John Villarose VI
The newest episode of “Once Upon a Time” followed the typical structure: the events of the past in the Enchanted Forest cut back and forth between the events in present-day Storybrooke, with the modern characters learning and applying valuable lessons from the prior selves. While the series always builds itself using this basic framework, it often pushes the boundaries. Unfortunately, this week it did not, as almost every scene played out predictably.
The two newest centerpieces of this season are the characters Anna and Elsa adapted from Disney’s “Frozen.” Anna, portrayed by Elizabeth Lail, is the most exciting thing about the new episodes, as her dead-on interpretation of the character has been nothing but entertaining, contrasting the increasingly bland protagonists Prince Charming (David) and Snow White (Mary). Elsa, portrayed by newcomer Georgina Haig, is sure to grab “Frozen” fans’ attention, although it’s disappointing to see how little her character is developing.
This week saw Anna arriving in the Enchanted Forest only to coincidentally run into one of the main protagonists, the not-yet Prince Charming, in a time of mutual need. Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Elsa continues to to search for Anna, meeting up with the show’s main cast of characters. The focus of this meeting is an actually touching moment in which Elsa bonds with protagonist Emma Swan (one of the few characters not based on a movie or fairy tale). Unfortunately, it seems that the entire point of the past scenes were nothing but a cheap setup for the modern plot.
One of the weakest aspects of the episode was on-again-off-again villain Regina (the evil queen from “Snow White”) contemplating yet again becoming evil, this time because of a breakup. This has been a constant since the very first episode. This week broke away from that, introducing a surprising new villain. The series has done this before to great avail, making the typical hero Peter Pan into one of the best antagonists of the show. They tried the same here as they tried to portray Little Bo Peep as a vicious warlord to disastrous results. Her character was simultaneously cliche and ridiculous, single-handedly becoming the low-point of the episode. This wasn’t helped by the plot surrounding her. Prince Charming, inspired by Anna, had to build up courage to take on Bo Peep’s “army.” This army was just two nameless, poorly trained bodyguards, taking away any drama the scene may have had.
The best thing to come out of this week was simply the way it sets up future episodes. The past storyline ended with a glimpse of Rumplestiltskin, portrayed by Robert Carlyle, who has consistently been the real star of the show since the very beginning. More of his story is always welcome. In addition, the “Frozen” plot is moving along rather quickly, which is a welcome change of pace after last season’s “Peter Pan” and “The Wizard of Oz” plots tended to drag on at time. While this show isn’t necessarily the best on tension, with frequent groan-worthy cliched moments dragging it down, it remains as one of the more unique shows available. Despite the unfortunate low moments, the highs are good enough to keep it interesting.