Last week’s tepid premiere was just a throat-clearing for the glorious Regina and Emma mystery machine of “Witch Hunt.” Plus, there were more flying monkeys! Once Upon A Time ain’t in Kansas, it’s ahead by a country mile.
- Director: Guy Ferland
- Writer: Jane Espenson
- Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire
Episode Title: “Witch Hunt”
If anyone tries to leave Storybrook they vanish. Apparently, there are flying monkeys at the town’s perimeter. If they bite you, you transform into one yourself. A simian with wings takes out Little John, and Neal is among the missing. Emma and the Charmings are fretting over what to do about it, while the amnesia curse has them tip-toeing around Henry. Thankfully, he has his nose in a game the entire episode, but even he gets weirded out when Regina spots him at the diner. The Evil Queen is, of course, gutted; Emma’s actually sensitive to that and convinced Regina didn’t cast the curse. But the town’s folk think she’s guilty as sin. Emma and Regina use that to their advantage. Publicly, they’re at odds but privately they’re working on replicating a memory potion. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so Henry’s moms try tipping their hand another way. By falsely announcing that Regina’s close to perfecting a memory potion, they attempt to flush out the real culprit. It works, but the perp disappears in a puff of green smoke. It’s the ginger midwife who ingratiated herself to the pregnant Snow earlier. She’s calling herself Zelina, and in the Enchanted Forest she adds that she’s also the Wicked Witch, and Regina’s half-sister. But after a campy confrontation, she sails away on her broomstick to fabulous schemes unknown. At least one of them involves bringing Rumple back from the dead and sticking him in a cage in a basement on the outskirts of Storybrook.
- Blood Magic: A Regina episode was the best thing the show could do to build some momentum. Plus, the Henry’s Moms Slight of Hand Express was about as good as it gets. We relieved the antagonism between Emma and Regina was put to bed. Both women listened to each other and worked off their mutual strengths. That yellow VW bug stake out was lovely. But the episode’s richness was built out of Regina’s turmoil over losing Henry, something the show needed to address.
- Something to Live For: The Evil Queen had a banner outing sneaking into the castle with a wry, intrigued Robin Hood in tow. According to Tinker Bell, Robin and Regina are each other’s true loves, so bringing them together is now an unlockable achievement. The chemistry between Lana Parrilla and Sean Maguire overcame the amount of exposition they had to spit out about losing people close to them or the slightly silly archery/choke-magic standoff that ensues when Regina wants to poison herself. That look in Regina’s eye after confronting the Wicked Witch, a showdown so absurd we pass over “Bring it on, Greenie!” and “See ya later, sis!” without comment. It was the right mix of wonderful and terrifying. The bitch is back.
- Cellar Surprise: The show wasted no time with Rumple’s return, giving the last scene to Robert Carlyle and his pitched madman’s voice. He doesn’t have the sparkly golden skin to go along with it, but he hardly needs it. Mader does a fine job of confronting her foes and pawns head-on. She saunters about as the Wicked Witch, drunk on her own fabulousness. She reveals to Regina that she too was Rumple’s student, and there’s an element of revenge served cold (along with porridge), to her interaction with him. It bodes well.
- Target Practice: Way to up the ante on the concept of flying monkeys, writers. It would’ve been enough to see The Evil Queen turn one into a plush toy. But morphing into one if they draw blood? Touché. That development livened up the drear ‘Robin Hood’s merry band are stealing from sport supply stores’ angle to their life in Storybrook. The guy playing Little John was a little too Hurley-esque for our tastes, but bring on Monkeyfire Bae, if that’s what’s happened to Neal.
- And Your Little Fetus Too: We can’t express how infinitesimally little we’re looking forward to the “Zelina Does Something Weird To Snow’s Baby” plot. Their scene at the diner smacks of a storyline based in unequal knowledge that’s going to be strung along. Remember how Henry thought he was saving magic for half a season? We hope we’re wrong, but Snow’s smothering anxiety and Zelina’s twitch of fakery will make this a trial if it doesn’t come to term soon.
Once Upon A Time had a slow start, but it’s back to doing what it does best: Pulpy standoffs, intriguing villains, and abandonment issues. “Witch Hunt” improves on what could be simply a Regina showcase and chewy Rumple reveal. Emma is listening and scheming right alongside her, giving us the sense that the show’s heading down an exciting new road.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
What’s happened to Rumple? Let us know your theories in the comments.