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

I continue my Netflix binge watch of Once Upon a Time’s third season. After the brilliance of the Peter Pan arc, the series has unfortunately taken a much less interesting turn as the story focuses on Oz and the Wicked Witch it produced.

The logo for Once Upon a Time“Witch Hunt”:

This is one of those “not quite filler but not terribly eventful” episodes necessary to establish the plot.

In the Enchanted Forest’s past, Regina infiltrates her castle to confront the Wicked Witch, whose proper name turns out to be Zelena, while in the present, Emma and Regina join forces in an attempt to uncover who cursed the town.

Shipping intensifies.

Also apparently flying monkeys operate under werewolf rules.

After how awesome Pan was, I thus far find myself severely underwhelmed with Zelena. She hates Regina based on arbitrary and largely nonsensical reasons, so she cursed everyone with a half-baked curse that doesn’t even seem to have accomplished much as of now. It feels terribly contrived.

The actress is hamming it up a bit, too. Although to be fair I’m not sure how you could not ham the Wicked Witch of the West.

Fly, my pretties!The only thing I’m enjoying about this arc so far is Regina. Her torment over the situation with Henry is palpable, and it’s nice to finally see on the side of the guys, hopefully for real this time. She’s managing to carry an otherwise mediocre series of episodes.

Overall rating: 7/10

“The Tower”:

Okay, this one is just filler.

Both past and present plots are more or less carbon copies of each other, save that one is about Rapunzel and David and the other is just David. The theme is facing one’s fear, and this being fantasy, that means literally.

It’s not a particularly interesting story, and it feels largely disconnected from the rest of the story. The only significant revelation is that Zelena has stolen David’s courage, or a symbol thereof, for some reason.

Supposedly Zelena’s enemy is Regina, but right now all she’s done in Storybrook is insinuate herself into Snow and David’s life. It’s very confusing.

Overall rating: 6/10

Josh Dallas as Prince Charming in Once Upon a Time“Quiet Minds”:

In this episode, the common thread in both timelines is the search for Rumpelstiltskin.

In Storybrook, Emma and Charming comb the woods for him, but they soon find that something is terribly wrong with Rumpel. Beyond the usual.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, Baelfire and Belle seek to resurrect Rumpel with the aid of a talking candelabra — because why not — but in his desperation, Baelfire makes the grave mistake of forgetting his father’s most important lesson: All magic comes at a price.

Meanwhile, Regina tries to track down Zelena with the aid of Robin Hood, and things get awkward.

This episode gets points for having a lot of Rumpel and Belle. Aside from that, it’s not especially memorable, though it also doesn’t have a lot of significant flaws.

At this point I’m never trusting a death in Once Upon a Time to last, but Baelfire’s end did have a certain note of finality to it. If that’s the case, I’m not sure how I feel. I have nothing against Baelfire, but he’s also not a character I’m going to miss terribly, and his end did seem a bit sudden and out of the blue.

Neal/Baelfire in Once Upon a TimeIt also doesn’t work very well as a way to make Zelena more menacing, since it was more due to Baelfire’s own recklessness than anything.

Overall rating: 7.2/10

“It’s Not Easy Being Green”:

This episode serves as Zelena’s origin story, and it has convinced me that I simply don’t like her.

And this isn’t the kind of “don’t like her” that you want and expect from a villain. I liked Pan even when I hated his guts. But Zelena’s just not that interesting.

I don’t know whether to chalk it up to acting, directing, or writing (or, most likely, all of the above), but she just comes across as so cheesy and hammy — even by Once Upon a Time standards — and it takes me right out of the story.

I wish I had more to say about this episode, but that’s pretty much the only feeling it left me with. I suppose I could also nitpick about how Oz appears to be another pseudo-Medieval setting when it should be more along the lines of steampunk, and I will say that Regina was quite entertainingly badass this time around.

The Wicked Witch of the West in Once Upon a TimeBut yeah, just not feeling Zelena. It’s especially disappointing after how awesome Pan was.

Overall rating: 6.9/10

“The Jolly Roger”:

Well, here’s a first: a Hook episode that doesn’t suck.

Even more impressive is that the other key characters here are Emma and Ariel, who are also not my favourites, but yet I still enjoyed “The Jolly Roger.”

In both timelines, Ariel seeks Hook’s aid in finding her prince, who is apparently always missing. In the Enchanted Forest, he’s been taken prisoner by Blackbeard the pirate, who has also absconded with Hook’s ship. In Storybrook, things take a darker turn still.

As this is going on, Regina once again attempts to hone Emma’s magical talent. The nice thing about Emma/Regina arcs is that Regina is awesome enough to compensate for how dull Emma is, and that holds true here, as well. Regina has some, shall we say, unconventional teaching methods, and that’s more than entertaining enough to compensate for Emma’s continued dullness.

Captain Hook in Once Upon a TimeBut I digress. The real star here is Hook, and for once, that’s not a bad thing.

This is mainly because the show has stopped pretending he’s a good guy. There’s still an attempt to show him trying to do the right thing, but he fails — miserably — and that’s a lot more believable.

I’m perfectly willing to accept that there is some good in Hook so long as they also acknowledge that it’s not enough to overpower his more craven and selfish sensibilities.

Not only does “The Jolly Roger” at last acknowledge that Hook really isn’t a good guy, he also ends up having a pretty miserable time of things, which also pleases me.

I really don’t like him.

I expect this return to sanity in regards to Hook’s character probably won’t last, but I might as well enjoy while it does.

My only major complaint with this episode is the very tacky and totally unnecessary (though mercifully brief) sub-plot in which Charming attempts to convince Henry he can be just as cool as Hook. Just… no.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

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