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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Once Upon A Time: “The Doctor”

Illustration for article titled Once Upon A Time: “The Doctor”
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With Halloween just around the corner, Once Upon A Time tries its hand at a spooky, Regina-centric episode that not only features some considerable character development, but also moves the plot forward. Regina is having trouble quitting magic because she can’t give up the hope that one day she’ll be able to revive her dead lover Daniel, and the fairyback expounds on Regina’s past attempt to bring her fiancé back from the dead. Meanwhile, in the Enchanted Forest, Emma, Snow, and company return to their camp to discover that Cora has slaughtered everyone except for one person: Captain Hook. It’s a solid episode that incorporates much of this series’ rapidly expanding cast, and it poses some interesting questions about the nature of this show’s alternate worlds.

This week’s big character reveal is that Dr. Whale is Victor Frankenstein, although the start of the episode makes it seem like he might be the wonderful Wizard of Oz with his emerald coat and “The Wizard” moniker. Maybe the Wizard of Oz and Victor Frankenstein are one and the same? That would be a really wacky twist. Turns out Frankenstein’s monster is Victor’s brother, but in order to bring him to life he needs an enchanted heart, like the glowing ones that Regina pulls out of people’s chests. Except in the past, Regina is still pretty hesitant about ripping out interior organs, and when her magic teacher Rumpelstiltskin asks her to kill a unicorn, she wimps out at the last minute. He knows that Regina’s love for Daniel and hope for a future with him is what prevents her from truly embracing her full potential, so he arranges for Whale to botch Daniel’s revival and push Regina over the edge.

Back in “Hat Trick,” we were teased to some of the various worlds that these characters inhabit. We’ve seen the real world, fairy tales, and Wonderland, and we can assume that Neverland is also one of the worlds accessible through the portal of doors. At the end of this week’s we see another, the black-and-white horror world of Victor Frankenstein, which is probably home to all the public domain versions of the Universal monsters. But then why was he teleported to Storybrooke when the Dark Curse hit? How many of the other worlds had people teleported to Storybrooke when the curse hit? And just how many worlds are there? The portal of doors showed an Oz door, and Rumpelstiltskin asks the Mad Hatter about a pair of teleporting slippers in passing, so it’s beginning to seem like a trip to Oz is imminent.

All this talk of multiple worlds makes it sound like this show runs the risk of growing too big too fast, but honestly, most of the appeal of this show is seeing what new characters the producers will put a spin on next. Trips to Oz and Neverland might do some damage to this show’s budget, but I’d rather see the show constantly exploring new places rather than running in place like so much of last season. This new balance of Storybrooke/Enchanted Forest/fairyback works well for the series, and that middle element can always be switched with a different fantastic locale to keep things fresh.

While Mulan and Sleeping Beauty continue to not contribute much, Emma makes herself uncharacteristically useful in the Enchanted Forest as she refuses to trust their newly discovered survivor. She ties him to a tree as ogre food until he finally confesses, telling them about his nickname—much to Emma’s incredulity—and Cora’s plan. He leads them to what is most assuredly a trap, but as long as Emma knows that he’s teamed with Cora, she’s able to stay a step ahead of him. That’s all going to change when the landscape does, and Hook takes them to the beanstalk that leads to the enchanted compass they need to get home, but also the giant that stands in their way. How great is it that not only did Once Upon A Time keep its new stud alive, but has made him a recurring piece of eye candy? (Same goes for Sebastian Stan’s Mad Hatter.) Not to objectify these talented actors, but getting engaged in the exploits of Prince Charming, the Mad Hatter, and Captain Hook is a lot easier when they look like male models.

Fellow cute actor Noah Bean returns this week to play evil zombie Daniel, revived by Dr. Whale in hopes that Regina would teleport him back to his world and his brother. Unfortunately, he’s either asleep or giving us crazy face for the entire episode, because he comes back crazy and eager to kill. He also conveniently is revived on the same day that Charming gives Henry a new horse and leaves him at the stables, which is the place that zombie Daniel goes to because it’s where he was when he died. The Storybrooke plot is the weakest of the three storylines this week, although it does firmly close the chapter on the Daniel portion of Regina’s life. She’s able to get a brief glimpse at the Daniel she knew when she tells the zombie she loves him, but when he reverts to a more primal mode, she’s forced to turn him to dust, destroying the thing that has been holding her back for all these years. Maybe now she’ll be able to make good on her promise to Henry to stop using magic, just in time for Cora to show up and make a mess out of everything when her daughter’s at her weakest.


Stray observations:

  • This season has done a good job of putting Henry in the action while effectively keeping Jared Gilmore out of scenes, like this week’s “Henry gets a horse” plot.
  • How long until we get an episode about Frankenstein’s tortured relationship with his brother?
  • As an avid comic book reader, I was really hoping that Dr. Whale would get a new badass cybernetic arm at the end of this episode.
  • “It’s not the climb you need to worry about. It’s the giant at the top.” And that giant is Hurley!