ONCE Goes for Round Two






Season 1, episode 2: “The Thing You Love Most”

[main photos: Jack Rowand/ABC]

So, this week, we find out more about how the curse came to be, and just what Regina had to give up for it to work. This might go a little long, because it’s a lot of world-building we have to get through. This is one of those episodes that tries to do a few different things all at once: move the plot forward, provide more back story for the characters, and get new people up to speed on what they’ve missed.


We pick up right where we left off: the clock starts to move. This is a major deal. Mary Margaret notices, as does Archie Hopper. When Regina hears the bell toll (it tolls for thee, Regina?) she flips in that tightly controlled “I’m so wound up I could burst” way that she has. That, coupled with the missing pages in the fairy tale book, has Regina very much feeling the stress of the day.

(side note: I like that Archie Hopper has a Dalmatian. The cricket is the one with the dog.)

Regina shows up at Emma’s door with a basket of apples, and a short history lesson about her Honey Crisp apple tree. It’s a not-so-subtle two-tiered scene: Regina tells of her resolve, and we get treated to the Evil Queen bringing apples to Snow White’s daughter. Wink wink. Only it could have been handled a little more deftly, I think. Regina’s language in this scene seems more suited to her time in Fairy Tale Land. In the pilot, the writers did a good job keeping this separate. Does this mean the two worlds are starting to overlap and merge? Too soon to tell, but it’s a possibility.

Regina is faced with a choice that has dark consequences. (ABC)

After seeing it again, Prince Charming’s “Hey!” before he throws a sword at Evil Queen … yeah, a bit silly. But it’s a minor thing. She gets back to her castle in a Smoke Monster cloud (remember, the “Lost” guys are doing this show…) and we meet EQ’s magic mirror and her advisor, who both think she’s making a mistake to get the Dark Curse from “her”.

The “her” in question is Maleficent, the Evil Queen from Sleeping Beauty. (didn’t she die when the Prince stabbed her dragon-self?) Carrying a pretty well-crafted replica of her globe-topped staff, Kristin Bauer plays Maleficent, and she gives us a hint of just what Snow White did to Regina, leading me to conclude that Snow White’s birth is connected with the death of someone EQ loved.

(Hey, wouldn’t that be a good band name? Maleficent and the Evil Queens)

Love the transition from the Gnome at the Power Pit into the stone Gnome in the apple orchard at Regina’s. And we get to see the “real world” incarnation of the Magic Mirror: Sidney, the editor of the Stonybrooke Daily Mirror (of course). He’s done a hatchet job on Emma Swan, but he can’t really come up with any real dirt. Regina doesn’t like this one bit. No, she doesn’t. And the crows in the background sound mix are a nice touch.

We also get another hint in one of Sidney’s throwaway lines, about how Henry was born in Phoenix, so how did he get to Maine?

Meanwhile, Emma walks Henry to school, and he brings her up to speed on “Operation Cobra” – the scheme to break the curse. This is a somewhat superfluous scene, because it retells everything in the pilot, and it only works because it’s the second episode and some people are coming into it late. But if we get this little re-hash again next week, I’ll not be pleased. Then it becomes “fill for time” stuff.

Emma: “So, for decades, people have been walking around in a haze, not aging, with screwed-up memories, stuck in a cursed town that kept them oblivious.”

Henry: “I knew you’d get it.”

Henry also keeps Emma from eating the apple, which she’s been carrying around all this time and keeps getting interrupted before she takes a bite. I’m glad this didn’t carry through the whole episode. You can only milk a comedic bit so much… At least the kid isn’t precocious. I’m so glad he’s not another Macaulay Culkin type.

Emma drops Henry at school, where she learns that Mary Margaret is supposed to be Snow White. The look on Jennifer Morrison’s face really sells the moment. This is Emma meeting her mother for the first time. That’s got to set you back a bit, right?

