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Episode 1.22: A Land Without Magic

An Apple Red As Blood

(1) Charming frees himself from King George with the help of the Huntsman (the show always teases the audience with bringing the Huntsman back, and then, Bingo, flashback!, but I guess that's better than Ye Olde bringing-the-dead-back-from-the-grave plot ploy). The prince rushes off to find Snow White, who has bitten the Queen's apple and is under the sleeping curse. Regina waylays Charming by throwing him deep into the forest, where he encounters Rumplestiltskin. Rumple has enchanted David's mother's ring to help him find Snow.

But as usual, he has a price for this talisman. He will "help" Charming and Snow White reunite if the prince hides an egg containing Rumplestiltskin's flask o' Twu Wuv inside a dragon (AKA Maleficent). This is how Rumple plans to smuggle the flask into the Land Without Magic without Regina being the wiser.

(2) Regina's attempt to get rid of Emma without killing her (which would apparently break the curse) backfires. Henry eats the apple tart and falls under the sleeping curse that once felled his grandmother, Snow White. But this evidence of real Magic is what finally allows Emma to have her Believing Moment. The doctor assures her there is no good medical explanation for what's happened to Henry. And the evidence that's been gathering all season comes together finally, forcing Emma to finally see the truth. Fairytales are real, and she's living in one. Or, you know, a couple dozen. This is her heritage.

Which means the Curse is real, and she's really the Savior.

(3) I love, love, love when Angry!Emma takes out her fear and rage on an equally fearful Regina. The Big Moment has come; the Evil Queen faces down the Savior. But the moment isn't just enemies having their showdown. It is two mothers both worried sick about their child and willing to work together to save him. Regina admits to Emma that Henry is under a magic curse, but there is no magic in this land to reverse what has happened to him.

They need the help of Rumplestiltskin.

This is where things get interesting. Rumple sends Emma off to retrieve the egg with the flask o' Twu Wuv he hid inside Dragon!Maleficent. But she does not actually need the flask to save Henry. The anti-curse escape hatch is already in place, and has been in place since Rumple put a drop of liquid from that flask onto the parchment that contained the Curse spell back in the Enchanted Forest. Rumple wants the flask in the present day to bring Magic to Storybrooke and empower himself in post-Curse life.

That drop of liquid, a potion made from strands of Emma's parents hair, weaved Emma's existence into the Curse. It ensured her actions would have the power to break the curse, and they have already been doing so all season. Likewise, it will be an act done by her--an act of true love, kissing Henry, not retrieving the flask--that will save Henry and break the curse on Storybrooke.

Rumplestiltskin pretty much out-and-out tells Emma and Regina the spell to break the curse is already in place, and yet they still think Emma needs to retrieve the egg to save Henry.

(4) This mission to save Henry also forces Regina to decide what is more important: her need for vengeance (continuing the Curse) or her love for Henry. This is not the first time Regina was compelled to make this particular choice, as we know now. When she learned infant Henry's mother was the savior, she chose to keep Henry and remove her memory of this fact rather than give up Henry and keep her advantage over the Savior.

This was a decision she could never make back in the Enchanted Forest. She couldn't chose her love for her father over vengeance. Nor her love for her mother, nor the promise of love with the man Tinkerbell found for her.

(5) Lame!Cursed!David seeks out Mary Margaret. He tells her he's going to leave town unless she gives him a reason to stay. But he hasn't proven himself to her, so he's headed for the town line. Good thing David wasn't so lame back in the Enchanted Forest. It really means something when Rumplestiltskin presents Emma with her father's sword, and we see her battle the dragon in parallel with her father in flashback (again, *total love* that the echo is between father and daughter).

But who brings a gun to a sword fight? Emma, of course. Symbolically, she's still hanging onto the tangible over the magical. The point here, though, is to pierce the dragon's breast just enough to free the egg that contains the flask.

Back in the past, Dad puts the egg into the dragon and wins his mother's ring back from Rumplestiltskin. Then the season finale comes full circle with the pilot: Rumplestiltskin outfits Charming in regal robes and sets him off in search of sleeping Snow White (how very Fairy Godmother of you, Rumple).

(6) In the present, Gold steals the egg from Emma, but as mentioned, she doesn't need it. An act of true love, in this case, parallel to the act that helped her father save her mother from the Queen's magic, helps save Henry and Storybrooke from the Queen's magic.

(7) Back when I first watched this episode, I thought what Rumplestiltskin did at the end--bringing magic back--was merely a twist to up the stakes in Season Two, but not really part of Season One proper. Thematically, though, it fits into this episode, which is all about finding magic in the Land Without it. It also makes a LOT of sense when you consider Rumplestiltskin's arc as a whole.

It's interesting that at the moment the curse breaks, Rumple is so intent on bringing magic to Storybrooke, the curse breaking is almost incidental to him. It's sort of, "Oh hey, Belle remembers, curse broken, let's get back to bringing Magic to the land!" Wasn't getting to the Land without Magic and breaking the curse so he can find Baelfire the whole point of this, for him? And yet here he is, more intent on his his need for power than his Quest for his son at that moment. Or perhaps the town coward is afraid to venture on in his Quest without his "cane." His real cane/crutch. Magic.

