Is this our life now? Defeat and repeat?Snow
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, and Robert Carlyle.
Episode 3: The Other Shoe
With Episode 3 of Season 6 down, I think this might be the strongest collection of episodes so far. Sure, it’s a little premature to say, and perhaps I’m just giddy from the amount of regular sunlight we’re being exposed to now that we’ve finally escaped the red-tinted hues of the Underworld, but I am genuinely enjoying the new narrative structure that has been adopted here.
This week, it’s the turn of Cinderella to take centre stage. It’s a bit of an odd character to give such importance to in the story, especially since she’s only appeared intermittently since the first season, but Jessy Schram demonstrates here that she’s more than capable of helming an episode by herself. Her performance is utterly beguiling, and it’s nice to add further layers to the character and the story we thought that we already knew.
The additional twists within Cinderella’s tale, in the way that it incorporates the world of the Enchanted Forest with the Land of Untold Stories are a handy way of embedding the new characters with the world we are already familiar with without creating an overly tenuous link with our main cast. The added parts of Cinderella’s story slot in incredibly well, and are highly engaging. Though they are mainly just the actual Cinderella story, which we didn’t see much of in the first season, the actions of Lady Tremaine and Ella’s wicked stepsisters are so hideous that it draws the audience in by wondering how Ella could possibly have been the wicked stepsister in the end.
I mean, cynically, the only reason why Ella actually said this was to hook the audience’s interest as, ultimately, Ella didn’t do a whole lot wrong to her wicked stepsister. Or at least not enough to warrant quite so much abuse aimed towards her. I mean, if your stepsister actively ruins your entire life and you sell out their location to your stepmother so you can achieve your happy ending, that sounds an awful lot like karma to me. You can’t just abuse somebody continually throughout their life and then expect them to have your back. It’s just not realistic. But Ella is a hero, so I can see why she would feel responsible.
Throughout this story, especially in the present time, the tension was especially high. Ella is a naturally likeable character, but she’s easily expendable enough to have met her end at Lady Tremaine’s hand. Sure, it would have been an unusually dark move for the usually family-friendly show, but it would have been surprising. To this end, I was genuinely uncertain whether Emma would be able to save Ella in time as a result of the Evil Queen’s machinations.
The new story of the episode was successful, as well as the Evil Queen’s needling of Emma. Seeing the Evil Queen and Emma confront each other was delightful to watch, not least because of the Evil Queen’s frankly stunning wardrobe. The way that she teases and taunts so effectively, it’s clear that she’s using her intimate knowledge of Storybrooke’s inhabitants against them to deconstruct them from within. She perfectly preys on Emma’s insecurities just enough to destabilise her, even though Emma ultimately powers through in the end.
Emma overcoming her fears of her imminent demise also fed nicely into her taking the next step with her relationship with Hook. It felt more mature, and it felt like a natural progression in their romance. The character work throughout this episode overall felt deeper and a step forward from the slightly flimsy work done in previous seasons. Sometimes I’ve felt that the character development within one episode for a character would just be forgotten in the next episode, but this season’s nice balancing of the different character’s ongoing plot lines gives me confidence that their characters will be written far more consistently.
The forward motion in Charming’s storyline was surprising, and though it’s far from the focal point, it is quite intriguing. In fact, I think if it were to completely take over an episode at this point it may struggle to hold the audience’s attention, but it’s nice to give Charming something meaty to do, having been on the back bench for quite some time.
His conflict with his father’s death is colliding nicely with Snow’s desire to have an ordinary life. I entirely understand where she’s coming from: it has felt like quite an ordeal these characters have been through these past few years. Anybody would wish for a break, but I can’t help but feel that she was overly dismissive of Charming’s feelings in the name of preserving this sense of normalcy she is striving for.
Snow knows what it is like to lose a parent. In contrast, Snow never had to deal with the knowledge that her parents were murdered without knowing who did it. Why, she pretty much killed Cora upon learning that she was responsible for Eva’s death. It seems hypocritical, and unfair of her, to expect Charming not to do anything to get closure for his father’s death. While it’s ancient history, the news is not, and it’s understandable that it would open up that hurt and that Charming would seek answers. It doesn’t need to be about either justice, or vengeance, but it’s essential for Charming’s peace of mind. Besides, anything which injects a little bit more fire and energy into Snow and Charming’s now-stale relationship is incredibly welcome.
Sidebar: an incredibly bizarre little plot of this episode revolved around Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll becoming united in a small lab, with Regina keen to get answers over her villainous half. While Snow seems randomly obsessed with the science department at school (ignoring the fact that the poor kids who lived in Storybrooke had to repeat the same year 28 years in a row and could probably do with an extensive holiday), I can’t help but feel that surely neither of them are appropriate to be around kids? Does Storybrooke have child protection laws?
Another minor element of this episode was Rumple recording a cassette for Belle. How did Belle find anything that would play a cassette tape? Literally no idea, but I suppose the town of Storybrooke is technically trapped about 30 years in the past. In it, Rumple recites a random poem, and is inexplicably more Scottish than he’s ever been. It’s played very seriously, and Belle wanders wistfully around the dockside. Not sure what that’s meant to mean, but I spent this opportunity to wonder whether Rumple actually has a Scottish accent, or whether it’s just the accent of whatever corner of the Enchanted Forest he comes from. Geography will always be confusing to me.
The episode ends with the Evil Queen breaking Hyde out of the psychiatric unit, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. This season has worked quite well so far because of the Evil Queen messing with our main characters from the periphery. I worry that the wonderful character work so far may suffer if they have too large of a presence threatening the town. I shall put my concerns to one side, however, as I’m genuinely enjoying having no ideas or predictions about where the season may go from here.
Overall, “The Other Shoe” was a brilliantly engaging episode. It added more aspects to the Cinderella tale introduced in Season 1, and was heaped with tension and brilliant character moments. The job that Season 6 is doing of successfully juggling its large cast has been wonderfully achieved so far, and hopefully it continues to be a trend as it continues.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.