Title Into the Deep
Two-Sentence Summary After Henry suffers intense burns and Aurora is captured by Cora, Charming willingly subjects himself to the sleeping curse in order to communicate with Snow. Lives are endangered, alliances are tested, and one broken family struggles to keep their faith as both good and evil race to get back to Storybrooke.
Favorite Line “And if there’s one thing I know about your grandparents…They always find each other.” (Regina)
My Thoughts “Into the Deep” was one of the strongest episodes of this season (so far, at least). There was a tightness to the plotting and character interactions that had been missing in other episodes as the writers sometimes struggled to balance multiple plotlines and a growing cast of characters. This episode worked because it was about the people we have cared about since the pilot: Charming, Snow, Henry, Emma, Regina, and Rumplestiltskin. By focusing the plot on these characters and their interactions, this episode’s stakes felt higher and its emotional moments felt more resonant. The plot progressed, the characters deepened, and all of this was done with the beguilingly earnest sentimentality that has been Once Upon a Time’s calling card from the start.
I can’t begin talking about the finer points in this episode without saying this: HOW DARE YOU, HOOK? HOW DARE YOU, WRITERS? I WAS JUST STARTING TO LIKE AURORA!
In all seriousness, though, I loved Aurora in this episode. Gone was the whiny, wimpy princess, and in her place was a woman with courage of conviction and a strength that was beautiful. She may not be a warrior like Mulan or Snow, but she’s got her own kind of power. It took a while for us to see it, but once we did I kind of fell in love with the way her gentle spirit turned to steel when she needed to be strong. I really hope this isn’t another case of the writers developing a character just in time to kill them like they did with Graham (R.I.P., all of my Emma/Graham hopes). I feel like there’s more story to be told for Aurora, though, so I’m hoping this heart plot doesn’t end with Cora crushing it in her palm. And do you all think Hook really took her heart, or did he get it from someone else? Is he really that evil? And if he is, did he learn that dark magic from Cora, Regina, or someone else entirely?
I still can’t find it in me to care about Mulan, though, but I’m willing to hold out hope that I’ll have my “Aurora moment” with her, too. There’s something surprisingly flat about the character (I can’t decide if it’s the writing or the actress). But with so many fantastic female characters and actresses populating those Enchanted Forest scenes, I’m okay with not loving her right now. I’ll settle for watching her join Emma and Snow in great fight sequences like the one in this episode. I’ve been waiting for these three to really let loose in terms of a good fight scene for a while, and it didn’t disappoint. Having three princesses—three female characters—act as the action heroes in a fairy tale is groundbreaking. And seeing Snow White flip her switch into “badass mode” will never stop making me smile.
Another thing that will never stop making me smile: the deliciously complex relationship between Regina and Rumplestiltskin. Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle are never better than when they’re scene partners, and, lucky for us as viewers, that happened a lot in last night’s episode. From their snarky banter in Granny’s diner to their shared look of concern when Charming didn’t wake up, their interactions in this episode continued to build upon the effortlessly electric rapport they established with their unforgettable confrontation in last season’s “Skin Deep.” Their chemistry is like a perfectly executed tango—dynamic, tense, and captivating.
Parrilla was one of the standout performers in this episode, which was no surprise given her character’s emotional arc. Scenes between Henry and Regina are always memorable because they humanize this villain in a way that not even her relationship with Daniel ever could. In this episode more than any other this season, I found myself buying into the idea that Regina is trying to find redemption through loving Henry. The small moments between mother and son were beautiful, and I was so thankful that the writers allowed them those moments of love because the hesitant affection between Parrilla and Jared Gilmore was one of the most affecting things about this episode.
Gilmore must be a fantastic young actor because he has brought incredibly rich performances out of his scene partners this season. In this episode alone, his scenes with both Parrilla and Josh Dallas were highlights. He and Dallas have perfected their chemistry over these first eight episodes; the warmth between them feels natural and genuine.
And speaking of chemistry…If you’ll permit me the use of all caps one more time: WE FINALLY GOT A SNOW/CHARMING SCENE! Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin bring something truly special out of each other as actors. The scene between them in the netherworld was filled with such bittersweet tenderness that I found it impossible to watch without the tissue box next to me. Dallas made me believe that Charming would literally jump through fire for the chance to hold his wife again, that being cursed to remain in that fiery netherworld was worth it because he got to see Snow again and tell her he loved her one more time. And Goodwin made me feel every ounce of Snow’s fear that finding and losing each other will always be their fate. The most poignant moment in the episode was Snow’s realization that she was waking up and leaving Charming alone in that dangerous place.
Goodwin is the true heart and soul of this show; Once Upon a Time doesn’t work without an actress who makes Snow White a convincing fighter, lover, and mother. In this episode alone, Goodwin proved to be all of those things and more. “Into the Deep” showed us that Charming has always been the believer, and what he believes in most is Snow. Once Upon a Time is a show about belief in fairy tales and magic, but more that that, it’s a show about believing in the people you love. Charming has faith in love because he has faith in Snow. And that faith is something we buy into because we can see that Snow is worth having faith in (as is her husband).
The end of this episode perfectly set up next week’s midseason finale (cue cries of “Already?!”). The cliffhanger felt earned and emotionally gripping; it made me feel beyond just wondering what the heck is going to happen to both Charming and Aurora next week. All I can hope for in next week’s episode is a reunion for these two groups of characters who desperately need to share the screen again. If this episode’s job was to make me miss having my favorite characters all in one place with a frightening intensity, then I have to say that job was executed to perfection.