After an interesting start to the season, it appears that Once Upon A Time has settled back into the same disappointing formula it established around mid-season last year. You know it’s a bad sign when Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is one of the better parts of the episode.
Let’s bitch it out…At this point in the series, there are clearly certain characters who are more interesting and certain actors who are clearly more adept. I felt the need to defend Lana Parrilla’s portrayal of Queen Regina on occasion in season one because some felt that she was hammy and over the top. I found her intriguing and suggested that villains are always more interesting.
Nope, I was wrong.
Apparently in the world of Once Upon A Time, villains are shrill, prone to flip flopping and become less interesting the more frequently you see them (see also: Robert Carlyle’s Rumpelstiltskin, who’s hysterical cackles and girlish “dearies” have long played out their welcome). As a result, both Regina and Rumple have only become more and more ingrained in their one-note delivery and stilted character development, even when they have entire episodes dedicated to their backstory.I’m sure that there are those who disagree with me, but at this point I don’t care whether Regina finds love and/or salvation, or if Rumple and Belle (an unseen Emilie DeRavin) reconcile. They remain the same deceptive, misunderstood, tortured by fate characters they’ve been since the pilot. Even when we spend whole episodes exploring how they become the conflicted villains they are now, it feels like the same old, same old. They might be slightly more sympathetic (slightly), but we haven’t truly learned anything new about them: Rumple still makes deals that suck with everyone and Regina, no matter how much she tries to be good/not be like her mother, is bad and is basically her mother. So for the foreseeable future, I’m taking a pass on both Regina and Rumple. Until the show gives me a new reason to care about them, they’re both a wash…
- I’m curious to see what fans think of the backstory reveal for Dr. Whale (David Anders, sporting truly tragic hair in both Storybrooke and FairyTale land). It’s quite obvious early on that he’s Dr. Frankenstein (or the Wizard of Oz), which marks a dramatic departure from any other character we’ve encountered on the show thus far. Clearly we’re meant to wonder how the good Doctor has come to be in Storybrooke as part of the curse. Hint: remember that Regina indicated that only people she wanted were brought? I’m guessing that she figured out Whale participated in Rumple’s “fake resurrection” plot and hauled his butt over when everyone else was transported.
- My biggest storytelling question: how much longer will the show depend on the audience’s awareness of different stories to deliver cliffhangers/reveals? “What about you, Victor?”, “Is that…a beanstalk?” Yeah, we get it – we’re meant to OMG because we know the story, but so often this season that hasn’t even been effectively employed. Dr. Whale can reanimate the dead and then we find out he’s Frankenstein. Like holy anti-climatic, Batman. This kind of storytelling was novel back in the early run of the show when everything was new, but now it feels cheap and gimmicky. Kinda like how the show still employs LOST‘s framing structure…except, you know, that LOST actually used it to delve into its characters, not just double the number of locations to shoot in
- Thanks goodness the show brought back Sebastian Stan’s Hatter. Meaty storylines like this really prove that the show values the talented actors. Nah – I’m just kidding. He mostly just tosses his hat around
- Charming (Josh Dallas) punching Dr. Whale might have been more satisfactory if we all know that there’s no way Whale knew that Charming and Snow were married when Whale slept with her. Like, Charming…dude, you were married and likely boning some other chick, too. Pot meet kettle
- Was anyone else hoping that the monster, aka Daniel (Noah Bean), would kill Henry (Jared Gilmore) when he found him at the stables, like the monster does with the girl in the original film? Oh man, that would have been so sweet.
- Did the show blow its FX budget on lousy greenscreens again this week and that’s why Daniel looks like himself? Once again, this is a disappointing reimagining. He just looks like a hopped-up frat guy going on a crystal meth binge
- Kudos to the show for having Dr. Frankenstein’s “home world” be in black and white in homage to the James Whale original film. That’s a nice touch
- Finally, Emma & the Disney princess crew of Mulan (Jamie Chung), Aurora (Sarah Bolger), and Snow (Ginnifer Morrison) come across Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), who tries to pass himself off as the sole survivor of the Safe Haven massacre. Thanks to Emma’s “no BS” detection skills, they get him to confess the whole sordid Cora/Hook plot from last episode. Not going to lie, the words “magic compass” make me think of golden compass, which is not a great thing. The promise of Hurley (Jorge Garcia) at the top of the beanstalk as a giant, however, is pretty enticing…
- Sebastian Stan’s Hatter (when Rumple says he wants to go to land without magic): “Why would you want to go there?”
- Emma (when Hook admits his identity): “As in Captain Hook?” Yeah, Emma, we did the same thing last week.
- Rumple (to Dr. Whale after they’ve fooled Regina): “Thanks to you, I’ve made my monster” Nyuk nyuk – cause Regina is the monster. Get it? Oh, it’s so clever! Ugh
And that’s episode five. What do you think, readers: is Once Upon A Time falling into a familiar storytelling rut? Are you still interested in finding out more about Rumple and Regina? Does Dr. Whale’s reveal as Dr. Frankenstein make any sense to you? Do you have any ideas why he dressed like a Nazi/military guy? Hit the comments below
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8pm EST on ABC