Everyone hold onto your hats because I am about to say something crazy: I actually kind of liked an episode of Once Upon A Time. I know, I’m as scared/confused/nauseous as you.
Let’s bitch it out…It’s probably no longer a surprise that I became less enamoured with Once Upon A Time as the season went on. I respected the season finale because I hadn’t anticipated the show would take a risk, but I had long before fallen out of love with many of the characters, the formulaic flashbacks to FairyTale, the easy-to-digest child-friendly messages and – most of all – protagonist Emma (Jennifer Morrison). And while the show’s third episode didn’t do away with all of these elements, it’s clear the “bringing magic back” (and sending Emma away) has helped the show raise its narrative game.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that much of ‘Lady Of The Lake’ shuffled the more repetitive elements of the show to the sidelines, including Lana Parrilla’s snarking Regina (who nabbed a grand total of approximately two lines), made consistent fun of Emma (seriously could this woman be more dense?) and gave more screentime to Barbara Hershey’s delicious villainess, Cora. I’ve long maintained that what the show needs is fewer goody-two shoes (*cough Ginnifer Goodwin’s Snow and Josh Dallas’ Charming cough*) and more villains. That’s why it’s promising that not only is Cora still on the loose (and looking to force a reunite with her dear old daughter), but we’re going to meet ‘heavy into eyeshadow’ Captain Hook next week (commence drooling in t-minus six days).
Unlike my prediction last week that the show would spend each episode in one world or the other, ‘Lady Of The Lake’ evenly divided it’s time between both worlds and two time periods. It’s not difficult to follow when you’re watching, but it does make reviewing the show a wee bit more challenging. The flashback FairyTale storyline (FFT for future reference) helps to establish the theme for the episode: parents need to give up crap in sacrifice for their kids, even if it means kicking the bucket (RIP Charming’s mom). It’s the kind of story the show would have spent an entire episode exploring in the first season, so spreading it out across both worlds and time periods helps to make this seem less like an after school special for crack-addict teenagers in their third-trimester of pregnancy. The message is obvious, sure (it’s the narrative equivalent of a politician’s PR team strategy: stay on message!), but it feels less intrusive because it’s being explored by Snow and Emma, Charming and Henry (an increasingly tolerable Jared Gilmore) and even Jefferson (Sebastian Stan) and his daughter, Grace. Wait, scratch that – I don’t care about Jefferson.
Somehow the bits with Snow (bad*ss with a bow and arrow and a sword), Emma (and that godforsaken ever-present leather jacket), stick-in-the-mud Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Disney automaton Aurora (Sarah Bolger). I loved how Emma is proven wrong at every turn (newsflash hairdo: this isn’t Storybrooke, so your big girl routine doesn’t hold up). Throw in a juicy role for Teen Wolf‘s underused Sinqua Walls (RIP Lancelot), a burning portal and terrible CGI Ogre and this whole escapade is a fun dash of escapism. Bonus points for knocking Emma down repeatedly.
I’m less certain about Henry’s bonding session with hot grandfather Charming back in Storybrooke. After Operation Scorpion (is that a Mortal Kombat reference?) goes bust, Henry elects to steal phoney-mom’s keys to ransack her vault for a magical solution to his missing mommy problem. It’s promising if only because it proves that someone actually read that damn book of stories (no, Emma, and Ogre is not a Giant) and is willing to be proactive. Unfortunately the little tyke’s escapades don’t amount to anything, so hopefully he and Charming can return to the vault soon. (Side Note: Is it just me, or was dearly departed Sheriff HotPants’ heart tell-tale-ing away in its safety deposit box?)
- Anyone else appreciate the hypocrisy of Emma’s continue chastizing of Snow for “abandoning” her and not looking out for her interests. Considering she did the exact same thing to her own son, shouldn’t she be just a touch less judgmental? Pot meet kettle
- This show has a strange fixation with a) how terrible being a foster child is and b) not being able to have children is. Tonight’s episode not only has Emma break down when she realizes that being sent to Maine was actually a huge sacrifice for Snow to protect her (um, duh), but has not one, but two scenes in which Snow has to deal with people expecting her to get preggers. Considering how much the show pushes non-traditional families, it’s weird how frequently that definition of family includes not just children, but a mother and father
- How hilariously awful is Aurora’s attempted attack on Snow? While Goodwin doesn’t always nail her physical scenes as warrior Snow, it’s certain believable that she can a) toss a weakling Disney princess and b) shoot an Ogre in the eye. Ace sharp shooting is just like riding a bike!
- While I applaud the show for giving Sinqua Walls more to do in a single episode than Teen Wolf gave him to do in an entire season, it’s a bit of a bummer that Cora killed him. Considering the format of the show, however, it’s more than possible he’ll return
- Reason #86 not to kill a hot killer mermaid: vengeful b*tch takes her all-healing water with her when she dies
- Finally, does seeing Alan Dale’s Prince George on the Storybrooke side (for the first time!) mean that the actor will be on the show more regularly. Because more Dale = more happy dancing from me
What are your thoughts on ‘Lady Of The Lake’? Are you picking up what Once Upon A Time is putting down? Are you excited to watch Cora try to get over to Storybrooke? Are you happy with the two world and the two timelines? And how awesome is it watching Emma get repeatedly b*tchslapped by the forces of FairyTale land? Hit the comments below to sound off
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8pm EST on ABC