ONCE UPON A TIME didn’t quite live up to the previous season this year. The first half with Elsa of Disney’s Frozen wasn’t bad per se as she and Emma explore their strangely linked past, but I could have done without all the flashbacks to Arundel (I’m fairly sure most of that amounts to a trailer for Frozen 2). The second half picked up as Gould joins forces with Cruella deVil, Ursula and Maleficent to warp reality so that the bad guys can win a happy ending. However that does squeeze most of the supporting cast in Storybrooke out of the picture so we can focus on the guest stars. As for the ending …. I’ll see what they do with it next year.
VAMPIRE DIARIES opens with Damon and Bonnie trapped in a pocket universe after the outcome of the previous season. Here they might Kai, a homicidal occultist who can suck power out from others only to be trapped in the pocket world by his own coven. Can the good guys escape without him? And what’s happening back in Mystic Falls all this time? The ending was a bit weak—as they point out, Elena’s hardly going to stay dead long—but it looks like we’re heading into a weird alternate future next season (I’m guessing we end up with someone traveling back in time to wipe it all out, but we’ll see).
That shows spinoff, THE ORIGINALS, functions mostly as a “talking lamp” (in the words of my friend Ross) for me—I don’t have to pay that much attention to it to follow along. Endless power struggles both in New Orleans and within the Michaelson family shift who’s currently dominant but never seem to change much. However I must admit the ending was surprisingly upbeat, presumably because they worried they wouldn’t get renewed.
ARROW was a much stronger season, as we introduce Ray Palmer as the new hero (and romantic rivalry) in Starling City, Malcolm Merlyn manipulates Ollie into taking on the League of Assassins, Thea learns archery and Laurel tries stepping into her sister’s fishnets as the new Black Canary (Canary I will be showing up in some form in a new series this fall). Good fun, and several crossovers with Flash, though it says something the season climax is so standard even the characters joke about it (“Let me guess, the city’s going to be destroyed? Of course it is, it’s May!”).
I have some of the same problem with AGENTS OF SHIELD that I did with Once Upon a Time—the season seems very much a build-up to Disney’s attempt to make the Inhumans into the X-Men. As Sony shows no signs of letting the mutant franchise get away, Disney has established in the MCU that thousands of people have inherited genes from the reclusive Inhumans and begin to acquire super-powers from the mutagenic terragen crystals. And of course will be Hated and Feared by the World That DIstrusts Them … So the first half of the season is primarily Coulson’s team trying to operate in the fallout to SHIELD from Captain America: Winter Soldier while investigating an Inhuman artificat, then dealing with Skye (an Inhuman by birth) acquiring super-powers and meeting her hidden people (they also work the chaos from Avengers II into the mix). Entertaining, but definitely not their best work.