In the realm of nothing can ever be easy on ABC’s hit series Once Upon a Time, this week’s episode “Whatever Happened to Frederick?” continues the saga of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) and their Storybrooke alter egos Mary Margaret and David. In Fairy Tale Land (FTL) Charming is aided by his betrothed Abigail (Anastasia Griffith) as he tries to make his escape from what is certain to be a loveless marriage. (P.S. She doesn’t want to marry him either!)
Charming wonders why the princess is so eager to help him forge ahead with his love of Snow, and she tells him of Frederick, a brave noble knight who saved her father King Midas’ life and to whose hand Abigail is promised. Except. By stepping between the Midas and his pursuer, Frederick had been touched by the cursed king and turned into a gold statue. Not even true love’s kiss can penetrate the gold. She has been denied her own true love, and would not want to deny that sort of love to Charming.
Touched by her story, the prince wonders if there’s anything he can do to help. And, aha! Of course there is. There is this lake, you see; Nostos, it’s called, and water taken from this lake will break the curse. Except, there’s one small problem.
A beautiful shape-shifting siren rules Lake Nostos, and she has taken the lives of many men, who now lie dead on the bottom. The siren, like the lake in which she dwells, comes from the classic Homeric tale The Odyssey. In The Odyssey, Odysseus is also tempted by sirens who distract him from his “nostos”—his “journey homeward.” Once’s siren, in the same vein, threatens to keep Charming from fulfilling his promise to Abigail—and ultimately from his journey home (reuniting with Snow).
But Charming is able to withstand his desire, even as the siren morphs into the image of his beloved, making him the first to prevail against the lake’s protector. Able to secure the cure to the curse for Abigail, Frederick is freed from his gold shell, and Charming can pursue his journey to recapture Snow.
Back in Storybrooke, the tale told is a bit more woeful, and Charming’s counterpart David is not quite as forthright and brave (and he’s a bit of a jerk on top of it). Tired of sharing David with his wife, Mary Margaret has had enough. She wants her beau to tell Kathryn the truth and end their loveless marriage. Although David complies, telling Kathryn he wants to end it, he doesn’t mention Mary Margaret at all (he says, to avoid hurting her feelings), but that backfires spectacularly when Mayor Regina Mills (Lana Parilla, also known as The Evil Queen) spills the truth. And when Kathryn confronts her rival in a busy school corridor, the young teacher’s reputation is besmirched. Everyone in town is casting her knowing furtive glances and avoiding her. And someone has painted “Tramp” in read across her car windows. (Of course we learn who that someone is later in the episode; it’s Regina, naturally!)
Horrified, hurt, and embarrassed, Mary Margaret blames David, emphatically breaking things off with him. In the meantime, Kathryn attempts to leave Storybrooke, having been accepted to a law school in Boston. But we all know that no one can leave Storybrooke, and when we last see her, she has vanished from her crashed car, which has been discovered by a guy who looks an awful lot like Frederick from FTL. Like I said at the top, it’s never easy in the world of Once Upon a Time.
But sometimes, good things happen—or at least appear to happen. The handsome stranger lurking about Storybrooke these past few weeks has a name—August W(ayne) Booth (Eion Bailey). And having, a few weeks ago, recovered Henry’s storybook from the wreckage of the old playground, he has made a new copy of the tome, painstakingly rebinding it with new pages that he creates in what looks like a darkroom.
August then places the new copy of the storybook back into Henry’s lockbox and waits for Emma to find it, placed surreptitiously and deliberately right behind her car. Henry is, of course, thrilled to recover the book. But I have to wonder whether August changed anything (significant or not) in his recreation. More and more I believe that August represents the tales’ teller. What do you think?
“Whatever Happened to Frederick” was a good episode, getting back to the story of Snow White and Prince Charming, which drives the overall plot of the series. But I have to say I missed Rumple and/or Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) who was nowhere to be seen this week. I realize he was the focus of last week’s episode, and the creators had to get back to the base narrative. But I feel that his presence in an episode always adds an enigmatic layer or two to the episode.
I’ve been thinking a lot of the dynamic between The Evil Queen/Regina and Rumple/Mr. Gold, and I will explore that in a new article, hopefully late this week. So, stay tuned. Once Upon a Time will be back on the air March 4 with the backstory of the Seven Dwarves and, (I believe) the reappearance of Belle. When last we heard of Belle (at least according to The Evil Queen) had thrown herself off a tower in her father’s castle (of course we know the queen lies!).
Of course, the end of “Skin Deep” told us otherwise, and we know that Belle lives. But the queen’s lie leaves Rumple bereft and the Evil Queen with a new way to torment her adversary.