Once Upon A Time has finally found its sweet spot, yanking on the easy-to-reach heart stings of America. And not a moment too soon — we were one more CG cricket away from walking away from this series forever. But now it's back, and doling out the schmaltz with horrifying wooden boys and fairies in giant stripper heels. We missed you Once!
So why was this episode better than other recent outings? Because even though it was flapping about like a bald eagle drowning in a vat of Velveeta, at least it wasn't boring. There were two big reveals! First, we found out who August really was, and why he's such an eternally dirty vagabond. And second, we found out what happened to Emma (kind of) as a wee babe. Well, we kind of already knew what happened to Emma, but in this episode baby August does that thing where he kisses his hand and rubs it on baby Emma's head, DAAW!
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, August. Turns out he's Pinocchio! Or a hideous wood monster — we can't be too sure. After this clip of Pinocchio appeared, we threw a blanket over the TV and pulled all of our hair out. Sweet baby Jesus, that is one horrifying creation. Just look.
But soon the terrible, terrible wooden boy creature is gone, so we can focus on his relationship with Geppetto. You see, Geppetto is more than just sad old clockmaker who wants a little boy of his very own. He is also the smartest person in all of fairyland. How he isn't King, we'll never understand. But as far as smarts in fairyland go, it's neck-and-neck between Rumpelstiltskin and Geppetto. The blue fairy commissions Geppetto to make a magical wardrobe in which Emma can escape the horrible Evil Queen's curse — BUT WAIT. Geppetto strikes up a deal. No magical wardrobe for Snow White and her baby, unless the blue fairy agrees to let his son cross over, so he doesn't turn back into wood, because he's Pinocchio. (This is a real thing that we all watched together, as adults). Since only two people can pass through the wardrobe because FUCK YOU THESE ARE THE MAGIC RULES. The fairy agrees and Pinocchio crosses over, but only after promising that he'll take care of Emma. Can you guess what happens next? He doesn't take care of Emma.
I remember sometime earlier when a friend of mine went on a rant about Once Upon a Time was really anti-foster care, and I kind of made the "wah, you're ruining my buzz" look. I was wrong. I'm sorry. This show has a giant freaking axe to grind with the foster care system. That, or it's just that lazy. And that would have to be pathologically lazy, people. So instead, I'm going to assume that Once really wants to rip the magical baby blanket back on the creeps in godawful Maine, who run children's services.
Which brings us up to the present. August, the adult Pinocchio, gets disturbed from his sex parties all over the globe, when Emma decides to stay in Storybrooke. Let's pause to think about the adult August — if a child was raised in suede clothes and tiny hats with a best friend that's a talking grasshopper, I do kind of think they would have turned out to look like August Wilson Booth (they would also think August Wilson Booth is a good name for a totally normal, non-fairy tale person). Now he has to make Emma believe in the fairytale world or he will turn into wood (because he was a bad boy). Which means August and Emma take a surprise trip to where they were wardrobed into the real world, and then scream at each when Emma not surprisingly calls August a crazy person. Oh, and she can't see his wooden leg, because of magical denial, right? Honestly, this whole scene was kind of lost on us. When the big final battle is really just two people being yelling, "Why not?" "Because!" "Well I don't want to!" because one of them is afraid of responsibility and the other is a half wooden man who probably smells like sweet sweet tobacco, dirt, coyote fur and a dash of patchouli, you're not getting much in the form of big character reveals.
But it is what it is, and Eion Bailey (August) is a good actor, so it's fun watching him shift his wooden leg around on screen and hang out with his unknowing father, being all adorable. We can't really fault Emma for not wanting to save the fairytale world, because she hasn't really been presented with anything substancial to convince her — so yeah, this is the first time she's being responsible. As opposed to all the times when she's taking a day off from being the law and kidnapping her own son. That said, the actual problems Emma is struggling with, we're not really connecting to on a personal level. It sounds like she's just saying "No," and "Why me." It was very reminiscent of the whole Last Scion scene in Dogma (only not as emotionally shattering, but that's not saying it can't be in the future!)
So that's where it ends — with Emma wanting to run away from this crazy town and her unwanted savior responsibilities. If we could get halfway to understanding her issues, and why she has them, then maybe we could sympathize with her a little bit more. Perhaps it's time to see Emma as a 12-year-old in the evil foster care system or whatever.
Thankfully there was lots of other crazy cheese to marinate in this week. Like the whole Queen seduction technique — because nothing is more of a turn-on then finding an unconscious and dying man on the side of the road! Hypothermia makes us all horny. What, haven't you seen The Saint! Sigh, oh this show. Glad it's back on track.