This week’s installment of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, “Dreamy,” is another love story, ending just as tragically as the others told so far. Sort of. In the fairy tale world, a dwarf named Dreamy (Lee Arenberg, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) meets a fairy named Nova (the wonderful Amy Acker, Angel, Dollhouse). They are instantly smitten and would like to run off together. Sadly, neither fairies nor dwarfs are supposed to be able to fall in love, and so the bosses of both, Bossy (Ken Kramer) and the Blue Fairy (Keegan Connor Tracy, Battlestar Galactica), plot to discourage this union. The breakup succeeds, and Dreamy, in his despair, is renamed Grumpy.
In the “real” world, the same story pretty much plays out again. Leroy (Arenberg) is the town drunk whom no one likes, and Astrid (Acker) is a nun whose mistake is about to earn her fellow sisters eviction. Leroy has big plans, vowing to sell 1,000 candles to pay their rent to Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle), who is not interested in a compromise. Leroy fails, deeply disappointing Astrid, especially because he lies about it at first. However, this time Leroy finds a way to circumvent authority and save the day, selling the candles, and making Astrid very, very happy.
These two plots, paralleling each other throughout “Dreamy,” expose an element of the universes that Once Upon a Time has not spent a lot of time on: things can be done over. Most of the characters are happier in the magical land, prior to the curse that brings them into reality and wipes their memories. However, Leroy and Astrid are not. Their fantasy story ends with sadness. Now, they get a second chance, and things go right. Leroy has learned his lesson, even if he doesn’t remember being taught it, and he makes things better for himself.
Will this bloom into a full-scale romance for Astrid and Leroy? It’s hard to think of a reason why not. Sure, Astrid is a nun, but she doesn’t necessarily have to stay one forever.
The bigger question is, what will happen when the curse ends, as it eventually must? Will Leroy, returning to being Grumpy, go back to working in the mines, missing Nova terribly? Or will their union survive the transition, both secure in the fact that they belong together?
Of course, there could always be another fairy tale story, untold at this point, where Grumpy sees the error of his ways and makes things right with Nova. But that doesn’t really fit the framework Once Upon a Time is building, and it isn’t likely from the current perspective.
Wherever the story chooses to go from here, it cannot take away from the fact that “Dreamy” delivers a sweet love story, wherein two unlikely souls find their mates in an unexpected and outside-of-the-box way. It’s a timeless tale that never gets old, and touches many hearts. And by using minor characters not explored too much in the traditional bedtime stories, Once Upon a Time frees itself up to go any way that it desires, without worrying about being hemmed in by traditional tellings.
Also, when Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) needs a friend, it’s the best one of her dwarfs that comes to her aid. This is a point that should not be overlooked, as a theme of Once Upon a Time is that kindred spirits are drawn together, whatever world they happen to be in. Leroy doesn’t abandon Mary Margaret, just as surely as Grumpy would never abandon Snow White. Perhaps it appears that Leroy isn’t looking out for MM, but there’s an undercurrent there, all the same.
Once Upon a Time doesn’t spend a lot of time on the sweet, though. Instead, much of the series’ plot focuses on the darkness that the curse places on Storybrooke. This continues in small segments in “Dreamy,” as Regina (Lana Parrilla) plots to frame David (Josh Dallas) for Kathryn’s (Anastasia Griffith, Royal Pains, Damages) disappearance. Emma (Jennifer Morrison) suspects that the clues are not adding up correctly, but by not following up these false leads as if they might be real, it puts her job as sheriff at risk.
Clearly, David is not responsible. Any attempt to convict him of such a crime is silly, and stretches out a story that doesn’t make any viewer happy. However, there must always be obstacles to overcome if a hero is going to win any battle, and these latest machinations by Regina are just that. What’s more, with David and Mary Margaret loathed by the public, it’s likely that many characters will believe the evidence against David, no matter how fake it is.
What will Emma do to save David? How can Mary Margaret begin to get her reputation back? It’s these questions that are central to the arcs of Once Upon a Time, though, as interesting as the central story is, it’s nice to get a break from this for most of “Dreamy.”
“Dreamy” establishes a lot of back story for Snow White’s (Goodwin) best pals. Now fans know that the dwarfs are hatched in groups of eight (Stealthy, the 8th of this most famous brood, is killed in an earlier episode). They toil in the mines, and make the fairy dust that powers the world. They are named by their axes, which provides a wonderful one-liner about trusting Doc’s (David Paul Grove, Elf) medical credentials. There are no female dwarfs. And they cannot fall in love.
While much of this is purely exposition and trivia, it could be important in some way to future stories. Plus, it’s just plain cool to get all of these reveals, and enrich the personalities of Snow White’s friends. And it’s cool to know there are many other dwarfs, such as Bossy and Watchy (Richard Ian Cox, Nana, InuYasha), which expands the world of these beings.
Perhaps most strange in “Dreamy” is the unlikely appearances of a character in an unexpected place. Belle (Emilie de Ravin) is in the bar with the dwarfs, apparently sometime during her plot from the recent (awesome) episode “Skin Deep.” She adds a little to this story, encouraging Grumpy to follow his heart. But one must wonder if perhaps the creative team behind Once Upon a Time was so entranced with Ravin’s take on the character of Belle that they forced her into an episode that she didn’t really belong in, just to use her again. It’s great to see her, but the brief cameo only left dissatisfaction, since it really added nothing to her story.
Once Upon a Time may have stumbled in the first couple of episodes, but it has grown into a must-see favorite every week, with consistently good storytelling and acting. Watch it Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.