Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 2, Episode 8 of ABC's "Once Upon a Time," titled "Into the Deep."
After the decidedly filler-y "Child of the Moon," it was good to see "Once Upon a Time" getting back to the meat of the mythology with the action-packed "Into the Deep."
Although some of the exposition felt belabored -- especially the narrative hoops that the writers seemingly needed to jump through to justify Snow being able to get back to the Netherworld -- overall, the hour was gripping and the reunion between Snow and Charming felt perfectly played.
The recurring themes of faith, sacrifice and familial trust were especially poignant given the risks everyone was willing to take in order to save each other; from Regina and Charming finding common ground in their quest to keep Henry safe, to Emma assuming the more maternal role and reassuring Snow that they would get back to Storybrooke and save Charming, "Into the Deep" was a perfect illustration of how powerful true love can be, whether it's between a husband and wife or parent and child.
Snow and Charming's almost-reunion was truly heartbreaking, especially because of how distraught Snow was at having to leave her husband in the Netherworld and under the curse -- not to mention how dashingly heroic Charming was about being trapped there, so certain that his wife would rescue him again that he didn't panic at all (at least not in front of her). I may have gotten a little misty at Charming's admission that he just needed to see Snow one last time, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one cursing at my screen when it transpired that the pair were unable to touch. Snow was kind of right in pointing out that the two seem doomed to keep losing each other, but no one said happily ever after came easily, I suppose. I can't wait to see them reunite for real.
It's interesting to note that the plot didn't really progress much through the events of this episode, despite how busy it seemed -- we pretty much ended exactly where we started except that Aurora is now under Cora's control and our fab foursome supposedly now know a way to defeat Cora -- but it's obvious that next week's winter finale will be the game-changer, with a real confrontation between our white hats and the big bads. It did raise one interesting question, though: How did Hook learn to steal hearts? Judging by the promo for next week's episode (which is called "Queen of Hearts," go figure!) we'll find out imminently.
For now, it seems that his loyalties lie firmly with Cora, but I wholly believe Colin O'Donoghue, who recently told us that "he'll use her until he doesn't have to any more," and if Emma starts seeming like the more attractive means to his end, he'll betray Cora in a heartbeat. (Pun intended.) Until then, I continue to be creeped out by the sexual tension between Hook and Cora.
It's still a pity that Aurora is so thoroughly useless -- though she showed some spunk in standing up to Cora, all she really managed to do this week was almost get everyone killed by not waking up in a timely fashion during a zombie attack; stand there helplessly while Mulan kicked ass; get captured; get her heart stolen, and lead everyone into a trap laid by Cora and Hook. I'm sure Sarah Bolger is just itching to get some fight training so that she, too, can kick some ass, but for right now, she's undoubtedly the weakest link on the show. As the most passive of the Disney princesses, it's not exactly a surprise, but I guess I was expecting a little more from Aurora after the historically wimpy Snow White was also given an awesome upgrade.
The episode's real magic was in its smaller moments: Snow being able to understand what Cora's crow said, in another nod to her "Whistle While You Work" animal helpers; the way that Rumple's subtle mention of a mermaid being able to retrieve rare squid ink from the bottomless ocean could be used as an introduction for Ariel somewhere down the line; Regina's insistance to Henry that she's trying to resist using magic (and that curses don't smell good, naturally); Charming giving Henry advice on being a hero; Rumple and Belle's amicable lunch date at Granny's (and condiments being this world's magic), and Charming having to prick his finger on a spinning wheel to make the sleeping curse work, were notable favorites. What were yours?
(On a related note, does anyone else love ABC's holiday-themed bumper with Charming reciting "Let it Snow" to Snow as part of the network's Christmas advertising? I caught it during the ad break. So sweet!)
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Whose side do you think Hook is on? Will Snow be able to rescue Charming? Share your predictions and reactions below!