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Once Upon a Time: Lady of the Lake

“Every kingdom needs a hero, don’t you think?”

Three episodes in and there’s no signs of this season slowing down. One thing that Once has to combat this year though, is combining all these dueling stories without making the entire episode seem disharmonized. As far as this episode goes, there wasn’t a hint of discord throughout, but with such a killer pace, the show is definitely going to run that risk.

We’ve got three distinctive storylines this season. Storybrooke, like always; the Enchanted Forest flashbacks; and the Enchanted Forest in real time. One plot is almost always going to find itself relegated to background noise, but it’s a rarity to see a show do justice to so many different stories at the one time. It’s even rarer that all these stories are bound together so neatly by one common theme: a parent who sacrifices everything for their child.

In Storybrooke, Henry and Charming are still continuing their quest to help Emma and Snow, but have made a pit stop to help out Jefferson, who was forced to give up his child. I like Henry and Charming’s little duo; it’s nice to see Henry bond with someone other than Emma for a change. Yeah, there’s the rift between him and Regina, but I really like the whole grandparent side to things. Henry grew up without a father figure, and Charming couldn’t be a batter fit for somebody like that. Seeing Henry bring Jefferson and his daughter back together also helped Charming to have a some faith in the little man, too.

Over in the Enchanted Forest, Snow and Emma had an immediate face off with Cora, whom thankfully Snow recognised. The fact that the entire middling part of this story was cut makes me even happier; there’s a lot less filler this year. We knew she was bad, they knew she was bad, and we got on with it. Snow was also a lot more like that woman we met exactly a season ago; she wasn’t going to fall for any cheap shape-shifting tricks. She knew after the first slip-up that Lancelot wasn’t himself, and along with Emma she was able to stop Cora in her tracks, for now at least.

Kudos to Emma, too. I think this was one of about two or three times that we’ve seen her really open up. Her proclamation of never having had somebody to put her first is pretty heart-breaking. She spent most of her life fighting for herself, and here comes this woman who loves her more than anything, who gave up her entire life for Emma, and continues to put her first. Just like Charming and Henry, these episodes are utilizing the show’s most interesting dynamics incredibly well.

Cora’s mistake aside, it was Lancelot’s kindness that tipped Snow off to Cora’s deception too, something she experienced before when she first met Charming’s mother. There was a certain amount of predictability where this part of the episode was concerned, but there was also some level of originality about it, too. We all knew Ruth was going to sacrifice herself for Snow’s child, but instead of the usual sobbing over her final gesture, a dying mother was able to get her final wish, and save her son’s family at the same time. I’m not sure where this whole impromptu wedding was supposed to go, the entire series opened with their big wedding day, but the symbolism was pretty darn sweet.

As we tear our way through this new and exciting season, I’m kind of aghast as to where the show expects to take a break. So far, every episode has been incredibly intense, so it wouldn’t be a totally outlandish idea for an offbeat episode right about now.

4 out of 5 burned magic wardrobes.


Operation Scorpion is Henry’s code for this season’s secret mission. I gotta say, Operation Cobra had a better ring to it.

Emma, I love you, but firing that gun has got to be one of the silliest things you’ve ever done. Get it together, woman!

He Said, She Said

Emma: “You gave up, everything for me, and you’re still doing that.”

Snow: “I won’t let you give your life for this.”
Ruth: “That’s what parents do, they put their children first.”

Previously posted at PandaTV.


  1. Totally agree with everything! Loving the Charming/Henry bonding time, relieved not to have to suffer through the who is that?--It's Regina's mother.--Maybe she's good.--Oh, no it turns out she's evil thing. While the writers seem to be handling it so far, I am also worried about them maintaining the three storylines for the duration of the season.
    Aurora and Mulan are annoying as shit. Aurora is just a whiny little thing and Sarah Bolger just seems to be playing Princess Mary from The Tudors in lighter colored clothing. Jamie Chung is incredibly boring.
    Also, there wasn't ANY Rumple this week. :(
    PS Was anyone else completed amazed at Jennifer Morrison's crazy arms? What does the woman do in her spare time? Throw cars?

  2. haha, I saw the arms, too. They're very impressive!

    And I think next week is Rumple/Belle centric, so we'll be seeing a lot of him then =)

  3. Wasn't too keen on this episode. Snowing episode have never been my favourites. There are couple of things that are bothering me. 1) How is Charming such a great fighter when he grew up as shepherd? And 2) Why are they still keeping his real name a secret? My top theory is that he was in some Enchanted Forest Jason Bourne style sleeper assassin program.

  4. Mark - Um, Magically Instant Prince Fighting Academy, obviously! I'm sure they must have mentioned in a previous episode that Charming is a MIPFA grad. Maybe we just missed it. :)

  5. Wow. Three episodes in and this has gone from my favourite TV show to one I almost despise. I'm seriously thinking of quitting this show, just as I did for Doctor Who (don't even get me started on that).

