TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.09



I apologize for the brief hiatus that caused me to miss the last episode, fellow Oncers! I was off having a magical Disney adventure and then having a very non-magical adventure catching up on all the work I missed during my time away. But I’m back now and ready to talk about all things Storybrooke!

Title Changelings

Two-Sentence Summary As Belle is faced with the threat of her pregnancy being sped up so Rumplestiltskin can take her baby and Emma is faced with more detailed visions of her death, both women find the strength to fight for the fate of those they love. In flashbacks to Belle’s time in Rumplestiltskin’s castle, she witnesses a confrontation between the Dark One and his long-lost mother.

Favorite Line “I never wanted you to be perfect. I just wanted you to try.” (Belle, to Rumplestiltskin)

My Thoughts Love is not easy. It calls for sacrifice, selflessness, and the knowledge that sometimes you have to put your own pain and fear aside to do the right thing for the person you love. Love asks us to be brave, to try, and to believe. To love fully and truly is a hero’s calling, and Once Upon a Time has always shown that the most heroic thing a person can do is open their heart to love.

“Changelings” was an episode that proved that the strongest, bravest heroes on Once Upon a Time are the characters who are willing to do the difficult thing for the ones they love. And it did this by contrasting the heroes and villains in incredibly stark ways.

At the center of this episode was the conflict between Belle and Rumplestiltskin over the fate of their child, and that conflict has its roots in Rumplestiltskin’s inability to understand what Belle clearly does: Love does not demand perfection, but it does demand effort.

No matter how much power he amasses, Rumplestiltskin will always be a coward. He’s afraid that his son won’t love him, so he wants to force him to love him by cutting the ties to his fate. He’s afraid of losing his son, so he goes to drastic measures to keep him—including threatening Belle with an expedited pregnancy. And he’s afraid to put the hard work in that it takes to truly love someone, so he takes the easy way out—hiding behind the idea that he’s “unlovable” instead of trying to be a better person for his wife and unborn baby.

That’s always been Rumplestiltskin’s way—he always looks for a magical solution instead of making sacrifices and working hard to do the right thing for the people in his life. His actions in this episode were no exception. As Belle stated so perfectly, she never asked for him to be perfect; she just wanted to see him trying to be the best version of himself. Once he stropped trying and clearly stopped believing in himself, she stopped believing in him, too. As sad as that is, it also fills me with a sense of pride for Belle. This season has been all about her standing up for herself and her child, and it was powerful to see her refuse to give in to her husband’s demands and tell him that he would lose her forever if he used magic to take away their son.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.07



Title Heartless

Two-Sentence Summary When the Evil Queen gives Snow and Charming an ultimatum—give up their shared heart or force all of Storybrooke to suffer from the water of the River of Lost Souls—it allows several characters to think and talk about what True Love really means. In flashbacks, it’s revealed that the first sparks of True Love were ignited between Snow and Charming long before they even saw the other’s face.

Favorite Line “Knowing you believe in me means I’m not alone.” (Snow, to Charming)

My Thoughts For an episode titled “Heartless,” this had more heart than any other Once Upon a Time episode so far this season. It was another beautifully romantic chapter in the sweeping love story of Snow and Charming—the love story that first sold me on this show and the love story that will always hold a special spot in my heart. And as this episode allowed us to focus on the True Love between Snow and Charming, it also reminded us that their daughter is living out her own love story with a man whose belief in her echoes the belief that makes her parents’ love so strong.

Most of us who watch Once Upon a Time didn’t start watching it because we thought it would add more realism into our media-consuming lives. We started watching it because we needed an escape. We needed a fairytale. And sometimes it’s nice to watch episodes of this show that give us exactly that—the fairytale, the epic romance, the beacon of hope even when things seem to be at their worst. When life is hard (like in the final days before a presidential election that has everyone in America on edge), it’s nice to turn on the TV and watch something that makes you feel good. And even though “Heartless” ended with quite the heartbreaking twist, I still walked away from it feeling good, feeling uplifted, and feeling hopeful. This is why I watch Once Upon a Time and will continue to watch it as long as the TV gods keep it on the air.

