Wed
Feb 22 2012 11:00am

Once Upon a Time Special: What Happened to Frederick?

Once Upon a TimeWe 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
Grimm: 91

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.

11 comments
Rowanblaze
1. Rowanblaze
"Soap Opera" were the exact words I said to my wife. It's not the "explore your feelings" issue, however. It's the fact that this story is dragging out with little progress being in the overall plot for the season. For instance, because of David's childish (not child-like) behavior, right when he could have been with Mary Margaret, she didn't want him because of his lies, and how they'd exposed her to public scorn. Whatever, I watch this show because my wife does; I haven't grown to care about any of these characters.
Melissa Shumake
2. cherie_2137
i have actually thought from when august/the stranger very first showed up that he was henry's dad, simply because he showed up at the end of the episode where she had been telling henry (lies) about him. but it doesn't fit that she wouldn't remember him, since she doesn't have any problems remembering anything else. i don't think that he's a future henry though, i feel like they have genuine chemistry.
Rowanblaze
3. wayfaringpanda
I have to say I came away from this episode feeling much more positively than you did. While the Mary Margaret/David/Kathryn part of the story felt somewhat contrived and completely predictable, I think it mostly felt that way because I knew there was no way that the writers could let it end happily. So I went into the episode knowing that, as soon as Mary Margaret gives the whole "we must tell her" speech, things were going to go downhill fast. And considering how waffly David has been on the subject of his marriage to Kathryn, his wimping out seemed fairly in character to me.

As for the residents reaction to Mary Margaret, I think it was fairly fitting for a town that must have a very small community. In fact, if it were the real world I would expect to see at least one request by a parent for her removal from her teaching position due to lack of moral character. Although I do agree with your assessment of Regina spraying the car - I love her character with all my heart, but that left me going "bwuh?"

The bit about who Frederick is would have been a lot less confusing if they hadn't named the episode after him. Without that, it would have just been an interesting story about Kathryn/Abigail, which following her character both in Storybrooke and in the fairy tale universe were the parts I probably liked best in the show. Instead, you spend the entire episode wondering who the heck he is, which hurt it overall.

Emma's date with The Stranger (August? Really?) was probably the bit I liked the least, if only because a) Emma's a badass. Does she really need to lay her head on his back when they take off on the bike? and b) I still have absolutely no idea what his motives are and that irks me, which I admit is a total YMMV. Although I think the thing with the book, which he TOTALLY planned back when he stole it, is supposed to open her mind up to the idea of magic. Which may point to him being future!Henry, but the jury's still out on that one.

Final thoughts:
-David is an asshat and a wuss / James continues to be mildly uninteresting compared to his Storybrooke side.
-Kathryn is a lot more sympathetic than originally thought, which helps because none of this is her fault so she should be liked more as a character
-Poor Mary Margaret. Karma sucks sometimes.
-Henry has his book back! Yay! Keep playing the game, though, because Regina does like you and it'd be nice to show her you appreciate her even if she has to buy your affection.
-Emma likes 'em scruffy.
-Lana Parilla emotes with just her eyes and body language so perfectly she almost doesn't have to speak. Of course, it's even better when she does.
-What the heck happened to Kathryn after she crashed?!

Thank you again for your comments on the episodes, it makes me rethink the way I viewed them every time!
Rowanblaze
4. Lsana
@2,

Him being Henry's dad was my first thought too. Yes, you would think that Emma would recognize him, but it's been at least ten years, probably closer to eleven. Some people do change a lot in that amount of time, enough that they might not be recognized.

I've decided against it at this point, though, because Emma's job involved recognizing people, especially people who are trying to change their appearance. If he were Henry's dad, she should at least suspect even if she's not sure. But thus far, she's shown no sign that he's even familiar to her.

