Once Upon a Time Review: The Fall

Winter’s covered Storybrooke for what feels like far too long. The series has taken its sweet time chiseling away at dead-end pacing and the stuff of time wasters. Like the little lost puppy it’s been this season, Once Upon a Time always seems to find its way back, so leave it to a curse to reward that faith again – at least in part. This week felt like coming home again for however brief of a time The Fall provided, with all the wonderful, messy baggage a family visit brings.

137330_0633When last we left our characters, our curse of the season was inching its way towards Storybrooke. Our curse in question? The curse of Shattered Sight, a spell enabling our heroes to see only the uglier sides of themselves. That fairy tale curses creep along via menacing clouds is convenient enough, but that they graciously take an entire episode to take hold (and allow for a timely solution) is pure genius, if I do say so myself, Snow Queen.

So be it that a curse meant to bring out the worst in our cast brought out some of their best. Once Upon a Time’s been more than prone to its share of dawdling by now, but who knew how much a little stormy weather could kick it into high gear. If it was fear that The Fall arguably conjured best, then it was that welcome air of dread that lent a healthy sense of urgency to the mix, wreaking havoc on the town before it’s even cast, its quaint use of mirror shards included.

Among the primary high points was the reunion between Anna and Elsa that’s been long overdue. That Krystoff happened to be there too like he usually is was just instance another in a long line of our episode’s inane coincidences, but Elsa handing off as many magical totems as she does unnoticed surely raised more eyebrows than just mine. Sure, there’s other emergencies going on, but come on. It’s a good thing Elizabeth Lail’s sells Anna’s knowing smiles as well as she does, because Scott Michael Foster’s Krystoff is beginning to seem more and more like an extra who just happened to wander on set reading scripts.

The Fall certainly had no shortage of people showing up in time “moments” before the curse hit. Cuts of people scrambling from point A to point B are a bit much compared to the impression it took time, which is to say that too many teleportation spells are just too many. I marvel at what the town’s actual geography looks like if Emma and company managed to sprint from the far reaches of the beach to downtown Storybrooke in the apparent last seconds before the curse arrived. That’s some run.

OUAT Blackbeard The Fall Tabloid

Speaking of crazy coincidences, what about Blackbeard? While we might forgive Anna and Kristoff’s 30-yr. freeze for predictably putting them in the right timeline, it’s harder to say what purpose our pirate captain’s served since he was trolling Colin O’Donohue’s Hook seasons ago. For a series noted for pulling off the cleverest crossovers, Charles Mesure’s Black Beard is as bizarrely placed here as he is oddly charming; more so than O’Donohue by a mile. His sporty red coat and beard evoke my fond memories of Dustin Hoffman’s take on Hook, but how Anna and Krystoff randomly locate him I’ll never know. And Hans? Forget about it. Here, he’s about as unconvincing as his animated counterpart and that’s to say not very, though he keeps that fine coat clean on a pirate ship, granted.

At its best, The Fall still illustrates the fact that our Frozen storyline’s been stretched too thin too long fill. Like we saw with Peter Pan, moreover with the Wicked Witch, brevity is a virtue better adhered to than not. The show’s “Villains of the season” – or half-season – add familiar faces, neat twists, and probably spikes in ratings, but even the best moments of the The Fall should remind us just how much quality time the show’s missed spending with the core cast.

OUAT The Fall Regina:Henry:Robin Tabloid.io

It’s that sense of lost time that put things into perspective for the best characters I used to love – and maybe still do. Snow White sounded more like herself than ever when she handing baby Neal to Emma’s for a change and Regina keeps surprising me in her emotional range – as does Lana Parrilla. It was Rumplestiltskin that proved the most genuine of the week, genuine and frank in a manner we’ve seen in a very long time. His marriage with Belle more terribly uncertain than ever, love and power are once again his drugs of choice while on the rebound of sorts, needling Hook in the awfully amusing way only Robert Carlyle can. These characters don’t need a Snow Queen or Elsa’s bling to shine. Really, it’s these flashy side stories that threaten to smother them.

For want of surprises, The Fall was just the pick-me-up Once Upon a Time needed, if not the one it deserved. Its short-lived reunion brought the scene we’ve been dying to see even while its long goodbyes were reduced time fillers. Too much time was spent tossing in Black Beard and spent too little making Hans a threat. It was all the better to see our heroes have their tiny share of spotlights for a change. It would be all the nicer, then, to see their story be take center stage, this time in full.

Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights on ABC at 8/7 Central. Catch all the latest episodes at ABC.com and all the latest reviews here Tabloid.io.

6
Okay

Good Things

  • Plenty of Fond Farewell Moments
  • Mr. Gold and Hook's Antics
  • The Core Cast Acted Like Themselves Again

Bad Things

  • Another Curse Schtick
  • Coincidences Galore, Blackbeard Included
  • Hans is Still His Unconvincing Self