ONCE UPON A TIME: “Tallahassee”

Tonight’s Once Upon A Time brought us back – back to the origins of some of Emma’s story (a majority of which has been largely left in the dark until now), back to our favorite yellow bug that’s been conspicuously absent in Storybrooke as of late and back to the mystery of one of the first questions the show ever posed: who exactly is Henry’s father? On the heels of last week’s “The Doctor,” “Tallahassee” continued the trend of strong, well written episodes that really make us feel like we’re moving full speed ahead this season and part of that had to do with Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue. Putting the focus of the hour on 2-3 main characters at most with one guest star and hardly any Storybrooke could have made the episode tiring and dull, but I was completely sold on the partnership between Morrison and O’Donoghue, whose natural chemistry played a large part in my enjoyment of the hour. Is it too early to ask for more, please?

In her past, Emma teams up with Neal Cassidy (a nod to White Collar‘s con man Neal Cafferty?), Henry’s father and the man whom she learned to steal and run with. In fairytale world, Emma’s partner was Hook, who used her thieving skills in order to retrieve a magic compass from the Giant that could help open a portal back to Storybrooke. I am totally on board with this pairing (even more so than I was with Emma and Graham last season) and hold to the fact that O’Donoghue might be one of the best things that the show has ever done for itself. His Hook is charming (Josh Dallas better start watching his back), seductive, and much more of the scraggly, sly-talking bad boy than the one note cartoon character we grew up with. In short – I’m sending lots of Apollo bars to whoever came up with this casting.

As we saw in flashbacks, Emma met Neal by stealing her famous VW bug. In the spirit of a classic con tale, the two forged a relationship and spent some years running around together before deciding it was time to settle down (in Tallahassee, though they would never get there due to August’s meddling.) This was Emma’s story but links were all over the place – Snow sympathizing with Aurora about bad dreams, Henry having the same bad dreams worlds away, Snow’s story about candle traditions and ways to “chase” dreams linked to Emma’s comment about dream catchers in the motel. What does the almost prophetic dream about being trapped in a red room with no windows and curtains on fire mean? Interestingly, both Henry and Aurora seemed to have the same dream in which they saw each other (as an “ominous shadow”) and it looks like we’re going to have an entirely new direction to explore for both these characters. Reasons why this is good: I’ve felt Henry has been floundering recently in terms of finding a storyline, and I’m excited that we’re going to get to see Sarah Bolger do more than simply tag along on a journey across fairytale world.

Seeing Jorge Garcia back on television was a wonderful treat (see? Bringing it back more, as the role once again connected the actor with LOST scribes Kitsis and Horowitz) and made me wish that more of the show’s alumni could play a part in this world (paging Josh Holloway – there’s a spot for you in the fairytale world!) Prior to the episodes, Garcia had mentioned how nice it was to play a role so different than the loveable character he’s so much known for and I have to agree – seeing him as a mean, agitated giant was a lot of fun. Of course, Garcia did more than just stomp around as we’re all used to from our own fairytales – he made sure that we got a bit of insight into the humanized soul of someone who has been forced to feel evil based on how the giants have been treated. I love how the show continually pokes fun at itself by mentioning how the fairytales we think we know are far from the truth, such as Hook explaining the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to Emma. Perhaps a sly nod to us viewers who watch the show, as we think we know what’s going on but in reality often have the wrong idea? It’s a concept extends Emma as well, who will go on eternally thinking that Neal abandoned her when all he was doing was protecting her via the request of August (the much missed Eion Bailey.)

Speaking of August – what was he doing spying on Emma in the first place? Fulfilling promises that he had made back when they were young children in foster care, and passing on some sage advice to Neal as to how to make sure Emma achieves her destiny. Apparently, “no one does it alone” and Emma needed some help and guidance to get her to her destiny of Henry finding her. But how can Neal be sure that Emma is taken care of? “I’ll send you a postcard,” he says, harkening back to our season premiere where Neal received a note from Storybrooke that simply said “broken.

So we now know the origins of the postcard, what it means, why it came to Neal (if his name is even Neal…there are still multiple theories that Neal is actually Bae) and we finally have some context in terms of the mysterious man that we started the season with. Obviously, this is going to come into play in a much larger way – I’m just not sure how. Will Neal indeed make it to Storybrooke and reunite with Emma? I think it goes without saying that would be one family reunion I would definitely be interested to see.

Final Thoughts:

  • In an episode featuring a LOST alumnus, there were multiple shout outs to the show – the Apollo bars in the convenience store and the randomly dropped mention of Portland (I may be reaching here, but I don’t think I’m too far off.) And of course, the title of the episode coupled with the fact that Emma’s love was, essentially, “The Man From Tallahassee.”
  • What’s in the box that August showed to Neal that caused him to, without a doubt, believe everything? (Perhaps another nod to a well-known ruse of LOST, the season that we spent wondering about the contents of a coffin we never saw the inside of.) Of course, we weren’t going to be let in on that discovery right now, but I can already hear the theories being thrown around – and I’m curious to ruminate on this myself and see what I can come up with.
  • I’m often a fan of the word play that’s so subtly thrown around in this show and I particularly enjoyed August’s comments about “not being built that way” and “problems giving into temptation.”
  • Last time Emma picked up a sword she was still half in disbelief and fighting Maleficent the dragon. What a change a few experiences in the fairytale world makes – when she picked up poor Jack’s sword to fight the Giant, there was no hesitation and hardly any skepticism, an almost full circle moment from August’s plea to Neal about how Emma had to find her destiny. You’ll be a hero yet, Emma Swan.

What did you think of the episode?

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