Once Upon A Time season 2 episode 14 review: Manhattan

Review Kylie Peters
18 Feb 2013 - 05:46

The identity of Henry's father is revealed in this week's flashback-filled Once Upon A Time. Here's Kylie's review of Manhattan...

This review contains spoilers.

2.14 Manhattan 

It’s family drama night on Once Upon a Time, and everyone’s invited to join in some good old-fashioned sturm und drang. Emotions are high and sparks are flying, but Manhattan manages to skim just above daytime-TV levels of angst, and the result is a riveting episode that delivers several long-awaited moments in the series. 

There’s been plenty of buildup to these events, and that is probably why OUaT can get away with so much drama all in one go. Thankfully, there are no awful cliffhangers. Early in the episode, Emma catches Baelfire and learns that he is Neal, her ex-boyfriend and father of Henry. Many fans predicted this, and the Once writers acknowledge this by not trying to force shock value on us. There’s nothing more irritating than a story that acts like we should be surprised when nobody is. 

Though it wasn’t shocking, the question remained open-ended enough that it was satisfying to finally have an answer, and the Bae/Neal connection opened the doors to all that delicious drama. Bae hates Rumple for abandoning him; Emma hates Bae for leaving her to rot in prison; Bae feels guilty about not being there for Henry because Rumple gave him daddy abandonment issues; Henry is mad at Emma for lying about his father; and Henry, Bae, and Rumple have new family ties to consider. Somebody should make some kind of flow chart of all that. 

The flashbacks to go along with it are anything but filler. We have known for a long time that Rumple shamed himself by deserting his post in the Ogre Wars, and now we see how that came about. The seer is wonderfully creepy, with a tattered countenance and a glimmer of sympathetic humanity. Rumple’s desertion gains a new depth when we see him maim his own leg so he can go home to his newborn son.           

A sensible eye is cast on each of the twisted relationships throughout the episode’s turbulent encounter. Bae’s refusal to forgive Rumple rings true, as does Henry’s willingness to forgive Emma. It takes some skill to find the right balance and hit on just the right sentiment for each character in his or her particular situation, then put them all together in the same room. 

The brief flashes to Storybrooke are dull by contrast. There’s the obligatory Charming and Snow chit-chat, a dash of eye candy from a bruised but still pretty Hook, and Cora up to her usual plotting. Regina is still going along with her in a relapse to evil that remains suspect for being so sudden and complete. They don’t finish their search for Rumple’s dagger, but it seems that will play a role in the next episode. 

Luckily, the uninteresting interruptions are few and far between, and the episode dishes up a steady stream of quality from beginning to end. A lack of resolution means that the hole left behind when our burning questions are answered can be partially filled by opportunities to see where all these revelations take us. The most promising: Grandpa Rumple has lethal plans for Henry, who the seer claims is not all he seems. 

Next time, Snow takes on Big Momma Cora and Rumple gets hooked by Hook. Once Upon a Time takes a break next week for the Oscars, then returns the following week on the 3rd of March.

Read Kylie's review of the previous episode, Tiny, here.

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