Entertainment Magazine

Review #3910: Once Upon a Time 2.11: “The Outsider”

Posted on the 16 January 2013 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

Written by Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg
Directed by David Solomon

I have oft (perhaps too oft) mentioned that “Once Upon A Time”’s high-water mark remains the culmination of its opening arc, “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.” We saw Sheriff Graham start to break free of the Curse, courtesy of Emma’s kiss, and Regina reveal the truth of Henry’s fairy tales by so cruelly ripping him away. It was a heart-rending (sorry, couldn’t resist) loss of a character who had just become much more interesting to both Emma and the audience. At the time, it seemed a very promising sign of things to come, before the first season descended into a confusion of erratic plot twists and motivations.

Review #3910: Once Upon a Time 2.11: “The Outsider”

Now, at a similar point in the second season, another character who is just coming into her own gets taken out of the picture. While Belle’s fate may not be as final as Graham’s, it is still maddening to lose the one character who is displaying some common sense. The ease with which she susses out Hook’s ship and rescues Archie highlights how the writers continue to keep the main characters in the dark. The Charming family spend much of their time debating living arrangements. Even Archie, after his release, is remarkably lackadaisical getting back into town to issue a rather sheepish warning that it was Cora. A warning that falls on deaf ears as Emma and Henry worry how Regina will take the news she’s cleared. Not exactly the sense of urgency I expected that announcement to receive.

Unlike the dissonance of the previous episode, Belle’s flashbacks do reinforce both her pragmatic research and tracking skills and her romantic idealism, as we revisit her advice to Dreamy. She is perhaps the most ardent believer in the power of True Love, although even that is rooted in her empirical experience of Rumpelstiltskin, regardless of what others say about him. Her decision to hunt the Yaoguai (another misfire for the show’s CGI) runs her smack into Mulan. (Their chemistry is launching a new round of femslash to rival Mulan-Aurora. I think the triangle with Prince Philip they’re trying to set up is already doomed!) Her adventures all add to her competence, intelligence, and perception and makes the decision to take all that away even more perplexing.

Belle’s final fate hinges on Hook’s revenge and Mr. Gold’s need to breach the Line of Forgetting and look for his sun. The irony comes from Hook putting up no fight, wanting Gold to finish him off, until Belle breaks through to Gold’s better nature. Hook’s frustration sets up the finale at the Line. For a moment, I thought the kicker might be that Gold had picked the wrong thing he held most dear, that it was actually Belle. But that would mean an amnesiac Mr. Gold, a far more damaging prospect than Belle’s tumble over the Line.

By the way, Hook is run down by “The Outsider” of the title. I toss that in as an aside, since that’s how the episode handled it.

Belle’s story, on both sides, is the highlight of the episode, but all of that setup is wasted by the ending. Of course, in fairy tales and comic books, an anguished, angry declaration that a thing can’t be undone won’t necessarily stand. We can hope anyway. Equally perplexing is the slow burn to Cora’s unveiling. A long setup to Cora’s villainy is being dissipated by soft-pedalling her entrance. It doesn’t ring true for the character who was collecting hearts and raising zombies on the other side. That woman doesn’t dabble in subtle mind games; she promises an epic battle between Evil Queens. Perhaps the show’ll get there, but, based on recent evidence, only after a bit of a muddle.

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

Total Score: 6/10

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