Mon
Apr 2 2012 4:00pm
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.

14 comments
Debbie Solomon
1. dsolo
I have to agree with you re: the Mad Hatter. I did wonder about the Red Queen, however. I have a feeling that she will turn up again, otherwise, why keep her face covered? Also, I was also totally shocked when Emma clocked the Mad Hatter. I was thinking, "Wow, she finally believes Henry". Now, I'm not sure if she believes him or not. Looking forward to Grimm's return. Love your commentary.
Joe Vondracek
2. joev
Trivia: Roger Daltrey voiced the hookah-smoking caterpillar.
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.
That's rather funny, based on the episode that aired last night.

At the very end of this episode, when Emma asks Henry if she can borrow the book, it looks like she's starting to believe... And given the sound effect when Jefferson fell to earth alongside the hat that Emma made, it appears that he did indeed vanish, which would mean that he was correct and Emma is magical.
Melissa Shumake
3. cherie_2137
it was my favorite line of the episode, and possibly of the series so far, as well!

and i didn't realize that write-ups were a week off, and came looking for a different perspective on last night's episode. guess i'll have to wait another week...
Teresa Jusino
4. TeresaJusino
dsolo @1 - YES! I didn't mention the Queen of Hearts, but I'm sure that she's going to be a player very soon, because yes - why cover her up? Who is she really? I suspect she's someone we've already met.

joev @2 - Right? Yeah, this review posted later than it should have, but I'm writing about last night's episode right now, and what happens to Regina in "The Stable Boy" is just painful to watch.

And I agree. Emma is made of magic. My suspicion is that she's made of pure True Love, since she's James and Snow's daughter, which means she's made of the most powerful magic there is. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. :)
Teresa Jusino
5. TeresaJusino
cherie_2137 @3 - Nah. Usually these are supposed to post either Monday or Tuesday after the new episodes. I just submitted this one late due to life stuff, then posted even later. Sorry about that! I should be submitting my write-up on this week's Once Upon a Time and Grimm today, so it should hopefully go up tomorrow. Then I'll be all caught up. Hope you'll come back and check then!
Lsana
6. Lsana
More than any episode since Snow Falls, this one felt to me like we arrived in the middle chapter of the story. Who was Jefferson? What was his relationship with the Queen? What happened to his wife? And then, post episode, what happened to him in Wonderland? Why was it he was able to remember his identity, though apparently under the curse in all other respects?

I admit that I would have liked more answers and fewer questions in this episode, especially since Jefferson isn't a regular. I'm okay with jumping into a middle chapter of Snow White's or even Dr. Whale's (whoever he is) story, but not some random guy we may not even see again.
Anthony Pero
7. anthonypero
I actually loved this episode, for many of the reasons you mentioned regarding Emma and the bleedthru of Snow's character into Mary Margaret's. Also, Jefferson worked for me. But I have a daughter Grace's age, so it was easy to project my own emotion into his character. I could easily identify with what he was feeling, so it's possible I invested the performance with more subtlety than actually existed.
Anthony Pero
8. anthonypero
@Lsana:

If there isn't more to the story, than this episode's plotting was a major fail.

1) Wonderland obviously exists in a different dimension than the Queen's Kingdom, just like RL Storybrook is a separate dimension, as explained by the Mad Hatter. Unless Regina's spell effected all possible dimensions, then Wonderland should not have been affected at all.
2) If we take this assumption as true, we are left with two possible scenarios:
a) Jefferson escaped Wonderland and made it back into Regina's kingdom, or
b) At some point after Regina's Spell, Jefferson figured out a way to make the magic work and came to Storybrook after the spell was cast, and subsequently became trapped.
3) We still have to account for how Jefferson wasn't caught up in the amnesia portion of the spell. I'm not buying the Regina had enough control over the thing to select who forgot and who remembered. So she didn't do it simply to punish him.

If we asume that 2b is correct, there is nothing to account for. As he entered after the spell was cast, his memory is not affected. If we assume that 2a is correct... then maybe being bat-shit crazy protects him from that portion of the spell?

