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October 10, 2015

'Once Upon a Time' Season 1, Episode 2 Recap

by Laura Prudom, posted Oct 31st 2011 10:30AM
Lana Parrilla and Jennifer Morrison['Once Upon a Time' - 'The Thing You Love Most']

The effects might be a little messy and the sentiment might seem a little saccharine, but in its second episode, 'Once Upon a Time' continued to build on the whimsy and charm it exhibited in its pilot, proving that the entertaining first hour wasn't just a fluke.

Now that the premise has been established, the show is taking on the 'Lost'-esque formula of focusing on a specific character and their backstory each week, allowing us to learn more about their fairytale pasts and how those traits inform their current Storybrooke identities.

The Evil Queen took the central narrative this week, giving us some much-needed insight into her motivations for cursing the fairytale world, while simultaneously exploring Regina's relationship with her adopted son Henry in ours.

A character who has the word "Evil" in her name has a certain licence to be completely heinous, but unlike a 90-minute Disney movie in which the villain exists in a vacuum, included only to provide an obstacle for the hero to overcome before being dramatically dispatched, 'Once' has to walk the fine line between making Regina/The Evil Queen a threat and still allowing her to be vaguely sympathetic, if not relatable.

In the real world and in well-written serialized TV, no-one is simply "bad" or "good" -- there are myriad motivations at work, and a smart show needs to mine them in order to avoid a character becoming one-note and dull. So far, 'Once' is doing an admirable job of giving the Evil Queen (let's just call her TEQ from now on, shall we?) an intriguing backstory and a small measure of humanizing emotion, which also allows us to sympathize with the equally wicked Regina. It's a testament to Lana Parrilla's performance that even in such a campy, theatrical role, she still conveys enough hurt and jealousy that we know she must have her reasons for doing something as evil as murdering her beloved father in the name of exacting revenge.

Sidebar: did anyone else think that her meek and kindly father was actually TEQ's butler right up until she called him daddy, or was that just me?

It was a pleasure to see scene-stealing 'True Blood' star Kristin Bauer van Straten guest-star as TEQ's best frenemy, Maleficent from 'Sleeping Beauty,' and the concept of them trading curses like normal friends would borrow clothes was an inspired choice. One of the most satisfying aspects of 'Once' for fairytale fiends like me is the way the show effortlessly weaves all of these familiar and beloved tales together, creating a larger context for the characters and offering a subtle (and tongue-in-cheek) explanation for why so many of these stories share similar traits. Of course TEQ would turn to Maleficent for a sleeping curse to send Snow White into an eternal slumber -- but she should've figured that a pesky kiss would undo it all in an instant. I just want to know exactly what Snow took away from her that has TEQ so apoplectic with rage; it doesn't seem like it was just her reputation as the Fairest Of Them All ...

More intriguing is the idea that the enigmatic Rumplestiltskin has some kind of power that even TEQ defers to. Though he's stuck in a dungeon and supposedly harmless, it's clear that he's still a character to be feared, and one who also seems to be immune to the curse in Storybrooke (which would figure, if it's his).

There was also an intriguing line about Mr. Gold being the one to procure Henry for Regina to adopt, which opens up a whole new can of worms; if he knows the boy's significance and chose him purely because he's Emma's son (since it's unlikely to have been a happy coincidence), what did he hope to achieve by eventually bringing Emma to town? It was a curse that he provided to TEQ, and he gave her a list of demands to ensure his happiness in the new world, but in the pilot, he also gave Snow and Charming the knowledge to break it, so whose side is he really on? Does he want Emma to break the curse and free them all, or does he simply want to cause chaos and then sit back and enjoy the show?

Further, has he known the truth all along, or has he simply started regaining his memories, the way Mary Margaret seems to be thanks to her interactions with Emma? It's excellent that the show is raising so many intriguing questions in only its second episode, and I hope that the producers have learned their lessons from 'Lost' and intend to answer some of them in a timely manner.

Speaking of Emma, I'm enjoying her battle of wills with Regina immensely -- compared to TEQ's nefarious actions in fairytale land, the rivalry between Henry's two moms seems like childish posturing, with petty actions like cutting down parts of Regina's apple tree or immobilizing Emma's car appearing almost playful, like they're simply testing each other's boundaries.

