Strange Case Review | Once Upon a Time Season 6 Episode 4

I am not the monster you need to worry about.


Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, and Robert Carlyle.

Season 6
Episode 4: Strange Case

”Strange Case” examined the reductionist concept of removing one’s evil from your soul, through the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In a deft and well-constructed episode, we saw Regina’s own actions reflected through the dual aspects of Jekyll’s personality and truly got to grips with whether evil can be entirely rid from a person.

In a plot point that surprises precisely nobody, of course it cannot. It is true of Jekyll, and it is true of Regina too. The twist within the Jekyll and Hyde tale was genuinely surprising. To have Jekyll be the one who ultimately started the rivalry between himself and Hyde is an interesting concept. Here we see Jekyll create Hyde as a means to expel all of the things that he wishes to deny. Hyde is not by nature aggressive, but he is merely not afraid of his passion. This results in him being much more confident, much more in touch with his emotions and his sexuality, in a way that Jekyll retreats from. While they both harbour feelings for Mary, only Hyde is able to follow through with it fully, which ultimately results in Jekyll (accidentally) taking Mary’s life.

In the present storyline, Jekyll also attacks Belle and seeks to take away that which the Dark One holds closely in the same way that he blames Rumple for Mary’s death. Jekyll’s denial of his darker aspects, of his latent, suppressed passions, is ultimately what causes him to display these traits. It’s strange that Hyde, who has a reputation as being out of control and manic is actually the one who is more in touch with these aspects of aggression and violence, while Jekyll is more volatile and unpredictable. It was a nice twist on the conceptions of the audience, and was really explored well here.

The entire exploration of the similarities of Jekyll and Hyde demonstrates that the serum is far more than just a “good side” and an “evil side”. Hyde is capable of great love in the same way as Jekyll is capable of immense treachery. Hyde’s main villainy derives from the way that he is betrayed by Jekyll and set up as the murderer of Mary, when it wasn’t in fact he who committed the crime. I see similarities between this and The Impossible Girl storyline from Doctor Who. As said by Clara in that storyline, “The soufflé is the recipe”. It’s like both Jekyll and Hyde are made from the same recipe. They are reflections of another, despite their outward appearances, but Hyde embraces the parts that Jekyll would rather hide. Is one better than the other? That’s debatable. But one is certainly more in control of what they’re doing, and certainly more at home with their own self.

This, obviously, ties in with the Evil Queen and Regina. Is The Evil Queen really Regina’s dark side, if Regina can still be dark herself? Are they merely shadows of the original? In the same way that Hyde embodies that which Jekyll runs from and suppresses, so too does the Evil Queen. She is the aspects of Regina’s personality that she wants to run from; that she wants to forget. She’s come so far into her hero’s journey, that she’s terrified of any trace of the darkness that once existed.

But, nobody is purely light, or purely dark. Regina can’t run from her past, or from herself, just by exorcising that persona from her. It’s not a matter of ignoring, it’s a matter of moving past it and developing and learning from that time. Lots of the aspects of the Evil Queen are devious, and cruel, but also a lot of these elements derived from a place of hurt. The Evil Queen grew within Regina, and was a product of her circumstance. It was not a darkness that existed within Regina from birth, it was something that she fell into over a series of unfortunate and defining events.

People don’t live in a vacuum. The present is an ever-expanding jigsaw of your past. Bad events shape a soul as much as good events do, and to accept that and to grow from that is the only way that Regina is truly going to find peace with who she is. If Regina is secure in who she is and what she represents, then the Evil Queen doesn’t exist. But it’s Regina’s insecurity as to what she is or isn’t capable of if she’s not monitoring her every move on a micro level that ultimately causes the Evil Queen to hold power over her.

Despite the Jekyll and Hyde flashback, the main character development through this episode is that of Rumple and Belle. It seems strange to mention this, as the structure of season 6 so far has meant that the main cast are having quite the even split of screentime, but it’s undeniably a huge moment for them. I mean, on one level, there’s Rumple’s casual hair makeover, which I must say does look good but it’s perhaps made too big of a deal of throughout the episode.

Rumple always seems to be up to something, and part of that thought process is that he always believes that he knows what’s right for those around him. Back in Season 5, we saw him make unilateral decisions on his and Milah’s behalf, and we see the same process here. Without consulting Belle, he allies himself with the Evil Queen as she promises not to do Belle and their baby harm, forgetting, of course, the massive threat that the Evil Queen poses to the rest of Storybrooke. While it’s understandable that he would want to protect Belle and their baby, it’s the selfishness of those decisions that trips him up time after time after time. He betrays people like it’s second nature, and honestly the most surprising thing at this point is how surprised other characters get when it happens. It’s old hat by now, but it’s still frustrating to see him make the same mistakes time and again with no ability to reflect and grow from his past missteps.

