Once Upon A Time season 2 episode 2 review: We Are Both

Review Kylie Peters 8 Oct 2012 - 07:50

The residents of Storybrooke face a challenging decision in this week's Once Upon A Time. Here's Kylie's review of We Are Both...

This review contains spoilers.

2.2 We Are Both

The traditional fairy tale is out of style. Instead, our culture is conjuring up a growing body of bad-guys-as-protagonists stories such as Dexter, There Will Be Blood and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Dangerously lovable villains like Portal’s GLaDOS and The Dark Knight’s Joker become cultural phenomena. In many cases, evil proves to be substantially more interesting - and more relatable - than good. 

The particular genius of Once Upon a Time is that it humanizes each and every character, from the prince to the dwarf to the evil queen. But it seems that Regina has met the most fan ambivalence in the sympathy category. “But she loves Henry,” say her proponents. “But she destroyed the lives of the people of Storybrooke,” say her critics. “But Snow got her lover killed”. “But she murdered, enslaved, raped, lied…” You’ll find plenty of these debates on OUaT fan forums, if you care to look for them.  

Today we got more of Regina’s backstory, and it turns out she didn’t suddenly go full-on evil the moment her lover Daniel was killed, which is a relief because that would have been pretty silly. Regina’s slide into evil came of the added pressure of loss, anger, a domineering mother, magic, time, and our favorite troublemaker Rumplestiltskin. 

Meanwhile, Storybrooke Regina has made a momentous decision to let Henry go live with David. “I don’t know how to love very well,” she admits. 

I am loving this development. This is exactly what Regina needed all of season 1: some clear indication of a continuing struggle to back up the show’s hints that there is good in her somewhere. Of course, she can’t be too good, because where’s the fun in that? But her decision to keep Rumple’s magic book rather than burn it promises that her Evil Queen side is still alive and kicking. And now she has magic, so things can only get more interesting from here on out. 

All that, and we haven’t even gotten to the twist yet. Regina’s mother Cora, aka the root of all evil, is still alive and amongst the survivors in the Enchanted Forest. Does this mean Regina’s going to have to make room for Mum as OUaT’s resident happiness-wrecker? This will add some depth to Regina, but it might also be opening the door for an all new unsympathetic villain, and Cora might be too evil even to inspire the debate that Regina did last season. Take that as you will; I like my villains nice and ambiguous, but some people prefer a more black-and-white approach.   

But wait, there’s more! It is finally revealed what happens if Storybrooke residents leave town post-curse: they lose their memories of their fairy tale selves, effectively returning to who they were before the curse was broken. (By the way, was anyone else uncomfortable with the way the dwarves forced Sneezy over the town line? What shitty friends!) 

At first this seems like a pretty straightforward “we’re trapped” sort of problem, but as the town falls into chaos and Charming is just barely hanging on to control, it becomes so much more. Jefferson (who has finally reappeared and is just as crazy as ever, yay!) already gave us a taste of the agony of having two separate lives in his head back in season 1.  Now everyone’s in the same boat, and many decide they’d rather step over the line and abandon their Enchanted Forest set of memories intentionally. It’s a fascinating and realistic conflict, and I applaud the writers for addressing it. Too often fictional characters are macho go-getter types, and the basic human instinct to escape is forgotten.    

It was nice to see Prince Charming fight to bring peace to the chaotic Storybrooke; last week he mostly just ran round being angry, which was not very princely or charming at all. Also, seeing him gallivanting around with a sword and people bowing and calling him your highness is worth a few chuckles considering the modern setting. Of course, Henry’s new habit of calling him “Grandpa” trumps all. 

Charming convinces the townsfolk to stay in Storybrooke, and they start adding their personal fairy tale touches to the streets and shops. All of them, that is, except for Rumplestiltskin, who is seen standing on the edge of the town line.  Once again, this is a lovely example of an internal struggle with evil. It will be interesting if Rumple does step over the line, because he’s one of the few who kept his fairy tale memories even while the curse was in effect. Will the memory erasure work on him? And what would he be like without those memories? 

This season OUaT’s two plot threads have become three: Storybrooke, the Enchanted Forest of the past, and the Enchanted Forest of the present. We Are Both waited until the last five minutes to bring in the Enchanted Forest of the present, and the result of this focus was that this week’s offering did not suffer from last week’s ADD/information-overload problem.  

Next week we return to the Enchanted Forest of the present and meet a new character, Sir Lancelot. OUaT’s creators have promised that Emma and Snow’s return to Storybrooke won’t be quick or easy, so there will be plenty of time to explore the post-curse remains of the Enchanted Forest. By the way, they’ve also promised us more Emma with a sword and more Wonderland. So don’t go anywhere, folks!

Read Kylie's review of last week's episode, Broken, here.

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