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Once Upon a Time: Hat Trick

“It’s hard enough to live in a land where you don’t belong, but knowing it, holding conflicting realities in your head, will drive you mad.”

If ‘Heart of Darkness’ drew the battle lines, then ‘Hat Trick’ erased them and then drew them again, except bigger, and broader than they ever were before. An already fascinating world, still rife with unexplored territory, was expanded and characters and their places in the series were called into question.

All of the forward momentum that last week conjured up was kept pumping here, as the series begins its final hurdle. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite or whatever, since I know I belittled ‘Red-Handed’ for the strange discord between its Storybrooke and flashback plots, but this episode was a far superior example of taking two opposing stories and creating an hour-long escapade into a breezy and exciting foray into the world of fairy tales.

Emma is a strange entity sometimes. I don’t think I’ve ever had such conflicting emotions about a single character in forty minutes. At first I was enraged at how easily Jefferson took her down, then I was cheering her on as she shrewdly escaped his clutches, then angry again at her narrow mindedness, then back on her team within the final thirty seconds. Regardless of my fleeting emotions, I’m glad that this episode managed to invest me equally in both ongoing stories this week; I hope this throttling pace can be maintained until the season concludes.

Jefferson is the first instance of a character being fully knowledgeable of all things “curse.” His story is also one of the few non-regular character ones that is begging for further exploration. He’s clearly a man who’s lost a lot, but he’s also someone determined to make things right for his family. His trip to wonderland, which was chock-a-block full of the cheesiest special effects so far, boasted a number of fascinating characters tells and not just in his case, Regina’s reach clearly extends beyond her own world. It’s pivotal for a series that is expecting its narrative to last beyond a meagre couple of years to keep its story as dense as possible.

Parental bonds seem to be an important dynamic where Once Upon a Time is concerned, and no more so than in 'Hat Trick' when the power of not just Jefferson and Grace’s connection was explored, but Emma’s strengthening love for her son (notice that she’s been referring to him as "my kid") and Regina’s now defunct love for her father were given a spin as well. Not to mention the fact that the two female leads are the personal embodiment of this all-important theme, something that’s almost being forgotten as the series progresses forward. It seems as Emma opens up to her true role in Henry’s life, she’s also bringing those torn apart by the curse back together again.

For the first half of this season, I was always one of those mad Regina supporters, constantly defending her in the face of her “one-note” haters. The Kathryn arc hasn’t been one that’s allowed her the chance to show many dimensions, but this week was the first instance since Graham’s death when we finally saw a glimmer of a multi-layered woman. Obviously, a lot happens between this episode’s flashback, and her sacrifice in ‘The Thing You Love Most,’ but her character augmentation needed to be rectified again, even if it happened in as small a dose as this one.

Emma finally suspecting the role of magic in this town’s history makes me feel that much stronger about Once Upon a Time’s long term stability, and 'Hat Trick' seemed like the perfect direction for the series to take after last week’s turning point. I have a lot of faith in this show now; hopefully the next few weeks can live up to those high expectations.

Plus

Who is the Queen of Hearts? I assume she won’t appear until someone awesome has been cast. Ringer’s cancellation is imminent, may I make a suggestion?

How creepy was the Mad Hatter’s final scene? This series has done an amazing job of expanding tradition tales and giving them new levels of depth and emotion.

I’m assuming that Regina’s deception of Jefferson took place before the events of ‘The Thing You Love Most,’ but after ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’?

Wonderland was the perfect symbol for the characters’ current confinement in Storybrooke, and it was a painful reminder at that.

I hope I’m not letting my blondeness get the better of me, but am I right in assuming Regina’s magic isn’t innate? Is she living off stolen juice from Pam Maleficent and Anya the Blind Witch?

Paul McGillion! It was oddly comforting seeing his face again, though I always expect him to talk in his native accent.

How great was Regina’s reaction to Mary Margaret being safe and sound in her cell? I’m glad her true role in her botched escape was revealed this early. It keeps the show on its toes, and I like seeing her lose out once in a while.

He Said, She Said

Emma: “Have you been reading Henry’s book?”
Jefferson: “Henry, you mean the Queen’s father?”
Emma: “Henry, the Mayor’s adopted kid.”
Jefferson: “Oh Henry, your Henry and his book of stories, the one that you choose to ignore. Maybe if you knew what I know, you wouldn’t.”

Jefferson: “I hate Wonderland.”

Jefferson: “My daughter, my Grace, she’s waiting for me, I promised her I’d be home for tea.”
Regina: “A promise you now have broken. If you truly cared for your daughter, you never would have left her in the first place. You were right, Jefferson. You don’t abandon family.”

