Once Upon a Time continues its trend of re-appropriating non-fairytale characters with “The Doctor.” The mysterious Dr. Whale has been the subject of much debate, and this week his backstory was revealed. He’s a famous physician, but not one you’ll find anywhere in your Grimm volume.

The Players:

  • Director: Paul Edwards
  • Writer: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Robert Carlyle

Episode Title: “The Crocodile”

Dr. Whale’s identity is finally revealed and his brand of medicine, involves reanimating the dead. While Whale’s exposed by FrankenDaniel in Storybrooke, our other not-really-a-fairytale-character, Hook, encounters the girls back in Fairytale Land.

The Good:

  • Rumpelstiltskin as Evil Yoda: This week’s flashbacks focused on Regina’s training with Rumpelstiltskin and her turn to the dark side. Early on, she clung to her goodness, refusing to kill a unicorn. When Rumple ditches her, proclaiming her un-trainable, she turns to a doctor who the Mad Hatter thinks can revive Daniel. The doctor (who uses something “more powerful than magic”) needs a heart to complete his work. Regina, unable to take hearts herself, steals one from her mother’s outlandish stash and waits eagerly for the experiment to work. When it doesn’t, she’s full of anger and heads back to Rumple. This time, she’s ready to kill not just unicorns, but people. She proves this by ripping the heart from the Esmeralda-looking girl he’s training in her place. This would be great on its own, but the fact that the entire series of events was orchestrated by Rumple to make Regina evil is deliciously good!
  • Emma’s “Superpower” Returns: Remember last season, when Emma seemed to have a purpose on the show? Back when Henry was trying to convince her that everyone in town was really from a fairytale? Well, during that time, she became sheriff largely on a platform of being able to shoot a gun and being a human lie detector. Since then, she’s lost her job, her gun and all sense of importance in the story. But this week, her lie detecting skills reemerged when she called Captain Hook on his bluff of a cover story. Emma’s still one of the worst characters on the show, but thank God they’re at least trying to do something with her now.
  • Dr. Hopper: Dr. Hopper aka Jiminy Cricket, was a primary character in season one. Henry was in therapy with him. He was working for Regina, but conflicted considering she was pure evil and he was the embodiment of a conscience. He hasn’t had much to do since the Fairytale Land memories and magic returned. But now that Regina’s proving herself to be less evil and more complex, Dr. Hopper has a new patient. He’s subtle and supporting, but brings a grounded balance to the over-the-top cast of characters.
  • Regina Does Right: If there was ever any doubt of Regina’s love for Henry, it should be dispelled now. The other important person in her life, Daniel, returned as a Frankenstein-esque monster. When he tries to hurt Henry, Charming is all for killing him, but Regina pleads for the chance to talk to him. Even though she manages to break through for a moment, she ultimately does what’s best for Henry (and Storybrooke) and turns Daniel to dust. Considering losing him the first time pushed her to dark magic, it’ll be interesting to see impact this final loss has.

The So-So:

  • Not So Grimm: Fans have mixed reactions to the non-fairytale characters brought into onto the show.  In some cases, it works. In others, not so much. The best of these crossovers occur when the non-fairytale character is established as an outsider. The Mad Hatter has to transport from Wonderland. Dr. Whale (Dr. Frankenstein) is also from another world. But Lancelot? What was going on there? Mulan? Really? Some consistency in expanding the universe would be great.

The Bad:

  • FrankenDaniel: It’s at least quasi-interesting that Whale turned out to be Frankenstein, but not interesting enough to make up for the clunky Daniel storyline. As a monster, he was underused and his second death at Regina’s hands doesn’t pack the emotional punch it should.
  • Henry: More and more, Henry is becoming a prop or easy excuse for plot movements. “Henry is in trouble!” or “Henry is taking matters into his own hands…again!” As the wide-eyed believer/junior conspiracy theorist, he mostly worked. Now, it’s like he’s lost his place in Storybrooke and the story of Once.

Overall:

This week had highs that were among the best of the season and lows that were among the worst. The flashbacks focusing on Regina and Rumple were amazing, but the Frankenstein plot in Storybrooke was underwhelming. It felt like a lame, forced attempt at doing something “Halloween-y” and was beneath the show.

Rating: 7/10

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

What did you think of this week’s episode?