This Once Upon a Time review contains spoilers.
Reading atrocious fanfic: It’s an inevitable reality whenever I watch Once Upon a Time, these days. The show’s ardent fanbase is also one of the most creative. There is exceptionally strong writing penned by fans that Kitsis and Horowitz would be wise to tap into when it comes to enlisting literary talent in seasons to come.
Unfortunately, I’m not reading any of this good stuff during the commercials. I’m reading the bizarre and inappropriate prompts from folks desperate to see Regina and Henry go all HBO on us and do all sorts of illegal and carnal things to each other. It would be easy to chalk this up to the general and pervasive reality of internet perverts, but I’ve never been fond of easy.
I think it goes to follow that, as a show progresses further and further off the rails, careening mirthfully into madness, its fans would follow suit. Even the staunchest internet deviant could actually be credited with the noble desire to give this promising show and its stellar cast the emotional center it hasn’t had for quite some time now.
This week’s episode was a frantic attempt for the show to find its own pulse. The writers seem sure that the best way of doing this is to pit, as they put it, heroes against villains. But there’s something glib, and woefully naive about Snow referring to herself as a hero.
It’s equally off-putting to watch Cruella and Ursula vamp in front of a green-screen owning their self-proclaimed “evilness.” There’s nothing complex about actual archetypes. That’s why adults find it fascinating to humanize myths and fairy tales – because it is the moral gray area that is so compelling.
The only characters on the show delivering in this regard are Regina (shocker) and Maleficent. While the show seems insistent on underlining Snow and David’s regretful actions of the past, and threatening us with the idea of an evil Emma Snow, they are missing an opportunity with Regina. The once-evil queen is now searching for her own happy ending, is built for the kind of examination of character that Once Upon a Time seems interested in telling. The closest we get to that this week? An encounter with Pinocchio where Regina is maybe slightly more mean than she should be, and a tete a tete with Snow in the final seconds of the episode.
Next week features Regina going “undercover” with the villains (it’s basically Heat, but with Disney characters) in a bid to help her newish hero friends. Presumably next week we’ll also dig into the other promising character of this second half of the season: Maleficent, and the emotional havoc caused by losing her child. This feels like an episode we could have easily had this week instead of the filler we were presented with. Instead we got 45 minutes of Snow and David NOT telling us something and three overly dressed women of a certain age bullying the townsfolk. Dull, dull, dull.