“We choose evil; but evil also ‘chooses’ us and exerts its terrible power over us.” ~ Miroslav Volf
Okay, so I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Once Upon a Time is a better show than Grimm. I’ve said that #OUAT has better acting, better storylines, better character development, and now I want to explore how it also has a better theology of evil.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, or have taken some kind of weird principled stand against watching #OUAT, here’s the skinny:
The evil queen, because she is angry at Snow White and Prince Charming’s happiness, enlists the help of Rumplestiltskin to put all of the Magic Kingdom under a curse. This curse transports all the citizens to the “real world” town of Storybrook. Here, they not only don’t know who they are, but their personalities are also altered so that they become weak, submissive, and easily manipulated by Regina, the evil queen – turned mayor.
Of course, through the season we get the back story and character development of many of the characters, including the evil queen and Rumple. And yet, while they both had tragic pasts – Regina with a manipulative mother who kills her lover, and Rumple who was the ‘coward of the county’ – there is still abundant evidence that they specifically chose to do what they do. They have chosen evil. They have chosen to put their pursuit of power above love, compassion and even family.
And that is what makes them truly evil. Even when they have the opportunity to make the choice, to choose sacrifice over power, they without hesitation choose the power. This is seen particularly in the season finale. Even though Rumple’s love, Belle has been found, and through the sacrifice of Henry and the love of his real mother, hers and everybody else’s memories restored, Rumple is not content to let things be. He uses the last of his “true love” potion to bring magic into the world. At first, it appears that he is using the potion to find what he had lost, namely is son, but quickly it becomes apparent that more important than his son, or Belle, is reclaiming the power of magic. Even Regina, who seems to cry over having Henry learn the truth about her (which he knew all along) is actually crying over her loss of control. And as the dark purple cloud of magic pours across the town, she smiles evilly. The magic is coming back and she will once again have the power to control and to manipulate.
So, the season ends, with the viewer asking questions and wanting more:
The fairy tale characters have their true identities back but they’re stuck in the real world, what is that going to mean?
Magic is entering the real world, how is that going to work? Is it going to affect all of the world or just Storybrook?
What do the evil queen and Rumple have up their sleeves?
Will there will a power struggle between them to control this brave new world that is a mix of reality and magic?
There are so many writings I go could to in exploring the theology of evil in #OUAT, but in the end, Mirsoslav Volf has the most poignant reflection on evil and it fits so well with the evil that is presented in the show.
It has been often pointed out that the power of evil rests on the power of ‘imperial speaking,’ the power by which evildoers seek to create an illusion that ‘all is well’ when in fact all is anything but well; and ruin is about to take place. But why do people believe the evildoers, we may wonder? …Because they have been blinded an ‘evil spirit?’ This is part of the answer. The other, more important part is that evil is capable not only of creating an illusion of wellbeing, but of shaping reality in such a way that the lie about ‘wellbeing’ appears as plain verity. Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, 89.
And as for #Grimm? Well, save for the last two episodes, it was not and should not be considered to be like anything from the Whedonverse (Sorry Rod. Oh wait, I’m not sorry because I’m right). Poor writing. Poor acting. Poor character development. Inconsistent presentation of what the ‘Wesen’ nature means (is it something like sin nature that must always be fought against and harnessed? Is it just the way it is, and should be embraced? Is it a source of power and strength? And should the new Grimm be actively fighting them, or are they just okay to be left alone? The show doesn’t ask or answer these questions well or consistently, rather it seems to be up to each individual episode). We’ll have to see how the second season shapes up, and if it can keep the suspense of the last two episodes. If it does, I’ll keep watching, if not, #Grimm will suffer the fate of so many vampires: staked through the heart by a butt-kicking female superhero, in this case, the entire female cast of #OUAT.