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Once Upon a Time: The Stranger

“I’m a real boy!”

Once Upon a Time has been toying with the idea of getting Emma to make that leap of faith that would put everything in place to kick start the fight to free all those trapped in Storybrooke for a while now. 'The Stranger' was the first episode to confront Emma directly with that aversion she’s been showing towards her role as the town’s saviour. A lot of her inability to concede to such an outlandish truth seemed to rest on her narrow-minded “man of science” mantra, but here the idea of it being part of reluctance to accept her part in a destiny that puts the fate of so many people on her shoulders is the main focus.

We all know that Emma has always shown that in the case of “fight or flight,” her initial response is almost always the same. When she first arrived in Storybrooke, it took a lot to get her to stay, and now that she’s been faced with something this big, she’s once again opted for the easy way out. That’s not to diminish her role as a hero in this story; it’s just her way of coping with stress and fear. Whether or not she’ll accept her destiny in time to save her friends and family is the big question now.

This episode mastered an important balancing act between the myriad of important plots that it had going on. Though August played a huge stint in Emma’s plot, his voyage of discovery was just as important, and equally as gripping. So many of the characters in this show have shown strength and loyalty, even without knowing their true identities and purpose in life, but Emma and August, the two characters who escaped, are most tainted by real world superficiality, so to speak. August gave into his weak side, and took the easy way out of life, something I’m sure people like Mary Margaret and Jiminy wouldn’t do. But the magic of Storybrooke brought him around. All that remains is for Emma to do the same.

It must be strange for Regina to have to put on a front when she’s interacting with all these people that she hates so much, but who never sink to her level of spite. Even though Mary is one of the few who has witnessed Regina’s despicability first hand, she still stays strong. After all David had gone through, he didn’t give into temptation with Regina. Whether his rejection will serve as a catalyst for a big move on Regina’s part is still in question, but it’d be nice to see the writers explore the intricacies of her position in Storybrooke more.

If you’re not me, and you haven’t been enjoying the past few episodes, then 'The Stranger' was undoubtedly the episode you needed to get sucked in to this show's year-ending arc. With only two episodes left in the season, this show is in a very strong position. Let’s just see where it goes next.


How ridiculous was that opening scene in the sea? In the greatest way possible, I mean?

Regina didn’t seem too pleased with David after he left. I smell trouble with a capital b***h.

Will Emma actually leave Storybrooke or will she get stopped on her way out like the others? I know she’s the only one allowed to leave, but now that time has resumed, will she actually be able to escape?

He Said, She Said

Mary Margaret: “Even if you can’t admit what you did, I forgive you anyway. Your life must be filled with such incredible loneliness if your only joy comes from destroying everyone else’s happiness.”

Henry: “No matter what you do, Snow White will have her happy ending. She and Prince Charming will be together. The curse will end. Good will win.”

August: “You’re our only hope."
Emma: “Then you’re all screwed.”

4 out of 4 magic wardrobes.

Previously posted at PandaTV.


  1. Great review, Panda!

    I spent this entire episode thinking that it was the season finale. It was just okay as a season finale. As a way of starting the final arc of the season, it was gangbusters!

    (One thing that has been bothering me, though: August's coat. Why not get a bigger, longer coat? Why cram a perfectly handsome man into a coat that makes him look like a sausage?)

  2. I love this show. But somehow I felt it a bit anticlimactic with the reveal of August's true identity. Sure, it was hinted big time last week, but somehow I...hmm... just didn't care. And Pinocchio leaving Emma at the orphanage and Geppeto's lies to Snow was a bit out of character for me.
    I think I kind of liked the idea of August being Rumples son more, but that just might be because I love all the Rumples storylines and I tend to favour the episodes concentrated on him (loved the Belle episode).

    That said, this was a solid episode and I am seeing forward to the remaining two. But I am a bit confused about the condition of August. Why is he growing a woody? (eh...sorry). Is it because this world doesn't have any magic, and without magic he is a simple pile of woodsticks? Does he need Emma to open her eyes so that he can stay alive? Or is it the complete opposite - when Emma finally comes around and breaks the curse, will that mean that the days of August/Pinocchio is over??

    As you can see, I am a little bit confused...:)

  3. I'm still confused about the curse and how it works and August's wooden leg that wasn't wooden. I hope it's all a bit clearer by the end of the season.

    Did you notice the big O for Oceanic on the tail of the plane Pinocchio saw when he first came out of the tree? :)

  4. I think the reason he is turning back to wood is because he hasn't been "true to yourself" as he was told to do by Gepetto.....he left Emma and has lied

  5. I think part of what makes this show freaking AWESOME is that it does have characters do stuff that is out of character. 'Good' characters do bad things, and 'bad' characters can be truly sympathetic. Gepetto's decision to essentially blackmail the Blue Fairy into letting Pinocchio cross over, while firmly rooted in his love for his son, was out of character for the heroic Gepetto we're used to. Here, fairytale characters aren't just archetypes, they're actual people with flaws and shortcomings.

    While the episode was good, I wish they had giving August/Pinocchio a better reason to run away. I'm sure it was a time issue, but all we saw was the foster parent/orphanage guy saying "don't touch my stuff" and then August leaving poor baby Emma. Yeah, I understand there wasn't time to show how horrible life was there, but even so. Also, did it bug anyone else that young Pinocchio looks nothing like grownup August? Both actors are adorable (in VERY different ways), but, red hair? Hello? Couldn't we have slapped a wig on the kid? They certainly don't have trouble doing it to Ginnifer Goodwin.

    Finally, I have to say that Eion Bailey did a great job when he encountered Gepetto at the end. We got a fake father/son reunion last episode, but this time you could so tell it was the real deal. I was literally in tears.

    Great review, as always! :)

  6. I've been thinking for awhile now that Emma's role as the saviour is not all it appears to be. The only reason everyone believes it is her destiny to break the curse and bring back the happy endings is because Rumple told them. The same Rumple who created the curse in the first place. I seriously doubt it is his plan for everyone to live happily ever after. What if Emma's destiny is not to save everyone in town, but to bring magic into this world? If that happens then Rumple will regain his powers and may be allowed to leave Storybrooke and find his son.

  7. My take on Rump's end game is that he needed the curse cast to get to the 'real' world to find Bae. So i think he maneuvered the Queen into casting the curse. He needed an escape clause so once he finds Bae, he needs the curse broken so he can return to fairyland with his son and his power. He set thinks up with the 'please' loophole and Emma.

    I think August is turning to wood because he has been breaking the rules. The Blue Fairy told him that he would remain a real boy if he was truthful, unselfish, and brave (I may be wrong on these except for truthful). He didn't start turning to wood until time started (Emma came to town).

    My question is who has August been calling on the phones.

    Call me turnipseed

  8. I just had the worst thought possible. What if Henry's father is Rumpelstiltskin's son.

    Wouldn't that be totally bizarre but completely within the scope of this series?

  9. Baelfire, right? Didn't Emma's lie about Henry's father include him being a fireman?

    Anonymous, your theory is just wacky enough to be completely perfect.

  10. Mark and Anon - Great theories. I think you are right that all is not as it seems as far as Emma being the "savior" to get them all back to Fairyland. There has to be more to it than that, otherwise I can't see that there would be too much more story to tell. We can't just keep learning new background information about the Fairyland folks - the story in Storybrook needs to progress also.

  11. Fantastic review, Panda!

    I was a bit nonplussed to find out that August is Pinocchio, but only because he is not among my favorite fairy tale characters.

    Very interested to see where this is all headed.


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