Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Jared Gilmore, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Meghan Ory
Writer: Ian Goldberg & Andrew Chambliss
Director: David M. Barrett
Network: ABC, Sunday nights, 8 p.m.
Original Telecast: March 17, 2013
Fine. I get it. Taking ONCE UPON A TIME to a darker place opens up a lot of room for interesting character growth and additional storylines. That makes sense. It’s good writing. Fine. But there’s a big difference between darker and the roiling pit of self-destructive despair we find ourselves in with “Welcome to Storybrooke.” Dark is interesting. Despair is merely depressing and depression, with its inherent lassitude is an awfully hard story arc to maintain.
I have to wonder what miserable black corner it is that the writers have written themselves into. In the past, they’ve gone some very interesting places and gotten themselves out, but I am worried about this one. The problem with despair and depression is that your characters have given up. And when folks give up, there is no forward movement and that is the kiss of death to a plot. Henry (Jared Gilmore) is a mess and freaking out. Mary Margaret/Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) literally wants to die. Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) still isn’t getting what he wants with either Belle (Emilie de Raven) or Neal/Baelfire (Michael Raymond-James). And when we do our flashback to the morning after the curse that brought everyone from the Enchanted Forest to Storybrooke, Maine, even Regina (Lana Parilla) isn’t getting near the kick out of the results as she should.
One of the things that has always made this show so much fun was the concept that good will always triumph over evil. In addition, the writers have been toying with the possibility that Gold and Regina could find ways to redeem themselves and if not be perfectly nice, at least not be evil. Yes, there would have to be other antagonists, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be found or that other conflicts couldn’t arise.
So we start with the day of the curse. Hm. Turns out that a man, Kurt (John Pyper-Ferguson) and his son Owen (Benjamin Stockham) are camping in Maine, right on top of where Storybrooke lands. Oops. Yep. It’s 1983 and Regina wakes up thrilled to death because it worked!
In present day, Storybrooke, Regina isn’t just grieving for the mother she only had for a second, she’s really angry. And we all know what happens when Regina gets angry. Of course, it’s interesting that Regina knows that Gold was responsible for manipulating Mary Margaret into killing Cora with magic, no less. But Gold points out that Regina will loose that which she wants the most – Henry – if she carries out her revenge.
Not that Regina needs to do much. Mary Margaret is hiding in bed, not eating. Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and David/Charming start out trying to lie to Henry, but he’s on top of it.
But back to old Storybrooke, where Regina meets up with Kurt and Owen and Owen gives Regina the lanyard her made. So far, Regina is enjoying her revenge, but we have a bit of a Groundhog Day scenario going on here, where each is pretty much the same, only with tiny differences. Gold, not surprisingly, can’t help her. He even suggests that revenge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Like that’s going to stop the later Regina, who finds a scroll in the mausoleum, and thanks her mommy. Turns out it’s another curse and a nasty one, at that. With David and Gold trying to figure it all out, they decide that their only option would be to kill Regina, but Henry isn’t exactly down with that and challenges David and Emma, in particular, claiming they used to be heroes, what happened?
Well, Henry has decided what’s happened – it’s magic. So he takes off. The scary thing is, he’s apparently going to try to rid the town of magic.
But we’ve got a couple more flashback scenes, first. Regina is bonding nicely with Owen, and kind of liking Kurt, and asks them to stick around more permanently. Which doesn’t go that well. Regina even tries to get Kurt arrested by the Sheriff/Huntsman (Jamie Dornan back for a quick one – gotta love how flashbacks keep an actor working). So there’s this big car chase. Kurt gets stopped by the Sheriff and tells Owen to run like crazy, which Owen finally does.
Oh, but moving forward, Greg Mendel (Ethan Embry) is wandering around town, up and around after his big accident earlier this season and, uh, do we get who he really is? You have to be suspicious by this point. He runs across Henry, who’s off to blow up the magic well in an attempt to end magic in the town.
Like that’s going to happen. Regina pops in and gets rid of the dynamite. But Henry is adamant that magic is the problem, after what it did to Mary Margaret. It makes good people do terrible things. Hmmmm. Regina destroys the scroll with the curse on it. Maybe there’s hope? Nah.
In the past, Owen tries to bring the authorities to Storybrooke, but he can’t find it. Well, it is cloaked rather well with Regina on the other side, sniffling because she likes Owen.
Forward again, Mary Margaret is still in bed and asks Gold how he deals with all the death he’s caused. “You tell yourself you did the right thing,” he says, adding that one might eventually believe it. So Mary Margaret goes off to Regina and begs Regina to kill her – that’s pure despair. and it goes and gets worse. Regina grabs Mary Margaret’s heart and finds a dark spot – a Black Hole, the kind that makes you mean and nasty. She doesn’t have to work her revenge on Mary Margaret, she’s doing it to herself. Ouch! That’s mean and depressing and ick.
And Mendel is spying on the whole scene. Guess what? He has an old lanyard on his keychain and he’s determined to find his day. Nice to get the confirmation that he’s Owen, but it does open up some interesting possibilities for the rest of the show. Assuming the ONCE UPON A TIME writers find a way to heal Mary Margaret, which I sincerely hope they do.
Related:Exclusive Interview with Robert Carlyle on ONCE UPON A TIME and STARGATE UNIVERSE
Related: Exclusive Interview with ONCE UPON A TIME star Raphael Sbarge
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Article: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 2 – “Welcome to Storybrooke”