After a tense few weeks that started with Cora and Hook’s arrival and ended with Belle losing her memory, Once Upon A Time’s rampant storytelling took a bit of a backseat in order to give us a breather and set up some plot in anticipation of the show’s return in three weeks. A focus on Whale allowed us to doubly focus on the main predicament of the hour – outsider Greg (Ethan Embry), the subject of last week’s hit-and-run. Now facing a life or death situation at the hospital of Dr. Whale, his situation meant chaos for our Storybrooke crew who spent the hour debating on whether to let the newcomer live or die.
The continuation of Whale’s back story imparted a bit of humanity into the Frankenstein character by showing us his family life (specifically his cynical father and prized younger brother) while also filling in some of the blanks where his relationship with Rumpelstiltskin was concerned. We learned how the Dark One came to Frankenstein in the first place and subsequently revealed the fate of the mysterious stolen heart recipient. (Frankenstein’s brother, who had been accidentally shot and killed during the site of a grave robbery while trying to secure a body.) We also learned that it was Frankenstein’s brother who brought about their father’s death, after an experimentation gone wrong led Gerhardt to express some over-the-top emotions – though given the fact that Frankenstein was too hardened by that point to care, I don’t think he was too upset about the accidental crime.
In Whale’s world, he was the recipient of the requisite daddy issues that seem to plague most of our fairytale characters, as his father didn’t necessarily appreciate or support his work. In Storybrooke, Whale continued to struggle with self-deprecation issues brought about by his past, and instead of saving Greg he instead chose to drink his troubles away and flee the scene. (Any LOST fans get a “flash forward” Jack vibe, especially with the alcohol consumption and father/son dynamic?) Ruby was able to track him before he quite literally threw his life away and while I didn’t think I would care for the interaction between Ruby and Whale, I found the chemistry between Anders and Ory to be quite intriguing. Ruby tends to be a character that’s kept to the background if there’s no immediate action to involve her in, and I like that the writers have decided to pair her up with some unlikely Storybrooke folk. Certainly, the partnership was one that made sense (both individuals being branded as “monsters” in their respective worlds) and it was heartening to see them bond over their shared pasts.
While I enjoyed this episode much more than last season’s previous Whale outing, I found most of my interest grounded in the Storybrooke scenes – particularly the Regina and Cora reunion, something I had been looking forward to since we first learned of Cora’s plan to infiltrate the town. It was, by far, the highlight of the hour, and something that could have played out completely over the top if put in the wrong hands. Parrilla and Hershey shone beautifully, further cementing their statuses as some of the best chemistry and acting the show has to offer, managing to cycle through every emotion imaginable in the span of two minutes with a simple exchange of looks. Both completely sold me on the merits of a tortured and manipulative mother/daughter relationship, and I’m truly looking forward to seeing them interact more.
Cora’s really terrible, isn’t she? It’s bad enough that Regina is spending most of her time worrying about being good enough for Henry (we got a good look at those emotions when she broke down upon seeing her “son” enter the crypt) so having Cora show up in Henry’s form played out like a knife in the back. The underlying message of Cora’s arrival is silent, but strong – Mother Of The Year isn’t playing around, and knows exactly what buttons to push. As strong as Regina thinks she is, she’s simply never going to win against Cora’s manipulation – at least, not while she so desperately seeks her mother’s love.
Which is what makes the entire car scene completely heartbreaking. It seemed that Regina’s redemption arc was too good to be true, and with Hook on his own revenge journey, I had been wondering how Cora would figure into the Storybrooke world as a new villain. Having her reinstate – and bring about – Regina’s downfall is something that I think will be really interesting to explore as the season progresses. (Plus, it means Barbara Hershey gets to stick around, which is never a bad thing.)
The other highlight (and focus) of Storybrooke centered on Rumpelstiltskin and Belle – and if Rumpel’s motto is that all magic comes with a price, perhaps the biggest price of all is not being able to use it (though it apparently does come in handy when healing bullet wounds). Throughout the hour, Rumpelstiltskin tried his hardest to get his beloved to remember who she was with no luck. True love’s kiss didn’t work. Attempting to use memories didn’t work. And a last resort of the enchanted chipped teacup didn’t work. A terrified Belle turned him down again and again, refusing to indulge in the fact that she might know him … and for a man who has made a life out of getting by with magic to help him through his worst moments, his struggle was an almost painful endeavor. While I don’t like the two characters apart (I saw it coming and the broken teacup still shattered my own heart), I do like the curve ball they’ve thrown into the relationship as it’s given Robert Carlyle an entirely new set of emotions to work with. I just hope that this development doesn’t sideline Emilie de Ravin too much, especially with Rumpel on his way out of Storybrooke. (Dare I say road trip? Yep, Rumpelstiltskin is finally calling in that favor to Emma after some bribing from Cora and the gift of an enchanted globe that supposedly has told him exactly where to find Bae.)
As our Storybrooke folk sweated over Greg’s arrival, Emma took it upon herself to question the outsider once Whale had successfully completed the operation. And although he told her (quite convincingly) that he lost control because he was texting, it seems that our mysterious newcomer did see something after all. Who did he call? (And who is the mysterious “HER” that was showing up on his phone while he was in surgery?) Did he go looking for Storybrooke like August did, or was he simply a normal guy who happened to fall into down the wrong rabbit hole? More importantly, after an episode where everyone fought over whether or not their town is truly protected, did our fairytale folk let their compassionate hearts get in the way of their safety?
- I love when the show gets cheeky with itself. Snow’s “what went on here while we were gone?” was a subtle reminder that there was a point in time when things happened that two main characters were unaware of, and it made me laugh.
- I also enjoyed Ruby’s “I ate my boyfriend” line when she was talking to Whale about his past (only in Storybrooke could you get away with something like that sounding completely normal and conversational). Another classic: “Emma, Henry and the two idiots.” You can take away Regina’s cold heart, but you can’t take away the snark.
- The black and white effects were fun, but what interested me more was the creative decision to portray Rumpelstiltskin in color – perhaps because he came from another world?
- Over and over we were reminded that Whale is actually not part of the “fairytale” world that we so frequently visit and Henry’s question certainly brings up a good point. Who else might be out there that we don’t know about? (Hint to the writers – Ariel, please!)
What did you think of the episode? Sound off below!
Photo Courtesy of ABC