Episode 1.21: An Apple Red As Blood

This week's episode is 1.21, "An Apple Red As Blood," in which we go barrelling headlong towards the first season finale and a major turning point in the series.

I'm starting the discussion this week because masqthephlsphr is on vacation. So here's the (somewhat disconnected) thoughts I had while watching:

Poor Emma is clearly getting very, very stressed, between the difficult job of trying to do what's right for Henry (and, indeed, trying to figure out what's right for Henry), and dealing with Regina and all these people who seem to want her to believe crazy things. It's hard to blame her, really.

Regina, too, is obviously feeling the strain, complete with disturbing nightmares. I find it kind of interesting that in her dream, people are telling her that they want her to feel their pain, that they want to rip love from her the way she ripped it from them. Is this some subconscious manifestation of an ability to feel actual guilt and empathy? Or just Regina projecting her own motivations and emotions? Either way, of course, she deals with it in typically duplicitous and destructive Regina fashion.

Rumple suggesting that "perhaps you giving up Henry is just the price to keep the curse unbroken" is interesting, isn't it, in light of the S3 mid-season finale and Regina's realization that giving up Henry is the price to keep an even worse curse from happening. I suspect that's probably accidental, but I find this sort of thing pleasing. It makes the entire series feel as if it hangs together very nicely as a whole, somehow.

It's not necessarily the most exciting fight scene in the history of television, but I rather like assault on the castle, just because it features such an entertainingly unlikely band of motley heroes. The air support fairies are an especially nice touch, although I'm surprised Blue could be persuaded. How is this sort of thing not against her precious fairy rules? By the way, it's interesting to note that Snow, who I think people sometimes see as a bit too much of a goody two-shoes innocent, is apparently killing people left and right in this assault, including giving one guy a pretty vicious knife to the ribs. Of course, killing people in battle is traditionally viewed as a very different sort of thing than murder, so maybe it's not too surprising if she also draws that distinction. It is interesting, though.

This episode provides a nice example of the way this show reclaims fairy tales for its female characters, giving Snow White the chance to rescue the Prince as well as vice versa, and making her eating of the apple a deliberate act undertaken with her eyes wide open, rather than painting her as naive and easily duped, as the fairy tale original seems to be (and the Disney version certainly is).

I'm trying to decide whether Jefferson seeing the picture of Daniel and asking "Who's that?" and Regina not being surprised he doesn't know (and not telling him) constitutes a continuity problem with "The Doctor" or not. Should Regina have expected him to know what Daniel looked like? I don't seem to remember the details of that episode as well as I ought to.

I think we've been over this before, but the fact that Jefferson is able to reach back in time to grab the apple pretty unambiguously demonstrates that portals can travel across time as well as between universes. Which I think provides the answer to the perennial question of why Rumple would even think his son was still alive 300 years later. No doubt he programmed to curse to take him to not only where Baelfire was, but also when. Although he might not have been able to fine-tune it perfectly. If he were, I suppose he could have arranged to have the curse broken the same day the kid arrived.

Henry is such a brave little kid, so full of belief and faith, so willing to step up and make a sacrifice in order to be the hero. It ultimately has very good consequences here, of course (and echoes his grandmother's similar sacrifice in the flashbacks), but of course it will get him into a lot of trouble later on.

And, finally: Is it completely crazy that I'm suddenly craving apple turnovers?

Episode 1.20: The Stranger

In which we learn the answer to the mystery: who is August W. Booth?

He rolled into town on a motorcycle with only a typewriter and some beard stubble, and Nobody New Ever Comes to Storybrooke. Well, Emma, but she's met her share of suspicion as well.

1. The answer to August's identity begins with another, apparently unconnected mystery. There is a new story in Henry's Once Upon A Time book that wasn't there before, and it's about Pinocchio. It tells how puppet!Pinocchio sacrificed himself when he and his father were in a storm at sea and he saved Gepetto's life. Pinocchio "drowns", and the Blue Fairy saves him by making him human. She tells him he will remain human as long as he is "brave, true, and unselfish."

Unfortunately for Pinoc, he doesn't. In fact, he's been cowardly, unfaithful, (a total rat bastard tool) and very selfish, and as a result, he is turning back to wood.

But he and Gold are in cahoots now, working to convince Emma that she is the savior who must end the curse on Storybrooke. It's August's attempt to save his own ass Storybrooke by completing the task his father thrust on him as a child. Regina's curse threatened the Enchanted Forest shortly after Pinocchio became a real boy. His father Gepetto was asked by the Blue Fairy to create a magical wardrobe that could be used to whisk Emma to the Land Without Magic prior to the curse so she could avoid its effects and save everyone else from it as an adult. Gepetto agreed, but his price for building the wardrobe was that his son be one of the two people the wardrobe could save, rather than Emma's father. Gepetto feared the effect the curse will have on Pinocchio.