“Heartless” was an episode about True Love, and, as such, it felt right that a quote about belief played such an important part in it. True Love and belief have always gone hand-in-hand on this show; to truly love someone, you need to believe in them, and you need to open your heart to let their belief in you help you grow stronger. Snow and Charming have always exemplified this idea—going so far as to believe in their love to the point of sharing a heart. But this episode showed that their belief in each other goes back even further than they knew.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.06



Title Dark Waters

Two-Sentence Summary After Henry discovers that Killian kept the shears that could cut Emma’s ties to being the Savior, the two of them are forced to work out their issues 20,000 leagues under the sea while being held captive by Killian’s half-brother. Meanwhile, Belle faces her first ultrasound appointment, and Emma and Aladdin bond over being reluctant Saviors.

Favorite Lines
Killian: What made you come back?
Henry: You said you couldn’t ruin one more family…Neither could I.

My Thoughts One of my favorite things about Once Upon a Time is that it is uniquely focused on women and their relationships with one another. However, that doesn’t mean that its male characters are left without proper development and compelling relationships in their own right. “Dark Waters” was an episode that centered on the complex family dynamics between some of the male characters on this show, and, its tight focus on one compelling relationship in particular (the often-underdeveloped one between Killian and Henry) made it one of the best episodes of this sixth season.

First of all, say what you want about the Evil Queen (and all I’ll say for now is that her Southern accent in this episode was the weirdest acting choice I’ve ever seen Lana Parrilla make), but she gets things done. I appreciate a woman who doesn’t let secrets stay secrets for long, and if having her around means no unnecessary angst lasts longer than an episode, then I guess I can handle her meddling in the lives of our heroes for a little while longer.

The Evil Queen will never be successful, though, because she consistently underestimates her opponents. If you’ll permit me a Harry Potter reference, it’s like Voldemort’s weakness being his inability to understand love. The Evil Queen thinks that everyone will react to things the way she would—with grudges that last a lifetime. But that’s not how heroes operate. As Rumplestiltskin said, forgiveness is a virtue, but it’s one the Evil Queen does not understand, which foiled her plans to drive the Charming Family apart.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.05



Title Street Rats

Two-Sentence Summary After Jasmine reveals that Aladdin was also a Savior, Emma leads the charge to try to find him alive, with her family’s full knowledge of her visions and how Aladdin’s fate is tied to hers. When Aladdin is found, he gives Emma a pair of shears that can sever her fate and save her life by making her no longer the Savior.

Favorite Line “I have actual magic in my life—I have you. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.” (Emma, to Henry)

My Thoughts Honesty is power. We’re at our strongest when we’re honest with ourselves about who we are, and our relationships are at their strongest when we’re honest with those we love. Accepting the truth—both our own truth and the truth that lives in the hearts of those we love—is the key to developing into the best version of ourselves and creating strong and stable relationships.

Honesty seems to be turning into a major theme this season on Once Upon a Time. For as strange as the Evil Queen and Zelena’s spa day was (and it was incredibly strange), it brought up a central concept for this season: owning who you are and what you’ve done. Although the last thing I want is for Zelena to raise her daughter to only know her mother as the Wicked Witch, the Evil Queen brought up a good point about how she can’t hide that part of her identity from her daughter. She was right; Henry hated the fact that Regina lied to him and made him feel like he was crazy for so much of his life. It was only when she became honest with him about who she was and her struggle to be a better version of herself that he could find it in his heart to love and forgive her.

Zelena’s little girl should know who her mother was, but she should also know the better person her mother was trying to be. For as much as Zelena is the Wicked Witch, she is also the woman who wanted to be more than that not so long ago. She needs to be honest with herself about the fact that the good part of her is as much a part of her as the wicked part. And the only way she can do that is by getting away from the Evil Queen, who wants to bring out her worst self.

The Evil Queen was at her worst in this episode, encouraging Zelena to embrace her darkness (Poor Archie!), taking a page out of her mother’s playbook and taking the form of someone else in order to get information and create discord (Poor Archie again!), and killing an innocent because she wouldn’t help her. (Looks like I was wrong about the seer being Jafar in disguise.) But I must admit that I didn’t mind that she ended up being the plot device that led to Emma’s secret being out in the open. It was past time it happened, and if it took the Evil Queen masquerading as Archie to force Emma’s hand, then so be it.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.04



Title Strange Case

Two-Sentence Summary When it seems Belle is in danger of being attacked by Hyde and the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin goes to drastic measures to try to keep her safe. However, flashbacks reveal that Hyde may not be the one everyone should be worried about.

