Last week, Once Upon a Time came back with a bang. The events from the premiere left the Once world completely changed. Unsurprisingly (but a little disappointingly), this forced a lot of clean-up in the follow-up episode, “We Are Both.” The confusion in Storybrooke bogs the story down, but flashbacks to Regina’s past is its saving grace.

The Players:

  • Director: Dean White
  • Writer: Jane Espenson
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Robert Carlyle

Episode Title: “We Are Both”

Last week’s explosive plot twists have left a lot to be explained. The task of making sense of it all has fallen upon Charming’s shoulders, forcing him to function without his other half. After a quick experiment that essentially boils down to pushing Sneezy over the town border, the residents learn that leaving Storybrooke comes at a price: Losing their memories.

The Good:

  • The Witch is Back: When magic returns to Storybrooke and Regina’s powers fizzle, it’s a win for the good guys but a loss for the plot. Regina without magic is like, Once Upon a Time without a solid villain. In “We Are Both,” Regina turns to the book that originally gave her her gift. And it allowed her to come back bigger and badder than ever. What makes Once so special, is that Regina’s desire isn’t for the sake of magic or even for the sake of power – it’s all about getting Henry back. But since the old saying isn’t “If you love something, keep it captive and use magically animated tree branches to make sure it stays,” Regina ends up letting Henry go. No one, not even evil sorceresses, want to become her mother.
  • Regina’s Past: We already knew Regina started life as a good, loving girl who was corrupted by love lost. This week, we see a big turning point in her journey to evil. The story begins with the summoning of our favorite glittery-skinned villain, Rumpelstiltskin. He gives her a mirror that he promises will act as a portal and trap her evil mom. We kind of can’t wait to see the next step in Regina’s bad-formation.
  • It’s Off to Work We Go: Presumably because of the ABC/Disney connection, Once Upon A Time exists less in the Grimm version of fairytales and more in the Mouse House. That’s why we have Mulan living in a medieval land, Belle wearing a yellow dress and Emma fighting the Maleficent dragon last season. Sometimes these Disnifications are cute, other times they’re eye roll-worthy, or downright funny. When Grumpy prepares to lead the dwarfs into the woods he says, with no traces of irony or sarcasm, “It’s off to work we go,” it’s pure gold! Can we nominate Lee Arenberg for an Emmy just for pulling that line off?
  • Hatter Returns: This one is pretty simple: The Hatter is back. Unfortunately, he’s back in a completely useless (so far) capacity and finding him required some dealing with Rumpelstiltskin that’s sure to come back and bite Charming in the ass. Here’s hoping Wonderland’s wackadoo can get it together and be a little more helpful in the portal opening department.

The Bad:

  • Not Enough Rump: Regina’s backstory is great, but we get antsy anytime Rumpelstiltskin is under utilized. He’s a fascinatingly complicated villain and totally worthy of more exploration. But this week, he was used largely as a convenient plot device, distributing magic to whoever needed it. Can’t we all agree that ambiguous magic is just more satisfying when Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold is there to make a little extra mischief?
  • Henry: Obviously, Henry was vitally important to their being a show at all. Why else would Emma come to Storybrooke? Why would she stay? Who else could possibly believe everyone in town was really a fairytale character? The list goes on. But this year, Henry has really lost his purpose and Once seems to be using him mostly as a prop to highlight other characters’ complexities. He’s precocious and wise one minute, reckless and stupid the next. Being a fickle kid is fine, but let’s add a little method to the madness shall we?

Overall:

Once Upon a Time‘s season opener was much stronger than its follow-up. But hopefully, this week’s clunky exposition will set us up for a string of powerful, well-paced episodes. The series is certainly capable of it and the questions it’s raised are worth seeing answered.

Rating: 7/10

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

What did you think of this week’s episode?