Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Once Upon a Time: The Stable Boy

“Love is weakness, Regina.”

This was arguably the most important episode of the show thus far, divulging pivotal history that essentially fuels the show’s main premise. Without a strong justification, at least in part, for Regina’s actions the series would have fallen apart. It’s wonderful to be able to say that ‘The Stable Boy’ was exactly the right episode to accomplish something so important, and given to us at the most advantageous time.

Among other things, ‘The Stable Boy’ was the most valuable insight into Regina’s persona since ‘The Thing You Love Most.’ If you read my last review, you’ll know that one of the things lacking on her part is a bit of depth and divergence from her standard stone cold front. Of course, her meddling and eventual betrayal of Snow is unforgivable, but just as her Storybrooke identity hit a spiteful high, it was unsettling to see her as the polar opposite; young and love-stricken. Major Kudos to Lana Parilla for transforming from a devastated girl, to a malevolent, vengeful woman here.

As the main crutch for supporting Regina’s crusade against Snow, the truth behind her hatred is a little flimsy when it’s looked at outside of her familial context (a theme I’ve discussed as recently as last week). Snow’s small deception is understandable, clearly she wanted nothing more than to protect her new friend from suffering the same loss she did, but it was this one thing that Snow didn’t want Regina to lose that hurt her the most. Parental discord and abuse can hurt even the toughest of souls, and it seems that Regina’s destructive behavior stems from her mother’s crude morals and from a loss that a lot of our other characters have suffered themselves, though not at someone else’s unwitting hand.

Just as Once Upon a Time’s biggest mystery came together, the present day plot finally reached a climax, with Mary Margaret and Regina coming to blows. That scene, you all know which one I’m talking about, was the most striking in terms of contrasting Regina and Snow’s opposing personalities. Snow’s weakness and helplessness wasn’t enough to stir Regina’s inner hatred towards her, who only saw the fruition of an endless struggle to avenge her lover’s death. It was just the moment that this story was waiting for, and since the plot has finally reached its end, Kathryn’s return arrived precisely on cue to turn the story around.

Similarly, it appears that other stories are continuing to throttle forward. Emma’s intelligence level has been a little worrying of late, but opening up to the truth staring her in the face has gotten her to the position she so desperately needs to be for the season’s climax. With Sidney’s deception, Regina’s meddling and Kathryn’s true fate now revealed, she can take that leap of faith Henry so desperately needs her to. It might not happen for another few episodes, but it’s coming, and that’s an exciting prospect.


Credit where credit’s due, Bailee Madison nailed that weird breathy thing that Ginnifer does. She resembled her quite a bit as well.

So, did Regina inherit her magic from her mother? I’m assuming she bites the dust beforehand, which would explain her absence from Storybrooke.

Barbara Hershey did an amazing job as Cora. She was so cut-throat and blunt, and just the right amount of crazy.

It’s kinda funny that Emma didn’t spot the fact that Sidney’s flowers were hiding a bug in them. It was painfully obvious.

Do you think August is behind Kathryn's magical reappearance? Or maybe Mr. Gold, for a more sinister reason?

He Said, She Said

Regina: “Love, true love, is magic. And not just any magic, the most powerful magic of all. It creates happiness.”

Henry: “The Eagle is in the nest, and the package is secure.”
Emma: “Henry, I left the codebook at home.”
Henry: “She’s getting in the shower and the keys are under the mat.”

August: “I’m not a liar.”
Emma: “That is exactly what a liar would say.”

Mary Margaret: “I don’t know what I ever did to you, but whatever it was, Regina, I’m sorry. I truly am.”
Regina: “Apology not accepted.”

Cora: “Love is weakness, Regina. It feels real now, at the start it always does, but it’s an illusion. It fades and then you’re left with nothing. But power, true power, endures and then you don’t have to rely on anyone to get what you want.”
Why would a timid man like Henry marry someone so cruel.

4 out of 4 broken shovels.

Previously posted at PandaTV.


  1. I am convinced that Bailee Madison is really the young Ginnifer Goodwin brought forward to our time by either science or magic. Likely dark magic knowing Disney.

    Okay, so now we know why Regina hates Snow White so much. Was it a satisfying explanation? I don’t really think so. But that’s because I don’t believe for a second that this is the whole story. While this is clearly when Regina’s hatred for Snow started, I doubt that this is the point where she decided that she was going to dedicate her life to destroying this little girl’s happiness. If she did, then she sure as hell took her time about it.

