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TV Review: Once Upon a Time – “Dreamy”

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We’ve met them individually and briefly in a group, but tonight we get the Once Upon a Time version of the “Seven Dwarves” in this week’s episode “Dreamy.” So. Dwarves are hatched, which I suppose makes sense since they are not earthly beings.  And Grumpy (Lee Arenberg) started life as Dreamy, who seems to look at life through the sort of rose colored glasses that come with inexperience and naivete.

Helping out a clumsy young novice fairy as she gathers the year’s supply of fairy dust from in the mines, young Dreamy finds himself smitten by the lovely Nova (Amy Acker). But, as Dreamy eventually learns, dwarves aren’t meant to fall in love; they are meant to work the mines for rock needed to create the precious fairy dust. After all, says Nova’s boss, the Blue Fairy (Keegan Connor Tracy), “Fairy Dust is what powers the land.”

The story crosses over into Storybrooke where the town’s convent has run into monetary problems when the young Sister Astrid (and Nova’s modern alter ego), accidentally orders way too much balloon helium for the annual Miners Day. The cost wipes out the nuns’ monthly stipend and they don’t have this month’s rent for landlord Mr. Gold (who, of course owns nearly everything in town).

Knowing that Mr. Gold is unlikely to offer the nuns a grace period for their rent, Astrid, and the convent’s chief fundraiser Mary Margaret has no idea how their going to avoid eviction. So Leroy, who’s as smitten with the unavailable Sister Astrid as Dreamy is with Nova, offers to sell the 1,000 candles crafted at the convent for Miner’s Day to raise the money.

Only one small problem—make that two. First, the candles aren’t a very hot seller; only 42 had been sold the previous year, and that’s a far cry from 1,000. The other problem is that neither Leroy nor Mary Margaret have many friends in town at this point. Leroy, the town grump and drunk just doesn’t have that trusting face—or the charisma to make him much of a successful salesman. And Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) is just this side of Town Pariah, since she’d wrecked Kathryn and David’s marriage. No one is really talking to her, except perhaps roommate—and town sheriff—Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison).

Leroy can’t break Astrid’s heart, so he lies, telling her he’s sold the candles, hoping to make good on the funds by selling his sailboat to Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle). But once Gold learns that the sale is meant to help out the nuns, he refuses, telling Leroy that he’d like nothing more to evict them. “I have a long and complicated relationship with the nuns,” he explains to Leroy, a hint of bitterness in his voice. Hmm. What could Gold have against a group of nuns?

Thanks for asking. The nuns, back in Fairy Tale Land (FTL) are, of course the fairies. And you may recall that Rumplestiltskin (Mr. Gold’s FTL counterpart) destroys Cinderella’s fairy godmother, claiming that her easy magic is a trap—a promise of dreams come true without an explanation of consequences to be paid.

Now, if anyone knows about the cost of magic, it’s Rumple. It’s cost him a lot; it’s also cost many who’ve dealt with him. There’s clearly a power struggle of a sort between Rumple and the fairy godmother clan—or at least a feud—that goes back to the use of magic. “All magic comes with a price,” is practically Rumple’s mantra, and fairy godmothers are all about magic without a price tag at all. So, I’m guessing that Rumple’s issue with the convent goes back to that.

In the end, Leroy finds a more practical solution to the nuns’ financial woes, but like his FTL alter ego, realizes that life with object of his affection is not attainable, and must remain only in the realm of dreams. Once again, love is thwarted, and that realization for Dreamy results in a change of attitude—and the change of his name to the more familiar “Grumpy.”

The story this week is pretty straightforward, both in message and execution, but underneath the overt sweetness (and bittersweet) of “Dreamy,” the seamier side of life in Storybrooke continues as David’s (Josh Dallas) wife Kathryn continues to be missing in action, her car left at the side of a road—with her luggage still inside! When Regina (Lana Parrilla) insists on action, Emma investigates, procuring Kathryn’s phone records from Sidney Glass (Giancarlo Esposito), who’s got “connections.” Of course, he’s still working for Regina, and the phone records have no doubt been doctored to implicate David in Kathryn’s disappearance.

“Dreamy” is a good, straight-ahead episode with few surprises and just a tad too much sweet. But then again, I tend to believe the show’s at it’s best when it hovers slightly on the dark side of fantasy, and it’s been there most of the time. I suppose I can’t begrudge a bit of sweetness amidst the gloom.

Fundamentally the episode is about giving up the love of your life for the greater good, or to fulfill some other destiny, one more profound than happiness or love. It is often true that those who do fulfill some nobler purpose sacrifice their own happiness. It is the cost borne by the noble.

There was also an interesting appearance by Belle (Emilie de Ravin), who runs into Dreamy at a tavern, where she waxes philosophical about love and loss. I’m guessing that timeline-wise, she is on her way home from Rumple’s castle—but before she’s taken by the Evil Queen. She is clearly nursing her own broken heart, and obviously is still in love with Rumple, still believing that it’s possible for them to reunite and reclaim their love.

Several Once Upon a Time cast members and creators participated in a panel at the Paley Center in Los Angeles earlier today as part of the 2012 Paley Fest. According to the Paley website, a replay of the question and answer session will be available on Hulu March 15.

