I am eventually going to get back to the title of this review, but let’s begin like this: we cannot work with three timelines in one episode. It’s too much. I failed to feel any emotional investment in any of the threads, even though Lana Parrilla is an outstanding, emotive actress and I wanted to break for her when she had to
kill Daniel, I couldn’t. I didn’t have time to get involved enough to feel her pain, to be reminded of how tragic their story had been.
Likewise, while the flashback Fairytale Land scene held my interest and the twists certainly surprised me (Dr. Whale? Anyone who guessed who he was based on that moniker, I applaud you. I had to Google it), in by the time the show was over I had trouble recalling the specifics of any of the stories. And again, this was a thread that should have left me heartbroken for Regina (Lana Parrilla), and it just…didn’t accomplish anything close to emotion.
The culprit, I believe, isn’t the story or the characters, or even the acting. There is simply too much story being crammed into 40+ minutes of television.
I’m not even going to bother recapping what happened in the concurrent Fairytale Land storyline. Here’s the down and dirty: Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) wander back to the island refuge, where they discover Killian Jones a.k.a. Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) in the rubble. He gives them some story about surviving that Emma sees through, then he admits Cora (Barbara Hershey) asked him to befriend the two of them and report back about portals to Storybrooke.
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After three weeks of disappointing, disjointed storytelling,Once Upon A Time brought the magic in week four (no apologies for the bad pun). This episode was everything I’ve been waiting for—an exploration of how people are handling the knowledge of the curse in Storybrooke accompanied by backstory in Fairytale Land that provided relevant character information or pushed the story forward. The Crocodile did all of those things, in addition to adding a smoking hot new cast member. Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) has never been this smoldering, this steeped in romance, or this covered in guyliner and let me tell you ladies…he’s hooked my heart (no apologies for that one either).
In Storybrooke, we find Belle (Emilie de Ravin) waking from a nightmare in which Rumplestilskin hasn’t changed at all—and promises that nor will he ever. She finds him gone from bed and in the basement spinning straw into gold and practicing magic. When she confronts him about it the next morning, Rumplestilksin (Robert Carlyle) refuses to tell her the truth about why he brought magic back, or why their second chance at a relationship isn’t enough for him. The conversation leads her to call him a coward before leaving the house.
Which leads to this week’s tale in Fairytale Land, which also features Rumplestilskin cast (perhaps unfairly) in the role of the coward. We learn that his wife Milah (Rachel Shelley) is unhappy with their life and craves adventure. She hates that he’s known as the village coward for refusing to fight in the Ogre Wars, and it’s clear that even her son isn’t going to be a reason to stick around. She begs Rumple to take her away and start again but he refuses, telling her that Baelfire should be reason enough for her to try harder to love her life the way that it is.
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