Once Upon A Time season 3 episode 14 review: The Tower

Review Kylie Peters
24 Mar 2014 - 06:55

A new fairytale character is introduced in this week's suspenseful episode of Once Upon A Time...

This review contains spoilers.

3.14 The Tower

“Scary” isn’t the right word to describe this horror-inspired episode, but “suspenseful” certainly is. Despite a flimsy plotline and an uninteresting Ringwraith/Dementor wannabe hanging around, the episode conjures up some impressively tense scenes.

It’s a Charming-centric episode, focusing on his fear of fathering another child and screwing up as a dad, like he feels he did with Emma. For once Charming isn’t completely infuriating; fears springing from self-doubt are easy to sympathize with.

In flashbacks, Charming is advised by resident therapist Robin Hood to seek out Nightroot, which will cure his fear. Charming finds the root, and also a tower where Rapunzel is being kept by a witch. As I said last week, I am thrilled that Rapunzel is a person of colour, and the actress is just beautiful. I wasn’t too impressed by her acting, though. It likely won’t matter, however, because Rapunzel has all the signs of a Once one-shot character. In the end, Rapunzel must face her fear of being queen of her kingdom so that she can leave the tower.

Charming faces a similar situation in Storybrooke, where he still struggles with the same fear of fatherhood as in the flashbacks. With the attention on Rapunzel, apparently Charming never got around to facing his own fear back then. The Wicked Witch Zelena slips Nightroot into Charming’s tea, and this time he has to face his fear for real.

I don’t quite understand how the Nightroot thing works. It’s supposed to stop fear by forcing you to face your fear. Rapunzel has a fear of leadership and Charming has a fear of fatherhood. Both are fears that stem from themselves, so the cloaked figure conjured by the Nightroot is a replica of themselves. But how does stabbing a murderous doppelganger rid you of fears of leadership and fatherhood? I guess it’s supposed to be symbolism, but if so, the correlation between the signifier and the signified is weak. (Don’t judge me. Semiotics are cool.)

More symbolism: when Charming kills the doppelganger, he exposes his “true courage,” which somehow gets transferred into the hilt of his sword, which is taken by Zelena, so now Zelena has Charming’s courage. Symbolically. But symbols are powerful so it’s basically the same thing as not symbolically. All of this makes sense because, hey look, it’s a Wizard of Oz reference! I guess the Wicked Witch will have to go after a heart and brain now too. I mean symbolically.

Sadly, there isn’t as much Rumple in this episode as hoped for, but his one prolonged scene delivers some of the best tension I have experience watching Once. In it, the Wicked Witch is gloating about her power over Rumple while shaving his face with the Dark One dagger. It’s a surreal situation, and there is something really disturbing about it. Robert Carlyle knocks it out of the park, naturally, and even the bland Wicked Witch had me for a while. Maybe actress Rebecca Mader has talent wasted on this character.

The show also builds some surprising tension in the scene where the Wicked Witch slips the Nightroot into Charming’s tea. It isn’t a particularly creative example of evildoing, but the scene uses unexpected, intimate camera angles on the Wicked Witch paired with voiceovers of Snow and Charming’s conversation about whether to trust her, and this builds up some lovely suspense. It may have struck me mostly because Once doesn’t usually get so artsy.

In other news, Regina and Henry have their ice cream date, and Henry opens up about his feelings to her while still failing to notice that she’s acting like a stalker. It’s nice to see them together, even if Henry’s openness is hard to believe (I’m just going to just say it’s because he subconsciously remembers her). Meanwhile, Emma and Hook find the Wicked Witch’s farmhouse, and Hook flirts with Emma (and fails to cover up his mane of chest hair even though there’s snow on the ground; I guess it’s insulating). In the end, Emma, Hook, Charming, and Regina enter Zelena’s storm cellar and find an empty cell with a spinning wheel: Rumple has escaped.

Next week, Neal returns, more Zelena, more Rumple, and everyone’s favorite, more flying monkeys.

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

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