I'm not sure that I'd have been as tolerant as Emma was about being framed and arrested (even if it means quality time with the yummy Irish sheriff), but given the painful things she's doubtless experienced after a childhood in the foster system and a life alone, I'd imagine it will take something much scarier than a possessive mayor to intimidate her.

Are you taking a shot every time Emma calls Henry "kid" instead of his name? It was my main pet peeve from the pilot and it hasn't got any less grating. I get that she's trying to keep her distance and not get attached (though it's a little late for that), but mostly it just seems forced and keeps pulling me out of the narrative, so I'm hoping that they dispense with it sooner rather than later. It's not like Emma's the one with amnesia, after all.

Next week's episode focuses on Snow White and Prince Charming's backstory, and having already seen it, I can happily report that it's even stronger than the first two episodes (although there's still too much "kid"ding for my liking). It further cements my belief that 'Once' is one of the strongest new shows of the year, and I hope it can keep up the momentum it's establishing, so that our happily ever after doesn't come too prematurely.

'Once Upon a Time' airs Sundays at 8PM ET on ABC.

What did you think of the second episode and The Evil Queen's past? Share your reactions in the comments!

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA

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Am I the only one that is really annoyed by the way that Henry treats the TEQ? I mean, she did cared for him his hole life and even if she doesn't love him she wants to. I think the way that he regects her is incredible unfair.

November 24 2011 at 2:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ðan Sauvé

will Snow White's sister Rose Red appear in the future ? I wonder

November 01 2011 at 3:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved it! Haha!! I also thought TEQ's father was her butler until she actually called him daddy. I have to say that two of my favorite parts were Emma hacking away at the apple tree, because basically in a sort of civilized way, the gloves are off between the moms. And the other thing I love is the characted of Henry (the kid). He is so good in every scene. I am glad to hear that the show only gets better in future episodes. can't wait!

October 31 2011 at 8:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Gus Fring to Mirror On The Wall? Oh woe,

October 31 2011 at 6:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Sidebar: did anyone else think that her meek and kindly father was actually TEQ's butler right up until she called him daddy, or was that just me?" Hahaha, I totally thought so too!

Incredible review!! I totally related with every sentence written! Can't wait for next episode!

October 31 2011 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Debra Gurnack

Love the show, the only thing I canspeculate that, they are revolving around the Snow White storyline this year. There are many more Fairy tales to be told. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and others. I loved that Kristin played Maleficent, she was great as the fremeny. I really hope that they don't interwine the Fairy Tales too much. Focusing on Snow White is the way to go this year. I am not sure how this will play out once the curse is broken and everything reverts back to" norm". Will there be another Storybrook, involving Maleficent and her story.or will it be the wicked stepmother in Cinderella. Or does this curse effect everyone involved in Fairy Tales, and will the curseplay a roll with each of the Fairy Princesses need to break the curse to be free. Just a few thoughts.

October 31 2011 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Debra Gurnack's comment

Generally, when new shows are pitched to networks, the producers are supposed to have a five-year plan mapped out, so I HOPE they have a larger story in mind and aren't just going to guess their way through it. But the fantasy/fairytale realm is so rich that I don't think they'll have a problem exploring new stories further down the line. Cinderella will appear in episode four, though.

October 31 2011 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michele MacKay

I'm glad to hear it only gets better in the third episode, and I completely agree with you Laura that it is one of the strongest new shows of the year. It isn't the show I thought I would be hooked on, but Grimm turned out to be such a disappointment, just rehashing what every other police procedural and supernatural show has already done better, whereas Once Upon a Time is doing something genuinely fresh and original. I too hope the happy ever after doesn't come prematurely, but it is doing great in the ratings, so we don't have to worry!

October 31 2011 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Michele MacKay's comment

Agreed on Grimm, I found it almost unwatchable -- I have no patience for procedurals, especially ones that borrow so heavily from what Supernatural has already done better.

October 31 2011 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Love this show

October 31 2011 at 11:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Once Upon a Time is turning out to be much better than expected but I have to say the Jennifer Morrison character is the weakest of the bunch. I know she's Frodo and all that, but I just don't like the character.

October 31 2011 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jimmy's comment
Michele MacKay

Actually, I love Emma, she really grounds the show, and is a very sympathetic and entertaining character, and Jennifer Morrisson is magnificent.

October 31 2011 at 1:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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