Once Upon A Time recap – 1×06: ‘The Shepherd’

Courtesy of ABC

As I mentioned last week, the story that I feel the greatest emotional investment in is the story of Prince Charming and Snow White. Not only are they the most recognizable of the fairy tales, but the inversion of their more familiar tales has been entertaining, mostly unexpected and emotional. The danger with this show and its broad audience is the temptation to tell the story to the lowest margin (in this case kids), but the stories of princesses and their charming knights has a near universal appeal.

So how did the show handle its return to their most poignant storyline?

Let’s break it down…

This week was a showcase for Josh Dallas’ David Nolan / Prince Charming, which meant that – for better or worse – it was his show to carry. It’s become clear that showrunners Kitsis and Horrowitz have decided to tell their stories using the Lost model: focus on a single character and explore their story in both the present (Storybrooke) and the “past” (Fairy Tale). This is both a strength and a weakness because by focusing on a single character, you run the risk of ostracizing the audience who cares less for that individual (ex: me and Jiminy Cricket last week). It’s a strength, however, because unlike other shows that try to balance the narrative demands of a large ensemble (say The Walking Dead), Once Upon A Time guarantees that you’re provided background information on at least one or two characters each week.

So what did we learn about David Nolan and Prince Charming? Turns out that his marriage to Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith) is real, and not a sham created by Mayor Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla). Despite their lack of connection, when David regained his memories near the end of the episode, he did recall the events he had seen in the box of photos she used earlier to jog his memory. One request please: do not let Dallas shave his head now that he’s remembered who he is! Prince Charming would be far less charming with a buzz cut, so let the man keep his curly golden locks.

The return of David’s memory was an interesting turn of events that capped off a brief courtship with Mary Margaret Blanchard (Ginnifer Goodwin) – for now, at least. Early in the episode David left his homecoming party when he found out that the school teacher wasn’t present, and before the next day he’d left his wife because he couldn’t shake the connection with Mary Margaret (*Caveat: Apologies if there was more to it than that as we lost sound in the bird-house hanging scene and my lip reading skills are rusty). There were a few nice moments with mother and daughter as Mary Margaret and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) discussed the implications of getting involved with a married man compared to a man who has actually left his wife. The excitement on Goodwin’s face as she waited for David at the tollbridge was palpable, but it was clear that it was coming together too quickly/easily (and the mirror story in Fairy Tale was hinting that David/Charming’s romantic decisions were never his to make). I can honestly admit that between the reappearance of David Anders’ Doctor Whale and Sherriff Graham’s (Jamie Dornan) references to animal shelters, I was convinced that Mary Margaret and her red sweater were about to suffer some kind of wolf attack as she waited in the woods. But no: the danger was simply heartbreak. A quick stopover visit to Mr. Gold’s (Robert Carlyle) pawn shop brought back David’s memories of his marriage.

The scene when he confessed that he remembered and was responsible to try and work out his marriage was well played by Goodwin as we were once again reminded of Snow White’s fiery personality. After struggling with the decision of whether or not to act on her attraction like a powerless victim, it was rewarding to hear her raise her voice and proclaim that “the right thing to do was not to lead me on.” And so the Storybrooke side of the story ended with both parties involved with ‘the wrong partner’ – she with Dr. Whales and he with Kathryn. At least the show didn’t stoop to using Regina as the catalyst to break up the inevitable romance. Aside from her completely inappropriate tirade at the diner about Mary Margaret ruining multiple lives, Regina was principally a disgruntled bystander*.

*You can argue that by sending David to Gold’s shop, she knew that he would see the windmill and he would regain his memory, but that’s merely an assumption until proven that she has that much power. This would not only suggest that the Fairy Tale characters are effectively neutered in comparison to her all-knowingness, but that Emma truly is the only one who can face her. If she can just show up and make things go her way, it would also make the show significantly less interesting.

Courtesy of ABC

On the Fairy Tale side of things, we learned that Prince Charming the first was killed long before he ever met Snow White. Killing the boastful egomaniac in the opener was another nice twist (was anyone else waiting for it to be a dream, or have Rupelstiltskin reanimate him?). Instead, the Fairy Tale this week was The Prince and The Pauper, with the titular shepherd referring to Charming’s twin brother – the Shepherd Prince Charming we’ve grown to know and love. In order to save the kingdom, Shepherd Charming was forced to take the place of his heroic brother and kill a dragon in order to secure the wealthy rewards of Alex Zahara’s King Midas (he of the golden touch).

Sidenote: I freely admit that when I saw Midas’ gloved hand and the results of his touch, I immediately flashed to this Skittles commercial. Readers debate: which cursed hand would you rather have?

