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Kristen McHugh is a poet, blogger, and former music major who discovered the joys of geekdom at the age of 4, and never looked back.
Kristen frequently describes her brain as, "The Carnival of The Random," because she's likely to be occupied with at least one and more likely - all three of her Holy Trinity: pop culture, politics, and science. Art, music, (from the baroque to pop,) literature, theoretical physics, and nearly anything Anglophile-related will likely draw an exclamation of, "SHINY!" Kristen's favorite instrument is the cello, and her day job is using her powers for good in the non-profit sector.

Posts by kristenmchugh22

Review Once Upon A Time 1×8 Desperate Souls

Warning: Spoilers

Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) in Desperate Souls (Courtesy of



As the saying goes, “Every villain is the hero of their own story.” In the case of Once Upon A Time’s Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, (Robert Carlyle) revealing the origins of his villainy may not have been such a good idea.

Desperate Souls is, in itself, a solid episode. Carlyle turns in a performance that is both sympathetic and repulsive, as the story requires. It simply doesn’t feel like a necessary episode. It’s all well and good that Emma Swann (Jennifer Morrison) has to seek support from the sinister Mr. Gold when Regina Mills decides to replace her as acting sheriff, but this is obviously a VERY BAD THING and it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. The story in Fairy Tale land is certainly more compelling than anything that’s happening in Storybrooke, but where it should illuminate, it undermines instead.

Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and ensemble (Courtesy of

Rumplestiltskin is a character that works best when we don’t know his motives, and revealing that he started out as a cowardly, cringing figure doesn’t make him more sympathetic to the audience so much as it weakens the sense of menace he projects.

Writer Jane Espenson is in good form, but aside from reinforcing Emma’s role as burgeoning hero and giving Brad Dourif a few scenes in which he steals the show, the episode is a bit hollow.

Coming off of winter/holiday hiatus, it’s time for Once Upon A Time to start moving the plot forward. Is this a series that is simply retelling fairy tales from a different perspective, or is there a point to gathering all of these characters in one place?

News: Damon Lindelof confirms Benedict Cumberbatch cast in Star Trek sequel

Benedict Cumberbatch as spy Peter Guillam

Coming hard on the heels of Variety’s reporting that Doctor Who alumni, actor/writer/director Noel Clarke has been cast in an undisclosed role, Star Trek and Lost Producer Damon Lindelof followed up on this cryptic tweet by retweeting Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood article stating that Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch has joined the cast. Cumberbatch is well known in the US for his role in the modernization of Sherlock Holmes broadcast by BBC One in the UK and Masterpiece PBS Mystery in the US. With recent roles in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar contender War Horse and indie spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as well as his upcoming role as Smaug with Sherlock co-star Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, Cumberbatch has had a full year. The actor, garnering acclaim onstage in a revival of Terrance Rattigan’s After the Dance and Danny Boyle’s sold-out production of Frankenstein seems poised to reach for the stars in every medium.

NT Live Frankenstein Trailer with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller

Review: Grimm 1×7: Let Your Hair Down

Warning: Spoilers

Is Grimm evolving? The last few episodes have shown that Portland’s resident Grimm (David Giuntoli) can be a protector as much as he can fill the role of slayer. The parallels between Grimm and the Whedon-verse, have never been more evident than in Let Your Hair Down.

Rather than simply laying down the law and dishing out justice, Nick Burkhardt is beginning to resemble Buffy spin-off Angel in a mission to, “Help the helpless”.

Opening with campers taken by a paranoid pot-grower, Let Your Hair Down is a sideways view of the classic fairytale Rapunzel. Let’s just say that you don’t want to mess with someone with waist-length hair, it might not be good for your health.

Shades of Deliverance crop up, but when a strand of hair matches a missing-child case Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) once worked on, the story takes a turn.

There’s a little bit of a, “Kitchen-sink,” feel to the plot, but it does something that the majority of Grimm’s episodes have failed to do: present all the characters as a team, rather than separate aspects of Nick’s life. Hank is invested in the case for his own reasons, and they’re just as important as the supernatural aspects that Nick and Monroe  are invested in.

