Once Upon A Time review – 2×02: ‘We Are Both’

Courtesy of ABC via Boomtron

Magic may be back in Storybrooke, but that doesn’t mean that things have gotten any easier for its Maine residents. Thankfully Emma (Jennifer Morrison) sits most of the episode out, so the endeavour is nearly a completely thrilling success!

Let’s bitch it out…A sniff from a book of spells is all it takes to restore Regina (Lana Parrilla) to full power as the town recovers from the aftermath of the finale’s purple dust cloud. Meanwhile, we succumb return to last season’s storytelling format in which we get overly insightful flashbacks to Fairy Tale that help to make sense of what’s happening in Storybrooke. For ‘We Are Both’, these flashbacks help educate us about the truth behind Rumple’s (Robert Carlyle) and Regina’s magical relationship and what she did to rid herself of her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey).

There’s still a childish simplicity to Once‘s storytelling technique: the similarities between Henry’s (Jared Gilmore) reaction to his mom’s offer to teach him magic and Regina’s similar reaction to her mother’s is far too obvious. Yes, Once writers, we get it: she’s become her mother, even though we see that she never wanted to become this way. I do think that the suggestion that Henry is similarly at risk for succumbing to the dark side is tantalizing, but considering what show we’re talking about, it’s clear that Once will never go down this road. The end of the Storybrooke portion of the episode, when Regina gives Henry back to Charming, is meant to show that she’s learning how to be less of a monster and more of a mother, but it doesn’t quite work because we’ve seen her act in this capacity before. Regina always has more up her sleeve, so although this appears to be a rare moment of ‘human’ weakness, clearly she’s not just going to hand her “son” over to Charming. There’s always more to her plans than meets the eye.

Ultimately your satisfaction with the episode will rest squarely on how much you care about Charming embracing his princely responsibilities (me: meh) and/or your interest in watching Regina battle her magical demons (me: relatively high). Side Note: It’s fun to see the Storybrooke characters struggle with their now-dual identities, or – as the Mad Hatter (Sebastian Stan) – suggests in his brief cameo, double the dose of misery. It will be interesting to see how the residents re-adjust to their ‘real’ Fairy Tale identities now that they’re mixed into the ‘Storybrooke’ ones.

Courtesy of ABC via Boomtron

Other Observations:

  • I like how Regina ditches the conservative Mayoral suits once she gets her power back. Her first ‘evil’ outfit? A skin-tight, shoulder-padded little black dress. I also appreciate the nice callback to the pilot when Regina manages to dodge Gran’s (Beverley Elliott) arrow (similar to the sword dodge at the Royal Wedding waaaaay back in the first episode)
  • The inspiration level of Charming’s (Josh Dallas) speech in the back of the pick-up (on a scale of 1 to 10): 7. Definitely solid, though telling people to “get back to work” doesn’t exactly endear Braveheart levels of love and dedication
  • Don’t cross the city limits! Storybrooke remains the same “Do Not Leave” zone it has always been, only this time if you leave, you forget your “real” identity. I wonder if Grumpy feels any remorse pushing his fellow dwarf across the line, thereby erasing Sneezy forever? Heading back to work doesn’t ease the guilt you feel late at night, does it, Grumpy? Does it?!
  • Pinnochio (Eion Bailey) is still a wooden “boy” – just in case you were wondering. Does he get a guest starring credit for that? And where did he make off to before Gepetto (Tony Amendeloa) found him?
  • Jared Gilmore…still a terrible child actor. With that said, good job on Henry for calling out your impostor mom for making you feel crazy. Also for freaking people out at town hall meetings. Not cool
  • The reveal of Mulan’s (Jamie Chung) “refugee” home is disappointingly bland. I get that it’s meant to be depressing, but the CGI just kinda makes it look like a leftover from the set of Snow White and The Huntsman, and that’s not a good thing. What is a good thing, however, is the cliffhanger reveal that Regina sent her mother through the looking-glass to wherever Emma and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) are now. Excellent

Best Lines:

  • Regina (to Charming): I will not listen to childcare lessons from a man who put his child in a box and sent her to Maine”
  • Regina (to Henry, as she ensnares him in a tree): “Don’t fight it, honey…you’ll get a splinter.”

All things considered, this episode feels like a lot of solid exposition that’s setting up some genuinely interesting storylines. Thus far Once has surprised me for taking narrative chances with the rebooted magical Storybrooke, though I’m unsure what the fan reaction will be if the episodes continue to divide attention between Mulan/Emma/Snow and Storybrooke. There’s an element of risk at play here that – if it pays off – could produce some very interesting results, but could also peeve-off a ton of people.

What are your thoughts on the second episode? Happy with the alternating format the show is seemingly adopting? Are you hoping that there will be more leather outfits in the show’s future? Sound off 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

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