“Once Upon a Time”- Selfless, Brave and True episode review 1

August (Eion Bailey) asks for help in order to stop him from turning to wood.

August (Eion Bailey) asks for help in order to stop him from turning to wood.

★★½☆☆

Alas, we knew the dream couldn’t last and Once Upon a Time’s reign as a capable and competent show would come to an end after only a few episodes.

This episode opens with August in a flashback—but not fairytale, Enchanted Forest flashback—in Thailand after waking up to find his leg has turned to wood.

The problem is that no one else can see what’s happening to him leading them to believe that he’s beginning to go insane.

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Neal invites his fiancée Tamara to come stay with him in Storybrooke and Emma immediately points out some holes in his plans. No, she isn’t worried about seeing Tamara and being jealous, but with the crazy shenanigans happening around town recently and all of the mythical beings that have a tendency to ignore the theory of subtlety, it might not take too long for Tamara to start freaking out about the town. She tells him that he should just tell her, rather than letting her find out on her own.

“Honey, my father is Rumpelstiltskin—yes the gold, crusty face looking fellow, and we hail from a land called the Enchanted Forest.” Yup, that will totally work.

As you can imagine, when Neal sits her down to have a serious talk about where he comes from she doesn’t take to kindly to it. She says he’s just making up wild stories as a way to distract from the obvious problem: Emma.

Of course. Because hey, why else bring on a lady friend for Neal for any other reason but to cause relationship drama between him and our main protagonist.

There’s more to Tamara than meets the eye though. Back in Thailand, August has gone to a spiritual physician called Dragon (we’re all assuming it’s Mushu from Mulan and not just simply a gross stereotype). Dragon can see August’s wooden leg and tells him he can cure him as long as he gives him a prized possession and well as ten thousand dollars.

This is where Tamara jumps in. She tells August that she’s there to find a way to cure her cancer but in reality she’s there to steal the Dragon’s magic.

In Storybrooke, Snow has found August’s secret hideout and finds that he’s reverted back to full on Pinocchio. And oh the CGI! The CGI is always going to bad on this show and for the most part, peace has been made about that, however in an episode such as this that had a character dealing with some highly emotional stakes it’s unfortunate that the audience doesn’t get to witness a true performance from Eion Bailey. From his voice acting, it seems like it could have been an affecting performance but due to the computerized face the emotions are hard pressed to ring true.

Snow tells August that he should go into town, see Emma and Gepetto, and try to redeem himself. He tells her he’s too ashamed of himself, for what he’s done to change him to wood, the lies he’s told, the misdeeds his past holds. She tells him to forget the past, focus on the now and get himself out and moving because redemption is always a possibility.

This coming from the woman who was still curled up in bed in self-despair, but hey, using one character to solve another’s plot is an easy tactic which actually works in this sense. Snow is helping August get back to this former self and along the way, coming to some truths about herself as well.

In town, Regina tells Owen that she knows who he is which seems grossly anti-climactic considering he was the only real threat we’ve had this season other than Cora. Oh, we also realize that Tamara and Owen have been in cahoots for months and have orchestrated this entire plan as a way to try and steal the magic from Storybrooke.

Tamara seeks August out in the woods and tells him she has what can cure him back in New York and he just needs to come with her. However, some of Snow’s speech must have rubbed off because he tells her no, he can help himself by simply being good and honest and trying to better himself. She isn’t a fan of this scenario and tries to kill him.

It doesn’t kill him instantly however and it gives the Blue Faerie enough time to try and save him. However, instead of simply healing him, she has to change him back to a child version of Pinocchio, one who doesn’t remember what’s happened, and one who isn’t the lovely Eion Bailey who gave us another talented actor on the show. I have to wonder if the actor had just wanted off the show or if the writers decided this was a good narrative choice because it it’s the latter I can’t help but find their decision troubling.

Who thought having a Henry 2.0 would ever be a good idea?

I guess there’s something captivating about this show’s inconsistent storytelling nature. I’ve talked on and on about how one of this show’s most prominent highlights is its ability over other primetime dramas to write not only strong female characters, but also strong female characters who befriend and empower one another.

I’ve also mentioned how when the show decides to have a message to be told, it does so in the most conspicuous way imaginable, copping out by telling us rather than successfully writing a plot that will simply show without the biggest hits being written into the narrative.

Things were backwards this week in Storybrooke that had me commending certain aspects and absolutely cringing at others.

The Good

As far as severity ran in classic fairytales, very rarely did it ever reach a point in which we as adolescents truly believed our beloved hero was going to die. Sure, we lost Mufasa and almost every other princess’s mom ever, but never were the circumstances so dire that we thought “Hey, maybe they’re not going to pull through with this.” Except, of course, for Walt Disney’s version of Italian writer Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, released in 1940. This film was the first for many children to learn that cartoons could play to the dark side, and along the way to happiness some sacrifices must be made.

It was in true spirit then, that in this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time called “Selfless, Brave and True” that Pinocchio, we know him as August, also has gone through the ringer and isn’t having the easiest time of it. Sure, he hasn’t been swallowed up by a whale, hasn’t almost been turned into a donkey, but while all the rest of the Storybrooke folk basked in the breaking of the curse, August fell away into the shadows, ashamed of what his wooden figure indicated.

He hadn’t stayed the good little boy that the Blue Faerie has made him swear to be.

Yes, most of us has probably forgotten about the character August entirely and the CGI done to his face was enough to wish to that he hadn’t returned at all, but Eion Bailey is one of the more competent actors on the show so if one long lost character must make a reappearance, why not let it be him.

The Bad

Tamara, Tamara, Tamara.

There are a number of reasons why this storyline doesn’t cut it.

1. We just met the character, we were just introduced to her relationship with Neal so, ultimately, we don’t really care about her at all. So why would we care about her as a villain? Initially, it would have been wise to assume that she would be receiving the thankless role of being the foil to Emma and Neal’s impending reconciliation—a character simply there to cause drama. Instead she has an expanded role but one that still does her no favors. As of now that character has no personality that reaches farther than her relationship with Owen and Neal, and her evil deeds, she has no motive, and we have no interest in her consequently.

2. She’s what, the second, third maybe woman of color on this show and yet she’s instantly delegated to the baddie? Instead of wisely using her character as a means to broaden the reach of fairytale characters they’ve instead managed to implicate Character Assassination 101, making us turn on the character before getting to know her. Having this characterization in the same episode with the largely problematic and misguided Dragon, it’s hard to see what the writers were thinking with this character.

This wasn’t a great episode. It had the potential to be entertaining at the very least, but instead it was an absurd filler episode at a point in the season where momentum should be the main focus. The show needed a new villain after Cora was killed so Owen and Tamara fill the spots nicely enough, the problem being our lack of interest.

At this rate it seems like Snow also may become problematic if her heart continues to “darken” and at least that would have been a more watchable plot point considering the show’s history with the character and the audience’s recognition.

I still have trouble remembering Owen’s name.

How will Pinocchio play into the storyline now that he’s a child again, do we care? Will Neal and Emma get together sooner rather than later now that the audience is privy to Tamara’s true intentions? Do we care?

Is this just a fluke episode and the upswing will continue? Do we care? Yes. This show can be good and entertaining when it wants to be, it just needs to focus on what elements of the story are important and what elements are just wasting time.