Favorite Line “I don’t need your protection!” (Belle, to Rumplestiltskin)

My Thoughts Once Upon a Time has always asserted that no one is completely good or completely evil. “Villains” have the potential for goodness in them, just as “heroes” have the potential for darkness. “We are both,” as the show has said time and again, and, as such, it was hard for me to understand how the show’s version of story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that was introduced in last season’s finale—which seemed to be about physically separating yourself into two halves—could fit into that ethos. It turned out that Jekyll and Hyde fit perfectly into Once Upon a Time’s vision of good and evil because neither half was exactly what they appeared to be. Hyde was not the singularly sociopathic monster we thought he was, and Jekyll was far from the meek, harmless man he appeared to be at first sight.

Ultimately, just like every other character on this show, Jekyll and Hyde were both, and no amount of magic or science could completely separate them. At first, I was annoyed with Mary’s obvious attraction to Hyde because the “every girl loves the bad boy” trope is not one I agree with or want to see on television—especially not on a television show kids watch. However, upon discovering just how inseparable Jekyll and Hyde really were, I came to believe that Mary’s attraction was to the fact that Hyde was brave and uninhibited, not that he was bad. She appreciated his passion and his ownership of that passion, which if Jekyll was brave enough to show to her when he was himself, she might have come to love in him as well. Mary was attracted to Hyde because he wasn’t afraid to be himself, while Jekyll felt he had to hide and eventually physically break with part of himself.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.02


Source: ABC/Eike Schroter

Title A Bitter Draught

Two-Sentence Summary When the Count of Monte Cristo shows up in Storybrooke, he tries to finish the job Regina gave him years ago—killing Snow and Charming. As the Count’s plan begins to unfold, Regina discovers that the Evil Queen is not only still alive, she’s planning a twisted game to prove to Regina that she still has darkness inside of her.

Favorite Line “I have a long road to travel before I can be someone I can be proud of. Despite the forgiveness of others, I must forgive myself, and I’m not there yet.” (Killian)

My Thoughts Sometimes thinking about the future is exciting, but sometimes it’s terrifying. Sometimes it feels easier to hide from a future that could end in pain, and sometimes it feels easier to ignore or push down the things we’re afraid of rather than facing them. Fear is a powerful motivating factor, but there is something more powerful: hope. As such, it seems fitting that this season of Once Upon a Time seems poised to address that universal conflict between fear and hope in a number of major storylines.

On the most obvious level, that conflict was addressed immediately upon finding out what the Land of Untold Stories really was. It was a land people escaped to when they were afraid of finding out how their stories would end. It was a place they ran to out of fear and hopelessness, thinking it was better to have no story than to have a story that could end badly.

That’s where Operation Cobra Part 2 came in. The original Operation Cobra was about restoring happy endings for people who’d forgotten their stories, but, as Henry so astutely pointed out at the end of this episode, the sequel is going to be a lot more complicated. From what we know so far, these people actively chose not to have a story; their lives weren’t put on pause by a force beyond their control. So it’s going to take more work to get them to believe in their own ability to have a story that ends happily. But if anyone can do it, it’s Henry. As the Truest Believer and the Author, he has the unique ability to help people believe their stories are worth living out. And not only do the citizens of the Land of Untold Stories need that hope, Henry’s mothers need it, too.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.01

Welcome back, fellow Oncers! I can’t wait to spend another season discussing all the fairytale fun and feelings with you, so don’t hesitate to jump in and start a conversation in the comments. Just remember, we like to keep things as positive and respectful as we can here at NGN!



Title The Savior

Two-Sentence Summary As Hyde and the others from the Land of Untold Stories arrive in Storybrooke, Emma struggles with side effects of being a Savior, including visions of her death. Meanwhile, Rumplestiltskin attempts to wake Belle, and Regina tries to work through her grief after losing Robin.

Favorite Line “I choose to believe that this story will have a better ending.” (Regina)

My Thoughts If Once Upon a Time has taught us anything, it’s this: We have the power to choose how our stories end. We have the power to push back against the forces that try to tell us what our story will be. And that power comes from belief—belief in our own strength, belief in those who love us and want to help us, and belief that light and love is stronger than fear and darkness.

In “The Savior,” that lesson—that the only way we can get a happy ending is by believing we can have a happy ending—was at the center of its three main storylines: Rumplestiltskin’s quest to wake Belle, Regina’s difficulty working through her grief, and Emma’s discovery of her decidedly unhappy fate.

