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January talking meme, Jan 5. From shadowkat67: Connor (angel the series) arc vs. Henry (ouat) arc.

My initial reaction to this topic was, "What do these characters have in common besides being the brats of their respective story universes? Not much!" But this turns out to be untrue.

As characters, both Connor and Henry are the children of the primary protagonist/hero of their respective shows (you can disagree with me that Emma is the primary protagonist/hero of OUAT, but there is a strong case to be made for this). Both were raised by their parent's enemies. And both are presented as relatively passive characters who are manipulated and that things happen to rather than characters who make choices and act on them.

Let's look at their respective arcs. Warning: as astrogirl2 would say, the deer got a bit teal here. Spoilers for all five seasons of Angel, and up to episode 3.11 of OUAT.

Connor's story arc is basically the shafted character of shaftedness, IMO. I believe when the character was originally conceptualized, Mutant Enemy (the writing team that brought us BtVS and Angel) had much different plans for Connor than what actually played out: the "big future" Sahjahn tells Angel about in the episode Forgiving:

Sahjhan: I hadda put your boy down. Pity, kid had a big future. I mean big. Well, we all gotta go sometime.
Certainly, they introduced Connor to be a beloved antagonist in Angel's life, someone who could bend him out of shape with love and pain. But there are a number of ways this could have gone that were different from what we actually saw.

Connor is born in a flurry of prophecies that promise Big Things to come for good or ill: the Tro-Clon (i.e., the Nyazian Prophecies). He is presented as someone who will be a central actor (as in, one who makes choices and acts upon them) in a cosmic confluence of events. As written, though, he pretty much becomes a puppet of other characters: Sahjhan, Holtz, Evil!Cordelia, Jasmine, and finally Angel himself.

The demon Sahjhan, fearing the prophecy that Connor will someday kill him, attempts to manipulate Angel's old enemy, Daniel Holtz, into killing pregnant Darla, then baby Connor. Holtz has his own agenda, though, and he kidnaps baby Connor and raises him in a hell dimension where Connor is twisted by a mix of love and Stockholm Syndrome into becoming his father's enemy.

The outcome of this could have been dealt with in some complexity in season 4, but it was not. Instead of writing an on-going relationship of ups and downs with Angel (like Dawn had with Buffy on BtVS), the events Connor found himself in in season 4 were plot-driven rather than character-driven. Rather than ask, "what would Connor do/what would Angel do" in their father/son relationship and let the characters lead the way, they wrote Connor to meet the needs of the season 4 arc.

Originally, Joss wanted to do a season where Cordelia was turned into the Big Bad ala Angel-in-season-2 of BtVS or Willow-in-season 6 of BtVS (seriously, dude, find a new theme). Then Charisma Carpenter got pregnant, and ME had to write the pregnancy into the story line. Connor went from an emotionally volatile character with a high-potential future to a whiny, nasty lap-dog. First as the father of Evil!Cordelia's child, then as her protector in her "Beast-Master" phase, then as Jasmine's protector.

Between the whole squick-inducing Connor-Cordelia business, and the whiney Oedipal jealousy that divided father and son, Connor got increasingly distasteful to viewers.

Now, in retrospect, you can go back and say that the whole "big destiny" thing the Nyazian prophecies promised for Connor was fulfilled by his becoming father/protector and finally murderer of Power that Be Jasmine, but as pointed out above, his being the father of Jasmine was not the original writing plan, nor was his killing Jasmine. ME intended to bring Cordelia out of her coma to kill Jasmine. Since Charisma Carpenter couldn't do the physical stuff, they had Vincent K do it.

ME basically wrote themselves into a corner with Connor. In order for him to realistically play the foil propping up Evil!Cordelia and Jasmine, they had to make the character increasingly tortured and crazed to the point where any storyline dealing with his recovery would have taken half a season to tell. So they could either kill him or write him out in some other way. They chose to go with the memory wipe, which at least kept him alive. To save his son, Angel arranges to have the boy's memories erased and replaced with happy memories of a childhood with normal parents, who he is then placed with as if he's always been there.

While this may seem like a loving act on the part of Angel, it also saves Angel the trouble of having to nurse his son back to mental health himself, leaving him free to go play the Big Champion-Man.

But, finally, in Season 5's Origin, Mutant Enemy allowed Connor to unambiguously fulfill one of the prophecies which was made concerning him, "The one sired by the vampire with a soul will grow to manhood and kill Sahjahn." Don't get me wrong. This pleased me a lot, as it brought Connor's story full circle in some ways, but I still see it as a writer's consolation prize to a shafted character.