[Interesting tidbit that makes me respect the writers more: This article on Wikipedia shows that Snow White may have been loosely based on historical figures, including one Maria Sophia Margaretha, born in the city of Lohr. So, that answers the question of where Snow White’s “real world” name comes from. And while the Evil Queen doesn’t really have a name, in the Disney versions, she’s often referred to as “Queen Grimhilde” and in the Italian Wikipedia listing, she’s also called “la Regina Cattiva di Biancaneve” – Regina being the Latin for Queen.]

Emma goes to Dr. Hopper to ask about Henry’s therapy, and he gives her Henry’s file – because she’s very important to the boy, of course. (Of course, as soon as she leaves with it, he’s on the phone to Regina to report in…) I’m wondering how this it going to play on Jimimy’s conscience.

So, the sheriff shows up to arrest Emma, because Dr. Hopper reported her for stealing his file. But wait! Henry to the rescue! With Mary Margaret, who bails out our fair-haired heroine. Freeing Emma to make the next move, with a chainsaw:

Meanwhile, back in Fairy Tale Land, EQ goes to the source of the curse – Rumpelstilskin, who gets more out of Regina in her attempt to figure out how to make the Dark Curse work properly. She has to cut out the heart of that which she loves most. (Love the Princess Bride wink as RumpelGold says “Twuly love” in the midst of this dark scene.) And he gets more out of her in the deal to give her the secret to the curse.

Emma gets kicked out of the inn. Granny’s really sorry, but she’s got no control over things, it seems. It’s a terribly awkward moment because Emma’s now a “felon”.

And some pushback from the Sheriff!  He’s worried about what happens to Henry when the Regina-Emma feud escalates. He’s even worried about Dr. Hopper’s conscience (wink wink) with regard to the “stolen” file.

So, Regina invites Emma to the office to bury the hatchet. Except it’s all a ruse to let Henry overhear Emma talk about how crazy the whole “fairy tale” business is. And Emma’s question to Regina – “How did you get like this?” – leads to the scene that reveals that EQ’s advisor is actually her father, and it’s his heart she uses to bring about the curse. And it’s in that moment, we get a glimpse of just how far she’s fallen, and how she might have been if things had gone differently.

(And the sickly wet sound that comes with Daddy’s demise… well, how exactly did she kill him?)

Mary Margaret convinces Emma to stay (ABC).

Emma goes to visit Mary Margaret to pay back the bail money. Emma’s all set to leave, but MaryM convinces her to stay for the sake of Henry, who’s at Archie Hopper’s office in a session. This is where Emma finds him and convinces him that what she told Regina was just a ruse, to get the Evil Queen off the trail. Henry thinks it’s brilliant, but Emma’s glances at Dr. Hopper make me wonder if she’s just humoring the boy…

… who’s named after EQ’s father, we see from the headstone in Fairy Tale Land.

Mr. Gold knows more than he’s telling… (ABC)

The last scene of the episode, between Regina and Mr. Gold, is so full of hidden meaning and subtext, it’s almost like two completely different conversations are going on – and the beauty of it is that we can follow both of them, so neatly is the dialogue written. Mr. Gold obviously knows more than he’s telling. We’re left wondering just how much he remembers of being Rumpelstiltskin.

The plot thickens…

[Official Show Site at ABC]   [Previous Episode Recap: Pilot]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

5 thoughts on “ONCE Goes for Round Two

  • November 2, 2011 at 9:57 am

    I STILL think that Bill Willingham should be listed in the credits… this has the stench of FABLES all over it.

    • November 2, 2011 at 11:21 am

      It wouldn’t be the first time a network has developed a show based on the pitch of another show. CBS developed “Lost in Space” after rejecting “Star Trek”, for example. But the two story realms are different enough, that it may just be a coincidence. Comparisons to “Grimm” will abound as well, I think.

  • November 3, 2011 at 10:12 am

    I suppose the comparisons will arise. But only because they are both new shows with fairytale conections.
    Once looks like it has a larger budget and a more experienced lighting designer. Grimm might have a better make up artist.

    • November 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm

      It’s really early to tell whether this is going to be a lot (or too much) like Fables. From my cursory glance into it, there are enough differences that the two will most likely diverge even further as the show develops. But again, we’ll have to see where the writers go with this.


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