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A Man at the End of His (Self-Spun, Golden) Rope: OUaT 2.12

“In the Name of the Brother!”  (punctuation added.)  While this sounds like your favorite new expletive, it is actually the title of this week’s Once Upon a Time installment.  And just like that, it’s back into the frying pan with the newly Mementoed Belle.  Her gunshot wound is gone as quickly as if this were a daytime soap (magic, ‘nuff said), but the psychological trauma lives on…

Luckily for everyone, the Storybrooke first responders are also the First Family of Storybrooke!  Charming and Snow and co. are on the scene in time to watch Gold deliver a splendid kick to Hook’s bestubbled face.  Gold regrets nothing – as he shouldn’t! – because while he may have (may have) kicked the pirate in the face, Hook did steal Gold’s wife first!  While two wrongs do not make a right, the onus of provocation is definitely on the one-armed captain.  And then he goes and shoots Gold’s OTHER lover!  Big bully!

In luxuriating fashion, someone takes notice of the out-of-towner languishing in the smoking car in the ditch, and the idea of administering medical care to that gentleman is bandied about.  Someone acquiesces, but with little enthusiasm.  Mostly, they’re scared shitless that he drove off the road ON THE WAY INTO TOWN!!!!!  AHHHHHH!!!!!!

Whoa, LOST flashbacks: A surgeon in a hospital getting ripped on Scotch?  Paging Doctor Shephard!  Just kidding, that would be ridiculous.  This is Doctor Frankenstein.

This week we’ll be sojourning not in our usual realm of Fairy Tale (alias The Enchanted Forest, or whatever you care for), but in Frankenstein’s world, which I’m sure has more going on in it than one deranged physician, but mostly that.  And a blue-tinged black and white color palette.  Maybe his world also contains Pleasantville!

What’s up in pre-Dorothy Oz is that the man we knew as Dr. Whale is Victor Frankenstein (it’s only important to know his first name so you can distinguish between him and his bizarro-Prince-Charming brother Gerhardt.  Here’s a handy mnemonic for anyone who saw The Avengers: Gerhardt is Thor, Victor is Loki (but so much less attractive), and their overbearing father is (duh) Odin.  Insert literally any brotherly rivalry in literature or film to suit your own liking.  Every story’s already been told.

Surrealism is the best part of Once Upon a Time.  Suspending your disbelief is stupidly easy on shows like Game of Thrones that revel in the gritty realism of their constructed world, but on Once Upon a Time you get scenes like Captain Hook being wheeled into an ER on a gurney, and you can only look about your (empty) living room (filled with empty soda cans and detritus) and ask (yourself) what the fuck are you seriously watching?

Elsewhere in the three-room hospital of infinite malpractice lawsuits, a creepy old man is kissing a sleeping girl.  Unfortunately he’s in the WRONG WORLD and that doesn’t fly here, so she understandably wakes up screaming for help (which, hilariously, never comes.  I hope Storybrooke’s female residents are well-stocked in pepper spray.)  Joking aside, though, my stone heart broke seeing Mr. Gold’s anguished countenance when his effort failed to bring Belle back to him.  (Why is life so much easier for Charming?  Some guys have all the luck.)

Storybrooke is pretty firmly establishing itself as a backwards cess pool of ignorance. The SHERIFF (and her mom and dad, natch) is invading the privacy of a private citizen by nonchalantly hacking into his phone – oh, and surreptitiously failing to use that access to comfort or reassure his family of his un-death.  Also, a heavy-handed discussion of outsiders ensues, during which ABC might as well flash the word “XENOPHOBIA” every 10th frame like in Fight Club.  It’s well-tread but valid territory: the rest of the world would destroy the denizens of Storybrooke if they knew the truth; but is that a good enough reason to act tyrannically and unjustly?  The old Snow White would have fought against this!

I’m at least encouraged that Snow/Mary Margaret is the only person to notice, or at least the only one to say out loud that Whale is “drunk off his ass.”  For this reason, the good doctor implores Mr. Gold (fresh from the world’s worst kiss) to magic the stranger back to health.  Gold unapologetically tells the townsfolk to fuck off; he doesn’t owe anyone anything, and he won’t help the man simply because he doesn’t feel the need.  This is a man at the end of his (self-spun, golden) rope.  Be prepared!  Also fulfilling his role as the town’s de facto wise elder, Gold points out that it would be in everyone’s best interest, actually, if the stranger did die.  Your moral debate has just been personified.  Luckily, Prince Moral Absolutist says “fix ‘im!”  And onward.

In his past life, Dr. Frankenstein encounters a stranger from a strange land.  It’s our dear Rumpelstiltskin in happier (or only slightly less unhinged) times, and in full Technicolor regalia!  Is the good doctor WIGGIN’ over this heretofore unknown spectrum?!  No.  Missed opportunity, but anyways…  We know this story already, because we saw it before in the episode “The Doctor” that revealed Whale’s counterpart.  Rumpelstiltskin wants the doctor to come to Fairy Tale to couple his science with Regina’s heart-rending abilities to create a Zombification Dream Team, and to that end the Dark One becomes Frankenstein’s benefactor.  Good luck paying for stuff in the land without color using solid gold.

