It looks like we get a short break before the big rush to the finish. For that reason, I’m spacing this review and analysis out just a bit to fall midway of the hiatus. This should also give people a chance to get caught up on any episodes before reading this review. I will note that this write-up is going to be more analysis and less review than some of the prior. I am assuming you’ve seen and remember the episode.
Selfless, Brave and True was an episode that had a lot happening. Though a few new questions were raised, we got a lot more answers — some of which have been hanging since season one. Not only that, but one story thread seems closed and the pieces are mostly in place for the final sweep of towards the end of this season. Personally, I think there is also a bit of set-up for season three as well.
Before getting into the analysis I do have to make a comment or two about Eion Bailey. In nearly two seasons, I have to say he has probably turned in the most wooden performance of any actor on the show. Sorry, couldn’t resist… Seriously though, he did a great job in both the present and the past. His motion and expression was accenting just enough in the present to make the CGI overlay quite convincing. Also, my sympathies have to go out to any of the Emma/August “shippers.” The ending certainly yielded a major Ewwww moment. At least I’m sure Emma will be creeped out at some point, considering that she had the hots for August at some point.
The Joan Jett kick back was a nice touch. Not the music you might have expected Mary Margaret to choose, but certainly fitting for Snow, whether Black or White (thinking back to her huntress days for the latter). Even though much of the episode was about August it was still pointing towards her. In a lot of ways Augusts’ redemption story is an object lesson or mirror for Snow. She certainly sees the parallels, hence her concern for his redeeming himself. Sadly I don’t think she quite got it at the end. He didn’t “lose” anything. He gained everything. He truly had his innocence restored and even Geppetto only lost a year. They have their full life as father and son given back to them — a true gift. Snow’s own redemption one would expect to take a very different shape. I would expect it t to be one that not only is appropriate to her circumstances but that aligns itself with the path that she finds for it. Remember, that redeeming oneself is just that — something one must do for them self. Though it is worth noting that August not only redeemed himself in his action, but in a way, Geppetto as well. Of course, Blue was there right on cue to be the Deus Ex Machina for his transformation. As I’ve said in the past, it’s not a bad technique when used properly. This is an example of that.
There is also more than a little theology connected with August and his redemption. First, the “finding your own path” wasn’t so much a specific action, but his choices. It wasn’t anything he did rather it was choosing what was Good and Right and True that led to his salvation. The other point that really needs pointed out is what the result says about redemption. Pinocchio was in effect, born again in a very Christian sense. He was restored to a state of innocence.
There are two huge questions, though, concerning Pinocchio’s returning to childhood. First, I don’t think this had anything to do with Eion. Rather it was driven by the story and we’ll see the results in both this season and the next. Gold has been assuming that the boy who will be his undoing is Henry. Though he hasn’t been willing to harm him, he has certainly become a bit more cold towards him. My theories to this point had been based around Henry being that boy. With this development, I have to backtrack it a bit. Perhaps it is Pinocchio and especially his loss of memory regarding Tamara that is going to be Gold’s undoing. I still believe that “undoing” doesn’t mean death in this case. I also still believe that it involves losing the Dark One’s powers, which will end up being a good thing. I suspect the young Pinocchio will also end up being used in season three. He’s just the right age to be involved with Henry and Neal in Neverland. Yes. This means I’ve been fully converted to the Neal is Peter Pan theory.
This all brings us to Tamara. First, I knew she was “Her” from her first appearance. The first question regarding her, why does she believe in magic as she does. It’s not a casual belief. Rather it’s a sufficient one that she can see the wood in August. It not just why does she believe, but how does she know so much about magic. She clearly knows more than she has let on. Her reactions have been those of seeing what she expects to see now that she has found real magic. Neither is she afraid of magic. Instead she confronts it straight on. And her taser is more than a little suspicious. Not only does it (seemingly) kill The Dragon, but she uses it to “kill” August. Obviously there is much more to this since I cannot possibly believe the writers would do something as cheesy as having a taser kill a block of magic talking wood. If she was able to kill August so easily and coldly, then why is she so anxious for him to leave and never come back? Perhaps she is from the Land Without Color, which may be dominated by science based on what we’ve seen of Dr. Whale. Her comments about analyzing the potion could point to that. For myself, however, I am holding to my wraith theory.
Let’s face it, the idea of Tamara as the wraith got a bit of a boost this episode. At the least, it is not quite as “wingnut” as I thought it was when I first mentioned it. It could connect with her knowledge and interest in magic here. It may be connected with her killing both the Dragon and August. Plus, as I’ve said, the writers are bring the story threads together and she really fits the mindset of the creature best. I don’t believe the Aurora/Mulan story is going to be dropped this season and that means we have to address the wraith. It would be a delicious twist to have had it/her sitting under everyone’s nose and to be connected to Neal — the Dark One’s own son.
Let’s move on to one of the more interesting characters introduced, though he didn’t have a lot of screen time; The Dragon. I know some have hypothesized him as the wraith, but I don’t think so. As I’ve explained, I’m staying with Tamara. Is he from the Enchanted Forest? That still wouldn’t explain how he would know that August is Pinocchio. Why did The Dragon need something from “his soul” as part of the price? And what happened — or more properly phrased — what is going to happen with that enchanted thread? The Dragon seems to know a lot of the events happening, so I also wonder if he knew how August got the money and if so, then why did he not have any issues giving the potion anyway? That could be a big part of the “cure yourself” message for August, which even makes more sense if he knew that Tamara is not what/who she appears.
The most surprising thing about The Dragon is just how easily he was killed. For someone as powerful as he was implying, blowing smoke and closing in to the foe seems about the dumbest things you could do. Unless a) Tamara is much more powerful than anyone imagines or b) he’s not really dead. It should hardly be a surprise that I’m going with the former. However it is worth remembering that this isn’t the first dragon about whom we’ve wondered if it was dead or alive. Anybody remember Maleficent? And don’t forget that the ancient Chinese dragons wandered about the world disguised as men. While I do hope to learn more about this character, I can certainly understand if he is just a one-time plot mechanism.
I do have a few closing thoughts to wrap this analysis. I’m glad to see Emma and Henry make up. It was good of Emma to address it up front. I just wish Regina could apologize like that and mean it. I think that all this talk about redemption should be telling us something about Regina, as well. The key point in Augusts’ redemption is that he choice was motivated by what was right. While Regina had started down the right path, too much of her motivation was based on what she wanted to get from being good rather than choosing Right for its own sake. I still hope that all the development earlier in the season isn’t wasted. This especially matters to me after seeing the utter evil that was Cora. If Tamara is the wraith this could put Regina on the same side as the Charming family and Aurora/Mulan. This would almost certainly give her the chance to make new choices.
We will see in a few weeks. As we have seen already, there is a lot that can happen in four episodes!