If by ‘letting its hair down’ you mean Once Upon A Time will indulge in the darkness and anxiety of fairy-tales, that’s exactly what we got in this episode. Plus, “The Tower,” has even more Rumplestilskin. We’re moving in the right direction y’all.
- Director: Ralph Hemecker
- Writer: Robert Hull
- 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: “The Tower”
In the Enchanted Forest, Charming dreams an anxious dream about being a bad father and losing Emma. So he’s not psyched the next morning when Snow announces she’s pregnant. Before heading back to Sherwood, Robin Hood tells Charming of a magic root that might help take away his fear. While seeking it, he finds the tower of Rapunzel, who’s been trapped by a mysterious, hooded figure since the death of her older brother. Charming tries to rescue her, but discovers the presence is the embodiment of her fear. By cutting off her hair, Rapunzel is able to destroy it and be reunited with her parents. In Storybrooke, it’s Zelina who doses David’s tea with the hallucinogenic fear factor, even as Emma and Hook track down the witch’s homestead. David’s standoff with his fear, complete with sword fight and strangling, ends with his sword’s hilt vanishing into a green puff of smoke. Regina, who volunteered for Henry duty earlier, explains that David’s courage transferred into the hilt, in a magically symbolic way. So it’s probably not a good thing that the hilt reappears in Zelina’s handbag. Our four A-Team members go back to the witch’s farm only to find the storm cellar where Rumple was being kept empty. He’s loose!
- Tangled: Charming, bless him, isn’t the strongest or most interesting character on the show, but Josh Dallas did a fine job holding down the episode. It shows how much he can do when pulled out of Snow’s orbit. Plus, there’s a nice sense of completion to our fairy-tale of the week character we haven’t gotten from the show in a while. Are Ariel and Tink out solving NCIS mysteries? If so, why didn’t they invite Belle? Rapunzel’s story, on the other hand, is fully satisfying.
- Run This Town: There’s only one appropriate reaction to Rumple being on the loose and it’s “Aww yeah!” But based on “The Tower,” we hope there’s more one-on-one confrontations between Wicked and Rumple The scene between the two in the cellar cage was easily the best moment of the hour. Her lovely taunting of Regina aside, this is really the first chance we’ve had to see the extent of Rebecca Mader’s fangs. Any scene with Robert Carlyle elevates whatever’s going on, but the Wicked Witch’s hatred is palpable – which is what you want.
- Defying Gravity: When the visuals on Once Upon A Time call attention to themselves, it’s usually the CGI showing its teeth. But to director Ralph Hemecker’s credit, there was some nice play in the cinematography of “The Tower.” The show had room for a lot of jump-cut coverage of the fear-Dementors; both the tower itself and the nursery in Charming’s dream were shot a little more dynamically than we see usually. This gave a sense of anxiety to those environments. The Dutch angles inside the Charming’s white, cheery loft brought more terror than you can fit in a teapot.
- Totems: See what you did there, Once Upon A Time, with the steamy (misty, because there’s suddenly snow on the ground) conversation between Hook and Emma about having her heart broken. Stuff like that, and the fact Neal’s still MIA, hints the show’s sided with the rest of us on this particular triangle. But with the hints about Zelina’s drunken father maybe relating to a certain false Wizard, we hope the next two episodes aren’t about taking Emma’s heart and Regina’s brains or something to turn Snow’s baby into Dorothy. The oblique nods, like Mrs. Gulch’s bicycle sitting on Zelina’s porch, are more satisfying.
- Austere Sense of Design: The episode didn’t have any clunker elements, but struck a balance between its fairy flashback and the present. It’s a Goldilocks, if you will, with nothing amazing and nothing amiss. We would only like to point out that Snow’s (lack of) judgment was made all the more cringe-worthy by the sunniness of her yellow dress. She continues to be an impeccable reader of people, if your criterion for that is being wrong.
Not the show’s most memorable outing, but “The Tower” was certainly a satisfying one. Dallas got a chance to add some depth to Charming. The fact that Rapunzel was a princess of color wasn’t a big deal at all, Rumple’s at large and Emma and Hook are like two and half episodes away from making out. Things are looking up.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Do you think Rumple escaped or was set free for a purpose? Let us know in the comments.