Once Upon A Time 2×15 “The Queen Is Dead” Review
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for episode 2×15 – The Queen is Dead.
The last time we saw the happenings of Storybrooke, Maine was two weeks ago. We had discovered that the Charming family tree had gotten a little more complicated than most, and that CGI-ing Vancouver to look like New York City doesn’t always work.
This week picked up where “Manhattan” left off, with some father/son bonding done the only way one should when finding themselves in New York City, with pizza! Sorry Emma and Gold, you two were sadly not invited to this bonding experience, but some major hostility was. Especially when Henry has one of the first “must replay sassy moments” of the night, using pizza as a metaphor for Emma’s lie to him in the previous episode. All hostilities aside, the group decides to go to a museum for further exploration of the Big Apple, and further bonding time, but must go get Henry’s camera, because no one would want to miss this Kodak moment.
While they’re back at the hotel, Hook shows up and jabs Rumple in the chest with his hook. The thing that gets me is how on Earth did he get to New York from Maine in a matter of minutes, since he is seen earlier knocking out Charming in Storybrooke jail. It is quickly explained that he took his ship, the same ship that is hidden away thanks to Cora’s spell in New York Harbor. The ship is the least of their worries, however, because Rumple was not only stabbed, but poisoned by the hook.
One of the pleasing things about this episode is that it provides us with answers to certain questions, like “How could Hook travel so quickly to New York when everyone on the East Coast knows it’s at least a four hour journey?” and “Why is it that Neal is Bae when Bae should be very old given the timeline the show offers?” Sadly, it also plays against the rules that have been introduced earlier in the season about magic outside of Storybrooke. This episode’s writing and acting has proven that great performances can sometimes let us overlook small plot issues.
With Rumple on the brink of death, and Hook locked up in a broom closet, the group must find a way back to Storybrooke to save him. Neal reveals that he knows how to sail Hook’s ship – which may have put many thoughts into people’s heads concerning Neal and one Peter Pan, especially considering yesterday’s Paley Fest panel revealed that the final two episode titles for the season will be “Second Star To The Right” and “Straight On Till Morning.” Hook and Neal’s backstory will most likely play an important role heading into the season finale and next season.
Rounding out the happenings in good old Vancouver, I mean, New York, we discover that Neal is in fact engaged. Fans of the Emma/Neal ship will be having fun with this one, since it could turn into a repeat of what happened with Katherine, Mary Marget, and David. All hope goes to the fangirls that this has just as good of an ending as that did (though perhaps without all the murder accusations).
Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, it’s Snow’s special day: her birthday! Unfortunately, Snow doesn’t want to celebrate let alone let anyone know, since it’s also the anniversary of her mother’s death. Someone wishes to celebrate though, and sends her a Snowdrop birthday card and a tiara. I wish I could get presents like that. Snow tracks down the sender and it turns out to be special Downton Abbey guest star Lesley Nicol as Johanna, who was once Snow’s mother’s handmaid.
It is sometimes hit and miss with guest stars on the show. Sometimes they are sadly underused, such was the case with Emma Caufield last season as the witch from Hansel and Gretel in True North, and sometimes they are fantastic, and, even with their limited screen time, are able to come across as everything we want them to be. This is fortunately the case with Nicol, who even in her last scene has us tearing up and praying that her true fate wasn’t reality. Don’t worry though, we can still see our favorite cook on PBS!
Their moment is soon interrupted by the Mills’ women, who are busy digging away in the woods. Correction, Regina is digging away… in a skirt… and heels, while Cora stands off to the side and watches. They are in the middle of continuing the little mission that started in “Manhattan” – locating Rumplestiltskin’s dagger – and Cora is going on about how once they find it she will have him take care of the one person truly standing in Regina’s way. The real question here is: why on Earth would Regina be digging manually when we saw her in the last episode using her magic just to go through a purse? Surely she could save the time, and a good pair of boots, and do the same here?
Snow attempts, once again, to get Regina on her side in perhaps one of the best scenes between Regina and Snow since the hill-top apple scene from last season. As it has been proven in the past, Lana Parrilla and Ginnifer Goodwin can truly play well off one another, but you can see their history through their performance in the dinner scene. Parrilla gives one of the best lines that sums up Regina’s story thus far, and also the audience’s perception of how society makes it hard for anyone to change when they aren’t fully given a chance, “…dinner with a bunch of hypocrites who pretend to forgive me, when in their hearts they know they never will.”
