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TV Review: Once Upon a Time – “The Cricket Game”

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Back from winter hiatus, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) are back in Storybrooke, having back through the portal. The focus returns to Regina in this week’s Once Upon a Time episode “The Cricket Game.” 

As the show moves forward into the second half of season two, as the series’ creators told me in a recent interview, “the focus will be on Snow, Emma, and Charming (Josh Dallas), Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Henry (Jared Gilmore), Rumple (Robert Carlyle) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin), and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and Cora (Barbara Hershey). They are going to probably take center stage for awhile.”

But the story begins with the return of Hook and Cora as Hook make their grand entrance in confederation as they prepare to explore the town. They skulk around town, keeping an eye on all as Cora is intent on breaking Regina down to her lowest point, isolated and alone with no one to turn to. You may recall that Cora’s deepest desire is to leave Regina with no on else so all she has to turn to is Mommy Dearest. 
Setting up her daughter as the murderer of the beloved Archie (Jiminy Cricket, played by Raphael Sbarge), Cora has done her worst. To everyone, it appears that Regina has murdered the town shrink. Although Emma is inclined to give Regina the benefit of the doubt, Cora has done such a good job that even magic, now wielded by Emma, cannot evoke the actual truth.

The episode shifts back and forth between post-curse Storybrooke and the days just before Snow and Charming’s wedding day. Defeating Charming’s “father” George and winning his kingdom, the pair are now after Regina’s blood, deciding to execute her in the castle courtyard. But Snow has a change of heart, not sure if she wants to kill the woman who saved her life so many years earlier. Charming is not so merciful, but Rumplestiltskin visits with what may be an answer to Snow’s dilemma – a test, and one that Regina fails. 

Within this test, Rumple embeds a magic that will not let Regina hurt Snow or Charming while in Fairytale Land, but as he later tells Regina, this limitation does not apply to other worlds, and thus he sets up the 28-year curse Regina will eventually use on all of them.

This week’s episode is much about the dangers of judging a person based on their past, for good or for evil. One of the series’ main themes is “evil isn’t born, it is made,” and back in Fairytale Land Snow believes that buried beneath all that making into Regina into the Evil Queen lies a decent person. 

Snow judges that she is redeemable, all she needs is a little compassion. “As hard as you’ve tried to bury her, so still inside you,” Snow tells Regina, recalling how the Evil Queen once saved her life when she was a little girl.

Likewise, the Storybrooke townspeople have preconceived notions about Regina; they know her far too well to trust her. And Cora would know that; they play right into her hands. It’s too believable that Regina is the killer, although the evidence is almost too convenient, as Emma realizes. 

Lana Parrilla does a great job as Regina in “The Cricket Game.” She is remorseful and feeling isolated, but at the same time, that antagonistic fire is pretty close to the surface. It comes out despite her desire to be a bit more humble and agreeable. 

I have to say, I was disappointed in Archie. I’m with Regina; Archie really has no right to tell anyone that Regina is seeking therapy. On the other hand, Archie’s PhD was achieved via (her) magic and not years of post-graduate study! But back in Fairytale Land, Archie’s words are prophetic: “As long as the queen lives, the kingdom is in danger.” And he is right, as is Charming when he foreshadows, “If we don’t stop her now, there’s no telling what she’ll do.”
But, of course, all of it is of a grand manipulation by none other than Rumplestiltskin. He protects Snow and Charming from harm. (He needs them to produce a child, the product of true love.) But he also gives Regina the ability to destroy all of their happiness and take them away to a land without magic, a place, he promises her, where she can do all the harm she wishes.
I have to say that I really loved the scene in Mr. Gold’s shop.
Rumple and Belle apparently on their way to a picnic as he continues to court her behind the scenes, but then he uses a bit of magic with Pongo to help Emma learn the truth (at least the apparent truth) using her own magic. Belle seems not to mind Gold using his abilities to be helpful, and he’s not even requiring anything in exchange for his magical assistance. 
I loved the reference to his experience with sheepdogs. Could that be from his spinning days or is this more foreshadowing? In any event, he does seem quite taken with Pongo. 
I also loved that Gold believes in Emma’s magic as much as he is fascinated by it. (And likely figuring out how he can exploit it to help him find Baelfire.) But as Emma is warned using Rumple’s favorite axiom, “all magic comes with a price.” What will Emma’s price be? I’m sure we’ll find out eventually.
In the end, Archie isn’t dead, he’s Cora’s little gift to Hook. The town psychiatrist has all the scoop on everyone, so why not Mr. Gold? If you recall from last year’s episode “The Stranger,” Archie knows a great deal about Gold’s weaknesses, including, and perhaps especially, his desperate quest to find his son Baelfire. 
Next week’s episode looks fabulous based on the preview, and I cannot wait for the first confrontation between Hook and Mr. Gold and whatever else may transpire. 
Be sure to tune into Let’s Talk TV Live Monday night, January 7. I will be playing an excerpt from my interview with Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, and there will be plenty of time for discussion of tonight’s episode and some speculation about next week.
January 21, I will be welcoming back to the show the fabulous Jane Espenson to talk about her latest episode. So stay tuned!
Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.
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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)."
  • WML

    They must be filming the Snow/Eva backstory because Robert Carlyle just tweeted his thanks to Bailee Madison for the kindness she showed his daughter.

    As an aside, RC supports charities in his native land and seems like a genuinely good egg. In addition to being a fantastic actor. Here’s to him getting an Emmy nod for his work in OUAT. He certainly deserves it.

  • WML

    From the Canadian preview, it appears that Belle’s dedication to Rumple runs deeply. And let’s hope that her dedication to Rumple is rewarded. Also, does anyone notice that in the promo pictures, it appears that Emilie and RC seem to have developed great comraderie and friendship towards each other.

  • CM

    thanks Sherry! I thought about that. Fake Archie wouldn’t know what to say to Regina when she walked in.
    I agree this episode crammed too much stuff… its great… but I wish they show more of Regina’s effort to change…

    I meant Rumbelle … hehe typo.

  • I was wondering that too CM – but I think it could be she switched after. Like that really was Archie in the office, but then she turned him back into a cricket or something like that. At least I hope. I liked this episode, and thought it was the best of the season, but I did feel like they crammed so much in that some stuff didn’t quite work out logically. I also think they should have left the ending as a cliff-hanger instead of revealing the switch.

  • CM

    Love the name Rumplebelle 😀

    Why is it that Pongo recognized the fake Regina but not the fake Archie?

  • I was thinking Cora just killed the first person she met on the docks. He didn’t even know who she was, so he had no reason to be afraid of her.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with Mr. Gold – I was happy to read this in a recent interview: “You actually will feel sorry Gold. There’s his love for Belle and he’s trying to be a better man, but we’ll see how long that lasts.” – I don’t want to turn good too quick!

  • WML

    Does the bullet at the “coming soon” preview hit Rumple and cause him harm? It looks like Hook fired the shot after the altercation on Hook’s ship. Any chance we see less of Snow and Charming? That would be great if that happened. Of course, the desire of some people to stay in Storybrooke and the desire of others to go back to FTL will be a great thing to watch. Cliffhanger for the end of season 2?

  • Good question JJ!

  • JJ

    I loved the scenes between Gold and Belle, especially shen she came to his defense. I’m totally smitten with these two. I also wondered if the sheep dog reference will play into Rumple’s backstory with the twins James and David and if he has more of a connection to them than we now know.

  • rumbelle–patience! Next weeks will have more focus…

  • rumbelle4ever

    Please writers, can we have Rumple and Belle together in a scene for more than 2 seconds? Robert and Emilie are dynamite together. Cut them some slack like you do for Snow and Charming! PLEASE!

  • WML

    Another thing. The costume design for this episode was again top notch. OUAT has a great art designer, great costume designer, great music, etc. The coat that Snow was wearing in Gold’s shop would, in another life, be perfect for someone like Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn. Absolutely fantastic.