    I officially hate Henry now. Eshu's Playground has some great posts on the matter after the episode was broadcast, and I completely agree with them. His treatment of Regina aside, we have yet another example of a supposedly 'good guy' pulling 'bad guy' crap and not getting called on it. I am so goddamn sick of Protagonist Centred Morality that states "It's okay for good guys like Charming and Henry to do shitty things to people, because they're the good guys and they're doing it for good reasons, and it's super okay to treat bad people badly because they're bad".

    NO. Just no. That's repulsive morality, but it's what this show is shoving down our throats now. Evil Queen is evil because she's the Evil Queen. Prince Charming is good because he's Prince Charming. Regardless of how any of them behave, the good guys are automatically good, even when they manipulate and hurt people, or abuse their power and threaten to take away (and very likely would do so) someone's liberty for not bending over backwards to help with a personal problem.

    But hey, the fail doesn't end there. Following on the tail of Doctor Who's disgusting "If a woman can't have a baby then she's not a worthwhile woman!", we get female sterility touted here as a curse, a fate worse than death, and something worth sacrificing a human life to avert. Fuck off, just ... really. Guess what you show producing gits? Some of us women CANT have children, and we really don't fucking appreciate you portraying us as defective, worthless, broken pieces of crap! Not all of us even WANT to have children! Shocking, I know! ARGH!! I am so GODDAMN TIRED of the media/TV placing a woman's worth on her ability to bear bloody babies!!

    Oh, and lets not forget the racefail, either. This show already has a poor track record on the PoC front, but this episode possibly makes it worse. Seriously, check this out:

    White (straight cisgendered) Characters:
    All of the good guys, including the show's paragons of goodness, Snow White and Prince Charming, and their designated-good daughter and grandson

    People of Colour
    The Evil Queen, whom everyone hates and despises
    Her dead dad, who had his heart ripped out by his daughter
    A fairy godmother, who died about three seconds after appearing on screen
    Sydney Glass, locked up for a crime someone else committed, never to be seen again
    Mulan, who falls in love with another white prince charming either married or engaged to another woman
    Lancelot, murdered offscreen prior to the very episode he is introduced in

    ... but no, I'm sure I'll be told I'm just being oversensitive, that this is just a coincidence. And hey! They cast a coloured actor to play Lancelot! Surely the show isn't racist, right? For having a black actor portray one of the two villainous Knights of the Round table ... who committed treason by having an affair with the King's wife ... and got banished as a result ... umm. Oh well, at least he behaved like a decent guy, right? Even though he's ... dead already. Yeah.

    I really think I might be done with this show. Maybe Lancelot is really alive and Cora lied. Maybe Henry and Charming will get called out on their BS behaviour. Maybe we might even get an example of true love that isn't straight, white and cisgendered ... haha! Who am I kidding? What will actually happen is that these trends will continue with the show, or possibly get worse, and that everyone here will dogpile this post shouting out about how wrong I am, just like last episode. Whatever, I'm done with this.

  6. Hi Alice,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking post. We will not "dogpile" it and we will not shout at you.

    However, we ask you to treat us with the same courtesy. I understand being angry at a show. I've been there many times; see my comment on Katie's recent review of Elementary for one example.

    But being angry at us, the watchers of a show, isn't something that we encourage here at billiedoux.com. Your comment seems to veer from being angry at the show to being angry at us. If more of your comments take the same tone of criticism of the viewers or of the reviewer, Panda, I will delete them.

    Why? Because I have many questions about your post, but I find myself scared to post them for fear of making you even angrier at me for having questions about what you've said. And billiedoux.com isn't a place where people should be scared to comment.

  7. I'll admit that I was pissed off that Charming's mother sacrificed her life for Snow's fertility; it set off my feminist alarm bells. I was also disappointed that Lancelot was already gone before we met him. But I don't really have a clue why anyone would be angry at what Charming and Henry did back in Storybrooke. Alice, if everything about this show is making you angry, I honestly think it's time to stop watching it.

  8. Panda, another great review.

    While I am still enjoying the show a great deal, it is becoming a tad too Snow/Charming/Emma centric for me. We saw Red briefly at the beginning of the episode, but I would like to spend some time in Storyville with the characters from last season.

    Likewise, I admire the shows willingness to keep the story moving at a breakneck pace, but it would have been nice to spend some more time with Lancelot. It's difficult to feel too sad about the death of someone we've only known for a bit.

    The highlight of the season so far, at least for me, is the Henry/Charming relationship. I find it lovely and sweet and the end with the swords was great. Didn't it look like they were really having fun?

  9. I think I've always been more interested in the Storybrooke side of OUAT, so I'm not enjoying this season as much as last. Now Emma's not so much the central character, and virtually everyone is more kick-ass than she is, it feels like a different show. Although I initially liked the idea that they were all fairy-tale characters, now they know who they are, the show feels more like a pantomime. Not that that's a bad thing, I like pantomime; it's just not what I signed up for.

    Re: the character stereotypes, the characters are from fairy-tales, so I guess it's par for the course. If they deviated too far from the classic template, I dare say we'd be complaining about them doing the characters a disservice. The morality in children's stories is often black and white. They seldom bother with the grey. It's too complicated for young children to grasp. Or was. Maybe it still is; I have no idea.

