Column: Dark Matter: Review: Once Upon A Time 2.17: Welcome to Storybrooke

 

[spoilers ahead]

Written by: Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss

Recap: Storybrooke, 1983: Kurt Flynn and his son Owen are camping and making woven keychains, with father giving son a special keychain his dad once gave him, when a storm suddenly appears and the two rush into the tent. As they watch, a cloud of green lightning spreads across the sky. It’s the curse, making its way into the world.

The next morning, their car damaged from the storm, father and son go hiking in the woods to try to find help, when they come across Storybrooke. Kurt is shocked, since they drove through that area the previous day and there was no town there. Kurt and Owen are greeted by Sheriff Graham, who welcomes them to the town.

That same morning, Regina wakes up in bed, ecstatic that the curse worked. She goes through the town and sees Rump walking down the street, Gepetto fixing a store’s sign, Jiminy Cricket walking his dog, Red Riding Hood and Granny arguing, none of them knowing who they really are. She tracks down Snow, who is teaching in the local school, and questions her to find out what she remembers, which is nothing. She takes “Mary Margaret” down to the local hospital and introduces her to a comatose David, asking her if she knows who he is. She’s even happier when Mary Margaret says she has no idea.

That same day, Regina is sitting in the diner when Owen and Kurt walk in with the Sheriff. She’s shocked to realize that these two are outsiders and orders the mechanic to rush the job on their car to get them out. The next day, she runs into them again. This time, she ends up being charmed by the little boy when he gives her a keychain he made.

Several days go by of Regina having the same day, over and over again, and being the only one who realizes that it’s the same day, over and over again, and she realizes that maybe the curse isn’t such a blessing for her after all. She goes to see Gold and starts to rant to him about the curse not working out the way she wanted, when she realizes that even he doesn’t seem to remember (though I honestly can’t tell if he really doesn’t or is just tricking her).

Looking for something more, Regina asks Kurt and Owen to dinner, and makes them lasagna. Her cooking isn’t quite that good, so she tries to win over Owen by asking him to help her make apple turnovers for dessert. When the boy goes into the kitchen, Kurt admits to her that things have been difficult for them, since Owen’s mother died six months earlier. He thought the camping trip would be good for Owen, but the little boy is still struggling.

Regina and Owen make the turnovers together. They bond as Owen tells her how unhappy he is back home, because all the kids look at him differently since his mother died. Kurt comes in. Regina asks him and Owen to stay, to make a new start in Storybrooke. Owen is happy with the idea, but Kurt is less so, explaining that their lives are back in New Jersey and they have to return to them.

Regina goes to the mechanic’s and tells him that she wants him to delay the repairs on Kurt’s car. He tells her it’s too late; Kurt already picked it up. Back at her office, Regina pulls out Graham’s heart and orders him to stop the car, arrest Kurt for drunk driving, and bring her Owen. However, Kurt, who has come to thank her and tell her goodbye, overhears her. He starts to back away while she tries to tell him he didn’t hear what he heard, when Graham rushes in and tries to handcuff Kurt. Kurt manages to knock the chest that contains Graham’s heart onto the floor, stopping Graham momentarily. He runs out and gets into the car with Owen, speeding off.

Kurt drives like a crazy person, desperately trying to get out of town, with Graham and Regina following after him. At the town line, Graham cuts off Kurt’s truck. Kurt tells his son to get out of the car and run – don’t look back – and call his Uncle to come and get him. The little boy starts crying, but does as his father says. Graham and Kurt struggle with each other, as Regina calls to the fleeing Owen. Owen stops, terrified at what is happening. Regina comes to him and tells him that she just wants them to be together. Wouldn’t he like that, too? But Owen says, not like this. She lets him go and he runs off, his father being shoved into the police car.

Later, Owen brings two police officers to the town line, but the town is gone. He tries to explain to them that Storybrooke was there, but they tell him there is no Storybrooke and there never has been. As he stands there, crying, telling his father that he will find him, we see Regina right in front of him, on the other side of a magical barrier, tears in her eyes. She reaches out to him, but stops before her hand goes through the magic, watching as the crying boy is led away by the cops.

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Storybrooke: Regina is crying over her mother’s coffin when Gold comes in to pay his respects. She accuses him of having killed her mother and he tells her that it was desperate times. When she vows her vengeance on Snow, he reaches out to her, telling her that she still hasn’t learned her lesson. She can’t have everything and having her revenge against Snow will just cost her Henry. However, instead of listening to his genuine words of wisdom, Regina vows that she will have it all: her vengeance and her son back.

Back at the apartment, Snow is despondent in bed, and her husband, daughter and grandson are all worried about her. David and Emma try to keep the truth from Henry about what happened, but he demands that they stop lying to him. Emma comes clean. When he hears that Snow had a role in Cora’s death, he refuses to believe it, stating that Snow is too good to have done anything even slightly shady.

This annoying family conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Gold, who is there to warn them that Regina is out to murder Snow. David demands that Gold owes them, not just because they are family, but because Snow’s actions helped save his life.