Emma: “If you really think she’s your daughter, why don’t you reach out to her, why don’t you tell her?”
Jefferson: “And destroy her reality? I’m trapped by knowledge. How cruel do you think I am? You think I’d inflict that awareness on my daughter? It’s hard enough to live in a land where you don’t belong, but knowing it, holding conflicting realities in your head, will drive you mad.”

Emma: “Have you been taking kick-boxing and not telling me about it?”
Mary Margaret: “I have no idea where that came from...”

Mary Margaret: “Why is it so important to you what happens to me?”
Emma: “Because when Regina framed me and you bailed me out, I asked you why and you said you trusted me and then when I thought I wanted to leave Storybrooke because it was best for Henry, you told me I needed to stay because that was best for him. I realized all my life, I have been alone. Walls up. Nobody’s ever been there for me except for you and I can’t lose that, I cannot lose my family.”

3 and a half out of 4 magic hats.

Previously posted at PandaTV.

21 comments:

  1. This was a very good episode, but I would have enjoyed it a lot more had the promos not promised Roger Daltrey! He was just the voice of the caterpillar. Hat trick, indeed.

    Other completely random complaint: why did Emma's lovely curls collapse during her short car ride into the forest?

    Okay, now for the good: I like the friendship between Mary Margaret and Emma. And I loved Mary Margaret's secret kickboxing skills and her own confusion about where they came from.

    Emma and Jefferson had some chemistry, eh? I started to hope they'd bond over lost children and start making crazy love wearing nothing but hats and smiles.

    Over the past few weeks, Once has turned into destination viewing for me, even if it's sometimes hilariously cheesy. I'm really looking forward to the rest of this season and your reviews, Panda!

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  2. I thought Sebastian Stan did an incredible job. After forty minutes, I really cared whether or not he would be reunited with his daughter! That is not a mean feat, considering how cheesy most of his dialogue was.

    Did anyone else think there was a weird dynamic between Jefferson and Regina? I don't know if they were related, former lovers, or something else, but it seemed to me they definitely weren't just informal acquaintances.

    P.S. I was so happy to see Emma's poodle hair gone! It's a bizarre choice to have such a tomboyish character constantly sporting Goldilocks-esque hair. Is it really feasible that Emma spends an hour every morning slaving over a curling iron?

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  3. I thought she looked prettier with the straight hair, although if you asked me to explain why I wouldn't be able to do it. But I think the curls are a sign that magic is coming back to Storybrooke: she wakes up and they pop into existence. Or maybe little mice and birds do her hair for her while she sleeps.

    (How creepy is that image?)

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  4. Such prompt comments!

    Josie, I love the Mary/Emma friendship as well. I wonder will it become more mother daughtery and less sistery as the series progresses? I must include something about them next week.

    sunbunny, Sebastian Stan is one of my many TV crushes, and even though that long hair did him NO favors, he absolutely nailed it here, you're right.

    And while we're talking about her hair, do you think the producers will ask Jennifer to dye it her natural color? It seems a little bizarre that Snow and Charming have a blonde daughter. Although, I do like it at the moment. She hasn't been brunette in a while has she? Not since House season 3?

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  5. I thought Regina looked genuinely upset that she had to turn on Jefferson and leave him behind in Wonderland. That gave me the impression that some of you also had...that there was more between them then we know.
    'Ol Rumple - he's a crafty one, isn't he? Wonder whose side he is on, besides his own. Perhaps looking out for his own best interests causes him to be on both sides.
    This is turning in to must see Sunday night. Oh, and your veiled suggestion for the Queen of Hearts? Great!

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  6. Did anyone else wonder if Jefferson's last name was Airplane?

    This was the series' strongest episode since 'Skin Deep'. I don't think there enough words to describe how much I love Lana Parrilla. Along with Robert Carlyle, she's my primary reason for watching every week. There has been a lot of speculation on Tumblr that the Queen of Hearts is actually Regina's mother, who is being introduced next week. This would explain their shared history and why they both have the exact same wall vault. But, personally speaking, I think it's Dr. Whale.

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  7. Panda, it always cheers me to see Dr. Beckett, too.

    Based on the promo for this one, I was expecting wretchedness, but it was actually pretty intriguing. I really like the introduction of the multiverses here, especially since it seems to include all 'verses created from imagination. It opens the "world" up quite a bit if they can draw on things like Wonderland and Oz (which aren't traditional fairy tales), just so long as they have access to a hub between worlds. Interesting idea.

    So if Jefferson was in Wonderland, why is he now in Storybrooke? Did the curse pull all Fairytale Land natives into the Storybrooke sphere, even if they didn't happen to be in Fairytale Land at the time? Because it doesn't seem like Jefferson ever made a hat that worked to get him home.