The point of the Fairy Tale was to reinforce the futility of choice in Shepherd Charming’s life: he’d lost a brother to pay for his mother’s farm, then he himself was forced to assume his brother’s identity in order to save it a second time. Oh sure, he was supporting the kingdom and his mom got some gaudy jewellery out of the deal, but at the end of the day he was still forced to marry the fairytale version of Kathyrn, whose facial expressions alternated between bored and “who farted?”. These poor characters are just pawns for their power hungry parents to move around like game pieces, especially Shepherd Charming who doesn’t even get a name.

The only upside of their entire tale is that it ended where Snow White’s began: just before the carriage heist that would ultimately kickstart the love affair between Charming and Snow White. At least the Fairy Tale side let you know he’s got good coming to him. Our Storybrooke side left things considerably more up in the air.

Other Considerations:

  • Kudos to the show for not dragging out the revelation that Sheriff Graham is sleeping with the Mayor. After bribing Emma with donuts and telling her to work the night shift (what did he do before she came around?), Sheriff Graham is caught sneaking out of Mayor Mills’ window.  He then gets the best line of the night when he sheepishly admits that he really does volunteer at the animal shelter. How long until Emma acts on her disgust of his actions and her distrust of the Mayor to use this knowledge to her advantage? P.S. Henry was in the house? Even if he was asleep, that’s dirty. Won’t somebody please think of the children?!
  • Speaking of Emma and the Sheriff…anyone else feeling the sexual chemistry between them? AmIright or am I imagining things? The previews for next week suggest we’ll get to know a bit more about him, so that should be fun.
  • With David and Mary Margaret taking the lead, we barely saw any of our other regulars. Did you miss anyone in particular? As I’m not a huge Morrison fan, I was satisfied with Emma’s brief scenes as it meant I wasn’t constantly wondering why a grown, fit woman would ever wear skintight skinny jeans. Just because it’s a popular look does not mean it’s a flattering look on everyone. And the red leather jacket? She should just hook up with the guy from Grimm so they can have a weird leather jacket collection and fight fairytales together. Thank you for indulging my Tom&Lorenzo fashion moment.
  • Both Regina and Mary Margaret used the line “so you’ve made your choice.” This may or may not be important, but since repetition (both verbal and visual) was a key component of Lost and this show so far, file these little moments away. Is there a link between the Queen and Snow White that has carried over despite the curse?
  • Also like Lost, we’ve seen a lot of bad parents thus far (especially last week and this week). Bonus points for bringing in Papa Widmore. Any other Lost alum you’d like to see moonlight on the show?
  • Why the hell were the green screens so bad in this episode? They’re very touch and go, and considering the amount of work they do each week for the Fairy Tale scenes, I wouldn’t normally complain, but it seemed like every background was baaaaad this week.

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

10 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time recap – 1×06: ‘The Shepherd’

  1. Re: your comment in the other recap. It’s “schtupping”, not “schlupping”. wtf is “schlupping”??? I think you are mixing up “schlep” and “schtup”. I don’t even speak yiddish but I’ve lived in NY my whole life and this just irked me. Good recap otherwise.

  2. I still believe that Regina sent David to the pawn shop for a reason. Was she certain the windmill would reinsert the curse in David or simply hopeful? I cannot be certain, but she sent him to the “wrong” place on purpose.

  3. I have a feeling I’m going to get tired of James’ hot and cold relationship with Mary Margaret quickly if it keeps dragging on this way. I felt that the ending made no sense whatsoever since even if he did have memories of Kathryn, they never would have been ones of love and they certainly shouldn’t have been able to compare to what he felt for Snow. Their lives in the real world are supposed to be a reflection of their lives in the fairy tale world, in which he was never in love with Kathryn in the first place. Not only that, but in the fairy tale world I’m not even sure they got married. From the episode that tells the story of how James and Snow meet, Charming and Kathryn were still on their way to his castle and I, back then at least, still had hopes that he would fall for Snow before marrying the snotty princess. Either way, I think that they’ve created new rules for James’ story, since nobody in the real world really remembers a past, they live in a constant state of merely existing. So, unless it was Regina at work, I at least feel cheated by yesterday’s episode.

    • My friends and I do think that Regina has a role to play – the question is how much? The biggest issue with stringing these relationships out is that it’s soooo common nowadays that it’s lost any kind of novelty. At this point it would be more refreshing to simply throw characters together romantically and let them deal with it. My favourite example is Cougar Town, which abandoned pretense and matched the main couple mid-way through the first season. It’s been a much better show since!

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