My mum’s taught me that family makes you stronger than you’ll ever be by yourself. But that’s something that you’ll never have because you’ll always be alone.Henry
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, and Robert Carlyle.
Episode 8: I’ll Be Your Mirror
Henry really has come a long way since Season 1, hasn’t he? A lot of that is due to the obvious growth and maturation of Jared Gilmore, but that has been echoed throughout his personality as well. In Season 1, he was idealistic, and defined by his belief. While he is still a fervent believer, he is also fiercely protective of his family and knows that happy endings have to be fought for, and good does not always triumph just by being virtue of being good.
It was nice for there to be some forward traction on the Evil Queen storyline. She’s been around all season so far, but she only really hit her villainous stride when she cursed Snow and Charming again, so it’s good to see Regina and Emma striving to take her down decisively. Unfortunately, this plan lands them in cold water when they end up trapped in the Mirror World, which is the perfect prison. It was a diverting other location, and more than a good substitute for the typical flashback. While there was little doubt that the pair would escape, Once has been known for longer trips and diversions in the past, so it was genuinely puzzling as to how or if Regina and Emma would escape here.
Henry had a good turn here as he stepped into the shoes usually filled by his parents, or grandparents, as a hero. Though The Evil Queen tested him, and tested him in an extreme way, he was able to stand up to her and rescue his parents without compromising his own beliefs, which takes a lot of courage. It was also a ridiculous gamble.
The Evil Queen’s plot was a little bit thin this week. Though I can understand that she would want Emma and Regina to be trapped, her impersonation of Regina was never going to be convincing. She couldn’t manage it for a number of minutes, and I feel like that storyline has been done before and more successfully.
Where we do tread new ground is Belle’s desperate struggle to liberate herself from Rumple. I do like the direction that this storyline is going. Teaming up Belle and Zelena is quite unexpected, but it’s a pairing that works. Trying to use the wand to send Belle to the Enchanted Forest to get out from under Rumple’s thumb was compelling, though it obviously wasn’t going to come to fruition. I like the way that the show is painting their relationship. They’ve gone from multiple seasons of Belle being treated badly to now showing the relationship much more for what it is: abusive. My stomach churned when Rumple fitted that bracelet to Belle to track her every movement.
Having said that, I do feel like the answer is right underneath Belle’s nose. Going to the Enchanted Forest is a solution, sure, but it’s not as if the Enchanted Forest is especially difficult to get to. The first couple of seasons revolved around jumping back and forth to the mystical realm, and Rumple would have little qualms in destroying Storybrooke if it meant finding Belle and their son. However, surely all Belle actually needs to do is to cross the town line. She’d be in a world without magic, where Rumple would be unable to find her, even if he did leave Storybrooke, which he likely wouldn’t as he wouldn’t want to cede his power. Obviously they want to drag the drama out as longer as possible, but I’m surprised that it hasn’t actually been mentioned as a viable option.
Ignoring the fact that Zelena has also entered into the “forgets that she has magic” school of thought, whereby she is mysteriously powerless because (gasp) Rumple magics the wand away from her (just magic it back, is it that hard?), Rumple now wants to kill her. Unfortunately, he can’t do that himself, so he has to use The Evil Queen to do it. It seems a bizarre route to go down, as the only person who the Evil Queen has actually formed a meaningful relationship with is Zelena, so if she does go down that route it’ll be fairly obvious that the Evil Queen is not much longer for the show, though I heavily doubt she’ll be sticking around for the full season anyhow.
This episode, like lots of the episodes this season, has strong visuals throughout. The Mirror World, which ran the risk of appearing tacky, successfully blended real set with CGI to achieve a world that is wholly distinct from anything that we have previously seen. It does not look cheap or awkward, but was deliciously atmospheric.
Despite the strength of their relationship in the previous episode, Snow and Charming seem to flounder here. It’s disappointing, as I was hoping that the curse would allow the two of them to actually grow and become their own separate entities. But apparently absence makes the heart even more codependent. While Charming seems to be getting on, as men do, Snow settles into a deep despair when she doesn’t (prepare to gasp) write him a note for him to read when he wakes up (did you gasp?). It seems that the writers conveniently forget Snow’s inner steel. I honestly don’t feel like she would be broken after such a short time, and I’m quite disappointed by that, actually. Sure, it would be tricky, but they’ve been in more dire situations, and one thing that has always remained constant is Snow’s faith. I’m assuming that this is meant to show that this is the worst situation they have faced, but I’m still frustrated by it all.
Honestly, the most compelling elements of this episode are probably the ones that receive the least time. While taking on the Evil Queen, and the Charmings’ curse is interesting, Belle’s attempts to flee Rumple’s abusive influence should be the main plot. The Evil Queen is tricky, but she doesn’t hold a candle to Rumple. He’s always been the evil behind the scenes, and immensely powerful. From a basic human perspective, everybody should be supporting Belle after their breakup, knowing their history, but they’re being genuinely dreadful. It makes me uncomfortable at such a poor message being conveyed to the audience. It seems to be being treated as just Belle’s problem and that nobody else needs to get involved, but she can hardly take him on single handedly.
“I’ll Be Your Mirror” continues the trend of Season 6 of brilliant visuals and well balanced storylines. The Evil Queen saga is starting to wear a little thin, and Belle’s storyline needs a bit more importance, but the slow burn of the storylines now that the half-season arc trend has been destroyed is far more pleasurable than the alternative has been.
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.