Because it's Halloween, Once Upon A Time may not have raised the eyebrows of any casual channel-surfers last night, but we knew. We knew "The Thing You Love Most" was no holiday special: witches with their eyes sewn shut and baby unicorns are just how Once Upon a Time rolls. While I couldn't help but giggle over the fairyland villain club, I got completely caught up in the episode's fairy- and real-world storylines, which were both carefully constructed and emotionally plausible.
"The Thing You Love Most," impressed me with Emma's explanation of why she was still in town, and how well it set up the necessity of her playing along with Henry's fairytale theory. If I had a biological 10-year-old son who'd crossed state lines on his own to find me, and then his adopted mom threatened to destroy me after I found him the SECOND time he ran away, I would want to know everything about the loopy chick in charge of my DNA nugget, too. Plausible!
We found out a lot about Regina this week: She is complicated! And exactly how much does she remember from the fairytale world? I had assumed she was aware of the curse, as she clearly has the town in her clutches and hates Margaret Blanchard, but she looked genuinely confused while poring over the story book. She apparently did not know Henry's connection to Snow White when she adopted him (which I had also assumed was the case). Rumpelstilskin arranged things so that baby Henry was the child she adopted. That's a fascinating twist. The Evil Queen's beef with Snow White is not who is fairer, but a true vendetta: Somehow Snow White was responsible for the death of the person she loved most. That makes both characters much more interesting to me.
The show also took the opportunity this week to cement its relationship to the Disney versions of these familiar fairytales, by specifically naming Sleeping Beauty's evil queen Maleficent. How glamorous and awesome was Pam, a.k.a. Kristin Bauer? After years of seeing her in vampire makeup, she was shockingly gorgeous with just her natural skin tone, and while the conversation by the fire didn't further the plot much, it did further the smile on my face.
Emma's insistence on staying in Storybrooke meant a battle between her and the Mayor—Regina got the town newspaper, The Mirror (helmed by Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito! Do you think he's also the town pixie dust/meth lord?), to run a smear campaign, set up Emma to be arrested for having Henry's psych files, and also put a boot on her car. Emma, in a laugh-out-loud moment, took a chainsaw to Regina's apple tree. Apparently Storybrooke's Ye Olde Chainsaw Rental Shoppe doesn't ask too many questions.
Regina's escalated efforts to remove Emma only entrenched her further in the small community: Margaret bailed Emma out, and there was some flirtation with the Sheriff, who seems on her side as well. (He is so obviously the Wolf. Money on the table: I'm calling it.)
Lana Parrilla gave a stellar performance as Regina/the Evil Queen—she has the face of a 1950s Coca-Cola ad, but there's so much going on in her eyes, and she can bring the rage with just a twist of an eyebrow. Ultimately the show cemented Regina as a true villain, because she is willing to hurt the ones she loves to get what she wants. We know this because she pretty much said it directly to the camera, yes, but it was also illustrated both by her killing her own father to set off the curse that has everyone locked in the present day, and by her setting up Henry to overhear Emma call his fairytale belief system "Crazy." The connection between the two betrayals was underlined by the reveal that she named Henry for her father, the one she'd just killed. Henry is not safe, you guys! Sleep with one eye open, Henry.
Emma's moment of setting things right with Henry completely solidified the show's premise. She convinced him that she believes in his theory and had to call him crazy to throw Regina off.
I can't commend the writers enough for providing us with a solid reason for why she would encourage Henry and stick around to engage in his curse theory. Having a believable, solid logic behind the "real world" and the emotional justice of the show makes the lace wiglets, angry gnomes, and poisoned apples of the fairytale world a lot less ridiculous.
… Does Regina remember the fairytale world? Did she set up the basic tenets of the world and then erase her own memory, or what? Rumpelstilskin made some knowing statements about "You know who she is," but aren't we assuming every character deep down kind of senses his/her old personality? Could that be what he's referring to?
… The Sheriff is clearly the love interest, but what will happen when his work visa runs out? Isn't he like Scottish or something? Is that legal? Could I go be a "Bobby" in London?
… Who got the worst costume this episode: Eyes-Sewn-Shut Witch, Angry Acne Gnome, Daddy Henry, or all the ladies having to deal with those big-ass false eyelashes?
… Rumpelstilskin: Good guy or bad guy?