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Once Upon A Time: “Lady Of The Lake”

Illustration for article titled Once Upon A Time: “Lady Of The Lake”
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By the end of “Lady Of The Lake,” there’s a clear sense of how Once Upon A Time will be moving forward in season two, jumping between past and present fairy tale sequences as a heartwarming human story unfolds in Storybrooke. Regina is largely absent in this episode dedicated to parenting, looking at Snow White’s past and present relationship with her daughter, while Charming tries to figure out what to do now that he’s Henry’s guardian. Things are moving at a much brisker pace than last season, and this show is finally figuring out a good balance between fairy tale fantasy and grounded human emotion. The show does run the risk of becoming overstuffed with so many plots going on at once, though, and some of the more dramatic moments lose their impact because they aren’t fully built up.

This episode’s fairyback introduces Lancelot (Friday Night Lights’ Sinqua Walls), a former Knight of the Round Table who has taken to leading King George’s troops in tracking down Charming. He kidnaps Snow in the past and takes her to the King, who tells her about her true love’s twin brother and curses her with a potion that makes her unable to bear children. Things happen very fast in the Enchanted Forest. Lancelot and the newly cursed Snow make their way to the cabin where Charming and his mother are holed up, and arrive just after the two have been ambushed by the king’s troops. Charming kicks some serious ass when he kills the soldiers that attack him, but in the midst of all the action, his mother takes a poison arrow to the chest. To heal his mother, Charming takes her to Lake Nostros, and on the journey his mother learns about Snow’s infertility. They find a barren desert where the lake used to be, dried up after Charming killed the siren in “What Happened To Frederick,” yet Lancelot is able to find a few drops of the magical water in one lone shell. But who will drink it: Charming’s mother or wife?


We know that Snow White eventually has Emma so the curse doesn’t last, but by using magic, this show gets to tell about a woman who finds out she can’t have children and miraculously regains that ability, only to lose her child all over again. Charming’s mother doesn’t tell Snow about the plan she made with Lancelot to not drink the water and instead have it mixed into the wedding chalice Snow drinks from at her and Charming’s impromptu wedding ceremony. She’d rather die knowing that she will have grandchildren rather than live to see her son and daughter-in-law in pain. And as much as Snow White wants a child, that’s how much present day Snow White regrets missing Emma grow up. Now that she’s trapped in a foreign land with her daughter, Snow is able to be the mother that she never was, which is easy because Emma is really good at almost dying.

In the Enchanted Forest, Emma learns that Cora is Regina’s mother and is warned by Snow that she’s much, much worse that what they’re used to back in Storybrooke. I’m a fan of the continued use of Barbara Hershey, but this show is starting to get a little heavy on the villains. There’s already Rumpelstiltskin, Regina, Cora, and King George (who appears in Storybrooke in this week’s cliffhanger), and next week we’re getting Captain Hook as well. And what about the mystery man from the top of this season? That’s a lot of rogues for one small town in Maine. Snow White and Emma are called to a meeting with the camp’s leader, Lancelot, who gives the two a handy exposition dump. Snow White knows of a portal to get back home, but she won’t say it aloud for fear that Cora can hear them, a wise decision because the witch is not as powerless as she appears. Lancelot offers Mulan to aid Snow and Emma on their quest for the magic wardrobe that originally sent Emma away, and they make their way to Snow and Charming’s castle, followed by a vengeful Aurora. They enter into ogre-infested territory, careful to be quiet because ogres are blind and detect their prey through sound. That all goes to hell when Aurora pulls a knife on Snow in the middle of the night, a foolish plan that ends with her getting thrown over Snow’s shoulder and pinned to the ground. When the ever-bright Emma decides to shoot her pistol into the air as a warning sign, she calls down the wrath of a giant ogre, which this show’s CGI budget is moderately successful at pulling off.

While Emma and Snow fight off the giant mutated Ally McBeal baby, Prince Charming is dealing with a big baby of his own in Storybrooke: Henry. Charming doesn’t want Henry involved in his current search for a portal to the Enchanted Forest, giving the very reasonable explanation that there is very dangerous magic at work here that will very likely hurt him. Of course, Henry goes out on his own anyway, meeting up with the Mad Hatter so that they can have a conversation about how the Hatter needs to get over his fears and reunite with his daughter. Hatter is angry that his daughter will be angry at him for his absence, but Henry tells him that it can’t be as bad as the sadness she feels not knowing. In exchange for these pearls of wisdom, Hatter tells Henry about his mother’s vault and that it’s the likeliest place for answers. Henry tricks Regina into meeting him for lunch as he sneaks into her office and steals her keys, breaking into the vault and uncovering the multitude of mysteries hidden under the family tomb. Henry opens a box and two snakes attack, but Charming arrives just in time to save him. Now aware that pushing Henry away isn’t going to work if he wants to keep his grandson out of danger, Charming realizes that he needs to help Henry find the magic in the real world until his mom and grandma come back. He buys a pair of wooden swords because the grandson of a prince should know how to swordfight, and they duel on the streets like one big happy family while Charming’s dad lurks in the distance.

Like Snow, Charming missed out on the formative years of his daughter’s life, so now he’s going to take a bigger part in Henry’s life. Grandpa’s got an easier job, because Snow has to break through the emotional wall her daughter has built up before they can actually have a meaningful relationship. When they find the wardrobe, it’s been stripped of its power, but they can bring it back to the island where hopefully someone will have enough magic to restore the portal. Ah, the good old, always malleable rules of magic. That’s when Lancelot shows up, and he’s acting fishy. Snow pulls her sword on the imposter, revealing herself to be Cora, who killed Lancelot a while back and has been leading these people the entire time. The fierceness of Cora reminds me of Lena Olin’s Irina Derevko on season two of Alias: the take-no-prisoners mom of a major character who has no problem backstabbing anyone to get what she wants. Emma burns down the wardrobe before Cora is able to use it, but Cora ends up collecting some ash from the charred remains for future use. When Cora disappears, Snow and Emma finally have their big emotional moment as Emma breaks down in tears. Emma’s never been put first by someone, and as she hugs her daughter, Snow tells her to get used to it. Their story ends with a tender solo moment as Snow looks at the ruins of her daughter’s nursery and remembers its previous glory and all the hope it represented. Those days are dead and gone, and while that hurts Snow, having her daughter by her side now makes the pain of those missing 28 years just a little more bearable.


Stray observations:

  • Sinqua Halls must have a great agent because he’s a featured cast member for most of the third season of Friday Night Lights whose name appears in the credits even if he has no speaking lines. This naturally led to my roommate and me yelling “Oh my god, it’s Jamarcus!” whenever he appeared on screen.
  • Is a chimera like a churducken?
  • So that coffin in the Regina’s tomb must be on rollers or something, because there’s no way a little kid could move it.
  • They made that flower arch for Charming and Snow White’s wedding very, very fast.
  • “I’m afraid this is going to take something stronger than fairy dust.” That is a serious line that was delivered this week. The actor gave himself a set of intentions, examined his character circumstances, and then delivered a line about fairy dust.
  • Hook debuts next week, and he looks like he fell off the back of the Fall Out Boy tour bus. But guy-liner can be pretty hot on the right person, and Colin O’Donoghue looks to be the right person.

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