I've been enjoying Once Upon A Time lately, but my one moan was always that it seemed a bit stuck - there wasn't much story development. That changed this week - the show seemed to have a lot of momentum. Plus, you can never go wrong with a bit of Richard Schiff. (Toby! From The West Wing! TOBY!)
I think the episode largely succeeded because it had a lot of Emma (and Jennifer Morrison's been on great form) and a lot of evil-Regina, which is always fun. When the storm damages Henry's secret castle, he's devastated to discover Regina knows about it... and Emma's similarly angry. When Regina decides to knock it down for 'safety reasons', there's even more fury in Storybrooke.
Anyway, Sydney's not happy with Regina either - she fired him from the paper, which seems a bit of a stretch for the mayor, but hey, it's Regina. Emma doesn't want to team up with him, but when Regina has another few snarky comments for her, she cracks and calls him up.
It turns out that Sydney's discovered that some money's gone missing from the town budget, but Emma wants to remain above board in their investigation. Still, when her brakes are cut, all bets are off, and she bugs Regina's office (and even breaks into it). This whole storyline - about means justifying ends and so on - was eerily and weirdly reminiscent of the phone hacking scandal. Bizarre. The only difference is, this time we're on the side of the hacker.
After following Regina to a mysterious meeting in the woods (and getting her brakes cut), Emma eventually figures out that Regina's planning to build a luxury house in the woods using town funds. Naturally, she brings it up in the meeting (and we all scream no, because of course Regina has an explanation.) It turns out that actually she's planning a playground. Ouch.
So Emma's in trouble - Regina bans her from seeing Henry, and there's a really touching moment when she speaks to him over the walkie talkies and promises she'll figure something out. And actually, she's in even more trouble than she realises - after confirming her alliance with Sydney, the sneaky monster goes behind her back to Regina and it emerges that the entire thing has been a plot (he was even the one who cut Emma's brakes). It's genuinely quite creepy when he promises Regina: "Everything she does, everywhere she goes, you'll know about it."
Sure, you could argue that it's a pretty clichéd ending - the double agent trope - but to be honest, I'd been taken in by Sydney's fake anger towards Regina, and I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing how things turn out. Finally, I'm feeling more invested in the show and urging Emma and Henry to triumph.
Of course, we had the fantasy world to explore, too - and again, that was full of double crossing and malicious smiles, which was enjoyable. It turns out Sydney is actually the genie in the magic lamp (yes, Giancarlo Esposito is a genie, and yes, this is amazing.) He's a pretty bored genie, actually - he reminded me mainly of Robin Williams's fed-up genie in Disney's Aladdin - so it's just as well he's awakened by bumbling King Richard Schiff.
The King's got everything he desires (bless) so he decides to free the genie... and, what's more, he'll give the genie the third wish in the lamp. The genie decides not to use it - he's seen the bad things wishes can do - but soon he's installed in the King's palace and having a whale of a time.
The Evil Queen, though, isn't having so much fun - in fact, she's fed up that the King is still in love with his dead first wife. And the genie repays the King's huge kindness to him by falling in love with her. This is probably the part of the episode I had the most problems with - could the genie really betray the King like that after everything he'd done for him?
The King soon finds out that the Queen's heart lies elsewhere - though he doesn't know precisely where - and locks her in her chambers. When her father arrives with a box for her, the genie agrees to deliver it, only to find out that it contains venomous snakes from his homeland. The Queen's planning to kill herself - it's the only way she can be free! But the genie won't stand for that... instead, he offers to make sure that the King is the one to die.
He does just that, killing the King with the snakes (poor Richard Schiff. Sad faces all round.) But the betrayals aren't over - the Evil Queen chose snakes from the genie's homeland to pin the murder on him. She was never really in love with him at all! Naturally, the Genie's furious, and he uses the lamp to wish to be with the Queen forever, and never leave her side. Unfortunately, he should have paid attention to all the problems faced by previous wishees - he ends up trapped in that magic mirror. Yikes!
So I was largely appeased by this episode of Once Upon A Time, which upped the intrigue factor and seemed to push things forward. I have questions now - will Emma triumph? Is Regina using Sydney the way the Queen used the genie? And what is that mysterious writer man doing in Storybrooke? Hopefully the answers will keep coming...
- While the main storyline focused on Emma/Regina/Sydney etc, we did get a few other snippets. Like Mary and David continuing their adorable romance (but keeping it all top secret.)
- ... And also, the weird mysterious writer taking a great interest in Henry. And then we find out he has Henry's book. What on Earth could be going on there?
- The graffiti to make "toll bridge" into "troll bridge" was cute.
- Having both the Evil Queen and Regina saying to the Genie/Sydney: "I don't know what I'd do without you" was a nice touch.
- I like that it took quite a lot for Emma to agree to dubious means to catch Regina... and even then, she kept having doubts. She's a good girl, really.
- "The bitch tried to have me killed! I'm finding her." I love sparky Emma. Her little speech at the council meeting was pretty good, too.
- Emma's excuse that some kids broke in to Regina's office was poor. Rubbish.
- I still don't know whether or not we should be trusting Gold - what do you think? Does he really want to help Emma? Should she accept his help?
- Richard Schiff was brilliant in this episode, so I hope we somehow get some further flashbacks to see more of him.
- Just when I'm starting to feel sympathy for the Evil Queen (she feels neglected by the King, she can never live up to his former wife etc) she goes and ruins it. I love it.