Once again Once Upon a Time stepped up its game and delivered a solid and thoroughly enjoyable episode Sunday night. Lots of great character development and plot twists. Part of the ending is somewhat predictable, but we’ve come to expect a mix of surprises and predictability from Once Upon a Time. Robert Carlyle, as per usual, delivers a great performance as Rumplestilkin. And, if you are a David Anders/Dr. Whale fan like I am, you can rest assured there is great exposition on the past and present of Dr. Frankenstein.
My only major objection to this episode and this is has been a trend lately, is Snow White. I hate to say it because I think Ginnifer Goodwin is a great actress, but I am rapidly losing sympathy for her character. Over the course of the second half of this season, she has turned into a nigh unbearable whiner. For somebody who is ostensibly dedicated to remaining in Our World, she seems determined to live in as much of a fantasy world as she can. She was such a great character in season 1. One of the biggest pitfalls in TV is assuming that because you laid great groundwork in the beginning, we will always root for a main character, and it just isn’t true.
We pick up right where the previous episode left off. Rumple is cradling a terrified, wounded, and amnesiac Belle as Hook is lying where the car from outside hit him. Rumple uses magic to cure Belle’s gunshot wound, which causes her to fear him even more. As Emma and the gang arrive, Rumple is attempting to murder Hook, and Emma and Charming try to stop him. They imp0lore him to remember what Belle would want him to do if she had her memory. He relents and allows Hook to be taken to the hospital with the driver.
In flashback, we learn more about Whale’s history as Dr. Victor Frankenstein back in his own land, which is really exciting for me as I’ve been hungering for more Frankenstein content. It is obvious his land is analogous to late eighteenth to early nineteenth century Europe in terms of technology and politics and that brings up all kinds of intriguing possibilities. Frankenstein is with his father and brother, we learn that his father is some kind of military bigwig, and his younger brother Gerhardt is also in the military; while Victor is a scientist, and obviously not favored by his father because of this. Their father gives Gerhardt a watch that belonged to their mother, obviously a precious family heirloom. He gives Victor an envelope which contains a military commission and orders to report to a military unit as a camp physician. Victor protests, supported by his brother, but his father insists it is time to serve and that he will not financially support Victor’s experiments if he does not do so. Outside, Victor tells his brother to keep the pocket watch, and that he will find another way to support his experiments.
In Our World, a debate rages about what to do about the driver who has crashed into Storybrooke. An inebriated Dr. Whale asks Rumple to save him with magic, but Rumple refuses, telling them that the driver saw him using magic and it is better if he dies rather than tell the outside world about Storybrooke. Snow insists that no matter what, they must save him from his injuries, while Leroy the Dwarf (Grumpy) advocates letting him die to protect the town from outside scrutiny. Charming seems to waffle on the issue before insisting they need to save him. Whale hesitantly agrees to do the surgery. Later, David finds him staring at driver’s watch pensively.
In his lab Frankenstein is packing things up to prepare to join his military unit. Rumplestilskin appears to him. Rumple tells him that magic is feeble and neglected in Frankenstein’s land, but strong in Rumple’s own world. He then offers Frankenstein funding (in the form of a magically stuffed bag of gold coins) for his experiments if he shares his knowledge with Rumplestilskin. Frankenstein agrees.
Later, Frankenstein is digging up a body when he is confronted by his brother Gerhardt. They are challenged by a sentry and Gerhardt is shot dead. Frankenstein attempts to bring his brother back to life but Gerhardt’s heart is burned to a cinder in the process. He is then confronted by their father, who blames him for Gerhardt’s, his favorite son, death telling Victor that he has no sons now. Rumple appears and offers to help Victor get a magically reinforced heart if he helps Rumple trick Regina (the events of the previous episode “The Doctor”).
Victor manages to, on the surface; resurrect Gerhardt with the magical heart. When he brings his brother to their father, his father is initially joyful and forgiving of Victor. But when Gerhardt fails to speak or act normally, his father again rebukes Victor violently. In the process, Gerhardt kills their father with his bare hands to rescue Victor. Victor locks Gerhardt up, and is about to shoot him, with Gerhardt’s permission, to spare him the pain of his existence, but he cannot do it and vows to find a way to fix his brother.
At the hospital Whale has disappeared instead of doing the surgery. Ruby finds him preparing to kill himself, apparently because the driver’s watch reminded him of his brother. Ruby stops him, and commiserates with him over both having awful things in their past; Ruby as a werewolf who ate her fiancé Peter, and Whale as a man who only wanted to advance science and promote life but ended up with his name synonymous with a monster who failed to save his own brother. Ruby remarks that perhaps Regina’s curse taking away their memory wasn’t such a punishment after all.
Rumple attempts to restore Belle’s memory by magically enchanting the cup she damaged in his castle in the Enchanted Forest. He is thwarted when Belle freaks out and throws the cup at a wall, breaking it. He returns to his shop where is confronted by Cora. She proposes a truce, and gives him a magical globe that will allow him to find his son in exchange for allowing her to reconcile with Regina and not killing them. Rumple agrees and prepares to leave Storybrooke to find his son.
Cora finally confronts Regina, who has been in in hiding in her vault and does not know that Archie has already cleared her name; Regina is horrified to learn that her mother is the one who framed her. She initially rebuffs Cora’s attempt at reconciliation, interested only in getting Cora to tell the others that Regina is innocent. On the way, Cora manipulates Regina, convincing her that as long as the others are around, Henry will never really be Regina’s again.
Whale has saved the driver, whose name is Greg Mendel. Snow wants to question the man as a group, protesting that they have all been working together, but Emma says if they want the man to believe Storybrooke is a normal town, the sheriff should question him alone and not with her parents. Emma assures Greg that he didn’t seriously anyone in the accident and attempts to find out if he actually witnessed Rumple using magic. The man claims he was texting while driving, and didn’t see anything. Emma seemingly believes him and assures the rest of the group that they are safe. However, later the man calls either his girlfriend or wife and tells her he was in an accident and that she won’t believe what he saw.
Rumple comes to the group’s loft and calls in the favor Emma has owed him since season 1. He is going to find his son and Emma is coming with him. He states that if he stays here he will kill Hook; and then, reminding them of all his personal history, he promises that if any harm comes to Belle while he is gone he will kill all of them.
Over all it was a great episode. One nagging thing for me is did the driver Greg actually lie successfully to Emma? Is her lie detector power not as fool proof as it has seemed, or is she really pretending to believe him so others don’t kill him to keep the town secret?