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TV Review: Once Upon a Time – “Lady of the Lake”

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This week’s Once Upon a Time episode “Lady of the Lake” returns to the plight of Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) in a remote, still-intact part of Fairytale Land. As they search for a way to get back home to Storybrooke, they enlist the help of Mulan (Jamie Chung) and a reluctant Aurora (Sarah Bolger), first seen in the season premiere. They also encounter Lancelot (Sinqua Walls) of Knights of the Roundtable fame, who turns out is an old ally of Snow’s from back in the day when she and Charming were fighting his father George. But he’s not exactly who he says he is!

Trying to locate the armoire portal in the ruins of her castle, Snow and Emma travel through dangerous lands, encountering an ogre, whom Snow kills with an arrow to the eye. Emma is singularly unprepared for this land, despite her handgun (which only serves to alert the ogres to their presence). And her fish out of water status gives Snow the opportunity to prove her maternal instincts as they overcome the barriers between them built by resentment and Emma’s feelings of abandonment.

Once Upon a Time‘s recurrent theme of parental love, loss and (sometimes) redemption touches not only Snow and Emma’s story. As the story picks up where the last season’s finale leaves off, Snow and Charming intend to retake the kingdom from King George. We learn that George and his wife had been unable to conceive; the queen, drinking a potion, had become barren and unable to conceive an heir.

Charming had been his only hope of a legacy, and now that’s out of the question, having forsaken it all for the love of Snow White. George takes his revenge, poisoning Snow to render her barren. All is resolved with the help of Lancelot du Lac, who finds a small drop of charmed water in Lake Nostos, where last season Charming encountered the Sirens. But more importantly, it is Charming’s mother who ultimately makes the parental sacrifice, giving up her hope of survival after a poison arrow wound for the sake of her son and his happiness.

Jefferson (The Mad Hatter, played by Sebastian Stan) reunites with his daughter on the urging of Henry (Jared Gilmore), whose own mother seems now lost to him. But not all parental (and step-parental) relationships in Once Upon a Time Land are sweet; some are actually quite toxic as evidenced by the vengeful King George, who has, it seems, had found his way to Storybrooke with nearly everyone else, and has now discovered Charming. I’m not sure that this will be a very pleasant reunion.

And of course, there’s Cora, Regina’s viper of a mother. She’s still stuck in the wasteland, but, now out of prison, she seeks a way to get into Storybrooke. She will undoubtedly track close behind Emma, Snow, Mulan and Aurora, hoping to tag along when they finally find a way to cross back into modern times.

With the focus on Snow, Emma and three new characters, there was little time for Regina, and no time at all to see what Rumple (Robert Carlyle) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) are up to; the reunited lovers are nowhere to be seen, and that’s truly unfortunate. The story always has some really snap particularly when he’s around, whether as Rumple (the most manic character) or as Gold (the edgiest character). And with Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) screen time also minimal this week, the snap that really makes Once Upon a Time rock was missing big time.

But never fear! If you caught the preview for next week’s episode, I’m betting you’re as breathless with anticipation as I am for “Crocodile.” We will finally learn the circumstances that led to Rumple’s wife Milah leaving him (bet it has something to do with Captain Hook!), as well as checking in on how Mr. Gold and Belle are faring these days, and it doesn’t look very good. A couple of images from next week’s episode to tide you over ’till then:


Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.

Photos courtesy of ABC Medianet

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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)."
  • smkearns46

    the characters with limited qualities, all or mostly good and all or mostly evil come off flat. characters with a thorough mixture of those opposites are much more vivid and serve as a heightening agent for the others to play off from. what i’m saying is that without rumple to add some liveliness, the show is rather dull. he reminds me of greg house.

  • Sherry–I agree with you. We’ve barely gotten to know these characters in the first season, and now there are several more. I like the adding of new characters, but not at the expense of some of the most compelling in the story.

    By the way, I’m interviewing Jessy Schram (Cinderella) Thursday.

  • I agree that the show was missing something this week. I personally think Rumple and Regina should have had more screen time – well at least some for Rumple. I was actually thinking the opposite of Oncer – too many new characters is not giving anyone the chance to shine. Where is Hopper, the dwarves? Dr. Whale? Red? I want to see what those characters are doing, and how they are dealing with everything.

  • Agitron

    As excellent as Gennifer Goodwin’s acting was this episode, I still missed Rober Carlyle. He has an emotional depth that goes far beyond what is scripted. This week made me realize I don’t think I would watch the show if he wasn’t on it. Mulan is painfully wooden. The villains are lacking subtlety and nuance. Did they really have to spell out King George’s motivations? How many knew Cora was Lancelot before it was revealed? I did. Maybe it has to do with the multi-cast short screentime that character development seems rushed (or that Jane Espenson wasn’t the writer this episode).The ogres were a hoot, though, was that a nod to Harryhausen?

  • Oncer

    I agree with you that they do bring an element, but having them in every single episode does get tiring after a while. The heart of the show is them, but also the Charming family, as well. We both know how manipulative and cunning they are. Frankly, I think one of the improvements of second season is that the other characters are getting more of a chance to shine.

  • I didn’t say that, Oncer. I agree there were some excellent moments, but there is something missing when Rumple is absent completely and Regina is mostly AWOL. They do bring a lot of snap to the show.

  • Oncer

    I think it is a bit unfair to say that Rumpelstiltskin is the only reason that the show comes to life. There was plenty of wonderfully touching or heartbreaking moments in this weeks episode–the moment where Snow White is poisoned by King George and Ruth giving her life for Snow White’s happiness. And how about Snow White and Emma–they had wonderful moments together.