    If it's any consolation, Alice, I too cringe when shows ram their morality in our faces. It would be bad enough if we picked up on it intuitively, but to have it explained so plainly makes me feel like the show thinks we're all dumb-asses.

    OR - in the case of OUAT - they're simply reinforcing the established fairy-tale model, because that's what the show is: a story based upon fairy-tale characters. I don't think the show is complex enough to disassemble the inherent racism and sexism in 17th century children's literature. It's just people running around with swords, and wearing nice dresses. I think they were going for escapism rather than social commentary.

  10. I think I may be in the minority, but I didn't get Ruth giving Snow the water to lift her curse as being some reference to women without children being irrelevant, or whatever. To me, it was just one woman who had lived her life, giving up her own well being for the sake of someone else. Like I said in the review, the whole thing was about a parent sacrificing everything for their child, or grandchild as the case may be.

    Am I making any kind of sense?!

  11. Panda, the way I saw it was that Charming's mother (Ruth, I take it?) wasn't exactly ancient and her life had worth, and she gave up her life so that Snow could get her fertility back. That didn't seem like a fair exchange to me. If you think of it as Ruth giving up her life for Emma, that's completely different, but Emma didn't exist yet.

    While I was growing up, my chief role model and the person I most wanted to emulate was my aunt, who was a professional writer and a serious feminist who marched on Washington in the late 1960s for women's rights. While I was watching the episode, I couldn't help thinking of what my aunt would have said if she'd watched it. There would definitely have been profanity. :)

    That said, I'm very aware that OuaT is a fractured fairy tale, and that it isn't meant to reflect 21st century reality. In fairy tale world, Ruth giving up her life that way didn't feel out of place.

  12. Yes, this show is fairly sexist. In their defense, they have tried to mitigate the inherent sexism of fairy tales (which are inarguably one of the most sexist things on the planet). Snow can take care of herself, and has rescued Charming more than once. Red is werewolf bent on protecting her friends, etc. It's not perfect, but if they took the sexism completely out, I don't think we would recognize any of the characters or plots.

    As for any racism in the show, I hate to say this, but most TV is like this. Attractive white people loving attractive white people. Plus, we have to remember that most of the characters we've seen are from traditional European fairy tales. I really hope that OUAT will branch out at some point. By including characters such as King Midas, Jefferson, and Lancelot, they show us that they are willing to include stories without basis in actual fairy tales. Maybe we'll meet some characters from mythologies and legends around the world, which would be amazing. They already introduced Mulan, but she was a Disney movie, so that's kind of cheating. :)

    I'm with you, Panda, I didn't see the whole Ruth sacrificing herself for Snow's fertility as a sexist statement, although now I can totally see where everyone else is coming from.

  13. I really liked Sinqua Walls as Lancelot. I'm sad that Lancelot turned out to have been killed earlier on. But I can see why Sinqua won't be in the show that often, as he's also doing Teen Wolf, probably close to the same time. Same goes with Julian Morris and Pretty Little Liars.

    I'm also really liking Sarah Bolger as Aurora; having watched her as Mar Tudor for a few years, it's nice to see her do something slightly different but also not something completely opposite? Did that make sense?

    While I may not be the biggest Charming/Henry advocate, I'm glad that he and Regina are sort of working together when it comes to Henry? I wasn't keen on Regina last season (I was too upset about her killing Graham) but she's grown on me this season.

    Maybe it has to do with all the Lana posts on Mark's Tumblr, I don't know.

    Panda, I am definitely looking forward to your review next week and your opinion of Hook. I've been waiting for his episode for ages now. From the promo, Colin O'Donoghue seems like a pretty damn good Hook.

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  16. In answer to Mark's question, Prince Charming's name is James. He said so in the first season when Snow kept calling him Prince Charming.

  17. Judy, James is the name of the dead brother that Charming impersonated for King George. To date we don't know what Charming's actual name is.

  18. Funny. I may be in the minority here. I basically forced myself to slog through season one last year. I found it cliche, boring and unexciting.
    This year however, I ADORE the show. It's thrilling, touching, and frequently badass! This is the Once Upon A Time I've been wanting all along! Loving the multiple worlds and everything is handled effectively enough with recurring themes that nothing seems convoluted or out of place. Moreover, the relationship between Snow and Emma is particularly tugging at my heartstrings (and I never even liked both characters last year). Even Charming is fun to watch now (he bored me to death last year).
    Color me impressed.
    Can't wait to see where the rest of the season goes!

  19. I support what zob said: their morality is different then ours. We don't usually see woman infertility as a curse, since there are LOTS of other ways for a modern woman to go. But in the Enchanted Forest the story is very different. Even Cora coudn't find any way to success other than marriage. So it's no wonder Charming's mother would see infertility as a curse. Probably, Snow herself would have a different perspective, but it was not her decision to make.

  20. I guess it wasn't in the text of the show, but I had thought that Charming's original name back in the episode The Shepherd was, in fact, David. Then he took on his brother James' name when he replaced him.

    If his original name wasn't David, it seems like he's left that name in the past. At this point, I think it would just be too confusing to bring in yet another name for him, for negligible payoff.

    I'm ok with him answering to Charming, James, David, Gramps, or whatever his original pre-James name really was.


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