Next week’s episode explores the intriguing tale of Little Red Riding Hood! Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Special Note: The U.K.-based Once Upon a Fan site is raising funds to support one of Robert Carlye’s favorite charities With Kids. Stop by there to learn how you can help. In the meantime, here’s more about the organization from Mr. Carlyle himself:

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Hey, thanks Pixie. Glad you decided to join the fray! Good points, all. I also like “destiny” stories. and I absolutely liked this one. I just like the more intense stories just a tad better 🙂

  • Pixie Michele

    Barbara, I really enjoy your posts & interpretations. You always add other layers and icing on the cake. Thought I’d share my thoughts this time. I guess I’m the odd one out for adoring this episode, but I’m fascinated with simple destiny stories. I liked the spin with the axes that tell the dwarves what they are supposed to be (when they grow up) and “the ax never lies.” Then Dreamy proves it wrong. He makes a hard choice to deny love and changes his ax destiny to Grumpy in FTL. In Storybrooke, Leroy choses “love” and uses an ax-like swing to demolish the transformer and start a new, better path for his destiny. All the destiny/star references were very clever as well. Paper stars all over the nun’s HQ, the fairy’s two names, and the boat theme since seamen are guided by stars. Excellent writing every time. I’m so eager for every episode, and your columns. Cheers to many seasons of both!

  • Action Kate

    I think the idea about the fairies and dwarves is that they are not human. They are of another world entirely.

    But why does that mean they aren’t allowed, by culture or by genetics, to have personal lives beyond their jobs? Why does being “not human” mean that they are literal, life-long, objectified slaves to humans?

    My toaster isn’t of the same world as I am, in a sense. It only exists to serve my desire for hot bread and waffles. It was designed and built for that purpose alone, and when I am done with it, I unplug it and ignore it on the counter. I can go for weeks without using it, and it has no voice in the matter. Or the washing machine: it takes the dirty laundry, does its job in cleaning it, and gets ignored and shut behind a door when I’m not using it. It has no choice in what kind of toddler-abused clothing gets stuffed into it.

    How much is that different from the dwarves? They have no choice in what they’re doing. They are ignored by the humans who use them. They rarely leave their dirty, dangerous environs. Okay, the fairies can fly, so that’s at least a better class of slave, but the dwarves don’t ever get to enjoy the “fairy dust” they are mining.

    From a storytelling standpoint, I actually find this quite interesting, with room for a lot of plot and conflict, so I’m not objecting on that level. I’m pointing it out because these are appalling conditions for sentient beings to live in, and the characters (and the show) didn’t acknowledge that.

  • Ladybelle–Watch the episode Skin Deep if you haven’t. Gorgeously done, beautifully written and acted.

  • I think it’s well done. I’m just not a fantasy person. Wish I were!

  • I did watch an ep of the show and quite liked it. JM is wonderful. I like Gennifer Goodwin too! A good teaming-up.
    So sorry that Jennifer Morrison won’t be on House’s finale. What a foolish waste of them all not to have “Cuddy” and “Cameron” back for that one event– which that great show deserved, I think.
    Thanks for tipping me off to this show. I probably won’t watch on a regular basis but I am very happy that GG and JM have good new roles!

  • I think the idea about the fairies and dwarves is that they are not human. They are of another world entirely. In lore there’s little mention of females, so perhaps that’s where it comes from. They are not created the way humans are created. I don’t know about eggs, tho and possibly someone more versed in mythology can clue us in about that.

    Fairies cannot procreate without the assistance of mortals (dwarves are not), so maybe that’s where that comes from.

    Storybrooke itself is a surreal place. No one has aged a day. Time has stood still until Emma came to town. So I’d believe it if no one has committed an indiscretion until now. Emma’s arrival triggered the resumption of living amongst the citizens of SB.

  • Action Kate

    Hubby and I were actually horrified to hear the description of the dwarves’ lives. They are bred to be a race of mindless automaton slaves!

    Think about it: they are hatched, with no immediate family other than the dwarves who happened to hatch that day. They are immediately told that their only job, for their entire lives, is backbreaking labor, which serves the happiness of others, but never themselves. They are told that they are innately incapable of partaking in the happiness they’re creating for others. And they are told that they will love this backbreaking, selfless labor and never want to do anything else. At the end of the day they get drunk. It sounds pretty Orwellian to me!

    I get why the story couldn’t have a happy ending, but there was no recognition from any of the characters that they might be entitled to a personal life. Fairies and dwarves alike seemed focused on the idea that they were required to serve — the humans, I guess? all the other “superior” races of FTL? — and that they had no rights or lives of their own.

    I found that a lot more upsetting than poor Mary Margaret being treated as Mary Magdalene because Regina bespelled everyone in Storybrooke, and no one had the agency to commit an indiscretion until now.

  • Thanks Emily J! The characters need conflict to thrive within the series narrative, so honesty is an important source of conflict. But there appear to be a lot of dishonesty around Storybrooke, doesn’t it?

    Part of it may be that (besides Gold and Regina) the characters don’t know their real pasts and filling in facts is probably natural for them.

  • Emily J

    I love the show! But why do all the main characters have a problem with honesty? I look forward to your reviews every week, it’s nice to have the episodes broken down and talked through.

  • Hi Jane. I’m really enjoying Once a lot. I do prefer the darker episodes that have a bit more edge to them, but I certainly don’t mind a bit of the sweet. And I really like Leroy!

  • Jane E

    I agree with your comment about the show being a bit too sweet. It actually surprised me. But, I did enjoy the episode. So far this show has not disappointed me at all. I find it so creative.