As canon's original bitch, however, I am not one to write AUs where Connor gets a better story line. Instead, in one of the rare instances I actually felt compelled to commit fan fiction, I take the lemons we were given, and make lemonade

The Destroyer

in an attempt to give Connor a future befitting his introduction on AtS. Among other things, TD details what I think is a pretty compelling argument for canonical Connor being Angel's "Shanshu":


Or, if you prefer the case in meta: http://masqthephlsphr.livejournal.com/138973.html#cutid3.

It is more difficult to summarize Henry's arc, due to it being situated in an open canon. But recent Season 3 reveals indicate that Henry is a character whose life seems no less manipulated than Connor's.

Henry is initially presented as a doer, an actor in his own fate. He is the one that, it appears, gets the whole ball rolling in the first place. Unhappy with his adoptive mother, Regina, he seeks out his birth mother based on information he got from an adoption website, and brings Emma home to Storybrooke. He believes, based on a book given to him by his teacher Mary Margaret, that Emma is the child of Snow White and Prince Charming, and the prophesied Savior whose destiny it is to end a horrible curse that he, of all the people in Storybrooke, is in a unique position to know about and disdain.

However, much of this situation may have been hope-magic initiated by the Blue Fairy prior to the curse. From Going Home (3.11):

Blue Fairy: ...[T]he Queen's curse will transport us to a new land. We will lose our memories and become slaves to her darkest desires. So, we have to have faith your child will find a way to save us.
Snow White: If we don't know who we are and we can't tell her that she's the savior, how will she know what to do?
Blue Fairy: One day, when the time is right, our story will reveal itself to her.
Snow White: Story?
Blue Fairy: You have to trust me.
Snow White: O-our story? What does that mean?
Blue Fairy: You don't know yet. But I do know it will happen.
Snow White: Then how can you be so sure?
Blue Fairy: Because I have the one thing you now need more than ever. (Snow White gives her a questioning look.) Hope. Good luck, Snow. Have faith. (She flits out of the room.)
Snow White: (To Prince Charming) That's easy to say when you have magic wings and a wand.
When Henry is ten, the "story" in question finally appears:

Mary Margaret: You do belong here, Henry. You are loved. (Her expression perks up as she comes up with an idea.) I wanna show you something. (She reaches for something in her bag.) This morning, I was cleaning out my bedroom closet. Like I've done every week, thousands of times, and do you know what happened? I found something. Something I've never noticed before. (She pulls out a large book, entitled in golden letters as Once Upon a Time, and places it down in front of Henry.) It was just there. Like magic.
Henry: That's not possible.
Mary Margaret: Well, of course not.
(Henry begins opening the book.)
Mary Margaret: But it happened. This book somehow arrived. (Henry turns to a page with a drawing of an older man and young boy.) Was it given to me? Did I forget about it? I don't know, but there it was. And do you know what I saw when I looked inside? (Henry looks at her expectantly.) Hope.
Henry: (Glances down at the book) Looks like fairytales to me.
Mary Margaret: And what exactly do you think fairytales are? They are a reminder that our lives will get better if we just hold onto hope. Your happy ending may not be what you expect, but that is what will make it so special.
Henry: Can... can I borrow this?
Mary Margaret: You can have it.
Henry: (Smiles) Really?
Mary Margaret: Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a powerful thing. Think you could use it. (She gets up and pats him on the shoulder.) I'll see you in class. (She departs.)
Henry: (Flips to another page of a princess and her prince) Ms. Blanchard.
Mary Margaret: (Speaking off-screen) Yes?
(He looks up and is stunned to see her dressed as the same princess in the book. A moment later, she appears as normal.)
Henry: Thank you.
Mary Margaret: (Smiles) You're very welcome. (She continues walking away.)
Henry: (Flips to a page of a princess and prince with an infant child) Emma.
The Blue Fairy is of course not the only one who wrote Henry's future into the curse before he was born. In the episode Save Henry, it is revealed that Henry ending up with Regina in the first place was due to a caveat Rumplestiltskin wrote into the curse. Which implies that Henry's existence itself was written into the curse as part of the curse-breaking magic. I don't think Rumplestiltskin wrote the specifics of how it played out. In Manhattan (2.14), he seems genuinely surprised to find out Baelfire is Henry's father, and that therefore he is Henry's grandfather, but manipulating events so that Emma becomes pregnant and her child ends up in Storybrooke? I think that's canon. From the conversation between Regina and Rumple as the curse is barreling down on the Enchanted Kingdom (Save Henry, 3.09):

