The adventure continues as Once Upon A Time delivers a somewhat fresh take on the classic “Beauty and the Beast” fairytale. After a few weeks off, did the show return in top shape or did it continue its recent trend of diminishing returns?
Let’s bitch it out…The question of whether the show came back strong is a mixed bag. Certain elements of ‘Skin Deep,’ the twelfth episode of the show’s first season, were strong (primarily the Gold storyline), while other elements left me scratching my head (anything Emma related). This episode brought with it the return of Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) to the main stage as we explored his frantic search in Storybrooke for a looted object, while his counterpart, Rumpelstiltskin maybesortakinda fell in love with Belle (guest star Emilie De Ravin) in Fairytale land.
Much has been made about De Ravin’s casting as it reunites her with Lost contributors Kitsis and Horowitz, but in reality the comparisons to the island adventure show absolutely need to end. Once Upon A Time is not Lost, no matter how many Apollo candy bars or MacCutheon whisky bottles they hide in the background. So while it was great to see De Ravin back on American television, this wasn’t Claire 2.0. This was Belle, and writer Jane Espenson gives her a decent, albeit not overly memorable bit role to play.
The main storyline concerns Rumpelstiltskin protecting Belle’s town, friends and family from fall-out of the Ogre Wars (the oft mentioned, little seen conflict that seems to be happening on the fringes of Fairytale land). In exchange, she accompanies him – for adventure and sacrifice – back to his wintery palace to act as his servant. Let’s be honest, though: she does a mostly crappy job of it as she’s constantly chipping china and pulling down curtains. All things considered, she’s a bit of a princess (yes, I went there). The scenes between Belle and her beast are solid, and although it borders on icky, there is a serviceable amount of chemistry between them; enough to believe that something romantic is in the cards.
It all comes down to an ill-fated trip to town: in exchange for buying more straw, Rumpel will tell Belle what happened to his son (last glimpsed in ‘Desperate Souls’). He does not, however, expect her to return – until the Queen (Lana Parrilla) stops her on the road and suggests that true love’s kiss will break his curse – at which time Belle doubletimes it back to the castle to land a wet one on her love. It might have worked, too, but the moment that the Queen’s words tumble out of her mouth Rumpel takes her for a spy, tosses her in the dungeon and breaks some sheot (but not Angela Lansbury or Chip). In the end he lets her go with the chipped cup, only to later learn from the Queen that her father shunned her and locked her in a tower from which she jumped to her death. Tale as old as time. Sigh.
Rumpel’s broken heart carries over to Mr. Gold in our Storybrooke story. After repossessing a florist’s truck at the top of the hour, priceless items are stolen from his home and the suggestion is that the delivery man is responsible. Upon catching, binding and brutally beating the man with his cane in the abandoned cabin glimpsed in ‘7:15 am’ (this is a family show?!), Emma (Jennifer Morrison) stops Gold and locks him in jail. Turns out all the richest man in town just wants his chipped teacup back – which Mayor Regina is in possession of (naturally). After she bribes Emma with facetime with Henry (Jared Gilmore), Regina and Gold have a juicy discussion in which she forces him to reveal his true name – from Fairytale Land – in exchange for the cup. At this point, it’s unclear what the repercussions of the exchange will have, but it’s safe to say that the balance of power between the two of them may be shifting. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what happens when Gold discovers that his beloved Belle is not only still alive, but locked up in an Alcatraz-style cell beyond the ‘Exit’ sign in the hospital. Something tells me Regina better watch her back when that occurs.
- In the B storyline, David (Josh Dallas) gives Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) the Valentine’s card he bought for his wife. Way to make a girl feel special, ass. No wonder she elects to spend the evening in the company of Ruby (Meghan Ory – still waiting for a story of her own) and Ashley – aka Cinderella (Jessy Schram) – who, although saddled with a kid, still manages to collect a ring from her shift-working prince by episode’s end.
- Emma abandons her leather jackets for a weather-appropriate down jacket. As much as I like to make fun of her fashion sense (don’t talk to me about the damn skinny jeans), I must say that her hair was looking particularly Goldilocks tonight. Very Pantene…
- Emma’s Sheriff skills, on the other hand, leave something to be desired. She can find Gold’s missing items, but not the man who took them? And yet somehow Gold can track him down, tie him up and lock him in the back of van? I thought she’s a bounty hunter?! And the fact that she lets the Mayor, whom she doesn’t trust, spend time with a prisoner in the jail while she wanders off for ice cream with her son? Totally irresponsible. If the Mayor ever wants to get her kicked out of office, all she needs to do is bring up incidents like this.
- Early in the episode Emma receives word from the station that Gold’s house has been burglarized. Who sent her that message? We’ve never once seen anyone else working in the office. I realize that Once is a pricey show with lots of green-screen work and a big cast (which they mostly don’t show), but can’t they at least hire an extra to sit in the back of the police station and type?
What say you, Once-rs, are you happy the show is back? Is Emma Swan the worst Sheriff ever? Are you interested to see how the power play between Regina and Gold turns out? Do you want to see more of Belle – or whatever her Storybrooke name is – later on? Next week we revisit the David/Mary Margaret storyline (yay) as the show pay-offs the casual mention the Queen made about a mermaid. Could be fun…