At her family crypt, Regina tears through Cora’s things, looking for something in particular. She appears to find it in the shreds of one of her mother’s dresses: a scroll, with a very special spell on it.

David and Gold make it to the crypt where they see that Regina has already gone. Gold manages to figure out what she went after by what is missing from Cora’s spell box.

Back at the apartment, Gold tells Emma and David that the curse Regina is going to enact is the “Curse of the Empty-Hearted,” which is about making someone think they love you. An eavesdropping Henry realizes that Regina means him. Gold tells Henry that this curse is the only way Regina can get everything she wants: Henry’s love, as well as her vengeance on Snow. He tells them that to enact the curse, Regina will need the heart of the person she hates the most, Snow. Emma demands that Gold help them, but he tells them that he can’t help them. This is a blood feud and this feud won’t end until more blood is shed. He suggests that Regina’s death might end it. Henry is appalled at the mere idea that David and Emma might consider it. Emma follows Henry when he runs off, leaving the two men behind to figure out how to stop Regina and protect Snow.

Emma takes Henry to Granny’s so he can have a sitdown with his dad. Neal offers Henry a chance to come to New York with him, to protect him from Regina’s spell, since magic won’t work in New York. But Henry wants to destroy magic, instead. He suggests to his dad that everything will be okay if magic is gone. Neal understands, but still tells Henry that he will be safer in New York, just for now, and Henry agrees.

Greg comes over to ask Red to pack up his food, since he wants to go hiking. Emma queries him on the fact that he hasn’t left, yet. He tells them both that the place is growing on him. Once he leaves, Emma goes over to see how it went with Neal and Henry. Neal tells her that Henry agreed. But when she calls him on Henry having gone to the bathroom with his backpack, they realize Henry has ducked out, instead.

Regina goes to Snow’s apartment to grab her heart, but Gold is there and stops her. She taunts Snow that Gold won’t always be there to protect her.

Henry is dashing through the woods when he literally runs into Greg. Both quiz each other on why they are out there and both lie. Greg takes a picture of Henry’s backpack label with his phone and the two split off. A few minutes later, Greg calls Regina. He tells her he saw Henry in the woods and he looked upset.

David, Emma, Neal, and Red track down Henry, following his trail to the mines. David realizes he stole dynamite and Neal realizes what for: to destroy magic.

Regina finds Henry at the well where Gold brought magic into Storybrooke, trying to blow it up with the dynamite. She whisks the dynamite away and tells Henry she can’t lose him. Henry begs her not to enact the curse and not to kill Snow, but Regina tells him that they can have everything. He tells her, “Not like this,” echoing Owen’s words to her.

David, Emma and Neal come upon the two and a standoff ensues, with Henry standing in the middle, screaming about wanting to end magic and how they are all the same, excusing Regina for all of her actions. He begs Regina to help him get rid of the magic, but she says she can’. She does burn the curse, though. Henry thanks her and then goes off with David, Emma and Neal.

Back at the apartment, Gold gets a call that Regina gave up the curse and tells Snow. As he’s leaving, she asks him how he does it – live with himself after everything bad he has done. Gold tells her that you tell yourself that you did the right thing. If you say it often enough, eventually you might start believing it.

Later that same day, Snow shows up on Regina’s doorstep and begs her to kill her. She tells her that this will continue with other people dying, so just kill her and end it all. Regina agrees and pulls out Snow’s heart, but then laughs at what she sees. She shows Snow her heart and there’s a little black mark on it. She explains that Snow has darkened her heart because of what she did. As a result, the darkness will continue to spread until it consumes Snow, destroying her family. Then Regina will get everything she wanted: her vengeance and her son back. She laughs at Snow as Snow begs her to kill her and puts the heart back in, leaving her crying on the doorstep.

The two women aren’t alone, however. Greg has been watching and filming the entire thing. He gets back into the car. As he starts it, we see the keychain that Kurt gave to little Owen. He looks at it and promises his father that he will find him.

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Review: So, we finally find out who Greg is and it turns out he’s another child whose childhood Regina ruined! Awesome. Her track record really is lovely, isn’t it? Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, the Mad Hatter’s daughter Grace, Owen, and even Henry. And those are just the children we have personally seen. There were a lot more in that school whose lives were ruined when Regina enacted the curse. I’m always kind of shocked that the show seems to think that I should feel sorry for her, when everything she touches she destroys because she seems to think that her wants and needs should come before everyone else. Add in watching her with the man she raped on a daily basis in this episode and it just really emphasized to me how evil this character is. And pretty much truly reprehensible.

The problem I am finding with this show is that there seems to be no balance between the evil and the good of Regina and Snow. Regina can be evil and get away with everything, time and time and time again, and yet Snow is supposed to be suffering and turning her heart dark because she finally did what she needed to to protect her family? And they are supposed to be somehow comparable? No. Regina did what she did to herself because she wanted things and decided that she was allowed to trample and destroy and murder anyone and everyone to get them. Snow – backed into a corner by the mother-and-daughter duo who murdered her parents and plotted to murder the rest of her family – did what she did in desperation because she was trying to protect everyone she loves. There is a huge difference and the fact that the show is trying to imply that there is a sameness to the women’s actions, that Snow’s heart is starting to darken as a result, is frankly, pretty asinine. And annoying.