Monroe is Grimm’s breakout character, representing the duality of the mundane and supernatural in Nick’s life, often reminding Nick that he’s not always going to be able to help because he’s rejected the traditional Blutbad lifestyle. Injecting the show with both humor and heart, Silas Weir Mitchell shines in this episode as he tries to help a girl who is both in danger and dangerous in her own right.

As a procedural, we expect to see the loose ends neatly sewn up by the end of the episode. On Grimm, it’s nice to see that can mean a happy ending. . . sometimes.

News: Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill leaving Doctor Who?

Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill in “The Girl Who Waited” (courtesy of

BBC News journalist Lizo Mzimba tweeted the news from the screening of the upcoming Christmas Special “The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe.” Swiftly posted to the Doctor Who official tumblr page and confirmed on the BBC entertainment news blog. Steven Moffat has announced that Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill (Amy Pond and Rory Williams) will be leaving. Moffat said, “The final days of the Ponds are coming.” 

While it’s been considered a strong possibility that Gillan, (soon to be seen as model Jean Shrimpton in “We’ll Take Manhattan”) and Darvill, (with a successful run as Mephistopheles in the Globe Theatre’s production of “Doctor Faustus”) would leave Doctor Who after the seventh series, this announcement raises some questions.

Arthur Darvill in “Doctor Faustus” trailer (courtesy of

Although the BBC has confirmed the story, Moffat is well known for teasing fans via twitter and at the screening for “Let’s Kill Hitler” Moffat actively encouraged the audience to circulate fake spoilers on social media sites, to confound anyone who might be angling for a bit of attention. Could this all be an elaborate ruse?

It’s unlikely that this is a prank on an epic scale. Given executive producer/head writer Steven Moffat’s occasionally fractious relationship with those who leak spoilers and how much the energy and heart that Karen and Arthur have brought to their roles, fans can be forgiven for a little bit of wishful thinking.







Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan) Still from Once Upon A Time

Review – Once Upon A Time 1×7: The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter


Warning: Spoilers


Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan) Still from Once Upon A Time

Jamie Dornan in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (courtesy of

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, like That Still Small Voice and The Shepherd turns the audience’s eye to the men of Storybrooke. While Once Upon A Time is a show that plays out sometimes riveting, sometimes unbearably soapy dynamics with its female leads, the last three episodes have brought some balance into the narrative.


Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan) is struggling with his attraction to Emma and bound to Regina but he doesn’t know why. Plagued by memories of a life not his own, Sheriff Graham needs answers.


Henry has answers, from his book of fairytales. Sheriff Graham is the Hunstman, raised by wolves, whom the Evil Queen hired to bring her Snow White’s heart.


The fairytale backstory, as in previous episodes, feels infinitely more vital than the events unfolding in Storybrooke. Storybrooke is The Evil Queen/Regina’s playground, a Stepford-ish version of reality where she can reign with casual manipulation and an underlying fear the residents can’t quite place. Henry and Emma have upset the poisoned apple-cart, and as her machinations are thwarted again, Regina’s cruelty bleeds through the smooth facade she wears.


Jamie Dornan, finally getting to be more than background eye candy, delivers a performance that gets under the skin with its swings between the Huntsman’s primal sense of honor, and Sheriff Graham’s desperation as he senses a wrongness that he can’t ignore. It may be the most emotionally-charged performance in the series so far, which makes the episode’s denouement even more tragic.


Jamie Dornan (Sheriff Graham) and a familiar wolf (still from Once Upon A Time courtesy of

For the Evil Queen did pluck out the Huntsman’s heart when he betrayed her, and swear that he would serve her faithfully. If he ever betrayed her again, she would stop the heart she’d torn out.


Parilla has been consistently compelling as the Evil Queen, and is no less so here. While Regina often devolves into a purely bitchy caricature, The Evil Queen keeps the audience asking,”Why?” Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough development in even a nominal attraction between Graham and Emma, to make the romantic aspect of the episode work. Dornan’s scenes with Ginnifer Goodwin have more chemistry than those with Morrison. Emma has yet to be developed beyond her relationship with Henry and conflict with Regina, which makes it hard to care about her. Attitude without depth and a red leather jacket are not enough.


