S1E10: This week’s episode of Once Upon a Time is all about pain and how much of it we can take. Finally, we get another episode focused on Snow White and the Prince and all it does is extend our anguish. Plus, where most episodes of Once deal with just one of the mysteries at hand – giving each character their own episodes like Lost used to do – this week, the Snow White tale is interrupted a few times throughout the episode for little moments with the mysterious stranger we met last week.
In fact, the episode starts with a scene between Henry and the stranger only to touch on that subject for a few seconds throughout the episode. It’s not that we as viewers can’t handle multiple storylines in one episode – it’s the cornerstone of most television dramas and Once generally throws in reminders of the other characters’ struggles. It’s the fact that this episode didn’t seem to know where to place these asides. Every time we took a moment to check in with Emma, it felt obligatory. Here’s an engrossing love story that makes up 90 percent of the episode, and then oh yes, here’s that other thing we have to mention since it involves our protagonist, Emma.
To that point, Regina’s involvement in real world happenings is along a similar vein. She seems to be present every time anything interesting happens just so we don’t forget she’s there. I say, let us forget she’s there for an episode or two. Her evil has been established. It reigns over everything – she’s there in our minds, we don’t need to actually see her to feel her wrath. Once needs to take a page out of Lost’s book and be a little more subtle and cagey when it comes to its characters. We went a whole season without seeing The Others, yet we still knew their terrifying presence. I know these series are different, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the fantasy series just tone it down a bit.
“I thought you were just visiting.” –Henry
“Doesn’t mean I don’t have something to do.” –Stranger
The mysterious stranger is parks suspiciously in front of Regina’s house, where Henry is talking to him. Regina comes out to see what Henry’s doing and the stranger rides away on his bike. Regina, being the self-centered, spoiled brat she is, goes straight to Emma and demands that she look into the man’s past and purpose in Storybrook – you know, instead of preparing the town for the huge storm that’s rolling in. Emma doesn’t want to do it since the man hasn’t committed a crime – and because she so clearly gets off on telling Regina “no” – but Regina drops the H-bomb: Henry. The man was speaking to Henry, so now Emma has to figure him out.
Emma stops by the diner and runs into the stranger. She questions him about Henry: the curious kid was grilling him with questions, not the other way around. She asks why he was in front of Regina’s house: his bike broke down. She asks about the mysterious box he’s carrying: he won’t tell her.
He says he’s going to make her wait for that, with a spiel about him traveling around to various places, all the while letting her curiosity about the box grow, unless she lets him buy her a drink. Though the move is beyond cheesy, she reluctantly agrees and he shows her: it’s a typewriter. He’s a writer and finds Storybrook “inspiring.” Perhaps he’s supposed to be one of the brothers Grimm? But that’s all we’ve got for now because almost nothing else about his origins is revealed.
“I just like to come here to see him.” –Mary
“Like a stalker.” –Emma
Now, for the part we’re really worried about. Mary Margaret is still carrying around some serious feeling for David. So much so that she’s actually going to the diner so she can “run in” to David as he grabs his morning coffee. Emma catches her and advises her to kill her feelings, putting extra emphasis on his status as a married man.
At the market, Mary Margaret is buying goods for a hike – including the opposite of subtle industrial sized Apollo bar and nod to Hurley’s favorite snack on Lost - and she literally runs into Katherine (David’s wife) who is buying a pregnancy test. Regina comes around the corner – seriously, how is she everywhere all the time? The mayor warns Mary to stay out of Katherine and David’s life because she’s trying desperate to keep her hold on the fake little town she’s created. And this is a perfect example of a time she doesn’t need to be in the scene. We already know how she feels about Mary Margaret and her unrelenting feelings for David, why can’t coming face to face with Katherine and the potential for a family be enough? Why does Regina’s grasp need to be seen and not simply felt?
While she’s hiking, Mary finds a trapped dove and takes it to the animal shelter where David works and the dove is treated. The vet says the dove needs to be returned to her flock so they don’t migrate without her because that breed mates for life and she’ll be forever unhappy if she’s not reunited with her mate. This conveniently touches Mary’s soft spot for being lonely and she makes it her mission to return to bird to the wild – even with the storm approaching. She refuses to let David go with her, which of course means he’ll be following her into the forest.
“Love has killed more than any disease.” -R
In the fairy tale world, Snow White is living in solitude in the forest and Red Riding Hood, who is apparently her BFF, shows up to tell her Prince James is going to marry Midas’ daughter in two days. She tells Snow she can find Rumplestiltskin, and he’ll can take away the anguish of her love for James. Snow finds Rumple, but his potion will make her forget the Prince completely. It’s extreme, but she’s in pain; still, she hesitates to erase her memory of the man she loves. Of course, nothing Rumple does comes for free; he keeps a strand of her hair, a reason for which I’m sure we’ll learn in four or five episodes.
