Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 2 Episode 6 – Tallahassee
Once Upon A Time has never made it a mission to hide Emma’s past. We know that Emma (Jennifer Morrison) had her own troubles with the law, and even gave birth to Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) while behind bars. We know where she came from, how she got here, and who looked after her once she did. Which leaves us with only one real mystery that needs solving: who is Henry’s father? Tonight, we met Neal Cassady (Michael Raymond-James), briefly seen in the season premiere, receiving a postcard from Storybrooke revealing that the curse had been broken. There’s been a lot of speculation online as to who this man was, with the prevailing theory being that he was Rumpelstiltskin’s long-lost son, Baelfire. “Tallahassee” does nothing to dispel this rumor, and even adds a layer of intrigue to Neal’s role in the overarching mythos of Storybrooke and the fairy tale denizens that inhabit it.
Emma and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) continue their travels with Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger). The foursome is now accompanied by Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), who brings the group to the base of a massive beanstalk, which leads to the castle of the last giant in the realm. The plan is to infiltrate the giant’s lair and retrieve a magic compass, a tall order when pit against the giant, whose kind has been wiped out in a war with humans – a war which also saw the destruction of every magic bean that might have been able to provide transport to our world. The reintroduction of the concept of magic transportation beans in the same episode we meet Neal Cassady properly seems to bolster the idea that he’s Baelfire, which is exhilarating in its own right, since Henry would then be Rumpelstiltskin’s grandson, which should make for some wickedly dramatic developments. Of course, it’s only a theory at this point.
Emma and Hook climb the beanstalk, and enter the lair of the giant (Jorge Garcia), who has a lingering resentment against humans for what they did to his species in the war. The issue between the opposing forces in Emma and the giant is threaded through with flashbacks to Emma’s past as a vandal. She steals the yellow bug that she’s been driving since season one, only to discover it’s already been stolen by a handsome thief hiding in the back seat. It’s not long before the initially antagonistic relationship blossoms into love, and Neal and Emma are Bonnie and Clyding their way across the country, before Neal decides that they should settle down. Emma points to a random spot on the map, and they decide that this will be their home: Tallahassee.
However, their plan to get out of the criminal business for good, which involves selling a case of pilfered watches, is interrupted by the appearance of August (Eion Bailey), who Emma’s purpose in life, and also reveals the existence of magic by showing Neal what’s in his case. It seems that Neal, torn up as he is about abandoning Emma, needs no further convincing. Emma is busted with one of Neal’s stolen watches, and is sentenced to eleven months behind bars. It’s a fitting bit of insight into how Emma wound up the way she did, and also relatively heartbreaking, in that it was easy to see the necessity of it, within the show’s world. Neither Neal nor Emma seemed to have much of a way around destiny, particularly since this is the kind of show that very much believes in the existence of a pre-ordained destiny. Neal and August meet only once more, with Neal giving August money and the keys to the bug for Emma. August promises to send Neal a postcard if the Curse is broken – the same postcard we saw Neal receive in the premiere. It stands to reason that he’s headed for Storybrooke, and the sooner he does, the sooner we can put this “Neal = Baelfire” theory to rest.
The rest of “Tallahassee” concerns the compass heist in the giant’s lair, and this is the season’s first real stumble in the greenscreen department. Much of Once Upon A Time has relied upon patchy CG backdrops, but as the show became more popular, and the budget subsequently increased, we saw a more refined greenscreen, which made it all the more impressive for network television. Here, however, it approaches the level of camp, and though the climax of the sequence is resonant, with Emma proving to the giant that not all human are the same, it’s propped up by the ridiculous conceit of a giant keeping a giant-sized intruder cage trap in his own lair. Thankfully, none of this is enough to derail the resonance of the story, with Mulan attempting to chop down the beanstalk when Emma fails to return after ten hours. This leads to a scuffle between Mulan and Snow, broken up by the return of Emma, who reveals that she ordered Mulan to hack down the beanstalk if she didn’t come back in time. Mother and daughter have it out, with Snow telling Emma that they all return to Storybrooke together, or not at all. I do like that Snow is asserting herself as Emma’s mother more often, even if Emma isn’t really ready to accept Snow in that role in her life just yet.
There’s also a subplot involving Princess Aurora’s nightmare about a red room with blood red curtains and no windows, a dream that’s shared by Henry back in Storybrooke. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that the dream is tied to Cora (Barbara Hershey) in some fashion, although it’s hard to know for certain, particularly since we don’t see the dream ourselves. Also, Hook is trapped in the giant’s lair for now, thanks to a trick by Emma. She states that she did this in order to delay Hook, and I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t the first time in the show where Emma makes a value judgment about a Fairy Tale Land character based on what she knows about them from the stories in her world, since I don’t know why she’d feel she had anything to fear from Hook unless she’s going off of what she knows about Captain Hook’s treachery from years of media saturation. He didn’t really act overtly villainous, he simply acted like a boorish cad, who’s way too into himself. Maybe it’s simply from his deception last week. But then why wouldn’t she have at least tied him up with rope while he led them to the beanstalk? These are minor quibbles though, and barely worth mentioning.
The episode isn’t as strong as last week’s installment, but “Tallahassee” is a success by rounding out Emma’s character. We know a lot about how she got to where she is, and the kind of person she is, but there have always been questions about why she is the way she is, so guarded with her emotions. While the initial assumption is that this was a byproduct of being an orphan, more or less, the episode illustrates that it’s more than familial issues that formed Emma Swan as we know her. It should be interesting to see how this changes our perception of Emma, going forward, and just how Neal will factor into things.
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