Once Upon A Time review – 2×01: ‘Broken’

Courtesy of ABC

After a maddeningly inconsistent first season, Once Upon A Time – a ratings surprise for ABC – returns for its second season after delivering a mostly satisfying season finale. Can the second season maintain the consistency?

Let’s bitch it out…

Broadly speaking, I’d say yes…tentatively. There are enough interesting storylines on display in ‘Broken’ to ensure repeat sampling, though several issues that nearly drove me mad in the first season remain. Primary among those concerns is central protagonist, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) – whom I frequently wanted to smack / burn her leather jacket collection. The sullen petulant attitude that made her such a joy in S1 (please note the sarcasm) remains on display throughout the premiere: she’s as annoying as ever when she complains that she can’t forgive her parents, Snow/Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming/David (Josh Dallas), for giving her up when she was a child. I’ll admit that after 28 years this argument has some currency, but when it’s coming from Emma it just feels like another invite to a never-ending pity party. Heaven forbid this woman look on the brighter side of life.

That’s why it’s nice that Rumple/Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) calls her on her BS when she and her hot parental units confront him for double-crossing Emma and allowing a giant tidal wave of purple bubble bath to cover Storybrooke. Like the true wordsmith that he is, Rumple makes no apologies for reuniting her family without hurting her bratty son, Henry (Jared Gilmore – slightly more tolerable). Sorry Red Leather, but I’m with the pawn-shop owner, even if he is only looking out for himself (and Emily De Ravin’s Belle).

All the jazz surrounding Rumple’s summoning of the Wraith and the central duo taking on protection duties to prevent Regina (Lana Parrilla) from being soul-sucked is lukewarm at best. It feels like an obvious way to avoid having these people deal with the Evil Queen (“Sorry, can’t deal with repercussions of being cursed for 28 years, there’s a villain that looks like a rip-off of Lord Of The Rings flying around town breaking light bulbs and getting sucked into top hats”). All of this leads into what is clearly meant to be some kind of epic cliffhanger, in which we learn that the Fairy Tale bits sporadically sprinkled in – featuring Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger) of Sleeping Beauty fame – are actually the result of the events in Storybrooke. And so Emma and Snow end up being teleported back to Fairy Tale world along with the Wraith, while Regina regains her magical powers and Henry emancipates himself to live with his hot grandpa.

Courtesy of ABC

Other Observations:

  • The use of the portal-generating top hat without an appearance by Sebastian Stan’s off-beat Mad Hatter is unsatisfying. Rumour abounds that we’ll see the deranged hatter again, but for now, points off Once
  • Charming: Cute, but a terrible jumper. Way to lose track of your wife and daughter in one fell swoop
  • Mulan and Aurora love the same man, Prince Phillip (Julian Morris) who is killed by the Wraith. I’d care, except that this is the same old “impossible love affair” that Once has pulled out countless times. Boring! More interesting is the news that Fairy Tale was also frozen by the curse and people were only freed from stasis one year ago – which is when Emma first restarted the clock back in Storybrooke
  • I was on board with Rumple and Belle last season, but this feels like a romantic version of the relationship he had with his son. “I promise not to do dark magic and lie and be a bad person. You believe me like an idiot. Then you catch me doing all those things and get angry”. Like the unsustainable love stories, we’ve been down this path before. Belle better bring something new to the table, because this is stale after a single episode
  • Regarding the cliffhanger: One half of me thinks that this is a cop-out. It’s as though the show doesn’t trust us to remain interested in Storybrooke alone, so they send Emma and Snow on a quest in Fairy Tale. The other half of me thinks that this keeps the storytelling options open and ensures we get our “leather clothes and gorgeous scenery” quotient filled on a weekly basis
  • Most tantalizing: the cold open featuring True Blood and Terriers actor Michael Raymond-Jones (last seen on The Walking Dead) as a mysterious man living in NY who receives a postcard from Storybrooke informing him that the curse has been broken. Who sent the card and courier pigeon? Who is this man (Baelish?) and why does he care magic has returned to Storybrooke (Papa can you hear me)? This is definitely the kind of story the show needs to be telling

What did you think of the premiere? Are you happy with the return of magic to the show? Did you enjoy Mulan and Aurora? Are you excited to see Snow go into badass mode on a more regular basis? And who is the mystery man in NY? Speculate away below

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8pm EST on ABC

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

3 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time review – 2×01: ‘Broken’

  1. Well, I must say I didn’t find Emma annoying. I thought her not forgiving her parents for living her as a baby in a moment is logical. Hugs and kisses would be too cheesy. But I like characters that don’t always see a bright side of life (except if it’ in Monty Python manner http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHPOzQzk9Qo).
    Actually, from the begginning of the series, Snow/Mary Margaret and Charming/David were most annoying characters for me. Emma, Regina and Gold were most interesting. Because of that, I like were the season two is going.
    I must agree, Rumple and Belle storyline isn’t believable. Writers need to do something else with them.

  2. I was excited to watch the premiere, and I really tried to like it, but I thought it was awful. Characters are subjected to a life-altering curse for 28 years and when it lifts, there are a few hugs and a lame only sort of angry mob. Seriously?

    Snow has been reunited with Charming and Emma, and knows the Queen is to blame for all of their suffering, and she wants to stop in the middle of the street to talk to Emma about her life.

    Emma has learned her son died only to see him brought back to life, and then she’s reunited with her parents, and her reaction is to whine about how who’s had it harder during these 28 years?

    Why in the hell would anyone ever hold that dumb talisman in their hands if they know that it marks you as the wraith’s next victim?

    Was Regina just trying to pull a fast one with the hat because I thought only Jefferson could make it work?

    And I hope J.K. Rowling gets some kind of kickback for the Death Eater cameo.

    • Hear, hear! I totally agree with every single thing you said, Kelly. I, personally speaking, really got fed up w/the show pretty early on (about 9 or 10 episodes in actually) but decided to stick with it throughout the entire first season to give it a fair chance. I really tried to like it and give it the benefit of the doubt; to suspend judgement. So much so that I even gave it an extra chance with this past episode. It totally flunked out with me. And, the blatent, unashamed dementor rip off was just low on their part. That was the final nail in the coffin. How original and new twist can a story be when they so clearly rip off another story? How’s also in fairy tale land? Harry Potter and Hogwarts? Oh, wait! Frodo and Sam! Then, it’s painfully clear now they are trying to repeat Lost. Actively trying to. That show was only tentatively good for two seasons than it went completely downhill. It was really bad last season. It’s going to be much worse this season. I’m not sticking around for it.