Unfortunately, Snow White goes into labor before the curse falls, meaning she cannot accompany her daughter without becoming the second person. Gepetto sends Pinocchio through anyway. This leaves baby Emma stranded in the Land Without Magic with only Pinocchio to guide her. He was seven years old and easily tempted by this new world's fascinations, and left Emma alone.

It is ironic, then, that Pinocchio's actions in the LWM result in him turning to wood anyway, despite all of Gepetto's attempts to prevent this.

2. One of the things I love about this show is how they re-envision classic characters. The show's take on "Pinocchio all grown up" is never what I would have pictured for the guy. But it works.

3. This episode contains some great examples of "bridge scenes" between other moments we see on the show: (1) the scene we've already seen where Blue tells Snow White and Prince Charming the wardrobe can only carry one person, and (2) the scene in season 2 Storybrooke where Snow learns the truth about the wardrobe from Gepetto.

We also get a "promissory note" of a scene we will see later, when Emma's arrival in Storybrooke coincides with the moment August began to turn into wood halfway across the world. This kind of non-linear story-telling is one reason I love this show.

4. There's been debate over the selfishness of Gepetto's actions regarding the wardrobe. He put his own child's interests not only over the child of another person (understandable), but over the interests of the entire Enchanted Forest. I was one of those people who found Snow White a bit too forgiving of Gepetto's actions. He put the entire burden of Emma's future on a seven-year old boy, and Pinocchio's failure to take care of Emma is just as much on his shoulders as Pinocchio's. I am not convinced that Snow doesn't harbor unexpressed anger towards Gepetto she's convinced herself is ungracious.

5. Interesting Mary Margaret/Regina moment in this ep. Regina remembers their past, Mary Margaret doesn't. So Mary Margaret offering her forgiveness and pity, as heartfelt as it is, probably only serves to enrage Regina (given all we know about her now), who feels that she is the wronged party. You can imagine her thinking, "If I have a hole in my heart, it's all YOUR fault."

Regina's lasagna-making skills have improved in 28 years. One would hope so. I've blanked out the rest of that kitchen scene, but I'm amused how we see a multi-layered echo of it in Welcome to Storybrooke.

6. Emma is not particularly open to August's persuasion, partly because she is now focused on getting custody of Henry, and partly because August's story of curses and fairy tales all sounds absurd to her. It's easier to believe August was the 7-year old boy that found her "abandoned" as a baby in a location not far from Storybrooke than it is to believe is that all of Henry's fairytale fantasies are true and she is the "Savior." But August believes it.

At this point, the writers do something annoying--they have Emma not see that Pinocchio's leg is wood. They pull that "you need to make the leap of faith before you can see the evidence that's right in front of your eyes." My pet peeves aside, this "blindness" to the facts allows Emma to remain skeptical until the final episode of the season.

His failure to convince her about the truth of fairytales does, however, convince her this town is Nuts. She decides it is time to get Henry out of Storybrooke altogether.

Episode 1.19: The Return

Or, What Really Motivates Rumplestiltskin

"I broke one deal in my life, dear, and it certainly wasn't this one."

"You are the part of him that keeps him human, that little light inside of him that still glows. His love for you."

1. It's been clear for a while now that Gold, who obviously hates Regina, has also been in cahoots with her. He created the curse for her. He willingly fell under its spell. He joins forces with her in one episode and betrays her in the next. He's kind of diagonal that way.

But why? His motives have been a mystery.

2. Pinocchio has been turning back to wood since before he rolled into Storybrooke. That's why he's here. He was enjoying the good life in Thailand, when boom, he gets a wooden leg one of Hook's crew would have been proud of. Only he's not. He's panicked. His father Gepetto sent him to Storybrooke with baby Emma to save Pinocchio from the curse and help Emma fulfill her role as savior. August needs to help end the curse to right the wrongs of his past, to make amends and save himself from reverting back to a puppet.

He sneaks into Mr. Gold's shop to locate Rumplestiltskin's dagger. But it's not there, of course. Gold buried it a while back.

3. Kathryn is alive. Gold has double-crossed Regina so she cannot frame Mary Margaret. No corpse, no murder. Really, Regina ought to know by now to word her deals with Rumplestiltskin more precisely. Emma is determined to bring down Regina now that she knows she framed Mary Margaret. She is thwarted after Regina convinces her spineless stooge Sidney to confess to orchestrating the frame. But that makes Emma more determined to save Henry from Regina.

David visits Kathryn and they acknowledge they don't love each other. But when David tries to talk to Mary Margaret, she understandably cannot forgive him for not believing in her innocence. It was difficult in Season 1 to reconcile cursed David with suave, noble Charming, but a lot of Charming's behavior in Neverland comes from a similar "Won't it make it easier if I say nothing?" place.

