Once Upon a Time "Second Star to the Right" Review: The Diamond Goes Pear-shaped
Whoooo, talk about a way to turn my day of sombreros and margaritas into a night of broken sobs. Cinco De Mayo went out with a bang with last night’s “Second Star to the Right”—between the tequila, taquitos, and sobbing, maybe we should all have taken a sick day today just to get the poison out, babies. Who can read work emails with that promo just replaying in our heads? It occurred to me to just enter “F-ck You OUAT” 600 times as the review for this, but to be fair, “Second Star to the Right” was entertaining. Credit where credit is due, this was in many ways a great episode. An entertaining, exciting, riveting episode that thoroughly camped out in my brain and is still rattling my nerves and working my imagination today.
In true Kitsis & Horowitz style, they’ve essentially turned the last three episodes of the season into an epic movie split up into thirds, tying together a number of very recent elements and characters. Usually this is where I'd go off on a rant about how a big three episodes after six months of treading water and sustaining low-level dread is sort of a wasted storytelling opportunity. I’m going to try to rein it in and just say that apparently, there are two schools of thought in serialized dramatic television:
1.) A truly compelling premise and strong characters can bring about a near-endless amount of conflict to mine episode after episode, with characters growing organically and inevitably into their storylines as developments unfold every week.
2.) Put a really huge cliffhanger at the end of your season that functions like a giant Goosebumps chapter break and hold your audience’s favorite characters hostage so they have to come back just to know WTF they’ve been watching.
Hahaha! Oh guys I am so bitter. But aren’t we all, after watching Regina weep in silent anguish for four hours as a nerd in a tweed coat tried to break her down? (AND FAILED, I might add.) The only thing that made the torture scenes of Regina bearable were how “Yippee Ki-Yay Motherf-cker” she was about the whole ordeal. While I was proud of Regina’s strong attitude (compare her stoic response in between torture sessions to Snow flopping around like a fish when faced with the same electric voltage), I got nervous because Lana Parrilla, Method like she is, was breaking capillaries in fully portraying Regina’s ordeal.
For once, the FTL was a sweet escape from the Storybrooke storyline. I loved the sinister interpretation of Peter Pan as this horrifying wraith, creeping in and stealing little boys. I’d never really seen the horror movie element of Peter Pan before, but OUAT managed to take the same scene we’re all familiar with, the lamps going out and the window flying open, and with a subtle change in background music and cinematography it was one of the creepiest things I’ve seen on network TV.
Also, brilliant explanation for why those kids were sleeping with umbrellas and saucepans as they do in the original stageplay. Bae volunteering himself to protect Wendy and her brothers and his subsequent flight through Wonderland—it was all gorgeous and eerie and spectacularly well done.
(Yes, even if Wendy for some reason was going to bed every night with full-on pageant make up and hair. Whatever, girl was amazing. Hope she’s going to join the spinoff Wonderland series ABC is possibly producing. She was waay too big of a presence for this little cameo.)
Young Bae was similarly amazing. It takes a child actor (tween actor?) of rare presence to pull off Dickensian street urchin and a collared nightdress.
All I know is, I really didn’t give too much of a sneeze about Bae before this episode, and now he’s sort of a hero. The child version, that is. Grown-up Bae was still hauling that scarf around town and taking unearned moments with Emma. How did someone so brave and heroic become an abandoning slouch who didn’t look up Emma after she was released from jail because he “couldn’t forgive himself”? Well, then at least present yourself for the ass-beating she deserves to give you!
Their entire romantic arc this episode was so completely unearned and chemistry-free. I respected the character of Emma exponentially less for carrying a torch for a man who had, no two ways about it, abused her as a teenager and then left her to take the rap for him and skipped out on the rest of her life. Given the number of women who are actually left to take the consequences of a shared action by their partner, be it a jail sentence or a baby (like 90 percent of female inmates are incarcerated because they drug-muled/prostituted/whatever at the behest of their man) vs. how many of the guys have legitimate, multi-dimensional excuses for their behavior, I don’t see why the writers would reward Neal with our hero’s continued affection. And even aside from social responsibility, these actors have barely shared the screen this season. Compare the masterful development between Henry and Emma in Season 1 to the five minutes of half-hearted banter Neal and Emma have exchanged. Ugh. So when this happened:
I did a bit of a fist pump. Not going to lie. Please, little girls watching this, don’t forgive an inexcusable, disrespectful man who wounds and abandons you just because he tells you he’s sorry. And I know he’s coming back, even if Emma hilariously tried to spell it all out for us with the epically expositional line: “But you’re shot! You’re going to die no matter what world you fall into!” We have not seen the last of this doofus.
