Goodness gracious, Once Upon A Time — what the heck am I going to do with you? Last night showcased the very best and the very worst of this entire series. Each scene of this latest episode is so inconsistent in tone, character direction and common sense, it drowns out all the great stuff going on in the background.
And I love this show! I love it! I love the fairies' stripper heels, I love that fact that Snow White and Charming can't keep their hands off each other, and I love Emma's never-ending entire collection of leather jackets. But it's time to state the obvious: The flashbacks aren't working any more. Spoilers ahead.
Bottom line: This show is starting to suffer from the split-world storytelling. Can we just admit that not every fairytale character needs to have his or her backstory told on television? I love Jorge Garcia, but this episode wasn't doing his character Anton the Giant any favors. The acting was... not good, and the delivery was even worse. Why do giants make magic beans? Because the plot requires them to make magic beans. Look the whole bean point could have been explained, but honestly I couldn't care. WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR BEANS, GIANTS I JUST MET? Not me. There isn't one fairy dust particle of importance attached to the beans, or the death of Anton's friend. It's all just filler, especially since none of this is important character development for Charming — since this was his twin brother. Wah wah.
Meanwhile, really awesome shit is happening. Well, kind of. Really awesome shit is beginning to happen. Finally, normal people are freaking out about the magic land. Belle and Mr. Mendell (Ethan Embry) will hopefully team up with the mind-wiped dwarf and become the modern day Dr. Terminus and Hoagy selling magical trinkets and cure-alls to the public. Okay, that's not going to happen — but shit is about to go down. Normal people witnessing magic certainly isn't good for the population of Storybrooke, and we want to see what sort of drama real-world problems will bring to these magical characters. PLEASE!
We got just the slightest taste of it today, with a very angry Belle rebuffing any sort of polite gesture made by the townsfolk (understandable the last thing she remembers is getting shot on the city border). Pair that with Rumpelstiltskin on a plane, and we've got enough interesting drama for a whole episode. So there's no need to bring giants into it. No matter how badly you want to grow a beanstalk in the middle of Storybrooke. Hell, I would rather Snow White say, "OMG there's a bean in my pocket" than waste all this time on Jack the lady giant slayer and her dick boyfriend who kill off a ton of giants with tiny poison swords. Why didn't they just step on them immediately???
Granted, the "Rumpelstiltskin goes through a TSA security check point" storyline isn't that fascinating, either. Why didn't they just drive? At the worst Maine is what, Eight hours from New York City? Emma is supposed to be clever — exactly how did she forsee this whole calamity of taking a magical creature through human security going? They have a car, why not a road trip with Rumps getting mad at fast food joints for giving him the wrong Happy Meal? But instead, Rumps freaks out at the TSA and punches the wall a lot, which NO ONE NOTICES. Yes, this does reveal he doesn't have any powers, and yes, the always-great Robert Carlyle is acting the hell out of that scene, but these talents are being wasted on this one part Lost two parts Say Anything.... Was anyone else holding their breath for the Rumps to start shaking and ask, "Nobody really thinks it will work, do they?" To which Emma whispers, "you just described every great success story."
Overall, I'm excited to see Rumps, Emma and Henry in the real world. All of my fingers and toes are crossed that this will deliver the good that I'm patiently waiting. They're performing well with everything put in front of them, I just want these characters to be handed something better. Maybe a scene without Henry saying OMG CINABON? But again, I didn't hate it — I just want more of this in a better form, and less giants talking about nonsensical giant values that serve no purpose.
And finally... Regina, Snow, Charming, Bug Man, Fairies, Grumpy, Pongo — hell, even Red — these are all the core characters of this show. I've grown to care for them, but when Snow White tells Regina that she no longer had any claim over her legal son Henry, whom she adopted (and cared for when her idiot husband put himself in a coma) I almost leapt out of my skin. Who is this person? Who is this wildly cruel monster? This is not the Snow White I've spent hours with. Where is the kindness, where is the compassion? Snow freely admits they wrongly accused Regina of MURDER, but makes sure to get in one last dig? Also, this is illegal. Regina is still Henry's legal guardian, because EMMA PUT HIM UP FOR ADOPTION. If anything, Regina was being amazingly kind to her son's wishes. She even saved Henry's Mom and Grandmother, despite her better judgement. But now all that's garbage to the newly cruel Snow White. The characters on this show's moods and mannerisms have little to no consistency, and it's driving me batty. Charming and Snow never get old, I love cheering these two adventurers on. And I welcomed the looming argument about returning to Storybrooke that's slowly driving a wedge between the King and Queen. Let's get into that some more. There are no flushing toilets in the Enchanted Land, and possibly no Emma. Deal with it, love birds! I wish these two would spend more time on this, and less time acting wildly out of character. They can still put out magical fires all over town, but lets not soak up half of the episode getting to know whatever monster-of-the-week they're fighting's backstory. I'm invested in these two.
Same goes for Regina — who is apparently bad now. So much for all that character growth in the beginning of the season. I can love Regina good or bad, because she is FABULOUS when she laughs, but I would love a little consistency.
So there you have it. Once is fun, so much fun. But it's been ping-ponging all over the place between silly dialogue, wasted story space and inconsistent character actions, to the point where it's maddening to watch every week. But I will still come back, because every week Charming and Snow kiss like they are standing on the edge of a cliff with a three-headed dragon on their heels, and I love it. Or Regina will wear a fantastic evil ensemble, and I adore it. Or Emma will make a completely boneheaded move that will get everyone in trouble but magically save the day at the last minute, and that's great too! However, we could do without every fairytale character on the fairytale planet getting his or her very own special episode.