Emma (Jennifer Morrison) Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) Sleeping Beauty (Sarah Bolger) and Mulan (Jaime Chung) work out a way to get Emma and Snow back to Storybrooke.


Success! Somehow, someway, they writers of this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time heard my pleas I was sending their way telepathically for a good episode. I didn’t hope for a great episode, I’m not foolish. I just, like many fans of the show I’d presume, wanted a decently put together, well-structured and fun episode to watch that didn’t result in eyes being stuck in the back of people’s heads for the amount of times they’d been rolled. This week the episode wasn’t perfect, the pacing was still off with the first twenty minutes rushing by and then taking a slower pace for the rest of the hour. However, it provided audiences with an action-packed installment, a redemption of a character previously thought of as pointless, and a twist that was genuinely surprising.

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It also had a lot of women kicking a lot of ass, and I’m a total sucker for that.

Initially this didn’t look like a promising episode, at all. The preview focused so much on Henry that as you’d assume, I figured that’s what the majority of the episode would consist of. It also showed a lot of Cora’s “zombies” which I just plain found ridiculous and laughable. Luckily, Henry wasn’t used nearly as much as I’d imagined and the zombies or what not were only in about the first fifteen minutes.

 This is an example of how an episode can exceed your expectations so much that you come out the other end having enjoyed it.

The main positive of this episode was the characterization of Sleeping Beauty. Before she had seemed utterly pointless. Simpering, weak and constantly angry, she seemed to bog down the other characters in her group with her selfishness. Sure, she’d lost the love of her life, and that’s got to create some ill will, but she wasn’t written to be sympathetic—and it didn’t help that Sarah Bolger seemed so wooden—you’d think she was reading her lines from a teleprompter.

Now Sleeping Beauty has some spark, aided by Bolger’s much improved and dynamic performance. She’s portrayed as strong, willing to put herself in harm’s way in order to help Emma and Snow find Henry, even though it doesn’t benefit her in the slightest. When captured by Cora she isn’t frightened and refused to play into her mind games, choosing rather to talk back and land herself in more trouble.

When a character is developed well it shows and this is one of those cases. Sleeping Beauty in the last eight episodes has gone from a nuisance to a joy to watch and one of my favorite characters this week.

This episode started with the silly though. Fed up with just how much time it was taking to get to Storybrooke, Cora takes matters, literally, into her own hands. She holds the glowing heart of doom in her hand and mutters “rise” and suddenly, an army of dead individuals are standing from the ground, ready to go and track Snow, Emma and co. and get back the compass. So she reanimates the bodies and send them on their way and it’s just as ridiculous as you’d imagine, especially because the actors seemed to have misheard the direction, with some of them performing in regular human motion, and some  walking, talking on the gait of the undead.

Meanwhile, Sleeping Beauty and Henry are both coerced back into the dream world to meet and discuss a plan of action. This goes against Mulan’s wishes; she only wants to keep her friend safe. This is one thing I think that this show does better than others: female friendship. It’s stupidly rare to see onscreen friendships between two women that are pure, without a sense of competitiveness, and shown with absolute sincerity. On this show we get three at the very least. We have Snow and Emma, Red and Belle and Mulan and Sleeping Beauty, thrown into the forefront this episode with Mulan becoming Sleeping Beauty’s protector of sorts.

The trio working together in the real world is Regina, Rumpelstiltskin and Charming, all doing their best to keep Henry safe as he travels to the dream world. While under, Rumple conveys messages through his subconscious to repeat to Sleeping Beauty but their meeting is cut short as while she’s sleeping, she’s awoken by Mulan as they’re being attacked by the zombies. It could have been embarrassing to watch but luckily Jennifer Morrison, Jamie Chung and, surprisingly, Ginnifer Goodwin are great with the fight choreography and throw themselves into the physicality of it, offering up double the aggression that’s required to make the scene work. During the fight Sleeping Beauty is taken though, which leads Mulan to an impasse with the other woman and Emma and Snow without a guide to talk to Henry.

