Once Upon a Time "The Miller's Daughter" Review: Sympathy for the Devil

Once Upon a Time S02E16: "The Miller's Daughter"

First off and foremost, and I have to get this out of the way: Congratulations, Snow! Good job, girl. You took an important step this week that might very well have saved the lives of every single person in your family. Finally, someone with the audacity to call themselves a hero took a break from being frozen in time, entranced in a coma, or having their soul sucked into a wraith and took the first damn step toward self-preservation in wrangling the mother-daughter sociopaths who've been playing Storybrooke like a Judds concert from hell.

Secondly, my hubbs watched this episode alongside and it was first time he'd seen OUAT in, I’d say, about six months, and during the last commercial break he turned to me and was like, "Really it doesn’t seem anything has happened since the last time I saw this show." Which arrgh: I love that this last three-episode arc has been so focused and had such meaningful backstory, yet I’ve no doubt the writers dreamed it up in one late-night session and then linked the last three episodes together because all of the little tie-ins (Rumple and Cora being lovers or whatever, Snow's Death Candle) are pretty self-contained. Imagine if they did this all the time! Interwove the logic of episodes, one from the next, as tho 'twere one drama rendered in serial fashion! It would be like, entertaining and stuff.

Now that that’s off my plate, let's get into this episode. The FTL flashbacks were some of the most insane footage broadcast under the guise of primetime entertainment I’ve seen in some years. Masques.

Soooo many masques. Rumple with all of his face paint off his lips.

Whoops! Reapply after kissing scenes, makeup dept., reapply. 

And steamy Rose McGowan swinging for the fences with a series of super-wraught monologues about love and sensuality and child-bargaining. 

I loved it. The gowns, the cleavage, the lip liner. It was magical. And can't you just imagine the moment she and Barbara Hershey had, talking about the character at a donut shop!?

Rose McGowan: Thanks so much for meeting me, Barbara, I know you have your yoga so I definitely appreciate your time. I'm so excited to get on board with the OUAT crew and I just wanted to talk to you about Cora and who she is and what she does.

Barbara Hershey: Yes she’s a beautiful character, a strong woman, a woman with a lot of agency. She falls in love with Rumpelstiltskin because he puts her in touch with her dark side, but then she locks her heart away so she can propel her daughter toward the goal she’s always wanted, such a parable for our times, you know, sort of a commentary on how women feel pressured to balance careers and children and the pressure to have it all, and even though she is a villain, I definitely try to express through the work the sympathy I have with—

Rose McGowan: Excuse me, Barbara, I don’t want to alarm you but I'm pretty sure that guy one booth over just shook a little kernel of feces out of his pant leg and onto the floor. Oh no, he's doing it again—oh, that's awful—

Barbara Hershey: What?! 

Rose McGowan (whispering): Don't look. Don't look, he’ll come over. I thought he was on the phone or something but he’s just talking to someone who isn’t there and shaking turds down his pants. We should go.

Barbaray Hershey: I knew we should have gone to Whole Foods.

Rose McGowan: I’m sorry. Let’s just get out of here.

Barbara Hershey: Okay—FYI for Cora, bottom line, just act all cold and bitchy.

Rose McGowan: Got it. See you on set.

So, magic, it would seem, is all about harnessing emotion, as Rumple revealed both to Cora when he helped her turn straw into gold, and to Emma when he talked her through the biggest sexual release of her life/threw the protection spell.

I appreciated how the writers worked in the original Rumplestiltskin story of the Miller’s daughter spinning the hay into gold to win the hand of the prince and whatnot (although we didn’t see why she was so pissed off about having to kneel before a child; I’m guessing that was Snow’s mom but really, why pretend anyone is keeping track of this?). 

From the promos for next week's episode, I guess Snow is going to feel a lot of angst that she killed off Cora and saved Rumple’s life when she could have simply had Regina put the heart in Cora’s chest, "It would have been enough," and Cora’s pure motherly love would have united all Storybrooke into literally one seriously inbred family and banished darkness forever, but let’s review some facts:

1. Cora was a raving sociopath who raised an army of the undead and was actively planning to kill everyone Snow loved. And let's not forget Snow is hardly a stranger to violence, we’ve seen her fight ogres and threaten to kill MULAN, for crying out loud.

2. The only thing standing between Snow and certain death to all she loved was Charming, who is the dumbest and least effective person in town. I mean, in the midst of the battle to keep Regina and Cora away from the back room of a pawn shop, he somehow ended up locked outside the front door, knocked out cold. 

He’s made a long stream of bad decisions and questionable maneuvers and if he tells you to jump, duck. If he tells you to run, hide.  Snow seemed to kind of "get" that in this episode, and for that I will always love her.

3. Regina killed her dad who had a heart and who loved her and Regina loved him back, so stop telling me that real love keeps everyone happy. It doesn’t keep sociopaths happy.

4. Regina also as-good-as-killed her own mother when she shunted her through a portal into an other-realm abyss, so, let’s not be so judgy.

Whatever. Because Barbara Hershey is just a fantastic actress I was like tearing up when she finally looked at Regina with love in her heart and her heart actually in her chest and Lana Parrilla did this incredible smile back and then Cora died in her arms with that fantastic line, "It would have been enough." 

Meaning, obviously, if she had ever let herself feel, if she had focused on love, power would have been meaningless. Like, let's all sit down and sob forever. I mean, this is high melodrama—this is the sort of high morality tale melodrama Victorians would be sobbing over at a theatre or something but it’s still effective today and I am just at the mercy of Lana's eyebrows and lower lip.

And Neal clenching his dad's hand wordlessly. These effing amazing actors!!! I wish I could be there for the table reads when they have to go through these insane lines for the first time and get out their giggles.

Another moment where a fantastic actor sold me on a sort-of-insane moment: Rumple casually calling up Belle to let her know he was dying. It's sort of a faux pas to break up with someone over the phone so the etiquette here was kind of shaky, but obviously it's Robert Carlyle so his speech to Belle was just insanely romantically gratifying. Seriously you could just hear the shovelfuls of coal being swung into the roaring furnace that powers the Rumpbelle ship. Enjoy it, you maniacs. I really hope he called Belle back the moment Cora crumpled to her feet all, "Hey! Guess who’s still alive!"

Since Cora only showed up a couple weeks ago (hence Barbara Hershey’s "guest star" status), it was a safe bet that she'd be the #OneWillDie victim. And her tragic death ultimately reset the show's premise: Regina hates Snow. Snow just wants to be good and never fight back. Emma must make it all work. 

So essentially we all could have skipped through Season 2 up to this point and picked up next episode and not been too in the dark. Still, what a wild and crazy and emotionally wrought couple of episodes it's been! The last three have been sort of a miniseries unto themselves, and I appreciate it. Although I'll certainly miss Barbara Hershey’s cold, calculating Cora (and Rose McGowan’s steamy sexpot Cora). And the idea that the all-powerful macguffin dagger can always pull other villains to Storybrooke while our heroes endlessly wheedle over who they are and where they belong.


1. So does Rumple just not age, or is he several generations older than Belle?

2. Does Snow sort of understand that Charming doesn't know what he’s doing at all?

3. Does magic = brain sex?

4. When did you start feeling sexually attracted to Robert Carlyle? Was he in or out of the Rumple makeup?

5. Invisible chalk?!?!

6. How did you like this episode?

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