Sooo…I haven’t been too kind to ABC’s fairytale show the last few weeks, but I swear it’s only because I think it has so much potential that it’s not living up to. Is tonight’s Prince Charming-centric episode a return to solid ground for the struggling show?
Let’s break it down…
In truth, ‘What Happened To Frederick’ is a mixed bag: there is some interesting, solid work here and then there’s one super aggravating, soul-crushing development that mostly makes me want to scream.
As I’ve said before, I believe that the show is at its strongest when it focuses on the love story between Snow White/Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming/David Nolan (Josh Dallas). The FairyTale parts are more imaginative and revisionist and the Storybrooke pieces have good chemistry. Of late, however, the show has been doing the Moonlighting bit wherein the romantic leads are arbitrarily kept apart by increasingly frustrating hurdles. Tonight’s episode was a very clear example of this.
This was Dallas’ piece and he steps up (as always) with a solid performance as both Charming and David. Problematically, though, the writers have decided that David is going to be a cad instead of a romantic, so in the Storybrooke timeline he not only lies to Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith) about his burgeoning feelings for Mary Margaret, but he lies to MM and says that he did tell his fiancee the truth. Is it any surprise that this doesn’t turn out well? In truth, David’s belief that he is sparing everyone’s feelings does ring true (it’s a familiar cheater mantra), but it doesn’t make it any more palatable for viewers. This is especially true when Kathryn finds out the truth about their relationship (via photos helpfully provided by Lana Parilla’s Regina) and confronts MM at the school in front of everyone. In the span of a few hours the picturesque little town morphs into ‘Judgement Central’ as MM’s car is defaced with the word TRAMP (so much for family hour!) and even kindly Granny (Beverley Elliott) is telling her she should be ashamed. What a sourpuss!
Now this all might have been acceptable had it forced MM and David together in solidarity, but instead MM cites these events as reason to break things off. Or, in her words, “What we have is destructive. And it has to stop…We shouldn’t be together.” Now I realize that narratively speaking keeping them apart is all according to plan (ie: if they got together then that would be a clear sign that the curse is broken and Storybrooke would be revealed as a fabrication, blah blah blah). Yeah, got it. But by doing this to viewers a second time (after finally removing Kathryn as “the wrong partner” who stood in the way of the right partners romantic union) the show is essentially just telling us that we’re wasting our time. No use hoping these two will get together now – that’ll happen in season six or something! What’s happening isn’t a pleasurable delay; it’s the show spinning its wheels instead of covering new ground because we’ve already seen/done this! If you don’t want to go there, that’s fine – but don’t spend an entire episode building up to these two characters getting together only to have one party impulsively (and irrationally) decide that it can no longer happen. It’s stupid and unbelievable.
I’d probably be full-on irate with this turn of events if not for the FairyTale portion of the episode. This is because they’re not only strong, but they actually comment on the Storybrooke parts. See, the reverse of what’s happening with MM and David is occurring in FairyTale: Prince Charming, after helping Abigail reunite with her true love, Frederick (Greyson Holt), decides to pursue Snow even though she told him that she wasn’t interested in him. It’s only after seeing true love reunited that he realizes that it is something that must be fought for and dashes off to Snow’s cabin where we replay Red’s (Meghan Ory) bit from the Snow episode ‘7:15 AM’. It turns out, however, that what we previously saw was only the first part of their conversation. Charming learns that Snow left to prevent his wedding and something – or someone AKA King George (Alan Dale) – changed her mind. And just as they discuss it, King George himself appears with soldiers, prompting the imposter prince and Red to gallop off together.
The suggestion from this side of the story is that even though you may initially give up on true love – including when one partner tells you it’s over – it isn’t something that can be given up (don’t think of the obsessive, stalker version of this and it works well). Just in case we didn’t get it, Kathryn even helpfully elaborates to Regina how in love David looks in the pictures. So yeah…these crazy kids are going to make it. I just wish that the Storybrooke parts would stop baiting and hooking us with this will-they-won’t-they stuff. It’s not only unnecessary, but it feels artificially created and occurs at the expense of other interesting stories they could be telling.
- Does anyone else think it strange that we have yet to see any of the Kings – George or Midas – in Storybrooke? The FairyTale outlook for these patriarchs is not looking too rosy…
- Abigail/Kathryn’s true love Frederick (aka the gym teacher at MM’s school) is played by a great Canadian actor named Greyson Holt, who also recently appeared on Alcatraz as young Emerson Hauser. I’m sure he’ll get more airtime considering he and Kathryn didn’t get to interact in Storybrooke because she disappeared after crashing her car trying to leave town. In the meantime, I strongly encourage folks to check out Holt’s work in the twisted miniseries Durham County, which is a contemporary Canadian drama in the vein of Twin Peaks.
- Guess since Kathryn didn’t make it beyond the Storybrooke sign the curse has only been loosened to allow folks in. Either that or the stranger (real name: August W Booth) has some of his own magical powers.
- Speaking of August, the writer had an interesting role in this episode. We see him soaking and drying pages, then rebinding them together. Was he making a copy, or repairing damage the original took? He also took the improperly attired Sheriff out on a date to a Wishing Well. As much as I appreciated the connection between this and Charming’s battle against the Siren, August’s whole conversation between Jennifer Morrison’s Emma about the magical properties of water was quite silly. I have the word “scintillating” written down in my notes. I can only hope that I should be so lucky as to have someone talk to me about water in that way. Le sigh.
- I loved that the show tried to suggest that Emma is a good investigator considering that she failed to see August spying on her when she found the book underneath her punchbuggy, or that her only explanation for its return was that it fell off the back of a dumptruck. “What other explanation could there be?” she quips to Henry (Jared Gilmore). Oh, I don’t know…maybe a million others?!
- Best line of the night: Emma, responding to MM’s inquiry why Emma didn’t tell her that she knew MM and David were carrying on, “I’m not your mother.” Nyuk, nyuk.
- Finally, if you were Regina, wouldn’t you be less calm about how much of your plan is falling apart? Oh sure, you’ve got a giant key ring that conveniently opens every lock in Storybrooke (watch your bikes, kids!) so that you can steal into houses and grab and burn Dear John letters, but it’s pretty clear that Emma continues to be a problem and may well just be the one-person you’re supposed to be looking out for (the close relationship to MM should be a pretty big tip-off). Instead she’s just hanging out and occasionally spray-painting her rival’s car with obscenity. I’m just surprised that she’s not more proactive…
What do you think,Once fans? Did this episode – and Charming’s quest for love – tug on your heart strings? Or were you too distracted by how douchey David’s Storybrooke actions were? Any theories about August’s intentions to debate during the two week time-out before the show returns in March?