    There’s a quite big gap between the events of ‘Stable Boy’ and ‘Fruit of the Poisonous Tree’. Clearly a lot must’ve happened during those years, which the writers are on doubt saving for the future. We don’t know what happened to Cora? She isn’t seen or mentioned in any other flashbacks. Also where did Regina learn about magic? Was it from her mother or someone else, someone who likes to make deals? And how did Snow find out the truth about what happened to Daniel? She said herself that she ruined Regina’s life so when did she find out?

    Wonderful review as always, Panda.

  2. I second every single word Mark wrote, including the praise for the review.

    I'd also like to add that Barbara Hershey is cornering the manipulative kind-of-cazy mother, if you put Black Swan in the mix. Hope we see more of her.

    Panda, there's a hole tradition of manipulative women marrying meek men (or mook?) in fiction. It makes her seem more uncontrolable.

  3. I agree with Mark that this isn't the whole story, but I still found this root cause for Regina's hatred for Snow relatively satisfying. It has nice shades of grey. I'd always thought we'd discover that Regina was completely unjustified in her desire to destroy Snow's happiness. But now we see that she's somewhat justified. Snow did betray her secret. Sure, there were many extenuating circumstances. She thought she was helping. She was rather blinded by her own painful loss. She was being manipulated by a master. But her inability to keep a secret led to the destruction of Regina's happiness.

    With outsider perspective, we can see that Cora is truly the one to blame, but I can see why Regina would fixate on Snow. Especially since the King subsequently mooned on about his lost love and how much Snow was like her mother. Regina suffered a terrible loss, and I can now understand why she'd lose herself in her desire for revenge.

    I think Mr. Gold is behind the sudden reappearance of Katherine. We saw at the beginning that he manipulated this whole murder scenario from the get go, and I strongly suspect it was all about getting one over on Regina. Hell, Sydney may even be in Gold's pocket, not Regina's. I can't believe it, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing where the Storybrooke tale goes from here.

  4. The thing that interested me was Cora's backstory. Regina mentioned her mother was a miller's daughter. It got me thinking about the original Rumplestilskin story in which he helps the miller's daughter spin straw into gold. It made me wonder if they are connecting this thread in some way. I did think this was a stellar episode and finally Emma knows about Sidney which made yell "Finally" out loud. My daughter thinks August is an older Henry which I'm not sure I agree with. It will be interesting to learn about him in the coming weeks.

    Wonderful review as always, Panda. Gus, I miss your reviews but am always happy to read your responses.

  5. Thank you, Enid. It's always good to read your comments, too. When my life is back on track I'll be a regular writer for the site again.

    I miss reviewing OUaT, but I love Panda's reviews, too.

    As for August's identity, I think he really is a writer who can tap into other worlds to find his stories, and he somehow discovered they are real, but I may have been too influenced by The Dark Tower.

  6. Enid, I used to have that same theory. However, on closer inspection, August has very light colored eyes, whereas Henry's are dark brown. So, I ended up abandoning my theory. I guess it could still turn out to be true, but if so, it seems like a fairly significant production oversight. It would be simple enough to outfit August with contacts so their eyes matched.

    Unless he's playing a very complicated long con, in which he even thought to make his eyes look different so that no one would suspect. That would be a hell of a twist. Complex and not totally believable, but a hell of a twist, nonetheless. :)

  7. I always love all the comments on here. They're so well thought out and interesting =)

    I love the theory about August/Henry in particular. The eye thing is an easy fix if they were to go down that route, and honestly, most viewers would be oblivious to such a small oversight.

    Just in response to those saying the story of Snow/Regina isn't over yet. I completely agree, I just feel like this episode was the bones of the story, and the main catalyst for Regina's hatred. I should have made that clearer.

  8. Thanks for the lovely review. I really enjoyed this episode as well. It was interesting to get the back story for Regina's hatred of snow and there might be more or it might be that grief twisted Regina and seeing the girl who destroyed her love find her own love put on the finishing touches. Am I out to lunch here or is it possible that August is Henry's father? He seems to have some prior connection to Emma and what was with the leg thing when they were looking around near the bridge. That seems significant but I'm not sure how. It is so much fun to be able to chat about these mysteries :).

