Once Upon a Time Recap: Science Made Magic Its Bitch
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 2×05 – THE DOCTOR. DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED.
Well, the wait is officially over. Last night we finally learned the true identity of the enigmatic Dr. Whale and it is none other than Dr. Frankenstein. TADA! Not entirely impressed? Yeah, neither were we. While the actual plot of the episode made sense, and it allowed for a decent Halloween themed week of the fantasy based drama, the reveal itself honestly fell kind of flat. Not only did they mostly give it away in the previews, but they then went on to supremely buried the lede – dropping not so subtle hints throughout the episode only to finally reveal that Whale was, indeed, the famous doctor.
The meat of the story was, certainly, pretty interesting. Regina attempts to give up magic in order to win Henry back, even going so far as to talk to Dr. Hopper about her dependency on it, and her desires to walk the magically straight and narrow. But the crux of the episode hinged on the events that finally pushed Regina over the edge way back when she was training with Rumpelstiltskin, and Storybrooke Regina taking the first steps toward letting go of the hate that drove her to magic in the first place.
As we all know, Regina’s fiance, Daniel, was killed by her mother in an attempt to force Regina to marry Snow’s father and become Queen. After banishing her mother to a world through the looking glass, Regina sets out to learn about magic from Rumple, discovers that Daniel’s death is holding her back, and eventually finds herself seeking out a mysterious “wizard” who can bring back the dead. . Enter the resident Mad Hatter who brings this wizard to Fairy Tale Land. There are numerous references to his possessing a power Regina does not (HINT: The secret ingredient is SCIENCE!), and a lot of cloak and daggery meetings in dark, secluded places The “wizard” tells Regina that he may be able to do what she asks, so long as Regina can supply him with a magically claimed heart, the missing piece of his meat puzzle. She raids her mother’s vault, gets him a heart, and he sets out to bring back her fallen love. He fails of course, which is the final push Regina needs to send her over the edge into evildom. Cut to a short while later, and we discover that, SURPRISE!, he never intended to bring Daniel back, but rather was simply looking for a heart for his brother.
Meanwhile, in Storybrooke …
Regina is going through magic withdrawls at the same time that the increasingly obnoxious Dr. Whale demands that she send him back to his land so he can find his brother, which of course she can’t do. When she tells him as much, he takes matters into his own hands, stealing Daniel’s body and a heart from her family mausoleum, and doing what he had been asked to do all those years ago: bring the stable boy back from the dead, sort of. As is wont to happen in these situations, the newly reanimated Daniel is more monster than man (you’d think he would have learned from last time). He rips off Whale’s arm, and runs off to the stables to relive his last moments.
In the emotional climax of the episode, Regina and David head Daniel off just as he’s attacking Henry at the stables. David adopts a shoot first, chat later philosophy and attempts to kill Daniel before Regina pleads with him to let her handle it, which he does. In a tearful face-to-face, Regina makes the decision to finally let her lost love go, using magic once again to release the spell preserving Daniel’s body, and letting him, and all he represents, literally fall to dust.
While Lana Parrilla’s performance was, once again, superb, allowing us to feel her elation over seeing Daniel and despair as she slowly realizes she has to let him go nearly simultaneously, everyone else felt kind of forced. The emotion of that final scene in the stables should have had me basically in a puddle on my living room floor, but instead I found myself wondering why they didn’t try another take. Perhaps one in which Daniel seemed more schizophrenic than constipated.
And then there was the whole “creepy halloween episode” angle, which was, let’s face it, not at all creepy. There was no haunting (which is what I was originally expecting from a Regina quits magic ep), and there wasn’t even a Frankensteinian lynch mob, or extremely menacing maniacal laughter. In fact, besides the stable sobfest, the entire thing was rather subdued.
Perhaps the one thing I really enjoyed about the episode was the fact that they seem to be taking a page from the Buffy playbook by treating magic like a drug. Regina is literally suffering withdrawls after only two days without magic, and she seeks professional help to keep her on the wagon, returning in tears when she is forced to use it once again. My hope is that they take it a step further toward the end of the season. There is a theory (read it here) which I agree with in most respects about one possible (and seeming increasingly likely) course for the season to take, resulting in Regina’s exponentially evil-er mother, Cora, kidnapping Henry as a means to get back at her daughter. Should that theory prove true, I would hope that the writers see fit to send Regina all Dark Willow on Cora, resulting in a bad ass magic fight to cap the season, and sending Regina on a major course for redemption in the third.
But enough about theories, let’s get back to the episode, since I have yet to touch on the confusion that was the further adventures of Emma and Snow in Fairy Tale Land. While I understand that they couldn’t go two episodes without those two, the “Emma and Snow meet Hook and embark on a journey to thwart Cora’s evil plan” story was oddly interjected, and essentially ruined the tone and pacing of the episode. By the way, that’s a trap, right?
With its poor structure, and forced performances, this was obviously not at all my favorite episode of the season, and a surprising let down for the first week of sweeps. My only hope is that they are able to pay off some of the poor plotting over the next few episodes ahead of the holiday break. Next week looks like it will be fun, with the addition of the Jack and the Beanstalk tale, as well as a peak into Emma’s pre-Henry life of crime (not to mention another important reveal). Every show is allowed it’s unfortunate flops. Let’s hope this is the last one for a while for Once Upon a Time.