4. Baby Baelfire! Long before we had neurotic Neal, we had earnest Baelfire. His childhood after his father became the Dark One must have sucked. Pre-Dark One Rumple might have been a loser (I'd have a devastated self-esteem if I'd had Rumple's childhood, too), but he was a lovable one. Now Baelfire must watch Rumple maim and kill, often in his "defense." No one wants to have anything to do with Baelfire out of fear of his father, including kids his own age. He's an anxious wreck. He makes a deal with his father that if he finds a way to reverse the Dark One magic, his father will go back to normal.

Baelfire is told about the Blue Fairy, and he seeks her out. She gives him one of the last magic beans that allow transportation between worlds, and suggests Baelfire take his father to the Land Without Magic. This is an interesting echo of how Rumplestiltskin himself got a magic bean and tried to mend fences with his own father by taking him to Neverland. We all know how that worked out.

If Peter Pan's biggest fear is the responsibilities of adulthood, Rumplestiltskin's biggest fear is being weak. And both men abandon their children when it is either the child, or facing this fear. Baelfire leads his father into the woods and uses the bean to open a portal. But when the moment comes, Rumplestiltskin lets his son fall through the portal on his own and stays behind. His single biggest failure, and his biggest regret.

The Dark One never looked so vulnerable, or lost.

5. Rumplestiltskin sneaks into August's hotel room to discover who he is and why he is in town. He must know people don't just wander into Storybrooke. He discovers August is after his dagger. August has been talking to the Blue Fairy about approaching his real father, Gepetto. The Blue Fairy tells Rumplestiltskin some of this, leading Rumple to conclude that August is actually Baelfire.

Rumplestiltskin's conversation with Doctor Hopper foreshadows a lot of the Rumple/Neal angst of late season 2. We learn that his whole reason for helping Regina with the curse was to get his son back, and he's here in the land without magic to find Baelfire. And now that he may have a chance to talk to him again, finally, his cowardice at facing that confrontation, facing his son's anger, is holding him back.

Of course, August is not Baelfire, and only pretends to be him to get his hands on the dagger. August knows a heck of a lot about Baelfire and Rumplestiltskin's relationship, enough to effectively manipulate Gold. He knows this from his prior dealings with Neal (breaking up Neal and Emma to set Emma on her path), but the question still remains how he was able to know that Neal was Baelfire to begin with.

*Sigh* If only Rumplestiltskin had said to the real adult Baelfire what he said to August here instead of, "let me magic you back to 14!" the events of Manhattan and afterwards would have gone quite differently.

August is hoping the dagger still has magic he can use to save himself, because convincing Emma to break the curse isn't working. But Gold's only hope of seeing his real son again is for Emma to break the curse. If August can help him, then that's a reason to spare his life after this daringly stupid maneuver.

6. One of these days, we're gonna get a REAL Rumplestiltskin-Blue Fairy smack down.

Episode1.18: The Stable Boy

masqthephlsphr is a bit busy this weekend, so I'll be kicking off our regularly-scheduled discussion of Ep. 1.18. "The Stable Boy." And I do think there's a lot to say about this one!

To start off with, I know I'm not the first person to say this, and it's certainly not the only reason why OUaT is worth watching, but for me, possibly the single most compelling thing about this series is how it handles its bad guys. Over and over, it shows us evil people who do horrible things, then reveals to us how they got that way, showing us that their feelings and motivations and actions are understandable, if not justifiable. (And the show, gratifyingly, never does seem to confuse those two things.) Admittedly, it doesn't always manage this. It drops the ball pretty badly, I think, with Owen and, especially, Tamara. And then there's the interesting case of Peter Pan, where the more we understand his motivations and the human flaws and feelings behind them, the less sympathetic he becomes, although he still remains a great villain. I could probably write a whole post about that, but it wouldn't have a lot to do with "The Stable Boy," so that may be a subject for another time.

Anyway. When this show does bad guys and their strangely sympathetic backstories well, it does them very well, and we've got a lot of that under development here.

First, of course, Regina. Unlike Rumple, who starts getting his sympathetic backstory in episode 8, Regina's comes to light much more gradually. Except for a few references to her having some kind of lost love, this is the first we see of the forces and decisions that shaped her into who she is, and it is, of course, merely one step on a very long path. (Although I think that's something that's more obvious in retrospect than I found it on first viewing, when I was thinking that this was supposed to be the full explanation for why she was so evil, and wasn't buying it as sufficient.)

Young Regina is interesting, because she does seem so very different: innocent and loving and full of hope. But I think even here, we're already seeing signs of the person she will become, signs of how much life with her mother has warped her. I think the scene where she tells Daniel off for interrupting is interesting on that score. No doubt she's simply behaving as her mother expects, and working to cover the true nature of her relationship with Daniel. But, man, that look of approval Cora gives her when she treats him as an inferior... I think Regina enjoyed that moment, despite herself, and that pretty well epitomizes her relationship with her mother right there. I do wonder, however, exactly what is going on in her mind when she gives Snow that speech about how Daniel was just an infatuation. Did she know Cora was listening in? Probably. Was that all for Cora's benefit, with this being an early example of Regina learning to lie and manipulate? Does she just want Cora to be proud of her again, now that she has nothing better to live for? Or is she trying to convince herself that mommy really is right, and power is better than love, anyway?