  9. I'm also sure the story of Regina's hatred for Snow is far from over. Also I imagine we'll see more of Cora..Regina must have gained magic somehow..I'm sure it involved getting even with her mother..maybe she had a deal with Rumple?
    August is some kind of a writer..can he influence events maybe?
    Is he related to Rumple? Maybe he's grown up Baelfire?
    Ah, questions..great review Panda.

  10. I also wondered about August's leg bothering him at the Troll Bridge. I haven't figured out his place in the story yet. For awhile there, I wondered if he was Rumple's son from Fairy Tale land? I even tried to see if August and Mr. Gold favor the same leg... they are both so eager to help Emma against Regina...
    I agree with the others that there is more to come between Regina and Snow.

  11. So here's a question I was just thinking about: Did we ever find out what was up with Mr. Gold and his mystery gardening in the woods in 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter'? The prominent shovel this week made that little tidbit pop into my mind. Given that Gold has set the latest Storybrooke happenings into motion, I wonder if that small mystery will tie in somehow.

  12. Loved the review! I kept waiting for Regina's mother to kill her, transform into her, and take her place. But I'm twisted like that. Also I guess I want to see Regina get a second chance at being that good person again. Call me a sap.

    Still I loved this one, I think the back story leaves us with enough that multiple interpretations of those events can be made. Snow can continue to be, well snow-like and innocent. Yet I can see how Regina isn't completely wrong in her quest for vengeance.

    Personally I think August is the writer of Henry's book. Because someone had to write it. Also if he is Henry, only older, I think there is a bit of a romance issue going on with Emma. Also he seems to know all the secrets, which goes along with that theory, since the writer would know all the secrets.

    Is he a construct of the curse? Or did he exist before. Is he like the Hatter, and can see into all the other lands (i.e. Wonderland)?

    Also I totally agree that I don't think the Regina/Snow back story is fully told here. This seems like the first painful turn of events and not the rope that pulls them completely apart.

    One last thing. I think we should give Emma the benefit of the doubt. I don't think she could've possibly known that Sydney was working against her given how well he played his deception. Plus, consider who her parents are. She's almost doomed to be too nice. :D

  13. Heh. Came here to post exactly the same as Balthazar. Cora killing Daniel and transforming into Regina would have made SO much more sense. If there is anything I hate in my TV, is sudden and inexplicable transformations, and Regina's transformation from nice young girl to bitchy future witch after learning of Snow's mistake... well, let's say I didn't buy it one iota, to put it mildly.

    The first half an hour was great, but between that, yet another mention (or, really, non mention) to Emma's really failed lying sense, and the flowers, by the end I was hating the entire episode. How could she not see what the flowers were for?. Are we supposed to believe she's good at her job when she can't even put two and two together, knowing what Sydney does?. And since she was out with August and then went to find the shovel, when did that fact get registered in the microphone?. She obviously didn't tell Mary Margaret, since she would be shouting to Regina instead of asking for forgiveness. Did Emma come to her office and tell her plan to the flowers very very softly?.

    I can't understand how the writers can get so many things right, and at the same time, some things SO WRONG. Damn it!.

    At least I have to applaud their casting. The girl was a perfect Snow, and just as annoying. And Cora did a great job. For some reason I kept thinking that she was Lena Olin (guess I was channeling Alias), and that's high praise.

    Oh, well, I'm in for the rest of the season, but could the writers please step it up (you're doing the easy thing wrong, guys) or break it once and for all?. I'm going crazy here loving and hating OUaT!.

  14. Let me add that Regina's transformation from good to evil ranks second in my "baaaaaaaaaaaaad transformations list", after

    [24 spoilers]




    Katee Sackhoff's Dana Walsh. 10-15 episodes being the nice, cowardly tech and suddenly she grows serious and she's the badass that you can't believe didn't solve her problems in another way. Bad, BAD writing, but that was the problem with 24: they didn't choose the moles until one or two episodes before the switch, leaving gaping holes in the plot you could pass the Galactica through.

    [end spoilers and post]

  15. I'm with those who think that there must be more to the story and that this episode was only chapter one. I just can't see Regina placing all of the blame on Snow. It was, after all, Regina's mother, who actually killed Daniel. Snow is simply a little girl doing what she thought was right. Much too flimsy to be the whole tale -- at least I hope so.

    Enid -- I had the same thought when I heard that Cora was a miller's daughter. I truly hope that Cora ends up being that girl as she is the only one (that we know of) who defeated Rumple in the end.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.