As I mentioned last week, the story that I feel the greatest emotional investment in is the story of Prince Charming and Snow White. Not only are they the most recognizable of the fairy tales, but the inversion of their more familiar tales has been entertaining, mostly unexpected and emotional. The danger with this show and its broad audience is the temptation to tell the story to the lowest margin (in this case kids), but the stories of princesses and their charming knights has a near universal appeal.
So how did the show handle its return to their most poignant storyline?
Let’s break it down…
This week was a showcase for Josh Dallas’ David Nolan / Prince Charming, which meant that – for better or worse – it was his show to carry. It’s become clear that showrunners Kitsis and Horrowitz have decided to tell their stories using the Lost model: focus on a single character and explore their story in both the present (Storybrooke) and the “past” (Fairy Tale). This is both a strength and a weakness because by focusing on a single character, you run the risk of ostracizing the audience who cares less for that individual (ex: me and Jiminy Cricket last week). It’s a strength, however, because unlike other shows that try to balance the narrative demands of a large ensemble (say The Walking Dead), Once Upon A Time guarantees that you’re provided background information on at least one or two characters each week.
So what did we learn about David Nolan and Prince Charming? Turns out that his marriage to Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith) is real, and not a sham created by Mayor Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla). Despite their lack of connection, when David regained his memories near the end of the episode, he did recall the events he had seen in the box of photos she used earlier to jog his memory. One request please: do not let Dallas shave his head now that he’s remembered who he is! Prince Charming would be far less charming with a buzz cut, so let the man keep his curly golden locks.
The return of David’s memory was an interesting turn of events that capped off a brief courtship with Mary Margaret Blanchard (Ginnifer Goodwin) – for now, at least. Early in the episode David left his homecoming party when he found out that the school teacher wasn’t present, and before the next day he’d left his wife because he couldn’t shake the connection with Mary Margaret (*Caveat: Apologies if there was more to it than that as we lost sound in the bird-house hanging scene and my lip reading skills are rusty). There were a few nice moments with mother and daughter as Mary Margaret and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) discussed the implications of getting involved with a married man compared to a man who has actually left his wife. The excitement on Goodwin’s face as she waited for David at the tollbridge was palpable, but it was clear that it was coming together too quickly/easily (and the mirror story in Fairy Tale was hinting that David/Charming’s romantic decisions were never his to make). I can honestly admit that between the reappearance of David Anders’ Doctor Whale and Sherriff Graham’s (Jamie Dornan) references to animal shelters, I was convinced that Mary Margaret and her red sweater were about to suffer some kind of wolf attack as she waited in the woods. But no: the danger was simply heartbreak. A quick stopover visit to Mr. Gold’s (Robert Carlyle) pawn shop brought back David’s memories of his marriage.
The scene when he confessed that he remembered and was responsible to try and work out his marriage was well played by Goodwin as we were once again reminded of Snow White’s fiery personality. After struggling with the decision of whether or not to act on her attraction like a powerless victim, it was rewarding to hear her raise her voice and proclaim that “the right thing to do was not to lead me on.” And so the Storybrooke side of the story ended with both parties involved with ‘the wrong partner’ – she with Dr. Whales and he with Kathryn. At least the show didn’t stoop to using Regina as the catalyst to break up the inevitable romance. Aside from her completely inappropriate tirade at the diner about Mary Margaret ruining multiple lives, Regina was principally a disgruntled bystander*.
*You can argue that by sending David to Gold’s shop, she knew that he would see the windmill and he would regain his memory, but that’s merely an assumption until proven that she has that much power. This would not only suggest that the Fairy Tale characters are effectively neutered in comparison to her all-knowingness, but that Emma truly is the only one who can face her. If she can just show up and make things go her way, it would also make the show significantly less interesting.
On the Fairy Tale side of things, we learned that Prince Charming the first was killed long before he ever met Snow White. Killing the boastful egomaniac in the opener was another nice twist (was anyone else waiting for it to be a dream, or have Rupelstiltskin reanimate him?). Instead, the Fairy Tale this week was The Prince and The Pauper, with the titular shepherd referring to Charming’s twin brother – the Shepherd Prince Charming we’ve grown to know and love. In order to save the kingdom, Shepherd Charming was forced to take the place of his heroic brother and kill a dragon in order to secure the wealthy rewards of Alex Zahara’s King Midas (he of the golden touch).
Sidenote: I freely admit that when I saw Midas’ gloved hand and the results of his touch, I immediately flashed to this Skittles commercial. Readers debate: which cursed hand would you rather have?
The point of the Fairy Tale was to reinforce the futility of choice in Shepherd Charming’s life: he’d lost a brother to pay for his mother’s farm, then he himself was forced to assume his brother’s identity in order to save it a second time. Oh sure, he was supporting the kingdom and his mom got some gaudy jewellery out of the deal, but at the end of the day he was still forced to marry the fairytale version of Kathyrn, whose facial expressions alternated between bored and “who farted?”. These poor characters are just pawns for their power hungry parents to move around like game pieces, especially Shepherd Charming who doesn’t even get a name.
The only upside of their entire tale is that it ended where Snow White’s began: just before the carriage heist that would ultimately kickstart the love affair between Charming and Snow White. At least the Fairy Tale side let you know he’s got good coming to him. Our Storybrooke side left things considerably more up in the air.
- Kudos to the show for not dragging out the revelation that Sheriff Graham is sleeping with the Mayor. After bribing Emma with donuts and telling her to work the night shift (what did he do before she came around?), Sheriff Graham is caught sneaking out of Mayor Mills’ window. He then gets the best line of the night when he sheepishly admits that he really does volunteer at the animal shelter. How long until Emma acts on her disgust of his actions and her distrust of the Mayor to use this knowledge to her advantage? P.S. Henry was in the house? Even if he was asleep, that’s dirty. Won’t somebody please think of the children?!
- Speaking of Emma and the Sheriff…anyone else feeling the sexual chemistry between them? AmIright or am I imagining things? The previews for next week suggest we’ll get to know a bit more about him, so that should be fun.
- With David and Mary Margaret taking the lead, we barely saw any of our other regulars. Did you miss anyone in particular? As I’m not a huge Morrison fan, I was satisfied with Emma’s brief scenes as it meant I wasn’t constantly wondering why a grown, fit woman would ever wear skintight skinny jeans. Just because it’s a popular look does not mean it’s a flattering look on everyone. And the red leather jacket? She should just hook up with the guy from Grimm so they can have a weird leather jacket collection and fight fairytales together. Thank you for indulging my Tom&Lorenzo fashion moment.
- Both Regina and Mary Margaret used the line “so you’ve made your choice.” This may or may not be important, but since repetition (both verbal and visual) was a key component of Lost and this show so far, file these little moments away. Is there a link between the Queen and Snow White that has carried over despite the curse?
- Also like Lost, we’ve seen a lot of bad parents thus far (especially last week and this week). Bonus points for bringing in Papa Widmore. Any other Lost alum you’d like to see moonlight on the show?
- Why the hell were the green screens so bad in this episode? They’re very touch and go, and considering the amount of work they do each week for the Fairy Tale scenes, I wouldn’t normally complain, but it seemed like every background was baaaaad this week.