Like most Once Upon a Time season premieres, this one spent a fair amount of time setting up conflicts for this season. However, it also featured a surprising number of emotional moments for a season premiere, especially for a show that tends to favor plot over prolonged character beats. The return to a Storybrooke setting certainly helped: Less world building means more time can be spent on the characters and relationships we already know and love. And it seems that this season is going to explore the benefits of characters actually dealing with what has happened to them in a healthy way, which is a wonderfully realistic approach to emotional health for a story about fairytale characters.

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TV Time: The Americans 4.13

the americans s4 finale


Title: Persona Non Grata

Episode M.V.P.: Everyone
This might seem like a copout, but “Persona Non Grata” was a total team effort. Each actor was given their time to shine, and each performance worked with and added to the others. Masterpieces generally aren’t painted using only one color, and symphonies don’t work with only one instrument. In the same way, this powerful finale was the sum of all of its talented parts.

What impressed me the most about this episode was the way it balanced its stories so well, giving every character we’ve come to care about an important story to tell. This allowed every actor in this brilliant ensemble a chance to do something special, and they ran with it.

Of course, there were the big moments: Dylan Baker’s heartbreaking work as William died a horrible death—made even more horrible by the fact that he was alone; Matthew Rhys’s stunning monologue about feeling sick every day before going to work; Costa Ronin’s poignant farewell scenes; and Holly Taylor’s masterfully ambiguous performance as Paige and Matthew grew closer.

But I also found myself entranced by the smaller beats in this episode, the silent moments that reminded me of the trust this show places in its actors to convey so much without words. I was spellbound watching Noah Emmerich’s face as Stan took in William’s words about loneliness, the sad understanding creeping across his features. I found myself close to tears as Taylor’s face changed from joy to longing to hopeless sorrow as she held Pastor Tim and Alice’s baby and was suddenly confronted with the reality of her own journey from childhood to the awful grownup world she’s found herself in—a world that could jeopardize the future of this little girl. I was devastated by the exhaustion and hopelessness in Lev Gordon’s posture as Arkady processed the fact that he was being sent back to Russia. I even found myself getting emotional over Tatiana, as Vera Cherny sold her sincere sadness over Oleg’s departure in a way I wasn’t expecting.

And that’s not even including the incredibly charged silences between Rhys and Keri Russell throughout the episode. Russell didn’t speak much in “Persona Non Grata,” especially compared to some of the other episodes this season, but she still delivered a knockout performance. The entire sequence of moments between Philip and Elizabeth after Gabriel suggested they return to Russia was a master class in using silence to your advantage as an actor. You could almost see the wheels turning in Elizabeth’s head as she processed what it might mean to return “home” after building a real home in America with her family. The war between officer and mother was raging inside Elizabeth, and the only evidence we saw of it was in Russell’s intense eyes. Watching her and Rhys in those scenes made me feel afraid to blink because I might miss something, and that’s when this show is at its very best.

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TV Time: The Americans 4.12

the americans 411


Title: A Roy Rogers in Franconia

Episode M.V.P.: Keri Russell and Holly Taylor
For those of you who don’t know, in addition to being a writer and editor, I’m also a dance teacher, and this weekend was my students’ big recital (which is one of the main reasons why this post is so late). As such, I’ve been thinking a lot about dance lately. So maybe I just have dance on the brain, but every time I watch Keri Russell and Holly Taylor share a scene together, I think about them not just as the actors they are but as the trained ballet dancers they are as well. Their dance training has not only given them both beautiful posture (which makes them feel related even when they’re just sitting next to each other); it’s also given them a unique ability to naturally convey emotion through their body. And that shared ability to say so much through movement and expression—to make the emotional something physical—was put on prominent display in this episode. The placement of their bodies in a scene—the way they responded to each other’s touch or lack thereof, the angle of their body and head as the other spoke—took what was already stellar writing and made it feel grounded in a very physical reality.

