Nefarious plans are afoot in Storybrooke. Meanwhile Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Henry (Jared Gilmore) and Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) arrive in the titular city of Manhattan and discover they know a common face.
Let’s bitch it out…
To briefly recap last week (since I was off on vacation):
Hurley The Giant (Jorge Garcia) was discovered aboard Cora’s (Barbara Hershey) boat and went on a rampage before being placated by intrepid grandparents Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas). He then revealed a new way to return to FairyTale Land: magic beans.
Meanwhile, in a storyline continued tonight, Emma, Henry and Rumpel leave Storybrooke and venture past the memory-erasing town limits to track down Baelfire, who is revealed fairly quickly to be Emma’s old fling, Neal (Michael Raymond-James) – last seen in The Giant’s introductory episode 2×06 ‘Talahassee’. This development is perplexing to me because I was under the impression that we knew that Henry’s father and Rumpel’s son were one and the same before now. Am I on crazy-pills or have I just been surfing too many Once Upon A Time forums?
Either way the rest of the episode follows a familiar pattern: our Manhattan crew take turns yelling at each other (Neal vs Emma; Emma vs Rumpel; Henry vs himself) while back in Storybrooke our trio of villains – Cora, Regina (Lana Parrilla) and third wheel Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) – re-enact scenes from the cutting room floor of The DaVinci Code.
Unfortunately both storylines feel half-baked and really slowly plotted. The Manhattan scenes aren’t nearly as emotionally resonant as they should be (Morrison in particular seems prone to overly-dramatic histrionics). Only the final meeting between Henry and his individual parents on the fire escape feel realistic as each pair struggles to make a connection. Naturally the built-up investment is almost immediately undone for a lame-o ‘twist’ that Rumpel will make an attempt on Henry’s life to stop the boy from coming between him and his son. I scoff because somehow I can’t imagine this show going into such dark territory, especially considering how lightweight/escapist the majority of even the most dramatic storylines have been.
The Storybrooke scenes don’t fare much better in what seems like a paint-by-numbers narrative designed to tease larger future storylines. As we move through the middle part of the season, there’s been a distinct lull in momentum as elements are introduced that will create conflict designed to carry the show through the remainder of the season. This means that we have characters pursuing a magical object for unclear reasons (why is Hook helping these women again? He must be the biggest idiot in all of the known worlds!).
The result is a half-baked quest: the first stop is the hospital to visit Belle (Emilie de Ravin), which reveals a decimal clue that leads to the library, which introduces a map revealing the location of the dagger. How marvelously convoluted and dull! At least now we know the kinds of things Rumpel is doing when he’s not managing his pawn shop, evicting tenants and suffering trite-flashbacks: he constructing over-elaborate treasure maps for pirates and witches.
Ugh…just find the dagger so we can move on already.
- Our sympathies are clearly meant to lie with Rumpel in his FairyTale flashbacks. We jump back further than ever before for him as we see the lead up to Baelfire’s birth. Man, Milah (Rachel Shelley) sure is a monster beyotch with all that bitching and moaning about how his cowardice will ruin their son. Umm, what about having a skanky pirate-chaser for a mom? Pot, meet kettle
- With the confirmation that Rumpel is Henry’s grandfather, how convoluted is this family tree now? I do love that Snow and Charming take some time to figure it out!
- Speaking of love: how lovely to catch a brief glimpse of August (Eion Bailey) and his magical typewriter. Too bad it’s such a tease!
- Perhaps she’s simply fixated on her dastardly plans, but you’d think Regina would be a helluva lot more careful levitating objects in the location where the Storybrooke outsider is staying! Not only does Greg Mendell (Ethan Embry) now know for sure that something is going on, he’s got video proof and so does the mysterious “Her” he’s calling. Side Note: Regina’s levitation spell on Belle’s purse is easily the fakest looking special effects that the show has done in a long time, which is saying something (see below)
- Finally, what’s more distracting: the horribly fabricated nature of the Manhattan scenes (complete with strangely dressed extras and the show’s trademark awful CGI background) or the clean-as-a-button war camp (featuring soldiers with nary a bit of dirt or blood)? Once Upon A Time has never aimed for realism, but there’s an anti-septic falseness to some of the sets and exterior shots that can make it hard to get into the magical vibe the series is aiming for. The set and FX people need to call their counterparts on Game Of Thrones for tips on how to gritty this sh*t up
- Emma (to Neal): “You let me go to prison because Pinocchio said so?!” She’s got a point, dude
- Snow (to Charming, after they organize the new family tree): “Maybe this will mellow everyone out.”
- Henry (after discovering Emma lied about his father being alive): “Regina – she always lied to me, too.” He’s also got a point. Guess mom and son are alike!
Where does the series go from here: will Baelfire/Neal return to Storybrooke to be with Emma and Henry? Will he forgive Rumpel (and do we care)? Will Cora and Regina really try to use the dagger to make Rumpel kill Snow, Charming and Emma? And when the hell will August come back to save us from these people?! Hit the comments below
Once Upon A Time takes a two week time-out and returns Sunday, March 3 at 8pm EST on ABC