After an epic winter finale, Once Upon a Time returned with an episode fully focused on Storybrooke (sort of). Our heroic royal family is reunited, but being home doesn’t mean being safe. Some of Fairytale Land’s fiendish baddies have crossed over and they have revenge on the brain.

The Players:

  • Director: Dean White
  • Writer: David H. Goodman and Robert Hull
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Colin O’Donoghue

Episode Title: “The Cricket Game”

The dual Fairytale Land/Storybrooke storyline has come to an end (for now). But there are still dangers lurking from the characters’ former home – cue Cora and Captain Hook. The baddies are wreaking havoc on the town and all evidence points to poor Regina (did we actually just write “poor Regina” and mean it?).

The Good:

  • Surprising Deaths: The emotional arc of “The Cricket Game” centers on Regina’s quest for redemption. When Emma invites her to Mary Margaret’s homecoming party, one guest actually pulls a knife in defense of her walking in the door. Later on, Emma reveals that she spoke to Dr. Hopper (aka Jiminy Cricket) to confirm Regina’s sincerity, Regina gets pissed at the breach of doctor/patient confidentiality. This gives Cora the perfect opportunity to set her up for his murder. It’s fantastically sad and shocking until you realize that Hopper’s still alive. Cora kidnapped him and used magic to make another (actually dead) Storybrooke resident look like him. Is your head spinning yet?
  • Snow’s Mercy: Ginnifer Goodwin deserves more praise than she’ll ever get for making the potentially-cheesy moments as Snow work. In this week’s flashback sequence, we see her spare Regina’s life, even after the Evil Queen has vowed to kill her. While Charming counterpart comes off as overzealous in his quest to see Regina dead, Goodwin’s Snow is believably benevolent.

The Bad:

  • Grandparents Having Sex: Mary Margaret (Snow) and David (Charming) are grandparents and their daughter and grandson walk in on them doing the deed. In a very uncomfortable scene, Henry and Emma arrive earlier than expected to see the couple getting it on. Henry pretends to be clueless, but that’s a stretch considering all the nudity.
  • Too Much Emma: Emma is a victim of Boring Protagonist Syndrome. She’s finally being given more to do and something resembling a personality, but does anyone care? With an array of supporting characters far more interesting, why are we still honing in on her and Henry?

Overall:

Perhaps our hopes were too high after “Queen of Hearts,” but this week’s “The Cricket Game” was a major disappointment. Emotional, honest performances from Ginnifer Goodwin and Lana Parrilla help lift the episode, but poor plotting and messy storytelling bog it down.

Rating: 6/10

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

What did you think of this week’s show?