I know these “Lost” alum love literary allusions, but this title seemed a little strong. I mean, does Ginnifer Goodwin seem like what Joseph Conrad had in mind for Kurtz?
Minor gripes aside, last night’s flirtation with evil was both infuriating and entertaining as hell. Some of the more annoying tendencies return, such as Regina’s groan-worthy fare and Henry, being Henry. And then there’s Snow White: a take-no-prisoners, pick-axe wielding, knight-torturing woman after my own heart. The slow reveal where she sings to a bluebird just to lure in it and swat at it with her broom was probably one of their best deployments of comedy yet. Turns out a Charming-size hole in her heart is the cause of her bitter ‘tude, but I gotta say: it was a major turn-on. Ginnifer Goodwin’s “dark side” was a pleasant surprise, even if it was a result of denying her true self. Most of the allure came from the pure unpredictability of what she would do to achieve her vengeful ends. I also yearned throughout the episode for her unadulterated brutality because the rest was so distastefully sugar-coated. The bad habit of repeating dialogue in both realms to emphasize a thematic tie was a well they drew from several times and only elicited obnoxious eye rolls from yours truly.
Lazy writing would be the wrong diagnosis. In my “professional” opinion, it stemmed from the blurring lines of reality that arose in last night’s moon-gravity leap forward in the overarching plot. Though the implication of this cross-world channeling was important to clarify, I felt that they underestimated their audience. Networks tend to do this, but I expected Kitsis/Horowitz to know better after working on such an experimental and innovative network show (in case you’re new, I liked “Lost,” and they wrote for “Lost”…moving on). Beat you over the head lines like “She has had her heart broken, and that can make you do unspeakable things” and “Sometimes evil stares us right in the face and we don’t even realize it,” call attention to themselves in the worst way. Like that kid who gets no love from their high-expectation parents so s/he seeks validation from everyone else. Look everyone, I’m doing something clever with parallelism—and irony!
With the help of CGI Jiminy Cricket (could you imagine if it was a dude in a costume? Hilarious.) the seven dwarves stage an intervention, where even Happy relays his grievances (she broke his mug!) and they force her to move out unless she starts to return to her old gleeful self. Snow agrees to leave, but not for their benefit: she wants head to roll. The queen’s gotta pay for (allegedly) killing her daddy, so she slings her pick-axe over her shoulder to hunt down the evil bi-otch. Moments later, she trips up a horse-riding knight and legit tortures him for information on the queen’s whereabouts. Her threatening monologue about diamonds and how they’re impervious to damage was awesomely diabolical. When she explains that her pickaxe, from the dwarf mines, is the only blade that can cut through a diamond (“So imagine what it could do to your soft flesh!) was the the sort of cutting-edge (pun intended) menace a writer dreams of having the opportunity to employ in dialogue. And the delight shows, especially in Goodwin’s cold delivery.
In the real world, Emma’s forced to book Mary Margaret to keep up appearances and not attract Regina’s wrath. And frankly, the evidence is piling against her. Her fingerprints are all over the box that likely contains Kathryn’s heart, AND said container is her jewelry box. Emma firmly believes in Mary Margaret’s innocence, but she needs to exonerate her dutifully or she’ll doom her friend to prison. Here’s where everyone’s least favorite precocious, fairy-tale zealot, Henry butts in, hoping to find the evidence that will vindicate his teacher. When he inspects the apartment with Emma, however, they find the murder weapon stashed in a heating vent. Discouraged, Henry seeks answers at the bottom of a mug of hot chocolate. Then the artist formerly known as Mysterious Biker Dude a.k.a August (ew) comforts the boy by professing his faith in The Book. In fact, he divulges to the kid his purpose in Storybrooke is to help Emma “see the light.” Essentially he is OUAT’s version of Desmond (am I right, Losties?) shepherding lost souls. He springs Henry into action, convincing him that with solid proof Emma will rally around his cause (Operation Cobra or “The lamest military operation name ever.”).
Back in FTL, Grumpy confronts Snow as she’s stripping the clothes off the knight (oh Ginnifer, how you tickle my fancy) and insists she let him help. He recommends seeking the counsel of Rumpelstiltskin since his potion is what altered her personality. She has no intentions of being cured, but she wonders if he can aid her in her mission. Rumpy does bestow a bow upon Snow that supposedly never misses it’s target, free of charge. Rumpy slyly assures her, “I’m invested in your future.” He never explains why he took her hair during their least deal (for the potion), but he drops a hint when he rambles on about how the only magic he hasn’t been able to bottle up is love. And if he could, he would be all-powerful. It’s a tidbit that intrigued me more than most they inserted into last night’s narrative because anything that empowers Rumpy means that EQ (the Evil Queen) will be unseated as the biggest of the baddies which is definitely my MO. I mean, Regina was seen skinning an apple with a pocket knife in this episode. A villain doesn’t get any more hammy than that.
