Episode 217 “Welcome to Storybrooke”
[Photos: Jack Rowand/ABC]
Let’s say you’re watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. There’s a rumble as the camera pushes in on Indy. He turns to look, and we see his reaction as he runs. Behind him: a giant boulder rolls down a track to come crushing down into the tunnel, rolling after our hero as he runs like mad to escape the crushing death of being run over.
Then Indy stops to explain to Satipo just how boulders are made.
That’s what this feels like. Last week, we ended on one of the most burning “I hate you” looks we’re ever going to get from Fully Returned Evil Queen Regina. And the momentum was such that this episode should have been a barn-burner. Flames shooting out of her eye sockets. Light spilling from her pores as she danced the Danse Macabre while Snow White tried to recover the pieces of her shredded goodness as Emma and Charming looked on in anguish after having been paralyzed with dark magic.
But… alas. No. We get Bored Regina.
[SPOILERS, BUT NOT THAT MANY… BECAUSE NOTHING HAPPENED!]
And why is she bored? Because the curse gave her exactly what she wanted. Every single day, the same routine. It’s Groundhog Day for fairy tales — with Regina being the one who goes through it over and over and over. Gepetto working on a sign. Gold takes a walk. Archie walking the dog. Ruby and Granny having a spat. And Mary Margaret teaching the kids over and over, day after day. And yes, everyone who thinks Sheriff Graham is actually Sheriff McHottie…. he’s back. And Regina keeps waking up every day with him next to her. And she’s going to lose her mind from the repetition.
Until some kid and his dad show up.
They were camping in the forest when Storybrooke dropped in on them. Almost literally, bringing down trees and purple smoke and lighting and lots of rumbly tumbly thunder. And then alakazam, they were able to see the new city. And interact with the inhabitants. Something the kid couldn’t do later, but we’ll get back to that.
The kid. Owen. About the same age as Henry, just as precocious. And Regina thinks he’s the bee’s knees. He’s the one random element in the town, and she adores him. And the whole thing gets really Stepford Creepy as Regina tries to persuade Owen and his dad to stay in Storybrooke instead of going back to the Boss in New Jersey. Stepford Creepy gets amped up as Regina pulls Graham’s heart out of her desk and tells him to arrest the dad on trumped-up charges.
The chase scene is … uhm… did they just go in circles? Twice?
The kid gets away, running past the town line, but Dad gets caught. So, has he been in Basement Arkham all this time? Where is he now that the curse has been broken? And in a surprise to … no one, Owen has grown up to be… wait for it…. The New Guy! Whatshisname is actually Owen, all growed up, and he’s looking for his father by sneaking around taking video of people using magic? How is this helping him find his father, exactly?
Oh, yeah. The big knock-down, drag-out Mother of All Battles because Snow White actually killed Cora? Didn’t happen. Because Henry tried to talk sense into everyone (after he tried to blow up magic with the dwarves’ dynamite — locks, anyone?), and convinced Regina not to enact a curse to get him to think he loved her exclusively and unconditionally. Bleh.
This season has been so terribly uneven. And I think it’s because the writers are trying to have it both ways — replacing Regina and Rumpelstiltskin as the villains this year has really unbalanced the show. Cora and Hook, as I’ve said before, were always weak. Second-tier villains at best. Oh, Cora certainly served her purpose, dying so we can have Evil Queen back. And the last scene where Regina is full-on Evil to Snow, ripping out her heart and then refusing to kill the poor girl… that felt like most of last season. For Snow to beg for death at the hands of her mortal enemy, and for that enemy to refuse… that feels right.
Given that I’ve had trouble accepting the whole premise of Regina’s quest for vengeance anyway, in light of the revelation that just about everyone’s related to everyone else, I’m glad the show is moving back into somewhat familiar territory. The challenge will be to avoid the Heroes pitfall of trying to be too smart by half and weaving a huge tapestry of wheels-within-wheels-within–squirrel!
Because that can kill a show.