Speaking of Cora... Wow does the experience of watching this episode change after you've seen "The Miller's Daughter." On first viewing, she just seemed like an almost cartoony evil parent stereotype. Watching it now, though, so much about her makes sense: How she can be so heartless towards her own daughter. Why she is so ambitious, and why she really does believe that power instead of love is the path to a happy ending. Not to mention exactly what it was she sacrificed and why she can't stand the thought of her daughter not fulfilling her ambitions and making it all worth it. And, of course, there are all kinds of echoes of Cora's own story in Regina's here, what with both of them wanting to run off with someone else on the eve of their marriage to royalty. Cora really is trying to make her own choices all over again for her daughter, and that's much more obvious now than it was at the time.

And since we're talking about the villains, I ought to mention Rumple, if only because he gets a fantastic scene with Regina at the beginning. I always love watching those two maneuvering around each other, and he's in fine form here, pulling her strings like the expert he is, demonstrating the art of emotional manipulation on multiple levels, as he manipulates Regina through her desire to manipulate and hurt Snow. And I love watching Robert Carlyle in scenes like these, where little hints of Rumplestiltskin get to peek out from behind the Mr. Gold persona.

Of course, it's not all about the villains. My other main reaction to this episode is: Poor little Snow! The kid playing her is a terrific little actress (on top of her eerie resemblance to Ginnifer Goodwin), and, oh, man, her face, with all that sadness and hurt when she thinks Regina is betraying her father and doesn't understand why. Snow really does desperately want Regina to be her mother, doesn't she? And yet, when Regina explains things to her, she genuinely and absolutely does want Regina's happiness more than anything. (Which, of course, is also why, in her innocence, she later spills the secret.) Watching that scene between them, with both of them so sweet and serious, really does make me think that if things had gone differently they could have been incredibly close. It's all kind of heartbreaking, isn't it?

And, um, yeah, that's me rambling on more than long enough, as usual. Other thoughts? As I suddenly realize I've barely mentioned the present-day part of the story at all...

Episode 1.17: Hat Trick

Pop quiz: like or dislike OUaT's Mad Hatter? Some people find him too depressive. Me, I like him. He's the Mad Hatter through and through, and at the same time, he's totally different than the Mad Hatter we meet in Carroll's book. Like many familiar story book characters on OUaT, he's a homage and a fresh take. Which makes me bummed that he has so far not appeared in Once Upon A Time in Wonderland. What's Wonderland without the Mad Hatter?

Jefferson is a classic Trickster, who not only is not all he seems and with a (literal) hat full of tricks and ploys and manipulations, but whose role in a story is to force the hero to see things in a new way.

(1) OUaT's Mad Hatter is a portal-weilding, dimension-hopping wizard from the Enchanted Forest named Jefferson. Regina the queen, already acquainted with him (in part from the event with Dr. Frankenstein, which happened early in her apprenticeship with Rumplestiltskin), comes to him because she wants his help getting to Wonderland. Jefferson does not trust deals with Regina. His daughter Grace is his priority. Grace has a certain Alice-like quality, a young blond with a stuffed rabbit who likes to play tea party. Jefferson does not have enough money to care for Grace the way he wants, however, and is forced to accept Regina's job.

(2) Storybrooke Jefferson is unique among all the victims of the Curse in that his memory of his old life is in tact. But he has been separated from his daughter, cannot escape Storybrooke, and has been watching the same day repeat over and over for 28 years. One presumes he also still has his heart in his chest, which makes his misery understandable.

Since Regina could get just-another-minion by removing Jefferson's memories and his heart, there must be a reason he has both intact. Perhaps Regina's saving his unique expertise as a wizard for a rainy day, and coerces him by dangling his daughter in front of him.

And he is clearly under Regina's thumb: he helps Regina hide a runaway fugitive Mary Margaret, and intercepts Emma during her search for Mary Margaret. Mary Margaret's escape was engineered by Regina in cahoots with Mr. Gold. Best case scenario, Mary Margaret is charged with being a fugitive from justice and escapes the charge murder. Worst case, she suceeds in leaving town and suffers the same bad luck everyone else who has attempted to leave has encountered.

(3) Reason #839 Emma Swan is awesome: she wakes up from being drugged and easily escapes from her bonds using the very tea cup that drugged her in the first place.

(4) Back in FTL, Regina and Jefferson head to Wonderland. We will not see what Regina's connection to the Queen of Hearts is until episode 2.9, so you know the writers of this show have many story threads mapped out in advance they plan to unpeel over time. Regina retrieves her father, whose presence as a prisoner is left unexplained. Then, because the same number of travelers that go through a portal must also return, she abandons Jefferson in Wonderland.

