Once Upon a Time‘s great at strengthening connections between characters from unrelated fairy tales. In that way, this week’s episode “The Outsider”was one of the best in a while. Unfortunately, the goings on in Storybrooke left something to be desired.

The Players:

  • Director: David Solomon
  • Writer: Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Colin O’Donoghue

Episode Title: “The Outsider”

When Cora and Captain Hook arrived in Storybrooke, they both had something nefarious in mind. Cora wants to ruin Regina, while Hook is looking for revenge against the crocodile aka Rumpelstiltskin. This week, that revenge was taken, just not on Rumpel/Mr. Gold directly.

The Good:

  • Fairytale Land Connections: One thing that hooks viewers into Once is its ability to take the familiar and put a new spin on it. The show does this best when drawing connections between stories. Perhaps the best example thus far has been Rumpelstiltskin’s presence in every fairytale. In addition to being the gold-spinning trickster, he’s doubled as villains like the Crocodile and the Beast. His role as the latter has been particularly important, since it comes with a reluctant love affair with Belle. “The Outsider” dove into her past and links her to Mulan and shows the origin of Mulan’s strong alliance with Prince Phillip.
  • Memory Loss: In Storybrooke, Hook doesn’t get to kill the “croc” that took his hand, he does something potentially more devastating: He takes Belle away from him. By pushing her over the town line and causing her to lose her memories of Rumpel and their history, as well as all memories about her life in Fairytale Land, Hook effectively ends their budding romance. It’s a shocking move, the likes of which keep Once engaging.
  • Henry Shows Some Emotion: Even though Archie’s death is revealed to be a hoax by Cora, Henry is shaken by the news. In a rare non-annoying moment, he calls Archie’s voicemail just to hear him speak. It’s the most sincere Henry’s been since his turn as the naive optimist in season one.

The Bad:

  • Cora: Sure, her plan may not have worked perfectly, but it succeeded in getting the town to turn against Regina. This helped rekindle some tension between Regina and the good guys she’s trying desperately to prove herself to. But it feels a little empty coming as a result of Cora’s plot. One of the best things about Once is it’s willingness to let its villains exist in shades of gray, but Cora is pitch black. Can we get a little depth?

Overall:

The Fairytale Land flashbacks in  ”The Outsider” were top notch, linking tales we hadn’t seen cross paths before. They also explained relationships that were established without explanation early in the season. Unfortunately, the Storybrook storyline was lackluster and Cora pales in comparison to the show’s other villains.

Rating: 7/10

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

What did you think of this week’s show?