I do believe Once Upon a Time has found it’s way! And it happened, funnily enough, in an episode called “True North.” After laying a sometimes rocky foundation for its main chracters, Once is now in a position to start bending the fairy tale world to its whims, which it did brilliantly this week, using a pretty traditional take on Hansel and Gretel to explore all the themes it has been grappling with over the previous eight weeks. The Hansel and Gretel story was pretty self-contained, a mystery that was introduced in FairyVille and solved in StoryBrooke, but it played out in a way that revealed something new to us about our main characters in both worlds.
Plus we learned an important new fact about the world of StoryBrooke: When one mystery is solved (i.e. one fairy tale gets its happy ending) another mystery (or character) can be introduced to the town. For now it’s Eoin Bailey, who, I confess, I will have a hard time thinking of as anything other than Piper Perabo‘s wayward love on Covert Affairs. He’s no Sheriff Graham, at any rate.
Now that the main characters, erm, main characteristics are in place we can finally get on with some actual character development. In the case of Emma Swan, this means righting wrongs like a Batman, reaching out to Henry, opening up to Mary-Margaret, and swaggering around town in a leather jacket, brandishing that badge every time she gets a chance. If there’s one thing we love at AfterEllen.com, it’s well-rounded female characters. And one billion bonus points for an authoritative strut. I particularly enjoyed the way Emma revealed to Mary-Margaret that Henry thinks Snow White is Emma’s mom. While I love watching Emma and Regina eye-shag as much as the next person, I hope the writers will really start exploring the mother/daughter/BFF dynamic between Mary-Margaret and Emma. JeMo and Goodwin have such an easy chemistry.
FEELINGS, FEELINGS, FEELINGS
I concur with so many people who think Once is handling adoption and foster care with about as much conpassion as a bulldozer. I have several friends who were adopted and they just cannot stomach the whole “Adoption: Bad! Birth mothers: Good!” thing that gets hammered on every other week. This week was full of that whole thing, and while it adds a certain sense of cohesion to the main story, it was pretty damn frustrating at times. Especially the suggestion that two children would be better off living in an abandoned house than being put into the foster care system, where siblings are always separated no matter what!
My surprise-iest feeling of night was the sudden upsurge of affection I had for Henry. Early on, you’ll remember, I wanted him to have as little screentime as possible, but I’m stating to think the writers were just saddling him with clunky, impossible dialogue. His earnest little face this week, and his nearly perfect delivery of, “I brought you some pie. [beat] It was pumpkin, right?” warmed the cockles of my over-TVed heart. I even found myself getting a little peeved at Emma for lying to him about his dad.
Like I said earlier, I think the breadcrumb trail formula the writers used in this episode is going to be a great way to manage Once. Sure, we’re going to want some weeks where it’s all main characters clashing with and bashing on (and perhaps snogging) (I’m looking at you, SwanQueen) each other. There are still plenty of mysteries to be unraveled with those guys, and Once‘s producers have promised that the curse is just the tip of the iceberg. But I really like the idea of bringing in guest stars and playing up the one billion other fairy tales at our disposal. And if the writers are clever enough to incorporate those happy endings into the larger stories of Stroybrooke, well, I think this show might enjoy a long and fruitful run.
I AM THE SWAN QUEEN
Not much to report on the subtext front this week, besides the fact that the mayor of an entire town has time to just “stop by” the police station to make sure the new sheriff is “doing her job.” That’s code for “Just checking on you, baby” if I’ve ever heard it.
What did you think of “True North”?