In the season opener, Once Upon a Time teased us with a great twist: Emma and Snow were sent to Fairytale Land. This week, they followed it up with “Lady of the Lake.” The episode was all about the unfortunate happenings in Snow’s hometown since her abrupt departure.

The Players:

  • Director: Milan Cheylov
  • Writer: Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Robert Carlyle

Episode Title: “Lady of the Lake”

Season two has three time lines: Storybrooke, Fairytale Land present and Fairytale Land past. The most interesting by far, at the moment at least, is present day. This week’s episode spent a lot of time there. Emma and Snow are stuck in the Fairytale Land, which isn’t the paradise we’ve seen in flashbacks. They’re not alone though, a slew of fabled characters (we’re looking at you, Mulan and Lancelot) are there to guide them. Unfortunately, there’s also Regina’s mother, Cora, who brings the bad.

The Good:

  • Fairytale Land 2.0: FINE-AH-LEE. Last week, all I could think was “…but what about Emma and Snow. Show me Emma and Snow.” This week, Once gave viewers what we’ve all wanted from day one: More Fairytale Land. This version is less Disney and more Grimm. It’s overrun by ogres and Regina’s mother Cora, has magicked her way into a secret position of power. We’ll be spending a lot of time at this place because by the end of the episode Emma has torched their portal back to Storybrooke.
  • Stupid Emma: Why is Stupid Emma in the Good section? Well, let’s start with why she’s stupid. When Emma and Snow are beginning their journey to find the portal (it’s the wardrobe baby Emma traveled in), she’s told about the ogres. Her response is a lame wisecrack about having dated a few ogres. She’s then promptly schooled on how dangerous they are. Later, when it’s time to make camp, Emma suggests that, if ogres are so dangerous, perhaps they should not build a fire. Mulan and Snow, tell her not to fret because ogres are blind and hunt by sound. Now let’s flash forward to when Emma shoots her gun into the air to break up a fight and leads the ogre directly to them. Other moments of Stupid Emma include trusting Cora when she emerges from the shadows in a dark prison cell. Also, every time she sighs like a sullen teenager when Snow gives her good advice. So back to “why is this in the ‘Good’ category?” Simple: Emma is so dreadfully boring that any defining characteristic is an improvement. Go forth and blunder, Emma. At least you’ll drive the story along.

The So-So:

  • Fairytale Class System: This one isn’t explicitly stated, but can we discuss the class system in Fairytale Land? And more importantly, in Regina’s curse? Practically everyone left behind from the curse is a quasi-fairytale character at best. With the exception of Sleeping Beauty and Prince Phillip, we’re seeing a lot of people who are more legends than fairytales or who seem to be entirely made up for Once. I’ll give this a so-so until we find out more about why this ragtag group was shunned by the curse.

The Bad:

  • Not Enough Rump: This will make my Bad list every week it’s relevant. Rumpelstiltskin is great and I miss seeing his mischief woven into every story.
  • Sleeping Beauty: Is she spunky? Whiny? A vengeful foe waiting in the wings? What gives? Sleeping Beauty (or Aurora, if you prefer) has been set up as one of the most potentially interesting characters, but the show doesn’t know what to do with her. Her penchant for revenge was great. It gave Snow and Emma an adversary who wasn’t purely evil for the sake of being evil. But she seems to have abandoned her vengeance and decided to channel her hate towards helping the people she believed were responsible for her true love’s death. Talking about anti-climatic.
  • Babies = Happiness: I get it; having a baby was vitally important for Snow because without Emma, we have no story. Everyone’s in a time freeze forever, but this week’s flashback was one of my least favorite in the series. Once is usually great about taking the most fragile female characters and empowering them through re-imagined tales. So it’s disappointing when Snow falls into the old “my worth is tied to my womb” trap. When Charming’s menacing “Dad” gives her a potion that makes her sterile, there’s an air of “now I’m not worth marrying.” It made us want to grab Snow by the shoulders, shake her and remind her of all the kick ass things she’s done.

Overall:

Once Upon a Time tends to be as good as the characters it follows. This week, despite some shortcomings in storytelling, it followed an interesting group into more interesting terrain, making it a worthy entry for the series.

Rating: 8/10

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

What did you think of this week’s episode?