The back stories of how these Once Upon a Time characters are interrelated are fascinating. The writers have taken the fairy tales with which we grew up and tweaked them, intertwined them in clever ways to make one, elaborate meta-story that’s a blast to watch unfold.
Yet as this first scene progresses, as much as I love these old stories made new in Fairy Tale Land, I’m growing dissatisfied with the Storybrooke scenes which, earlier this season, had been as compelling as the ones that took place in the land of kings, queens and genies.
The Emma versus Regina Storybrooke thread, for example, is starting to show signs of wear. would Emma, who we are supposed to believe is intelligent, really rush into a public forum and unload unsubstantiated allegations against someone as cunning and powerful as the mayor without thoroughly vetting them first? would she so obviously follow Regina, at night, into the woods with her car, making it crystal clear that Emma was tailing the mayor? would she leap to rash conclusions about who cut the brake lines on her sheriff’s vehicle?
None of the routes Emma took in this episode seemed to ring true. Emma’s dialogue seemed forced and her entire thread is venturing precariously toward camp. There’s a thin line between mythical fantasy and silly camp. (It’s something which challenged Lost.) At the beginning of the series, I was willing to suspend disbelief and happily go along for the ride as the two main characters, Emma and Regina, engaged in a power struggle, with Henry in the middle as a pawn.
Through a fire, a mine collapse and an election, the battle between Emma and Regina is becoming less enjoyable to watch. The characters are saying, essentially, the same variations of the same stuff. Emma tells Regina that she’ll never get away with … whatever it is Regina is doing at the moment, vows to catch her doing her evil stuff, especially now that Emma is the sheriff. Regina responds with threats, says she’s Henry’s legal mother and tells Emma she’ll be sorry if she doesn’t back off. It’s getting old and less believable each week, especially when Emma makes stupid decisions that undermine her credibility.
The scenes in Fairy Tale Land, however, remain fun. Loved seeing Richard Schiff (Toby from The West Wing!) as the King, who could be as benevolent as he could be selfish and uncaring. I actually felt sorry for The Evil Queen as the King called his daughter, Snow White, the fairest in the land, second only to her deceased mother. The King was publicly doting on his daughter and his first wife, seemingly unconcerned about how his current wife would feel about all of this. it was as if The Evil Queen was invisible to him, an inanimate possession with which he could do what he wished.
The tale of the Genie, who turns out to be Sidney Glass (those writers are such punsters!) in Storybrooke, was intriguing: Freed from his lamp by the King who wound up not only freeing the Genie, but bestowing upon him a wish. The Genie wanted to fall in love, and he did, with The Evil Queen, upon whom he took pity and a shine all at once. The Genie even killed the King, who’d imprisoned his own wife in the castle (ironically she’d later imprison the inhabitants of Fairy Tale Land in Storybrooke), so the Genie could be with The Evil Queen forever. However, The Evil Queen being, well, you know, evil, it all turned out to be a trick to persuade the Genie to off her husband so her hands would remain clean, she’d gain her freedom and the sympathy of those in the kingdom.
All of it was a thrill to watch. But then we had to head back to Storybrooke and witness another ham-handed conversation between Emma and Sidney only to learn that Regina is using Sidney to spy on Emma (a spy glass … another pun). Here’s to hoping that the Storybrooke threads improve, and soon.
Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/ABC