Just when it looked like Once Upon A Time was on the road to improvement, along comes “In The Name Of The Brother,” a nonsensical episode that forces events in motion without letting them progress naturally in the story. All the semi-villainous characters are returned to full-on bad guy mode by the end of the hour, and the fairyback feels especially tacked on to make actions that seem out of character slightly more plausible. Back in my review of “The Doctor,” I applauded the introduction of a black and white world where public domain horror characters could exist, but after this episode, it appears that the introduction of this new realm is a way for the writers to avoid telling meaningful stories with the main characters of this show. It’s a case of expansion pulling attention from what’s actually important in this show, and with Dr. Frankenstein’s story this week, the conflict just doesn’t make all that much sense.
Last week’s cliffhanger is resolved very quickly, with Rumpelstiltskin immediately healing Belle’s bullet wound while Hook and the automobile driver that crashed into town are taken to the Storybrooke hospital. It looks like guns don’t really pose a threat on this show anymore now that magic is around, because all it takes is the wave of a hand to make everything all better. Unfortunately, magic has all kinds of arbitrary rules, and Rumpelstiltskin can’t bring back his beloved’s memories with the flick of his wrist, even though he created the Dark Curse that started this in the first place. Not even true love’s kiss will work, although it does lead to a very creepy scene of Rumpelstiltskin kissing this sleeping woman who has no idea who he is, and she rightfully flips out.
Later, Rumpelstiltskin brings Belle the chipped teacup that is her most prized possession, which he has enchanted in hopes of it reawakening her memories. She doesn’t want anything to do with this weird old guy who tells her to really focus on this busted piece of kitchenware, and she decides to throw it against the wall instead and shatter it into pieces. Losing Belle gives Rumpelstiltskin the motivation to look for his son, and when Cora shows up in his shop with a giant magic lightbulb that can tell him where his son is, he takes it in exchange for information on how she can get in touch with her daughter. They seal their truce with a kiss, and Cora makes her way to Regina to erase all of her daughter’s season two growth. By the episode’s end, Rumpelstiltskin has cashed in on Emma’s favor she owes him from last season, and he hires her as his guide as he prepares to leave Storybrooke and find his son.
The big loser this week is Regina, who sacrifices all the character development she’s had this season when her mom exploits her fears. Cora realizes that Henry is her daughter’s big weakness, and she takes on his shape to gain entry into Regina’s home, then begins to manipulate Regina’s affections so she’ll go back to the bad side. Regina talks about how much she’s trying to change so she can prove herself worthy of Henry’s love, and calls her mom out on, you know, framing her for murder, to which Cora responds she was trying to show her what the people of Storybrooke really think of her. Of course, the townspeople would react with hostility if their mayor was seen killing a beloved local figure, and it seems like Regina understands this, but once she gets in the car with her mom, everything goes downhill fast.
In the car, Cora takes out the plate Henry made for his mommy and tells Regina that she can get her son back for her. Apparently, Regina’s time in Storybrooke made her forget everything that her mother did to her in the past, as well as what she just did in the present, and she eventually breaks down and cries on her mom’s shoulder, asking how she’ll be able to regain Henry’s love. A really easy way would be to not ally herself with the villains and just go talk to Henry, but why follow the character path that Regina’s on when the writers can backtrack for no good reason? It’s an extremely frustrating development that diminishes one of this show’s most interesting characters (something that could not have been said last season), and hopefully Regina is just playing a trick to find out more about her evil mother’s plan. Cora is essentially responsible for all the bad in Regina, and it seems completely out of character for Regina to trust her mother after all the deception that she’s had to endure in the past.
Was anyone clamoring for another Frankenstein flashback? This week, we find out the events that led to Victor Frankenstein approaching Regina in “The Doctor” and then what happened afterward, and it’s just boring and horribly acted. In terms of performance, Victor Frankenstein’s father makes Henry look good by comparison, hamming up all of his lines to the point where they have zero emotional resonance. It’s the standard sibling rivalry tale, with Victor’s soldier brother Gehrhardt getting all the love in the family while Victor is pushed to the sides. When Gehrhardt is shot, Victor vows to bring him back to life, reviving him but turning him into a monster that kills his father and ultimately begs for his own death.
This ties into the main Storybrooke plot because Dr. Whale is conflicted over saving the life of the stranger that crashed into town. Grumpy wants to let Mr. Mendel (Empire Records’ Ethan Embry) die because he’s afraid he’ll go and bring more outsiders to town, and Rumpelstiltskin agrees, especially because the man probably saw him use magic. Emma isn’t going to let anyone die, and she demands that Dr. Whale save his life, but Whale has an uncharacteristic freakout when he thinks about how he just ends up causing more death every time he tries to save a life. His sudden moral dilemma doesn’t quite gel with the mischievous man we’ve seen in past episodes, but the characterizations are all over the place this episode.
A chat with Ruby helps him realize that he should do the right thing and save Mendel’s life, although that’s likely to cause some problems down the line. Mendel lies to Emma about seeing anything when he came into town, but the episode ends with him calling up his wife and telling her, “You’re not gonna believe what I saw.” Maybe exploring the world outside of Storybrooke is a good idea, because this episode really scraped the bottom of the barrel to find some dramatic weight.
- Captain Hook really wants to have sex with Emma. How many sexual innuendoes did he fit into their conversation?
- Mr. Mendel’s ringtone is the Star Wars theme because this show can use that after Lucasfilm/Disney merger. I imagine that we’ll end up seeing Star Wars land if this show goes for eight more seasons.
- So Ruby has super speed that she can access at all times now. That’s pretty cool.
- In three weeks, Jorge Garcia returns to his horrible role as the Giant, who has been shrunk down and brought to Storybrooke. The preview looks very rough.