After a maddeningly inconsistent first season, Once Upon A Time – a ratings surprise for ABC – returns for its second season after delivering a mostly satisfying season finale. Can the second season maintain the consistency?
Let’s bitch it out…
Broadly speaking, I’d say yes…tentatively. There are enough interesting storylines on display in ‘Broken’ to ensure repeat sampling, though several issues that nearly drove me mad in the first season remain. Primary among those concerns is central protagonist, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) – whom I frequently wanted to smack / burn her leather jacket collection. The sullen petulant attitude that made her such a joy in S1 (please note the sarcasm) remains on display throughout the premiere: she’s as annoying as ever when she complains that she can’t forgive her parents, Snow/Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming/David (Josh Dallas), for giving her up when she was a child. I’ll admit that after 28 years this argument has some currency, but when it’s coming from Emma it just feels like another invite to a never-ending pity party. Heaven forbid this woman look on the brighter side of life.
That’s why it’s nice that Rumple/Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) calls her on her BS when she and her hot parental units confront him for double-crossing Emma and allowing a giant tidal wave of purple bubble bath to cover Storybrooke. Like the true wordsmith that he is, Rumple makes no apologies for reuniting her family without hurting her bratty son, Henry (Jared Gilmore – slightly more tolerable). Sorry Red Leather, but I’m with the pawn-shop owner, even if he is only looking out for himself (and Emily De Ravin’s Belle).
All the jazz surrounding Rumple’s summoning of the Wraith and the central duo taking on protection duties to prevent Regina (Lana Parrilla) from being soul-sucked is lukewarm at best. It feels like an obvious way to avoid having these people deal with the Evil Queen (“Sorry, can’t deal with repercussions of being cursed for 28 years, there’s a villain that looks like a rip-off of Lord Of The Rings flying around town breaking light bulbs and getting sucked into top hats”). All of this leads into what is clearly meant to be some kind of epic cliffhanger, in which we learn that the Fairy Tale bits sporadically sprinkled in – featuring Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger) of Sleeping Beauty fame – are actually the result of the events in Storybrooke. And so Emma and Snow end up being teleported back to Fairy Tale world along with the Wraith, while Regina regains her magical powers and Henry emancipates himself to live with his hot grandpa.
- The use of the portal-generating top hat without an appearance by Sebastian Stan’s off-beat Mad Hatter is unsatisfying. Rumour abounds that we’ll see the deranged hatter again, but for now, points off Once
- Charming: Cute, but a terrible jumper. Way to lose track of your wife and daughter in one fell swoop
- Mulan and Aurora love the same man, Prince Phillip (Julian Morris) who is killed by the Wraith. I’d care, except that this is the same old “impossible love affair” that Once has pulled out countless times. Boring! More interesting is the news that Fairy Tale was also frozen by the curse and people were only freed from stasis one year ago – which is when Emma first restarted the clock back in Storybrooke
- I was on board with Rumple and Belle last season, but this feels like a romantic version of the relationship he had with his son. “I promise not to do dark magic and lie and be a bad person. You believe me like an idiot. Then you catch me doing all those things and get angry”. Like the unsustainable love stories, we’ve been down this path before. Belle better bring something new to the table, because this is stale after a single episode
- Regarding the cliffhanger: One half of me thinks that this is a cop-out. It’s as though the show doesn’t trust us to remain interested in Storybrooke alone, so they send Emma and Snow on a quest in Fairy Tale. The other half of me thinks that this keeps the storytelling options open and ensures we get our “leather clothes and gorgeous scenery” quotient filled on a weekly basis
- Most tantalizing: the cold open featuring True Blood and Terriers actor Michael Raymond-Jones (last seen on The Walking Dead) as a mysterious man living in NY who receives a postcard from Storybrooke informing him that the curse has been broken. Who sent the card and courier pigeon? Who is this man (Baelish?) and why does he care magic has returned to Storybrooke (Papa can you hear me)? This is definitely the kind of story the show needs to be telling
What did you think of the premiere? Are you happy with the return of magic to the show? Did you enjoy Mulan and Aurora? Are you excited to see Snow go into badass mode on a more regular basis? And who is the mystery man in NY? Speculate away below
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8pm EST on ABC