A betrayed Jefferson is distraught that he has broken a promise to Grace to return to her. At the time, Regina's retort, "If you truly loved your daughter, you would not have left her in the first place," seemed mostly defensive. But you can clearly see a rather tortured look on her face, upon which we can unwrap layers of meaning, including Regina's possible plans for her father, and Regina's pain over her mother's treatment of her.

Jefferson's only hope of leaving Wonderland is to make another hat, which he attempts to do obsessively, but without success. The Mad Hatter is born.

(5) Storybrooke Jefferson talks freely to Emma about the Curse, which up until now, Emma has been able to write off as Henry's fantasy. And even though Emma would like to (and has good reason to) think Jefferson is a Nut, the fact that his delusions are so close to Henry's clearly disturbs her. There are two logical conclusions she can draw: (a) Jefferson has spent a lot of time with Henry, and has somehow come to believe a child's stories about the Enchanted Forest, the Curse, and Emma being the Savior, and incorporate those beliefs into his perceptions of his own life or (b) there is some truth to Henry's claims.

Emma, ever rational, decides (a), no matter how weird, is a more likely scenario than (b). But this is a turning point for her, a point where she finally begins to consider the absurd conclusion that Henry's story may be true. In order to gain her captor's trust, Emma plays along with Jefferson's delusion. This is a ploy, but at the same time, it forces Emma to wear the possibilities like truths, including the possibility that Mary Margaret is her mother. Later, she checks Henry's story book, and sees characters similar to Jefferson and Paige in the story of the Mad Hatter.

(6) Of course Emma has chemistry with Jefferson. Because (a) she has chemistry with every male character in her age bracket except David, and (b) the actors were dating, for a while.

(7) Jefferson believes Emma to be the Savior, and knows the Savior has magic. He wants her to build a hat he can use a portal to go back to the Enchanted Forest. I am not sure if this is the first time it is explicitly stated that part of being the Savior is having Magic that can be used for purposes other than curse-breaking.

(8) Emma gets the drop on Jefferson, but the one who actually defeats him is Mary Margaret, and this is a key character moment for her, because up until now Mary Margaret has been pretty meek and, well, anti-Snow White. Finally, we begin to see that part of her we've admired in Snow White that seems to have been lost and isn't lost after all. The characters have their old selves inside them, but they require the right circumstances to show it.

(9) Talking to Jefferson not only forces Emma to reconsider her attitude towards fairy tales and curses, but her feelings regarding the people she's met in Storybrooke as well. Emma searches for Mary Margaret not just as the sheriff bringing back a fugitive, but as a lonely woman who wants to help out what may be one of her first real friends in 28 years. Talking to Jefferson and hearing about his loneliness and his separation from his daughter puts Emma more in touch with her own loneliness, and makes her realize consciously what people like Henry and Mary Margaret mean to her. Her walls are falling.

Episode 1.16: Heart of Darkness

Previously, on 2ceUponATime: Emma came to Storybrooke. She made friends with a school teacher named Mary Margaret. Mary Margaret is inexplicably drawn to David, a former coma patient who is just as drawn to her, rather than to his own wife, Kathryn. Mary Margaret, who is noble to a flaw, experiences extreme cognitive dissonance with this situation and dithers just long enough for her arch enemy, Regina, to set her up for the murder of Kathryn.

Emma, now sheriff of Storybrooke, is forced to bring Mary Margaret in.

All this, is of course, a grand plot to make the woman formerly known as Snow White as miserable as possible, and is part of increasingly desperate attempts by Regina to keep control of a curse that has been unraveling ever since Emma rolled into town.

In the Fairytale Land, Prince Charming (AKA David) and Snow White (AKA Mary Margaret) are in love. But Prince Charming has been betrothed to the princess of another kingdom (AKA Kathryn), and his AdoptiveFatherOfSorts, King George, has threatened to kill Charming, who he doesn't love (being only the twin brother of George's beloved son, James, now dead), to keep Snow White away from Charming. Heart-broken, Snow White tells Charming she didn't love him, and takes a potion from Rumplestiltskin that removes her memories of Charming. But Charming and his betrothed agree they don't love each other and won't marry for political reasons, freeing Charming to be with Snow White. King George is furious and pursues Charming while Charming seeks out Snow White.

And now: Heart of Darkness.

(1) Love, love, love Disneyesque Snow White in the iconic lipstick and hair bows, manically trying to kill a bluebird. It's awesome that though this show is owned by Disney, they allow this sort of subversion of their work. Probably because it's not real subversion. OUAT!Snow White in her right mind would never act this way. The forgetfulness potion has taken more from her than just her memories of Charming.

Also? Jiminy Cricket earning his Doctorate in Psychology, pre-curse, by managing the Seven Dwarves' intervention on Crazed!Snow. Which fails, of course, because Snow White's heart has been made dark by the potion she drank. This resonates to when her heart is darkened more literally after abetting the death of Cora in season 2, aided by Rumplestiltskin. Which leads me to wonder if this darkness wasn't Rumplestiltskin's intention in giving her that particular potion back in the FTL. He wanted to see the dark side of Snow White for himself, to find out just what she could be capable of under the right circumstances.

