Once Upon a Time shook things up this week with the addition of an outsider, played by Ethan Embry. The battle lines between good and evil blurred even more as everyone in town struggled to deal with the consequences of last week’s major twists.

The Players:

  • Director: Milan Cheylov
  • Writer: Jane Espenson
  • Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Colin O’Donoghue

Episode Title: “In the Name of the Brother”

Dr. Whale was thrust back in the spotlight this week when a stranger in Storybrooke needed medical attention. Meanwhile, recovering baddies Regina and Rumple/Mr. Gold backslid thanks to interference by the comically evil Cora.

The Good:

  • Ethan Embry!: The stranger who comes into Storybrooke (but if he’ll really be a stranger or merely an August-like fairy tale wanderer remains to be seen) is played by Ethan Embry, who hasn’t quite reached the distinction of character actor, but will probably make his mark as such eventually. He’s just well-known enough that the stranger shouldn’t be underestimated, but obscure enough not to be the product of short-term stunt casting. Color us intrigued.
  • Evil Backsliding: Storybrooke’s biggest villains, Regina and Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, have been trying to redeem themselves. Regina is out to win Henry’s love and Mr. Gold is desperate to prove himself worthy to Belle. Their depth and conflict drive the show and make them much more compelling than their white horse riding counterparts on the side of good. Cora, Regina’s evil mother, is problematic within the series space because she, unlike the other villains, doesn’t deal in shades of gray. This week, she played the only role worth playing: The serpent, tempting our favorite villains back to the side of evil, at least temporarily.

The So-So:

  • Belle’s Memory Loss: Belle lost her memory at the end of last week’s “The Outsider,” after setting foot outside of Storybrooke. We’ve learned that her memories can be restored, with the right magic talisman. Surely, Rumple/Gold will eventually get his hands on this, but it kind of takes the urgency out of Belle’s condition.

The Bad:

  • Dr. Whale This week’s flashback segment delved back into the black and white origins of Dr. Whale, who we came to realize earlier this season is actually Dr. Frankenstein. He feels out of place, and not just because he doesn’t hail from the Enchanted Forest. He’s not good enough at what he does to be a clear asset, nor bad enough to drive significant conflict, leaving the audience wondering, “What’s the point?”

Overall:

“In the Name of the Brother” should have been a great episode, coming on the heels of the major plot twist of Belle’s memory loss, but it squandered a lot of opportunity focusing on uninteresting and unrelated characters (like Dr. Whale) when it could have hit major developmental notes for Rumple and Belle and their past. It points Regina and Gold in interesting new directions, but does little else of note.

Rating: 6/10

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

What did you think of this week’s show?