Another week, another Once Upon a Time episode. Warning, spoilers ahead! It seems that I can’t avoid them when it comes to this series. Enter the Dragon is what got my attention and, after a rather disappointing Unforgiven, I can say right now that I rather enjoyed watching it… although it would be nice to speak about one that would actually leave me speechless because it was that good. Let’s see what there is to say about this episode.
It should be clear from the title that this part of the story revolves around Maleficent. And that’s pretty much the good part. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the way Kristin Bauer van Straten played this villain until recently, but she’s growing on me. After that talk with Snow White (for some reason, I can never type Mary Margaret, it doesn’t feel right), Regina meets the Queens of Darkness, trying to find out what they are planning. For the scenes in the Enchanted Forest, we are taken back to when the Queen was just taking her first steps towards becoming evil. Back when she was mourning her lost love. She meets Maleficent and helps her… find herself, if you will, marking an important point in the story of Sleeping Beauty and the start of what seems to be a pretty strong bond between the two women. Dear fandom, if you want a new ship, here it is, all new and ready to be discovered.
Lana Parrilla is a talented actress, but there’s something forced when she plays Regina from Storybrooke. The good girl. It doesn’t work for her. Sure, it brings a certain depth to the character, seeing her in love or taking on the part of a mother. But she is perfect in full Evil Queen mode. I’m not a fan of the Queen, there are a few things I just can’t get over, but she demands your attention and has got that certain something which fascinates the viewer. Speaking of acting, I admired Colin O’Donoghue in this episode. Why? Because yes, he plays Hook. But the pirate we see in Enter the Dragon is almost always Rumplestiltskin. If you haven’t already, go and watch those few scenes closely. It’s not what I would call subtle and it’s not unexpected (seriously, a lot of us were expecting or hoping that Hook was actually Rumplestiltskin in disguise for this part), but O’Donoghue can easily make the viewers… feel that the man looking like Hook is someone else. Listen to his words, watch the way he moves; it’s there and it’s clear.
Robert Carlyle was brilliant, as always, going from villain to man in love. Add just a touch of woobieness to that mix and you’ll see once more that this man can easily make you hate, love, want to slap and/or want to hug Mr. Gold. Words? Not many are needed to get the message across. He wants his happy ending, but doesn’t seem to realize that manipulation isn’t exactly the right way to get his lady back. Another thing I want to point out is a moment when, to me, Rumplestiltskin seemed almost naive: “heartbreak turned her into a monster once“, he says about Regina. That’s true and Rumple himself has experienced firsthand what a broken heart can make you do. But he doesn’t stop to wonder what something like that might do to Belle. I mean, everybody has a dark side. And when he claims that “everybody will have to pick a side” in the war looming over Storybrooke, he doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that his only family (wife and grandson) might not see things from his perspective.
I’ll be honest, I don’t understand what the writers are trying to do. Everything is so… muddled now and it keeps getting worse. Do they want to present a typical fairy tale fight between good and evil (because that’s what Rumplestiltskin’s words seem to suggest) or are they trying to draw more attention on the idea that the world is grey, not white and black? I know for a fact that both themes could be brought together, but not like it’s done here. Another thing: I understand that it’s time for us to see that a hero’s past can also hide dark secrets… but why does said hero end up looking silly (to put it mildly)? I’m thinking about Snow White and Prince Charming. Are they so set on keeping their secret that they can no longer think properly?
A few more points before we move towards the end. Where is everybody? We keep hearing about everybody’s happy ending, but we see only a handful of characters. Why? Then, Maleficent says that “pain always makes you stronger“. Well, if you ask me, she’s not exactly far from the truth. But that depends on what she understands when she speaks of strength. Pain, just like love, can make one strong or weak; you never know and you don’t have full control over that. I loved one of Rumplestiltskin’s lines: “You don’t even know what revenge looks like, dearie”. True words. And finally, that scene with the train: excuse me, what kind of test was that? Never mind, I almost forgot about the drinking part. Do trains go through Storybrooke?
Finally, my lovelies, let me tell you a little something about the whole Rumplestilskin/ Belle/ Will… thing (I don’t know what to call it). You’ll recognize parallels with Skin Deep, I’m sure. I have to ask: the writers keep saying something about a stronger Belle… where is she? Because Belle is one of my favourite characters in the series (if not THE one) and I know that she has always been strong, impulsive at times, caring and brilliant. What I saw in this episode was a scared little girl. “This is my only protection”. I was expecting her to show some trust issues and maybe some uneasiness at the thought of facing the Dork (sorry, Dark) One again. But fear? No, not buying it. Just like I fail to understand what in the world she was thinking when she gave the dagger to Hook. Those two are enemies, how can… why? And what’s with the “pirate’s oath“, did she actually believe that? I would love to see a remake of that scene (maybe some behind the scene footage) with Robert Carlyle and Emilie de Ravin. It happened for other films, so it’s not impossible.
Let me just say, I am thrilled that Rumplestiltskin has his dagger again. I still want to hit him for the way he did it, though. Just… add it to the pile of issues he and Belle will have to solve once they meet, right next to her letting go of that thing too easily and to the wrong person. To be fair, anyone but Rumple is the wrong person to have it. But another trick like this doesn’t exactly help. My babies, you two are so… chipped right now. Honestly, I can’t see Belle and Rumplestiltskin coming together this season, as much as I’d like that. They keep making mistakes that can’t be fixed without a lot of time and effort.
Glad we now know more about Belle and Will. Sort of, because this is another example of “tell, don’t show“, which is not a particularly good idea, especially if the fans are expecting to receive more than just a couple of lines. No, that’s not enough and no, it doesn’t make this whole situation any better. The “explanation” didn’t take me by surprise. I stand by what I said last time: it’s useless drama (I was also wondering if magic was involved here… it wasn’t). Yes, I realize why it’s there, but the writers could have come up with a better plot point. Right now, Will is just a pawn and Belle… she enjoys spending time with “someone who’s nothing more than who he says he is” (note the rose behind her as she says this). Is this supposed to mark her growth? Is this how she plans to find her way? Because she is still very lost. And discovering that Rumplestiltskin went all LOKI’D… no, wait… wrong show. So, when she discovers his plot, how will she react? I was looking forward to that part. Now I’m apprehensive.
Bottom line, it seems that the characters are a bit closer to learning more about the Author. I didn’t think we’d actually see August again and I believe that the scene with Henry and his grandma (Belle, in case you were wondering) was cute. It’s such a pity that they are so easily pushed – like others – into the background. With all the talk about true love and happy endings and for all the flaws of this series, I’m still curious to see how everything will play out. I don’t know how long that curiosity will stay with me, fed just by pieces of good or great acting and could-be plot lines, but I still hope that we won’t be disappointed by what is yet to come.
by Elena Atudosiei