Entertainment Magazine

Review #3296: Once Upon a Time 1.13: “Skin Deep”

Posted on the 15 February 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

The return of another “Lost” alum to “Once Upon A Time” heralded a possible end to the show’s creative skid. But, while Alan Dale’s appearance as Prince James’ father added greater resonance to an already strong story, Emilie de Ravin as Belle fails to rescue the tale of Rumplestiltskin. While not as egregious as some recent offerings (yes, Sidney, I’m looking at you), it still lacks the imaginative spark that was so refreshing earlier on.

Review #3296: Once Upon a Time 1.13: “Skin Deep”

Once again, as with the Genie/Man in Mirror switch, the only innovation is swapping out Rumplestiltskin for the Beast. After that, the story follows its conventional course. Belle is heroic and noble, bringing light into his house, literally and figuratively. He falls for her enough to let her go, The Queen convinces her to return, laying the seeds for Belle’s failure. It all felt a bit rushed and perfunctory.

None of which would be so bad, if it was used to illuminate Rumplestiltskin’s character. All we get is his heartache at losing his son, and conviction that no-one could ever love him, which is hardly revelatory. Knowing he’s still Rumplestiltskin when the curse falls leaches all suspense out of Belle’s attempts to draw him out.

A braver, and more heart-rending, choice would have been to have Belle succeed. That seemed to be the Queen’s intent, perhaps to pillage something from Rumplestiltskin’s castle once he lost his mojo. After seeing them enjoy some time together, the Queen’s triumphant entry into his castle could have then been marred by an inadvertent slip about prodding Belle to return. Rumplestiltskin believes himself duped by both of them and the curse descends again.

Aside from accentuating exactly what he threw away, this version also makes his lack of investigation of Belle’s “death” more plausible. It begs belief that he would just accept the word of his arch-rival, with her well-known powers of manipulation. As written, her ploy was so transparent, it transformed her latest descent into a revelation into a foregone conclusion. But let me get off my rewriting horse. As ever, it’s a sure sign of a frustrating episode.

I find it intriguing that the show has cleaved closest to the original tale with two of the House of Mouse’s dearest properties, Cinderella and now Beauty and the Beast. Given their network, have the producers made a deal with the devil where the latitude they’re allowed with Snow White must be paid for with greater fealty to the other major properties? The tendency is always to blame the writers, but perhaps other hands are at work here.

Cinderella, in her Storybrooke guise of Ashley, also returns, in perhaps the saddest Girls’ Night Out to ever grace a Valentine’s Day show. Ashley and Mary Margaret mope at the table, bemoaning their men, with nary a glimpse of Ruby flirting at the bar to enliven the proceedings. While Sean finally showing up to man up with the ring satisfies the dictates of the day, it also highlights the character deficits of David. He has devolved into a wishy-washy jerk. Especially with his wife being given no character development, his choice is clear. Trying to have it both ways is just sad and pathetic.

Even the Storybrooke meeting of Mr. Gold and Regina, which she went to such trouble to arrange, fell flat. It continues to astonish me that a show about identity and deceit has abandoned Rumplestiltskin’s defense of his name. Especially after their previous enigmatic dances around what they know and don’t know, a simple question followed by a blunt answer was not what I expected. This is a cast capable of taking on much more sophisticated material. I hope they start getting back to some soon.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 1/2
Style: 2/4

Total: 6/10

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