Also, if you look at the timeline of the series, Neal has known Henry for approximately one week. Emma has spent maybe two weeks under the same roof and otherwise bought him a lot of ice cream. Yet Neal is screaming “HENRY! WE CAN’T LEAVE HENRY ALONE! ONE OF US HAS TO LIVE!” Um, remember how Regina raised Henry all alone for most of his life until this show began? He’s got all he needs, no matter what happens to you two coconut heads. I know Henry is fast and loose with whom he calls mom, but that’s who Regina is, both legally and in every other way that matters. The narrative’s continued rejection of a loving, affluent, educated adoptive single mom in favor of two legitimate criminals who knocked boots and therefore are “parents”… it's sincerely baffling. Like jump in that hole already, Neal. (Michael Raymond-James I love you always and forever. Just talking to Neal here.)
But Neal and Emma were not the only characters who made me want to bite a wooden spoon like a battlefield amputation was taking place. Let us never forget Mr. Gold’s response when Snow asked why he had Regina’s tears:
"Because I do." Thank you, OUAT writers, for at least being open about having absolutely no f-cks left to give. It’s almost refreshing at this point. I thought it was an interesting device to sync up Snow with Regina’s feelings and thoughts and sights, though it was baffling how little they were able to do with the information The smell of sardines should have been the first thing Mary Margareet mentioned, but to both her and David it was a total after thought. Mary Margaret listed almost everything else first. "It was cold. There was pain. Shadowy. My feet were untied. There was a ceiling. Gray. Sort of damp. My mouth tasted nice, kind of minty. I had an A-line skirt on. Ten fingers, ten toes. Also, the stench of sardines but not sure if that's relevant."
The cannery has been mentioned in previous episodes and y’all have had 28 years to get familiar with Storybrooke’s exports and small businesses, so the fact that it took every Charming involved about 45 minutes to understand the significance of the smell of sardines—well, I'm actually not that surprised, given their track record. And then they all almost shot each other in the cannery, great job coordinating your rescue mission, braniacs. Why must so much of the suspense of this series be predicated on the condition that we expect the Charmings to screw up? Oh Charmings, you mean well, you really do, like a toddler who tries to get clean by crawling in a washing machine.
Also, who knew making sardines involved such intense machinery? Respect to the sardine workers out there and the giant battleships they appear to work in.
To recap this recap: Neverland—amazing! Regina’ s torture—pure anguish, but well handled! Charmings—slow on the uptake, but an interesting plotline! Emma and Neal, ugh. And now the part of the episode I’m still not sure if I even want to acknowledge is the one about the Mendels. (Named, I’m sure in homage to Mendel the monk and his bean-plant experiments which became the basis for understanding genomes.)
So they referred frequently to “headquarters,” then called their mission “sacred” and just basically ran around with sticks up their butts the whole episode, acting really self-righteous and implying they were very important people with a far-reaching agenda supported by a sinister shadow organization. So they are like… magic terrorists? They are like anti-magic al Quaeda? Like, I really can’t. I really can’t care about these two, except I found myself weirdly glad when Greg found out his dad was now a skeleton.
That’s what you get for being nosy, Greg: a pile of damp bones.
While Tamara is kind of my new hero for indirectly blasting Neal into Neon Green Hell, being unclear on her motives does not make me more intrigued about her as a villain. In another show’s hands this device could read as frightening, thanks to a powerful villain who is incredibly driven by mysterious motivations, but in this case it feels like the writers are leaving themselves space. Which, fine, that’s okay, give yourselves wiggle room... but then maybe don’t make your villains keep announcing a bunch of expository dialogue about how mysterious they are. Especially when they are in plain clothes. Its like Storybrooke is being attacked by two RPG-ers who didn’t read their character profiles all the way through.
It was a huge relief when Regina was saved, and while I don’t understand the Blue Fairy helping her (also, why was this all-powerful figure like, chilling during all this? The Charmings should have her on speed dial. Get to work, lady.)
I did love her look of embarrassment when she found out the Charmings saved her.
Like, that’s pretty humbling. I also loved how she then awkwardly had to tell them about her plan to sweep them all to hell and was totally unapologetic about it. The promo for next week's finale seems to heavily imply she’ll sacrifice her life for Storybrooke’s. I don’t want to believe OUAT would kill off Regina, but the fact that so much of this season has been dedicated to her redemption arc makes me wonder if they’ll pull those kind of shenanigans. (Although photos from the finale would seem to place her on the boat you know all of Storybrooke will board when sh-t goes down.)
Is that why Lana is stacking bills doing promos for Fantasyland? (Don’t judge, girl probably got 100k for an hour of work and then got to go on all the Fast Pass lines without even getting Fast Pass.)
So now is the time for predictions guys. What will happen next week? Are you dreading it or excited? Will they tie it all together or blow it all to hell? And also...
1. Neal: nothing can kill him, or he's off the show?
2. Emma loves Neal: justified?
3. Lacey’s influence on Mr. Gold—do you secretly love it?
4. Next season is Neverland-centric, that we know; so do Eddie and Adam just want to film in Hawaii again or… ?
5. Will Hook save the day with his ship and some beans?
6. Will you watch season 3 if they kill off Regina?
7. What. Is. Happening?
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