We have another “special” this week, as Grimm didn’t air a new episode, so Once Upon a Time will be standing on its own!
However, first things first. After much thought, I’m going to give you a first in the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows. I’m going to change a show’s score. Last week, I was a bit harsh on Once Upon a Time in the Representation department with regard to the episode, “Skin Deep,” saying:
However, representation-wise, [Belle] was the one bright spot in an otherwise dull episode. No minority characters save a brief glimpse of a Sneezy pharmacist and two scenes for Lana Parilla, and the rest of the female characters weren’t particularly interesting this week.
I’ve decided to amend my Representation score, bringing it to a full “2,” because of the scene with Regina and Mr. Gold in the jail. I let the blandness of the Valentine’s Day Girls’ Night subplot blind me to the fact that this was one of Regina’s most interesting moments, and worth pointing out as a strong female moment.
The scores are now as follows:
Cumulative Scores So Far:
Once Upon a Time: 90
So, that brings Once Upon a Time up a bit, closing up the race even more than it already was. Thank goodness, however, that this week’s episode will not be scored. Because it if were, it would be the stone that sinks this show. Into a lake. With a Siren.
Once Upon a Time, Ep. 13: “What Happened to Frederick”
David (Josh Dallas) finally decides to end things with Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith) so that he can be with Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin). However, despite what he told her he would do, when he tells Kathryn they should separate, he conveniently leaves out the part where he’s been secretly seeing Mary Margaret behind her back. Meanwhile, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) gets a little closer to The Stranger (Eion Bailey), who has altered Henry’s book and allowed Emma to find it in the street so that she could bring it back to Henry (Jared Gilmore). Meanwhile, in the fairy tale universe, we see Prince James continue to pursue Snow White, which actually leads him back to Abigail, who doesn’t want to get married either, because she too is in love with someone else; the titular Frederick.
Script: I often take issue with people using the word “soap opera” with regard to genre shows. Usually it’s code for Any Time A Show/Episode Explores Feelings, which I think is ridiculous, as human emotion is a part of our experience, and sci-fi/fantasy would be boring if all it did was focus on tech or worldbuilding. However, David H. Goodman’s “What Happened to Frederick” actually felt like a soap opera, not just because it dealt with feeling feelings, but because of the plot and structure of the episode. I was actually angry during the episode watching David be so child-like and the whole Love Triangle Spiraling Out of Control in a Small Town thing happen so melodramatically. The reactions from others in town, like Granny for instance, seemed really out of character not just for the characters themselves but the character of Storybrooke. Up until now, it just hasn’t been that kind of town. And Regina? I know that she wants to make sure that Snow White is never happy, and while taking away the letter Kathryn leaves for David was totally in character, spray painting “TRAMP” on Mary Margaret’s car? That was overkill, even for her. She should know her town better. One of the great things about Regina is that she’s never cartoonish about her evil. Except that, in this episode, she was.
The fairy tale universe subplot was as boring as the Storybrooke segments were melodramatic and weird. While it was nice, in theory, to see Prince James and Abigail find some common ground....who the hell is Fredrick and why should I care? Goodman pinned an entire subplot on a relationship he doesn’t introduce until this episode! Having Frederick pop up when Kathryn storms the school and accidentally bumps into him doesn’t help. Where has he been before? Where was the indication that he might be important before the big reveal of how?
James’ scene with the Snow/Siren and Emma’s “date” with The Stranger were the only worthwhile moments in an otherwise out-of-character episode, and the preview for next week, which straight-up looks like a trailer for a soap, doesn’t do much to inspire hope.
By the way, with regard to The Stranger, whom I’ll call August from here on in, and Emma, I still hold on to my theory that August is somehow Henry. Everything that makes their scenes “date-like” comes from Emma’s side, and when August says something it always seems like he’s playing with her. Also, he takes her for a drink...of water, which I thought was priceless. Interesting too, that he took her to the well to drink water that would return “something that was lost to her.” What’s the biggest thing that’s been lost to her? Henry. And August drinks, too. I dunno, whenever he calls Henry “a fascinating kid” or something, it seems like the action of someone who’s talking about himself.
Unless...August is HENRY’S DAD? And now that Emma’s in Storybrooke, she doesn’t remember him or her own actual story? Hmmm...new theory?
Performances: The actors, for the most part, worked well with what they were given. Strangely, though, Josh Dallas seemed a bit off as David/James this week. He seemed like he was phoning it in, even in his scenes Ginnifer Goodwin, which stilted her performance, too. Jennifer Morrison, however, was the most charming she’s ever been in this episode. It was great to see her loosen up a bit, and she has wonderful rapport with Eion Bailey, who plays August. Also great fun was Lana Parilla, whose silent reaction to David and Kathryn’s break-up was priceless. Lastly, this was some of the best work we’ve seen from Anastasia Griffith as Kathryn/Abigail. I only wish she could have been given a chance to shine in an episode that wasn’t beneath her.
Production: The look of the show was great, as usual. Is it me, or does Emma only wear her black leather jacket when she’s around August? Because they always seem to match. Anyway, of particular note was the siren scene, and a well-done transformation from the siren to Snow.
Representation: Mary Margaret and Kathryn were written in such a cliched, stereotypical manner that it hurt. The adulteress with a heart of gold, and the wounded, righteous wife. Yawn. Once again, Lana Parilla’s holding it down for the brown people in this episode all by herself. Only that, and a more well-rounded approach to writing Emma this week saves the episode from being a complete representation failure. Oh, and Kathryn going to law school. That’s pretty cool, too. However, it’s interesting that David chooses the softer, more “feminine” schoolteacher over the lawyer. This isn’t to say I don’t love Mary Margaret — you should know from my reviews that I do — but it’s interesting that that’s how it breaks down.
Audience Engagement: I sat watching this with a friend, one who is also a big fan of the show, and we pretty much Mystery Science Theater 3000’d the entire thing. So, if they were trying to make Once Upon a Time more interactive, then yes, the episode was engaging. Otherwise, it just makes me angry to have a show I love so much devolve so quickly in the past couple of episodes, culminating in this one. Far from feeling like an episode of Once Upon a Time, “What Happened to Frederick” felt like All My Children in Storybrooke.
Argh. I hate not liking episodes, but there you have it. At least this won’t count into Once Upon a Time’s main score, so that’s something. Once Upon a Time is taking Sunday off, but Grimm has a new episode this week, which you can catch on Friday at 9 PM ET on NBC. It will get its own review next week.
In the meantime, what did you think of “What Happened to Frederick?”
Teresa Jusino doesn’t think that Once Upon a Time should ever be comparable to Swan’s Crossing. 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.