  • WML

    About Robert Carlyle. The Rumple that was on display today was totally impish. It was like a child having a lot of fun. It was a fantastic portrayal, slightly different from how RC played it previously but you can tell it’s part of the same persona. What a wonderful actor. The scene with Regina and Rumple talking about the “protection” only extending to this world was funny and fantastic. All in all, this was a well written, very well acted episode.

    The fact that Rumbelle is basically the great theme/partnership/relationship in OUAT is truly outstanding. Emilie and RC really are magic together.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Hi glen, well it’s Robert carlyle, a brilliant actor in everything he plays. I have to agree with you.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Gold is the best character and is played by the best actor on the show. He’s what holds that show together, and if they ever get rid of him, that show won’t last long.

  • Betsy

    I think so too……..

    I really want to know why magic, even good magic, has such a price. Belle doesn’t hate magic…..so unless she’s truly concerned that Gold is using it because he has no faith in himself, I’m not sure why it would cause them such issues.

    When I watched the scene again and see videos or GIFS posted on blogs, I see that there were some really cool Rumbelle moments that weren’t immediately obvious. Of course Belle came to his defense and later Gold moved closer to her, almost to reassure her as they “saw” Archie get killed. When Gold was playing with Pongo, Belle looked at him and she was so happy to see how gentle and playful he was with this animal…..Plus, she gave him a very flirty look at the beginning of the scene.

    Thank you to all the people who post these things which allow me to catch things I never would have.

    The Canadian TV promo for next week? Forget it…….heartbreaking.

  • That actually makes more sense. She doesn’t know, doesn’t care. She has the power and the hubris, and she’s eviler than evil.

  • Betsy

    OH FYI:

    Who actually died in place of Jiminy? Is that something we’ll come to find out?

    Adam Horowitz: It’s sort of the explanation at the end, which is that it was Cora’s first day in town and she doesn’t know who she killed.

    Edward Kitsis: Honestly, she killed a faceless, nameless person and it was really more to highlight her coldness — that she doesn’t care who she killed; she just needed a body.

  • Well that would tie in with being able to read memory “before” and “after”

  • Betsy

    Oh and I LOVE LOVE LOVE this Gold……..I loved his reference to pre-curse Rumple/sheepdog, lol. Aww, I miss Rumbelle so much.

  • Betsy

    I LOVED the episode……BUT Regina saying that they should be thankful she changed was TOO much. Change change change – Regina’s changing is being beaten into us with a hammer. I don’t think she’s changed THAT much because what she’s done is stopped using magic for Henry’s sake. She still has NOT acknowledged how much pain she’s caused people. Do we hear Gold going around saying he’s changed or is changing? No, because he’s doing it for himself – because he understands the pain he’s caused in his past and he’s willing to accept the consequences (dealing with suspicion by other people).

    I did love the scene in Gold’s shop,but really – it would be nice if Rumbelle could have some alone time. They were so cute together – for about 2 seconds. I DID love Belle coming to his defense and Gold moving to stand next to her as they “saw” Regina kill Archie.

    This confirms to me that the “unwilling” party to whom Gold tests the barrier curse next episode is PONGO…….I’ve thought that for a few weeks now.

  • WML–I was going to suggest it’s Belle’s dad. August is another possibility.

  • WML

    It can’t be Doctor Whale, nor any of the dwarves. Maybe it’s August or Belle’s dad. Belle’s dad almost makes sense, if Gold is trying to console a disconsolate Belle in the next episode or two.

  • Nancy–ahhhh. that IS the question. And I’m sure we’ll learn who it is soon enough! Jeez. Any guesses?

  • Nancy

    Archie might have lived, but I agree with you on the “keep your secrets to yourself Doc”. Trying to help? He broke the biggest ethical guideline in the book. Figured Regina not behind his death – too easy! Question is, who died in Archie’s place…

  • WML

    This was an interesting episode. I love the old Rumple. I like the new Gold. I just like RC. Charming and Snow still irritate me a little. Regina is really turning into an interesting character. And I think Cora is way over the top, in a great way! She’s really something to get worried about in Storybrooke. I do like the fact that Rumbelle is around and I am ever so glad that Archie is alive.