Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Once Upon a Time in "Tallahassee"

Last night's installment of ABC's Once Upon a Time may have been called "Tallahasse," but not a single moment of the episode took place in that Florida city. Instead, "Tallahassee" is a dream. It represents home and family for Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), a chance to be with the man she loves and raise a kid together.

But this dream is dashed eleven years ago, as we see when Emma finally gets her own flashback. Yep, the backstory of "Tallahassee" tells a fairy tale in the real world. Thief Emma meets another criminal, Neal (Michael Raymond-James, Terriers, True Blood), and together they become a sort of Bonnie and Clyde. Seeking to prevent a tragic ending, August (Eion Bailey) arranges for Emma to end up in jail and Neal to step back until Emma has fulfilled her destiny.

How might Emma's life be different if August hadn't been "protecting" her? Neal seems to really love her. Maybe they could have had a happy ending together. Yes, a content Emma might have been harder to drag to Storybrooke, but she would have been a less angsty person. If August really wanted to help, shouldn't he have thought about this? Not to mention, why couldn't August get her to her destiny much sooner?

That aside, though, we now know the meaning of the opening scene of season two, and who the Mysterious Man is. He will surely come for Emma, as his apartment showed no signs of him having moved on without her. Will Emma be able to start to forgive him, the way she is doing with Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas), who abandoned her for equally noble reasons? As a "normal" human, what will Neal's introduction to the fairy tale world be like? What has he been doing in the intervening years? And what is in August's box that moved Neal to listen?

In this very Emma-heavy episode, Once Upon a Time also follows her in the story book land. She climbs a beanstalk with Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) to get a compass from the last giant (Jorge Garcia, Lost, Alcatraz). She completes the quest, of course, in her own unique way, and earns her battle stripes in this world, no longer the fish out of water she began as a few episodes ago.

What viewers are reminded of in this episode, though, and what Emma already well knows is, people are complicated, and you can't always take what they say at face value. Who is the real bad guy in "Tallahassee," the giant or Hook? The giant hates people and almost kills Emma, but his people were slain by men, so there's no wonder he holds a grudge. And once Emma spares his life, he does her a favor AND allows her to leave. So he's clearly not unreasonable.

My question is, though, how believable is it that the giant learns to trust Emma? He is described as the baddest of them all, the only survivor from the war. Would he really, after so much suffering and loss, be able to strike a deal and some sort of trust, slim as it might be, with Emma? Wouldn't he just kill her? The fact that he doesn't makes him not only a good guy, but a hero of the highest order. Which means he should definitely return again.

Hook, on the other hand, I do not trust. I think Emma is right to have the giant keep him for ten hours and allow the ladies to escape. I don't care what he tells them, I can't help but feel he is still playing out Cora's (Barbara Hershey) plan. And while I think there is some real grief behind Hook's motivations, and do think that he is sincere when he tells Emma about his motivations to get to Storybrooke, the story behind it all cannot be discounted, knowing his love began in the most unorthodox and sinister of ways.

And I guess there will be no Jack in the story of this giant and beanstalk, given the pile of bones on the floor.

There is another danger revealed in "Tallahasse." Both Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) and Aurora (Sarah Bolger) have nightmares about a red room with burning curtains. Are they seeing each other in the room, or a villain we have yet to meet? What does it mean? When did premonitions enter into the mix? When will this go down? Scary stuff, a level of danger that might just edge out everything we've seen so far.

There are a few weak points, such as characters making leaps not fully explained, but overall season two of Once Upon a Time has been an exciting thrill ride. I'm ready for Emma and Snow to get back to their friends, but definitely excited about what's to come next. "Tallahasse" is not as good as recent episodes like "The Doctor," "Crocodile," and "We Are Both," but is still a fun time.

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

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