This is where I get frustrated with the show. I understand that they are ABC and Disney, but this rigid view of Good, that Good must always be passive and righteous and continue to allow evil to walk all over it because those following that path are too “good” to really fight back for fear of sullying their “goodness,” is frustrating. There’s a huge difference between doing what you have to when all other options are gone and you have to stop evil from destroying innocents, and selling out your morality for easy fixes and quick answers. Yet, the writers can’t seem to accept that, so instead they give us this rigid idea of “Good” that looks like weakness and cowardice, rather than righteousness. I have no problem with Snow feeling badly for what she was forced to do. I do have a problem when the show acts like she is somehow on par with Regina and Cora for it, and that she was wrong to do it. Just no.

As much as I liked Henry, I have to say that I am getting quite fed up with him these past few episodes. Because he’s a child, I will cut him some slack, but his self-righteous brattiness is starting to get on my nerves. The fact that he is trying to lump everyone together, as if they are all the same, is getting to be too much. They need to dial him down. Pronto.

It’s too bad that the show didn’t play on the parallels of both Neal as a child, wanting to get rid of magic to save his father, and Henry wanting to get rid of magic as a way to “save” everyone he loves. I was really shocked that they didn’t have Neal bring that up. I hope they do something with that later on, because if anyone can understand what Henry is feeling right now, it’s his dad.

And how horrifying is it that Regina wanted to take away her son’s free will, just to get him to stop loving other people and only love her? No, that’s not a mother’s love. That’s a woman’s obsession with having what she wants, regardless of the cost to other people. She really didn’t learn, because having a zombie for a son wouldn’t make her any happier than having her enemy as an amnesiac zombie.

The show succeeded in making me interested in Greg Mendel, though, with this reveal that he is another child that Regina’s selfishness destroyed. I am totally rooting for him, and I hope everyone finds out what she did to him and his dad. Especially Henry. Greg and Kurt deserve justice. While it won’t change what happened to them, and the fact that Owen lost his father and his childhood, at least it will be something. I wonder if Kurt is still alive? Poor guy. At least he had the comfort of knowing that his son was saved.

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It’s funny because, for all of the lack of nuances in the writing for Regina and Snow, there are so many shades of gray in Rump/Gold that are just fascinating. It’s a shame that they can’t spread some of that around to some of the other characters, though I really do think that Regina is too far gone in her self-righteous victimhood to ever really be redeemed. At least for me. Watching her destroy the lives of children kind of takes away any sympathy I can ever have for her. But maybe they could do some of that shade of gray with Snow. Instead of acting as if she has to be as “pure” as her namesake, have her grow some depth, realize that there are shades of gray out there. I liked her and Gold’s short scene, where she asked him how he lives with himself and he explained it. There’s a vast disparity between what he has done and what she did, but it was still a good scene.

I also enjoyed that in the scene between Gold and Regina in Cora’s crypt. He was explaining to her that she is always going to lose until she lets go of it all and actually doing it in a way that made him seem to really care about her. Only, once again, she refuses to listen because she thinks that she can have it all. At least she admitted it in the end – she never learns from her mistakes. But her admission doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s damned tiring watching it over and over again.

I wasn’t sure about flashing back to the early days of Storybrooke, but I actually did find it interesting, seeing everyone trapped in the curse. Kind of sad but interesting. Ginnifer Goodwin did a good job of channeling the meekness of Mary Margaret again. Despite my frustration with the writing for their characters, both Ginnifer and Lana Parrilla did a good job with what they were given. I just wish that what they were given wasn’t so annoying to me.

All in all, this was a good episode, despite my intense frustration with the writing for the female characters. It was well-acted. I really felt for Kurt and Owen, and it succeeded in turning Greg from an annoying interloper into a sympathetic character that I’m finding myself rooting for. I hope he gets some justice and some vindication, and I really hope he finds out what happened to his father. Little Owen was just heartbreaking, standing there, crying, as he lost all hope of anyone believing him and helping him find his dad. It just made me want to slap Regina even more, watching her cry as if she were a victim, while the little boy whose life she just devastated is heartbroken.

Next episode: Neal’s fiancĂ©e Tamara comes to town and Snow finds someone in the woods who might be able to help her with what she is going through.

You can watch “Welcome to Storybrooke” on Amazon Instant Video here.

About Heather S. Vina

Heather's been a fan of science fiction since she was five years old and developed a crush on Captain Kirk, while watching reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series. A huge Anglophile, she loves reading and watching (and mocking!) TV, but hasn't figured out a way to make a living doing either, yet. But she lives in hope!

Heather S. VinaColumn: Dark Matter: Review: Once Upon A Time 2.17: Welcome to Storybrooke