Storybrooke alter-ego Mr. Gold also offers his assistance to Snow White’s doppelganger, Mary Margaret, agreeing to be her legal counsel. Mary accepts, but like her counterpart she’s uneasy that he’s representing her gratis. He recites the identical forewarning, “I’m invested in your future,” furthering my defeated feeling that OUAT cares very little about my sensitivities toward cheesiness. Also in the business of clearing Mary’s good name (although for the first time in forever people start referring to her as Ms. Blanchard, why?) is David, who visits Dr.Hopper the town shrink hoping he can extract the memories he’s lost during his blackouts. Under hypnosis, he upholds the motif of channeling the FTL and believes that his memory of insisting Snow not kill the Queen is actually him imploring Mary not to kill Kathryn. WHOOPSIE!
Prince Charming also confronts Rumpelstiltskin (after Red creates a kickass diversion from the pursuing royal guards when her inner wolf comes out to play), strong-arming him for a cure to Snow’s personality disorder. When he confirms that true love’s kiss is the only antidote, the prince rushes to find her before her assassination attempt. He doesn’t leave, however, without striking a deal with Rumpy for her whereabouts, giving him his cloak in return. The imp is dubious about the value it possesses, but bear with with me on that. After a first attempt fails because he didn’t remind her of who she used to be, Jiminy Cricket appears fro a pep talk, and upon the second try (if at first you don’t succeed, kids, keep stalking that girl!) he restores Snow’s memory after sacrificing himself by jumping in front of the arrow. His willingness to die before she slips into darkness touches her so deeply, enhancing the magic of that pivotal smooch.
Charming’s immediately captured though, putting a damper on their reunion, but Snow vows that she “will always find [him]!” After genuinely apologizing to her dwarf buddies, they join her in the crusade to rescue her true love and the warm and fuzzy Snow returns! Thankfully, the disappearance of cutthroat Snow did not disappoint me, because both Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin bring their A-game in establishing chemistry, so you’re as adamant about their love triumphing over evil as they are, and that empathy that is proving essential to the overall investment in the show’s momentum.
The real world plot wraps up just as cathartically, but in the opposite direction of ‘”feel-good.” After heeding August’s advice to seek guidance from The Book, Henry surmises that the Queen’s key will open any lock. So he smuggles away his “mom’s” keys (resourceful little bugger, ain’t he?) and coerces Emma into testing it out. When the key opens the apartment door, Emma’s intuition of a set-up is reaffirmed. She ensures Emma that despite the DNA test confirming that it was Kathryn’s heart, that she will do whatever it takes to free her, proving her gall by striking up an alliance with Mr. Gold. Mary’s tempted by circumstance though when she finds the cell key beneath her bed (planted by Regina no doubt). And after David visits and admits to his increasing suspicion, due of his mixed-up memories, (a biting critique against the validity of hypnosis, huh?) she breaks down, banishing her true love. He resolve weakened, she uses the key to break out, obviously complicating any effort of Emma’s or Mr. Gold’s to absolve her.
The bigger payoff, for me, came before that final frame that reveals Mary’s empty cell. In the FTL, we see Rumpy drop Snow’s hair and a thread from Charming’s cloak into a flask. The result is some sort of illuminated bond, which signifies that his purpose of collecting random personal items was indeed malicious. He now has successfully bottled love, elevating him to an omnipotence that would seem impenetrable. What this means in the larger context is unclear, but I like the prospects if he now has a leg up on the insufferable Evil Queen.
This development, among many others, affirmed my faith that we may be moving toward less isolated “fairy tale of the week” departures and have arrived at the sturdier backbone of the series. Not all of OUAT’s ventures into folklore have been pointless, but meandering has become tedious considering how many episodes in we are. Although the hand-holding insulted my intelligence, I’m thankful there is a trajectory that I can grab onto and follow. A drama centered around fairy tales with no stakes is too self-indulgent to enjoy; and with newfound purpose, I’m more likely to tolerate such heavily lathered-on “significance. Though I wish the writers would stop being so keen to point it out. To be clear, my issue isn’t with the idea of the borders of Storybrooke and FTL becoming indistinct, but when its added only to stroke the ego of the brain trust and to be “clever for clever’s sake,” I can’t get behind that. But the risk-taking drove character action, so with cautious optimism I’ll encourage the less dawdling, more uninhibited get-it-done approach.
For unveiling the series’ dark side, while evolving the premise and capitalizing on the crucial draw of the show—the connection between Emma, Mary and David becoming a family unit again, and unifying to take down Regina—this week’s episode earned my respect, despite testing my patience with cliched repetition. B, for more badass mofo Snow!