Monday, May 4, 2015

ONCE UPON A TIME Needs a "Mother"

Article originally written for Seat42F.

More than one “Mother” makes a tough decision in this week’s ONCE UPON A TIME on ABC. The story has reached a pivotal moment for several characters. The lines of good and evil have been blurred, but now some players must pick a side, either going back to who they were or moving in a new direction. Do any of the bad guys really have the power to sabotage anything else?

In flashback, we see Cora (Barbara Hershey) return to apologize to Regina (Lana Parrilla) for killing her one true love. But instead of tracking down Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), Cora tries to pass off the Sheriff of Nottingham (Wil Traval) as her daughter’s destiny. Regina sees through it, makes herself barren when she thinks her mother’s plot involves taking control of Regina’s yet-to-be-conceived child, and banishes Cora forever.

I’m not really sure Regina and Cora are well served in “Mother” based on where they were at the time this plot takes place. Cora is truly evil in past installments, and this Cora seems sincerely repentant. This Regina is in the height of her days as the Evil Queen, and seems way too eager to give up what she has achieved for true love. It just doesn’t gel in the continuity.

The present Regina has a much more satisfying story. She considers having Isaac (Patrick Fischler), the Author, write Zelena (Rebecca Mader) out of the storybook entirely. But when Zelena brings up Cora, Regina realizes that part of being a hero is not taking petty revenge on one’s enemies, and she decides to drop the scheme, showing her growth. Unfortunately, Isaac is not at all consistent, first raving about how much he loves Regina’s shades of grey, then immediately fleeing back to Gold’s (Robert Carlyle) side when Regina does the right thing. Also, Regina seems to have achieved her happy ending without the Author’s intervention, which was supposed to be impossible, no?

Gold himself is nearly dead at this point, something that also doesn’t really add up with who he was, especially given his redemption arc in the early seasons, and the fact that we’ve never seen anyone die of a black heart before, no matter how evil they are, even ones much more so than Gold. But I guess we need to suspend disbelief here and hopefully the ending of the season will make sense for ONCE UPON A TIME, at least in the context of recent episodes, though I’m not very optimistic about it.

Speaking of uneven characters, Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten) bypasses a redemption arc entirely, so happy to have her daughter, Lily (Agnes Bruckner), back that she abandons all thoughts of revenge. Even when Lily doesn’t seem to share Maleficent’s vision, Maleficent stays tame and reasonable, ready to be there when Lily does calm down and decide to give a family a try. This is moving, sure, but oh so ridiculous for a villain.

The one subplot that does kind of work in “Mother” is when Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) helps Emma (Jennifer Morrison) forgive her parents. Even though Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) has a completely unnecessary injury at the time and Emma directs her healing words only at her mother, ignoring David (Josh Dallas), who is standing right there, the way this turns out still works well for Emma, resetting her back on the right path.

ONCE UPON A TIME is so frustrating because I feel if the writers either concentrated a little bit on continuity or were allowed to do so (I really don’t know who exactly is to blame for the piece jumping all over the place) it could be very good again, as it once was. Yet, even in an episode like “Mother,” which seems to make sense in theory, there are way too many things that need fixed for it to be praised. I kind of hope Isaac resets everything entirely, wiping the slate clean so the show can start all over again, though I’m sure that’s not what will happen.

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

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