Holy hell they did it right last night. Once Upon a Time is not playing around, and "The Shepherd" proved that not only do the show's writers have a solid roadmap for the season, but that the first stop is breaking our hearts.
The real-world plotline of this episode was unapologetically romantic: David, fresh out of a coma, aggressively pursued Margaret Blanchard, leaving his wife and begging Margaret to meet him at the Toll Bridge if she feels the same way. On his way there, Regina hustled him into Mr. Gold's shop, where his fake memory was implanted and he remembered his wife, so he confessed to Margaret that while he has intense feelings for her, it's only right for him to give his marriage a chance. Great sequence of events! Plenty to build on going forward! I effing hated it. I was literally muttering "I hate this show" and cringing with emotional pain. I know that opposition and obstacles are the crucible in which the best TV couples are formed, but to make David's conflict an internal one (whether it's the curse implanting false memories or not) undermines the fairytale romance his relationship with Margaret is supposed to epitomize.
The dance of will they/won't they is one of the most vital parts of a series staying interesting. But that dance has more meaning for characters who haven't already gotten married and had a baby together. Emma and the hipster police chief: Now those are two characters I would like to see get caught up in an agonizingly slow-build romance. I don't know if they necessarily like each other, so their eventual pairing would be compelling. Snow and Prince Charming have mixed DNA, so for him to look at a windmill and decide to go back to his fake wife is not piquing my interest in their relationship so much as punishing me for caring about them in the first place. It doesn't help that Josh Dallas might seriously be into Ginnifer Goodwin. I mean, if the acting he's doing opposite his fairytale mom is any indication, I don't think that crackling energy in his scenes with Ginnifer is acting. #StartingRumors
Meanwhile, the fairytale world plot laid out Prince Charming's backstory, the best one so far but with some of the worst CGI yours and mine eyes hath ever seen.
What we thought was a mano-y-mano fight on top of a precipice was the Prince auditioning to kill a dragon for King Kenneth Branagh. Then this happened:
Oh no! Luckily, the slain prince turned out to be one of Rumpelstiltskin's stable of stolen babies, and he had a twin brother, so the deal with King Midas is still on!
Twin Brother/Shepherd Charming had an idyllic life frolicking with lambkins, winding strips of leather around his wrists, and sharing a cottage with a middle school art teacher. Rumpelstiltskin tracked him down and whisked him off to slay the dragon in his dead brother's place (which he did using shepherding skills, don't ask), and as a reward King Midas gave him his daughter's hand in marriage.
This tied in beautifully with the "Snow Falls" episode, made Prince Charming more accessible and dimensional as a character, and reinforced Rumpelstiltskin as the hub of all the show's plotlines. Impressive! Also, Emma discovered the sheriff practically throwing himself out of Regina's third-story window during her night shift, so now she knows about that emotional/physical/magickal/sensual/sexual alliance.
I was surprised that Emma's only objection was that Henry was in the same house. Emma, that house is the size of a train station! The sheriff and Regina could have an oompah-loompah jug-band jamboree in the master bedroom and Henry would still be obliviously writing fan fiction about his therapist 45 rooms away. Chill! Also, I now have so many questions about cops. Can you just "BECOME" a deputy without graduating from a police academy? Can you really run around town policing people in a motorcycle jacket, high-heel boots, and jeggings? Are Emma and Sheriff Graham the only police in Storybrooke?
True enough, this episode was brilliant, engrossing, and well written, but yeah, it effing killed me. It's embarrassing that I care enough about these characters to be so butt-hurt about Prince Charming. Maybe it's the childhood association that makes me so protective of these characters, or maybe the actors are simply earning their paychecks. Maybe it's frustration with people who make themselves martyrs to ethics that disregard honesty: If David loves Margaret, it's immoral to settle for his wife because their relationship is a lie. Regardless, the Prince/Snow White relationship has me hooked, I have to keep watching, and I will accept it on any terms I can get it. Unless Margaret hooks up with this guy:
That's the day my cold coal heart flips the kill switch and I mentally re-classify this show as a RenFaire soap to keep myself from suffering a nervous breakdown.
... How delicious was it to have all grown-ups onscreen and no Henry?
... Is Sheriff Graham a frontman in an indie band? And where did he get that bear claw, because it looked delicious.
... Is Ginnifer Goodwin married? And should her husband be concerned about Josh Dallas?
... Which fairytale relics did you spot in Mr. Gold's shop? (To name a couple: Alice's tea party set, Aladdin's lamp)
... Isn't gold way too soft to make an effective sword? Metallurgists, let us know!
... Did you love this episode, or did it hurt your heart too much?