Monday, October 1, 2012

Once Upon A Time: 2.01 Review 'Magic is back, but at what price?'

We all know magic is back in the real world of Storybrooke, Maine because that’s been the key to the Once Upon A Time season 2 promotion efforts. All the posters and teasers have told us that magic is back, but what was less certain was the price that must be paid for this to have happened. There are rules to how magic can be used in the real world and that’s not the only trick up the creators’ sleeves as the season premiere, 'Broken' shows us what exists beyond the city limits of Storybrooke.

Greetings from Storybrooke where the curse has been broken but what now?

It’s been said that a happy ending is a story that just hasn't finished yet. I have a feeling that much of season two of Once Upon A Time is going to run with this sentiment as a series of new conflicts and challenges are thrown our characters’ way now that the curse has been lifted. Chief among them being the presence of magic in the real world and how it may not work the same way as it does back in the kingdom or any other magical world that exists. Reunions occur between key characters but they’re short-lived as really what fun would it be if everyone was just happy and free now that the curse is gone?

Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) watches the face-off between David/Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) and the uber-mysterious and newly menacing Dr. Whale/? (David Anders)

One of the most exciting thematic developments we’ll get to watch play out this season is what happens when the morals of our favorite princes and princesses are tested with the challenges of existing in the real world. Something that would make a prince courageous and bold such as going after an evil queen when she’s down is nothing short of attempted murder in real world terms. The character of Emma Swan remains a moral compass for the series and she’ll likely face great adversity in trying to navigate a world where fairytale characters are not only real—they’re her parents. She’s of a world where due process is the way of things and you can’t just form an angry mob and take a witch down even if she might deserve it. Emma will clearly be facing off with both Mr. Gold who brought magic back and will likely be responsible for much further trouble it causes. As well as the beyond mysterious Dr. Whale (David Anders who the HELL are you), a man who apparently led the charge against Regina at her home and told David defiantly he ‘wasn’t his prince’.

Because now that we know all about Pinocchio the job of mystery man is now filled by True Blood's Michael Raymond-James.

Fans of LOST no doubt found some familiar story notes within in this episode. Particularly in the way some of the new characters were introduced. There was a mysterious man in a completely different setting away from Storybrooke played by True Blood and Terriers alum Michael Raymond-James It was all very Desmond in the hatch and I’m sure I wasn't alone in humming ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’ throughout the scene in my mind.  For some reason he’s informed via carrier pigeon in a post card message that states simply ‘broken’. I’m sure everyone’s going to be theorizing over who he could possibly be in the scope of the series, but good luck with that because it’s clear that Kitsis and Horowitz are going to be throwing out many questions this season now that we’re beyond the simple notion of how to break the curse. That was all just warm-up for things to get nice and multi-layered in this story.

Brand new to season two we have Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger) and Mulan (Jamie Chung) facing one of the new threats. 

The mystery man wasn’t alone in being new to the fold this season as we were shown a trio of new characters from familiar stories: Prince Phillip (Julian Morris), Mulan (Jamie Chung), and sleeping beauty herself Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger). They were introduced in a desolate landscape that was first alluded to as being simply because of Maleficent’s curse against Aurora. Things are much more complicated and this entirely new setting blows the doors off of what’s possible in this series much the way the episode introducing Jefferson and the portals to different worlds did in the last.

Rumbelle in action: Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) sharing a moment before magic starts to affect the town and their relationship. 

With all the plot twists going on there’s still room for the emotional connections and heart of the story that propelled this series last year beyond being another attempt at a serialized genre show. Mr. Gold and Belle’s reunion was just as complicated as the one with the Charming family but that’s why their relationship works so well. There’s a moment where Belle claims ‘that’s why you need me to stay’ when he attempts to push her away, claiming he’s still just a monster. The idea of a character who’s consumed with the lust for power at the expense of true happiness is nothing new but the  performances from Emilie de Ravin and Robert Carlyle are what make this thematic notion one that will be intriguing to watch as both struggle for Mr. Gold’s soul. There’s a reason why this ship is one of the most popular for OUAT and when you see them together in a nicely written scene like the one in Mr. Gold’s shop at the end of the episode you realize why that is.

The Charming family reunion: father mother and daughter reunited at long last.

After the cloud rushed through town and left all of its inhabitants aware of both their past selves and their present predicament there was a lovely, albeit short, reunion involving the entire Charming family of Emma, David, and Snow White. It set up some great bio parent/adopted child angst that the writers will likely get a lot of story mileage out of later on. Trust me, Snow and Emma are going to have plenty of time to get to know one another due to the twist at the end. For everyone else in Storybrooke there’s going to be a lot of anger to be dealt with and Regina needs to figure out a way to get back on top if she doesn’t want to be annihilated by the people whose lives she altered forever.

Regina Mills (Lana Parilla) is smug for the moment even as the entire town bears down on her doorstep.

New challenges, new bad guys, and new characters in brand-new settings mean this show should at least beat another curse besides the no more happy endings one—the sophomore slump. Once Upon A Time is set to continue to be magical entertainment but magic comes at a cost and this year it seems things are going to get very difficult for our heroes (and villains) now that magic is back in town and the rules have changed forever.

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