Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 2 Episode 8 – Into the Deep
Once Upon A Time has crafted a fairly sound season-long narrative. Or, at least, half-season. Though the show has taken the occasional break from checking-in on the efforts of Snow White/Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) to get back to Storybrooke, but other than the odd detour to delve deeper into the pasts of various Storybrooke denizens, Emma and Snow’s quest is more or less the primary dramatic thrust of the season. There are sidequests aplenty, but they all seem to loop around to the same end: getting our two ostensible leads (inasmuch as an ensemble series such as this could be said to have a lead) back to their home, to rejoin the rest of the ensemble. “Into the Deep” advances the narrative while also furthering many of the various character arcs that the season has put forward. While the story itself ultimately adds up to another RPG-style “fetch quest”, the episode works because it’s part of a greater, more substantive narrative whole.
Cora (Barbara Hershey) is back, and she has zombies (just go with it) abduct Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger): this, just after our protagonists discover that Aurora’s nightmares could be used as a means of communication with Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) back in Storybrooke, as the result of both having been afflicted with sleeping curses before. The red room that has been plaguing their nightmares is actually a sort-of waystation for the cursed, a waiting room, for lack of a better term. Henry and Charming (Josh Dallas) realize the value of this method of communication, and approach Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) with finding a way to exploit this hole in the fabric between worlds. Regina continues to display a genuine effort to reform her ways, between using magic to help Henry and Charming in their mission, to lifting Henry’s spirits by telling him a story about how his grandparents always “find each other.” Meanwhile, Gold offers his own contributions to the quest, telling Henry about a magic well of ink in his prison in Fairy Tale Land that Emma and Snow will have to retrieve if they hope to have any chance of defeating Cora.
When Henry’s attempts to relay the message to Aurora fail due to the latter’s abduction, Charming decides that he will go under in Henry’s place, due to the adverse physical affects the frequent trips are having on the boy (i.e., burns creeping up his arm, an effect that is also plaguing Aurora). However, for this to happen, Charming will need to be placed under a sleeping curse. Unfortunately, since he hasn’t already been previously afflicted with, and recovered from, a sleeping curse (like Henry and Aurora have), he won’t be able to awaken from the nightmare until he’s brought out of it by True Love’s Kiss. Charming assumes this won’t be a problem, that he’ll see Snow on the other side, she’ll kiss him while in the red room, and all will be well again. Charming’s guileless optimism blinds him to the fact that the red room isn’t a physical place, at least not in the sense that people are physically occupying it. Though he’s able to relay the message about the inkwell to Snow, who shares a touching, though somewhat silly due to the patchy CG, moment with his wife, the two are unable to physically kiss. Their bodies simply pass through one another.
So Snow now has an added incentive to complete her mission, now that her husband is trapped in a netherworld that is doing physical harm to his body in the real world. She has no way of knowing how much time she has until the flames in the red room leave his body unrecognizable back in Storybrooke. Unfortunately, she also has no way of knowing that Aurora, who’s been set free by Cora’s partner-in-crime, Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), is being controlled by Cora. It appears that, while in captivity, Aurora had her heart ripped out by Hook. This doesn’t bode well for anybody who isn’t already unrepentantly evil, yet I do have to wonder how Hook did it, since heart-ripping seemed to be a technique known only to a select few, and I don’t remember Hook ever having shown a proclivity for it (and Cora certainly didn’t teach him, given how surprised she was to learn that he’d taken a heart). Either way, the pieces are in place for a cataclysmic winter finale.
“Into the Deep” is a more ruminative episode than fans of Once Upon A Time might be used to, but it works as a kind of character study. We learn that Snow just might be willing to break completely from her values now that stakes have officially been raised, with regards to her husband. I’ve found Mulan (Jamie Chung) to be roundly insufferable, so I didn’t really mind seeing Snow hold an arrow to her throat and come within moments of bringing the tip down to bear on her throat. But Mulan has her own motivations, after a fashion. She made a promise to Prince Phillip’s memory that she would keep Aurora safe, and so her acts are all in service to that premise. Meanwhile, we have Henry deciding he no longer wants to be a static character, a MacGuffin around which action revolves, but action in which he has no agency. “I’m done reading about heroes,” Henry states, “I want to be one.” Henry has always been a proactive character, for better or worse, but he’s rarely been allowed to act upon that proactive nature without impediment. So this should be our first opportunity to see what Henry actually has to contribute to the narrative, as his own individual entity. Tonight was a step forward, although having Charming take over and subsequently get trapped, leaving Henry in the same helpless position is two steps back. But the winter finale looks to offer plenty for everyone to do, free as it is from the trappings of dealing with every single Storybrooke citizen in detail. “Into the Deep” is a tonally-consistent, dramatically substantial episode on its own, but more so as an essential piece of the season-long narrative being portrayed.