Rumplestiltskin: And yet, here you are. Feeling the need to gloat. Something's missing, isn't it, dearie?
Evil Queen: Not at all. I have everything I want. Nothing can stop me now.
Rumplestiltskin: (Giggles hysterically) Not quite.
Evil Queen: What does that mean?
Rumplestiltskin: The savior, the child of Snow White and Prince Charming. (The Evil Queen scoffs.)
Rumplestiltskin: She can stop you. She can break the curse.
Evil Queen: Well, looks like getting rid of a baby made my to-do list.
Rumplestiltskin: Of course it did. But even if you succeed with that, you have an even bigger problem. Now there's a hole in your heart and someday you will come to me to fill it.
Evil Queen: You underestimate your powers of foresight. (Begins walking away)
Rumplestiltskin: And you underestimate the price of what you've done! (In a sing-songy voice) You shall see! You will come to me! There is more you need!
Regina comes to realize this is true after she meets young Owen shortly after arriving in Storybrooke. But it still takes her another eighteen years to act. She goes to see Mr. Gold to arrange an adoption, something he as the Dark One foresaw, even if not in its exact details:

Regina: I need a child, Gold, and I need your help.
Mr. Gold: Well, I'm flattered, but uninterested.
Regina: Not like that. I spent all morning talking to adoption agencies. The wait lists are over two years long. But you, Gold, you know how to cut through red tape. And if anyone can work the system and find me a baby, it's you.
Mr. Gold: You wish to adopt?
Regina: Well, don't look so surprised.
Mr. Gold: Oh, I'm not. I'm sure you'll make a... well, a mother of some sort.
Regina: Can you help me?
Mr. Gold: Of course I can. But a word of caution. Ask yourself if this is something you're ready for.
Regina: It's something I need.
Mr. Gold: Well, that may not be the same thing. I'll get you a child.
After adopting Henry, Regina digs into the child's adoption records and finds out he's not just a lucky find. He's the son of the Savior, Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter. From Save Henry:

Regina: (To Mr. Gold) You knew.
Mr. Gold: Knew what, exactly?
Regina: The child that you located for me in Phoenix... his mother was found in the woods outside of Storybrooke eighteen years ago.
Mr. Gold: What a starling coincidence.
Regina: Eighteen years ago?!
Mr. Gold: I fear I'm missing the significance. You have to forgive me; my memory is not what it used to be.
Regina: Henry's mother was found as a baby on a very significant day. The day this town... this town...
Mr. Gold: This town what?
Regina: She's important, isn't she? This mother.
Mr. Gold: Is she important? I suppose that as much as she gave birth to your son.
Regina: You... you built this into this whole thing, didn't you? You made this happen because the mother... she's...
Mr. Gold: She's what, madam mayor? This mother you seem to fear so much.
Regina: Oh, you really know nothing of what I'm talking about.
Mr. Gold: Well, I know you're upset, that much is clear.
Regina: You told me I'd come to you. That I'd have a hole in my heart. And... (In shock) ... you want this to end. This town. What I built. You want to destroy it all by bringing the mother back! That's why you did all this!!
Regina, of course, is one of the pivotal influences over Henry's existence. She is the only parent he has for the first ten years of his life. Once Henry is officially her child, she does one selfless act for his sake: she removes her memory of who Henry's real mother is. After that, she raises Henry in a town where history repeats itself day after day and (so far) has never been shown acknowledging this blatant fact to him during that time. When he gloms onto the fairy tale book to explain his whacko existence, she dismisses it as fantasy. Henry calls her on this after the curse is broken in We Are Both (2.02):

Henry: The way you treated me wasn't an accident. You made it so no one believed me. You made me feel like I was crazy.
It's not surprising, therefore, that despite her real love for Henry, he wasn't happy with Regina as a mother. And this is something I think Rumplestiltskin did foresee.

Finally, on the grand list of Henry manipulators, we have Henry's great-grandfather, AKA Peter Pan. Pan's manipulation of the one with the Heart of the Truest Believer was planned out at least a century before the boy was even born. But Pan's actual influence on Henry comes much later and has less impact on Henry as a person than Rumplestiltskin or Regina.

It is not clear how Pan found out about Henry in the first place, but I suppose in early Neverland history when magic was still ripe, all he had to do was wish for a way to save himself when the magic in Neverland ran out, and abracadabra, the sketch of young Henry appeared. After that, Pan spent considerable years and resources trying to locate this boy.