Without Sleeping Beauty, Snow decides that she’ll be the one to travel into the dream world this time. It can only be done by those who’ve been cursed with a sleeping spell before so she’s the obvious choice.

David decides to do the same in Storybrooke. After seeing the burn on Henry’s arm, all of the adults agree that it’s too dangerous for him to go back in, but it’s more dangerous for Cora to end up in Storybrooke. David agrees to be put under a curse, no matter the risks, in order to reunite with his family.

Regina concocts a potion that will do it, and with a spinning wheel he pricks his finger and goes under, having to find his way through a labyrinth in order to come across the fiery room. It’s there that he’s reunited with Snow but things don’t go as planned when they realize they can’t kiss or touch each other in a dream, which doesn’t allow true love’s kiss to awaken David to the real world.

 Good, he deserves to be stuck down there for having said the “You found me” line again.

Seriously, how sick is everyone of this pair? We get it, through turmoil and despair and conniving family members you two were able to find each other among the fray of it all and what was born was “true love.” Yes, it was cute for the first six episodes of the first season, and yes, Goodwin and Josh Dallas share some obvious chemistry. However, that doesn’t stop me from violently cringing each and every time that stupid, cheesy and over said line of “you found me” is said. We get it, we’ve been hit over the head with it, they’re soul mates who are destined to be together, and now let us all move on for a while as you meanwhile write some new material.

While locked up and knocked unconscious Hook comes to rescue Sleeping Beauty and let her free. She’s dubious as first but once it appears that he’s working for no one but his own interests she believes him and escapes.

Which makes Mulan stealing the compass all the more dumb. Snow and Emma chase her down and Snow’s about to possibly kill her just as Sleeping Beauty returns and tells them to let her go.

Yes, many of you may find it completely absurd that Mulan’s, this supposed seasoned warrior, plan of action was to bring the compass to Cora, the item she wants most, hand it over and cross her fingers that she’ll be kind for a moment and let Sleeping Beauty free.

It showed the dedication she had to keeping her safe that she would do anything, even the poorly planned out, and god I’m a sucker for real friendships on television.

However, all is not what it seems as Sleeping Beauty repeats the message that Hook appeared to give her because while she’s talking we cut back to Cora who’s speaking directly into another heart, exactly what Sleeping Beauty is saying.

Shocked. I was genuinely, definitely surprised and didn’t for a second see that outcome coming. And as a new fan of hers, I’ll be mildly devastated if Sleeping Beauty doesn’t last too much longer. What a macabre route for the show to take.

It also leaves viewers with some questions to tackle. Next week is the winter finale and will be picked up again later so there needs to be a cliffhanger, some wild suspense to leave viewers on the edges of their seats anticipating more. Did Hook really cut out Sleeping Beauty’s heart? Or did he just steal one from Cora’s tomb and the writers are only tricking us into believing she’s been zombified.

Who is Hook actually working for? Does he want to help Cora, Emma or himself? Probably himself but I want to believe it could be either of the three.

How long is Charming going to be locked in that dream space? Although, I find it wildly hilarious that he may be stuck down their due to his own mistakes, it also seems like it could get stale very quickly to see him bumbling about on his own, and he’s technically one of the lead characters. My guess is he’ll be back by next week.

Who’s the real baddie? Hook is interesting but is obviously only a bit part to a major plan. Cora’s irredeemable and a definite villain who even our previous villains fear. Rumple and Regina seems to be on the road to redemption but this show doesn’t know how to write redemption well, so we’ll see how long it lasts since next week seems to be a return of the Evil Queen.

This was a good episode with good energy and good acting and didn’t seem to only steal an hour of my life away. Let’s all cross our fingers and hope really hard and really loud that next week will be more of the same, if not better.

But that might just be us being greedy.

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