Russell has been on a hot streak the likes of which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen from an actor in a weekly series before. Each week she’s been turning in career performances, and this week was no exception. The most astounding thing about Russell’s work in this episode was the way she followed up Elizabeth’s violent actions at the end of last week’s episode with such soft, sincere uncertainty. That’s Elizabeth in a nutshell; she is supremely confident when it comes to disarming enemies, but she is so unsure of herself when it comes to connecting with the people she loves. And what’s been so beautiful about Russell’s performance is the way she believably lets us see both sides of this complex character. My favorite thing about her work in this episode was the cautious, almost frightened way she carried herself in the early scenes with Paige. You could feel her fear that she’d become a monster in her daughter’s eyes, and it was amazing to see that this was the one thing that could scare the seemingly unshakeable Elizabeth Jennings.

Russell is a master of nuance, and it seems Taylor is taking her apprenticeship under her seriously. Paige feels like a real teenager thrust into a heightened reality, and one of the best things about Taylor’s performance is that she imbues it with a genuine sense of confusion and uncertainty without ever making Paige feel like an idiot. It was a true joy to watch Taylor in this episode because she made Paige’s actions feel just as layered in their intentions as her parents’ actions always feel. She showed us that Paige was both terrified of what she witnessed her mother do and intrigued by what motivated her to learn to do it. She was both sincerely connecting with Matthew and using that connection to help her family. She was both eager for more answers about what her parents really do and immediately regretful that she asked. (Her wonderfully sarcastic “Great…” might have been one of the show’s most perfect conclusions to an episode.) Every time Paige is in the spotlight, Taylor shows that she’s not just a great young actor; she’s a great actor. And this episode was another example of her holding her own alongside the best actors on television.

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TV Time: The Americans 4.11

the americans 411


I apologize for making like the Statue of Liberty and disappearing for a while, but between a wonderfully long Disney World vacation and the holiday weekend, I haven’t had much time to write! But before I get back to writing, I think we should all take a minute and share a collective happy sigh over the news that Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys welcomed their new baby into the world earlier this month. Congratulations to them!

Title: Dinner For Seven

Episode M.V.P.: Keri Russell
Consider this a cumulative M.V.P. award for Russell’s outstanding work in the last bunch of episodes. Her performance throughout this Don/Young Hee arc has been a thing of layered, complex beauty—some of her best work on this show to date. And her performance in this episode was no exception. Russell has taken Elizabeth to an intensely vulnerable place in these last few weeks, and she’s done so in a way that feels true to this character, who still believes she’s not supposed to have emotional reactions to her job. Elizabeth isn’t going to break down sobbing over losing someone she considered a friend, and she’s not going to have a heart-to-heart talk with anyone about what she had to do to a beautiful family. Instead, she’s going to show her guilt, grief, and emotional exhaustion in the tiniest but most heartbreaking ways: crying even after she leaves Don and doesn’t need to act heartbroken anymore, closing her eyes tighter when Philip holds her, and hanging up the phone with shaking hands when she hears Young Hee crying. This is what happens when Elizabeth’s carefully compartmentalized emotions start seeping out of their compartments, and it’s fascinating to watch her begin to struggle with the idea that the human cost of what she’s doing—including what she’s doing to herself—might be too much.

Russell was brilliant throughout this episode, but her masterfully subtle take on Elizabeth’s emotional awakening was best shown through her scenes with Pastor Tim. In their first interaction, Elizabeth was clearly still seeing him as an opposing force. Her posture, her tone of voice, and her choice of words were all careful and professional. In their first scene alone in the church, Elizabeth’s softness still felt like an act, and we could see she was still dealing with him as a potential threat. However, by her final scene with him, those lines between sincerity and artifice were blurred in the way only this show can blur them. The way she searched for words, the soft way she spoke, and the lost look in her eyes made me believe at least some part of her was really trying to get advice about finding clarity and comfort when things feel overwhelming. Of course, part of her was probably saying those things to keep him close and to manage him like any other asset. However, Russell played that moment with just enough vulnerability that I could feel the truth in what Elizabeth was saying about her mental and emotional state.

Elizabeth’s growing vulnerability and clear unease with what she’s been asked to do contrasted so well with the episode’s final scene, which reminded us that she’s still a trained killer who should be feared. The way her body snapped into action so instinctively was amazing, and I was captivated by the feral look in her eyes as she protected herself and her daughter and also by the businesslike way she dealt with the aftermath—with just a hint of concern in her eyes about what her child just witnessed. Elizabeth Jennings is one of the most fascinating female characters on television, and the woman who brings her to life each week deserves every bit of recognition imaginable for bringing such powerful complexity to this role.

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