Once Upon A Time review – 2×03: ‘Lady Of The Lake’

Courtesy of ABC

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.

Courtesy of ABC

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?)

Other Observations:

  • 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

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

6 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time review – 2×03: ‘Lady Of The Lake’

  1. The season is definitely improving, but given how disjointed and weird the premiere was, the bar was set pretty low. I missed RumpleGold in this one, but Cora is definitely a welcome addition. You need her vinegar to balance out sickly sweet one-note Aurora and monotone Mulan. I also like Charming’s mom because I think their scenes together are very good.

    I hope we see more of Lancelot because he was the best of the new characters this season so far.

    We still had some weird rushed over parts like when Grandpa Charming has no trouble finding Henry. I don’t understand why the writers chose not to show Regina’s reaction to Henry’s deception and her missing keys. Regina telling David about the vault seems like it should be a bigger deal.

    King George appeared in Storybrooke before as an attorney when Regina was framing Mary Margaret for murder.

  2. The episode was ok. It made me go “meh.” The whole season so far has made me go that way. The first season was far from the greatest and I totally agree with the author that it was unbelievably easy to fall out of love with these characters and the storylines and messages are too after school special. Though, I personally have started thinking after school special rejects because they are too simpleton, sorry simplified, and sugary for that. My kids have even started getting annoyed by it and they are 6 and 9. My 6 year old called Sleeping Beauty an idiot! My 9 year old also can’t stand Emma just like the author. She wants an intelligent HEROINE. Not a idiotic, whiny 2 year old in the body of an adult. She also asked a really great question. Why worry so much about having a kid when they didn’t even have a stable home for said baby secured with the very real possibility of not succeeding at getting it. Yes, the audience knows they will get it but the characters don’t because that part hasn’t happened yet. It was still in the future at that point. Too much importance was placed on it by the characters when they should’ve had survival on their minds. King George’s sterility curse was just too forced and out of place. My 9 year old caught that one! As for Captain Hook….I honestly think they are going to screw him up. A great potential, multi-dimentional character is going to be heinously mishandled and ultimately reduced to barely more than man eye candy and made into a love interest for dimwitted Emma. Just my thought on that one.

  3. So, does anyone else feel like we are looking at a season finale team-up of Queen Regina (which means “queen”, by the way) with our fairy tale lot against new Big Bad Cora?

    And yes, we all agree that Emma is an idiot and poorly written/characterized.

    • I was actually thinking the exact same thing. Cora got the ashes from the torched wardrobe and it clearly has magic. A released episode description for, I think, episode 5 says Regina sees a ghost from her past and, WARNING SPOILER READ REST OF SENTENCE AT OWN RISK, Daniel shows back up in that same episode. Since Cora can masquede as dead people and she has the magical wardrobe ashes….2 + 2. Cora gets to Storybrooke. Since Hook becomes a series regular from episode 14 onward, It’s a hugely great bet that he too gets to Storybrooke somehow as well. My guess is he brings Snow and Emma back somehow and he goes with them. Cora masqueding as dead people is another thing that’s copied from Lost. Remember Locke? Didn’t mind the tiny little background and prop nods to Lost but it’s that in your face, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth proverbially speaking. But, yeah. It’s going to be Cora and King George as the season bad guys. Cora is going to be used to redeem Regina and make her one of the good guys.

      • I can easily see them using Cora to redeem Regina. Not sure how I feel about that. They’ve always tried to make Regina a sympathetic villain, so it’s definitely imaginable that they’ll go this route.

  4. This episode was good. Story of Lancelot was interesting. And I liked that Ogre. Charming finally was tolerable and I like badass Snow. Much better character than Mary Margaret was. Bringing the Cora in was good call. I think she is a main villain of the season and Regina will team up with Snow and Emma to defeat her.