Once Upon a Time Vs. Grimm Ep 7: Tearing Down Walls

So, apparently I’m a mellifur. It makes sense. I’m social, good at communicating…I could totes be a member of the “creature world’s switchboard.” But….I don’t wanna be a friggin’ bee!

Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows resumes as Once Upon a Time and Grimm return from holiday hiatus this week! OUaT actually returned Sunday night with an all-new episode, while Grimm returns with its Episode 8 on Friday. My eighth episode reviews will post next Monday, but today, I’m giving you the review I didn’t give you earlier because of my holiday hiatus, Episode 7 of Once Upon a Time and Grimm.,>

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Once Upon a Time and Grimm have been exploring similar themes lately. In Episode 6, both shows had characters choosing between love and responsibility. This week, both shows have characters tearing down emotional walls. On Once Upon a Time, Emma tries lowering her defenses to let in a chance at love. Meanwhile, on Grimm, a young girl blutbad who’s been living like a Wild Child in the woods lowers her defenses when she meets Monroe and realizes that there are others like her. On Grimm, the blutbaden apparently honor the sacrifice of the animals they kill. As Monroe says, “We’ve taken a life to sustain a life. The sacrifice needs to be honored. You know, before digestion.” On Once Upon a Time, we meet The Huntsman, who honors the sacrifice of the animals he kills, going so far as to shed tears over them.

And apparently, the universal sign for fairy tale wolves is red eyes…

Once Upon a Time, Ep. 7: “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter”

Graham (Jamie Dornan) is feeling out of sorts. He doesn’t feel much of anything, but he can’t put his finger on why. That is, until he kisses Emma (Jennifer Morrison). Suddenly, he’s having strange dreams involving a wolf and another life. We learn that Graham is actually The Huntsman hired by the Evil Queen to kill Snow White. When he can’t bring himself to do it, the Queen punishes him by ripping out his still-beating heart and locking it away, taking away his ability to feel, and literally holding his life in her hands. That control over his heart extends to Regina in Storybrooke with tragic consequences for both Graham and Emma.

Lost reference tally: 3 (I didn’t notice any new ones in this episode. Did you?)

Script (1.5): While the script gave us an intriguing glimpse into Sheriff Graham’s life as well as introduced us to another important character in Snow White’s story, the impact wasn’t as emotionally affecting as it could have been, because Graham’s been the least effective character up until now. He’s done, and has been included in, very little, and so it was difficult to feel anything about this entire episode. Maybe that was the point? We were all supposed to feel like he feels? Well, good job there, because I felt very little.

The show is becoming more and more like Lost by the episode, and in this one, Kitsis and Horowitz pulled a Shannon (or an Ana Lucia, or a Libby). They took a character we haven’t really gotten a chance to know or care about, then shoved a whole bunch of heart-warming (or, heart-losing) stuff into the episode in which that character dies in order to make the audience feel sad about it. It felt manipulative. It would’ve been one thing if this were the episode where we finally got to know Graham the way we got to know Archie, as another potential foil for Regina, but his fate doesn’t really serve anything other than as another motivation for Emma, and she already has plenty, so it feels redundant.

Also, doesn’t Regina have anything better to do than constantly take trips to visit people and threaten them? I mean, isn’t she mayor of a town? No one knows she’s an Evil Queen. Why is no one complaining that she’s always gallivanting around town threatening Emma instead of, I don’t know, cutting ribbons or kissing babies or whatever the mayor of a fake town under a spell might do to keep people she’s trying to trick from getting suspicious? What was so wonderful about Regina in the beginning is starting to fall by the wayside and while yes, her situation is unravelling, I don’t think it’s true to the character to have her unravel. Not yet. She’s being obvious in a way she’s too smart to be.

However, the fact is that this episode is very important to the greater story of Once Upon a Time, as the moment in which the first citizen of Storybrooke has woken up and gone to Henry and the book of his own accord. Something tells me he won’t be the last.

