Whenever I spot Jane Espenson’s name following the words “written by” at the start of an episode of Once Upon a Time, I always heave a sigh of relief and promptly return by T.V. bashing bat to its place of refuge. One of these statements is a true thing. The other, gross hyperbole. Which is which? YOU DECIDE. That’s right, I’ve decided this week’s review will be of the choose-your-own-adventure variety! I lied – that was just a funny joke. I know, I know, I’m hurt too.
After the confusion and sloth of last week’s episode, my hopes were not particularly high as we moved forward into the inevitable reveal of Snow and Charming’s misdeeds to Emma. The show consistently sets up emotionally interesting storylines which they could knock out of the park with the talented cast they’ve got on board. Those guys are hungry from some meaty work to do! Instead all that promise usually falls flat. One exception to that rule was put on display this week in the form of the Snow White’s Dark Heart story which made it’s grand return.
Over the past three weeks the show has made much ado over the whole heroes versus villains thing. That seems to be where the bad writing feels safest, in the kingdom of moral absolutes. Who needs gray when you can dwell in a land where everything is black and white? There’s a fault in that logic, however. That is that they’ve set up a universe where the most interesting bits ARE those gray areas. Remember when Snow caused the death of Regina’s mother and Regina showed Snow the dark spot on her heart? That noise was impressive and great! Why? Because it demonstrated the dangers of being morally absolute via Snow White, the most morally uprighteous of all the characters on the show. In her insistence on right at all costs, she has become, after a fact, a villain herself.
It may have taken the show literal years to return to this interesting development, but return to it they did and with a vengeance! We discover this week that in order to keep Emma’s unborn self from ever becoming evil, they sacrifice Maleficent’s unborn child. It was cold and calculating and vicious and frantic and unthinking and Emma’s reaction, one of shock and abhorrence, is no less than what Snow and the hapless Charming deserve. Perhaps most chilling of all was Snow’s willful ignorance of the terrible act she and Charming planned to commit. They called the baby “it”, they ignored the silver rattle waiting for the new life, they chose blindness and closed themselves off from Maleficent’s pleas and it was chilling. In real life, the heroes and the villains are often the same people. Here’s hoping this is a theme the show continues to explore in the coming weeks.