Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Jared Gilmore, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Meghan Ory
Writer: Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis
Director: Paul Edwards
Network: ABC, Sunday nights, 8 p.m.
Original Telecast: October 28, 2012
Vamping is a term from the old Broadway stage which means to play music or do a little dance or something to keep the audience in the mood while the storytelling stops to move scenery or some such thing. You can even see it in the music scores – the vamp is a section that can be played for an extended time, in case something sticks, or shortened quickly if things are ready faster than planned.
Vamping is also what “The Doctor” is as this episode of ONCE UPON A TIME.
On the plus side, Lana Parilla’s considerable acting chops get a major workout as Regina confronts the loss of her great love, Daniel (Noah Bean), the stable boy. But so much of the story feels like a set-up since not much else is resolved in the episode. Or at least it seemed that way. Plus there were several hints about the world of Storybrooke and other worlds, but not much more information about what happened when Emma (Jennifer Morrison) broke Regina’s curse last season.
It starts off well. Emma, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Aurora (Sarah Bolger) are in the post-curse Enchanted Forest, heading back to the encampment in an effort to regroup before trying to find a new portal back to Storybrooke, Maine, where Regina originally sent them, so Emma and Snow can go home. But the encampment is destroyed – obviously Cora’s work, since everyone’s hearts have been ripped out. But wait, there’s someone alive. Oops. It’s Killian Jones, aka Captain Hook (Colin O’Donaghue). Think something’s up?
Then we go back to Storybrooke, where Dr. Whale (David Anders) is pressing David, aka Prince Charming, (Josh Dallas) about other existing lands. Yes, Whale does have an ulterior motive, which has him bursting in on Regina’s session with Dr. Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge) – remember, he’s a shrink in Storybrooke (which now that I think about it, given Archie’s alter ego as conscience Jiminy Cricket, is kind of a weird statement). Anyway, Regina is trying to redeem herself by not using magic, and it’s not going so well, but can’t get any further before Whale bursts in and demands to know about the other worlds and to be sent back to his.
Regina responds that she can’t send anyone anywhere, and that she took who she wanted, not just the living. Oops. We’re going to find out this was an interesting loophole, since Whale doesn’t have the alter ego you might think, based on the heavy Disney thread this show has going.
Stopping magic may be harder than starting it, but Regina, apparently wasn’t so happy to start, at least not on the evil side. When Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) encourages her to rip the heart out of a unicorn then squeeze it to ash, thus destroying it, he finds he’s pretty disappointed in his apprentice.
Ah, but now we have a dark and stormy night in Storybrooke, and all of a sudden, Regina sees what looks like Daniel, her lost love. Apparently, she kept his body preserved with a spell and brought it with her to our world. Hmmm. Quick cut to David and Henry (Jared Gilmore) heading to the stables so Henry can begin his training as a knight by learning to ride horses. Quick cut to Regina heading to her mausoleum, where she had Daniel’s body in a glass coffin. OMG! The body is gone.
Back to the past – You do notice what’s missing here, don’t you? Like the storyline with Emma, et. al.? Anyway, flashback, Rumpel is telling Regina that you can’t bring back the dead with magic, and Jefferson pops in. Rumpel has engaged him to find a way to the land without magic. So Jefferson, who has lots of ways of getting between worlds thanks to his magic hat, tells Regina he knows someone who can bring back the dead.
At last, back to the post-curse Enchanted Forest, needless to say, Emma and Snow are less than convinced that Hook escaped Cora’s rage, even if his explanation is plausible. Fortunately for them, Emma has that thing where she can tell when someone is lying, so Hook is definitely on the hook, so to speak.
Next up, Jefferson brings Regina Dr. Whale, who checks over Daniel and concludes that he’s in great shape for a stiff. Whale just needs a heart, and, gee, like Regina doesn’t know where to find a few of those – her mother was a collector, you know, and lost track of how many she had.
Back in Storybrooke, turns out Whale also kept an extra magic heart around and brought Daniel back, but these things don’t work out all that well – you remember Frankenstein. Oh, wait. The 1931 flick was directed by James Whale. Okay, now it fits, especially with that nice black and white scene of the laboratory. So now Daniel is a monster and headed for the stables – where Henry is. And Henry is trapped in the stable box with a freaking out horse and a monster.
Now back to The Enchanted Forest, thanks to Hook’s intel – he confesses a little too rapidly, I think, about the ashes of the magic wardrobe that Cora now has. But it is quickly surmised that Cora wants to get to Storybrooke to get revenge on Rumpelstiltskin.
In Storybrooke, all you-know-what is breaking loose and this is where Parilla, the actress, gets to go to town and does gorgeously. Daniel isn’t exactly responding to Henry trying to talk him down, but then Regina steps in, and at first, Daniel starts choking her. But Regina breaks through and Daniel asks her to end the pain and let him go, then insists that she love again. It’s a tense moment, but she does let him go and it’s easily the best part of an otherwise lukewarm episode.
So in the follow up, it turns out that Rumpel, Jefferson and Whale are colluding together. Emma, Snow and company know that they’re walking into a trap with eyes wide open. The Storybrooke Whale admits to Rumpel’s alter ego, Mr. Gold, that he does need magic, even though before he’s been pretty adamant that it’s all about the science, and we see that creepy black and white set that is so familiar and yet evokes so many lines from Young Frankenstein (“Destiny, destiny, no escaping destiny”), where Victor (Whale) seems to have re-animated his brother.
We have a couple clues for future episodes, one is that Regina was able to bring who she wanted to Storybrooke, which obviously did not include her mother Cora. The other is that we’re widening out the number of worlds into other literature (and possibly film, since we’re not sure which we’re referencing here – looks like the film, but could be the book). This is an interesting concept, but could be problematic in terms of keeping the story coherent (see my ongoing rants about Revenge). We’ll see.
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