While Grimm took a break, Once Upon a Time moved ahead with a new episode that focused on the ever-complicated relationship between Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas). In it, Mary Margaret reveals that she sits at the coffee shop every morning at 7:15AM, because she knows that’s when David comes in to pick up coffee for himself and his wife, and she cherishes this brief contact with him every morning. The thing is, he’s there at 7:15AM every morning, because he’s hoping to see her. After an emotional moment they shared in a cabin in the woods, and a pregnancy scare from Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith), they succumb to their feelings for each other.
Meanwhile, Regina (Lana Parilla) asks Emma (Jennifer Morrison) to do some digging on the new stranger in town (Eion Bailey). Turns out, he’s a writer carrying around a typewriter in his suspicious wooden box. How did a writer get into Storybrooke?
Might his last name be Grimm? Or Andersen?
In the fairytale world, we see how Prince James and Snow White professed their love for each other, only for Snow to be forced by a threat from the King to break James’ heart and leave him forever. In order to forget him, and ease her pain, she makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin, who gives her a magic potion that will get the prince out of her head, which she drinks much to the dismay of her new friend, Grumpy (Lee Arenberg), and six other dwarfs who agree to let her live with them so that they can keep her safe.
And did you know that there was an eighth dwarf named Stealthy? ‘Cause there was. Only he wasn’t as stealthy as he needed to be toward the end there. That’s why he died.
Script: Daniel T. Thomsen has given us a beautifully-written script that focuses on two of the most intriguing and endearing characters on the show, and he does an excellent job of showing — both in Storybrooke and in the fairy tale world — exactly why Mary Margaret and David (and Snow and James) are in love. It isn’t just magical, fairy tale… stuff. These are two people who think alike and feel alike. Even when avoiding each other, they end up in the same places, because they are very much the same.
In “7:15AM,” we get to see incredibly well-written characters who are heroic in believable ways and flawed in believable ways, even in the midst of this fairy story. Snow doing everything within her power to get to her love only to have to break the prince’s heart (and her own) in order to save his life. Mary Margaret’s stalkerish tendencies, her irrational desire to help a wounded dove as a surrogate self, and her revealing too much when she talked to David about Kathryn’s pregnancy test. David trying to make things work with Kathryn and having it backfire.
There were also some character moments that were surprising. For the first time, Regina acknowledges Emma in relation to Henry. When she says that Emma will look into the writer, because she’s asking her to, she says that it’s because he’s a danger to “the one thing that we both care about. Henry.” It was interesting to see Regina so flustered by The Stranger’s appearance that she’s willing to find common ground with Emma in order to get him out of Storybrooke. Snow White taking the magic potion! Where does the story go now, and how exactly is it that The Prince finds her again? There was also the believably villainous in King George. No mustache-twirling villainy here. It is completely understandable that he would be willing to kill the “son” that is not his to get what he wants.
There was also a great little line that will probably be a full episode all to itself. Snow says to Red Riding Hood “I helped you when no one else would.” It’s a tantalizing hint about Red Riding Hood’s past. How might Snow White have affected her story?
Lastly, The Stranger’s scene with Emma in the diner was priceless. The Stranger playing Emma’s curiosity against her, simultaneously answering her questions and making himself more mysterious.
“7:15 A.M.” was a great respite from the previous week’s lull, and provided not only a story that pulled viewers in, but one that provided some wonderful character detail.
Performances: I always look forward to Ginnifer Goodwin getting the bulk of an episode, because her Snow White/Mary Margaret is fascinating. Goodwin captures the strength behind love. In her portrayal, love isn’t weakness or some kind of girlish fantasy version of itself. Her fierce determination in the face of adversity, as well as her just barely holding back tears as she’s breaking her love’s heart, show us love in all its complexity. As Mary Margaret, her wounded-bird physicality and beautiful vulnerability continue to astonish, especially when compared to the more robust performance she gives as Snow White.
Robert Carlysle was the best he’s ever been as Rumpelstiltskin in this episode. Not just doing the standard evil-mysterious thing, he also managed to be really funny. “What use have you for it now it’s been plucked from your heed?” was amazing delivery.
Among the standouts in this episode were Lee Arenberg as Grumpy, who gave this oft-overlooked character some lovely depth; and Eion Bailey as The Stranger, who is compelling and charming in all his mystery.
Production: Not only did we get back to my favorite costume (Snow’s woodland outfit will always be my favorite), but we also got some beautiful new entries in Red Riding Hood’s outfit, and Snow’s cape when she sneaks into Midas’ palace delivering flowers.
Usually color pops on Once Upon a Time. What was interesting in “7:15 A.M.” was the use of more washed out color in Midas’ palace. It was as if the color had been drained out of the place along with all hope. Then certain things would pop, like Snow’s sunflowers, and suddenly the cinematography was telling the story better than even the script or the performances.
Representation: We had a first on the Representation front in that a lot of focus was placed on the Dwarfs. Once Upon a Time provides one of the few stories on television where dwarf actors are integral to the storytelling, and “7:15 A.M.” allowed them to finally get a well-deserved showcase, particularly through Lee Arenberg’s performance as Grumpy.
Audience Engagement: On Twitter, both Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas have been talking to fans about possible names/hashtags with which to refer to fans of Snow/James and Mary Margaret/David. Choices like #Charmings and #Snowers were bandied around. While I’m not sure if fandom has selected a label yet (correct me if I’m wrong!), the message is clear. People LOVE Snow White and Prince Charming. The fact that “7:15 A.M.” focused almost exclusively on them probably pleased a bulk of OUaT’s fans. What’s more, because their story is the most familiar, even casual viewers can not only get something out of the episode, but become emotionally invested in their story. Goodwin and Dallas have so much amazing chemistry, it’s difficult to take your eyes off them when they’re on screen together, and each of their performances separately tugs at your heart. The new twists in this old story keep us watching. This episode can reel anyone in as it focuses in on the heart of Once Upon a Time.
Next up, the latest dual review in the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows in which I’ll be discussing Episode 11 of Once Upon a Time, “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree,” and Episode 10 of Grimm, “Organ Grinder.” Stay tuned!
And don’t forget to watch Once Upon a Time, Sundays at 8PM ET on ABC; and Grimm on Fridays at 9PM ET on NBC!
Teresa Jusino is such a sucker for a great love story. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in an upcoming non-fiction sci-fi anthology. Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.