Cora is busy in this episode; as soon as she handles Gold, she sets her sights on her daughter Regina (Lana Parrilla), manipulating her into giving dear old Mom a second chance. Both Regina and Gold have so much to lose that Cora walks through them both like butter. (And I still don't trust that Cora's kiss is just a kiss, and Gold's expression suggests that she imparts to him something other than lip gloss; he looks horrified.)
The other part of the story is a continuation (or a prequel, I guess) of "The Doctor," which tells Dr. Whale's Tale. Like so many others in Once Upon a Time, Dr. Whale/Dr. Frankenstein's story involves a troubled parent-child relationship. Victor is a disappointment to his father, who sees no use in his science. Again we see the Rumple-Whale conflict between magic and science, with Whale coming to the conclusion that like magic, science too comes with a cost.
Of course, the cost of science can be the loss of magic in our lives. When everything can be explained in the mundane terms of blood and flesh and bones and chromosomes, the world can so easily lose its sense of wonder. Although I'm not sure that's what writer Jane Espenson was going for in this terrific episode and "The Doctor," it certainly resonates with me and something I think about a lot.
This is a fabulous episode, one of the season's strongest. All of the main characters have important roles to play in different story threads.
I loved the richness and texture afforded by the high-definition black and white rendering of Frankenstein's story. Adding Rumplestiltskin in very majestic red (loved that costume) was a nice touch, and since Rumple is not from Whale's Gothic horror movie world, Rumple's fanciful (and colorful) attire makes sense.
Resident werewolf Red (Meghan Ory) and Whale together make a great couple. Both troubled and slightly dangerous, with monster reputations to boot, it's nice to see them drawing comfort from each other. Anyone else raise an eyebrows (or spit out whatever you were drinking) when Ruby tells Whale she ate her boyfriend? (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, never mind.)
I have to wonder about that wrist watch Whale took off the Greg Mendel. Is it simply a trigger for a bad memory, or does that watch signify something else to the good doctor? Is it something Whale has recognized from another time or place? As Henry wonders, realizing that Frankenstein is no fairytale character (and not in his book), who else, from what other fantasy lands live amongst them? And are that watch and the Pennsylvania license plates a clue? What do you think, O wise readers?