    I spent most of the episode thinking Regina and Jefferson were brother and sister, so I definitely got that "familiar" vibe everyone has noted.

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  8. Did anyone else wonder if Jefferson's last name was Airplane?

    Better than Starship!

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  9. Oh, THAT'S why he's called Jefferson. Duh. I play that song all the time. I'm so slow this week. Great episode, great review. Sebastian Stan was fantastic - dancing wildly along the hot-crazy scale before veering into tragedy, then back into sexy again. Like watching my beloved Sheriff Graham losing it. More please!

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  10. Go ask Alice. I think she'll know.

    Wow. Loved the idea of fairytale multiverse. It's like it crept over from Fringe.

    Really didn't like that we didn't get much of Roger Daltry. Maybe next week? Why cast Roger Daltry if he's only there for a moment?

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  11. My favorite part was Daltry saying "Who are you? Who? Who?". Twice.

    I think it's the first time I liked the story in Storybrook better than the one in Fairyland. But I've been with Emma ever since her first scene. She may annoy for so much skepticism, but I imagine if someone told me magic existed, I'd think this person is crazy until something extraordinary happened before my very eyes.

    Mary and Emma: mother and daughter who live together and have a very sisterly relationship? And they make very poor choices for partners? Is their last name Gilmore?

    The cheese level this week was elevated to FONDUE!

    Emma's hair: straight and brunette, please.

    Mark, my surprise that there's room for speculation on Tumblr only shows how little I know about this social medium. I thought it was only pictures. Now, let's think: if Dr Whale is Regina's mom, Mary has dated Regina's mom. No wonder she's pissed. She turned her mom gay, and fairy tale villains are not known for their acceptance of other sexualities.

    Regina's original name was... Regina. ¬¬ It makes sense that she wouldn't change her own name, though.

    Great review as always, Panda.

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  12. Gus, I was wildly speculating that Dr. Whale was the Queen of Hearts, not Regina's mum (although that would be a great twist). And considering how much flirting and eye sex Regina does with Emma, I think she's very accepting of other sexualities.

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  13. I'm so ticked that I didn't pick up on the Jefferson Airplane reference! And now, I've just realized that his daughter's name was likely a reference to Grace Slick! Doh!

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  14. I'm ticked off, too, because only now I remembered that Jefferson Airplane sang "White Rabbit". And I've heard this song about 3 times since the episode. Derp.

    Mark, now you made me think of Regina and Emma together, and this is getting too sleazy to discuss here.

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  15. Wow! Imdb just informed me that Jefferson (Sebastian Stan) was Carter Baizen on Gossip Girl. I didn't recognize him at all.

    Jess, I think Jefferson got pulled along into Storybrooke from Wonderland, but not in exactly the same way as everyone else. He knows what's going on, after all. And he was stuck in his house for 28 years, which appears to be in the town's woody exurbs. Maybe Wonderland is sort of nested inside Storybrooke?

    Although, I suppose that according to that logic, all of the Wonderland characters would be inside the house with him. And there'd be a big green house with the Wizard, Dorothy, et al. in another part of town.

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  16. I want more Jefferson!!!

    This series has done a brilliant job with its guest stars... so much so that I keep hoping they'll bring them back! :o)

    I'm guessing by the end of this season Emma finally accepts the reality of the curse... and next season she starts to fight back! Question is, once she accepts it, how will she convince the others? I can just imagine it... "Mary Margaret? Your real name is Snow White and you're my mom!" uh-huh...

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  17. Am I the only one who was thinking that the Queen of Hearts was yet another alt-universe version of Regina? Regina is kind of a queen of hearts, given the business with the huntsman's heart and then Katherine's heart (which I assume she removed). I went down the road of thought that if Storybrooke is an alt-universe of the Land of Yore, then couldn't there be others with the same people? Think of the possibilities! They could have flash-sidewayses into so many different universes!

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  18. Another great episode. The writers have certainly been hitting it out of the park lately.

    I enjoyed the discussion about how Jefferson came to be in Storybrooke. While I was watching the episode, I was assuming that he had succeeded in Wonderland, found Grace, then succumbed to the curse. I like some of the other theories much more.

    My two cents about Emma's hair: I'm with sun bunny. The curls have always seemed a bit much for the character and I thought she looked better without them. And, Josie, as somehow who has fought a losing battle against stick straight hair all my life, "lovely curls" can fall out just because they want to! :-)

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  19. ChrisB, I've got stick-straight hair, too. It's the bane of my existence; I think I have a very curly personality.

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  20. Josie -- LOL. I know exactly what you mean!

    One of the banes of my existence is reading an old comment of mine and finding a typo. Makes me crazy!!!

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