(2) Kathryn's heart has been ripped from her body (allegedly, no body has been found) and buried inside Mary Margaret's jewelry box. Emma investigates whether there has been a break-in at her and Mary Margaret's apartment to confirm MM's claim the jewelry box was stolen. What she finds instead is more evidence against MM. The evidence Regina hid there for her to find: the "murder" weapon.

We interrupt this review to say: How CUTE is season 1 Henry? OMG, that kid has grown like a weed in two years.

(3) Unanswered question: Now that we know that the OUAT book was planted into cursed Storybrooke by the Blue Fairy prior to the casting of the curse, how does August/Pinocchio know so much about it? He rolls into town and mends the book and gives it back to Henry, who is really the key to breaking the curse, since he is Emma's guide all through season 1 (it's his job to get her to believe. In fairytales, in the curse, or that Regina is framing Mary Margaret). Of course, August could simply have found the OUAT book upon his arrival in Storybrooke, and not having lost his memories, realized its significance, but he seems to know way more about the book and its role than is easily explained, even given everything we know at this point (mid season 3).

Of course, we still don't know how August figured out Neal=Baelfire, either.

(4) Watching the Gold/Rumplestiltskin-Regina rivalry from season 1 with the perspective of seasons 2 and 3 is fascinating. In season 1, the fact that they were enemies in one episode and allies in the next was disconcerting. Not so when you know their history: Rumplestiltskin's relationship with Regina's mother. How he takes revenge for his heartbreak by training and corrupting Cora's daughter-by-another-man. How Rumple loses control of his creation as Regina's bitterness and evil deepens. And how he manipulates her into casting a curse that he at the same time must break to get to what he loves the most: his son.

Staggeringly good storytelling and characterization.

But not having this background makes figuring out Gold's motives in season 1 for anything he does a delightful mystery.

Always layers upon layers with that man, in any persona. Including his apparent willingness to help Snow White kill Regina, while clearly already working on his master plan to get to the Land Without Magic. He's bottling True Love (for which he needs Snow and Charming's hairs), which will be part of the magic that creates the Savior to break Regina's curse. He uses his visit to Charming to get his hair and send him after Action!Snow. Both to reunite the lovers and prevent Regina's death.

(5) Great continuity: true love's kiss doesn't work when it's one-way. Both sides need to have genuine feeling for the other in the here and now for it to work. Charming can't reverse the effect of the memory potion on Snow if she's forgotten her love for him, and it didn't help Hook when he tried the same trick on memory-wiped Emma in the final moment of Going Home (3.11).

(6) Interesting that under hypnosis, David sees a memory from the FTL. He sits still only long enough to remember the darkest part of that memory, an event that ends with Charming throwing himself in front an arrow meant for Regina, declaring his sacrificial love for Snow White, thereby softening her selectively-amnesiac heart long enough for True Love's kiss to actually work.

The edited memory, however, makes present-day David wonder if Mary Margaret really is guilty of killing Kathryn. A more dysfunctional pair you'd never meet than these two.

And finally the last piece of rigged evidence falls into place: "DNA evidence" that the heart is Kathryn's. Mary Margaret loses faith that she can ever win against Regina. She makes a jail break using the skeleton key that (eep--I forget) Regina planted in the jail cell?

(7) Is this the first time we see Emma really, truly let herself be seduced by Gold/Rumplestiltskin? She's a pragmatic person, and that gives her reason to go along with his as yet unrevealed plan to exonerate Mary Margaret. But he is playing a long game with her, a game that goes beyond her breaking the curse. He is molding her the way he once molded young Regina. And she's a much tougher nut to crack. He knows the Savior, in being the product of True Love, has untapped magic. Magic he wants to tap, and does start to tap in season 2. He does love corrupting women.

2ceUponATime schedule

If folks don't mind, I am revising the 2ceUponATime schedule for the remainder of our season 1 rewatch, having just exhausted myself writing Connor on Angel vs. Henry on OUAT meta. Here is the new schedule:

Jan 12 S1, ep 16 Heart of Darkness
Jan 19 S1, ep 17 Hat Trick
Jan 26 S1, ep 18 The Stable Boy
Feb 02 S1, ep 19 The Return
Feb 09 S1, ep 20 The Stranger
Feb 16 S1, ep 21 An Apple Red as Blood
Feb 23 S1, ep 22 A Land Without Magic

This works nicely, I think, since season 3 returns Sunday, March 9th.


Dec. 2nd, 2013

If IMDB is to be believed (and sometimes their information is wrong) we have two more episodes of season 3 of OUAT airing, on 12/8 and 12/15 respectively, before a VERY LONG winter hiatus. Like, eleven weeks, ppl. Putting aside the dumb bafflingness of this dumbness, the show would return on March 9th. That means plenty of time to finish the season 1 rewatch, should we accept that mission.

