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TV Review: Once Upon a Time – “Broken”

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Broken. So many things in Storybrooke are broken; some for better, some for worse as the Once Upon a Time season two premiere, aptly called “Broken” comes to a close. But just as things break, other things come together. Lives begin to heal, but new conflicts arise as the game board is reset for season two.

What is broken? The curse, of course, has been shattered by Emma’s (Jennifer Morrison) love for her son Henry (Jared Gilmore). And that can only be a good thing. But the breaking of the curse is incomplete as Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) pours the contents of a potion into the town well in last season’s finale. Intended to restore things that are lost, the potion restores magic to the fairytale characters, returning to Gold, Rumplestiltskin’s powers. But the magic is also broken, and doesn’t work for Regina (Lana Parrilla)—or at least not well. The Blue Fairy is also unable to yield her good magic; wands and fairy dust do not exist in Storybrooke. After all, this isn’t Fairytale Land! 

On the other hand, one thing not broken is Rumplestiltskin’s dagger. The curse now broken, Rumple has at his disposal all the powers he had accumulated when becoming the Dark One. Who knows what talismans and trinkets lurk in Gold’s shop, just waiting for him to use them? But Gold’s most precious possession is a small chipped tea cup, a remembrance of his lost love Belle (Emilie de Ravin), long believed dead.

Now restored to him after she being held captive throughout time by Regina, and freed by Jefferson (the Mad Hatter) in revenge against her, Rumple promises not to murder the Evil Queen. But it’s a promise that’s broken (albeit indirectly) as Rumple finds a loophole in his promise, and rather than killing her with his own hand, the sorcerer unleashes a soul-sucking wraith targeted at Regina. (And raise your hand if you had a moment of Stargate Universe deja vu to hear Robert Carlyle say “Destiny?”)

When Belle discovers Rumple’s deception, she is furious with him, realizing that he will never change. Yet, she eventually reasons, her presence may mitigate his darkest instincts. But he surprises her, recognizing within the danger within himself, and begs her to leave the monster that he is. It is a moment of self-sacrifice for the grand manipulator, sending away someone for whom he has pined though the millenia. And it is a true mark of her love for him that she insists on staying. And who just loved that gorgeous moment between the in the forest, and their long-awaited kiss? There was such incredible tenderness there (sigh). Okay, I admit it; I’m a Rumbelle shipper. But I’m in good company, right?

We learn as well in “Broken” that Fairytale Land itself is broken; Regina’s curse destroyed it. However, it’s not all gone, as Emma and her mom Snow White fall through a portal and back into their home world. What an interesting device for show creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, don’t you think (or not—feel free to disagree!)? The portal, through the now destroyed (aha! another “broken” thing) Mad Hatter’s magic hat, will be an important key to helping the fairytale characters recover their old lives. Although, I would also venture to say, it will likely take awhile. It looks like the portal is quite inaccessible, with Emma and Snow on one side, and the good people of Storybrooke on the other.

The portal also provides Snow and Emma a chance to become mother and daughter again, and to begin to heal what could become a very difficult family situation. Emma has been, as she says, searching for her parents her entire life, and now she’s finally found them. She must be pretty weirded out about it on several levels.

First, and most obviously, her parents are fairytale characters—not exactly what she would have been expecting to discover (even in her wildest fantasies and nightmares!). But less obviously, her parents placed her in an armoire when she was days old and transported her to another universe to be left alone. Certainly, they did it for the greater good of their world, so that someday Emma could find them and break Regina’s curse. But who bore the cost of 28 years? Emma. 

And now, Emma and Snow are alone and lost, cut off from Storybrooke and all they love. But one thing we know about both women: they are strong and resourceful. The Snow White of Fairytale Land is self-reliant and tough; so is Emma. They will have to pool their resources and considerable resourcefulness to escape back to our world, but at the same time they can learn to rely on each other and begin to once again be family. 

The only thing for me that failed to make “Broken” perfect was the amount of time spent on the new characters of Mulan and Sleeping Beauty. Their story is crucial in tying back to Emma and Snow’s appearance in Fairytale Land, but I would have wanted to spend more time in Storybrooke with the characters we already care so much about, but that’s just me. What do you think?

Dangling Questions of the Week:

  • So, who is Dr. Whale (David Anders)? He tells Charming “You’re not my prince.” Essentially, “you’re not the boss of me!” And I think he means that literally. Does he not come from their realm? If not, where does he come from? I am promised by writer Jane Espenson that Whale’s tale is coming soon and “will make the fans ‘plotz’.” Neat.
  • Now, as for that stranger we see in the teaser. Hmm. I wonder who that might be? It’s possible he’s Baelfire; it’s possible he’s Henry’s father. It’s also possible that he’s both; and equally possible that he’s neither–perhaps Whale’s prince (just kidding).
  • So now that we know there’s one portal back to Fairytale Land, does that mean there are others? And are there other means of gaining entrance to them? We assume there are no more magic beans, but is the Blue Fairy holding out? Or might they be hiding like so many Easter eggs on a DVD set, just waiting to be unearthed?
  • What will be Mr. Gold’s reaction to Emma and Snow’s disappearance? Will he help locate them? Will he team up with a (likely) very ticked off Charming to make the Evil Queen pay the price for her evil magic? 

The season is off to a good start, and I’m looking forward to a great year of Once Upon a Time. The series airs Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET. And please join me next week after the episode airs for a LiveChat with a very special guest. 



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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)."
  • Templar

    IMO Dr. Whale is Orcus [God of the dead in mythology]. Orcas are killer whales and the writers have said he has a God complex.

  • Aha! Templar. Interesting theory. You may be on to something. It would even make sense that he’s a doctor, hanging around hospitals where there are plenty of dead and dying. Sort of gives new meaning to the term “Dr. Death.”

  • It’s interesting that you mention the magic beans. In season 1, the Blue Fairy tells Baelfire that the others, “got away from us”. Probably has something to do with Jack and the beanstalk.. but there could still be some magic beans out there.. the blue fairy just didnt know where they were.

  • Action Kate

    “It’s going to make us plotz.” So Dr. Whale is Barbra Streisand?

  • Nancy

    Considering the Mad Hatter is part of the show, there are at least two “Lands.” Could the stranger be from Wonder? Maybe. I have always thought that Whale would tie back into Pinnochio- which could work in theory. Whale comes in from elsewhere and meets with the Wooden Wonder.