Column: Dark Matter: Review: Once Upon A Time 2.18: Selfless, Brave, and True

 

[spoilers ahead]

Written by: Robert Hull and Kalinda Vazquez

Recap: Recent Past: August wakes up in October 2011 in Phuket, Thailand, at 8:15 am. to find that his leg is starting to turn to wood. This is the exact time that Emma has appeared in Storybrooke and the clock starts to move.

Desperate to stop his wood transformation, he discovers a magical man named “The Dragon,” who promises to help him for a personal item (the string of a necklace that August wears, which is the string that Gepetto used to animate him) and $10,000. Alas, August doesn’t have the money, but he does run into another patient of the Dragon’s who does: Tamara. Yep, Neal’s Tamara and August met in 2011. She seems nice enough, claiming that she has incurable cancer and has been traveling the world, searching for a cure. But when August steals her money and gets his cure from the Dragon, she runs August down and takes it from him.

Later, Tamara appears at the Dragon’s house. The Dragon has discovered that she doesn’t have cancer. She admits she has been searching the world for magic, though doesn’t tell him why. She analyzed the liquid he gave August and can find no known substance in it. She knows the Dragon is the real deal. She threatens the Dragon, but he puffs himself up with his magic and moves to threaten her in return. She pulls out a Taser and kills him.

Back in the States, August is talking to Neal and telling him that Emma has made it to Storybrooke. S is starting to break the curse, but not fast enough for August, who is afraid he will completely turn to wood. Neal is concerned for Emma, and concerned that his father will remember and come after him. August tells him he will send him a postcard when the curse is broken. Tamara is watching the whole thing. When August leaves, she deliberately runs into Neal, setting up their entire relationship.

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Storybrooke: A still-despondent Snow tells David that she needs to go into the woods and think. While there and practicing her arrow shooting, she discovers a mysterious trailer. Inside the trailer, she finds August, now fully wooden. He explains to her that when the curse was broken, he woke up this way and he can’t bear for anyone to see him. She tries to convince him to return home, that Emma and Gepetto would be thrilled to see him, but he doesn’t want to, feeling that he doesn’t deserve a second chance after everything he has done.

Henry and Emma visit Neal at Granny’s, Henry asking Neal to go through the book and tell him about his time in Fairytale Land. Neal agrees to, but first, he tells Emma that Tamara called him. She went to the storage unit to get some things and Hook wasn’t there. Hook is on the loose. He tells her that Tamara is also on her way to town. Emma is shocked and worried that between her and Greg, the place is being overrun by strangers. But then she turns it around and tells Neal that if he really cares about Tamara, he should be honest with her.

Tamara arrives and the foursome have an awkward breakfast, where Neal tells the story of how he and Tamara met: Seems he accidentally ran into her and spilled her coffee all over her then offered her his scarf to cover it up. Emma and Henry leave. Neal tries to tell Tamara the truth about where he came from, showing her a picture of himself in the Fairytale book. Tamara reacts angrily, not believing him, telling him that if he just wants to be with Emma, he could tell her the truth instead of lying to her. She storms out.

Later, Snow goes to see Gepetto and Emma, and tells them that she has found Pinocchio/August. Tamara overhears and makes it to the trailer before them. Tamara has a confrontation with August and lies to him that the cure the Dragon gave him cured her. He realizes she is with Neal. She admits she is, but that he knows nothing about any of this. She tells him that she still has some of the cure left in her apartment and he can have it, if he promises to leave town forever.

Trying to help August, Snow, Emma and Gepetto track down the Blue Fairy, to see if she can help August, but she tells them that he had already come to see her after the curse was broken. He asked her to turn him back into what he once was, but she explains that he already had. When she turned him into a real boy the first time, it was based on his being selfless, brave and truthful. Because he wasn’t, the spell was broken and there’s nothing she can do to reverse it.

Snow brings Emma and Gepetto into the woods. While the three are hiking there, Gepetto confesses to Snow that she could have gone with Emma to the new world, but that he tricked her so he could save his son, instead. At first, Snow slaps Gepetto, shocking herself and Emma. But then she quickly accepts his apology and tells him that she understands because she would have done whatever it took to save her child, too. The trio make it to August’s trailer, but he is already gone.

Driving out of town, August uses Tamara’s car. While he is driving, the photo of her and her “grandmother” falls out of the visor: the same one she gave the Dragon as her “personal” item. August realizes the truth about Tamara and turns back around. He makes it to the police station, but no one is there. He calls Emma and starts to tell her he has to warn her, when Tamara cuts the line. He tells her he knows that she killed the Dragon: He went back there after she did to beg the Dragon to cure him and found him dead. She admits it. He tells her that he won’t let her hurt these people. She says that she can’t let him ruin things for her. She pulls out the same Taser that killed the Dragon, zapping August with it.

Emma, David, Snow, Gepetto, Henry, and Neal make it to the police station, to see a stumbling, mortally wounded August come out. Gepetto cries over his son and August tells him he’s sorry. But when he turns to warn Emma about “her,” he passes away. Henry realizes that if he really died as “selfless, brave, and truthful,” maybe the Blue Fairy can save him.

The Blue Fairy arrives and tells them that Henry’s conclusions are correct. If August died unselfishly, she might be able to return him to life. She tries and it works, but, instead of adult August, it’s little boy Pinocchio, alive again. Tamara arrives on the scene and tenses at this change of events. But when Emma asks Pinocchio if he remembers what he was going to tell her, he says he doesn’t and promises he is being truthful about it.

Everyone disperses. Neal turns to Tamara and asks if she is okay. She admits she believes him now. When he asks if she wants to return to New York, she tells him she wants to stay with him.

