Adam Kitsis and Edward Horowitz are trying to evoke a Lost vibe with Once Upon A Time, and with “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” they’ve come their closest yet. Remember when Jack, Sawyer, and Kate were stuck in the polar-bear cages, and the plot just wandered in an aimless haze? The time when a bunch of viewers started jumping off because the writers kept adding questions without ever giving answers? What took Lost 44 episodes, OUAT has done in seven.
This week’s story finally starts to get the overarching plot in motion, and when Sheriff Graham begins remembering his memories of the fairy-tale world, it seems like we might get some answers as to the nature of the Evil Queen’s curse. We do learn that nobody in Storybrooke remembers how they met each other, only that they’ve known each other for years, but otherwise it’s the same Henry-led exposition that’s been regurgitated every episode. Has anyone noticed that the “Previously on… ” segment hasn’t shown any specific developments since the first two episodes? It’s always the same general recap, because nothing of note has happened yet. This episode has the first major developments of the series, but the frustrating conclusion does little to inspire my confidence for the series’ future.
After kissing Emma, Sheriff Graham begins having flashes of another life, specifically of a wolf and a woman that looks like Mary Margaret. In case the title didn’t give it away, Graham is Snow White’s Huntsman in the fairyback, a tender soul that sheds a tear every time he has to kill an animal. The Evil Queen is looking for a man lacking compassion, adept at murder, and bereft of mercy, so she chooses the guy that goes all Avatar every time he shoots a bow and arrow. E.Q. isn’t very bright, and I’m not connecting with her character because she’s just a big bully. The writers haven’t given us any convincing reasons to empathize with E.Q./Regina, and I understand that they’re trying to make her as eeeeevil as possible, but scenes like E.Q. and Snow White after Snow’s father’s death show that there’s more drama when a character is multidimensional.
As E.Q. offers Snow White comfort, a single tear falling from her cheek, I suddenly find myself caring about the character, albeit ever so slightly. Then she walks away and goes back into evil mode, talking about how it’s all a ruse and she can’t kill Snow White because Snow has the public’s support. “They don’t know what she did to me,” E.Q. says, vaguely alluding to that thing Snow White did to her in the past that the writers are turning into the most uninteresting mystery ever, and suddenly any feelings I had during the previous scene are ground into dust like a fake plastic heart. E.Q. reminds me of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s season-five Big Bad, Glory, but Lana Parilla doesn’t have a big enough personality to reach Clare Kramer levels of camp. Parilla could be chewing on the scenery Robert Carlyle-style during the fairybacks, but she’s just playing Regina in sillier clothing.
Speaking of feelings, that’s this week’s theme! In typical OUAT fashion, there are about 20 conversations about feelings, specifically Sheriff Graham and Emma’s reluctance to have them. Graham is on a mission to feel something, while Emma is trying to break down a wall that keeps out pain, but also love (feelings). When the Huntman didn’t bring Snow White’s heart to E.Q., she ripped out his heart, and now Sheriff Graham can’t feel love because he remembers that he doesn’t have a heart. Emma thinks it’s a big metaphor, and tries to calm Graham down during the incredibly sappy “this is your heart” scene, and for a second I almost thought the writers were going to commit to the metaphor route. Graham goes with Emma to the vault where his heart is hidden, and he confronts Regina about being a feelings sucker. Could this be him getting his heart back? Emma and Regina have an awesome cat fight and when Graham tends to Emma at the police station, it appears that they’ve had a metaphorical victory. Then Regina goes into the secret cavern under her father’s casket, takes out Sheriff Graham’s heart, grinds it to dust and looks at the camera with a stare that says “fuck your metaphors, I just ground up a weird, glow-y plastic heart prop thing and this is going to be a real dramatic moment.” And then Sheriff Graham dies.
R.I.P. Sheriff Graham/Huntsman. He never had a first name, but he was one of the better characters on the series, even if it was just because he’s pretty. And hoo boy is he pretty this week. If you think Jamie Dornan looks good in a Sheriff’s uniform, just wait until you see him in his rugged huntsman gear or leather knight’s uniform. The man may not be the best actor, but he sure knows how to wear some leather. I have no idea what the writers are hoping to accomplish with his death, and I’m not even sure if it’s permanent, but I feel like Horowitz and Kitsis take one step forward and two steps back with this development. They make him a romantic foil for Emma and give him back his memory, then kill him off? It makes Regina more threatening and sets up Sheriff Emma Swan, but I can’t help but think the series would be more interesting with Graham than without him. If he’s not resurrected, I at least hope one of the other characters regains their memories soon.
The visual effects are much better this week, although there are still moments when it looks like the actors have been cut and pasted onto a background. Director David M. Barrett goes wild with the transitions this week, moving the camera frantically to show Graham’s disorientation as his previous life bleeds into his current one. The first transition from the Graham/Regina make-out into a sprawling shot of E.Q.’s castle looks fantastic, and shows that the series can capture the wonder of a fairy tale world if it really tries.
Henry only has one scene this week, and I’m hoping this means that that the writers are listening to audience criticism and cutting back on using Henry. I can’t deny that Jared S. Gilmore is consistent, and that’s all I’ll say on that subject.
- What is in the background of the Once Upon A Time title card this week? A wolf? It looks almost like a pig.
- Giancarlo Esposito makes his second appearance on the series this week, but his talents are wasted. Go watch Breaking Bad instead.
- Regina’s BGL of the Week: “You’re incapable of feeling anything for anyone. There’s a reason you’re alone, isn’t there?” If I have to hear about Emma’s feelings and how alone is one more time, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.
- Mr. Gold gardens in the woods, wearing a full suit. Not at all weird.
- What is going on with the two strands of hair on E.Q.’s forehead making a “W” shape? They look horrible.
- “The time for mourning is over, I simply found that black suits me.”
- Emma: “What are you doing here?” Regina “Bringing flower to my father’s grave like I do every Wednesday.” DUH.
- Sheriff Graham might be a boxers guy, but Jamie Dornan?
We’ll miss you!