Once Upon a Time "The Doctor" Review: A Patched-Together Abomination
Like please, please please please don't tell me Once Upon a Time went ahead and made black-and-white movies another dimension last night. Maybe that was just a nightmare? A terrible nightmare that they ruined the internal logic of their entire premise to accommodate a "wacky Halloween" episode? It was either a nightmare or it was a slap in the face to viewers, a cheery announcement of, "We know we're ridiculous anyway, so let's just throw another ridiculous thing in here that's seasonally appropriate because none of this matters at all."
And like yeah, okay, none of it does really matter, except that we have invested hours of viewing time, and time matters more than anything else to finite creatures like you and I, and if going forward OUaT is going to throw our time to the winds like it did last night, we might as well call it now and spend that hour doing something fulfilling with our lives, like fostering puppies or making ice cream the old-fashioned way (churning, something with salt, I don't know. Maybe I'll research it next Sunday at 8pm.)
I know many of you were waiting with bated breath to see what Dr. Whale's deal was. Well, he's doctor Frankenstein via black-and-white movies, with Tin Tin hair, and that works seamlessly with the rest of the plot, doesn't it? I know Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, was a book first but as James Whale directed the original Frankenstein movie, it's pretty clear that’s what they’re grounding him in. And would it be that much better if they were referencing the original book? It was a very serious and melancholy allegory, nothing like a fairy tale, and part of the reason fairy tales can work conceptually for this show as being the history of another dimension is that there's no specific source for fairy tales. The same tropes recur throughout different cultures, they were collected by anthologists but written in an uncertain, long-ago time by a collective folk voice (except for Pinnochio and Peter Pan, which have been shoehorned into OUaT but I've let slide because I figured Disney put pressure on OUaT to use the whole Disney catalog).
That's very different than plopping Shelley's brainchild via '30s director James Whale into the show. It's far more offensive than the Alice in Wonderland dimension because at least Wonderland is portrayed in its source material as a land, with a portal you can enter from our world. There was an elegance to that logic.
The world of 1930s Hollywood, however, offers no such entry, and it bends the logic to the point of breaking it to say any genre of entertainment can become another dimension. (Is there a "'70 action movie" land too?) If the writers sacrificed the threadbare logic of the show thinking it would be a whimsical Halloween "treat" for us, then shame, shame, shame on them. I'd like to think the world I'm investing past and future spare time in has foundations more concrete than the "seasonal" aisle at Rite Aid. Would Game of Thrones do a Halloween episode? No, because Game of Thrones actually has a story to tell and no time to waste, mine or its own. And it will be creepy long past the holidays are over that Snow had an affair with a man who stitched corpses together, and who also showed up in Fairy-Tale Land with a middle part, which is something only worn by MADMEN.
We did get to see the princesses this week but somehow that just makes me angrier. I would have happily watched them for an hour rather than slog through a go-nowhere plot about a dead man come to life and a character turn that actually made me like Regina less than I had before.
Most people who suffer a terrible loss don't turn into cold-blooded murderers, so Regina is officially a psychopath and I don't know that talkin' it out with Jiminy Cricket is really going to help. Although I am a little relieved that she inherited her vault of hearts from her mother and didn't pluck them all out herself. Still, why did she slay that woman in a Yandy's gypsy costume for no reason? That was rude!
And also, horse hearts are HUGE (the average is seven pounds!) so I don't know what all this was about:
I'm not going to start nitpicking, nitpicking is the defense of a petty mind. There were enough huge glaring errors that you don't have to put this turd under a microscope to declare it pure crap. Just when I was letting myself "go" with OUaT's shaky premise, similar to how I'll succumb to laugh gas in a dentist's office rather than face excruciating pain, we got to the stables scene where Daniel appeared as a hunky and deadly monster.
Yes, as much as we all enjoyed Henry getting a good scare while mucking out his pony's stable, the face-off between Daniel and Regina was embarrassing. And not because of Lana Parrilla, but rather the contrast of Parrilla, an incredible actress, across from an unworthy scene partner. Like, he needed about one-and-a-half more acting lessons to pull off that Frankenstein angry / then Daniel remembers you / then Daniel mentally fights Frankenstein transition. It was kind of cheesy, guys. Maybe it's not even his fault, maybe a sound effect would have helped? It was like a high school play kind of special effect, that acting transition. It was bad.
My eyes were rolling like dice during this scene, and then Regina vaporized him, a power we've not seen her display before but you'd think would have saved her a lot of time and energy in the past. Maybe she just removed the preservation spell and he rapidly disintegrated into dust ? I'm sure I just put more thought into it than the writers did by typing out that sentence, and why as a viewer should I do that work for them when they are LAUGHING AT US with this episode for enjoying the show in the first place? That's how this episode made me feel, like they figured we'll swallow anything so BRING ON THE HORSE PILLS and coat them with crap.
And because I now feel like an evil troll living under a bridge, I will say there were good parts, small moments strewn through this mixed bag of disaster like mini Snickers in a Halloween trick-or-treatin' pillow case:
– Dr. Whale carrying his own arm in a cooler made me laugh.
– For once, Emma caught someone in a lie, and dare I suggest she and Hook might develop a scruffy, rapscallion kind of chemistry?
– An actual Lucite coffin was built for this episode.
– Regina, in her FTL flashbacks, seemed to have a head cold (you could hear her voice was kind of raggedy), and all I could think was, wow, what a pro, Lana Parrilla shows up sick to film this shitty shit writing. Someone get her in a serious film that will make the most of her skills.
– That's about it.
1. Do you think they'll ever return to the 1930s black-and-white-film land, or was that a seasonal tangent?
2. Are you as angry as me or were you enjoying your day and the memory of last night’s episode until I came along like a sourpuss?
3. Does anyone at the wheel of this show have a map or are they just cashing checks while the sun shines?
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