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September 3, 2015

'Once Upon a Time' Season 1, Episode 3 Recap

by Laura Prudom, posted Nov 6th 2011 9:30PM
Prince Charming and Snow White['Once Upon a Time' - 'Snow Falls']

For the hopeless romantics among us -- myself included -- tonight's episode of 'Once Upon a Time' was like a dream come true. We've grown up with stories of happily ever after and love at first sight, and 'OUAT' is at its most potent when it plays on those whimsical childhood memories, taking us back to a time when we truly believed that our soulmate was out there somewhere, just the other side of an evil witch's curse.

But, as the series has already demonstrated in its first two episodes, it's also surprisingly adept at taking the fairytales we know and love and turning them on their heads. Few who saw the Disney iteration of Snow White could possibly have imagined her as rock-wielding thief with decidedly messy hair, but 'Once' presented the idea so confidently, I couldn't help but prefer their version. (Snow White was always my least favorite Disney princess, anyway -- that voice was just too grating.)

But in this version of fairytale land, Snow and Charming's first meeting was far from the innocent and coquettish flirtation we've seen elsewhere; instead, the pair were downright antagonistic, with Charming (whose real name is James -- snore!) already engaged to another vapid princess upon their meeting. I thought it was a nice touch for writer Liz Tigelaar ('Life Unexpected') to decide that most marriages in fairytale land were probably arranged or had some political motivation, giving Snow a reason to be cynical about love and another obstacle for the couple to overcome.

I'm glad that Tigelaar didn't try to cram too much Snow/Charming backstory into one episode; their first meeting was certainly dramatic enough, and even if their love wasn't quite at first sight, the emotion was clearly blossoming by the time they parted ways. It leaves me itching to see more of their past courtship, like how Charming manages to rid himself of his whiny fiancée, how Snow meets the Dwarfs, and when exactly the pair declares their true feelings for one another.

By far the weakest part of the episode was the scene with Snow, Charming and the trolls, which felt cheesy, somehow. The dialogue seemed clumsy and a little too much like Snow was trying to bargain with a particularly clichéd drug dealer or erratic gang leader, and I felt it rang false compared to the rest of the story. Then again, since this is a show designed for the whole family, maybe the kids watching got a kick out of the trolls' hamminess.

As compelling as their backstory was (aside from the Troll moment), for the first time since the show premiered, I found myself even more engaged by the parallel narrative in Storybrooke than I was by its fairytale counterpart. Unlike Snow, who is fierce and outspoken and takes what she wants, Mary Margaret is meek and shy and seems content to let the world walk all over her, which leaves her in desperate need of a handsome prince to give her a happily ever after.

There was something so heartbreaking about Mary's attempts to connect with John Doe -- a man who could never disappoint her because, she thought, there was no way he would wake up and dismiss her, or ogle a waitress right in front of her. He was the perfect fantasy, one who could conceivably be her "Prince Charming" by virtue of being nothing and everything all at once, until he went and ruined it all by waking up. Then came the long-lost wife and the mayor's smug smirk, enough to send Mary right back to her quiet corner, alone and convinced that true love doesn't exist.

Still, there's no discounting that it was Mary's story that woke David up, and her CPR-kiss that revived him after he drowned in the river. The look he gave Mary when his wife was embracing him actually reduced me to tears (I'm a sucker for tragic romances) because Josh Dallas conveyed so much emotion and longing in that simple glance that I could totally believe that the pair had a love that could withstand evil curses and different realities and anything else The Evil Queen could throw at them. And with the added emotional impact of Mary still wearing Charming's engagement ring, even in Storybrooke ... just call me Weeping Beauty.

Ginnifer Goodwin plays Mary with such fragility and vulnerability that I always want to wrap her in a blanket and give her some cinnamon-infused coca, and I find myself automatically rooting for her simply because of the loneliness that seems to lurk behind Mary's eyes. It's a testament to both Goodwin and Dallas that they have such a strong grip on their characters after only three episodes, making the connection between Mary and David (why not James, I wonder? Did The Evil Queen consider it too obvious?) utterly believable, even when the majority of their scenes together have included no direct conversation.

Do we believe that Catherine is truly David's wife, and, indeed, that it wasn't all a set-up by Regina designed to keep her amnesiac nemesis unhappy? I was also intrigued by Snow's line about ruining TEQ's life when Charming asked why the pair hated each other -- she admitted to doing so, substantiating TEQ's claims from last week, but we still don't know why.

It was also satisfying to see Emma bonding with her son and mother this week (albeit oblivious to Mary's real connection to her) -- their shared love of cinnamon cocoa notwithstanding, it was nice to see the trio solving a mystery together and likely unnerving Regina even further in the process. Having Emma and Mary living together seems sensible, since it will only bring Henry closer to them both, and give Emma someone to bounce ideas off besides Henry.

The inclusion of Sleepy and Grumpy as the hospital guard and janitor was a nice touch, and it's always great to see David Anders in genre shows, even if he was playing Douchey Doctor MD, as I decided to refer to him.

For those playing the Emma Swan "Kid"-ometer drinking game, I counted two mentions this week -- maybe you're feeling a little buzzed, but I think we can do better. Time to rewatch the pilot!

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

Do you think Catherine is really David's wife? How long do you think it will take before Mary and David become close again? Share your predictions and reactions in the comments!

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA

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Gabrielle Cardle

Well I just wanted to comment on the name of James(david).....Snow White went to Mary so it only makes sense James' name would change as well. Ruby is red riding hood and not just Red....so the names all have to change......and I feel that Regina may not know exactly whats going on....otherwise I would expect her to have the peices of who Emma was put together much easier..etc......but who knows....I hope Emma and Mary get closer together as Mother and Daughter in a way....and I am desperate for Mary and David to start to learn who they may be......I am anxious for next weeks episode and to find out who starts to remember who they are!!

November 09 2011 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Has anyone noticed how Ginnifer Goodwin (Mary, the school teacher/hospital volunteer) looks just like Nicole de Boer (Ezri Dax) on Star Trek Deep Space Nine? They could be twins...

November 07 2011 at 5:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jcarpenter's comment

I just watched He's Just Not That Into You and spent the whole movie thinking that Ginnifer was Nicole, which led me to Google them both and eventually led me to this comment. Maybe they have future acting gig working together as relatives? Anyone in Hollywood paying attention.

January 03 2012 at 12:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Does the mayor know she's the Queen and the whole deal?

November 07 2011 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MichaelR's comment

I wonder this too. I don't feel like we know for sure if she's in on the secret or if she lost her identity also. Regina is certainly an evil witch, but I don't know if it's been obvious that she's still evil because she knows she is TEQ or if she's just a bitchy, unhappy mayor. I'm not sure if I missed something or if they are keeping it unclear???

November 08 2011 at 4:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ðan Sauvé

where is Snow White's sister Rose Red ?

November 07 2011 at 2:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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