Once Upon a Time "Selfless, Brave, and True" Review: Bait and Switch

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Once Upon a Time S02E18: "Selfless, Brave, and True"


You know what I love when I follow a series for two years? A standalone episode that almost exclusively involves characters I don’t know. Also, a big bad/main villain who is not exactly threatening and who's only popped up in the last couple episodes. Especially if we spend the whole episode with that big bad in exclusion of spending time with main characters who are in limbo/amnesiacs/dying, while still not being clear on her motivations by the end of the episode. Oh wait, I hate ALL that. Yet I still enjoyed last night’s episode, right up until the fourth act when OUAT went truly off the rails and any semblance of "suspension of disbelief" was exploded by a grown man made out of wood morphing into a little boy in a blouse.

Don’t get me wrong, the cinematagrophy for this specific episode was gorgeous. The woods have never glowed so much and the Bladerunner version of Hong Kong displayed an impressive use of neon signs and laundry by the art department. I genuinely loved Snow blowing off steam by listening to Joan Jett and firing arrows into the woods. And then suddnely she ran into August, as betrayed by Eion Bailey in a rubber mask/ping-pong-ball CGI tracking suit, and things started to swirl towards the drain.

Here’s the thing, August is a ridiculous character, period, as a wooden CGI monstrosity, but somehow last night’s moments with flesh-and-blood August were even worse. Bailey, perhaps realizing this would be his finale, was chewing the scenery like a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain, telegraphing temptation and pain with all the subtlety of Charlie Chaplin in The Great Train Robbery. I’m guessing he just wanted to make it count because he knew that as of this episode, yet ANOTHER child star would be taking his place in the cast. 

I can’t talk about anything else until I’ve processed this. WTF was this? How does a tasered piece of wood being unselfish = a boy in a Peter Pan hat? Where did those clothes come from? Shouldn’t he have at least been in a scaled-down leather jacket? I’m sure Marco is psyched he gets to a-be a-with 'is a-boy again but... like, what!? WHAT?! DO REASON AND RATIONALITY MEAN NOTHING TO YOU, WRITERS OF OUAT?!!?

WHY HAVE YOU GIVEN US A BIG BAD VILLAINESS OUT OF NOWHERE?! AND MYSTICAL ASIAN STEREOTYPES?! A FU MAN CHU MUSTACHE ON A "DRAGON MAN" IN 2013?!!? 

I need to catch my breath. I need to just... phew. "Selfless, Brave, and True" was at times gorgeous, entirely engaging, and it had some nice spots of character development. Emma and Henry sort of made up about her lying about Neal. Emma and Henry were very cool about meeting Dad’s Girlfriend, who is never an easy person to meet. Henry was totally suave about keeping the conversation chill while Jennifer Morrison pretended to eat carbs. And yet... I don’t know. 

However, I love the woman playing Tamara, Sonequa Martin-Green. For real, she is an amazing actress who committed to a part that honestly wasn’t much on the page  and really sold it as best she could. Kudos. But I already have a big bad villain in Storybrooke I’m invested in, and her name is Regina Mills, and she stole the show with one line about fish.

Blackened Sole. This one-liner!!! Delivered like a Domino’s pizza with crack sprinkled on top: hot, fresh, quick and I’m going to be clawing out my own eyeballs until I get another one. 

I know the show was trying to draw a parallel between Pinocchio’s redemption and Snow’s own struggle of "Should I just drop down and die right now, or can I still give my life meaning?". But if redemption means being morphed into a memory-wiped 8-year-old, count me out. No thanks. Although maybe this means he no longer has all that pesky Hep C from his sex tour of Phuket.

There was a really interesting moment last night where Snow slapped the taste right out Marco’s mouth. I guess having a blackened heart will turn you into a slap-happy bitch who will cut loose on an old man like he’s a red-headed stepchild. Suddenly, I love Dark Snow as a character, and I only wish Granny had been within her wingspan. Like, if we’re going to regulate the elderly, let’s do this right. 

Normally I’d put Henry first in line for five across the eyes, but the kid was surprisingly mature and awesome while leading a conversation between his biological mom, biological dad, and Tamara, keeping things light when that situation was colored a deep awkward marine. Tamara and Neal can jump off a pier holding hands, character-wise. The writers need to do something with Tamara to make me give a damn, and photos of her grandma and implying she had the most sophisticated techniques man has developed inside her hotel room bathroom are not enough.


Remember that part? That part where she showed up to the Dragon’s Turnip Room and told him she had had the magic vial tested with the most sophisticated techniques available? Like, did you fly to CERN and back to Hong Kong in 12 hours? What the hell are you talking about? Don’t drip that magic vial on a pregnancy test and then come lecture this man about chemistry. Although if he was really magic, why would a taser kill him? Why would a taser kill a piece of wood?

Sometimes mystery makes suspense more palpable, makes a situation entertaining. Other times, mystery is a device used to buy writing time. Wrapping Tamara up in all this mystery is one of those two things, and not the "entertaining" one. There are so many fantastic dynamics in place right now: Hook on the loose, Regina in mourning, Snow going dark. To spend a whole hour with characters we barely knew felt cheap. I feel like I didn’t get to see OUAT this week.


QUESTIONS:

... Do you miss Regina being a big bad/interacting with characters who are not Ethan Embry? 

... Tamara: What’s her deal? Was that a taser or a special magic-deflating taser?

... August: now played by a child actor going forward?

... How did you like this week’s episode?