We took a break from our rewatch after September 22nd to enjoy season 3, and given the twists and turns of the season so far, I am sure we will be talking about it for a few weeks after it breaks on 12/15. Not to mention, holidays for those of us who celebrate.

But then we will be sitting on our hands waiting for more. With that in mind, I submit the following suggested rewatch continuation schedule:

Jan 05 S1, ep 16 Heart of Darkness
Jan 12 S1, ep 17 Hat Trick
Jan 19 S1, ep 18 The Stable Boy
Jan 26 S1, ep 19 The Return
Feb 02 S1, ep 20 The Stranger
Feb 09 S1, ep 21 An Apple Red as Blood
Feb 16 S1, ep 22 A Land Without Magic

This would then leave us two more weeks until season 3 continues to speculate about what is to come.

Same rules would apply, with one slight adjustment: no spoilers for season 3 episodes beyond episode 11. Lots of new season 3 information to add to our discussions.


Episode 1.15: Red-handed

AKA "Peter and the Wolf"

(1) Little Red Ridinghood flirts with Pinocchio. This is the kind of cracked-out, multi-layered mash-up that seems perfectly reasonable on a show like OUAT.

(2) Now that the Day that Repeats Itself for 28 Years is over and time is moving forward, our still curse-addled characters are trying to make actual lives for themselves. For Ruby the waitress, that means getting out from under her granny's much-calloused thumb. Which is pretty much what she was also trying to do back in the FTL when she discovered the reason Granny was so micromanaging in the first place.

(3) "You dress like a drag queen during fleet week."
"Well, you dress like Norman Bates when he dresses like Norman Bates' mother."

"I'll sleep with the trolls in the afterlife."

(4) In the FTL, we see Red meet Snow White Margaret, er, Mary... for the first time. Snow is on the run from the Evil Queen, and probably has just recently left her life in the palace, as she seems kind of bad at both hiding and tracking.

Red gives her her first tracking lesson as they hunt down the wolf menacing Red's village. They follow wolf tracks that morph into human footprints up to the door of Red and Granny's cottage and suspect her boyfriend Peter. Red tells Peter what she suspects, and together, they decide to save Peter from slaughter at the hands of the wolf-hunting party by chaining him to a tree so he cannot kill anyone. But since he's not the wolf, Red is, naturally, Peter is killed.

(5) FTL!Granny gets a name (Widow Lucas) and makes reference to the "Second Ogre's War." According to her, it happened over sixty years ago. If we assume the war Rumplestiltskin and Baelfire were drafted into was the First Ogre's War, that puts the first war back even further, which is consistent with things Rumplestiltskin and Neal have said about how long they've been around, and is consistent with the idea that everything happening in the FTL runs at the same pace as Our World. That is, if something happened one hundred years from the present day in the FTL, anyone crossing over from the FTL to Our World at that time would appear in Our World of 100 years ago, as Bae did when he fell through the portal into turn-of-the-20th-century England. Likewise, during the 28 years of the curse in Storybrooke, the FTL was also frozen for 28 years.

I am not sure why the writers felt the need to do this. It actually creates more problems than it solves, since, for example, the story of Snow White has been around in our world for centuries.

(6) One of the things OUAT is good at is weaving together a fairytale backstory (in this case, Little Red Riding Hood) with the ongoing seasonal arc. In this episode, Ruby helps Emma work on the Missing Kathryn Nolan case.

Mary Margaret finds David wandering in a daze in the woods after Emma finished questioning him at the Sheriff's station. He seems as disoriented as he was when he first came out of his coma. He only comes around later when Emma finds him blacked out in the woods. David and Emma discuss the possibility that David hurt Kathryn while in such a fugue state. All this doubt cast on David becomes incidental at the end of the episode and going forward as the evidence against Mary Margaret mounts. Almost as if Regina bought time to set up MM by manipulating David so he would look guilty and distract Emma.

Emma sends Ruby out to the toll bridge, where David wandered in his previous fugue. Ruby uses her wolf-instincts, still intact under the curse, to find a heart in a box buried near the water. This is all a little too much for Ruby, and she returns to the diner to ask for her old job back. All is well in Granny's family.

The heart-in-a-box is sent out to be examined for forensic evidence, but Emma has already discovered exactly what Regina wanted them to find: Mary Margaret's fingerprints inside the box. Interesting how the "innocent person falsely accused of a murder that did not in fact really happen" plot line returns in season 2 when Cora sets up Regina for murdering the kidnapped Archie.

(7) It's adorable that Henry tries to find a job for Ruby that involves taking things to people in a little basket. Still, he knows that Ruby/Red Riding Hood is capable of a lot more than that.

(8) Does Ruby's "I can't do anything" attitude strike anyone else as a little over the top? We haven't seen enough of her cursed!Storybrooke life to know what it's really like day to day, but given Granny's expressed confidence in her abilities at the end of the episode, we can make presumptions about the way she was raised, and it's almost like the writers tacked low self-esteem onto the character who didn't have it (or, at least not to that degree) just for this episode in order to give her an internal challenge to surmount.