This Once Upon a Time review contains spoilers.
I’ve got a natural bias against any episode of Once Upon a Time that makes Belle the central character. I know it’s only 45 minutes that we’re expected to spend with Emilie De Ravin at the helm, but frankly, that’s 45 minutes longer than anyone should have to endure. To be fair, this isn’t entirely her fault (though her mediocre abilities, perma-scowl of dazed confusion, and perpetually sleepy/constipated appearance in the show’s periphery aren’t helping). Consistency has never been the engine of this show.
In fact, to my way of thinking, last week’s episode was so good, it’s no small wonder that this week’s felt like we’d taken three steps back. Once Upon a Time tends to blow its wad in intervals, shoring up its stores of power for one or two (or three or four) really strong episodes a season. “Family Business” was not one of those episodes.
The problem is we do not sympathize with Belle, nor do we believe her to capable of revealing hidden shows of strength, wit, or even humor. The only bold thing she ever did (offering herself up to Rumplestiltskin to help her kingdom in the Ogre wars) was, in light of everything she’s done before and afterwards, completely out of character. When she braved the Snow Queen’s manse to learn her secrets, we were supposed to feel terribly at what her mirrored reflection had to say, dismantling who Belle was, adjective by adjective. Instead I found myself nodding along.
Belle is a ninny. I’ll go one further, she’s a selfish ninny whose behavior caused Ana’s capture by Ingrid. She’s so passive and full of self-loathing that frankly, she and Rumple deserve each other. She is every bit the oblivious pawn the mirror told her that he desired.
Once Upon a Time has always made exploring family dynamics interesting, funny, and true — even when it was painful. Exhibit all the sadness still present between Emma and the parents who never got to see her grow up and now have had their second (and let’s call it what it is replacement) child. But so far it seems with Ingrid that they are missing the mark. Not only is her whole selecting solely blonds thing a bit well, Nazi-esque, but Ingrid’s dream of a family that loves seems hysterical and insane — a far cry from the cool, smooth, and collected portrayal that Elizabeth Mitchell has been serving up.
That said, it’s great to see the Snow Queen story getting such a true-to-spirit adaptation. I cannot wait to see how the mirror is utilized — shards in Emma’s eye, anyone? It was a welcome palate cleanser to the lameness that is the sorcerer’s hat storyline. My interest was also piqued by the “missing sister” we learned about this week. That’s got to be Belle’s mom, right? Am I alone in thinking about this?