Once Upon A Time made a triumphant return last night. And the show proved right away that it hasn't forgotten how to balance the darkness and light of a fairy tale. No more Blue Fairies in stripper heels (for now) — the fairytale creatures are awake, but stuck in human form. And we can't wait to see how that's going to rip their real world apart. But most importantly, what mystery fairy tale character is Michael Raymond-James?
The cold open to ABC's most successful new original series started off with Michael Raymond-James walking around New York City listening to "Charley's Girl," by Lou Reed. Then he receives a letter from a bird. And boy howdy, does that opening work. Channeling all the stuff we loved about Lost before it became one giant Purgatory-hugging montage, this opening moment reminded us of the infamous "Mamma Cass" introduction. Could this be a sign that the aggressive metaphor-humping of season one is gone for good? Of course not — but this was a giant cartwheel roundhouse flip flop in the right direction.
Plus, Michael Raymond-James! Rene Lenier from True Blood, "that guy" from Terriers and many, many late-night fantasies. No offense to the list of new characters coming into this season, but MRJ wins. He isn't Prince Charming attractive. He's "Who is that guy with the whisky at the end of the bar? With the hat. Is he, is he smoking? Can you smoke in here? He's looking over here. LOOK AWAY. Where do you even get a hat like that? Every hat I have makes me look like an asshole. It's summer and that's a knit hat. I bet he has an accent. If you look over again, I'm leaving. I swear to God I will leave right now... We should send him a drink" attractive.
And we don't even know who he's playing! Honest! It hasn't been announced. But if you take in his character's potential age (thirty something) and the fact that he lives outside of cursed Maine, you could guess that this is Rumple's son, Bae. But I also don't think it will be that easy.
So instead of blindly guessing, let's look for clues. There's the previously mentioned song, a collection of teeth (?) and magnifying glasses on a nail by his door. There's a sign for "Cleaner & Hatters" on his wall, but we already know the identity of the Mad Hatter.
There's a picture of the enchanted tree (or a heart) on his desk, and a bunch of desktop mics in his apartment (that could just be an aesthetic thing). Wild guess? Peter Pan. Because he's forced into a sad existence of growing up and I feel like that would be that particular character's hell. Also his apartment feels like it's full of the things a Lost Boy would decorate his tree with. Plus we know Captain Hook is in this season. My second guess? The White Rabbit, due to the looking glass collection and the Hatter sign. But then again I was under the opinion that the nurse in the mental ward was the White Rabbit due to a pin she was sporting, and her hairstyle.
Your guess is as good as mine. I'm going to be fairly pissed if MRJ turns into a CG rabbit in the future. So let's hope it's something with human parts.
Moving on! Gorgeous wide shots back into fairy land say, "We are the most successful scripted new show on ABC right now!" Kapow — that is infinitely better than the FX we witnessed last year. Don't worry, it's going to get all terrible, Smoke Monster-style, in a second — but for now, let's enjoy the view.
Immediately we meet a handful of new fantasy characters: Sleeping Beauty, Prince Philip and Mulan. You guys look great, I especially like Sleeping Beauty's hair. Philip wakes up Sleeping Beauty blah blah blah, Philip is killed by a Smoke Monster/Wraith thing. Do you think the showrunners were nervous about this creature being a direct rip off of Harry Potter's Dementors and their own Smoke Monster? Or do you think it was more, "Fuck you, I wrote Lost, I do what I want?"
Whatever. The wraith was a cheap means to an awesome end. It was a magic trick that distracted you until the final twist. No longer will Once be using its fantasy land as a character-revealing flashback device. The magical world still exists (even though it's been through a lot), despite Regina's curse. It's a alternate dimension timeline now. And we're totally in.
And while we were sad to see the very sweet Prince Philip die, I'm pretty excited about this new girls' group that's happening over in make-believe town. Mulan and Sleeping Beauty united to bring back the world they love! Princes are stupid — let's just make out a little bit, and see how it feels! Or something.
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth the curse is broken. Fairytale beings litter the street to hug it out. Snow White gets a whole posse. Gran and Red Riding Hood are embracing. Charming is saying dashing things in the real world — it's great. Pretty quickly the group of creatures that are not from this world realize they were wrong, and it's "revenge on Regina" time. Grumpy puts it perfectly, "They're gonna kill her, great — let's watch."
Even though these creatures seem to retain all their memories from the 28 years of being in Maine, once the curse is broken they don't have to live by the laws of our world anymore. A mob sets upon Regina's house looking for vengeance. Obviously, Snow and Charming stop this rage group from attacking because they haven't hit their mandatory noble acts for the day. But more interesting here is the fact that these people are so quick to drop their "civilized" ways. Does this mean folks are going to start building castles with moats or wild tree houses and try and mine for magic, or kill their neighbors, all because they are "not from this world?" Boy I hope so. This could be a fun season.
Fingers crossed Once embraces this idea, because last year the show spent too much time normalizing the crap out of fictional characters (Jiminy Cricket therapy session, oof). But now they're off the hook. Go mad, get vengeance, eat children, I don't care — just bring me some crazy crap happening in chinos. I'm ready.
Another shining moment in last night's premiere was the reunion of Regina and Rumpelstiltskin. Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle are practically climbing up the walls in their prison showdown delivery. I missed these two, especiallly Rump's "Dearies" and the Queen's "Get to it, Rumple." I don't know what I love more: That everyone is calling each other by their fairy tale names, or the sass.
Rumps is mad that the Queen hid Belle from him for all these years in a mental ward, and sends the Wraith to kill her. Thus sidestepping his promise to Belle not to personally kill the Queen, he'll just send something else to do the dirty work. Belle finds out and is not pleased. But she returns in the strange tweed dress she picked out to wear, after living in hospital gowns for 28 years.
My only complains out of the entire premiere was Emma's ridiculous reactions to meeting her parents for the first time. Now that the curse is broken, Snow, Charming and Emma are reunited. The royal couple are thrilled because they're good people. Emma immediately turns into an asshole and lashes out at them both, claiming, "You sent me away." Yes, Emma they did — from a curse, so you could save everyone. I'm sorry it didn't work out super great for you, but it wasn't like they sent you away because babies just aren't their thing. They had no choice — how does she not see that? Emma even stretches the argument out, and claims that had they kept her, at least they all would have been together. But no one is together in the "real" world. Charming was with someone else, Pinocchio was separated from his father, the Mad Hatter lost Grace... these are all people that were torn apart. How were they supposed to be together? This is ridiculous, completely out of character and wildly inappropriate for the flow of what's happening. Not that Emma isn't entitled to some serious WTF moments with her parents, and a large adjustment time, but this argument is just silly.
At the very end, the wraith is banished through the Magic Hatter's top hat, but with it go Emma and Snow. Together, they fall at the feet of Mulan and Sleeping Beauty. Crossover! It's awesome. A very good twist indeed. Lady fighting team, activate.
Can't wait to see what happens in the rest of the season. I've got lots of questions (why does Emma suddenly have magical powers, what happened to Pinocchio, who else has magic, will Red turn into a wolf now, and who is Michael Raymond-James? Happy to see the balance back and the alternate dimensions all caught up with one another. Should be a fun season!