He still annoys me, and I'm still of the opinion he needs to do something interesting (stealing Henry's book and returning it is not interesting) or go away, but I am now curious: Is August W. Booth an anagram of anything interesting?
Jennifer McLarty
5. Gwenhwyfar666
Frederick was actually mentioned in a previous episode. In Episode 6, 'The Shepherd', in which we first meet King Midas and learn that Prince Charming was a twin, during the scene when Midas goes to touch the dragon's head (at least I believe it was during this scene) Midas says to his men "Careful - remember what happened to Frederick".

Pretty throwaway line, but yeah, it seems you have to pay attention them.
Teresa Jusino
6. TeresaJusino
Gwenhwyfar666 @5 - That's an excellent point. I didn't remember that. That also makes the title make much more sense, as it is now the answer to a question that's been asked.

However, my point still stands that they didn't go beyond a throwaway line. We didn't even know that Frederick had anything to do with Abigail, nor did we get any insight into their relationship before this episode. If you expect me to care about a woman getting her true love back, I'd better be privy to why their relationship is so important. One of the things that's so successful about Snow/James is that I understand why they're in love. It's not just the show telling me they have true love, there's evidence I can see. While Abigail isn't a main character the way they are, she's certainly important enough to have more of that story told.

Lsana @4 - Ooh! An anagram. Hmmm. I'll work on it. You're right, it could be another Hoffs-Drawlar funeral home (flash forward!). If anyone has any ideas, post them here! :)
Rowanblaze
7. AlBrown
Not the strongest episode, a bit on the pulpy side if you ask me (both with the romance subplot and the hero enticed by mermaid subplot). I did think that MaryMargaret/Snow made quite an enticing mermaid, a credit to the actress and her versatility.
To me the biggest thing about this episode was watching the new guy, Auggie I shall call him, doctor Henry's book. It will be interesting to see if the book starts leading folks to incorrect assumptions. I hope they give us answers about Auggie before we get sick of him for being too mysterious for too long.
And next episode looks like Red Riding Hood's. She is one of the biggest characters that still has not had a backstory episode to call her own. That will be fun.
Rowanblaze
8. Boxmel
I have been very disappointed the last three weeks as I've watched OUAT spiral downward. It started out with great possibilities and then got mired in, yes, soap. I've stopped watching it and am now concentrating on The Secret Circle, Grimm, Bones and The Finder.
Rowanblaze
9. Lix
August is the writer of the storybrooke book, of course!
Someone had to write it.
Sheila Ruth
10. SheilaRuth
The whole Mary Margaret/David plot is getting tiresome, and I'm liking David less and less. I hope they go somewhere interesting with it soon. This was my least favorite episode of the season. (Although last week's, Skin Deep, was one of my favorites. I do like that we're seeing new aspects of both Abigail and Kathryn. I am very curious to know exactly what August did with the book and why.


Gwenhwyfar666 @5 I hadn't remembered that either, until you pointed it out. Good call. Using a throwaway one liner to refer to a future episode is something that they seem to do a lot, and I think it's kind of cool. Like the queen referring to needing Rumplestiltskin's help with a mermaid when she visits him at the end of the last episode, and then in this episode we have a siren. There have been several others I noticed, and now I want to go back and watch them all again to see if there are any I missed!
Rowanblaze
11. Elliott Mason
What I love about this episode is showing how, on multiple plot-threads, the curse is coming unwoven -- remember, at the wedding, the Queen said something like "Now the only happy-ever-after will be mine?" The other happily-ever-afters are attempting to reassert themselves. Snow and James, obviously, but now with Frederick and Abigail, too, as a sort of side collateral damage (to Regina's plot) ... who else's forced-apart cursed mundane existence is going to come unpicked in coming episodes, I wonder?

I'm all with you about disliking how James-the-character is handling the relationship, possibly even unto disliking the writing staff for choosing it; it reeks of Idiot Plot (where the plot only works because the characters are idiots). Princely James showed no signs of this wishy-washy cowardice, and unlike Snow's self-reliance becoming Mary Margaret's wounded timidity, I don't buy that the curse legit changed him that way. Not yet, anyhow ... I reserve the right to be convinced in future. But I'm side-eyeing it and telling it it's on notice, if you see what I mean. :->

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