Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Is This the "Best" ONCE UPON A TIME Can Do?

Article originally written for Seat42F.

This week’s ONCE UPON A TIME is called “Best Laid Plans” because the characters in it don’t always get what they want, no matter how hard they try and how much thought goes into it beforehand. Whether it’s Regina (Lana Parrilla) trying to play the villains until she finds out their plan, or Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas) attempting to ensure their child ends up with a clean soul, things don’t go the way they think they will. It’s hard to control the outcome of anything in life.

In fairy tale land flashbacks, Snow and Charming ask The Apprentice (Timothy Webber) to help ensure their unborn daughter will be good. He tells them a vessel is needed to channel the darkness into, and they decide Maleficent’s egg is just the thing. By the time they realize there’s a baby within, not a monster, it’s too late, and baby, Cruella (Victoria Smurfit), and Ursula (Merrin Dungey) go tumbling into our world.

The whole magic spell in this episode makes no sense, a hole-ridden plot even more shaky than what ONCE UPON A TIME has been delivering on a regular basis lately. If Snow and Charming go to all of this trouble, then Emma (Jennifer Morrison) should be guaranteed to be a hero, right? The darkness has been removed from her. So why do Snow and Charming go to great lengths in the Storybrooke present to try to keep her that way? Why are they worried their fretting over what they did would ruin her as a child? It just doesn’t add up.

This backstory does explain how the female witches came to be on Earth, where Gold (Robert Carlyle) finds them earlier this season. However, when they meet back up with Maleficient a few episodes ago, there is no mention of their disappearance. Assuming they stay on Earth from this point until Gold finds them, why is that not a part of the story earlier in the season? Why doesn’t Maleficent ask what happened to them, or they volunteer what became of her baby, which Gold finally shows her in “Best Laid Plans?”

Lo and behold, Maleficent’s child is none other than Young Emma’s (Abby Ross) friend Lily. Is it just me, or does the coincidence seem too much? ONCE UPON A TIME already shows us how Emma and Lily meet, and it certainly seems like it’s purely by chance. Are we expected to believe there is fate involved, forcing them to come together? That’s not something the show has used before in a major way, especially knowing The Author (Patrick Fischler, Lost, Mad Men) is locked up by this point and can no longer manipulate the story.

Yep, we finally see The Author in “Best Laid Plans,” too. Or, more accurately, we see the last author. He’s the latest in a long line, but unlike his predecessors, he manipulates the story, rather than just observing and recording. Of course, somehow the book continues to be written after he is trapped in the page, as it records the events of the curse, which again, doesn’t make sense.

No amount of great little moments can make up for this gigantic plot holes. Regina and Henry (Jared Gilmore) have a terrific scene in which they communicate with a look, but that is overshadowed by what’s happening around them. Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) is deliciously jealous of Emma’s friendship with August (Eion Bailey), but it’s resolved too quickly. Gold talking to an unconscious Belle (Emilie de Ravin) would be moving, if his character hadn’t already been completely ruined, his redemptive qualities stripped away over the past year. Emma finding out her parents lied to her might be effective, if it weren’t couched in the nonsensical part of the story in which she could still somehow go bad. Ditto for Maleficent’s pain at losing her child to so-called “heroes.” I just don’t get why this show, which delivered half a season of greatness just over a year ago, could fall so far and not recover. It really bums me out.

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

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