Once Upon A Time has started to inject some personality in twisting the familiar stories ever so slightly and revealing the humanity and inhumanity of the residents of Storybrooke. It’s a pity that most of that personality isn’t being used in developing the female leads the way the last three episodes have developed the male leads.

Review: Grimm 1×5 Danse Macabre & 1×6 Three Little Pigs

After a brief hiatus, NBC’s Grimm has returned with the particularly gruesome and therefore aptly named Danse Macabre and followed it up with Three Little Pigs. The episodes illustrate a bit more complexity of characterization in the supernatural species (Reiningen and Bauerschwein, respectively) but still fall flat.

Given Nick Burkhardt’s dual roles as cop and Grimm, I can accept that police procedure will be hand waved. What has become unacceptable is the gaping hole in the narrative of exactly why the Grimms are Grimms, and Nick himself appearing to be a completely neutral human being. Giuntoli invests the character with an earnest sense of justice, but there isn’t a sense of purpose or passion in Nick. The blandness of the character serves to highlight that every other character is either, more mysterious, more interesting, or more charismatic than the title character.



DJ Retched Kat

Riffing on The Pied Piper of HamelinDanse Macabre makes the piper a rat-like species, the Reiningen, while rats are still those lured by his music. In contrast with previous episodes where the villain is always supernatural, the episode subverts this and puts some striking visuals onscreen, yet never rises above a paint-by-numbers plot. Silas Weir Mitchell makes a scene in which Monroe attempts to give wrong-side-of-the-tracks musical prodigy and Reiningen, Roddy Geiger (Nick Thurston) a pep talk both touching and hilariously awkward. When a repairman who is also Reiningen flips out because he knows Nick is a Grimm, the scene is both funny and sets up the possibility of Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) noticing that there are a few too many strange things happening to Nick these days.



Mud Bath

Mud Bath

In Three Little Pigs we’re introduced to the Bauerschwein and, in another subversion, it’s not the pigs’ houses being blown down. Monroe gets a little more history. Including an ex, Angelina Lasser (Jaime Ray Newman) with a penchant for motorcycles and bunny blood, and continues to provide much of the emotional conflict of the series. Both episodes raise the question, “If even relatively harmless species fear the Grimms, then are they truly heroic?”





It’s an aspect that I’d like to see explored, the moral grey area. Is the hunter truly on the side of good, or like the Spanish Inquisition, have Grimms been the oppressor of those they view as evil without evidence? Thus far, there is far too much focus on the monster of the week and not enough context for the larger world in which the supernatural and mundane exist side by side. The procedural format may make it exceptionally easy to start watching Grimm at any point, but six episodes into the series; the show hasn’t developed the sense of its own world in a way that makes it easy to want to.


Review: Once Upon A Time 1×6 The Shepherd

James (Josh Dallas, still from Once Upon A Time courtesy of

Warning: Spoilers

Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg have followed Liz Tigelaar’s lead in showing us a Prince that’s not the same old Charming. The Shepherd is part Prince and the Pauper with a little hint of The Princess Bride, and it works thanks to Josh Dallas’s ability to go invest Charming (James)/David(John Doe) with an appealing sense of honor and a vulnerable strength.

There was an inkling that Charming wasn’t going to be a blithely macho doofus in the pilot: Kicking the EQ’s minions asses while holding a baby is pretty heroic, but this isn’t a hero without a cause and Dallas made it a believable sacrifice.

In Storybrooke, after waking up from a coma, David is struggling to fit back into a life that he doesn’t remember and doesn’t want. Wife Kathryn (Anastasia Griffiths) may or may not be colluding with Mayor Regina Mills (Lana Parilla) to keep David and Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) apart, but Regina is certainly determined that the erstwhile Snow and Charming will not find a Happily Ever After.

The fairytale realm, like the Jungian collective subconscious, is where all of the archetypes and motives behind the complex relationships of Storybrooke’s residents are rooted and revealed.

Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle, courtesy of

Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is a fixer. Any problem you have, he can solve: for a price. Usually one that is far, far too high, as in The Price of Gold. When the King (Alan Dale) needs a dragonslaying son to fulfill a deal with King Midas (Alex Zahara) and that son has been slain, Rumplestiltskin produces a twin. The Shepherd i.e., James, has no interest in being a prince, but will do anything to save his mother’s farm. Back in Storybrooke, David has chosen to leave Kathryn and pursue Mary Margaret. The conflict between duty and desire, honor and love, and the burden of choosing what we perceive as right over what we want, is deftly illustrated. Dallas lets the audience share James/David’s struggle even as we sympathize with the fact that in Storybrooke, his honor will cost Mary Margaret a short-lived hope of happiness.

Once Upon a Time has been getting stronger with each episode, and in The Shepherd we get the story behind the story behind Storybrooke’s resident Prince who isn’t so much Charming, as a decent man trying to do what’s right and fighting for true love.

Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge) and Regina Mills (Lana Parilla)

Review: Once Upon A Time 1×5: That Still Small Voice


Archie, Regina, Henry and Emma (Raphael Sbarge, Lana Parilla, Jared Gilmore, Jennifer Goodwin)

ABC's Once Upon A Time, "That Still Small Voice" (courtesy of

Warning: Spoilers

Jane Espenson knocks it out of the park with That Still Small Voice. Taking therapist Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge) and illuminating his backstory as Jiminy Cricket, not only does Espenson surprise the audience, but she puts an interesting spin on a story we all think we know.

Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) is deputized by Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan) and the ground trembles beneath Storybrooke. Meanwhile, Henry (Jared Gilmore) continues his attempts to convince Dr. Hopper (Sbarge) that he’s not a delusional patient and Dr. Hopper is Storybrooke’s conscience and it’s time he acted like it.

As Archie/Jiminy’s story is seen within the Enchanted Forest, complete with Fagin-like parents (Harry Groening and Carolyn Hennessy) and an eventual deal with Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) we get a completely new take on the classic Pinocchio, and it’s not what you think.

Archie: “I wish. I wish. I wish.” What he’s wishing for, and what the Blue Fairy (Keegan Connor Tracy) can grant, aren’t the same thing. It’s a lovely bit of melancholy realism, even within the fantasy framework of Once Upon A Time.

Meanwhile, Mary Margaret Blanchard (Ginnifer Goodwin) has an encounter with David/John Doe (Josh Dallas) that leaves her shaken and hopeful at the same time. Goodwin and Blanchard have some lovely moments that don’t detract from the main story, and set up future episodes without hitting the viewer over the head with the fact that they’re destined to be together because they’re Snow/Prince Charming.

Where The Price of Gold seemed to splinter the focus of the show by adding Cinderella/Ashley to the mix, That Still Small Voice begins to tie characters together, and like Snow Falls takes those characters in a different direction than the viewer expects. The quality of Once Upon a Time’s scripts has varied wildly in its first five episodes, but That Still Small Voice elevates the narrative and allows the audience to feel part of the journey these characters are taking to get back to their real selves, rather than merely being observers.

Henry (Jared Gilmore) may be the voice of reason and wisdom in a show where none of the people remember who they were or might be, but the way he’s so desperate for the people around him to know who they are, continues to be a catalyst. Here, the faith he puts in Dr. Hopper is revealed to be warrented, even if Dr. Hopper doesn’t initially have nearly enough faith in himself. That Still Small Voice, is as much Henry’s voice, as it is Jiminy’s.


Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge) and Regina Mills (Lana Parilla)

Raphael Sbarge and Lana Parilla (Once Upon A Time, courtesy of

Grimm Lonelyhearts Screencap2

Recap – Grimm 1×4: Lonelyhearts

Screencap from NBC's Grimm

Warning: Mild Spoilers

In its fourth episode “Lonelyhearts” written by Alan DiFiore and Dan E. Fesman, and directed by Michael Waxman, Grimm finally resolves the problem of how to be a dark fantasy/police procedural without sacrificing either genre.

Drawing from Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” we’re introduced to the Ziegevolk (Patrick Fischler,) typically a goatish lothario. This Ziegevolk is a little more sinister than your average player, to say the least.

