Once Upon a Time "Welcome to Storybrooke" Review: Open Your Heart to Me (Also Can We All Start 'Shipping Emma and Regina?)

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Once Upon a Time S02E17: "Welcome to Storybrooke"


I was very worried that last night’s St. Patrick’s Day episode of OUAT would involve the Charmings poking around Mr. Gold’s shop, finding a blue moon, purple horseshoe, green clover, and summoning a leprechaun to Storybrooke to steal all of the town’s milk or something. 

Instead, we got a very unique episode, with a fleeting glimpse of Jamie Dornan (my sweet sexual vanilla), a Groundhog Day-esque framing of Regina’s experience of the Storybrooke curse, and a character actually trying to straight-talk his way through the emotional bog that this show's rivalries and unforeseen familial connections have us all mired in. I’m talking, of course, about Gold fasking Regina just to let shit slide this once.

Bless the writers’ hearts, Gold brought up, word-for-word, what every fan has been screaming in their head lo this last season: What good has come of Regina’s insane feud with Snow White and her crazy-boring Storybrooke curse? And the show went all the way back to 1983 to illustrate that nothing positive has grown of this madness. Besides thorough bonings from Jamie Dornan (which were going on in FTL anyway) and a sleek haircut, Regina was just as trapped in the curse as her victims. I appreciated that they illustrated the cyclical nature of time in cursed Storybrooke, even if it was just a cheap excuse to put Meghan Ory in not one but a baker’s half-dozen of ho outfits. Round of applause for Meghan for being able to pull off corset-tie thigh-high boots! That's an accomplishment few can boast.

Regina is easily the most complicated character on OUAT: She’s evil, but much more likable than most of the good guys. She’s shrewd and powerful but insanely dumb about how people work. It’s almost too much to ask the audience to believe that Regina could be as dense about basic human behavior and socialization as she was in this episode. Like, FTL may have had peasants and weird fashions and floppy hats, but from what we’ve seen, relationships were no different there than they are on Earth. In trying to ingratiate herself with the little boy who wandered into town, Regina showed all the emotional logic of a space alien.

Which is part of why she’s now BY FAR the saddest character on the show, cursed with an inability to tell her ass from her elbow, emotionally speaking. It’s 99 percent Lana Parrilla’s depth as an actress, but Regina communicates this profound loneliness in an incredibly sympathetic way, and last night was another huge redeeming moment for her, as she refused to both kill Snow or entrance Henry. 

The more Regina develops as this three-dimensional, fallen-angel archetype, the more perfect the idea becomes of Regina and Emma coming together… that way. Oh yes, that way. Guys, think about it: Emma is the savior, she’s the literal essence of true love, and the person who needs the transformative nature of true love the most in this series is so obviously Regina. And let’s be real, those two actresses have so much damn chemistry. The show is always at its best when they share the screen.

Plus, a lesbian main character romantic plotline on a mainstream network drama is not the commercial impossibility it once was. To its credit, ABC recently bought a pilot about two moms raising a family of foster kids together and I just want to say: Please go there, OUAT. It would be so seriously epically romantic, and it could create such crazy conflicts (Mary Margaret, for instance, might freak out about being mother-in-law to her stepmother) which would be so much more interesting than Ethan Embry hatching a viral video campaign.

Because yes, Ethan Embry officially has his quotient of revenge plot/parental separation drama backstory—a backstory cemented by the reveal of a LEATHER BOONDOGGLE KEYCHAIN. Dun dun DUNH!

You can’t be a character on this show and not have had your parent cruelly separated from you/killed before your eyes/turned into a darling wooden puppet. Seriously, go down the line, every single character is hauling around a steamer trunk full of biological mommy/daddy baggage. (Or in this case, a literal boondoggle. Which his father gave to him so he’d always be with him? Crafty, dad. Crafty and crappy.) 

So Ethan’s going to revenge his father, I guess, by bringing the real world into Storybrooke! Except Regina can apparently hide Storybrooke really easily and also the world doesn’t care. Oh, you’ve got magical phone videos you say? Well, that’s great, but no one cares. Remember that meteor that crashed into Russia and all the news about it was subsumed in less than eight hours by One Direction gossip? Yeah: No one gives a shit about magical things in real life for more than five hours. Its called a news cycle.


And finally, Snow’s extreme, suicidal depression about killing a woman who was out to destroy, um, every member of her family… I was a child of the '90s, and in the '90s women were encouraged not to be victims. Take self-defense classes! Be, be, aggressive! Fight back! Jennifer Lopez has had ENOUGH! Snow herself slaughtered a passel of knights in a bloodbath not unlike John Cleese’s wedding massacre in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail.

But killing Cora got Snow so depressed and regretful that she asked Regina to pull out her heart and crush it? Um, aren’t you the same lady who karate-chopped the Mad Hatter straight out a window? And then there was that weird telenovela moment where Regina was crying because she realized in a way that she had won because Snow now has a couple black pixels in her heart and Snow was crying because she realized Regina wasn’t going to kill her and that was the worst revenge of all and then Regina shoved her heart back in and Snow went cross-eyed like a cartoon character punched in the groin.

Like, what? Snow, can you please just enjoy a full week being around your husband, daughter, and grandkid you haven’t seen for 28 years before volunteering yourself as a human sacrifice? Or try some of our Earth magic, it’s called Valium. Or, I don’t know, maybe redeem yourself by making a difference in this world/the one you came from/positive works?

Snow’s weird “please murder me” moment was... seriously stupid on many levels. It didn’t fit with what we know about her character or her motivations or the internal logic of the show. I’d much rather see Regina snatch Emma’s heart in the figurative sense. Pretty please, OUAT?

 

QUESTIONS:

1. Emma & Regina: Couldn’t this open up the world and complicate all the conflicts in an incredible way? Or is Regina being Emma’s step-grandma too big a mental hurdle?

2. Snow’s suicide moment: illogical or a redeeming moment for the character?

3. So… Henry was going to blow up a well? TROUBLED.

4. Do you have any interest in seeing how the real world reacts with Storybrooke, or does that just seem like a dead end?

5. Has Gold called Belle back or what?

6. Waste of Graham or you’ll take what you can get?

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