When it is clear that Regina has picked her mother over the people who have always judged her, and forget to invite her to dinner after she rescues them, the Charmings know that they must beat the Mills in their quest for the dagger. With a little help from the New York crew, they are lead to the top of the infamous clock tower where it has been hidden by Rumple. They are shortly joined by Cora and Regina, who have also traced the path to the clock tower.
The big showdown between the Charmings and the Mills is explosive, not in the physical way (ok maybe a little), but more so in the way they interact with one another. Cora’d is the term that best describes this scene, and perhaps most of the episode leading up to this. It is a term used because Cora’s method of using mind games to manipulate people into getting what she wants has become a trademark for her, and I must give credit to a good friend who came up with it. Her trickery is easily seen in Regina, who finally reverts back to the Evil Queen that many of her fans have grown to love, and have missed the entire season. It is also shown by Snow’s realization that it was indeed Cora that was the one who caused the death of her mother, and tricks her into handing over the dagger by dangling Johanna’s life.
The main players in this scene all provide the perfect formula for how to make a fantastic scene more fantastic. Goodwin’s helplessness but desire to save everyone, Parrilla’s evilness, but also that moment of realization that her whole life was planned out for her, and Hershey’s ability to make the audience feel conflicted over who Cora is truly looking after, herself or her daughter. Together they provide a whirlwind of emotions that the audience must also go through, as the ending result is what pushes some viewers over the edge.
The Mills have the dagger, and rejoice in Regina’s old Mayor office, in a scene that shows the exchange of power between good and evil taking over Storybrooke. Regina asks the question we had heard back in “The Stable Boy”, did her mother have anything to do with Snow’s horse going wild? This time she is given an answer: Yes.
As evil rejoices, Snow is found in what many film students learn can be called ‘Plot Point 2′, or the protagonist’s lowest point. For Snow White, she has lost the one last connection to her mother, and the seed of revenge is slowly taking over. She should really try and check in with Emily Thorne, another protagonist on an ABC show all about the topic of Revenge, for a few pointers, but it seems she’s got it all under control. Her solution? Killing Cora once and for all. This will not end well for anyone, especially since the last time Snow was going to attempt this with Regina, David said that she would lose part of herself to the darkness of taking a life.
Rounding out the three major story-lines of the night is the Fairy Tale Land segment, which has us revisiting young Snow White on the eve of her birthday, and introducing us to her mother, Queen Eva, played by Rena Sofer. The young, innocent Snow that we have seen in the past is not quite the same one we are first introduced to here. She is snotty, and not really the definition of pure hearted. It is her mother who teaches her to be pure, and to accept everyone wither they are royal or not.
Queen Eva soon becomes very ill. Snow would try anything to save her and thus sets out to locate the Blue Fairy. When she finds her, well more like the other way around, she is given an ultimatum that surely puts her newfound purity to the test. When Snow decides that she could not trade someone else’s life for her mothers she returns to her mother’s chamber to be with her in her final moments. Eva is proud of her daughter’s decision, and departs with a final lesson: that it takes someone full of bravery to overcome darkness. It is a lesson that many hope will be learned by Regina in Storybrooke.
Bailee Madison returns to play young Snow, and it is always a joy to have her on the screen. She has nailed portraying young Ginnifer Goodwin so well that one would easily mistaken her for actually being her. She certainly proves in this episode that she is able to hold her own in scenes as it is shown in Queen Eva’s funeral sequence, and her conversation with the “Blue Fairy”.
“The Blue Fairy” that Snow talks to isn’t so much the Blue Fairy as it is our dear Cora lining up the dots for her daughter to take over. As it was well guessed – and we will learn into more in next week’s “The Miller’s Daughter” – Cora was responsible for Eva’s death, and it seems for personal reasons. All the families on this show all seem to be connected. It’s like Traffic but instead of drugs it’s fairy tales!
It must be said that Barbara Hershey choosing to be on Once Upon A Time is perhaps one of the best decisions of her career. I mean, you know you’ve hit an all-time high when you get people cosplaying you! Her ability to steal the scene, just like her on screen daughter, is ready apparent in tonight’s episode. We are only given a few seconds of Cora talking with Eva’s body, but through Hershey’s performance we are given years of history between the two. We can see her envy, and her love, of Eva, even though Eva doesn’t interact.
Overall tonight’s episode was a complete upgrade from what most of this season has been, and it was due to a fantastic script, and marvelous performances from all of the cast. Next week bring’s us Cora’s backstory in an episode that many have waited for since it was revealed that Charmed actress, Rose McGowan will be playing young Cora. Here is the trailer for those who’ve missed it.“The Miller’s Daughter” will air next Sunday on ABC at 8PM ET/PT.