Meanwhile, Lost vet Alan Dale is back as The King, telling James he must stop thinking about Snow because he needs to marry Midas’ daughter and he needs to have his heart in it. The marriage will make the kingdom wealthy and the king says that by picking James to stand in for his dead son, he brought him out of poverty. The Prince doesn’t care because he didn’t want any of this. When The King leaves, James writes Snow a letter and sends it on a dove. Snow is about to take the potion when James’ dove conveniently arrives. His letter tells her that he loves her and that she should come to him before his wedding so they can be together. And thus, we the catalyst for Snow’s adventure.
It’s like I have these two conflicting lives. Memories of feelings for her and real feelings for you.” –David
Back in the real world, Mary Margaret comes to a road block in anticipation of the storm, so she continues on foot. She comes to an area that looks like it’s been deforested and she looks around, she slips and falls into a ravine, hanging by nothing more than an old root. David is following her and is there to save her. It’s unsafe to be out, so he convinces her to take shelter in a nearby cabin. He keeps trying to hug her or put a blanket around her shoulders and every time she pushes him off. Because he’s a very typical guy – apparently – he has no idea why she could be so standoffish to him. Oh, it definitely couldn’t be that he said he would be with her and then chose Katherine instead. Definitely not.
He pesters her and she confesses that she goes to the diner every morning to get coffee at 7:15 is so she can see him. But it actually just makes her miserable to see him because he chose Katherine instead of her. He confesses he goes to Granny’s every morning to see her too. And then the moment we’re all waiting for happens – almost. They’re about to kiss when she remembers running into Katherine and asks him how he can do this when Katherine thinks she’s pregnant. David didn’t know anything about Katherine being pregnant – because this is an excuse for kissing people who aren’t your wife. But the moment is over. The storm clears and Mary sets the dove free to join its flock and David holds her hand. She tells him no because they can’t be together and it hurts her to have moments like this. As a parallel to Snow’s fairy tale situation, Mary Margaret says they have to forget each other.
” As wretched as it is, I need my pain. It makes me who I am.” –Grumpy
Snow sneaks into the castle, hears someone coming and hides but it’s James. She should have just called out to him, but is instead seized by a guard silently and thrown in a cell. In the cell she meets Grumpy, who’s jailed because while working in a diamond mine to earn a ring for his lady, his foreman framed him for stealing a diamond. He says they’re hopelessly trapped, but Stealthy, the eighth dwarf, shows up to let him out. Grumpy convinces the other dwarf to let Snow out too, but they ignore her advice for escaping safely and Stealthy is killed. The guards are about to kill Grumpy but Snow shows up and threatens to burn down the castle. The King then sits her down for a little chat wherein he commands her to break James’ heart so he can marry Midas’ daughter, or he’ll kill James. He says James can die a martyr and the merger with Midas will still go through – so why did he ever replace the real, slain Prince in the first place?
Snow does what she is told and tells James she doesn’t love him and that she couldn’t let him live his life hoping for something that wasn’t there. It kills her and she leaves, silently weeping. She catches up with Grumpy and he offers to take her to the dwarves’ home where she can live with them. It’s then that she decides to take the potion, but Grumpy convinces her to stop, confessing that as much as his heart aches for his lost love, it’s a part of his character. The next morning, James calls off the wedding and goes searching for Snow so Grumpy wakes her happily, but of course she drank the potion. We knew they wouldn’t have found happiness that easily – the resolution of their love story is what we’re anticipating the most. The writers needed to lay down a road block, and this is a big one.
”Katherine’s not pregnant.” –David
But the writers aren’t that cruel. They give us a little something. In the real world, David tries to get Katherine to tell him about the pregnancy, and she says she’s having a hard time, eventually getting to the pregnancy test. She is happy it was negative because they’re broken and she asks him to go to see Dr. Hopper with her – because the town only has one counselor for all of life’s problems – and he agrees. Instead of going to the diner for coffee that morning, he suggests they go to the kitchen and make breakfast instead. He’s taking steps to get over Mary Margaret. And she’s doing the same - she doesn’t keep her usual coffee date either. But, they both go at 7:45 instead, and he quickly walks out when he sees her. She chases him and they realize they can’t avoid each other. Then, all it takes is “Katherine’s not pregnant” and they kiss. Regina, is magically there yet again, catches them. Things are really beginning to deviate from the fairy tale parallel track we’ve been on for so long. Hopefully this means things are going to get a whole lot more unpredictable.
Do you think Regina is too present in this episode? Who do you think the stranger is? If he’s one of the Grimm Brothers, then where’s the other one? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler.