Monday, October 1, 2012

Once Upon a Time 2.01: "Broken"

“The one thing no one can escape. Destiny. And I promise, yours is particularly unpleasant.”
-Mr. Gold

“Once Upon a Time” began its sophomore season with a mindbender of an episode. There is no doubt that creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz came up in the business on “Lost.” The influences are definitely there if you know what you’re looking for. Having already solved the problem presented in the series pilot (how do we get the people of Storybrooke to remember who they really are?) the creative team had to find a new direction in which to take the story. And they definitely achieved that. It doesn’t feel like there’s a season-unifying problem like there was in the first season, but there were definitely several big things that happened that will take a little while to work out. I’ll definitely be interested to see if Kitsis and Horowitz manage to keep layering interesting stories on top of the foundation they built in the first season, or if they will run into some of the problems that cropped up in the second season of “Lost.” A heavily serialized show, after all, can only mark time for so long before it becomes tedious. One thing that could make the series stay fresh is the plethora of storybook characters that can be added to the pantheon, and we got three big ones in this episode: Aurora, Prince Phillip, and Mulan. So let’s get on with the recap already!

The episode begins in New York City, which was a little disorienting. A mysterious man played by Michael Raymond-James (René from “True Blood) receives a post card from Storybrooke that simply says “Broken.” Obviously that means that the curse has been broken. But the identity of James’ character and his connection to the fairytale land that was is still up in the air. The whole thing was an extremely “Lost” season opening. It had all the elements – a distinctive song featuring prominently in the sound mix, a new, mysterious character, and a twist at the end of the scene. I’m excited to learn over the course of the season exactly who Michael Raymond-James is playing. My top pick is Rumpelstiltskin’s son Bae, who is the only fairytale land character we know of, other than Emma and Pinocchio, who was transported to our world by a method other than the Evil Queen’s curse. Whoever James is playing, he must be someone who has a connection to fairylale land but free of the curse that kept most of the rest of the characters trapped in Storybrooke.

We next journey to the fairytale land that was (and still is…sort of), where we are introduced to Aurora, aka Sleeping Beauty. She’s woken up, as per tradition, by a kiss from her true love, Prince Phillip. Little does Aurora know, but Prince Phillip had a bit of help in the whole rescue thing from none other than Mulan. Not long after Aurora wakes up, the trio is attacked by what looks like a Ringwraith or a Dementor. The characters later call it a wraith, but it acts more like a Dementor. It sucks out souls using an effect that looks just like the Harry Potter movies. When the wraith backs off (for now), Prince Phillip picks up the heavy medallion it left behind. This turns out to be a big mistake. Now that they have a moment to breathe, Aurora notices Mulan, and she is dubious. She is surprised that a woman would be a warrior (which is kind of silly), and I think she’s also a little jealous (which turns out to not be so silly). Mulan mentions with relief that they all made it through the battle without being marked, but the look on Philip’s face lets us know that’s not the case.

Back in Storybrooke, the purple smoke set off by Mr. Gold clears pretty quickly, and now that everybody remembers their true identities, there are happy, tearful reunions all around. The one dark spot is Emma. She’s not taking confirmation of her parents’ identity all that well, I guess because she had kind of built her own identity around being the girl without parents. There is a really sweet moment, however, when Henry calls Charming “grandpa.” The Blue Fairy says that the fog means magic has returned, and everyone wants an explanation about what happened. Other Storybrooke residents aren’t so happy and calm as the group surrounding Snow, Charming, and Emma. Dr. Whale is leading a mob to torch Regina’s house. Snow and Charming want to stop the potential slaughter. They’re worried Regina will have her powers back and just outright kill the mob. There’s a big confrontation where we learn that Whale doesn’t consider Charming his King, which made me wonder just where he’s from. Emma diffuses the situation, and Regina ends up in jail.

Elsewhere in Storybrooke, Rumpelstiltskin and Belle are still out in the forest by the well. Belle can see how angry Rumpelstiltskin is upon learning that Regina held her hostage for twenty-eight years (kind of understandable, really), so she makes him promise not to kill Regina in retaliation. Rumpelstiltskin hesitates for a second, then makes his promise. Belle is happy, and they kiss, but I definitely wasn’t convinced that he was sincere. There’s always a loophole with Rumpelstiltskin. We soon find out that he does, clearly, have a nefarious plan. Back at the pawn shop, we see him pull out a medallion that looks just like the one Prince Phillip collected from the wraith. Rumpelstiltskin then confronts Regina in jail and warns her that he has a fate worse than death in store for her. It’s obviously tied to the medallion. Rumpelstiltskin then goes out into the woods and summons the wraith, to take Regina’s soul, I presume. The wraith’s mark then appears on Regina’s hand, which made me think that there must be some serious Harry Potter fans in the writers’ room. Dark Mark, anyone?

Emma and her parents confront Rumpelstiltskin, who is back at his shop, about stealing the love potion Emma was going to use to revive Henry. Rumpelstiltskin reminds them that even though he stole the potion, they all ended up better off than they were. Henry is alive and everyone remembers their true identities. He refuses to tell them why he brought magic back, but it’s quickly apparent when everything starts shaking and the wraith arrives. Belle realizes that Rumpelstiltskin broke the spirit of his promise, and she gets really pissed off and storms out of the shop. Emma, Charming, and Snow rush to the jail, where Regina is already being Dementored. Charming tries to fight off the wraith with his sword, but it’s Snow who is successfully able to scare it off with fire. The wraith isn’t gone for good, though, and Charming doesn’t really feel like putting more effort into saving Regina. Emma says they have to, though, because she promised Henry that Regina would be okay. Regina has a plan. They’re going to try to suck the wraith into another dimension using Jefferson’s hat.

Back in fairytale land, Mulan tells Aurora what happened while Aurora was asleep. Regina’s curse destroyed all of the fairytale land that was except for one little corner of it. They need to make their way to a safe house, but first, Prince Phillip has snuck off to hide his impending doom from Aurora, and Mulan has to go save him. Aurora follows Mulan even though Mulan didn’t want Aurora around (she said Aurora would slow her down), and Aurora rightfully calls out Mulan for being in love with Phillip, too. Mulan denies it, but it’s so freaking obvious. The ladies don’t have long to fight over their man though, because the wraith comes and steals Phillip’s soul.

Back in Storybrooke, Regina is having a tough time getting Jefferson’s hat to work. Apparently the magic Rumpelstiltskin released is different than the magic she’s used to working with. Somehow, though, when Emma touches the hat, it suddenly works. It opens up a big, purple portal, and the wraith gets sucked into it. Unfortunately, Emma and Snow get sucked into it too. Oops! Needless to say, Charming’s pretty unhappy about this turn of events, and he and Regina start fighting. Poor Henry sees his mom try to choke his birth grandfather with some vines, and he pretty much disowns Regina. He doesn’t want to see her again until she brings Emma and Snow back. He’s going to live with Charming for now. In a sweet scene, Charming promises Henry that he’ll find Emma and Snow. He always does, so it should be an easy(ish) promise to keep. Elsewhere in Storybrooke, Belle returns to Rumpelstiltskin. He says she needs to leave because he’s a monster, but Belle says she needs to stay around to try to save him. Didn’t anyone ever tell her that trying to change a guy usually doesn’t work? Especially if he’s essentially a demon?

In fairytale land, Mulan and Aurora are standing over Phillip’s grave, and Mulan’s still bringing Aurora up to speed on the whole curse situation. Mulan says that the road to the safe house isn’t safe because something has crashed there. Mulan believes that whatever crashed is what brought the wraith to their lands. The object that crashed opens up, and it’s none other than Emma and Snow. Of course. While this was a bit predictable, I am definitely looking forward to seeing which of our Storybrooke characters make the journey back to their (now mostly destroyed) home to find Emma and Snow.

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