Emotional entanglements cloud our vision and lead us down dangerous paths. This message emerges three times in episode 11 of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.” If there’s an overriding theme in Once Upon a Time it is that everything comes at a price: magic, love, freedom—even the granting of a wish by a centuries-old genie.
That price is magnified when emotions are involved, and it appears that each of the characters in Storybrooke and their counterparts in the Enchanted Forest are often driven by emotions—with one exception, the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) and her alter ego Mayor Regina Mills, who seems to be the only one (yes, that includes Mr. Gold) with no emotional underpinnings, no sense of right or wrong—only what suits her.
In turn, Sidney (Giancarlo Esposito), his genie alter ego, and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) are driven by emotional entanglement, and ruled by the god of “be careful what you wish for.” Even Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) should be wary of her current entanglement with married friend David. If the mayor finds out what’s goin’ on, Mary Margaret will undoubtably have a high price to pay. Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle—can anyone do quiet menace any better?) too “wishes” for an alliance with Emma, as he tells her near the episode’s end. And I do think they’re headed for an uneasy alliance, these two. But will Mr. Gold, too have a price to pay if he gets hsi wish?
“Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” is Sidney’s story. In Storybrooke Sidney is a discredited newspaper reporter and failed sheriff candidate, but we soon discover that back in the land of fairy tales, he was once a genie trapped in a lamp, free only to grant the wishes of others. Found by a kindly king (Snow’s father and the Evil Queen’s husband) who lacks for nothing, and has no wishes that the genie can grant him, the genie is at last given a wish of his own—his freedom. But how has he come to reside in the Evil Queen’s mirror—forever in Regina’s pocket?
Knowing that Sidney is actually the Evil Queen’s magic mirror suggests from the beginning of “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree” that something’s rotten in Storybrooke. Tracking down Emma, Sidney informs her that he wishes revenge upon the mayor for wrecking his career and reputation. He wants to take her down, becoming a surprising new ally for Emma, telling her that the mayor has stolen $50,000 from Storybrooke’s taxpayers for some nefarious plan.
Although she’s curious, at first Emma is reluctant to use illegal means to get the goods on Mayor Mills. Preferring to stay above-board, she ultimately sees no other way to expose the mayor after realizing that the mayor is really gunning for her.
So, playing super sleuths, Sidney and Emma learn that Regina plans to purchase a tract of land from Mr. Gold, presumably for her own use—“presumably” being the operative word. The good gotten, Emma allows her emotional stake drive her down a wrong path, and she’s neither as wary nor as careful as she otherwise might be. It turns out to have been a grand manipulation by the mayor. (I seriously would not want to play her in a game of chess.)
Speaking of chess, back in the Enchanted Forest, the queen’s little strategic game manipulates the genie into murdering her husband, the king. Like Emma, he is fogged in by his emotions (his love for the queen), and in the end finds himself trapped inside her mirror. Using his own wish, he asks to never be out the queen’s sight again. Be careful what you wish for!
All the poor genie wants is to find love, and when he thinks it comes in the guise of the queen, especially as she leads him to believe his feelings are reciprocated. But the queen has neither scruples or any genuine feelings of her own (or does she?), and in the end has the genie (and her husband) right where she wants them: one dead, and the other trapped in eternity to play into the queen’s narcissistic ego both in the Enchanted Forest and in Storybrooke.
Both the genie and Sidney are driven by misplaced love, compromising their morality for love, yet paying a steep price for it. In Storybrooke, Sidney’s actions will become costly as he plays double agent for Mayor Regina. Emma now trusts him, knowing that she must trust someone, but she’s walking into a trap.
Personally (oh, and I just know you all will disagree with me), I think Emma would be far better off allying herself (even uneasily) with Mr. Gold. For all his sinister aura and menacing presence, I think Gold’s hate of Regina is equal to that of Emma’s. They would make a powerful team, don’t you think?
I really liked this episode, and I think it was probably among the four or five strongest episodes yet. I liked the seamless interweaving of themes, and although I just knew that Sidney was a spy for the mayor, I couldn’t have guessed that it was he who cut Emma’s brake lines.
And who caught the promo for the next episode (which won’t air until February 12)? Another Jane Espenson outing, “Skin Deep” will give us Once Upon a Time’s take on Beauty and the Beast’s “tale as old as time.” Not to give too much away, but the episode casts Rumple as The Beast! Verrrry interesting.
Once Upon a Time writer/producer Jane Espenson will join us here at Blogcritics for a LiveChat event immediately following the East Coast airing of the show on February 12. So please make sure to spread the word: Google+ it, put it on your Facebook pages and Twitter feeds! I will update the address in about a week (and I will tweet it out as well). So, stay tuned!