Once Upon a Time Special: “Hat Trick”

Okay okay, so I was wrong about there being a new episode of Grimm before last Friday, but there will be from now until May 18th! Ask Grimm writer, Akela Cooper, if you don’t believe me!

So, we have another Once Upon a Time special about “Hat Trick,” the episode in which we find out just what it was that drove the Mad Hatter mad.

Also, there are mad hats, yo.

Once Upon a Time, Ep 17: “Hat Trick”

Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) has flown the coop, using the mysterious key in her cell to escape. It’s up to Emma (Jennifer Morrison) to bring her back to the precinct before her arraignment so that she doesn’t become a fugitive. In her search for Mary Margaret, she narrowly misses hitting a man named Jefferson (Sebastian Stan) with her car. She stops to check on him and, noticing he’s limping, offers to drive him home. Big mistake. He drugs her and holds her captive forcing her to make a magic hat work. Oh, and by the way? He’s captured Mary Margaret as insurance that Emma do her job properly. And here’s a strange thing: he’s the Mad Hatter and he knows it. While everyone else’s punishment is that they’ve forgotten who they are, his punishment is that he gets to remember. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Jefferson in the fairy tale world. He is a single father to a little girl named Grace. After making a deal with the Evil Queen (Lana Parilla), taking her into Wonderland to retrieve her trapped father via a magic hat, she double-crosses Jefferson, trapping him in Wonderland while escaping with her father. He then spends the rest of his time trying to create new magic hats so that he can get back to his daughter, and it drives him mad.

Script: Vladimir Cvetko and David H. Goodman have given us an innovative story behind the Mad Hatter in “Hat Trick.” However, the episode feels dull. While the story behind the Mad Hatter is interesting, the character of Jefferson is not. There’s also the fact that this episode revolved around a character we’ve never met before and in whom we had not yet become emotionally invested. Once Upon a Time works best when characters emerge organically and step into the spotlight, rather than when it continually has new characters pop up out of nowhere for their own episodes. Jiminy Cricket and Red Riding Hood are two great examples of character exploration done right. Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel? Not so much. Now, we can add the Mad Hatter to the “not so much” list.

While containing some interesting ideas (did the hat Emma made work at the end?), moments (of course Regina wouldn’t follow a maze’s path, but go through it instead!), and my favorite line (“The problem with this world is that everyone wants a magical solution to their problems, but everyone refuses to believe in magic.”), overall “Hat Trick” is merely passable, and not particularly entertaining. And I just couldn’t bring myself to care about Jefferson.

Performances: However, my not being able to care about Jefferson has has much to do with Stan’s performance as it does with the script. For a “mad” hatter who desperately loves his daughter, his performance was really bland. I never felt the high stakes he was dealing with, even in madness. He also had no chemistry with Ali Skovbye, who played Grace, and gave a bland performance herself.

Jennifer Morrison, on the other hand, got to shine more than usual in the scene where Emma tries to convince Jefferson that she believes just before she clocks him in the head. Not only is Morrison a good actress, but apparently so is Emma! I was totally sucked in and believed her!

Production: The production quality in the Wonderland segments was perfect. Wonderland was perfectly designed and colored, the animation on the giant caterpillar was great, and the effect of Jefferson’s head being cut off worked really well. Jefferson’s Storybrooke home was appropriately well put together while also seeming a bit creepy, especially as far as the wall of hats looking a little too perfect. And lastly, Regina was unrecognizable under her old woman make up. Great job, make up department!

Representation: The episode managed to make its female characters look strong and brave even as they’re being drugged, tied up, or trapped. First there’s the little matter of Mary Margaret breaking out of jail in the first place, and we’re starting to see the multi-faceted personality in her that we know exists in Snow White. When Mary Margaret breaks the window, you get the sense of all the Snow White badassery lurking underneath her demure exterior, and suddenly know that she must have been drugged the way Emma had been in order to be tied up, because otherwise she would’ve been able to handle herself. The same for Emma. She was never written to act like a stereotypical Woman In Danger. She took all of her realistic chances to escape and didn’t allow her fear to cloud her determination.

Lastly, I’ve always been intrigued by the Evil Queen’s relationship with her father. It’s interesting to see a powerful female character who isn’t motivated by romantic love at all, who is ambitious enough to pursue power at all costs, but who does things for the love of her family. I love how Regina is written.

Alas, this was an episode without dwarves or Sidney Glass, but they can’t be in everything! Still wondering where the gay/lesbian character is.

Audience Engagement: Ultimately, I think this episode might have bored a more casual fan of the show, “Hat Trick” was uneven and plodded along with too much conversation about things and not enough action in several spots. The tiny moments of forward movement in the show’s larger plot didn’t feel like enough of a payoff for what we had to watch.

Well, that’s it for this particular installment of Once Upon a Time! We haven’t yet heard official word about a Season 2, and ratings have been slipping. However, that “official word” is widely considered merely a formality, and the show’s creators have already talked about plans for Season 2 in interviews. I just hope we get the news about a renewal for Once Upon a Time sooner rather than later!

Teresa Jusino loves fashionable hats, but hates wearing cold-weather hats in the winter. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1, and at the end of last year she was selected as one of the Top 11 Geek Girls of 2011 at the Geek To Me blog at Chicago Redeye. 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.


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