Once Upon A Time 2.17 "Welcome To Storybrooke" TV Review
Writers: Ian Goldberg, Andrew Chambliss
Director: David M Barrett
THE ONE WHERE... In Storybrooke, 1983: We see Regina adjusting to life in Storybrooke after the curse has kicked in, but she feels empty – until she meets a kid stranded in the town after the spell hit. She does everything she can to become a mother to him, but Owen gets away into the outside world, leaving his father behind. In Storybrooke, today: Regina is on the warpath after Snow tricked her into killing her mum, revealing in a terrific “Dun dun daaaa!” moment that Mary Margaret's heart is now blackened by the evil deed. Regina also plans to use a love potion on Henry to keep him at her side, but learns that this won't work. She must earn his love instead. Oh, and the little kid named Owen is now all grown up and is the guy who crashed his car in Storybrooke a few weeks ago...
VERDICT What a wonderful idea it is to go back in time to the start of the curse, and to follow Regina around as she explores her new, perfectly-moulded world! Her smirk of joy when she sees that Snow doesn't recognise Charming is hilarious, and the way she struts down the high street like the Queen of the world (which is is, of course) is exquisite. But it's also interesting to see it all going wrong: how she realises, as time passes, that every day will be the same, and she has nobody around her who understands the victory she's achieved. It's an empty, unfulfilling existence. “What good's a new life if you don't have anyone to share it with?” she asks, and she's right. Which is why she latches onto Owen.
And this is where this episode really comes into its own. Since day one on this show, Regina's love for Henry has been her weak spot, and the one thing about her that doesn't quite gel with the truly wicked woman we've seen in the enchanted realm. At last, we have an explanation for why he means so much to her, and it goes a lot deeper than you'd think. She's an incredibly lonely woman, so desperate to connect with anyone – even a child she's barely met – that she'll resort to blackmail and kidnapping to achieve it. Now it's easy to understand why Henry is the most important thing in her life; more important, in fact, than defeating Snow and Charming. It's a wonderful insight into her character and proves that Regina is anything but a black-and-white, comic-book villain.
Henry himself is a bit perturbed to find himself in Regina's sights – again – and the episode's B-plot is some unconvincing gubbins about him finding dynamite and trying to rid Storybrooke of magic by blowing up its magic well. Not only is the ending obvious (he gives an emotional speech and Regina backs down – gee, that's never happened before), but the sight of Henry with a Looney Tunes-style bundle of dynamite clutched in his hand is rather silly. Not one of Once 's best moments, but thankfully it's made up for by two things. The first is the flashback to 1983, featuring the ever-reliable John Pyper-Ferguson as little Owen's dad: seeing them both give Regina some sass is very entertaining. And the second brilliant thing about this episode is the ending. Regina pulls out Snow's heart and notices that it's going black! All we can say is wow. Just... wow.
PROOF ETERNAL I really hate camping, and the opening scenes with Kurt and Owen sitting in the pouring rain in a dismal, freezing-cold forest pretty much sum up everything that's wrong with life in a tent. While they seem jolly as they sit by the campfire, underneath you know that they wish they were at home in front of the telly. No toasted marshmallow could make this night better.
HELLO AGAIN! This episode features the return of two dead Storybrooke characters: the late, lamented Sheriff Graham (played by Jamie Dornan, recently seen alongside Gillian Anderson in The Fall ) and former mouse Billy (Jarod Joseph), who was killed by Spencer in “Child Of The Moon”.
DON'T LIE TO CHILDREN Snow gives a school lesson in which she tells the kids, “Birds are loyal creatures. If you love them and they love you, they will always find you.” Then she releases a bluebird from the window of the classroom. It's all very symbolic and lovely, but as anyone who's owned a bird can tell you, once you throw them out of a window, it's very unlikely that they will return (homing pigeons aside, of course). And so Snow lied to those children! Also, that isn't a bluebird at all: it's probably some kind of Pacific parrotlet with its colour ramped up digitally. As a tropical bird, releasing it in chilly Maine would see it die in the cold. Poor birdy.
BRRRR! Speaking of dying of the cold, check out Red's unseasonably skimpy outfit in this picture! The things some women do for fashion...
FASHION QUEEN One of the first things Regina does when she wakes up in Storybrooke is investigate her wardrobe, seemingly thrilled with a plain black dress she finds inside it. Considering the incredibly elaborate outfits she wore in her other life, a little black dress probably seems really exotic to her now!
THIS WEEK'S OPENING CREDITS IMAGE Kurt's car sits there looking very ’80s. Then a tree falls on it. Incidentally, this car is used in a very rare Once Upon A Time car chase, and a jolly good chase it is, too!
Granny to Red: “When I put 'over easy' on the menu, I was talking about the eggs.”
Rumplestiltskin: “Cora was dangerous because she didn't have a heart. Regina is even more dangerous because she does.”
Regina: “I know I'm not the greatest cook. Unless it involves apples...”
• New episodes of Once Upon A Time air in the UK on Channel 5, Sundays, 8pm
• Read our other Once Upon A Time reviews