“I need my pain. It makes me who I am. It makes me Grumpy.”
That is an actual line spoken by a man playing the dwarf from the Disney cartoon in tonight’s Once Upon A Time, which is the strongest episode of the series since Rumpelstiltskin’s first fairyback. That should give you a good idea of the caliber of TV series here in Storybrooke. Painfully obvious while trying to be clever, aiming for poignancy but getting laughs instead, Grumpy’s line is a great representation of the series as a whole, and “7:15 AM” falls into the same traps as previous episodes, but is starting to explore ways to climb out of the hole.
What this episode does better than its recent predecessors is flesh out the fairyback, giving the episode more substance, even if the writers make some ham-handed connections between Snow White and Mary Margaret. More characters are being introduced to the fairyback world, and the best thing this show can do is weave together familiar stories in new ways.
I loved Red Riding Hood’s role, bringing food to Snow White in the woods and delivering news of Prince James’ upcoming nuptials. Meghan Ory looks fantastic in the red hood, and she’s much sexier in her Riding Hood clothes than in the red booty short she wears around Granny’s. We also get to see Ory act for the first time on this show, even if it’s just delivering exposition to Snow White or Prince Charming, and she’s a charismatic performer that I hope we see more of in future episodes.
Mary Margaret and David both go to Granny’s café at 7:15 A.M. so that they can catch a glimpse of the other drinking morning coffee, and after being caught by Emma one morning, Mary Margaret says, “Love’s the worst. I wish there was a magic cure.” Guess what happens in the fairyback? Snow White gets a magic cure to wipe Prince James out of her memory. Guess who gives it to her? Rumpelstiltskin. Duh. Not only is this show slow, it’s predicable, so when they do have a twist, no matter how small, it’s like a gift from the Plot Gods.
The twist this episode (Rumpelstiltskin is no longer considered a twist), is changing the story of Snow White’s first meeting with the seven dwarves, subtly foreshadowed last week. When Snow White tries to sneak into King George’s castle to speak to James, she’s captured and thrown in a jail cell next to Grumpy. It’s a more empowering story for Snow White to meet the dwarves while making a last ditch effort at true love rather than finding their messy cottage in the woods and cleaning it for them, but it’s equally silly in its own way. Like Stealthy, the eighth ninja dwarf that frees them from their cells, then gets killed as they try to escape.
Now, I say “dwarves” because it’s the familiar term, but at the end of this episode we do not see any little people. Rather, we see Snow White with seven slightly-below-average-height men. ABC could be trying to be politically correct, or maybe they couldn’t find the right actors, but those guys were definitely the same height as Snow White.
Last week’s episode ended with a Stranger arriving to Storybrooke with bad manners and a shiny motorcycle, and “7:15 AM” starts the following morning, when the Stranger’s bike breaks down outside Regina’s house. Henry starts questioning him about the box on his bike, and the Stranger tells him that it contains something he needs in order to do what he came to Storybrook for. Everyone gets extremely vague once they enter Storybrooke’s city limits, but Emma is able to flirt her way to learning the contents of the box: a typewriter. Turns out Stranger is a writer. A gruff, sexy writer played by Eion Bailey, who I remember as the faux-Paul Rudd guy that doesn’t dance in Center Stage (yeah, that movie’s awesome bad). Stranger doesn’t really do anything beyond show off his typewriter, but he does fill the “scruffy man with pretty eyes” spot that Sheriff Graham has left open (guessing he comes back next week).
While David and Mary Margaret are stalking each other, David’s wife Kathryn is in the middle of a pregnancy scare, afraid she is carrying the child of a man she doesn’t recognize anymore and who doesn’t love her. Kathryn is without a doubt my favorite character on this show, and the writers have done an admirable job of making her a sympathetic victim. The scene of David and Kathryn at home was one of the best of the series, because Kathryn is one of the few characters on this show that is willing to expose her intentions and be completely honest with another person. I’ve expressed my admiration for Anastasia Griffiths before, and it only grows after this episode, when she mines her wooden dialogue for some real emotional weight. Kathryn wants to raise a family with a husband who is growing increasingly detached, and Griffiths is able to express both the hope and fear of what a child could bring to their relationship. It makes me wish that she was in Regina’s role, although either she or Jennifer Morrison would have to change her hair if that happened.
After David finds out that Kathryn isn’t pregnant, he rushes to Mary Margaret and gives her the romantic kiss they’ve both been wanting. A major issue plaguing this show is that these characters do incredibly stupid things, like kiss in the middle of town in broad daylight. That’s not smart, but the stupid thing is that Regina is a few feet away watching from her car, and that’s the cliffhanger. Not only is it very convenient, it’s completely devoid of tension. I’d imagine that if Mary Margaret or David cared about anyone seeing them kissing, they probably wouldn’t have a full-on spinning camera make out session and expect people to keep it secret.
- Regina forces Emma to look into Stranger because she saw him outside of her house, taking a peculiar interest in her son. This is actually the best reason Regina has come up with for doing anything on this series, because a weird guy on a motorcycle that won’t share his name is probably not the person you want talking to your preteen son.
- The more attractive Josh Dallas gets in the fairybacks, the worse Ginnifer Goodwin appears.
- Of course David works in a pet shelter, he’s Prince Charming.
- Snow White = bird. In case you were wondering.
- Angel and Dollhouse alum Amy Acker is starring as Grumpy’s beloved in a future episode, continuing the show’s tradition of casting awesome female actresses that aren’t working right now. Women I’d like to see in future episodes: Tricia Helfer, Sara Rue, Charisma Carpenter, Alicia Silverstone, Phylicia Rashad.
- Rumpelstilkin’s ridiculous giggle is insufferable.
- Worst VFX scenes: Snow, Grumpy, and Stealthy in the castle caverns; Stealthy’s death.
- Regina BGL: “I trust you’ll be discrete? Their lives are their business, not yours.” Oh, Regina, you miserable hypocrite. Can Mr. Gold kill you and be the bad guy now?