Once Upon A Time Review: A Continued Cluster$@*%

I realized last night when I tried to explain what’s happening on Once Upon A Time, that there’s actually a lot happening on Once Upon A Time. That might sound like an odd epiphany given that I watch the show on a weekly basis, but I think the wasteland of episodes between September and Christmas left me paying only vague attention.

I’m paying attention now, though, even though the multiple revelations and plot threads are doing little more than trying to distract viewers from the sloppy mess of disinterested storytelling.

Yeah. Things are happening, but the ship has not been righted. In my opinion.

This week largely consists of four juxtaposed tales of parents and children, and while each parent claims to have the child’s best interest at heart, they turn out four very different offspring…or do they?

First (and most interesting) is the backstory containing the death of Snow White’s mother. Young Snow’s mother fell ill around her (maybe 10th?) birthday. The day was to be a huge celebration, perhaps an introduction of the young princess to society, and the opportunity to wear her first tiara. I loved the teaching moment Snow’s mother took advantage of, and the fact that we see Snow White has struggled with having a purely good heart—it makes her a more relatable character. When her mother grows weaker, Snow’s nursemaid Johanna tells the child to seek the Blue Fairy’s help. The Blue Fairy (Keegan Connor Tracy) tells Snow that only dark magic can return someone to life, but she’ll give Snow a spell as long as the girl promises to keep it a secret. The catch is that Snow (Bailee Madison, who continues to be an absolute treasure) must take a life as payment for her mother’s being saved.

Snow declines, devastated that she’s too weak spirited to save her own mother. The Queen, of course, praises Snow for doing the good thing and for always seeking the righteous path.

The second revolves around Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Cora (Barbara Hershey). In Storybrooke, the gals are still searching for Rumplestilskin’s knife, although we’re a little unclear on whether they plan to use it to control him or Cora plans to become the Dark One herself. As the Storybrooke tale unfolds, however, Regina (and Snow) learn that Cora not only poisoned the Queen, but planned for her daughter to save Snow White on her runaway horse. Her goal the entire time was to sit Regina on the throne, a feat she accomplished years ago.

Regina, for her part, seems to have slipped back into unrepentant evil (I’m not sure when that happened, we haven’t seen anything from her POV, or any confliction on her part since Cora reappeared). This week she didn’t hear a word Snow White said while trying to convince Regina that her mother doesn’t care about her daughter or her grandson or, well, anything except power. When Regina helps Cora kill Johanna in pursuit of the knife, we can all assume she’s crossed over to the dark side and has no plans to look back. Even when she learns her marriage to the King was all a setup, she doesn’t seem inclined to toss her mother aside.

We also haven’t addressed how on earth she believes Henry could ever love or respect her after he finds out she’s basically intent on killing everyone in his life to get her claws into him. I mean…the kid’s made his feelings on dark magic and control pretty clear. Murdering his parents and grandparents isn’t going to endear Regina to him and I find it a little obtuse that she’s refusing to address that fact.

Speaking of Henry (Jared Gilmore), he’s in NYC getting to know Baelfire (Michael Raymond-James) and still sniping at his mother for telling him lies (3rd parent/child relationship). Rumplestilskin (Robert Carlyle) can’t shake the memory of the seer girl who said Henry would be his undoing…but he didn’t expect the complication of the boy he needed to kill being his grandson. Since Rumple’s more practical than Regina, he realizes that murdering Henry would be the final straw where Bae is concerned.

Bae loves spending time with his son, but seems reluctant to return to Storybrooke even when Emma (Jennifer Morrison) suggests it. We find out later that he’s engaged (presumably to a not-fairytale person). Everything changes when Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) shows up and plunges a poison-tipped hook into Rumplestilskin’s chest. As Bae says, not forgiving his father (4th parent/child relationship) and standing aside watching him die are two different things, so the four of them plan to commandeer (nautical term) Hook’s cloaked ship and sail it back to Storybrooke.

So, I guess that’s pretty much it. While I just recounted a ton of information, including several massive revelations (Bae’s engaged, Cora killed the Queen, Rumple’s dying), it feels like a wad of spaghetti someone threw against the wall. Like, let’s plant all of these potential landmines and see which one resonates with viewers.

Oh! I almost forgot the most important revelation of the night, which was this: Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) is tired of being good all the time. She’s starting to wonder if perhaps her mother was wrong about the good path always being the best one, given that all of the “right” decisions she’s made over the past several years have cost her everything she holds dear. Maybe it’s time for her to be “bad,” and apparently that means killing Cora.

I mean, I don’t think “killing Cora” is something you just do…she’s pretty tricksy. Still.

Aside: Am I the only person who finds the support/affection/interaction between Charming (Josh Dallas) and Snow completely ineffectual and false? It’s odd, since they’re a couple irl (maybe they’re not anymore?), but each time he reaches out to comfort her, or looks into her eyes to convince her she’s not alone and that he knows who she is, it’s like he has to swallow a mouthful of vomit first. Just me?

Personally, the idea of following the “Snow White Goes Bad” story line for several weeks with these writers who seem exhausted by their own distracted story and character arcs makes me want to sleep for a week. The plot of Season 2 continues to be an unfocused, rambling mess that leaves me unable to care what happens to anyone on this show. The dialogue borders on ridiculously cheesy in this episode, and we’re being spoon fed information we could deduce on our own (or might keep us guessing) if they’d only trust their viewers enough to give us a longer leash.

Exhausting is the word of the day. And week and month and…you get the idea. Yawn.

Season 2, Episode 15 “The Queen is Dead” (originally aired March 3, 2013)

Once Upon A Time airs Sunday nights at 8/7c on ABC

Images courtesy of Jack Rowand and ABC.



One Comment

  1. “Bailee Madison, who continues to be an absolute treasure” I can’t disagree more. I think the show is really corny, but tolerable. Madison’s performance feels like a joke, or parody. It’s rediculous and over-performed to the extreme. I have to roll my eyes every single time she speaks. This last episode was torture to both myself and my wife. An absolute treasure? Seriously? I want some of what you are smoking.

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