Back at the apartment, Snow admits to David what happened with Regina and tells him about the mark on her heart. He promises her that they will fight this and they will save her.

Emma apologizes to Henry for lying to him about Neal and promises that she won’t lie to him again. He just needs to stop pushing her away. He agrees and the two hug.

Meanwhile, Regina thanks Greg with a free apple pie and admits to him that he seems familiar. He claims never to have met her before, but, later in his room, Regina comes and confronts him, telling him she has realized he is Owen. Instead of making any kind of amends, Regina puts him off when he confronts her over her not having aged and tells him that his father left town right after Owen did all those years ago. When Owen claims not to believe her, she says it’s the truth. His father isn’t here. She then vaguely threatens him to leave.

Sometime later, Owen receives a call from “her” and asks her where she has been. There’s a knock on his door and “she” is there: It’s Tamara. She tells him that Neal is in the shower and she only has a little bit of time. Greg tells her they should make the most of it. The two start making out, closing the door.

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Review: So, August is back! And turned to wood. I’ve seen some complaints about the CGI on wooden August, but I actually thought it was pretty damn good. I loved the eye effect and the whole wooden hinging on his neck. Plus, the wooden animation looked a lot like Eion Bailey. This is one of the few times I think the show really did a good job on making something so fake look pretty decently real. Much better than the Giant episodes and some of the dragon effects!

But other than that, I wasn’t that impressed with this episode. I really liked August in the beginning. While I still like Eion Bailey, I have to admit that finding out what August did to Emma (and Neal) kind of killed a lot of my interest in his character. And then seeing that, even right before the show started he was still being selfish and self-interested, didn’t help. So, watching him suffer over the repercussions of his own actions just wasn’t that interesting to me. Neither was it interesting to watch him steal from what he thought was a dying woman to save himself. I just lost a lot of sympathy for him.

I was also bothered by the huge parallels they were trying to make between Snow and August, which did not work for me, either. I know that Snow was looking at August getting a second chance as hope for her getting a second chance, but since the difference in motivations between what she did (using desperate means to save her family from an evil that had been tormenting them for ages, and already killed both of her parents and cost her her daughter) and what he did (engaging in hedonism and selfishness instead of living up to the promise he made to his father and the Blue Fairy) were so far from each other, it didn’t work for me. At all.

I did like that Gepetto confessed to Snow and admitted that he burdened Pinocchio with a burden no child should have. I didn’t blame Snow for slapping him, but I also liked that she realized she would have done the same thing. On the one hand, what Gepetto did to the Charming family was pretty horrible, but, on the other, he was trying to save his son from a curse. It was a no-win situation, period, and the person responsible for it all was Regina.

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Speaking of Regina: Nice that, when faced with the adult self of the child whose life she ruined by trying to steal him away, Regina showed no shame or remorse. This is why I can’t buy Regina as a sympathetic and rootable character. This is someone whose life she destroyed, someone who had never done anything to her, someone she once claimed to love, and all she does is smirk at him and threaten him. And no way do I believe that she let his father go. I really do hope that Owen’s father is alive, but I fear he will have aged a great deal while he was Regina’s prisoner.

I really thought that Tamara was going to end up someone from Neverland. I had no idea she was going to be so villainous, though! I don’t like her – though, granted, I don’t think we are supposed to! But I do like her better than Hook as a villain. I like it that she’s more straightforward. Owen, however, is not as straightforward. Unlike Tamara so far, he has more of a reason to be in town and hating magic – and the town, as well. He doesn’t seem to be murderous and malicious like Tamara, and I have no idea who is using whom, or if they are using each other. But frankly, I’m rooting for him against Regina. He deserves his vengeance and his justice for everything she did to him and his dad.

I noticed that Neal never used the word “love” when he spoke of Tamara. I wonder if the truth is that he feels obligation to her. Maybe a misplaced sense of atonement over how he treated Emma and a determination to not do the same thing with Tamara. So, he’s standing by his obligation to Tamara, not because he truly is in love with her, but because he feels obligated to her. Either way, kind of sad that all he has done his entire life is try to escape magic and now he is being used by someone who wants to get a hold of magic. Hasn’t she hit the motherlode with Rumpelstiltskin’s son.

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I also thought it was interesting that in the flashback with Neal and August, Neal admitted his fear about his father coming to find him. I wonder if that was what made it even easier for August to drive Neal away from Emma all of those years ago: fear of Rump. Neal has spent so many years running away from his father, only to find out that the woman he fell in love with has an intimate connection to that world and his father, that that had to have freaked him out. And it makes sense now why he never went to Storybrooke: not just because of Tamara, but because of his father. I hope they explore that a little more.

I’m glad that Emma and Henry had their little scene. I hope that this means Henry is going to drop the attitude. He was actually fine in this episode, but the previous ones have been annoying enough with him. I’d love to get back to liking the boy, instead of wanting to see him smacked!

I’ve seen some speculation that the Dragon character was the Dragon character Mushu from the Mulan movie. I haven’t seen anyone from the show admit that or not. I have seen Jane Espenson admit that the Taser that Tamara used was not an “ordinary” Taser. Which is good, since it would be a little annoying that a regular Taser can take care of a magical being like the Dragon and a wooden being like Pinocchio.

All in all, it was kind of a bland episode. I liked seeing Eion Bailey back, but I didn’t find August’s story very compelling. Having him be the one to blackmail Neal into leaving Emma, and then Emma ending up in prison as a result, kind of killed a lot of my interest in him. And his pre-show backstory didn’t help. But I was glad that there was some kind of happy ending, with Gepetto and Pinocchio getting another chance together. So, that was nice!

Next episode: We find out more about Belle’s alter ego, “Lacey.”

You can watch “Selfless, Brave, and True” 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 2.18: Selfless, Brave, and True