What annoyed me about the Neverland arc was how Henry spent most of it sitting on a log in the Lost Boy's camp. The majority of the action to save him was done by the adults trying to find him. When Henry finally gets the courage to do anything to help himself, he is really only acting on Pan's manipulation. Pan sets him on a path where he is going to run into Wendy, who is "sick" from the dying magic of the island. This provides Henry with motivation to hand over his heart.

Which Henry does, I think, because he really wants to be an action hero like his mother and maternal grandparents. And I believe this is where the storyline is headed, with Henry taking more of an active role in fighting the baddies of the OUATverse.

Of course, I also thought Connor would break free of Evil!Cordelia and become a champion like his father, and that never happened. To be fair, Henry has done more things in an attempt to influence his world, and for a positive cause, than Connor was ever depicted as doing. So there's hope.

Transcripts courtesy of http://onceuponatime.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Season_Three_Transcripts


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2014 10:56 pm (UTC)
I'd like to see Henry taking something of a more active role, too. I think there's a very good chance of it. Especially now that he's getting older, what with the time jump and all.
Jan. 5th, 2014 11:03 pm (UTC)
He has done stuff. He did take it upon himself to go find Emma in the first place, even if he was lead down that path, and he did eat the apple tart to convince Emma about the curse. And he did at least TRY to go to the nightmare!chamber to get a message to Snow in season 2.

But a lot of time when he initiates things, he was lead into it, or the adults take over for him before he finishes.

I have heard rumors they are going to move him into being more of the protagonist and Emma less so. I hope him getting more action doesn't take away from Emma's role.
Jan. 5th, 2014 11:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, he's definitely done stuff, some of it pretty darned extraordinary. But you're right, I think, in that this season so far, where everything was ostensibly about him, he was first very passive and then acting entirely under someone else's manipulation. Which was fine. I liked that storyline. But it would be nice to see something different with him now, to see him starting to take on a little bit more of an adult role as he heads into his teens.

And, huh, I hadn't heard those rumors. I, too, hope that, if that happens, it doesn't happen at Emma's expense. I'd more like to see them working together.
Jan. 13th, 2014 01:57 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've definitely heard that Henry is supposed to take a more active role as the seasons progress (assuming we get more seasons). He does have a propensity for action--now that we're back into the rewatch, I remember him as the main instigator of much of what Emma got herself up into in season one. Less so in season two, I think, but I'd have to go back and rewatch that to be sure.
Jan. 13th, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
You know, I've just recently been thinking about how in the pilot he quite effectively manipulates Emma into coming back to Storybrooke with him. That skill has just got to be genetic. :)
Jan. 13th, 2014 04:11 pm (UTC)
He gets it from his paternal grandfather?

Jan. 13th, 2014 09:15 pm (UTC)
Who got it from his dad, I think. :)
Jan. 13th, 2014 09:22 pm (UTC)
Do you think it skipped a generation with Baelfire?
Jan. 13th, 2014 09:22 pm (UTC)
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Jan. 6th, 2014 04:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Similarities between Connor and Henry
Likewise, Regina, realizes that the only way to save Henry and ensure his happiness - is to allow him to lose all memory of her and Storybrook and his time with her, and implant new memories of his life with Emma - as if Emma never gave him up.

Rewatching "Going Home", I don't think Regina had any choice about Henry losing his memories and staying on Earth. Her good deed was to use the Savior loophole to allow Emma to remain, which Regina did not have to do, but was smart enough to realize Henry absolutely had to have someone to take care of him, and it could not be her (Regina) because she had no Savior loophole to the curse.

I think the similarities between the two characters may explain why they are somewhat controversial in their respective fandoms.

I think fans in generally don't take to child characters, especially if those children take up the parent character's attention, and are clever or talented in someway. I've never shared this dislike, in fact, the child characters on many of the shows I watch are among my favorites. But there is just a visceral dislike of them in general out there.

Jan. 6th, 2014 04:05 pm (UTC)
It's been pretty well established that Rumple can see the future only vaguely, but enough to act upon to some degree, and that all magic comes with a price, even for him. His "undoing" might just be the price of the curse (his price, not Regina's). The fact that it comes from someone who would not exist if it weren't for the curse therefore makes perfect sense.

I somehow doubt Pan was a manipulator of the curse business above and beyond Rumple. He's just not as clever as his son is. He's blinded by pure self-interest in a way Rumple is not.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )