Television & Film

ONCE UPON A TIME There Was a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Episode 1.17 “Hat Trick”

First off: Paul MacGillion needs to fire his agent. Really.

Since his departure from Stargate: Atlantis, he’s been passed over for the new Montgomery Scott in JJTrek and has had waste-of-talent bit parts in Alcatraz and now Once Upon a Time. I mean, for crying out loud, he’s been a romantic lead in two puppy-dog-eyed TV movies on Hallmark. Give this guy a break, genre shows!

OK. Rant’s over.

Beware. Here be spoilers.

Last week’s episode, Mary Margaret found a skeleton key in her jail cell. So of course, she of pure heart used said key and escaped. Much to the chagrin of Sheriff Emma, who told Mary Margaret to sit tight and wait for her to do some more sheriffing. MM didn’t want to wait, I guess. Was she more afraid of Mayor Regina, or the fact that she had Mr. Gold for a lawyer? The phrase “lesser of two evils” doesn’t even apply in this case, does it?

Of course, Emma is just beside herself because now Virgin Mary Margaret looks guilty, and how’s that going to look on a birthday card? So she takes the yellow bug – not the sheriff’s car – and goes out to the woods to look for Mom Mary Margaret. And in her blind worry – and the Vancouver fog – she almost runs over Captain America’s sidekick.

Yes, that’s Sebastian Stan as Jefferson. Emma’s putting on like she’s looking for her dog Spot. And Jefferson’s putting on like he’s lame to get Emma back to the Very Big Mansion and drug her. (She’s not really sheriff material, clearly.)

When she wakes up, Emma finds that Jefferson has been spying on the sheriff’s office through a telescope.

[Thus prompting this completely outside the story question: Just what is the geography in this town? Is it surrounded by woods? See, Kathryn disappeared near the town border, which is out in the woods some distance from the center of town. Mary Margaret – we assume – went that way because that’s where she found David and probably figures there might be a clue? So Emma probably went that same way knowing Mary Margaret would go sleuthing?

Which means Jefferson’s place is near the edge of the town border, because he says it’s only about a mile down the road from where Emma almost hit him. So how in blazes can he point a telescope just down the way and see directly into the sheriff’s office??

Even more, how can he see into the house where his daughter lives with another family?]

Emma gets herself loose, peeks out to see Jefferson sharpening his shears, so she sneaks down the hall and finds Spot! Mary Margaret!

OK. Jefferson needs Emma to fix things. He needs her magic. Because she’s the only one who can make the hat work. Whuzzat? Yes, Jefferson is the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland, and he remembers everything. All of it. He knows Regina is the Evil Queen. He knows Emma has the power to leave Storybrooke. He knows she has magic. And he needs that magic to make the hat work.

Y’see, when the curse hit, Jefferson was still inside the hat. He and Regina used it to go into Wonderland (through the looking glass) and rescue Regina’s father Henry. Only Regina doesn’t tell Jeff that’s what they’re after. The Wonderland rule is that only the same number of people who enter may leave. So, two go in, only two can go out. Leaving Jeff in the lurch, trapped in Wonderland while his daughter stays the night with the neighbors.

The question I have is this: why release Dad Henry from the box before going back through the looking glass? If she’d waited until she was on the other side, she and Jefferson could have walked through and then released Dad from the box. Unless there’s something about the magic mushroom that only works in Wonderland. But still, it’s a little niggling story beat that bothers me a bit.

[Another rant: after how many weeks of promoting The Who’s Roger Daltrey as the voice of the caterpillar, and he only gets one line?? Really??! Yes, it was fun to hear him say “Who are you?” in a lackadaisical and mellow baritone, but come on. All that hype for a less-than-cameo cameo?]

In Fairy Tale Land, the Queen of Hearts is not happy at the intrusion. And since Jefferson can’t really acquit himself very well, he loses his head – literally and figuratively. The Queen, upon hearing his tale of a magic hat that acts as a transporter to strange new worlds, orders him to make a new hat that does the same thing. So he’s trapped until he can come up with a new magic hat.

And that’s where he was when the curse hit.

So now, he has Emma in the Very Big Mansion trying to make a new hat work with the same magic as the old one. And he so very desperately needs her to believe that she even has magic, so he can be reunited with his daughter. Plain as that.

Here’s the odd duck in the room for this episode: Emma, trying to form an empathy bond with her captor, goes along with this notion that Fairy Tale Land is real. And her speech is so heartfelt, I almost fell for it. But it was too good, and I rightly went the other way and knew she was playing Jefferson like a harp – right up to the point where she clocks him in the head. But her spiel about the possibility that Mary Margaret could be Mom really felt real and sincere. And after rescuing Mary Margaret, her slip in calling her and Henry “family” shows that she’s emotionally distraught enough to reveal at least some wishful thinking.


This is a point to make about the show. After so many episodes, and after so many weird things happening, you’d think Emma would at least have some suspicion that things are a little sideways in Storybrooke. But August nails it: Emma has to have tangible proof. She’s the sheriff and all that, but it goes deeper into her psyche. She’s got to have everything laid out in front of her so there is no shadow of a doubt that a fact is a fact.

For me, it’s gratifying to see Emma start to take this just a little seriously when she asks to borrow Henry’s book. Maybe the writers are going to let her start working up to that place where she breaks the curse and realizes who she really is. But it’s taken so long to get to this point. And since the show is pretty much a lock for a second season, here’s hoping the writers don’t cop out and give us a season finale without a curse-breaking.

Evil Queen can always come back with a new scheme.

Jefferson gets the Line of the Week: “You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants a magical solution for their problem, and everyone refuses to believe in magic.”

By the way, Mary Margaret has been dressing like my grandmother lately. It’s unsettling, to say the least.

And on ABC’s web site, the photo gallery includes some shots of August at Jefferson’s house, in a scene that must have been shot but deleted from the final broadcast cut. Makes you wonder what they discussed in that scene, doesn’t it? Especially since Jefferson remembers… everything.

And a tip of the hat to the commenters over at io9, who caught Jefferson + Grace and got this:



[Official Show Site at ABC]     [Previous recap: “Heart of Darkness”]

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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