Performances (2): The cast of Once Upon a Time is generally solid, and this week we finally got to see what Jamie Dornan can do. His Graham was warm and yet entirely believable as someone who would be extremely cold to humans. It was sad to watch him want to feel, and yet he was feeling, and in his face you could see sadness over the loss of his heart. He reminded me of the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz — if he really had no heart, he wouldn’t feel its loss so keenly would he? Dornan shows that Graham had his heart all along. Jared S. Gilmore rocks my socks in every episode. “You kissed my mom?!” Best. Delivery. Ever. I know Gilmore already has parents, but if he didn’t, I would totally adopt him. Ginnifer Goodwin continues to create a nuanced, complicated Snow White, and in this episode, she showed us that Snow’s practical, realistic side was there long before she had to survive on her own in the woods. Lastly, no one slinks like Lana Parilla. Seriously, she should teach a class in being slinky.

Production (2): Mostly, this episode gets a 2 for the Evil Queen’s red dress when she first summons the Huntsman. Seriously, did you see this dress? It’s amazing.

However, I was also impressed by the visual effects in the episode. Particularly the deer the Huntsman shoots toward the beginning. I watched the episode twice, and only noticed it was computer generated the second time.

Representation (2): I love how this show handles both genders, I really do. I love that, this week, we had a male character being “emotional” and “irrational,” while the women in his life were telling him he was “overreacting.”

And then there was the Emma/Regina fistfight, which was all the more wonderful, because it was a fistfight. There was no hair-pulling, or scratching, or any of the other staples of a stereotypical “girl fight.” Regina punched Emma in the face, Emma punched her right back, and they both walked away without doing anything stupid, like crying.

Lastly, it was good to see Giancarlo Esposito have more of a role this week as Sydney and The Magic Mirror. While I haven’t watched this week’s episode yet, from the preview I saw, I feel like I’ll be discussing him a bit more in next week’s review.

Audience Engagement (2): The episode was solid on its own, and while my criticism of it has to do with its relation to the rest of the series, I think that it can be enjoyed as a standalone. Also, Jared S. Gilmore has recently joined the Twitterverse with the encouragement of the rest of his castmates, which pleases me immensely!

TOTAL SCORE FOR Once Upon a Time: 9.5 (out of 10)

Grimm, Ep 7: “Let Your Hair Down”

A case that starts with the murder of a drug dealer in the woods eventually has Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) reopening the case of a missing young girl named Holly, on which Hank had worked years before. Nick brings Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) into the investigation when he suspects that the young girl is living in the woods and responsible for the death they’re investigating. As it turns out, the young girl is a blutbad, but one that had never been raised to know what she is, and so has spent much of her childhood living in the woods as a Wild Child, using her power to survive by stealing supplies from (and sometimes killing) campers. With Monroe’s help, she begins to learn that she’s not alone in being what she is, and is eventually returned to her adoptive mother, but not before Hank and Nick solve the original case of her disappearance.

Script (2): “Let Your Hair Down” is a great episode, because it’s the first time that the once parallel creature world and human world actually have to intersect in order to solve the crime. Up until now, Nick’s Grimm power has merely been a way to get at what normal human detective skills would’ve gotten to a lot faster. In this story, Sarah Goldfinger and Naren Shankar create a case in which Nick’s Grimm instincts lead Hank to a piece of information he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, which ended up revealing the identity of the person who originally kidnapped the young blutbad. This was also a surprisingly tender episode of Grimm. Everything from Monroe’s fun with Christmas to Hank’s interaction with the girl’s mother, to Nick and Monroe in the girl’s treehouse brought a warmth to the show that we haven’t really seen since the pilot.

“Let Your Hair Down” also brings us closer to Nick’s inevitable outing as a Grimm. Having the bauerschwein handy man from the last episode begin talking to his friends about having survived a Grimm‘s home makes a lot of sense, as word should be getting around about Nick as often as he’s already made creatures aware of his power. Also, those scenes with the bauerschwein were funny, and I love that Nick’s becoming a bit of an urban legend.

