When does being good start being good enough?
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle.
Something that Once Upon a Time has succeeded with is adding extra depth and layers to all of its characters, but this is especially true of its villains. Characters like Rumplestiltskin and Regina have multiple backstory explanations and rationalisations for their evil behaviours, which help us to understand them and make them more accessible to us, the audience. Previously two-dimensional characters like Snow White and other Disney goodies are also fleshed out more successfully, making them more independent, intelligent, brave and combative than they have been presented in the past. However, the show hasn’t really played upon the idea of the “good guys” doing “bad things”. Henry, the continual voice of morality within the show, contends that good has to play by the rules, while evil can do what it wants. This is what made him persuade Emma out of taking on Regina last season, and it’s a lesson that Snow seems to be learning in this episode, as she reflects upon her perpetual status as a force of good, and what it has brought her.
The episode uses Snow’s birthday as a link between the Storybrooke and the Enchanted Forest storylines. Looking a long way back in time to the Enchanted Forest, we learn the events surrounding Queen Eva’s death on Snow’s birthday. When Queen Eva falls desperately ill, the maid Johanna tells Snow of a fairy who can help heal her mother. Inevitably, it turns out to be the Blue Fairy, who reveals to Snow that the only way to save Eva is to use dark magic: specifically, a candle with two ends. When lit at both ends, the lighter must whisper the name of the soul that they would like to trade for the one they wish to save. A life for a life. Snow, however, is unable to do it, and has just enough time to apologise to her mother, who smiles, proud of Snow’s truthfulness to herself, before she dies.
In Storybrooke, Snow receives a birthday gift from Johanna, containing the tiara that Snow was going to wear for her birthday that year. Snow reaches out and finds Johanna, but is ultimately distracted from their reunion by spotting Regina and Cora digging for Gold’s dagger in the wood, and becomes determined to locate the dagger first. Snow gives Regina one last chance to turn back to the side of good, by reminding her that Cora doesn’t care for either Regina or Henry, but Regina is too full of contempt and insecurity around her position in society now that the curse has been lifted, and the poor view that the town has of her, so is not dissuaded. Snow and Charming find the location of the dagger, after Emma persuades Gold to tell them, but Regina and Cora confront the pair. Demonstrating once again the flaws of being good, they threaten to kill Johanna unless they turn over the dagger. Though Snow initially resists, she ultimately gives in, and Cora and Regina take Rumple’s dagger for themselves. Just to emphasise how dastardly they are, however, they throw Johanna out of the clock tower window anyway, causing Snow to vow that she will kill Cora.
Elsewhere, Hook arrives in New York and stabs Gold in the chest with his hook. As it transpires, the Hook is tipped with poison, and the company become desperate to return Gold to Storybrooke so that he can survive. They decide to use Hook’s ship, while Gold lashes out angrily at Henry, blaming him for bringing them to New York. Clearly last episode’s prophecy is weighing on his mind.
Bailee Madison is absolutely spectacular in her scenes in this episode: as she always is when she portrays a young version of Snow White. The echoing of Goodwin’s mannerisms, especially when crying, are absolutely spot on and make her highly believable in the role. The exploration of Snow’s goodness here is also to be commended. Heroes can often be weighed down by their morality and the need to stick to the rules and do what is “right”, so it’s nice to see Snow venture beyond this, especially considering all that she is lost. Having lost both her mother and Johanna to Cora in the name of being good, it’s small wonder that Snow wants some justice of her own.
- In the Enchanted Forest, Snow’s mother dies.
- She is given the option of Dark Magic to save her, but does not take it.
- Cora and Regina search for The Dark One’s dagger.
- Hook stabs Gold with poison in New York.
- Snow and Charming find the dagger first, but Cora and Regina manage to get it from them.
- Snow vows to kill Cora.
- Henry is being a complete punk in this episode. His quip about “cheesy, delicious and doesn’t lie” was just completely out of line to poor Emma, and he’s completely idolising Neal, despite the fact that he abandoned Emma and had her arrested in the past.
- Some interesting tidbits teased her about Neal’s past, as he demonstrates a knowledge of Hook, and that the Land Without Magic wasn’t the first one he ended up in. Considering he knows Hook, and seems fairly confident in sailing the Jolly Roger, it’s probable that he spent some time in Neverland.
- It’s not surprising that Neal is in another committed relationship, this time with Tamara, but it is frustrating and upsetting, considering he knew that Emma would break the curse in years to come and they could have reunited. Doubly frustrating considering what he was peddling about them meeting being fate in the previous episode.
- Queen Eva is wonderful in all the scenes that she is in, and it’s clear to see where Snow gets her goodness from. However, there does seem to be some untold history between her and Cora, who is responsible for her death, and seems to have a personal score to settle with her.
Once continues to build tension in Storybrooke, developing character’s motivations as we edge closer to the finale.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.