That was an episode to consider.
What I find the most amazing thing about this week’s show is that this is only the 16th episode of a 22 episode season. For almost any other show I can think of, this episode could have been a season finale. Yet we still have roughly a third of a season remaining. Further, this last third of the season is going to have a completely changed dynamic to anything the show has had up to this point.
This was an episode of the women of Once, so that will be my main focus this time. However, I will have some comments on the other characters at the end.
I’m going to start out with an opinion which I suspect will be a strong minority position and that may actually ruffle more than a few feathers. I have absolutely zero … nada … zilch … not one iota of sympathy for Cora. I have immense and deep sympathy for Snow. The former was a matter of truly earned poetic – and literal – justice. The latter was a heart breaking loss of innocence.
Let’s take Cora first. Frankly, I don’t think she started out that particularly good. True the king was a jerk and Eva was a young *explicative deleted*, but for that to set you on a goal of such total revenge? Hard life or not, there’s just not much goodness in her to start if this is the case. Her love of Rumple was certainly not True Love. Their kiss had no effect on the Dark One’s power at all. Despite her words, was it really Rumple that she loved? Or was it the Dark One and his dark power? Understand, I’m not questioning that she had feelings for him, but it clearly wasn’t the unconditional, self-sacrificing, agape True Love. Her love was for Darkness, and yet she loved power more. As for her ending? It was entirely the result of her own choices and actions. She gave Snow the candle. She went to the extreme and sustained effort to drive Snow to do the unspeakable. She created her own demise. And yet, though she hurt Snow terribly and lastingly, she still failed in her revenge. Snow didn’t stay in the dark place Cora drove her to.
So let’s look at Snow next and in contrast to Cora. Unlike Cora, she does love what is good. She was tempted and this time fell into darkness, but repentance was close behind. Though she failed, she tried to stop the events she put into motion. Nevertheless, it’s not hard to say that she did the right thing though for the wrong reasons. And yes, the reasons do matter. Even though her enemies would have gladly done as bad or worse – and were actively trying to do the same, she will have to carry the price of sinking to their level. The power of her words in tricking Regina – the wrapping of the lie with the truth; of disguising something evil with something good – will haunt her. And that is the true price of the this act of magic; Snow’s loss of innocence. For all she’s been through and done, she had managed to keep her innocence. That now is gone. That doesn’t mean that she is now bad or evil, just that like every other human since Adam she is fallen.
Emma provides another contrast to Cora. This was in the nature of magic and especially the training from Rumple. Rumple taught Cora to focus on her hatred and anger; to never let it go. That’s from where she drew her power. Emma on the other had was taught to focus on what she was protecting; who she was trying to save. In other words, her power came from her capacity for love. Emma’s first protection spell was defeated fairly quickly by the double blast from Cora and Regina. The second spell was able to hold Cora at bay for an extended time. Not bad for your first attempt actually, and that raises the question of just how powerful is Emma really? Cora claimed that love was weakness. Emma responded that, no, it’s strength. I’d say the evindence is on Emma’s side. I’m looking forward to seeing just what has been unlocked and also how Emma is going to respond to the temptation that invariably accompanies power.
The final arm of this quadrangle is Regina. In almost every way, I’m finding her the most disappointing of all. Snow’s action, although streaked with evil, were still based on necessity and defense. Cora’s actions were based on a quest for dark power and Regina not only knew it in her heart, she followed along. Her grief is understandable, but her rage and (presumably) coming attempts at vengeance are really quite hypocritical considering both the circumstances and her and her mother’s role in bringing them about. Let’s be honest, when you’re plotting mass murder, you shouldn’t be surprised if your side suffers casualties when you are stopped. From a storytelling perspective, of course, this provides a mechanism for Regina to backslide into the Evil Queen. However, that raises the question for me of whether all the character development in the first part of the season has been undone and/or wasted? I certainly hope not. While having her fall back does maintain a needed antagonist, the story of her struggle for redemption is, I think, the more interesting. Remember, her starting point was one of deep capacity for love. That’s what gives this struggle within her such a connection with us. I said before in an earlier article that I would expect her steps forward to be followed by steps back. I think this is what we are seeing here.
As long as were talking about the ladies of Once Upon A Time, let’s think about some of the other women of season two.
The most obvious is Belle. Gold’s goodbye to her was one of the most powerful performances I’ve seen from Robert Carlyle. What Gold left Belle while he thought he was dying was an example of True Love. He wasn’t thinking of himself at all, just trying to leave her something of who she was. Clearly his words had an impact on her. But was this just an emotional response or was it also an awakening of remembrance? Will he finally walk away from the Darkness? Just like Regina, that kind of repentance is not an easy thing; especially when you’re steeped in the centuries of darkness as Rumple is. However, his motives started out of a desire for good, not revenge (as was Cora’s), so I still hold hope for his “happy ending.” It may cost him his life in the end, perhaps; the price of his deeds is certainly high, but I still think it will come.
The other ladies, I’ve wondered about have been Ruby and Granny. Unlike Cinderella or Kathrine, they’ve continued on in season 2, though they’ve been conspicuously absent of late. Of all the characters in Once Upon A Time, Ruby/Red has become one of my favorites. I would hate to see her and Granny dropped by the wayside. Actually, much of the ensemble of characters have been missing lately. While this focused story has been interesting, I do hope they aren’t going to let the richness of their characters fade off.
Also, what has happened with Mulan and Aurora? So much development went into them in the first third of season. They manage to take the very unlikable Aurora get the audience to actually connect with her. In one respect, they closed their part of the story in such a way that they could end it where it was, but I hope that doesn’t prove the case. These are very good characters I hope we will see again in the future. I wish the show-runners would give some sort of hint that that they haven’t forgotten them.
Lastly, I do need to mention some of the guys. Rumple has already been discussed to some degree, but what about the gulf between he and Neal? Neal’s “I’m still angry with you” comment may have been somewhat petulant, but it was also the first step towards healing that relationship. A bit of an olive branch, as it were. I think Gold’s addiction to magic will still be a stumbling block along the way, but I remain a sucker for a happy ending. At what point is he going to finally give up the power of the Dark One? He’s seen the price the lust for power extracts in Cora. Henry as his undoing will, I believe, be the key to that. I do not believe that this prophecy has been fulfilled. And speaking of Henry, how is he going to handle all these events? Both mother roles now powerful magic users. His grandfather the most powerful of all. Is Henry going to borrow an idea from his father and say goodbye to all of them? Perhaps in a trip to Neverland? The writers have been hinting at the Peter Pan story for a very long time. This could be the springboard into that.
To close, I had expressed some doubts and concerns in my last article regarding the direction of the story. While I consider those fear justified at that time, I have to say The Miller’s Daughter went a very long way towards addressing those concerns. More than anything else, it makes very clear that the creative talent have a direction in the path they are taking this story. In that I can be content. Keep up the good work!