ONCE UPON A TIME: “The Doctor”

Who is Dr. Whale? While most everyone on Once Upon A Time has been exposed in terms of his or her fairytale counterpart, the mysterious Dr. Whale – whom we were first introduced to last season as he watched over a comatose David – has remained a mystery. “The Doctor” finally lifted the veil on Whale’s identity, revealing him be the mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein and while clues about Whale’s past came out over the past few weeks that seemed to point in this direction, I personally never entertained the idea of seeing this particular character on the show for many reasons. That being said, I found integrating Frankenstein into the fairytale world was a most interesting choice, and I’m curious to see if Kitsis and Horowitz would consider adding any other “outside” characters to the mix (according to Entertainment Weekly, the duo already brainstormed a number of individuals outside the regular fairytale canon that they would be open to exploring/casting.)

“The Doctor” was also interesting in the sense that it was structured differently than what we’re used to seeing. Normally, when learning a character’s back-story, we focus on specific moments that show us who the person in question was before the curse took over. But this episode was as much Regina’s story as it was Whale’s, and perhaps that’s because there just wasn’t a large amount of personal story to seek out concerning the doctor’s background. Still, it was the first time this season that I felt the show really succeeded at storytelling with multiple focuses, as we spent almost equal time tonight between flashbacks, Storybrooke and the current fairytale world and got a healthy amount of story and character development in each segment.

I’ve made it no secret that Regina and her past are one of my favorite subjects of the show and I loved seeing more of her history with Rumple. We were shown in no uncertain terms how Rumple attempted to teach Regina in the ways of evil – and how, like most “evil” individuals, she was at first reluctant to allow her heart to go dark. What’s the best way to turn someone into a monster? Tap into where they’re most vulnerable which, for Regina, was her love for Daniel (Noah Bean.) Once Rumple successfully set up Whale’s resurrection experiment to fail, Regina had no problem hardening her heart. As Rumple harshly pointed out, “nothing is innocent” and it’s this mindset that Regina eventually assumes when she reaches the tipping point in turning from sweet innocent farm girl into Mother Dearest’s’ Protégée.

I’m absolutely certain that Lana Parrilla can do no wrong, something that I’ve only become more sure about in the past few weeks as Regina’s arc evolved. The naked display of emotion that she let her face betray as soon as she realized Daniel was alive again, as well as the horror and grief she displayed when she was forced to kill her love for a second (and final) time was one of the best moments of the hour for me. It was a clear indication of the humanity that’s struggling to find its way back to a woman who is lost without power – a woman who is trying to regain control of the person she was so many years ago, but who is so drawn to her evil ways that it’s hard to let her emotions break through. Never let it be said Regina doesn’t try, though. Determined to win back Henry’s love, she finds herself on Archie’s couch opening up about how she doesn’t know how to move forward without magic.

But magic in the real world is something to be earned and/or carefully used, not something to be liberally dispensed as we’re so used to seeing in the fairytale land. And Whale coming to Rumple at the end of the episode admitting that he needs magic makes me wonder if the more we go forward, the more our fairytale characters will fall into two sides – those who can’t survive without the power, and those who can.

Our current fairytale crew (Snow, Emma, Mulan and Aurora) found themselves in the wake of Cora’s destruction, coming across a left behind Killian Jones who posed as a survivor in order to gain their trust. As was pretty much assumed from past episodes, Cora was indeed planning a trip to Storybrooke (my guess at the moment is that this is where our mid-season hiatus will take place with our two villains of the fairytale world arriving in small town Maine.) He manages to convince a wary Emma that he’s needed alive and cuts them a deal where he promises to help them return to their world if they help him. Where does Jones then take them? A beanstalk, where, come next week, we’ll be faced with a not-so-friendly giant (Jorge Garcia) and possibly a Jack as well. I’m not sure what’s behind Jones’ motivation other than wanting to find Storybrooke so that he can enact revenge on Rumple for taking his hand but I would certainly love to know more about his history with Cora and what their ultimate goals are for taking over the non-magical world.

Throughout the episode, we’re given multiple references to Whale’s brother, from his anger at Regina to his constant “send me back to my brother” arguments. My (probably wrong) theory? Daniel is indeed Whale’s brother, and one of the reasons why Rumple and Jefferson helped Whale rig the procedure was so Whale could get the heart he needed and resurrect his brother on his own terms. Is it possible that Victor’s experiments did work and unbeknownst to Regina, Daniel was alive and well? Is that why Whale wants to find him so badly? Or did he not get to finish the experiments before the curse took over and getting back to his brother meant getting back to saving him? Another curious moment of the episode: Regina telling him “I brought who I wanted,” which would imply she selected a specific portion of fairytale world (or a specific number of people she wanted) to curse. Was it for her personal and selfish involvement? (We know that she brought along Daniel via a frozen enchantment spell.) Did she simply not care about the rest of the fairytale world?

Final Thoughts:

  • Loved David punching out Whale for his one night stand, which I suspect is what most fans of Snow and Charming were waiting to see.
  • The flashback scenes with Jefferson, Rumple, Regina and Victor were some of my favorites of the night and not just because the scenes brought together some of the best actors on the show. I quite honestly find the storylines of the more complicated “evil” characters more compelling, especially when we’re treated with insight about how some of these individuals worked together (ie. Regina and Jefferson’s history, Whale and Jefferson working with Rumple, Rumple obviously wanting Jefferson’s help for a certain purpose – to get to a non-magical world where “she” is.)
  • In that same vein, it was interesting to see that at one point, in working with Rumple, it was Jefferson who had the upper hand as opposed to Regina. Sebastian Stan is truly a gem (not just because of his looks), stealing nearly every scene and I really wish he were a series regular so that his character could appear in more episodes.
  • We have no idea whose heart it was that Whale ended up getting – or even if that’s something that’s even important. Either the writers are keeping this information from us for specific reasons or it truly is random, but nonetheless, I’m curious to hear if anyone has any theories on whose heart (if anyone’s) it could be.

One final thought – there was no doubt by the end of the episode who Whale was, but I still loved the touches of classic Frankenstein callbacks: the black and white coloring, the intricate lab, the dutiful assistant and the big foreboding castle. It’s these small attentions to detail to that make Once such a fun show, and one of the reasons I love being invested in the series.

What did you think of the episode and of Dr. Whale’s ultimate reveal? And are you excited to see LOST alum Jorge Garcia guest star in next week’s adventure?

One thought on “ONCE UPON A TIME: “The Doctor”

  1. The one thing I’m having difficulty wrapping my head around is the timeline of Frankenstein. Victor Frankenstein, in classic literature, created his monster in Germany, and then traveled to Switzerland and it took place in the late Georgian era. How are they going to go about making sure his storylines run parallel with the others? Are they going to say that when he jumped into the Mad Hatter’s hat that not only did he jump worlds, but time as well? Or are they going to say that his universe runs in the same time as the fairytales? I can suspend my disbelief to momentous amounts; I don’t know how well I’ll be able to stomach that one though.

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