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ABC's Once Upon a Time may be once again hitting its stride. Here's why!

TV Review: ‘Once Upon a Time’ Taking a Darker Turn

After watching the latest Once Upon a Time episode, I tweeted that I thought the episode was the first I’d enjoyed in a long while, perhaps the entire season. Immediately, people reacted, wondering why, when the episode seemed full of plot holes, and narrative cheats I liked it. OnceUponATime_1213_624x351

Here, dear readers, are my reasons in no particular order:

Maleficent’s New Story and What It Means for Snow and Charming

I’m still not on board with the triple threat of Maleficent, Ursula and Cruella DeVil. (We can do without the 101 Dalmatians in the Enchanted Forest), but I love Maleficent, ranking her only second to Snow White’s Evil Queen in Disney Evil Witchiness. (The two classic Disney features that most freaked me out as a child were Snow White and Sleeping Beauty’s villains, but I digress.)

We’ve had Snow’s Evil Queen in our midst since the start in the delectable performance of Lana Parrilla, and now Maleficent has returned for all her flamboyant nastiness. But now, we learn that she, like Regina, had been done wrong by none other than that model of purity and goodness, Snow White! Hmm.

The story is pregnant (as it were) with possibilities, as we learn that Snow had long ago caused Maleficient to lose her own baby (if Mal is telling the truth, always a wild card, of course). And to hide this grave secret, Snow and Charming have slunk into a life of lies, deception and (in David’s case) drinking heavily. It’s as if the series creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis have finally realized that Snow and Charming are as interesting as beige wallpaper, and they’d better do something to spice them up. And now, it appears they have. Please, please, please, oh Powers That Be, keep on keepin’ on with this new darker side to Mr. and Mrs. Perfect.

Regina’s Struggle with Redemption

I love my main heroes and villains conflicted. And Regina has always waged an internal struggle between her natural tendency to wicked ways and her desire to be a good guy for her son (and someday, Robin Hood, her one true love). But now with her foes in town, she needs to deal with them, but can she do that and still keep to the more noble side of the line? We see this struggle brewing in her in this week’s episode, and long may it grow.

A Glimmer of Humanity in the Dark One’s Eye

It’s barely there, and as I’ve said both in the space, and on my radio show, I’ve really hated Rumplestiltskin this season. I don’t mind his going to the dark side, or even abandoning his desire to be good, but this sudden turn from being a conflicted villain to pure evil has not set well with me. It’s as if, for me, as a viewer–and fan of the character–I’ve had to completely abandon any inkling of my understanding of Rumplestiltskin (and Captain Hook, by the way). Any spark of humanity I’d perceived in him over the course of nearly four seasons had been a complete lie–and a waste of time in trying to “get” him. To understand the pain behind the action. He has embraced evil, power, and whatever else he may need to what? Get his happy ending? He had it, and blew it to smithereens. (End of Rant!)

But in this week’s episode, finally, finally, finally we see that he maybe, hopefully begins to understand the true consequences of his actions as he watches Belle kiss the Knave. For the first time in nearly a season, we see something from Rumple’s POV. This doesn’t make up for the narrative betrayal of the character, but it does suggest that perhaps all is not lost. Will Rumple see this kiss and begin to comprehend what he has done? Will it lead to his beginning to crawl out of the hole in which he’s found himself? I don’t know, and part of me doubts it, but the kiss and Rumple’s reaction must mean something. And I hold out a glimmer of hope that it will lead him (eventually) away from this path.

So, there you have it. Why I liked this week’s Once Upon a Time, plot holes and all. For this series to work for me any more, I really have to take each episode, each action and each strange addition to the cast of characters at face value. But I have to say, I like the plots and subplots of everyone using each other for their own agendas, laughing at the simplistic notion of “heroes” and “villains” hammered over and over over the past few episodes. It is clear from this week’s story, that the heroes are no heroes, and the villains may be bad, but they all may have a legitimate grievance against the pure-as-driven-snow good guys!

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays on ABC. Be sure to tune in every Tuesday night to my Blogtalk Radio show Let’s Talk TV. We’ll be talking more about Once Upon a Time, and also The Walking Dead, Black Sails, and more!

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, ( 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).”

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