The promise of a darker series has come to fruition as Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) acts on her vow to kill Cora (Barbara Hershey). In an episode that manages to feel both agonizingly slow (let’s hang out in the pawn shop for 40 minutes!) and radically fast (those final ten minutes), ‘The Miller’s Daughter’ resets many character relationships in a bold move that will cause reverberations for the remainder of the season.
Let’s bitch it out…
This is the first time in several episodes that the backstory in Fairy Tale Land actually feels vital to the proceedings in Storybrooke. The revelation that Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) not only mentored Cora (Rose McGowan) in the dark arts, but was also her lover is the kind of unexpected twist that Once Upon A Time rarely employs. Yes, unfortunately it is another example of the unrequited love affairs that the show loves to include, but in this case it actually works. These two adversaries are afraid of each other not simply because of their respective magical prowess, but because they have deep emotional issues stemming from a disastrous love affair.
It’s not without problems, though. For one, McGowan and Carlyle have absolutely no chemistry. None. Zilch. When they kiss, it’s not passionate. Or sexy. It’s not even cute. It’s gross. All I can do is wonder how Carlyle’s heavily made-up face doesn’t rub off on McGowan’s bee-stung lips. The “love” piece I’ll buy, but the sex? Gag.
The other issue – and this may simply be a matter of personal interpretation – is that Rumple should have known that Cora loved him. Just as things seem most dire for Rumple, he needs to clarify if Cora ever really loved him? I just don’t buy that he wouldn’t have understood why she presented her heart to him instead of the King’s. Even for a spurned lover who may not be thinking clearly, this seemed pretty freakin’ clear. And if we think about all of the events that stem from these events, it makes what follows significantly less impactful. Like “dude, you didn’t get that she loved you and had to let you go, so you initiated a series of events that ruined everyone’s lives??? Get a clue”.
Although it has a few issues, the flashback is significantly stronger than the events set in modern day Storybrooke. These are…a little more tedious. After Rumple arrives in town with Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Neal (Michael Raymond-Jones) and Henry (Jared Gilmore, immediately whisked away by Meghan Ory’s Red – thank god), it feels like things immediately go into slow-mo.
Everyone stands around and talks, and talks, and talks some more. There’s a ridiculous bit with invisible chalk (guess the green screen ate too much of the FX budget?) and a cool bit when Emma finally gets her MAGIQUE mojo on by creating an (admittedly wimpy) protection spell around the store, but apart from this it mostly feels like everyone is waiting around for Cora and Regina to show up.
Once they do, things get noticeably better, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t secretly wishing someone would simply cut off Regina or Cora’s hands and put an end to their endless purple mist and Darth Vader-like abilities. There’s also a strangely obvious missed opportunity when Neal forces Cora to choose between her daughter – held captive by Emma – and the dagger. Instead of providing the much needed revelation about Cora’s desire to become the Dark One more than protect Regina, any weight this conflict would have carried is immediately overcome by a quick random act of violence before it awkwardly rears its head when Snow tricks Regina into being her patsy.
The sequence of events that bring about Cora’s end involve the episode’s stupidest moments: Snow, who is being manipulated by Rumple, proceeds to manipulate Regina, who jabs her mother’s heart back into her at the most convenient moment possible – just as Cora is about to strike down Rumple and become the Dark One. Not only does this require Snow to honestly believe that Henry would blame her for letting Rumple die (as opposed to Hook), but we’re meant to believe that Regina is such an idiot that she would a) listen to Snow about her mother and b) stick the heart back in right as Rumple is about to be struck down? Considering what we’ve been lead to believe these characters are capable of over the last season and a half, they sure did get dumb in the last few episodes!
Regardless, the output is this: Cora is dead and Rumple more or less points the finger at Snow so the stage is set for Regina to go crazy. While I don’t agree wit everything that happens to get us here, I’m psyched to see what comes as a result.
- TVAngie noted how symbolic it is of Once Upon A Time to dress Snow in dark colours when she makes the decision to kill someone (or rather someone important since she’s killed plenty of ‘Red Shirt’ soldiers back in Fairy Tale Land)? Wish the costuming had been a little more subtle here
- Speaking of costuming, is there a cold snap inside Rumple’s store? Why else is everyone wearing their coats the whole time?
- Proving that if your mom is a b*tch, you’ll be made to suffer, we learn that Cora was tripped by Snow’s mother, Princess Ava, and this is what sets the whole plot in motion. So the moral of the story is don’t trip anyone because they could go on to sign an evil pact, marry rich, poison you, orchestrate the adoption of your child by her child, followed by attempted murder after attempted murder, etc. Tripping leads to some ugliness in the world
- Methinks the timeline in these flashbacks is a little skewed. Rumple is already the Dark One when he meets a pretty nubile Cora, who only just has Regina by the end of the episode. But Baelfire/Neal is already born at this time since he was around before Rumple turned. So if Baelfire went through that portal a loooooong time before any of the events involving Cora, Regina and Snow, shouldn’t he be hella-old by now? Cause he was already a kid when Rumple changed, and Regina has to grow up, encounter Snow, who also has to grow up to have Emma and dump her through the tree portal. Somebody didn’t align these timelines very well
- The Rumple/Cora gold-spinning kissing/REVENGE plotting/Gold-spinning part? Weird, dirty and uncomfortable to watch
- I can appreciate that we’re meant to melt when Rumple calls amnesiac snoozefest Belle (Emilie De Ravin), but I just can’t make myself care because she is so boring. Good work by Carlyle, though
- Complaints aside, the moment that Cora sees Regina after she has her heart and realizes what it means to truly “love” her daughter…and then dies is very well executed. As much as Regina is made to be an incompetent fool for the majority of the episode, Parrilla and Hershey sell this brief happy/sad reunion in a very emotionally satisfying way. For Hershey this is about as good an exit as can be expected. RIP Cora
- Cora (to the king, who is auctioning his son off to rich bachelorettes): “Good luck whoring your son.” It’s a funny line that also has some irony
- Rumple (when Cora insists brides are white as snow): “When you see the future, there is irony everywhere.” Well at least the writers are acknowledging it. Also…if he has a view of the future, why can’t he see everything that will happen in Storybrooke? Or are we meant to assume that he loses it somewhere?
- Cora (to Regina, as she dies with her heart replaced): “This would have been enough. You would have been enough.” Heart-breaking without being cheesy or patronizing to the audience. This is the kind of writing the show needs more of
What do you think Regina will do now? Now that Rumple is fully recovered, will he engage her or will he plot against Henry? Do you care about Neal and Emma’s flirtatious relationship? And how long before Hook arrives in town? Comment away below
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8pm EST on ABC