In finally integrating Nick Burkhardt’s partner Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) into the investigation in a meaningful way, even without revealing Nick’s identity as a Grimm, the show stops feeling fragmented. As Nick (David Giuntoli) is supported by Hank and Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) in the hunt, the audience can see that Nick’s position as a police officer is a help more than a hindrance.

A woman running away from something unseen, obviously in the throes of drug-induced hallucinations, ends up dead. There are missing women in cages, and Nick’s powers let him know that something is very wrong in Portland. The trail leads to the Bramblehouse B&B, and yes: something is very wrong in Portland. There’s a stake-out and surveillance that offers some comic relief as even Eddie isn’t immune from the pull of the Ziegevolk’s pheromones. Most importantly, there is a very real sense of tension when Hank opens a significant door.

The subplot, of a Reaper (Henri Lubatti) seeking the Grimm, gives the audience a little taste of how the supernatural hierarchy works. Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz) is revealed not just as a player, but as someone with power and influence beyond what we’ve already seen. It’s a scene that also has a little bit of a shout-out to Lubatti and Roiz’s francophone Canadian roots, as well as Bluebeard being a French fairy tale. It’s a nice touch that gives the episode extra depth, much as the typically germanic names for the creatures are a callback to the Grimm brothers.

This is the first episode of Grimm that I haven’t felt crossed the line between using the fairy tale theme either too bluntly or obliquely, and where the in-universe mythology of the creatures didn’t feel like it was slapped together at the last minute to fit a particular fairy tale.

Cinderella's Glass Slipper

Review – Once Upon A Time 1×4: The Price of Gold

Cinderella's Glass Slipper

Cinderella's Glass Slipper (courtesy of

Warning: Spoilers

“The Price of Gold” does three things in the narrative arc of Once Upon a Time: Introduces another Princess, (Cinderella/Ashley, played by Jessy Schram) reinforces that Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) may be the real villain of the piece, and beats the motherhood-is-everything horse way past dead.


Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle, courtesy of

Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) doesn’t have, “Roots,” in Storybrooke, Maine. Regina Mills (Lana Parilla) likes to twit her about it. We get it, Regina is a witch in the most literal of senses.

We get the obligatory backstory of Cinderella, with a few minor tweaks and hear again about magic having a price. A price Rumplestiltskin exploits for his own ends in the Enchanted Forest just as his Storybrooke persona, Mr. Gold exploits the weaknesses, flaws and foibles of the townspeople for his own ends. Pregnant teenager Ashley, (nice change from naming the character Ella or Cindy) decides to fight back, much as Cinderella does. The consequences may be dreadful in both worlds.

Writer David H. Goodman seems intent upon expanding the world of the Enchanted Forest, but not in giving the audience motives for the echoed circumstances in the real world. Ashley’s desperation may make sense in the context of her life, but we don’t really get to see why. This serves to make Cinderella incredibly unsympathetic as Goodman relies on the audience expectation of the fairy tale, and it makes Ashley seem absurdly melodramatic.

With the root story of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) giving up Emma, Emma giving up Henry, (Jared Gilmore) and Regina trying to hang on to Henry for reasons of her own, adding a Cinderella/Ashley who’s been tricked into surrendering her firstborn is trope overload. Goodman could have made the deal with Rumplestiltskin/Gold about giving up Prince Thomas (Tim Philipps) or had this be an instance of sexual blackmail, but no: another baby.


Once Upon A Time is teeming with female characters at center stage, and it’s a well-made show with actors who have great chemistry and sink their teeth into their roles. So far, the men in the writers’ room don’t seem to have a grasp on the fact that if Jiminy Cricket can become therapist Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge) then Snow White, previously a BAMF outlaw, doesn’t have to be a primary school teacher. How much more interesting would it be to have Mary Margaret Blanchard as a town council-member in conflict with Mayor Mills? How much more intriguing would it be if Ashley and Ruby were in love with each other?

Once Upon A Time is an engaging fantasy show, but its primary failing is that it’s refusing to break the fairy tale mold and let its characters be original.

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