Once Upon a Time "The Crocodile" Review: Never-again Land

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Once Upon a Time S02E04: "The Crocodile"

Belle and Rumple fans, you got another episode last night, and it was easily the most conflict-free episode we've seen so far this season. Belle left Rumple for almost no reason (she called him an emotional coward, then sneaked out of the house instead of confronting him about a possible break-up and ate her feelings instead). Belle was kidnapped! By her own super-controlling Aussie dad? And then Rumple smoothed everything over by essentially buying her a library. (Belle is a bookworm! If she's bowled over by ice in tea, wait until someone gets her a Kindle.)

Everything was nicely done and lovely, but that doesn't change the fact that this episode made borderline no sense emotionally. After her dad tried to ERASE HER BRAIN by putting her on a rickety theme-park mining-cart ride straight out of town, she didn't even get that miffed. She just halfheartedly told her dad and Rumple, the supposed love of her life who had just saved her with his mind-bending magic, not to talk to her and limped off. Like, what an anti-climax.

Also it made me laugh that after Belle had officially separated from Rumple and assumedly gave up wearing the pretty clothes he bought her, she appeared at Granny's ready to chow down in the most unflattering outfit ever put together on this show. The Storybrooke Goodwill donation bin must have been down to the dregs for her to cobble this monstrosity together:

Okay, let me stop cyber-bullying Belle for costume choices that were not her fault. While I love Rumple and Belle in theory, on screen their relationship seems virtually baseless and hollow. I'm sorry to draw wrath from those of you who love Rumpbelle but facts is facts. We rarely see them interacting except for bickering, Rumple is constantly sneaking off to go spin on his magical spinning wheel (which, LOL LOL LOL x forever), and frankly, if you're going to have the dynamic of a guy pushing a girl away even though he loves her, you have to give the "love" side as much time and power as the "have a nice life" side. Instead Rumple keeps giving these long, rationalized speeches about his feelings or explaining where the door is and we're just supposed to understand that he's into Belle. Show me don't tell me, televison show. One crushing hug with tears in his eyes after such a speech would go far. So far.

"The Crocodile" was essentially a vehicle to introduce another villain, Captain Hook, who was the Jared Leto of his day, a dramatically emo rockstar of a ship captain who seduced Rumple's wife away from him after a couple rounds of ale and trashtalk at a tavern.

Pre-Evil Rumple was humiliated when Hook apparently kidnapped his wife to serve as a Pirate Crew Whore, and Rumple was too scared to fight for her life. But luckily he soon became Post-Evil Rumple, a.k.a the dark one, which as we all know meant he crimped his hair and started speaking with a weird Children's Theater cadence and began posturing and throwing out grandiose hand gestures while talking to people like a villain in a silent film. Such is the nature of evil.

I appreciate that someone sat him down and convinced him to stop tossing out random ear-splitting cackles this season, but seriously Evil Rumplestiltskin is so broad it's hard to take him seriously at all, much less as a villain. I could only pity the new actors playing his pirate mistress wife and her lover, Captain Hook.

It's hard enough to stand around in a bright-green room in a pirate costume and still pull off a believable performance, but add to that the fact that the person you're supposed to be reacting to and appear threatened by keeps slipping in bizarre phrases in a weird fake Italian accent. I mean, "I will gut your entire crew like-a da feeesh!" I will gut your entire crew like-a da feeesh? Did the script tell him to say it like that or was that Robert Carlyle's own wacky little spin?

Meanwhile, despite no longer being cursed, Storybrooke's future is looking dire. No money coming in, no memory if they leave, and a bunch of bad ideas circulating. The dwarves understand only mining, not geology, and so they're mining earth rock for fairy diamonds to make fairy dust. Good luck with that, guys. Careful watercolors of missing loved ones festoon the town.

David Nolan is in charge. It's a bad situation!

How is Storybrooke's economy still intact? Can people come into town without getting their brains erased? How long 'til the food runs out? BELLE WANTS TO KNOW, HOW LONG 'TIL THE FOOD RUNS OUT?!

Obviously the prospect of seeing the Neverland dimension was a big enticement going into this episode, frankly my dreams before last night were filled with CGI mermaids (hi Ariel?), Peter Pans, and Tinkerbells (Kristen Bell as Tinkerbell guys come on let's do this!), but not only did we not see Captain Hook in Neverland but it could be argued that we might never see Neverland, as Hook is already chilling at the post-apocalyptic wasteland with Cora, backstory complete. And based on the promo for next week's episode it looks like the adventures we're all interested in—Snow White teaching Emma basic math, how to kill trolls—will once again not happen. They know we want to see it so they're meting it out like precious precious fairy diamonds.

See—and I'm ranting here, sorry—this is what I don't understand about OUaT, and why putting it back-to-back with Revenge really actually hurts it quite a bit. If OUaT knows what the audience wants to see, and the writers so obviously do, why not intersperse a few vignettes with the traveling princesses, rather than use the promise of time with the princesses at some future date like a carrot on a fishing line held out in front of the old tired donkey to make it keep plodding through episodes it doesn't want to see? (The tired old donkey in this analogy is me. I am so tired guys, tired of staring at that carrot and thinking "Where is Emma? Where is Snow? Where is whatsherface? Where is Mulan?) Are the writers so unable to come up with a few 30-second scenes with Snow and the crew that would develop character (I'm not even asking for the plot to clip along, just character development) that they have to go two, three episodes without rewarding their audience with even a peak at that storyline? Instead we get to learn about... Smee? Instead we get to learn that Belle's father is abusive? (Which explains a lot about why she fell in love with Rumple when he used to shake the sh-t out of her and then throw her in a dungeon.)

I don't know, guys, I don't know. Not liking the looks of a one-off Halloween episode next week. What do you think?

QUESTIONS:

1. Rather convenient that magic lets you take a heart out of a chest without getting blood on the rental costumes/ratings, right?

2. Has any woman in the history of time ever been disappointed her husband didn’t go to war?

3. If Belle really loved Rumple, how could she leave him so soon?

4. Were you frustrated by this episode or thoroughly entertained?

5. Have you ever had a hamburger?

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