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ONCE UPON A TIME There Was A Pretty Girl With a Secret

Episode 1.18 “The Stable Boy”

This is the episode they’ve been hinting at since the early days: the tale of how Snow White made Regina angry enough for her heart to go black and plot reality-splitting revenge!

SPOILERS ABOUND

Firstly, a flashback to just before the last two episodes: it’s revealed just how Gold and Regina plotted to get Mary Margaret to escape and try to leave Storybrooke. And we all know what happens when you try to leave Storybrooke… Make a note, folks. This will play out later.

So, it appears to have been Gold’s idea to leave a skeleton key in the jail cell. Which could help with Regina’s undoing, if Emma follows her sheriffy duties and puts one and one together (since she had a whole handful of the keys already…). Will Emma figure it out before it’s too late?

Not a question that gets answered in this episode. Moving on.

Over in Fairy Tale Land long, long ago: a young Regina rides a horse. She’s happy, carefree, young. And it’s amazing what wardrobe and hairstyles will do to make Lana Parrilla look ten years younger. A lot of it is in her facial movements, too. Like I’ve said before, the three lead actresses on this show do a lot of subtext with their expressions.

And Barbara Hershey gets to chew the scenery with her best Mommie Dearest bit. Doesn’t think it’s proper the way Regina cavorts around on her horse, not riding like a lady. Tish-tosh, and all that. OF course, papa Henry is cowed, and when Regina talks back, she gets a bit of Mother’s Magic. That Purple Haze runs in the family. And if Mama ain’t happy…

Of course, one can’t help but notice the glances between Regina and the handsome stable boy for whom the episode is named. A hint of The Princess Bride here. I was very disappointed not to hear “As you wish” at least once. Really.

There’s this whole Romeo & Juliet Meets The Princess Bride bit going here, as Regina and Daniel keep having to sneak off to meet for their romantic trysts. Firefly Hill gets mentioned again, in a shout out to “Dreamy”, and then a runaway horse with a girl on it! Great Scott!

Wait. Wrong story. There’s no buckboard here. Moving on.

Regina saves the young girl on the runaway horse, of course, and it turns out to be a young Snow White. Not Ginnifer Goodwin playing younger, but my, Bailee Madison certainly looks the part. Thus, setting up the irony we are sure will play out in this story. Because of course they must like each other before something happens to ruin that.

 

Meantime, Mr. Gold has convinced Mary Margaret that she can put on her sweet innocent face and be the kind schoolteacher with a heart of gold and answer a few questions from the district attorney, none other than King George. This does not bode well, naturally. Because King George only works to provoke Mary Margaret into saying things she shouldn’t ought to say. It’s a bit predictable, and the writers don’t seem too concerned with how this b-plot plays out this week. Because the meat of the story is the betrayal.

But notice the framing of this shot:

Emma’s reflection is beside Gold, while Regina’s is next to Mary Margaret. It’s an interesting composition. One would expect allies on the same side of the picture, with Emma being opposite the glass from MM. But this isn’t how they’re lined up, implying not just that Regina and Mary Margaret are enemies, but also that Emma and Gold will at some point be at odds. There are no accidents in this show, folks. Just sayin’…

A grateful King Leopold visits Regina and her folks, and he just happens to have decided that since Regina saved Snow White’s life, she has an interest in Snow White’s well-being, so she should be Snow White’s step-mother.

 

Uhm. What?

Now, we’ve seen Leopold leap to decisions without any real thought, so it’s not much of a surprise. But he’s taking a huge leap in assuming that Regina would have any interest in Snow simply because she was in the right place at the right time to prevent the girl from going over into Clayton Shonash Ravine … uhm…

Naturally, Regina’s mother accepts the proposal. Because Mommy knows best. But Regina runs off to the stable to tell Daniel. And she gets it in her head that they should just run away. (Uhm, see previous note about Dreamy and Nova, Snow White and Charming, Cinderella and Thomas,… ) Running away just seems like the Once Upon a Time version of walking toward the creepy cabin. It’s just never gonna end well. Right?

While Regina and Daniel are plotting, Snow White – up past her bedtime, surely – catches them in an embrace with a little smoochy-smoochy. Naturally, Snow freaks and runs away! And Regina has to catch her! To make sure Snow understands that love isn’t something you just conjure up for the convenience of the king asking for your hand in marriage. She doesn’t love Leopold. Snow, bright star pupil that she is, totally gets it. This whole “true love” thing is just a magical wondrous affair over in Fairy Tale Land. Too bad it only works out maybe a tenth of the time…

Regina gets Snow White to promise not to tell anyone. (cue irony music #2, right?) And Snow White, being the young innocent that she is, makes a promise she almost assuredly won’t be able to keep. Because if she’d kept it, we wouldn’t have a story.

Motorcycle Man August helps Emma gain a little perspective on the case when he gets her to backtrack to the beginning, knowing what she knows now, that it’s a cover-up of a frame job of a murder that started as a missing person.

So they go out to the toll bridge to look for clues. Now, in the midst of coming down the hill, August does a little “bad ankle” dance. Not sure what that is. It’s completely out of place, almost as if he got shocked or had a reaction to something. But he brushes it off as shin splints. What is that, writers? You never do anything without a reason. This will play out in other episodes or I will throw a dodgeball at you.

And lo! The bringer of Magic to Storybrooke and the Writer with the Ancient Typesetting Tool doth findeth a shard of metal in the hole where the box was found. Piece of a shovel. And Emma knows just where to look. So rather than get a search warrant, she breaks into Regina’s tool shed (with Henry’s help – thus adding corruption of a minor to Emma’s superpowers) and she finds the shovel. Aha!

Regina’s mother knows how to play Snow. And she plays Snow like a fiddle, she does. Whilst spending time together, Mommie Dearest pulls her best sad face and rolls out the pity train and the “Regina’s pulling away from me” line. Snow, being the vulnerable little cherub who lost her mother, doesn’t want to see that happen to Regina. So she tells Mommie Dearest about Daniel. Which she promised not to do. Especially to Regina’s mother. Thus, begins the Descent Into Irony.

So when Emma shows up at Regina’s house with a search warrant, and finds the shovel all nice and solid andnot broken, we can start to understand when Regina says “That woman has destroyed the last life she is going to destroy.” we get that it’s not just about Kathryn, right? This is about so much more than that.

Naturally, Emma thinks August betrayed her. But we all know better. He denies it. Emma’s superpower sure doesn’t work very well…

Speaking of betrayal, Regina shows up at the jail to rub Snow’s nose in it. Mary Margaret, in tears, apologizes for whatever it was she did to Regina. Clearly, she has no memory of telling anyone about anything. And it’s a very telling moment when MM again denies killing Kathryn and Regina says, “I know.” The way MM’s expression changes in an instant. Again, I will applaud the acting chops of Ginnifer Goodwin, who does more with her eyes than most actresses do. She and Lana Parrilla could read cereal boxes, and I’d watch just to see what they do with their expressions.

So after Lana chews the scenery in the sheriff’s office, Barbara Hershey gets to do it in the barn, confronting Regina and Daniel before they get to run off. Note that earlier, Daniel mentions the fact that Regina’s mother is the “daughter of a miller”, and Mom here mentions the “deals” she had to make to get them where they are. One wonders if she might be the miller’s daughter from the tale of Rumpelstiltskin. Because anytime there’s a deal, he’s usually involved. And since she has magic… it’s an idle speculation, but it’s worth rumination.

And this is when Mama – who’s not happy – makes nobody happy, as she rips out Daniel’s heart and crushes it to dust. Making the speech that she’s done Regina a favor, she talks about how love fades. How power is the only thing that lasts. She’s definitely been betrayed by someone in the past. Rumpelstiltskin, maybe? Certainly not Henry. It’s clear their marriage isn’t much beyond a few words here and there. He’s clearly intimidated by her from the outset.

So when Regina learns that it was Snow White who broke her promise and told Mommie Dearest about the stable boy, her journey toward the Dark Side is nearly complete. The heartbreaking part of all this is that Snow is so well-intentioned. Since her mother is dead, and they have no chance to be together, the girl knows what it’s like to be without a mother. Knowing Regina faces the same prospect (even though it’s a lie), she only wants Regina to avoid the same fate. She’s truly innocent in all this.

But watch Regina’s face as she travels down the emotional slide from shock to rage:

Not a word is spoken as Regina makes the journey to obsessed rage. Snow White has just become the White Whale to Regina’s Ahab. (Wonder how Dr. Whale will play into all this?)

One note: how is it that Regina can detect Mom’s manipulations in orchestrating the marriage to King Leopold, but doesn’t think twice about blaming Snow White – the kid who got fleeced by a master manipulator – for destroying her life? Seems like the writers contrived a bit of this just to have it work out that way. Regina’s sense of betrayal should have been aimed squarely at Mom.

That vengeance seems to have played out, as Mary Margaret gets hauled away in handcuffs. By two uniformed officers with “county sheriff” patches. Where did these guys come from? Are they Emma’s deputies? Remember, Graham said he had a little money to hire a deputy, implying that he didn’t have one. And no one can come in or out of Storybrooke. So where did these uniforms come from? Writers? What?

Emma confronts Mr. Gold, who assures her that Regina hasn’t won anything yet. There’s still time. No worries. Now, remember how this episode started out, with Gold and Regina plotting Mary Margaret’s downfall. Gold clearly has something up his sleeve. Emma, in her frustration, smashes a vase and finds the bug planted by Sidney. She finally gets that she’s been played, and when she goes to apologize to August, they get pulled into the alley by Ruby’s screams.

(Ruby, by the way, didn’t stay Mature Sober Ruby very long. Pity.)

And in the alley…

Kathryn, very much alive.

Gold has some ‘splainin’ to do… like why he can say “twoo wuv” and we don’t get an “as you wish”?

[Official Show Site at ABC]     [Previous recap: “Hat Trick”]

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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