This Once Upon a Time review contains spoilers.
Once Upon a Time Season 6 Episode 3
Drama queens rule this episode. I mean “drama queens” in the sense of actual fairy-tale queens (and princesses) with a drama factor high enough to get them their own Emmy-winning daytime soap operas.
Cinderella has a shady past. We all know the Disney version—evil stepmother, fairy godmother, nasty stepsisters, glass slipper, smitten prince, happily ever after, sparkly and starry-eyed. Now take off those mouse ears and pink blinders. “Happily ever after” is as much of a fraud on Once Upon a Time as Rumplestiltskin, whose grimy scams are the reason Cinderella suddenly turns into a prom queen down to her hazardous glass slippers. This version is more like evil stepmother, misunderstood stepsister, and more issues than a tabloid. Nothing that Rumplestiltskin touches ever turns out glittery. If you haven’t figured that out by season 6, you’ve been under a sleeping curse.
If it’s even possible for Cinderella’s stepmother to be more evil than she is in the animated fairy tale, she is. This woman’s tyranny will stab you, and so will her walking stick. The only thing missing is Lucifer the cat. Not that the princess is completely innocent in this universe—but her sins seem to be committed in a vapid haze of excitement rather than out of pure unadulterated malice. You know you screwed up royally when you’re Cinderella and even your supposedly wicked stepsister thinks you used her. Carinda is not exactly a white rose herself, but it kind of serves her snob mother right that she’d rather run off with the prince’s footman than marry the prince.
There is one thing about the Cinderella story that doesn’t change. The only way to find her is that infamous lost shoe, except in the alt-universe of Storybrooke this means a powder-blue converse sneaker.
Wickedness doesn’t end at sociopathic stepmothers who use too much hairspray. Regina’s evil half is always several boot strides ahead of her, whether it’s in Jekyll’s lab or Hyde’s Victorian goth jail cell. She even rips off Regina’s no-fail lasagna recipe that gets Hyde’s glowing red eyes excited (and loosens his tongue). Never mind that the evil queen was Regina for as long as her story existed, but apparently the non-evil half can no longer think like the same person who locked people’s beating hearts in a vault and tempted Snow White with a suspiciously juicy poison apple. To add even more family drama to this episode, it seems that her own sister would rather clink apple martinis with the evil incarnation.
Speaking of Jekyll, did I mention he joins forces with Dr. Frankenstein in that creepy lab of his? These are the science teachers high school kids can only dream of. Weird science looks like it’s going to cast its own spell soon, and something insanely powerful if you know anything at all about what Jekyll and Frankenstein are a capable of, though I have a feeling many failed potions are going to end up exploding before the eureka moment. With those two bubbling, toiling, and troubling, who knows who else from the Land of Untold Stories could crawl out of that crashed dirigible and start experimenting with chemical cocktails that could either save or kill someone. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if Nicola Tesla materialized in that lab.
Magic isn’t only being brewed in Frankenstein’s test tubes. Emma seems to have a break from those visions that had been terrorizing her for the last two episodes (though I have a feeling potential spoilers are the real reason we didn’t see any this time). It still doesn’t keep her from seeing a therapist, though frustration over fading magic isn’t exactly the thing most of them expect when the next patient lands on their sofa. I call paranoid overreaction here. Her magic may waver at times, but it can hardly be called failing magic when you’re still able to conjure things out of nowhere in a poof of colored smoke. And make them fly. And use your healing powers to save someone from imminent death.
The whirlwind of unanswered questions in this episode is thought-provoking in a way that doesn’t make you want to throw a destructive spell at the screen. Will Emma regain control of her magic? Will Regina learn to think like her black-hearted doppelgänger without turning into her? Will Jekyll and Frankenstein conjure up something that actually works? Will James seek revenge for his father’s death? What was that dreadful poetic nonsense about stars and fairies that Rumplestiltskin recorded on tape for Belle?
Now I know what’s going to be keeping me up at night.