Once Upon a Time: Genie in a Bottle

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For Breaking Bad fans, last night's episode of Once Upon a Time, "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree," was both a master class in facial acting from Giancarlo Esposito and a recipe for a living-room wringing, inspiring many a squeal of "Why is Gus Fring dressed like Aladdin? Ho-lee ship."

But even if you've never seen a moment of Breaking Bad, chances are you were pretty caught up what was ultimately a very engaging episode. While OUaT worked overtime to drum up the suspense, with a twist ending for both the fairy-tale and real-world storylines of Sidney Glass/the Magic Mirror, I think we can safely say we saw the twists coming and just enjoyed the indulgent romance and crazy costumes. Which is by no means a complaint: It's a lot harder to entertain your audience than it is to surprise them (if you don't believe me, go yell "Boo!" at someone). Plus, we finally got a tiny peek at Snow White and the Evil Queen's back story, and it did not disappoint.

First of all, the premise that the Magic Mirror started out as a genie who was freed and then foolishly got himself trapped in the mirror by his own wish is brilliant, and it gave us a shot of Sidney as a tiny little man living in a lamp. I Dream of Jeannie used a similar conceit, and it's so much cozier than imagining a genie's supernatural consciousness suspended in some weird gray area. No, genies literally live in their little lamps, chilling, lounging on some pillows, and then someone picks them up every three hundred years.

The fairy-tale back stories are always fun, but I can get impatient while waiting to return to the main storyline, so I kind of dread them. Yet just as I was reconciling myself to simply enjoy seeing a great actor dressed for an Arabian-themed Ren-faire, OUaT gave us the reveal that the contented King who gave the genie his freedom was Snow White's dad and Regina's husband. Then we were treated to a shot of our two leading ladies at the earliest point we've seen them so far: Regina and Snow peacefully hanging out in white ball gowns in an otherworldly fairytale garden, like a small herd of models, is an image I could have happily contemplated for a solid hour.

This episode gave us a good origin for the whole "fairest in the land" phrase, too. It's not one that easily rolls of the tongue, but the idea that the King saw Snow as the fairest because she looked like her mom and the Magic Mirror genie saw the Queen as the fairest… nicely done.

Another phrase that does not roll easily off the tongue: Fruit of the poisonous tree? In the real world, Sidney Glass and Emma joined forces to discredit Regina, breaking into her office and retrieving documents to reveal that she had been siphoning city funds. Sidney pressed Emma to reveal the embezzlement and Emma snapped back with "No, we can't—it's forbidden fruit: the fruit of the poisonous tree." Oh, that old phrase. Got it, thanks. Trite but true, that old expression about the poisonous tree. Emma, I know the costume department has you trussed up in five pounds of cascading curls like the Cowardly Lion, and maybe that muffles your ears during casual conversation, but that is NOT A PHRASE. Maybe it’s prison slang? Anyone reading this from jail please advise.

Emma, I love her dearly, but it was so obvious that Sidney was setting her up, I kept waiting for that reveal where she would turn on him, but the series left it with Sidney as her ally/a spy from Regina. Sure, why not. Regina is already has a tomb full of hostage hearts and Emma ignores every threat she volleys anyway, so whatever. If Regina's end game, in her elaborate plan to get Emma to accuse her right before she presented a power point slide show of a new children's playground, was simply to forbid Emma from seeing Henry then: what? She's been doing that since day one and Emma has glibly ignored her. I think if she could honestly nail Emma for breaking into her office, she would, but as Emma pointed out the sheriff IS the police in Storybrooke, so good luck with your investigation, Regina. Also: can a mayor just randomly purchase private land for city use without running that by some kind of council? Any mayors reading, please advise.

For those of you who don't like adultery, Snow White drifted a little more into the morally gray zone by meeting up for a secret picnic with John Doe.

I don't know what made me start to reassess Mary Margaret's character more, the fact she's having a rendezvous with a married man or that she has a trac phone.

Do you think Emma dismantled her smartphone in a drunken rage and Mary Margaret just went into her room and bit a wooden spoon until she could smile again? Anyway, as much as I want to see these characters together, sparking each other's natural chemistry until Josh Dallas accidentally bellows Ginnifer Goodwin's name out loud in place of Snow White's (like I'm sure he does inwardly in every scene), I need to see John Doe tell off his faux wife first. Which obviously the writers realize and are banking on, and I'm sure they are going to tease this borderline adultery thing right up until the season finale. Typewriter in a box, guys, am I right?

As for Poor Man's Graham, I loved Henry's reaction to him last night. Henry just looked him up and down and asked him what the hell he was doing in Storybrooke. The scene read like Henry was specifically referring to his sleazily hip outfit. An untied handkerchief and bracelet? Don't trust this effing hipster. Also, in the interest of transparency: Henry is growing on me. Recently he's been so much smarter than any other character on the show and so disenchanted by both of his crazy moms, it's getting hard not to root for him. Child actors are saccharine and boring, but super annoyed child characters just trying to get their business handled are wonderful. Well done, Jared Gilmore. You might just breathe some life back into this old critic's coal heart after all.

Even if we saw them coming, the twist endings neatly lined up a consistent relationship dynamic between the mirror & the Evil Queen, and Regina & Sidney. And now Sidney is set up as a device through which Regina can monitor Emma, the same way she used his magic as the Mirror to keep tabs on Snow White. It’s a genius way to give Regina equivalent spying powers in the real world, but considering they've already established she has a stack of hearts in the cemetery, I would also be cool with her sucking Sidney back into an actual magic mirror and hanging him up in Emma's house. The most exciting moments of the show are the ones where the fairy tale world breaks through into the real world, like when we saw Regina's giant grinning-skull key ring. And yet while the magic onscreen in the real world was more figurative and less literal, it was the kind of episode I'd been wishing for. (Because genies? Wishes? Huh? Editorial buttons FTW!)

QUESTIONS:

... So, are Sidney and Regina lovers? Or does she just string him along with little thigh pinches after he pulls off feats of incredibly complicated espionage?

... Are Mary Margaret and John Doe lovers, or merely wine lovers? Sorry to be so nosy, but I could really use a consensus!

... How awesome was Lana Parrilla's dry delivery when she kept referring to Sidney as a "boozy, disgraced reporter"? I love her. Someone write this lady something big and HBO-y to work on when OuaT is in between seasons.

... 1,001 granted wishes divided by three wishes per person equals not enough people, right?

... What would your three wishes be? (Despite the fact that even the most benign, unselfish wish can lead to getting double-bitten by Arabian vipers while a genie asks you to forgive him. Pwned!)

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