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Once Upon a Time: The Apprentice Review

Two hands are better than one, but not if your name is Captain Hook. Four episodes in and the plot thickens with a host of delectable subplots filling the holes Frozen‘s failing to fill. This time, Once Upon a Time wore many hats and all but one of them pay off in spades a greater evil finds its heir.

This week’s The Apprentice offered plenty of opportunities for the writers and actors to lay on the charm and it worked to no end after last week’s rather “rocky” characterization. Hook and Emma’s date night spared no expense with the family moments, from Mary Margaret snapping a Polaroid of Emma in her 16-year-old’s prom dress, to Elsa and Charming bonding over being protective, to Emma’s “Captain Hand” joke – it was as cute as it was human in a way only Once can be. A date away from the action did Emma and Hook good after hedging back and forth for a season and even the silliest mush felt like a reward for the two.

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Colin O’Donoghue as Captain Hook (left) and Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan (right)

It’s Hook/Kilian’s helping hand and the price that came with it that allowed some more suitable characterization. They even squeezed in a makeshift Lady and the Tramp pasta scene. That deserves some kind of nod.

Many a deal with the proverbial devil have been made on Rumple’s dotted line, and his and Hook’s arrangement makes for an intriguing development in particular. Colin O’Donoghue’s been growing into the role for some time, but Hook’s current dilemma gives him an opportunity to go far beyond the abrasive character we know and he’s handling it wonderfully. The idea of his metro pirate look taking over is hilarious, to say the least.

Rumplestiltskin, meanwhile, continues to travel in directions no one can explain. Love may not have been enough for Rumple to leave the darkness behind, but at least he seems to share a newfound and intriguing bond with his grandson. Save for the fact he’s the Dark One, his behavior’s inexplicably colder than the Snow Queen’s, but you can’t help but love every minute of Robert Carlyle’s menace. It’s not a bad turn for Rumple, but four seasons in, it raises concerns that it all ends predictably – and inevitably – between him and the missus.

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Robert Carlyle as Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin & Colin O’Donoghue as Kilian/Captain Hook

And as far as the whole hand business was concerned: how often can you change hands on a night out without your date noticing? It’s hard to fathom that Emma believed Hook was alright looking at a reattached hand one minute and finding a hook the next. Her truth-telling superpower? A very poor lie-detector indeed.

Elizabeth Lail’s endearing performance as Anna is admirable, if not entirely misused. She and Elsa beg to ask why they’re where they are in the show; that’s just it, they’re there. She may have been great opposite of Rumplestiltskin and even have taught Belle a thing or two about sticking up for herself in the face of making a very hard decision wielding the business end of a sword. Her gumption’s something, but her appearances can’t help but feel inconsequential to just about any scene’s outcome.

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Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) & Elizabeth Lail as Ana

The real praise no doubt comes down to our hat of the night, namely Rumple’s, and its barrier against magic created as interesting of a power dynamic as it did some good Fantasia-ish fan-service. With as many possibilities as it has in the hand of a sorcerer it almost seems to be quite the literal plot device of the season, and an excellent one in tandem with the quirky CGI broom. And Rumple turned its owner into a mouse. Get it? A mouse! Yeah.

Once may not be sure of itself quite yet, a few weak points with characters’ ambivalence, but delightful performances, meaningful moments, and interesting developments hit where it counted, plus more than a few laugh out loud moments. The Apprentice had heart and if only Once could say the magic words, it just might unlock all the greatness the Sorcerer’s Hat (and its new apprentice) promises.

8
Charming

Good Things

  • Mr. Gold Finally Stepped Up to the Plate
  • Hook Entertained For Once
  • Intrigue with Henry, The Hat, and Gold

Bad Things

  • Emma's Silly Ambivalence
  • Frozen's Getting Old