Once Upon a Time: The Shepherd

“The Shepherd” is the story of Prince Charming … or rather Prince Charming’s pauper twin brother. While the Crown Prince was slaying fierce enemies and leading knights into battle, the James we’ve come to know was working on a tiny farm with his mother, unaware of his twin’s existence. When he was a baby, his desperately poor parents sold his brother to Rumpelstiltskin, who gave him to the childless King George and his Queen. His brother was raised as heir to the throne, while James lived in poverty.

James learns the truth when Rumpelstiltskin comes calling again. It seems that the Prince got himself skewered minutes after making an important deal with King Midas. Wait – this is the King who can turn anything into gold with a simple touch? Woah, woah that’s a Greek myth, not a traditional fairytale! Are we mixing genres now? Because if so, I would have appreciated a heads up! 😉 Midas offered gold (real original) in exchange for the slaying of a dragon that’s been terrorizing his people. But with the Prince dead, his father, King George, is down one dragonslayer and desperate to hide the truth. Look-alike peasant James presents the perfect solution. Rumpel promises that his mother will never want for anything if he agrees to play the part.

All James has to do is smile and look heroic. The Prince’s knights will slay the dragon and give him all the credit. But the dragon proves fearsome and James is too noble to sit on the sidelines. He jumps into the action, manages to trap the dragon, and slices off its head. With the heroic deed completed, James hopes to return home to his mother, but King George has other plans. King Midas believes the Prince is the strongest warrior in the land and the one person who can unite their kingdoms. He offers his daughter Abigail’s hand in marriage and King George strong-arms James into accepting. He threatens to kill his mother and turn the farm to ash if he doesn’t go along with the proposal.

Back in Storybrooke, David Nolan continues to struggle with his new life. His wife Katherine is sweet and doting, desperately trying to coax his lost memories to the surface. But David remains distant and unsettled. He dashes out on his own Welcome Home party to track down Mary Margaret, who has been avoiding him since their almost lip-lock. Mary is determined to keep her distance and respect his marriage vows.

Convinced he’s a new person, incapable of finding peace in his old life, David decides to end his marriage to Katherine. He begs Mary Margaret to meet him at 8pm on the bridge where she saved his life. If she chooses not to show up, he’ll never bother her again. Mary’s trying so hard to resist her own swirling emotions but it’s Emma that convinces her David made his choice when he left his wife and if she wants him, she should go to him.

Regina has become Katherine’s new BFF, keeping her spirits up and convincing her not to give up on David. She warns Mary Margaret to back the hell off. When Regina learns that the star crossed lovers have scheduled a romantic interlude in the woods, she plays saboteur, pointing David down the wrong path. Her bad directions lead him right past Mr. Gold’s shop, where he stops to find his bearings. Unfortunately he is also mesmerized by a miniature windmill on display … while Mary Margaret waits giddily on the bridge. And he does eventually show up, but not for the lovely rendezvous they had planned. David tells Mary Margaret that he’s remembered his past and although it doesn’t change the way he feels about her, he needs to try to make things work with Katherine. It’s a beautifully done but God-awful scene to watch. Mary is BEAMING when James runs up to meet her and it’s heartbreaking to watch her expression slowly change from uncertainty to devastation when she realizes what’s happened. And yet while her eyes are full of pain she still keeps a fake smile plastered on – too proud to show David how much it hurts.

After she leaves the woods, Mary Margaret bumps into Dr. Whale (he of the horrible first date) in a bar and has a surprising heart to heart: “Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone when you don’t give a crap what they think.” She’s completely distraught, with tears streaming down her face and she confides in him, “You ever walk into a situation where you know exactly what’s going to happen? And then you go into it anyway and then what you’re afraid of happens you kick yourself because you should have known better. But that’s just who you are. So you keep punishing yourself.” He’s actually quite sweet to her, offering to buy her a drink and telling her that he avoids those situations by never doing what’s expected.

This episode was light on the Emma/Henry dynamic, which was actually a nice change. The one interesting development was that Emma discovers Sheriff Graham’s dirty little secret. She switches shifts with him so he can volunteer at an animal shelter and then catches him sneaking out of Regina’s bedroom window. Emma displays a healthy amount of revulsion, but a dash of betrayal as well. Maybe she considered him to be on her side and a dalliance with the mayor breaks her trust. Or maybe she felt like he was flirting with her and is hurt that he’s with someone else.

Overall Impressions

This was a really great episode. It was action packed, full of reveals, and heavy on the emotional content as well. I can’t help falling in love with Mary Margaret – she’s just such a dainty, soft-spoken sweetie pie who wears her heart on her sleeve. You instinctively want good things for her when you watch her and it’s heartbreaking when she gets kicked in the gut.

I actually find Emma to be far less engaging as a character. She’s the cold and distant type, which makes it hard to root for her. I need to see more pain bubbling beneath the surface to really invest! I guess I’m just a sucker for broken characters …

I’m getting a little sick of finding Rumpel’s creepy little fingerprints all over every plot in fairytale land. I know he’s a main character and the want to feature him in every episode, but it’s getting a little predictable. We know always a rumpel deal at the bottom of every tragedy and we’re just waiting to find out what it is.

Random Thoughts

-So is James the Prince’s real name or is James the name of the twin brother he’s pretending to be? He offered it up to Snow, but surely he wouldn’t be stupid enough to drop the wrong name. That would be easy enough to discover. I’m really curious how he ends up marrying Snow and keeping his crown at the same time. I’m assuming King George is going to kick the bucket fairly soon.

-Does Alan Dale actually like being evil? Or is he getting sick of playing bad daddy on every single show? I think I made this comment last year in a Killing blog, but all it takes is one screen shot of him and you know sinister deception is right around the corner!

-Rumpel tells King George that when he made the deal to deliver him a baby, the price was a pittance. Then he reminds him that the Queen is no longer around to conceive the natural way. Am I crazy or did the King trade his wife’s life for a healthy male heir?

Photo Courtesy of ABC

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