“We Are Both” – the second episode of the second season of Once Upon A Time – was an appropriate episode title for a few different reasons. As evidenced in the speech Charming gave, it was a nod to the fact that the townspeople could embrace their cursed human lives and use those personalities to better their fairytale selves. In Regina’s case, it referenced the fact that as much as the former Queen did not want to be anything like her mother, Cora, instinct to turn similarly evil was stronger than she thought. And of course, in broader terms, “we are both” was a sly nod to the fact that we can confirm two worlds do now exist – the fairytale world and Storybrooke.
“We Are Both” was not only carefully crafted and smartly written, it was one of my favorite episodes of the series so far. Last week, we saw the aftermath of Regina’s broken curse as the Storybrooke folk began to remember who they were and this episode answered a question that’s been on our minds since the season finale – now that Regina no longer has a hold on her subjects, are they finally allowed to leave the town? Not exactly. As we learned through poor Sneezy (the subject of an experiment gone horribly wrong), those who try to leave Storybrooke become their cursed selves and lose their fairytale personalities. At first, I figured that this was something that Regina had put into place, and then I thought that maybe this was a side effect of the magic that Gold brought back into town. However, judging from his reaction at the end of the episode, it’s clear that he had no idea about the magical barrier or its consequences. If this is Regina’s doing (to get back at Gold or to ensure her hold on power), I have a feeling that some relationships in Storybrooke are about to get a lot more dangerous. (Remember how angry Gold was when he realized that Regina had been keeping Belle locked away right under his nose?)
Aside from the few moments near the end of the hour when we ventured back into the Enchanted Forest (what I assume is our “official” name for fairytale world), this week focused on the Storybrooke townspeople, as well as Charming and Mr. Gold. But the primary focus of “We Are Both” was Regina, who, along with Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, has always existed as one of the show’s more fascinating characters … and I loved that we got some heavy Rumple/Regina interaction tonight. Truth be told, there’s a kind of presence that exists when you put Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle (two of the show’s strongest actors) in a scene together that’s nearly equivalent of watching a LOST scene between Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn. I found it interesting to see how the two first met – how Rumpelstiltskin clearly had a history with Cora that included being present at Regina’s birth, how he manipulated Regina into using magic to control her life, and how he eventually came to be her mentor. It only makes me more curious to know the progression of their relationship, what magic they might have done together and what caused the rift between them that led Rumple to be locked in a dungeon. Last season, we saw how, through a controlling mother and unfortunate life experience, the sweet farm girl seemingly incapable of hurting a fly turned so evil she killed her own father and banished her mother into a magic mirror. Through Rumpelstiltskin, we saw the transformation of Regina herself as we learned how she came to hold the powers that would eventually consume her. Yet we also saw a more human struggle – the fear that we as young adults have of taking on the worst parts of our parents’ personalities. For all her evil ways, Regina knew in her heart she never wanted to be the kind of evil and unforgiving mother that made her so miserable – in fact, I believe that her “happy ending” in Storybrooke meant that she got to have Henry as her child and be the mother she always dreamed of being. I’ve always felt that for all of Regina’s faults, she grounds herself in Henry and in that respect, I found it interesting that without him, she clearly no idea how to cope with the loss of her control except by resorting to the only shortcut she’s ever known – evil. Magic. And power. Because as Cora liked to remind her daughter on probably more than one occasion, “power is freedom.”
But like Charming said, “If you have to use magic to keep your son, you don’t really have him.” And it’s a testament to Regina that she realizes that fact by the episode’s end, when she attempts to show Henry how happy she can make him with magic only to have Henry tell her he doesn’t want anything to do with her. Because despite the fact that she can make cupcakes appear and promise endless play dates and presents, genuine love is something that can’t be made up or conjured out of thin air. Regina’s gesture of returning Henry to Charming and subsequent apology for her actions is just one example of why Lana Parrilla is so wonderful in this role – whether it’s a 360 turn of her personality or a simple look, she sells me on every single emotion, without fail, every time.
Last week, I mentioned how much I loved that the newly broken curse and subsequent knowledge of the fairytale character’s true identities allowed a new dynamic of character relationships to come into play, and this episode only corroborated that fact. I found the relationship between Charming and Regina to be intriguing, as both struggled in different ways to assert power over a town that they cared about. As the post broken curse happiness dissolved into complete chaos, it naturally fell on the prince of the former kingdom to bring everyone back to order while for her part, Regina attempted to figure out how to control her former subjects without the aid of magic. I don’t believe I’m in the minority by saying that I always had more of a fondness towards Charming than David Nolan (for obvious reasons) but I just need to say again how much I’m loving Josh Dallas’ modern day version of Prince Charming. It adds so much depth to his character, and makes his interactions with other characters that much more interesting.
Regina’s back story aside, the hour focused on Charming’s desperation to find a way into the portal in order to rescue Snow and Emma. I was rather thrilled to see the return of Sebastian Stan, as Jefferson was one of my favorite side characters introduced last season though I wish he had been around longer than to simply offer an explanation about why the hat doesn’t work – and to tell Charming that yes, the Enchanted Forest still does exist. I have a feeling that’s not the last we’ve seen of him, however, and I’m hoping my instinct is right.
- No matter how brief or insignificant, nothing on Once is ever shown or focused on without having some kind of greater importance. When the episode opened, we saw a still wooden August-as-Pinocchio blink his eyes – and then at the end of the hour, when Henry alerted a desolate Geppetto that his son was indeed alive, August was nowhere to be found.
- One of the biggest moments of the episode was the surprise of Cora’s survival, as Regina’s wicked mother revealed herself to Snow and Emma when they were both locked in the dungeon of fairytale world. I’m interested in how this is going to play out – if Cora will recognize Snow or if Snow will remember/recognize Cora. And since we last saw Cora getting zapped into a magic mirror by Regina, how did she get out? Has she been in hiding, biding her time to figure out a way for revenge, just like her daughter? So many questions!
- I loved the scene of Regina walking into the town hall and using her newfound magic to show control – the scene itself was a perfect parallel of the series premiere, when she walked in on Snow and Charming’s wedding.
Once has always been about hope and belonging, two themes that “were both” and that seemed ultimately conjoined in this episode. Charming’s speech was essentially a declaration of the fact that freedom is free will, and that free will can exist even when it looks like it doesn’t. So you’re not allowed to leave Storybrooke? It doesn’t matter (so says the Prince.) Live however you want. Do whatever you choose to do for a job. How you choose to live doesn’t matter, as long as you live the life that’s going to make you content. Because forget the magic – that’s truly the only way you’re going to get your real happy ending.
What did you think of the episode? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Weigh in below!
Photo Courtesy of ABC