Ultimately, Rumple’s decisions here almost kill Belle. Him deciding that he knows what is best for her could have caused her more harm than if he had left her alone to deal with it herself, and he still doesn’t acknowledge this after the fact. He refuses to acknowledge or respect her feelings, and treats her like an object to be worshipped, and to be protected.

Belle is more of a symbol to him at this point than she actually is a human. Does Rumple actually love her? I’m not entirely convinced, but this also doesn’t strictly matter, as he’s unable to determine what exactly love is and what that looks like. He’s incapable of putting another person before himself, and he’s unable to grow from that. Even when he thinks that he’s saving someone or helping them, they are always excluded from that process. He cannot work in a team and, ultimately, part of what a marriage, and a family is, is a huge amount of communication and teamwork.

Rumple remains fixated upon winning Belle, and upon protecting her, and almost upon being needed by her. The way that he protects her here is more akin to a parent telling a petulant child that they know what’s best, and the fact that he doesn’t have the basest respect for her is galling. He talks the talk about how much he loves her, but he still cannot get past the largest clincher: she won’t be with him until he changes, and he won’t change.

It was brilliant how firm Belle was with him here. We’ve heard it time and time again from her, but I’m liking the consistent way that she was written here. She effectively handled herself against Jekyll (even though she needed a little help from Hook) and stood up to Rumple making her decisions for her. The fact that she still isn’t going back to him and isn’t seeing the goodness within him is a tremendous step forwards for her characterisation. I love the extent she went to in the way that she deconstructed him as well. Using the fact that she’s always seen the person beneath the exterior was a brilliant and cutting callback to how she used to see the beauty within the beast, and now she only sees the truth of the man beneath his new exterior. With this line alone, she demonstrates that she will live without this version of Rumple, and I hope that there is a serious character journey for Rumple this season if he and Belle ultimately end up together, as he has a lot of bridges to mend.

Elsewhere this episode, the B-plot was diverting, if a little pointless. Apparently now Snow is back to being a teacher at school, and she also seems to be able to teach pretty much any age of child – mainly depending upon the age Henry seems to be. At least she’s actually developed an extra lesson other than the bird lesson she seemed to teach ad-infinitum for 28 years. It’s nice for Snow to have something to do, but the fact that she was teaching Newton’s third law on the first day of school in front of a bunch of new children from the Land of Untold Stories, where they likely hadn’t had formal schooling before, reeks of irresponsibility. How can they be surprised that they don’t know what’s going on? Wearing a school uniform is probably strange. The curriculum in Storybrooke needs serious levels of adjusting.

Speaking of which, how on earth did Jasmine manage to get a job as a teacher’s aide? Where exactly in Agrabah did they teach the principles of gravity? She hasn’t done her SATs, let alone know enough to handily teach a group of teenagers! What does her CV look like? These are the questions that we need answered, because apparently anybody in Storybrooke can wander in off the streets, give a fake name, and get a job. That’s irresponsible.

Having said that, Jasmine does seem great. Karen David is handling the role well and she fits in nicely with Snow without taking over the entire episode. It’s fortunate that Snow is so self absorbed that she doesn’t notice how visibly cagey Jasmine is over the background of her kingdom, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that she is the princess who couldn’t step up to save her people, but clearly Snow is far too caught up in working out how to teach when she spends literally no time planning or considering lessons when she’s not inside the building.

The final scene, which was surprising to precisely no one, in which Jasmine’s identity was revealed was also possibly the clumsiest scene ever written. Was it really necessary to say “I promise we will find Aladdin…Jasmine”. Who really speaks like that? Her name definitely could have been worked into the scene in a much more organic way. Come on, writers! Don’t be lazy!

Ultimately, the journey of Season 6 seems more mature and compelling than the stereotypical half-season villain, that we all know will ultimately be vanquished without leaving too much of a trace. Honestly, when was the last time Pan, Ingrid, the Queens of Darkness or Hades’ effects were actually felt? Precisely. Regina’s internal struggle against her own propensity for evil, which is now brought to life with the presence of the Evil Queen, is far more satisfying. It actually feels like it will have long reaching consequences, and meaningful development for Regina, whose character has stalled since her more meaningful developments in Season 3. Regina’s acceptance of her full self seems a much more satisfying character journey that the audience can easily get behind, and is far more nuanced and adult than a literal world-conquering villain.

Just one more thing…

I genuinely groan every time that Grumpy is on the screen. How annoying is he? He literally just appears and moans all the time. Here, apparently, he’s doing what a dwarf does best. What is what a dwarf does best? Well, he chats a hell of a lot of shit, and then immediately gets knocked out by the Evil Queen. He used to be amusing. At this point, I long for somebody to punch him in the face and teach him a lesson about how he communicates with other people. Grow up, and treat others with respect. You’re not a hormonal teenager; there’s no excuse.

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.

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