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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.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 13th, 2014 06:48 am (UTC)
The opening spoof on Disney's Snow White will never not be funny. What I hadn't noticed before was that we also get a nod/witty twist to the orginal Grimm tale (quite different from Disney) elsewhere - when the dwarves stage their intervention, one of them complains about Snow's messing with his things. Which is a riff on "who has eaten from my plate? Who has drunk from my cup?" etc. in the Grimm tale, before they discover Snow White is hiding at their house.

re: kisses and the continuity of true love's kiss not working in cases of amnesia and one party trying to force the memory issue - another example would be Belle and Rumple in s2 (he tries this when first visiting her in the hospital and only succeeds in freaking her out).

I find it interesting that Snow-minus-love brings up two things Snow in her right mind never does - firstly, Regina having killed her father, and secondly, missing living in a palace. She never gives the impression of doing the later otherwise, and takes to the outlaw life, but it wouldn't surprise me if somewhere in the back of her mind/subconscious, a part of Snow misses her creature comforts (not to mention her home). The switch from waited upon princess to outlaw eternally on the run was pretty drastic. As for Leopold's death, that always intrigued me, because while canon isn't clear on when Snow figured out Regina had him killed (as opposed the the genie doing it on his own) - i.e. whether she realised at the same time she deduced the Huntsman had orders to kill her, or whether it was later - she never pulls a "you killed my father, prepare to die" on Regina, and continues to hope for Regina's return to the light side for quite a while after this. (Evidence: not just the "I love you and forgive you, be a good queen" letter during the Huntsman ep but also her whole "Regina is still my hero" speech in "The Evil Queen" - it's the massacre of the villager, not Leopold's death (or the attempts on her own life) that is the first thing Snow really can't forgive Regina for. The fact that Heart of Darkness she does bring Regina's responsibility for Leopold's death up among the reasons for killing her would to me indicate two things: a) usually, with her capacity to love intact, the anger for Leopold's death might be there somewhere but covered by her conflicting love for Regina, and b) also covered by feeling guilty for the Leopold/Regina marriage in the first place (since Snow-minus-love doesn't do guilt, either).

Regina telling David "I've always believed evil isn't born. It is made", ostensibly referring to Mary Margaret, is one of those neat character moments that gain so much after knowing more. At this point of the show, we haven't seen Regina's background yet, neither with her mother nor with Rumpelstilskin, but we will find out, and the statement is certainly true for herself.

re: our Mr. Gold: he is in manipulative high form in both timelines, but I do wonder, based on what Astro said re: Robert Carlyle's statement re: Rumple's feelings about Charming, whether he isn't also having the occasional bitter thought about how when a woman he, Rumple, loved, removed her capacity for love, this ended quite differently. Incidentally, that Snow takes that love removal potion in the first place is fodder for my "Snow and Cora parallels" theories. :)
Jan. 13th, 2014 06:59 pm (UTC)
I think Snow would have figured out who killed her father shortly after she became Persona Non Grata at the palace. Because you know Regina would not have waited to have her killed as well, or at least run out of town. She seems to be Leopold's only child and therefore heir. Whether she found that animosity puzzling, or has slowly become aware of Regina's change of personality over time is a question, though. Certainly, seeing Regina as basically "good" comes from knowing her that way as a child. It's hard to shake first impressions that come before age 12, at least on an emotional level.

I hadn't thought about the love-removal thing of Cora with Rumple when he offered Snow the potion. He may have gotten some pleasure out of that, knowing how in love these two people actually were. But at the same time, I think he was invested in them staying together to "bottle" that feeling even at the time he gave Snow the potion.

Jan. 14th, 2014 04:50 am (UTC)
Super-Disneyfied Snow going psycho and trying to kill the bluebird, followed by Jiminy Cricket and the dwarves staging an intervention, is probably the most brilliantly hilarious thing in the entire series. You know, I think on my first viewing when I got to this point I was still trying to make my mind up about whether I even liked this show or not. I kept thinking maybe it just took itself and its own cracktastic premise a little too seriously to be entirely appealing. Scenes like this definitely helped me get over that feeling!

And you're right, masqthephlsphr, this episode is really interesting to consider in the context of Snow's later Adventures in Heart Blackening. I think it gives us a good, rather prescient glimpse of exactly what Snow is capable of when the restraints of compassion and her ideas about goodness aren't holding her back. It makes her scary, and noticably Regina-like. Although, interestingly, while she's pretty ruthless here, she's not gratitiously so. She could have killed the man she stole the armor from, and didn't.

And that's an intriguing speculation about Rumple maybe deliberately wanting to see how dark she was capable of getting. Given that he does eventually use that darkness to kill Cora and save himself, that "I'm invested in your future" takes on even more layers of meaning, perhaps. I don't know for sure, though. This is one of those (not infrequent) times when it's hard to imagine exactly what's going on in Rumple's head as he pulls his strings. Clearly, the main thing he wanted out of the situation was the hairs, but the way he goes about it all is so complicated and counter-intuitive. After all, both Snow and Charming getting together and Regina's continued existence are central to his plans. I can only figure that this must be one of those situations where he was able to foresee how it would all come out.

Speaking of Rumple, I love the fact that we find out here that the curse gave him a law degree. Because of course it did. I like to imagine that he found that both amusing and useful, when he got his memories back.

Some nice continuity touches here, too. Already mentioned was the way it establishes the important fact about True Love's kiss not working when the kissee doesn't remember being in love. But also, hey, I'd completely forgotten that we'd seen that never-miss bow before! Although apparently its much-vaunted ability to always hit its target doesn't extend to being able to veer around ridiculously self-sacrificing princes. And, by the way, does anybody but me find August's "As real as I am" line sort of hilarious, knowing who he actually is?

On the question of how August knows about the storybook... It's possible the Blue Fairy told him about it. It's also possible (and perhaps more likely) that he didn't know in advance at all, but just happened to find the thing when Henry lost it, realized its significance, and tried to take advantage of that.
Jan. 14th, 2014 09:25 pm (UTC)
but the way he goes about it all is so complicated and counter-intuitive

That about sums up all of Rumple's various plans.

I think August's "As real as I am" is deliberate on the part of the writers. After all, at this point, he is still a real boy, although one presumes he is starting to turn into wood a little, since that is what prompts his visit to Storybrooke in the first place.
Jan. 14th, 2014 10:10 pm (UTC)
That about sums up all of Rumple's various plans.

Indeed! Heck, the whole curse plan is one huge over-complicated, counter-intuitive scheme made up of any number of smaller ones. But as those smaller ones go, I think this one may just take the cake.

I think August's "As real as I am" is deliberate on the part of the writers.

I think so, too. One of those nifty little lines that read a bit differently once you know things that are revealed later. I think there's a line of his in an earlier ep about how he never lies that also qualifies.

Edited at 2014-01-14 10:13 pm (UTC)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )