With the end of our beloved The Walking Dead until February (sob), Sunday night opens up a bit here at bitchstolemyremote. As such, let’s lighten the mood a tad with some family fare courtesy of new hit Once Upon A Time. We join our season already in progress, though admittedly the show is only getting warmed up as it continues to explore the connections between Storybrooke, Maine and its fairy tale alter ego. Up this week, resident therapist Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge) aka Jiminy Cricket.
Let’s break it down…
As much as I’ve been enjoying the show thus far, I must say that I find certain characters and storylines far more engaging than others. Some of that has to do explicitly with which fairytales we’re talking about, and may explain why I found this week’s episode, ‘That Still Small Voice’ a little less engaging than some of the others.
Despite being scripted by the fantastic Jane Espenson (whom I love from her days on Buffy), I can confess that I have always hated Pinocchio. So no matter how endearing I find Raphael Sbarge’s Archie Hopper, an entire episode dedicated to Jiminy Cricket was always going to be an uphill battle.
Last week’s episode ended with the revelation that Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan) is servicing both the people of Storybrooke and Lana Parilla’s Mayor Mills (in the don’t-forget-your-socks-under-the-bed manner). That was completely unaddressed this episode except for a small sideways glance after the Sheriff told Regina that he had deputized Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison). Instead the story focused on therapist Archie Hopper’s inability to stand up for himself to Regina. The pilot made it clear that he follows her instructions, and this episode continued along the same lines. Early on Regina bitches him out over Henry’s (Jared Gilmore) lack of progress. She insists that Archie alter his treatment methods, prompting him to confront Henry (calling him delusional and a potential psychotic), which served to drive Henry down into the mysterious mine/sinkhole that appeared as soon as Emma put on her deputy badge.
The sinkhole was a literal example of the changes that Emma’s presence is having in the town (the second after the town’s clock starting up), and is one of the more interesting elements of the show. There’s an entire story that’s not being told about the curse, what Emma needs to do to break it and what effect that would have on the town and its citizens. Is Henry’s goal simply to wake people up to their true identities, or would breaking the curse restore their fairytale world? The end of the episode, in which Regina dropped a piece of glass down the sinkhole’s air vent onto a pile of like-minded pieces, suggests that the citizens of Far Away weren’t transported to a new world at all. Instead the audience is left with the suggestion that Storybrooke is their world, and the modern day buildings are either covering up or built on top of the fairytales.
Whether or not the show intends on exploring this, however, is another story. Thus far the focus has been on investigating the different characters populating this strange little town, and tonight’s focus was on Archie aka Jiminy the cricket. While I traditionally love the way that Espenson weaves her tales, the manner in which Archie learned to stand up for himself as the voice of conscience (or a “good person” to use Henry’s words) was ham-fisted and obvious (something I’ve found the show struggles with). Henry’s passion for the alt universe is best employed in small doses, and I freely admit that the idea that Henry’s unwavering belief swayed Archie may have caused an eye-roll, despite how much both actors tried to sell their part. In truth, the ‘stuck in the mineshaft’ narrative was a dull story stretched out too long and Espenson would have been better served having Archie come to the epiphany himself after their rescue by Emma, or spending more time exploring the complicated familial relationship she spun in the fairytale B story
Much like the Snow White/Prince Charming and Cinderella backstories we’ve gotten for the past few weeks, this was an inversion of the Disneyfied conventions we’ve been raised on. It was a nice twist to see Jiminy’s parents (marvellously played by Buffy vet Harry Groener and ‘Barb from Cougartown’s Carolyn Hennesy) as cons who use their son and their travelling marionette show to help them swindle and steal (Sidenote: This was another parallel to Lost, which also featured con parents and the troubled children they raise with Josh Holloway’s Sawyer). Groener and Hennesy played their parts exceptionally well, finishing each other’s lines with wit aplomb (I found them slightly reminiscent of Mr and Mrs Thenardier, the memorable thieves from Les Miserables). The reveal behind Geppetto and Jiminy’s relationship (Geppetto was the young boy whose parents Jiminy accidentally turned to wood in his attempt to escape from his own parents, and it was Jiminy’s wish to become a cricket to help the boy) was both heartfelt and, again, obvious.
Five weeks in, I think that the show is settling into a Lost-like formula that explores the background of its characters and slowly advances the contemporary Storybrooke-curse plot. Given that its intended audience is families, I’m semi-okay with that. I do think that the show can still be entertaining without pandering to its younger viewers, but considering the deft balance that’s required to make this show the hit it is, all involved should be quite pleased with the result. With that said, I do hope that the wheels begin spinning just a bit faster as the show heads into its fall finale in a few weeks.
- Another week, another bad deal with Rumpelstiltskin. You’d have thought that word would circulate that the deals this guy is making aren’t really working out for anyone. Robert Carlyle’s scenes both had fun callbacks, however: the first when he’s spinning in the tower comes from the Rumpelstitskin fairytale, and the wooden dolls that his potion creates were visible in last week’s episode when Cinderella snuck into the pawn shop.
- Mary Margaret Blanchard and John Doe comprised the other story of the evening (If Storybrooke is A and Fairytale is B, are these side stories the C storyline?). This is the relationship that I’m most invested in, so while both Goodwin and Dallas got some screentime this week, I’m excited to have Prince Charming’s story take center stage next week.
- I love Lana Parrilla’s scenery chewing turn as Mayor Mills/Evil Queen, but I’m confused as to how aware she is. She clearly remembers elements from the Fairytale world (see her relationship with Mr. Gold), but it frequently seems like she has no plan or course of action. Is she powerless in this new world? In addition to clarification on the curse, I’d like more background on just what her plan is now that Emma is sticking around. Watching Parrilla and Morrison bicker about child custody each week is not going to be entertaining 22 episodes in, so I hope the queen/mayor has more up her sleeve.
- Henry still has his mysterious piece of glass. What will become of that?
- Finally, this has been driving me crazy: What character is the Sheriff supposed to be in the fairytale world? It’s not the wolf (most people are convinced that’s David Ander’s doctor after his interactions with Stripper Red Riding two weeks ago in episode 1×03). So who is the Sheriff, then?