ONCE UPON A TIME It Was Alive! Alive!

Episode 2.05 “The Journey Home”

At last! We finally discover the true identity of Dr. Whale! And it’s a doozy!


Speculation has run wild about the Fairy Tale Land identity of Dr. Whale — Peter Pan, Pinocchio, the actual Whale from Pinocchio — but I don’t think many (if any) saw this coming.

Let’s back up a bit, because it wouldn’t be fair to give it away in the first paragraph. And kudos to the writers for a little misdirection early on. As Regina, the new queen, learns her magic from Rumplestiltskin, she’s torn over the fact that she has to use it at all, and that it takes her closer and closer to the evil that consumed her mother. She’s still a good girl at heart, and wants only to learn magic so she can bring back Daniel.

Only the whole of magic isn’t strong enough for that, Rumplestiltskin tells her. And if that’s all she desires, then he’s wasting his time. Enter Jefferson the Mad Hatter, who knows of a wizard who could possibly help her. This wizard has been working on that very thing — bringing the dead back. Now, at this point, the writers have dropped several red herrings: calling him a wizard, Jefferson saying they’re “off to see” him, and such. Plus the fact that the door to Oz is inside his hat. So, the expectation is that maybe Whale is the Wizard of Oz.

But he’s not.

Meanwhile, over in Fairy Tale Land Present Tense, the Princess Tribe has made it back to camp only to find everyone dead — hearts ripped out by Cora. It’s a terrible thing, yes, but no surprise given that Cora followed them to the castle. It only makes sense that she would destroy the camp before they discovered her masquerade as Lancelot.

In the camp, they find one survivor — Hook, pretending to be afeared and such. Emma, the living lie detector, figures out he’s lying and straps him to a tree for the ogres. Hook, being the ever so loyal comrade in arms that he is, turns on Cora and throws in with the skirts, saying his only goal is to cross over and get revenge on Rumplestiltskin. Makes no difference to him how he gets there or with whom.

So, the Princess Brigade has a squire now.

Back in Storybrooke, we get more of Regina’s arc, as she confides in Archie about her attempt to avoid using magic. Hopper figures out she’s clinging to something in her past, and she’ll never be able to move on until she lets go. Regina, of course, can’t really let go of Daniel, because she’s preserved his body and brought it with her in the Curse Crossover. Only now the body’s gone. And is Regina seeing ghosts? Because Daniel appears to be up and around. And Whale had something to do with it.

Say it with me: “It’s alive! Alive!”

Yes, Dr. Whale is Victor Frankenstein, the deranged scientist who tried to bring the dead back to life. The madman who created a monster. Only in this version, he was trying to bring back his dead brother, and the only piece missing was the superstrong magic heart plucked from a man’s chest. So Victor came over to Fairy Tale Land via Mad Hatter Express in a deal with Rumplestiltskin — push Regina to embrace magic in exchange for a magic heart.

It all works. Regina goes black, using her magic to kill. And Frankenstein gets his heart, and we get the classic scene complete with the lightning and the moody black and white and Igor and “It’s alive!” And to me, it’s such a fun payoff. Doesn’t matter that we never see any medical procedure that puts the heart into the body… it’s a magic heart. Who needs scalpels, right?

And Frankenstein doesn’t do it once. He does it twice, bringing Daniel back using a heart from the vault. Only it makes Daniel a monster, and he tries to hurt people. Only when he recovers his senses long enough to beg Regina for release, is she able to finally let him go. Is this the beginning of the healing process for her? Or is this the event that tips her back over the edge and sends her into Evil Queen territory again?

Nicely done, Once. Only we’d better get another scene with Bae in New York soon, or people are going to forget he’s out there.


[Official Show Site at ABC]     [Previous recap: “The Crocodile”]

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.

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