We’re finally back to an actual Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows as both Once Upon a Time and Grimm had new episodes this week. On Once Upon a Time, we actually get to see the Softer Side Of Regina as we learn exactly what Snow White did to make her hate her so much. And you know what? I totally get it. That crap would’ve turned me evil, too. On Grimm, Sergeant Wu learns to keep his hands off of other people’s cookies while developing a taste for sofa stuffing. Also, Monroe has a girlfriend! Oh, and there was a case, too.
This week, these shows taught us two very important lessons. 1) Keep your mouth shut, and 2) Keep your hands off other people’s cookies!
Once Upon a Time, Ep 18: “The Stable Boy”
Emma (Jennifer Morrison) employs August’s (Eion Bailey) help in trying to prove that Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) was framed for Kathryn’s murder. Regina (Lana Parilla), however, will not let that happen, and she takes pleasure in making sure Mary Margaret knows that she knows she’s innocent. Meanwhile, in the fairy tale world, we meet Regina’s mother, Cora (guest star, Barbara Hershey), whose ambitions for her daughter drive her to intervene in Regina’s romance with a stable boy named Daniel by using Snow White (Bailee Madison), first to lure Regina into a plot to marry King Leopold (Richard Schiff), then to accidentally betray her.
Oh, and by the way. KATHRYN’S NOT DEAD. (Which I really should’ve known. After all, Sheriff Graham was walking around without his heart for ages)
Script (2): What intrigued me most about Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz’s script for “The Stable Boy,” was the complex nature of Regina’s anger and betrayal. For a while, we’ve been waiting to hear what it was that Snow White “did” to incur her wrath. When we met a darker Snow in “Heart of Darkness,” it became easy to imagine that she was capable of doing something really horrible. However, the only thing of which she was guilty was being a naive child who did the wrong thing for the right reasons. It is completely understandable that Snow would see one’s relationship with one’s mother as paramount, considering the loss of her own mother, and it makes sense that she would consider helping someone “not lose their mother” as a great kindness, unable to imagine a scenario where this would be undesirable. This is fascinating, because of how Regina reacts. She has lost her One True Love at the murderous hand of her own mother. Yet, rather than take her rage and sadness out on her mother, she takes it out on the little girl who made an understandable mistake. The punishments Regina inflicts on Snow/Mary Margaret do not fit her crime. They are misdirected. But this speaks volumes about Regina’s tragedy. Not even losing the only man she ever truly loved was powerful enough to allow Regina to act against her mother. Regina exhibits symptoms of an abused child. She’s been so intimidated by her mother’s magic and power that she is incapable, even when she’s acquired powerful magic of her own, of punishing her mother. It seems that Regina is as protective of motherhood as Snow. At least that’s how it seemed in “The Stable Boy.” I’d be curious to see if, before she sent The Huntsman to kill Snow, she dispensed with her mother somehow.
Performances (1.5): This was a tough score for me to give. On the one hand, we have solid work from the main cast, and an amazing performance from Lana Parilla as Regina. It was so refreshing to see her young and hopeful, and it was devastating to see the exact moment when she became dark and bitter and evil. Parilla’s face conveys so much. She’s just brilliant. There was also an amazing performance from young Bailee Madison, who is pretty much a Ginnifer Goodwin clone, and now has a career playing younger versions of Goodwin, or Goodwin’s younger relatives. However, she was impressive not just for her uncanny resemblance to Goodwin, but for her skill in matching Goodwin’s mannerisms and speech patterns.
However, what brought the performances down for me was, surprisingly, guest star, Barbara Hershey. I was excited when I heard that she was playing Regina’s mother. But there was no nuance to her performance, certainly not like we’re used to seeing in Parilla. Hershey was one-note, and not even particularly threatening when she was going whole hog with her evil magic, and though she’s just a guest star, Cora is such an important character in the life of one of our main characters that she needs to be perfect, and she just wasn’t. So, I deducted half a point. Very painfully.
Production (1.5): OMG, Younger Regina’s wardrobe! I coveted that blue riding jacket so hard, and both her dresses were gorgeous. Likewise, Young Snow White’s costumes. However, I wasn’t thrilled with Cora’s wardrobe. I also wasn’t thrilled with the green screen in this episode being so noticeable. There are episodes where you notice the green screen, and there are episodes where you don’t. This was one where it was really noticeable.
Representation (2): The examination of the relationship between mothers and daughters through Regina and Snow White was was lovely, and in a genre where stepmothers are stereotypically evil, this episode attempts to get to why, making these evil mothers and stepmothers more human.
On the surface, Regina’s motivations seem to boil down to the loss of her True Love. However, it’s really about her relationship with her mother, and her shunning of status, then her embracing of status in order to exact her revenge. This looked like a love story, but it was so much more than that, and I found that refereshing.
We also got a bit of Sidney Glass and Regina’s father, thus upping the non-white quotient.
Audience Engagement (2): Despite its flaws, “The Stable Boy” was a solid, enjoyable episode. The fact that it was the story of the creation of the Evil Queen, one of literature’s most famous characters, means that anyone could get invested in the episode without knowing anything else about Once Upon a Time.