All in all, I have a feeling that Jefferson's character will be important.
Anthony Pero
9. anthonypero
Another thought:

If the magic still works where Regina is keeping the hearts in boxes... could Jefferson make his hat work there?
Cassandra Cookson
10. cass
This was one of my favorite episodes although I have to agree with Teresa that the actor who played Jefferson was a bit of a dud. I'm an Alice fan from way back, so loved all the Wonderland bits (Mary Margaret whollaping Jefferson with the croquet mallet was a very nice touch). Emma really needs to work on her law enforcement skills though. She seems to have slept through the "how to survive while female" lessons too. You don't pick up strange men, you don't go into their large and mysterious house, and you don't drink what they give you.

On the other hand, as you mentioned, Emma and MM are really resourceful once they get going. Emma gets herself free and together they win the fight. After seeing MM so beaten down, it's good to see some fight back in her. It's also about time Emma started thinking about the book and what's really going on.

How perfect is it that Regina steals her father's heart from the queen of hearts in the name of family love only to rip it out later in order to activate the curse.

I can't remember where I read this, but some speculation has Regina's mother as the queen of hearts.

I really enjoyed this one.

Cassandra
Lsana
11. AlBrown
Random observations:
- Sebastian Stan? No wonder the Mad Hatter looked so much like Bucky.
- My seven year old has been watching the show with her parents, and when that head came off, they had some 'splainin' to do!
- My daughter in law says that the Mad Hatter was named Jefferson in honor of the Jefferson Airplane song "White Rabbit." Sounds reasonable to me.
Lsana
12. Blend
I rather enjoyed the episode myself, but I wanted to mention a couple of things that bugged me, or that I otherwise found interesting...

Firstly, did no one else think it weird that Emma managed to sew a hat? And in what, like an hour? I mean, it seems to me that hat-making isn't the type of skill that most bounty hunters keep in their repertoire.

Secondly, the Mad Hatter went mad because he was caught in Wonderland and wanted to get back to his daughter Grace. The scene we see at the end where he's surrounded by hundreds of hats is, I assume, him in Wonderland, trying to make a hat to get him back to his real world, where Grace is. My theory is that 'Alice' will end up going to Wonderland like she's supposed to (and that Grace is not, in fact, Alice), which is how the Mad Hatter ends up back in his real world (similar magic to the hat, one person enters, one person can leave).

However, Regina has already cast the curse, so she can't make him forget. Instead she uses her magic (which she must still have, otherwise how did she end up with what's her name's heart to frame Mary Margaret with, or get back to her heart boxes to kill the Huntsman, etc.) to trap the hatter in/around his house, but cannot make him actually forget. The 'forget' spell comes from Rumplestiltskin, so wouldn't it make sense that she wouldn't want to make anymore deals with him/owe him anything to include the Hatter in the forget spell?

I like one of the above posters' suggestion that the Red Queen could be Regina's mother, specially after this past Sunday's episode. That being said, I don't think it's true. The mother seems to only want 'what's best' for Regina. I don't see her trying to kill Regina (with her maze) unless there's a much bigger falling out between them than just mommy dearest killing the stableboy. I don't know, I guess we'll see. She's almost definitely going to resurface, and I think Jefferson is also going to become important, otherwise why show Grace at the end of the episode?

Anyone been keeping track of the characters who we see in Storybrooke at the end of an episode only? I'm thinking of Frederic (James' fiance's lover, the gold knight), and of Grace specifically, but are there others? As far as I know these characters haven't had any storyline within Storybrooke yet, so they're going to end up being important at some point, otherwise why show that they're even there?
Lucas Vollmer
13. aspeo
I really enjoyed this episode. It was actually one of my favorites of the whole season so far. I really liked the portrayal of Jefferson/Mad Hatter and am intrigued to see what role he might play in the future. It was also nice to see the plot advanced with Emma finally looking like she might be starting to believe Henry's book just a little by the end of the episode.

A couple things I thought were interesting:
-Does anyone know what the apparent familiarity between Jefferson and the Queen is? They obviously knew each other well when they were talking in his home.
-Also, was it just me or did Jefferson's Storybrooke house seem decorated quite a bit like Reginas home?
-I liked the tie-in with Emma asking Mary Margaret how she knew how to kickbox, and MM saying something like she didn't know she could. It's an interesting little bleed over from fairy tale land Snow White.
Chris Meadows
14. Robotech_Master
Apparently "Emma" found "Jefferson" to be more convincing than one might expect, as it seems Jennifer Morris and Sebastian Stan have become an item. :)

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