“Once Upon a Time” – Tiny episode review 1

Jorge Gracia plays The Giant, from Jack and the Beanstalk lore.

Jorge Gracia plays The Giant, from Jack and the Beanstalk lore.

★★☆☆☆

There are certain pre-conceptions about an episode of Once Upon a Time entitled “Tiny” with the premise basing itself around Hurley the Giant and his woes at finding himself shrunken down to human size.

My initial belief was that this was going to be an hour of garbage television, and summon pre-emptive hope that the following episode would be better.

Was I wrong to go in with such negative thoughts?

No. It was garbage, just as I’d correctly assumed it would be.

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It wasn’t aided by the fact that Jorge Garcia who plays the Giant sounded as if he was reading his lines from cue cards the entire time and was such a scene chewer it was distracting. Known best from playing Hurley on Lost, I remember being slightly irritated by his character throughout the series run, but I never willed him off the screen as I did with this hour where far too much time was dedicated to his storyline. Fact is, this show isn’t exactly a show where there’s a wealth of talent to be found, so why make it all the more shallow with a performance that’s phoned in at best.

What of the rest? Initially, I believed that the episode could be redeemed by Rumpelstiltskin’s storyline with him, Emma and Henry traveling to New York to find his son. It’s an interesting duo with an electric dynamic, what isn’t there to like? The sad thing is that it’s only about ten minutes of the run time.

The rest is given to that damned giant.

Rumpelstiltskin picks Emma and Henry up after some negotiating for the latter to come along. Charming asks, rather than threatens, Rumple to take good care of them. Since he’s interacting with a Rumple who’s currently seeking out his own familial connections, he promises to not put them in harm’s way. And then, they’re off into what could be an intriguing plot with some, while seemingly at this point implausible, acting.

Alas, it’s cut short and we’re back with the Charming’s. They set out to find Cora to eliminate the danger facing the town and find Hook and force him to help. Hook continues to be the funniest character on the show—whether or not it’s due to the lines themselves or the fact that’s he’s a terrible villain, constantly failing.

Tick, tick, tick goes the crocodile and all that.

They’re brought to Hook’s ship and once there find Hurley the Giant (he has a different name but this is what it will be for me.) I cannot begin to explain the sheer loathing I hold for this storyline. It serves no purpose, gives nothing to the current storylines, and is led by a devoid of expression except for pouting actor, and steals time from more prevalent plots.

His story is tired and used up: a mythical creature/someone who feels “different” is forbidden from interacting with another species, in this case, humans. They’re tricky and not to be trusted, or at least that’s what his dad says who appears to be The Dude from The Big Lebowski moonlighting as a giant.

Despite the warning, Hurley the Giant climbs on down the high school quality photoshopped bean stalk and goes to interact with the smaller crowd.

Back in the Storybrooke world he awakens, gets a good look at Charming and attacks him telling him he’ll pay for what he did?

What did he do, you may ask? Well rest assured, you’ll have about forty minutes of monotonous flashbacks to explain it all to you but it involves stolen jewels, a woman named Jack, and Charming’s evil twin.

We get one solitary scene between Ruby and Belle. Ruby goes to the hospital to visit her friend and try and spark some memory in her, only to fail. This scene does two things: showcases once again why the show deserves to be applauded for its representation of female friendship and eliminates any hope that Emilie de Ravin could be a likeable or convincing Belle and the sooner we get over that fact the quicker we’ll get over the defilement of a Disney icon.

In the flashback we see Charming’s evil twin James go out to Hurley the Giant with his lady friend Jack (Jack and the Beanstalk Jack, yes) and the two devise a plan to get the giant to cooperate. They fake a friendship so that the giant will steal for them.

There are some things worth noting about this plotline.

Besides its utter uselessness which can’t be reiterated enough.

Josh Dallas is decent, and sometimes even charismatic, when he gets to play the simpleton routine, a man just trying to lead his people and have a family worth fighting for. However, as James, he hams it up William Shatner style—it’s embarrassing—and not in the charming Captain Kirk way.

There’s the fact that Jack is now a female, which at first I loved. Here I thought was a show helping subvert a genre and create fewer damsels in distress types and more fierce heroines. However, a problem arose when she was then proven to be villainous and vindictive.

Then there’s the problem that throughout every cringe-inducing scene I was sitting there and thinking, “Wow, I could be enjoying a much better storyline if only the script would write itself back to Emma.”

How bad is an episode when I’m wishing for Henry to be on my screen?

And there they are! Rumple, Emma and Henry are at the airport for what makes for a fantastic scene in a pile of nothing but wasted potential. It’s funny, it’s sad and Robert Carlyle absolutely shines with material that allows him to be a realistic mess of emotions. What’s even better is that Jennifer Morrison is also better, her performance elevated by Carlyle’s more natural talent. Rumple is not a modern man and despite being stuck in modern times has yet to have to really face real life situations and needless to say, the airport system freaks him out. He goes to the bathroom to have a minor panic breakdown while beating the paper towel dispenser repeatedly. However, once his knuckles are bashed and bloody, he realizes his magic doesn’t work when he tries to heal the wounds.

Interesting! And look, Emma and Rumple are fascinating to watch together! And hey, Jared Gilmore isn’t as tirelessly grating in this episode.

Of course we have to go back to the giant plot where, Regina is apparently evil again.

Of course.

Regina gives Hurley the Giant some kind of pixie dust/evil mushroom that returns him to real giant size. He then, with his strength restored, goes on a rampage throughout the town as he tries to find and kill Charming.

I’d talk more about the Regina being evil thing but it has me on edge because of its arbitrary nature and the show’s way of being contrived in its storytelling, once again serving the plot over the characters.

Because of the giant scenes, the pace slows considerably and I literally beat myself over the head with my notebook (which, might I add, I was dutifully taking notes in) and tried to will there to be a distraction enough to move the episode along faster.

In fairy tale world, Hurley the Giant learns of James and Jack’s deceptions just as they climb the beanstalk to engage in thievery of the magic beans and exploitation of the giant’s friendly disposition. Because of his fondness of humans, Hurley the Giant is left alone.

In Storybrooke, after the spell runs out of time and he finds himself in a perilous situation, Charming comes to his rescue and the power of friendship saves the day. Because everyone wanted to see a scene of Charming and co. using a rope to lift the gentle giant from his hole.

Hurley the Giant thanks him and tells them that he wants to live in the woods, because why not. It gives the showrunners an excuse to pair him and Leroy and co. together and have them whistle that “Hi Ho” ditty from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

The saving grace comes in the last minute with Emma, Rumple and Henry sitting in the seats on the plane, ready to take flight. For once, Rumple isn’t in control, he is devoid of his power, and he has to rely on Emma’s basic kindness to help him find his son, the last link to his humanity. It’s so fun to watch a dynamic we thought we all knew be changed around that it’s such a letdown when we don’t get enough of them. It seems though that next week will be full of them, so we can only hope.

My fear when the showrunners deviate from the basic plot is this: do they have enough substantial material to last them an entire season? Or are they running it blind and throwing whatever ideas that can in order to fill screen time? For a couple of episodes it seemed as if it had finally hit its stride and was on its way to its old style of storytelling. However with tonight’s episode and the one before the three week break it seems as if they’re missing their mark once again and it’s blatantly obvious. This show will always have a plethora of potential sitting in its back pocket, but it all depends on how the writers and showrunners utilize the talent they have.