There were a few elements that were a little unbelievable. For example, the brothers of the murdered drug dealer were almost too vengeful, going after anyone associated with the case with guns. Or, the fact that no one even mentioned that Holly has killed. However, while those things seem unbelievable to me, I also know that people like those brothers do exist, and law enforcement does prioritize cases a certain way, and dead drug dealers rank low on the list. But then there was the matter of Holly’s long hair, which she used as a weapon. Do blutbad women have magical hair? Because if they don’t, hair can’t be used that way. Yet, on a show in which werewolves are real in the first place, I can suspend my disbelief on that one. The only real flaw in the story was the fact that Nick and Monroe let Holly go back home so quickly with her having killed someone. That has psychological repercussions on her, especially since she’ll be dealing with the basic ins and outs of being a blutbad and having committed murder.  My only hope is that Monroe is going to continue to work with her to help her grow into her blutbadness.

“Let Your Hair Down,” was an effective episode because it used the fairy tale that inspired it (Rapunzel) as a springboard rather than trying to retell the same story in a new way. How Holly used her hair was almost an afterthought and didn’t need to be there, and I almost wish that element were removed. Or, I wish she just had really long hair and didn’t use it as a weapon, because then it could just be revealed as a visual, and we could’ve all just gone, “Oh! Rapunzel.”

Performances (2): Silas Weir Mitchell has always been a highlight as Monroe, but he is thankfully stepping away from the easy comic relief, and focusing more on Monroe’s inner life. His performance gives us a complicated Monroe who is still often very funny, but with an underlying melancholy having to do with his growing up blutbad. Whenever he looked at Holly, it was heartbreaking. Russell Hornsby also got to show a different side of himself this episode, and “Let Your Hair Down” was better for it. His is another character stepping away from snark and irony and into being genuine and vulnerable, and he handles both really well. The young Mary Jon Nelson was a wonderful guest star as Holly, doing much with almost zero dialogue.

Production (2): The lush, green city of Portland is its own special effect. Add to that an awesome-looking treehouse and Monroe’s Christmas Wonderland of a home, and it becomes clear that the production design team on Grimm knows what they’re doing. My only quibble was with Holly’s hair. It reminded me of the the cape on that crappy show, um, The Cape, where all I would think when watching is “You could never get a cape to move that precisely!” Holly’s hair moved to reach out and knock people down, almost of its own accord, and I was all, “No.”

Representation (2): Increased storylines and involvement from Hank and Wu are really helping Grimm on the representation front. Watching Hank be so invested in this case was particularly wonderful. That, and the female characters are being written in a more realistic way. I love that, in this story, while there was a little girl victim at the center of everything, she was really her own captor, having bitten the man who kidnapped her, and opting on her own to sequester herself from the world because of what she is. Her mother was great, too, because even though she lost her child and her husband, we got to see what nine years of loss have done to her. She wasn’t just a crying mother pleading for her baby back, she was a woman who had been through a great deal and was handling things as best she could almost a decade later. They’re writing Juliette in a more nuanced way, but as the only woman in the main cast, the writing staff needs to step up and involve her more in what’s going on.

Audience Engagement (1.5): The usually Twitteriffic cast fell silent in recent weeks due to the break in their performance schedule and their holiday hiatus. What, they can’t tweet on vacation? OK, I don’t really mean that, and they’re well within their rights not to tweet on vacation. Doesn’t mean I don’t dock points. “Let Down Your Hair” could’ve been enjoyed as a standalone, but the show is starting to tread into territory where the mythology of the world they’re building is making things more complicated. I don’t see that as a bad thing. After all, the world this show is building is an interesting one. However, it will limit newcomers a bit the more it goes on. That said, I think there are already enough #Grimmsters that this can start to happen. Non-Grimmsters can catch up on Netflix in between seasons.

TOTAL SCORE FOR Grimm: 9.5 (out of 10)

 

Cumulative Scores So Far:

Once Upon a Time: 53

Grimm: 52


Teresa Jusino wants to slink like Lana Parilla. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. 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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