You don’t need allies when you win, and as you can see, I’m doing just fine without you.The Evil Queen
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, and Robert Carlyle.
Episode 6: Dark Waters
After watching “Dark Waters” I can say, with an aggressive certainty that…it happened. And that’s pretty much all that can be said about it.
Good day to you, sir.
Eurgh, okay, fine, I’ll write more. You’ve forced it out of me.
So there is actually a lot to appreciate about this episode, but it’s sort of buried underneath a whole lot else. Firstly, it is the first episode of the season which falls under the umbrella of “literally doesn’t matter”, which is normally reserved for Snow or Charming-centric episodes. Something happens that revolves around them, but at the end of the adventure, nothing much has been gained or lost and ultimately you could have skipped them.
Part of this comes from the timing of Hook’s encounter with the Nautilus. Ultimately, it could only really have come at this point within his history, as his whereabouts around the time of the Dark Curse were a large unknown. But they still don’t entirely make sense. Apparently, this story takes place after Emma elects to remain in Storybrooke before she breaks the curse. This story therefore, slightly implausibly, transpires after Hook was frozen in a time bubble with Cora but before when he’s back with Cora in the Enchanted Forest to menace Snow and Emma. So already, that’s a tricky narrative leap to wrap one’s head around.
It also means that Hook is unable to show any sort of meaningful character development in the past storyline. He was dogmatically pursuing revenge against Rumple before the Dark Curse, he is pursuing it here, and he will still be pursuing it when he meets Snow and Emma. This adventure clearly doesn’t have a big impact upon him specifically, so it doesn’t have one on us, the audience, either.
The character development in the present also seems somewhat forced, especially where Hook is concerned. His concerns about not fitting into the family do seem valid, as Charming has never been especially welcoming, but it also seems at odds with the fact that the entire family went down to the Underworld to bring him back to life. If that doesn’t make a statement, I’m not sure what does, but it’s just not reflected in their present attitudes towards Hook. It makes sense that he still wouldn’t feel like he belongs, but I’m still at a loss as to why Team Charming haven’t been more welcoming of him into their family unit. That does need addressing and seems a glaring omission.
What was more confusing was Henry’s sudden concerns with Hook being part of his family. Henry has never had conflict with Hook especially. In fact, they had some wonderful bonding during Season 3 when Henry had entirely forgotten about any of them. We’ve seen them together countless times and there’s never been a sense that Henry is anything other than approving of his mother’s relationship with him. So those elements of the episode felt like just a way for Hook’s insecurities to be manifest and brought to the fore as opposed to deriving from some place organic.
There were other little frustrations this episode. Firstly, I felt like the B-plot wasn’t especially strong either, which is normally fine if the A-plot is substantial, but this really wasn’t. Instead, there was Emma briefly talking to Aladdin about their struggles being the Saviour, which was interesting but far too brief. Then there was Belle going for her first ultrasound, which is stirring up some feelings within her about Rumple and how she hopes he has a better relationship with their child than she saw in the vision. Again, this is pretty much relegated to a single scene, and it’s never really addressed that, despite being the child’s father, Rumple is, in fact, not to be trusted around anyone, let alone an infant. So let’s just put that thought to bed now, Belle.
Other than that, apparently neither Jasmine or Snow are going to those jobs that we saw them in the other week, which probably explains why Snow’s students never retain anything she teaches them, when she apparently teaches once a season and then sits around arranging flowers in hospitals instead of manufacturing any sort of rewarding social life.
Also, a small side note that probably doesn’t even need to be in here, but has anybody else noticed how Emma’s dress sense seems to have changed this season? Now that suddenly she’s the poor victim saviour, gone are her leather jackets and steely, brash veneer and armour. Instead, she now dresses in soft, fluffy white things or cute little flowy dresses just to hammer that point home. It’s a choice. I mean, Jennifer Morrison would look great in a burlap sack, but that’s not the point. It’s clearly a conscious decision.
So let’s, ever so briefly, spend some time on the positives of the episode. It shan’t take long, I promise, because there aren’t many to sift through.
Firstly, I was really in love with the aesthetic of the Nautilus. It’s such a dramatic departure from anything that we’ve seen in Once before, and it really succeeds because of how much of it is a physical set piece. The diving suits are also brilliantly realised, and that firmly immersed us in the industrial, sort of steampunk vibe of these sections. I’m assuming that the Nautilus will continue to crop up, as it seems that they’ve spent big on it.
Lana Parrilla also continues to be a hoot in the role of the Evil Queen. Her scenes with Rumple were just delicious. I’m not entirely sure why anybody would throw themselves at him as he’s probably the most repulsive man to exist both in terms of looks and personality, but who am I to judge?
Rumple’s claims that she’d betrayed him were laughable however. How was she meant to know that he was after the shears when he had not verbalised this? Is it betraying somebody to throw something away that you didn’t know they had any interest in because they hadn’t asked? No. That would be absurd, so don’t be silly Rumple. Go strop elsewhere, please.
The Evil Queen still doesn’t feel like much of an actual threat, however, despite her claims that she’s winning and her keenness to get her hands on Snow’s heart. I just don’t think it will actually come to terribly much, but I hope it creates more drama with Zelena before that point.
In summary, “Dark Waters” was definitely not the worst that we have seen of Once. In fact, it’s probably head and shoulders above most of Season 5. It just didn’t do the job of having an entertaining or relevant flashback as well as meaningful development in the present. While I like Colin O’Donoghue and Hook his development here felt forced and out of nowhere, when it could have been built in far more organically. Hopefully this is just a small misstep in what has otherwise been a stellar season thus far.
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.