmy, like the older guy at the bar who keeps trying to impress you with his fancy suit and high-paying job, only to blow up when you dismiss his advances.
Hercules, in the movie, is a bit of a rube. Super naive and singularly focused, he’s not the strongest of male leads. But don’t worry – Meg makes up for it. Voiced by Susan Egan, Megara is the queen of sass, accenting her quips with a hair flip or hip sway. I love her. In the grand scheme of female leads, Belle is my hero, but Meg is me.
Meg is not an official Disney princess. But that’s part of what makes her so great. She’s a complex female with a past. She’s made mistakes. Unlike most Princesses, she’s not the result of her upbringing – overprotective parents, royalty strains, or feeling like she doesn’t belong. We don’t know anything about Meg’s family. She’s like the princess after the first movie, when it didn’t work out. We only know she made a mistake – she saved her boyfriend’s (Boyfriend?! Disney princesses do NOT have boyfriends.) life by offering her own, and then he ditched her, leaving Meg to serve out her sentence to Hades. A fact that Hades brings up for exposition’s sake, but it doesn’t feel out of character for him. Like he enjoys twisting the knife.
Film Meg doesn’t take kindly to being rescued. She fights her own battles. She plays Herc for the innocent chump that he is. She can’t believe she finds herself falling for him. She ultimately sacrifices herself to save him — the 2nd time she’s done so for love. It’s true that in the end, Herc had to save her… but she was kinda dead, so there wasn’t much she could do there. She had given everything she could. Not only did Herc bring her back from the dead, but he gave up his immortality for her.
Anyway, Once Upon a Time, a series I truly enjoy, completely sputtered when it came to representing Meg. What’s worse is that this could have been a prime theme for the entire episode – women who kick ass.
The main story here revolved around Mary Margaret and how the young Snow White became the kick ass Snow White we all know and love. It was Herc. They were teenage crushes, and Herc taught young Snow all she needed to know about being a leader and shooting an arrow. In current time, Mary Margaret is having a personal crisis, coming to terms with the fact that she’s become pretty wussy since living in Storybrooke. I like that the show has decided to confront one of the main complaints about Ginnifer Goodwin’s character — the Snow White flashbacks are always amazing. (One of her best episodes is when she meets Red Riding Hood.) But how is that person the same wispy, hope-spouting maternal soul we see in Maine?
Maybe now, the real Snow will stand up. Regardless, it was a good story about a strong female character finding her strength and acknowledging she may have lost it. It was also great to see Regina be the one to give MM a pep talk, when it could have just as easily been Charming.
Also in the strong women department, we come across the lovely Cruella De Vil, who manipulates Henry into helping her come back to life. I adore Once’s take on Cruella, a boozy socialite who was just born bad, and Victoria Smurfit does a great job. While the overall plot of the quill being a living thing seems a little too convenient, I appreciated that Cruella was wise enough to use the idea of restoring Emma’s purity to convince Henry of her plan.
So how, with all this great female interaction, how could they allow Megara to be a sad, scared little girl, who would rather stay in her cell than face Cerberus?? Even if, even if she didn’t want to leave her cell, at least make her brazen about it. Not all whimpery.
I was really hoping at the end, when Herc gave Meg his dagger to help kill the Hound of Hades, that she would turn on them, that she had been playing them the whole time, an aide to Hades, with Cerberus under her command. But sadly, that was not the case. No, instead, Meg helped defeat Cerberus, was revealed to be the girl Herc died trying to save, and together they walked hand in hand to Olympus or heaven or wherever that bridge leads.
From what I can find, it seems as though that was their only appearance. And if that’s the case, then WTF. Seriously. Maybe they’ll come back. Maybe Meg’s character will come into play later on down the road. Maybe?
Once Upon a Time likes to take elements of the Disney films we all know so well and spin them. Rarely are any of the characters identical to their Disney origins (except for Frozen, but of course), making Pan evil and Hook a good guy, making Belle’s father a bully, etc. And that’s fine. But why make a strong female character decidedly weak? Meg’s oft-quoted anti-princess mantra is “I’m a damsel. I’m in distress. I can handle this.”
So, Once staff, what’s the deal? Will Meg be brought back and redeemed? Or did you just waste one of the strongest female characters in the Disney canon?