Cavendish and I now have progressed up to episode 1.20 “The Stranger”, which shines a light on Pinocchio/August’s backstory, all the dark, winding path, right to the point when adult August is leading an increasingly distressed Emma to the very tree portal through which both of them had originally arrived in the Land without Magic.
What sprang to my mind while rewatching, well, apart from “Wow, this really features Shady Blue at her shadiest! Attempting to change the deal she has made with Geppetto, and when that fails, outright lying to pregnant Snow and Charming… Boo!”:
The portrayals of the child Pinocchio and the man he has turned into seem far more ambivalent in “The Stranger” than in some of the later episodes, where the character is more often than not pushed into the role of a pathetic coward. Of course, adult August’s method of trying to force Emma into believing is questionable. Of course his motivation appears selfish in nature, at least to a certain degree.Thanks to nuanced writing and acting it is impossible to tell how much August’s actions are based on heartfelt guilt and remorse, and how much on hoping to escape his impending fate of turning back into wood.
However it is easy to sympathise with him and to understand how little chance he actually had to turn out any different. After all, he’s a frightened to death kid, who was pushed into a guardian role for which he was far too young, and thus, could not possibly fulfil. Geppetto, what on Earth were you thinking, placing the incredible responsibility of watching out for the newly born Emma on your seven-year-old’s shoulders? No wonder your son ends up running away and staying continuously on the run for the next twenty-eight years.
In addition to liking these nuances of not black and white but shady-bluey grey, I’m also impressed by how effortlessly the writers (in this case Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss) touch upon both the original Collodi novel as well as the Disney version in the most ironical yet also most sense-making way possible:
August: I am not screwing around here. Whatever you believe, or don’t, this is real, Emma. I am sick.
Emma: That’s an understatement.
August: You ever been to Phuket? It’s beautiful. Amazing island, full of pleasures. The perfect place to lose oneself. That’s where I was when you decided to stay in Storybrooke.
Emma: How do you know when I decided to stay in Storybrooke?
August: Because at eight fifteen in the morning, I woke up with a shooting pain in my leg. That’s eight fifteen at night in Storybrooke. Sound familiar? That’s when time there started to move forward again. I was supposed to be there for you. And I wasn’t. Because I was halfway around the world, I got a painful reminder of just how far I’d strayed. If that tree won’t make you believe, maybe this will.
So it’s Pleasure Island all over again.