Once Upon A Time 2.14 "Manhattan" TV Review(opens in new tab)
Writers: Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz
Director: Dean White
THE ONE WHERE In the past: We discover what really happened when Rumplestiltskin went to war and was branded a coward. Reacting to a seer's prophecy, he broke his own leg rather than fight in a battle. Later, once he'd become the Dark One, Rumple found the seer again and heard an even more worrying prophecy... In Manhattan: Rumple, Emma and Henry track down Rumple's son, Baelfire, who turns out to be (gasp!) Henry's father, Neal. In Storybrooke: Snow and Charming react to the news that Rumplestiltskin is Henry's grandfather, while Cora, Regina and Hook try to find Rumple's knife.
VERDICT What a lovely, juicy, character-driven episode this is! It's beautifully acted by both Robert Carlyle and Jennifer Morrison, both of whom really give their all as we see the softer sides of their alter-egos. Rumple's so-called cowardice in the Ogre Wars actually turns out to be a selfless act to ensure that his son grows up with a father, and his disappointment when he returns home and is condemned by his wife is palpable (although the deeply emotional scene he has with his baby son is slightly ruined when the baby grabs his nose like he's going to honk it).
Morrison, meanwhile, does a fabulous job of looking shocked when she meets Neal again and then, as a double-whammy, realises that he's Rumple's son: her reactions are very real. Suspicious and angry, she's convinced that he set her up, and you can understand why she conceals Henry from him. Not to be outdone, Michael Raymond-James also nails it as he tries to defend himself from her accusations – his Neal is rogueish and likeable, the perfect foil for Emma. Will they spark up a relationship again? It remains to be seen. But it certainly doesn't look as though he's going to forgive his dad any time soon...(opens in new tab)
Once Upon A Time can be a little claustrophobic at times, so it's still a pleasure to see the gang leave Storybrooke and venture into the “real” world. This week Canada has to double for New York: the local firm specialising in renting out yellow cabs to film crews did a lot of business. It's also worth noting how cleverly subtle the visual effects are on this show. This shot of Emma in front of New York's famous Flatiron Building was actually filmed in Gastown, Vancouver. The real building only has five storeys (see pic), but the VFX team added in a few more, as well as an Empire State Building in the background. Nicely done.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
SAY WHAT YOU MEAN, DAMMIT! Seers and fortune tellers are always so vague, aren't they? This one tells Rumple of his son: “Your actions on the battlefield tomorrow will leave him fatherless.” He naturally assumes this means he'll die, but in actuality he fulfills the prophecy himself by refusing to fight. If only these psychics said what they meant, eh?
FRIENDS 4EVA Emma freaks out when she discovers that Neal is Henry's father, so what does she do? She calls Snow for some advice. It's lovely that they're both mother and daughter and BFFs.(opens in new tab)
ANTICLIMAX... In the episode “Tallahassee”, August showed Neal a secret something that made him abandon Emma and leave town. We've been wondering ever since what on earth it could be... and it turned out to be nothing more than a typewriter with a sheet of paper saying, “I know you're Baelfire.” What? Why didn't he just say that? Why all the cloak and dagger? Why the dramatic reveal? Pish!(opens in new tab)
NOBBLING IN ACTION At last, we discover why Rumplestiltskin has a limp: he smashed his own leg with a hammer to avoid a battle. The crack of breaking bone in this scene is really quite disturbing...(opens in new tab)
LOOKS FAMILIAR The camp Rumple lives in looks remarkably like it's staffed by the Night’s Watch in Game Of Thrones .
MOMMY DEAREST Cora and Regina seem very chummy this week – clearly Cora's silver tongue has totally talked her daughter over to her side. You can see it in action, too: “Impressive, Regina,” says Cora as her daughter figures something out. Regina looks absolutely delighted and replies, “Thank you, mother!” You can tell this was a little girl starved of approval.
THERE MAY BE TROUBLE AHEAD... No sooner do we discover that Rumplestiltskin and Henry are related than we hear a prophecy that Henry is the child who will be Rumplestiltkin's “undoing”. Will Rumple turn homicidal? They did seem to be bonding in this episode, even before the big reveal that they're related, so hopefully Rumple will do the right thing and, y'know, not kill his grandson.(opens in new tab)
THIS WEEK'S OPENING CREDITS IMAGE A New York skyline appears behind the trees, so subtly that it's not even that noticeable at first...
Charming: “So Rumplestiltskin is Henry's grandfather?”
Charming: “But I'm his grandfather.”
Snow: “You can have more than one.”
Seer: “The boy will be your undoing.”
Rumplestiltskin: “Then I'll just have to kill him.”
• New episodes of Once Upon A Time air in the UK on Channel 5, Sundays, 8pm
• Read our other Once Upon A Time reviews