TOTAL SCORE FOR Once Upon a Time: 9 (out of 10)
Grimm, Ep. 15: “Island of Dreams”
Freddy Calvert (Randy Schulman), the fuchsbau owner of the wesen spice shop, has been killed by wesen tweakers interested in a dangerous drug. As Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) investigate, they meet Freddy’s sister, Rosalee (Bree Turner), who leads them through the wesen drug underworld, even as she manages to steal Monroe’s (Silas Weir Mitchell) heart. Meanwhile, Renard (Sasha Roiz) tells Adalind (Claire Coffee) to try a little harder to encourage Hank’s interest in her, so she bakes Hank magic cookies as a thank you gift for saving her life, and those cookies make him start to fall for her hard. Sadly, Sergeant Wu (Reggie Lee) cannot resist his sweet tooth, and when Hank leaves the cookies on his desk, Wu steals one and eats it, with horrific results.
Would you like salt with that sofa stuffing?
Oh, and Juliette is apparently really good with a gun. Really good. Nick, I wouldn’t go pissing her off if I were you.
Script (1.5): There is a lot that’s great about David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf’s script for “Island of Dreams.” It opens with a wonderful scene between everyone’s favorite schemers, Renard and Adalind, complete with witty banter and a deeper glimpse into their relationship and Renard’s personality. There’s the way that the neighborhood wesen have taken to showering Nick and Juliette with gifts to appease them. There’s the fact that Monroe has a new lady love, because no one deserves a lady love more than Monroe. And, of course, there’s Wu’s new condition, which seems to have moved beyond a bad skin condition.
The problem with the episode was that the wesen drug storyline was just plain boring. Watching Nick and Hank actually work the case just seemed like filler in between all the stuff I actually cared about. This episode seemed entirely about setting up important world-building or character stuff for future episodes, which is all very well and good, but the episode suffered a bit because of it.
Performances (2): The fact that the episode was less focused on plot and more focused on character means that the main cast got some wonderful moments. The chemistry between David Giuntoli and Bitsie Tulloch gets better and better with every episode. They’ve gone from being a couple that annoyed me in Ep 2 to being a couple I love and root for. I love it whenever Claire Coffee is on the show as Adalind, as she always brings something new to the table. In this episode she was the best kind of snarky foil in the grand tradition of Cordelia Chase and Harmony Kendall from Buffy. (“I think she looks fat.”)
The stand-out was yet another fabulous guest star (this show does a great job of landing those, don’t they?) in Bree Turner. Her balanced performance allowed us to see the deep sadness of grief alongside the matter-of-fact nature of a former addict who was guarded about her emotions.
Production (2): OMG, Wu’s FACE! Jeez, did that look wretched. Wretched and AWESOME! Also, I thought the design of the wesen drug den was really interesting. Like, yeah it was technically a crack house, but it was a crack house with cool-looking tents in it. Also, the wesen-morphing effects were done well, and the transformations were beautifully subtle, particularly in the scene where Rosalee and Monroe were first checking each other out.
Representation (2): FINALLY, we have some substantial Wu action in this episode! Granted, he’s on the losing end of a spell gone wrong, but it’s obvious that this is the beginning of a more involved storyline for him, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Hank also had some great stuff to do this week, and we got to see him move beyond the jaded persona he’s created for himself. Hank was at his most vulnerable and malleable, and it will be fun to see how Adalind chooses to manipulate that. So, yay for great storylines for Grimm’s actors of color! I hope this fabulous trend continues...
On the ovary front, we’ve got Juliette learning to shoot and being really (ridiculously) good at it. First, that’s awesome for representation. But also, I can’t help but think that she’s that good that soon for a reason. The last name of Silverton has been bugging me since the show premiered, and the first thought I had when I heard the name was “silver bullets.” And now, she’s really good at kill shots. My theory? She’s not a Grimm, but she’s descended from Van Helsing or something, which would make her getting to know Monroe very interesting. Thoughts?
I am firmly and thoroughly #TeamAdalind. Love the character, love the mystery, love Coffee’s performance, love, love, love! I really enjoyed Rosalee, too, and am hopeful (and squeeful) about her relationship with Monroe. What impressed me most about her is that, even though she just lost her brother, the role was free of melodrama. This was a woman who didn’t cry all over the place. She was an addict who’d already been through the mill, and even though she was clearly sad, she just wanted to take care of business and get it over with. Women keeping their emotions in check and handling their affairs without a cry-fest? Shocking!
Audience Engagement (1.5): I think that this was one of those episodes that’s more enjoyable if you’re already a fan of the show. Having been involved in the fan chatter online, I know fans dug it. But the story wasn’t strong enough as a standalone for me to show it to a friend as an introduction to the show. I’m not saying that an episode needs to be a standalone in order to be a good intro, but the story should be interesting enough that I can be all “This is representative of Grimm,” and the person I’m showing it to will be all, “Cool!” This was not that episode.
TOTAL SCORE FOR Grimm: 9 (out of 10)
Cumulative Scores So Far:
Once Upon a Time: 119
Well, that’s all for this week! Also, I know that these have been popping up later in the week lately, but I’m going to do my dangdest from here on in to make sure these are ready to be posted by the Monday after each new episode. After all, I’d hate to delay your fan discussion and speculation any longer than necessary. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading! Remember, Grimm has an all-new episode tonight at 9PM ET on NBC, and Once Upon a Time airs on Sunday at 8PM ET on ABC.
Teresa Jusino will never eat chocolate chip cookies again. She was selected as one of the Top 11 Geek Girls of 2011 at the Geek To Me blog at Chicago Redeye, and 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! She is Geek Girl Traveler when she travels. 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming non-fiction anthologies, and her “Moffat’s Women” panel will be featured at Geek Girl Con in August! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.