Retro Review: Once Upon a Time, Season Two: Episodes 7-12

You know the drill. Continuing the binge-watch. Here be spoilers.

The logo for Once Upon a Time“Child of the Moon”:

Well, this answers one of the big questions I had going into season two: Will Red start transforming again now that the curse is broken?

Yes. Yes, she will.

It’s not a welcome revelation for Red herself, though. She’s terrified she’s going to lose control and hurt someone.

Meanwhile, King George is determined to continue his quest for vengeance against Prince Charming in Storybrook, and when a local man is gruesomely killed, he’s quick to exploit the suspicion against Red as a tool to discredit Charming.

In the past and in another world, Red encounters a clan of werewolves led by her long-lost mother, who teach her how to understand and control the wolf within her.

I really like Red. She’s one of the show’s more interesting characters, torn between her beast nature and her humanity, and the actress puts on a great performance in this episode.

Granny is a badassUnfortunately, I also found both stories very predictable. It was blindingly obvious that King George was going to try to frame Red even before the body showed up, and Red finding a home among fellow lycanthropes was clearly too good to be true.

On the plus side, the twist at the very end was definitely not something I saw coming. The connection between Aurora and Henry raises all kinds of interesting possibilities.

Also, Granny is awesome.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

“Into the Deep”:

A connection between worlds has been found in Henry and Aurora’s dreams, and Emma’s party hopes to use to gain the information needed to defeat Cora from Rumpelstiltskin.

Cora isn’t going to make that easy, though. She attacks the party and abducts Aurora. Meanwhile, Henry’s continued efforts to make contact put his life in danger. Groups in both worlds are forced to take increasingly desperate efforts to maintain contact.

Mulan in Once Upon a TimeIf memory serves, this is the first episode of the series without any flashbacks, and while I tend to enjoy the flashbacks, it is a nice change of pace. It makes for a very tight and exciting episode. It’s got the feeling of building tension that you usually only see near the very end of a season, but we’re still not even halfway through. Very good.

“Into the Deep” also makes good use of the cast, with strong performances once again from Snow, Regina, and Henry.

Really my only complaint is that it once again shows both Emma and Charming to be complete and utter schmucks.

Overall rating: 8/10

“Queen of Hearts”:

All jail and no magic makes Rumpelstiltskin a dull mage…

With Aurora’s unwilling aid, Cora is able to defeat Emma and Snow’s company, paving the way for her to go to Storybrook. Knowing a portal will open soon, Regina and Rumpel plan to destroy it to prevent Cora’s arrival, even if it risks killing Emma and Snow. And the flashbacks illuminate the origins of Cora and Hook’s partnership.

Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin brings magic to Storybrook in Once Upon a Time's first season finaleThere’s enough sword fights, magic, and excitement to make this a solid episode, though it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations set by “Into the Deep,” and a few things bug me about it.

I’m a bit sad Mulan and Aurora didn’t come through to Storybrook. They might show up again, but this undoubtedly means they’ll be on the backburner for the time being. I’d be perfectly happy to never see Aurora again, but Mulan was pretty cool. I want to see her get more time in the spotlight.

I’m also not sure how I feel about Emma gaining the power to shoot out Harry Potter love rays. On the one hand, it makes sense to give her some continued relevance as a saviour, since that’s her whole reason for existing. On the other hand, Emma is really boring, and I don’t want her becoming any more ubiquitous than she already is. And I don’t know, but random love lasers just feels a little tacky.

Overall rating: 7.3/10

“The Cricket Game”:

Regina continues to be one of the most interesting parts of this series. After the enormous amount of effort and skill they poured into making her utterly unlikable, making the viewer feel sympathy for her should be all but impossible, but here they are pulling it off.

Lana Parilla as Regina Mills in Once Upon a TimeWhen one of Storybrook’s residents turns up dead, all the evidence points to Regina… maybe a little too obviously. But of course, no one is willing to believe she’s not guilty, and after all she’s done, it’s hard to blame them.

Only Emma thinks something might be up, and she actually tries to prove Regina’s innocence, but the evidence seems absolute.

Along the way, we once again see that Emma does, in fact, have magic, which I’m still not thrilled about. More magic is always good, but it would have been more interesting if it had happened to anyone else.

On the whole, this episode split evenly between Emma and Regina, and therefore split between awesomeness and mediocrity. Thankfully, Regina is just a bit more interesting than Emma is tedious.

Also, I am once again struck by how much Emma and Regina are a potential goldmine for slash fic writers. They’re even sort of raising a kid together. It writes itself!

Look, kids: a ship is bornFor that matter, Aurora and Mulan could also prove to be quite the shipper goldmine.

Really this entire show just seems like a playground for femslash writers.

Overall rating: 7.4/10

“The Outsider”:

This episode could pretty much be summed up as “forty minutes of Belle being awesome.”

In Storybrook, Hook enacts his plan of revenge against Rumpelstiltskin, hoping to use Belle to get to him. But Belle’s tougher than she looks, and Hook may have bought more than he bargained for.

In the Enchanted Forest’s past, Belle is seized by an urge for adventure and heads off to help defeat a legendary monster. Along the way, she joins forces with Mulan, but Belle’s books prove a mightier weapon than Mulan’s sword.

Belle and Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a TimeI have trouble thinking of much to say about this episode beyond the fact that Belle is awesome. It’s always gratifying when a character who doesn’t seem especially tough or heroic proves themselves the equal of the greats.

That ending, though… My poor aching feels.

I really hope Hook dies a gruesome, painful death at some point. Hopefully sooner rather than later. What a horrid, disgusting excuse for a person. I mean, Regina and Rumpel have done some awful stuff, and Cora is just pure evil, but Hook is vile. Can they lock him in a room with Red during the next full moon? Or maybe let Grumpy use him as a pick sharpener?

Overall rating: 7.8/10

“In the Name of the Brother”:

When we saw no more mention of Wale’s true identity as Dr. Frankenstein, I assumed the writers realized it was a bad idea and decided to drop that story.

So much for that.

Following the car accident that laid up Hook, the driver — a stranger to Storybrook — is at death’s door. There’s some debate over weather they should let him die to save Storybrook’s secrecy, but of course Charming and Snow won’t have it, so it falls to Wale/Frankenstein to save him.

Doctor Victor Frankenstein, AKA Doctor Wale, in Once Upon a TimeBut our dear Victor is in a bad way, and before he can save anyone, someone needs to save him.

Meanwhile, Cora attempts to restore ties with Regina and Rumpel, with a disturbing level of success.

All my previous complaints about the inclusion of Frankenstein still stand. It still feels out of place, and it’s still ignoring the whole point of the story of Frankenstein. Regina falling for Cora’s manipulations was also terribly disappointing, I’m sad about how things have turned out for Belle and Rumpel, and I’m not terribly enthused about them adding the need to keep Storybrook secret to all the other problems.

Oh, and Hook is still drawing breath, albeit with difficulty.

This was not only a boring episode, but one which gives me significant doubts about the quality of the series for at least the near future.

Overall rating: 4.9/10 Probably the worst episode of the series to date, and a great disappointment considering the mostly high quality of the second season so far.

* * *

I just Googled “Once Upon a Time Emma and Regina.” Yeah, wow.

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