This review contains spoilers.
Emotional outbursts are the hot new dysfunction in season three of Once. Like past offerings, Ariel is slow for much of its run but offers a moment of intense feeling near the end. Luckily there’s Ariel to offer something fresh and interesting to the episode. Oh, and there’s lots of love triangle stuff, if you’re into that.
Regina expresses my thoughts exactly when she complains about Emma and Co.’s crippling inefficiency. You put a few legendary heroes, some powerful magicians, and the Saviour of Storybrooke on an island for six episodes, and you’d think they’d have figured out how to rescue Henry by now. Regina’s frustration that they put the Henry search on hold to go after Neal also echoes mine—not because I think they should abandon Neal, but because I wish the writers would stop throwing in side conflicts and get on with it.
As expected, the love triangle is gaining momentum—and screen time. It provides ample fodder for flaming and fangirling among those who ship one pairing or the other, but for everyone else, it’s just another rehash of a tired trope. There are only so many directions you can spin a love triangle, and we’ve seen them all elsewhere.
Last week, I said the love triangle might be interesting if Hook and Neal start duking it out, but the show has gone the opposite route, and now that I’ve seen it, I respect that. Hook is the picture of a gentleman about Neal. He tells Snow and Charming about Pan’s news that Neal is alive, then in Echo Cave he confesses his love for Emma for the express purpose of rescuing Neal (never mind that this is a lame “secret” since everybody knew about it already). After a more self-centered approach to wooing her last week, I am really impressed with him now. It’s refreshing to see someone being so sensible about this love triangle nonsense. But it would be more refreshing not to have a love triangle at all.
The flashbacks feature Snow’s meeting with Ariel of The Little Mermaid. The show takes many liberties with the story, and that’s a good thing: if you want to see The Little Mermaid, go watch The Little Mermaid instead of Once Upon a Time. On the downside, up until the end of the episode the flashbacks have very little link to the present, other than a tenuous theme of “telling the truth.” They feel out of place.
Ariel (Joanna Garcia) reminds me of the character Giselle in Enchanted. Like Giselle, she is a bit ridiculous but in a cute, charming way. Ariel and Ursula both look fabulous. The costume and make-up grew did an amazing job on them. (On the flip side, the gowns at Eric’s ball are rather tacky, and Snow’s is just awful). I think the reason I found Ariel a bit ridiculous was because there is no substance to her story: she loves a guy for no good reason, he loves her back for no good reason, and an evil queen keeps them apart. This is hardly new, and hardly relatable to the viewer. Hopefully Ariel will be given something more to work with later on, because she has a lot of potential.
Lana Parrilla overacts as Ursula, but then again, Ursula is a drama queen. Though it’s a little much, the woman deserves serious credit for doing such a good job recreating the voice, mannerisms, and body language of the character from the animated film. No one has captured the essence of a Disney character quite so thoroughly on this show before.
The emotional outburst of the week comes in the Echo Cave, where Emma and Co. must reveal a dark secret in order to rescue Neal. (Pan put him there so he can discover all the heroes’ deep dark secrets to use against them. Unfortunately for him, all anybody can talk about is who they like and who they want to have babies with.) Shortly after Hook’s declaration of love, Emma and Neal share an “I-will-always-love-you” moment and Hook makes silent suffering faces, causing fans everywhere to either groan, or collapse in a fit of feels.
On the Snow/Charming side, Snow reveals that she wants another baby (also a lame secret, if you ask me; what’s “dark” about wanting a baby?). The best secret, though, comes when Charming finally explains how he was poisoned, cured, and now cannot leave Neverland. It’s about time! And here’s something really cool—Josh Dallas does an amazing job with Charming in this scene. I was resigned to Charming being mostly vanilla with the occasional pinch of rage-inducing thick-headedness. I am thrilled to be wrong. Dallas delivered the lines with painful pathos, and I felt real sympathy for him for the first time. I even forgot that this situation was all his stupid fault in the first place.
In other news: Emma is practicing magic; Snow still can’t keep a secret but she was totally legitimate this time in telling Emma about Neal; and Regina left Emma’s group and is teaming up with Rumple to create the Ultimate Team of Sassy Awesomeness.
Next week, it’s back to Storybrooke!
Read Kylie’s review of the previous episode, Good Form, here.
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