Sunday, April 6, 2014

ONCE UPON A TIME Shocks Viewers "Quiet"

Article originally written for Seat42F.

“Quiet Minds,” the latest installment of ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME, is a good one. At face, it’s a hunt for Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). Having escaped Zelena’s (Rebecca Mader) clutches, he’s on the run, and our heroes in Storybrooke want to find him, knowing he can tell them who the witch is and possibly help them defeat her. At the same time, it’s also a strong character episode, with a number of excellent moments between pairs of players, and some very emotional scenes.

A year ago, in the Enchanted Forest, Belle (Emilie de Ravin) and Neal (Michael Raymond-James) search for a way to bring Rumple back from the dead. In his library, they find Lumiere (Henri Lubatti), who says he can help, though it isn’t long before Lumiere is exposed as working for Zelena, who has cursed him into being a candelabra. Unfortunately, Belle and Neal realize they’ve been tricked too late, Neal already using a key to bring The Dark One, a.k.a. Rumple, back.

One might think this is a triumphant moment, but magic always comes with a price, and the price for Rumple is another life. Since Neal opened the door, Neal is the one who must die. Rumple tries vainly to save him, absorbing Neal into himself, but all that results is a confused person that transforms back and forth between Rumple and Neal in Storybrooke, albeit one that Zelena can’t completely control with the dagger, since this person is not wholly The Dark One. When they finally separate, though, Neal dies.

Neal’s sacrifice is unexpected and unfortunate. This leaves Henry (Jared Gilmore) without a father, Rumple without a son, and several people grieving. At the time, it seems completely necessary, as they need Rumple to be sane again to fight Zelena, and Neal passing away restores his father. The manner of death is also a tribute to Rumple, both in the selfish, rash act of bringing Rumple back, and in the ultimately noble way Neal puts others first. And the death scene, Emma and Rumple with Neal, is intense. Still, one wishes there could have been some way for Neal to live, his part in the story not feeling over.

At least before Neal dies, he gets important moments with those he loves. He and Emma discuss at length what should be done about Henry. Even though Henry doesn’t get to meet Neal, Emma does tell their son about his father, which is something. And Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), a comrade of Neal’s from back in the day, both makes his feelings about Neal known and hugs him goodbye, affirming a friendship that has been little focused on thus far.

Of course, the obvious conclusion one might jump to is that this leaves Emma open romantically for Hook, the Neal obstacle removed. However, given Emma’s role as the Savior, she doesn’t really have time for a serious man, anyway. While it feels like Emma belongs with Neal, which is now impossible, it doesn’t seem that way with Hook, and any relations between them likely won’t last.

Now that Neal is dead and Rumple is restored, Zelena’s identity is exposed, meaning she can’t worm her way in with Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) as intended. We still don’t know Zelena’s plan, why she needed The Dark One, whom she now controls, or what connection the baby might have. But at least the fight is out in the open, and that’s the best way for something to be done about.

Amid all this turmoil and sorrow, love does manage to bloom. While searching Zelena’s house for clues, Regina (Lana Parrilla) shares a moment with Robin Hood (Sean Maguire). As soon as she sees the tattoo on Robin’s wrist, though, the sign Tink told Regina would mark her true love, she bolts. This has to be only a temporary setback.

Why does Regina avoid love? Does she worry it will make her soft and she needs to be hard to protect those she cares about, especially Henry? Does she think she doesn’t deserve happiness because she previously made the wrong choices?

Yet, it’s clear Regina is attracted to Robin and he to her. Robin is an outlaw, and while his illegal actions are taken for the greater good, that doesn’t completely absolve him. He understands shades of grey, and he seems to be able to see past Regina’s reputation as the Evil Queen, which he definitely knows about. Whatever Regina’s hesitations are, hopefully Robin will pursue her enough to get around her defenses.

So we have death, love, friendship, parent-child relationships, and a battle now forming against a wicked witch. It’s awfully early in the mid-season to lay so many cards on the table, making me wonder about where the next few episodes are heading, but none can deny that this episode provides plenty to feel and connect to, all while avoiding the glaring mistakes present in last week’s entry. It leaves us feeling satisfied, indeed.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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