Retro Review: Once Upon a Time, Season Two: Episodes 13-17

I’m now nearing the end of the second season in my Once Upon a Time binge watch. Once again, expect spoilers.

The logo for Once Upon a Time“Tiny”:

Here we have another somewhat disappointing episode.

An interrogation of Hook leads to the discovery of Anton, the last surviving giant, aboard his ship — albeit somewhat shrunken. He flies into a rage at the sight of Charming, believing him to be his far less noble brother, James. With a little help from Regina, he plans to wreak some havoc.

Meanwhile, Emma, Henry, and Rumpelstiltskin travel to New York in search of Rumpel’s son.

I like Anton and the giants’ story in general. The battle with Jack wasn’t quite the mighty epic I’d initially envisioned, but it’s still a nice twist.

But I was very disappointed that all of Regina’s character development has been thrown out to turn her back into the old caricature of evil, and the ending was just a bland deus ex machina.

Anton the giant in Once Upon a TimeAlso, what idiot decided to let Hook roam around without supervision? I realize these people are kind of naive, but jeez.

Overall rating: 6.4/10

“Manhattan”:

And suddenly everything is very awkward.

Emma, Henry, and Rumpel have arrived in New York, and they manage to track down down Rumpel’s son, Baelfire. But in a twist I should have seen coming, it turns out Baelfire is also Henry’s father.

Our flashbacks this time around illustrate how Rumpel came to be a cripple with a reputation for cowardice, and it puts him in a surprisingly sympathetic light while once again proving that his wife was a horrible, horrible person.

This episode neither excels nor disappoints. It’s got a lot of Robert Carlyle, which is good, but mostly all it boils down to is a lot of yelling and general awkwardness.

Neal/Baelfire in Once Upon a TimeI really do feel bad for Rumpelstiltskin. I’m sure I shouldn’t, but I do. He may have ended up a monster, but he started out with the best of intentions. People treated him like a monster long before he became one.

Him being Henry’s grandfather could prove interesting going forward, but on the other hand, I don’t like this “the boy will be your undoing” talk.

Overall rating: 6.9/10

“The Queen Is Dead”:

This is kind of an odd episode. There’s a lot going on, but not much really happening.

In New York, Hook catches up with Rumpel but manages to serve as little more than a plot device to force him and his son together.

How much more trouble is Hook going to cause before these people realize that a more permanent a solution is necessary? I know they’re not the killing type, but they could at least lock him up and throw away the key.

Captain Hook in Once Upon a TimeMeanwhile, in Storybrook, Cora and Regina hunt for Rumpelstiltskin’s dagger so that they will be able to control him once he returns.

I have little to say about this plot beyond the fact that I remain powerfully disappointed by how all of Regina’s character development has been thrown out the window, and that Charming’s foolishness seems to be rubbing off on Snow now.

Overall rating: 6.6/10

“The Miller’s Daughter”:

Rumpelstiltskin is dying, and Cora is determined to claim his power for herself. She claims it’s to help Regina, but by now we all know how much truth there is in that.

It’s up to Emma, David, and Baelfire to protect Rumpel, despite their less than warm feelings toward him. But the battle may hinge on the actions of Snow White. Rumpel offers a way to save him and end the threat of Cora once and for all, but it goes against everything Snow believes in.

Robert Carlyle as Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a TimeFor the flashbacks, we go way far back to learn Cora’s origin story. It’s not terribly surprising — she was pretty much always awful and power hungry — and definitely the weakest part of the episode. My main takeaway was that Regina’s father used to be a Freelancer.

Also, how old is Rumpelstiltskin, anyway? He was already the Dark One long before Regina’s birth. That also begs the question of how long Hook and Baelfire have been around.

But I digress.

“The Miller’s Daughter” is slow to start, but it builds to a pretty powerful conclusion. As is often the case, much of the appeal boils down to Robert Carlyle being an amazing actor. Rumpel’s deathbed confessions to Belle and Baelfire were examples of how powerfully moving Once Upon a Time can be when it’s not being too sugary sweet. After a run of weak episodes, I remember why I’m watching this series.

The ending was great, as well. I definitely did not expect Snow to actually go through with and succeed in her plan to kill Cora. Not only is it very satisfying to see Cora finally reach her end, but it’s a nice change of pace to see Snow go a little too far — by her own standards, at least. It’s a refreshing surprise.

It also gives Regina a good reason to be pissed off for once. Maybe now her conflict with Snow won’t be so clearly black and white.

Lana Parilla as Regina Mills in Once Upon a TimeFor the first twenty minutes or so, I thought this would be another mediocre episode, but I am quite happy to be wrong.

Overall rating: 8/10

“Welcome to Storybrook”:

Yet again, Regina is on the war path to end Snow White. She plans to kill Snow and use her heart to cast a spell that will place Henry in her thrall.

Meanwhile, the flashbacks this time around actually take place in Storybrook. Immediately after the town’s creation, Regina encounters an ordinary man and his son who were caught up in the curse. She proceeds to get all baby crazy and try to abduct the son, with consequences in the town’s modern day.

I found this another disappointing episode. Regina going after Snow just feels a little tired at this point, I am so not interested in this conflict they seem to be trying to set up between Storybrook and the real world, and a lot of the characters’ actions just didn’t feel right.

Emma and her son, Henry, in Once Upon a TimeI don’t believe for a moment that any self-respecting child — least of all Henry — would willingly try to banish magic from the world, especially when we have plenty of examples of magic doing good in the world. The problem is obviously the people, not the magic.

Snow’s suicidal self-loathing over Cora’s death is a bit hard to swallow, too. I do understand that killing someone is not something to be taken lightly, and any decent person — especially someone as pure-hearted as Snow — will feel guilt over such an act.

But Cora was about as unambiguously evil as anyone could ever be, and there’s no doubt whatsoever the world is better without her. There are limits to how much guilt over her death can be considered reasonable.

And while it’s in Snow’s character to be very pure-hearted, it’s also in her character to be incredibly strong, to rise above all adversity, and the writers seem to have forgotten that right now.

Overall rating: 6.5/10

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