Once Upon A Time 2.20 "The Evil Queen" TV Review
Writers: Christine Boylan and Jane Espenson
Director: Gwyneth Horder-Payton
THE ONE WHERE In the past: The Queen is annoyed that her citizens think she's evil, so she asks Rumplestiltskin to change her appearance so she can walk among them. Snow saves her life and they bond... but when they stumble upon a village massacred by the Queen's soldiers, things don't end well. In Storybrooke: Emma and Henry spy on Neal's girlfriend, Tamara, as Emma is sure she's the woman August tried to warn them about. Meanwhile Regina and Hook go on a mission to recover a device that will destroy Storybrooke, and Greg and Tamara manage to take away Regina's magic.
VERDICT Not the most riveting episode of the season, this one, with a plot that feels like Once Upon A Time by numbers. After all, there's only a finite amount of times that we can see Regina almost repent and make up with Snow, before changing her mind at the last minute and becoming even more evil. I mean, seriously, doesn't she do this every week? Sure, it's done with conviction and Lana Parrilla is simply astonishing – as always – but it's getting very old by now.
Still, it's fun watching the Queen's horror as she realises her subjects loathe her so much. It's just a shame that Snow's fight to free the disguised Queen from her own soldiers is cut so quickly that you can't see what the hell is going on – bad direction, or an attempt to make a staged, overly-rehearsed setpiece look more dynamic? Who knows, but it's bloody awful. On a similar note, it's also a shame that the CGI Maleficent is so bad: she looks like a computer game character from around ten years ago. Ouch. This show doesn't have a huge budget and sometimes their FX can rise above that, but it certainly wasn't the case this week. Poor Colin O'Donoghue tries his best to convince us he's in danger as Hook dodges the CGI nonsense, but it's not enough to sell it.
Thankfully, while some elements of this episode fail, others make up for it – and unexpectedly, too. Who would have thought that a spying mission featuring Emma and Henry could be so much fun? Watching them stake out Tamara and then sneak around her hotel room is very entertaining, with the two of them forming a cool double-act. Additionally, the Queen's scenes with Rumplestiltskin are a delight, with the Dark One as maliciously hilarious as ever.
The most interesting thing about “The Evil Queen”, however, is the extraordinary fact that we see the Queen order the deaths of dozens of villagers without a second thought, and yet it's still possible to feel empathy for her in Storybrooke when she realises that everybody is planning to go to the Enchanted Realm and leave her behind, taking Henry with them. Now that's amazing characterisation: you take a murderous, evil serial killer and make her likeable. In fact, most people will have forgotten about that massacred village by next week. Wow.
Final note: isn't it good to have the duplicitous Hook back? That damn pirate's so sneaky that he could even double-cross himself .
LANGUAGE, TIMOTHY! Once Upon A Time is a family show, right? So it's a bit of a shock when a soldier pronounces: “Looks to me like some dirty slag is defacing an effigy of our Queen.” Proof positive that, rather like “wanker”, “slag” isn't half as rude in the USA as it is over here...
METHOD ACTING The Queen doesn't do herself any favours while in disguise. She looks like a peasant girl, but she acts like the Queen the whole time – so much for blending in! No wonder the soldiers take her away for execution, when she's so mouthy with them. Undercover FAIL.
HANG ON A MINUTE... Regina pushes Hook off a cliff to distract Maleficent, but wouldn't the fall itself have killed him? How did he survive it? We can only assume magic was involved, or Hook has rubber bones.
PANTS ON FIRE! Oh dear, Emma really is useless at parenting. For the last few weeks Henry has been annoyed with her for lying to him, and she promised him she would never tell him another fib again. So what does she do this week? You guessed it: another porky-pie! When Henry asks if there's a way back to the Enchanted Realm, Emma says no. He instantly knows she's lying and calls her on it. Poor Henry: his mum can't keep a promise and tell the truth to save her life. Sod August, they should call her Pinocchio!
THIS WEEK'S OPENING CREDITS IMAGE The Evil Queen's palace.
Hook: “Maleficent... Love you in earth tones.”
The Queen: “Kill them all. No mercy. Find me Snow White!”
Leroy: “Nobody steals from a dwarf!”
The Queen: “The Queen is dead. Long live the Evil Queen.”
• New episodes of Once Upon A Time air in the UK on Channel 5, Sundays, 8pm
• Read our other Once Upon A Time reviews