But while the Dark One’s flitting across worlds investing, his Storybrooke counterpart is pouting at the sadly inanimate Chip (omg you’d better know what that means or stop watching this show) when someone pays him an unwelcome visit!  Dude needs to seriously get that lock changed.  It’s Cora, who gives even the Dark One a small, surreptitiously hidden scare, which in turn terrifies us.  She wants his help, and ugh who doesn’t; no one cares about what HE wants!  Le pauvre.

At least Cora had the decency to bring a bribe: she leaves Gold with a blank white globe (which at first looked to me like a giant goose egg, and only on this show is that a credible option) meant to help his quest for Baelfyre.  Cora also gamely tries the age-old method of ingratiating oneself with the enemy to extract help or information, but I’d like to think Gold is too smart for this.  No way is he buying that Cora really just wants to get her daughter back, because that’s exactly what he wants!  Gold knows what that pain looks like, and I just don’t think he sees it in Barbara Hershey’s maleficent face.  Desperation is the father of partnership, though, and they strike an uneasy deal, WHICH CORA MAKES THEM SEAL WITH A KISS EWWWWW.  Horrible.  Awful.  No.  NO!

Now that the whole audience has been traumatized, we go to our comfort zone: Prince Charming acting smug!  He tells Dr. Whale, “Let’s save this guy, alright?”  You’re not saving anyone, DAVID!  Ugh.  Alright, I’m ready to get on with it now.

Things get rough for Papa Frankenstein in a hurry when he walks in on one of his sons cutting up the other one. “Victor, you were seen carrying a body into this house!” “Awwww, shucks Dad!” Victor is disowned.

Big picture stuff: Insofar as characters in big mythology-driven dramas each have a “project”, Whale/Frankenstein’s is to restore his brother to life.  This would mean his own redemption for bringing about Gerhardt’s death, the fruition of his life’s work, and the return of the only person he truly loves.  This is also sort of Regina’s project.  And Rumpelstiltskin’s.  And maybe Cora’s…  Do we think Once Upon a Time has something to say about lost love?

Speaking of strained parent-child relationships!  Here’s Cora absolutely CREEPIN’ through Regina’s house.  It is very Sleeping With the Enemy.  Then, yet more troubled members of that clan: Henry is just wandering through the graveyard at night, evincing the need for a Storybrooke Child Protective Services.  But not to fear, he’s just visiting his mom, who’s hiding in the gorgeous sitting parlor she magicked behind a mirror inside the mausoleum/heart repository.  I had a scathing remark about Henry half-typed before segueing into OH SHIT IT’S CORA.  Good on her for making me allcaps on a regular basis.  She seems to come in peace, which means she wants to watch the world burn.

Along the same disingenuous lines that led Cora to try to empathize with Mr. Gold, she now offers a blanket mea culpa to her daughter.  Luckily the (poison) apple didn’t fall far from the tree, and Regina sees right through it.  Cora framed Regina to weaken her for expressly this purpose, and it’s so unfair because Regina really was trying to be better!  Their story ends this week with Cora eerily threatening, “For you, sweetheart, anything.”  Dun dun dunnnnn.

Across town, Dr. Whale is Titanicing the stranger’s pocketwatch, presumably for reminding him of his mother’s pocketwatch, gifted to his brother Gerhardt in the land without color back when his father first drove a wedge between them.  He then tries to jump in, because oh cruel world!  But it’s like three feet from the dock to the water line, and I think it’s mid-autumn, so that’s about the worst suicide plot I ever heard of.  Ruby “saves” him… from getting his clothes wet at least.  The two even bond over their past-lives angst, outlining the argument for staying in Storybrooke: a second chance to “get it right” (yeeeeeah, maybe watch Lost and see how that worked out for all those guys.)  You can’t leave the past behind, and these two would do well not to try.

To his credit Dr. Whale does plod back to the hospital and patch the stranger up.  Though to Mr. Gold’s, that guy totally did see magic and is outing them as we speak.  Life sucks.

On our last trip to the land of black and white, the big reveal: Frankenstein’s monster!  It used to be Gerhardt, but now he doesn’t speak, is angry and irrational, and seems consumed by pain.  Papa Frankenstein provokes Victor for the last time, and Was-Gerhardt commits bare-handed patricide.  Interestingly, the creature stops instantly at Victor’s hand on his shoulder; but is he loyal to brother or creator?

Victor tries to determine just that.  The monster speaks his name, then we see something click in his mind or memory, and suddenly anguish grips him.  The thing that looks like Gerhardt crouches in a corner and Victor draws a pistol, in what any one of us would call mercy.  But he can’t do it!  But the monster wants it!  But he can’t!  Victor’s plan to save his brother solidifies, and his life’s course is set.

Everyone’s favorite metaphorical crocodile throws one last idea at the wall hoping it sticks: he uses the talisman potion on Chip and presents it to Belle, but she’s too far gone and then he pushes her too hard and she dashes the thing against the wall.  Rumpel’s face crumples horribly, and he’s unsubtly shown limping away with his cane, a thoroughly broken man.  He repairs to his shop, where he pulls out the ominous milky white globe.  It has a convenient pricking apparatus on top, all the better for dripping a single drop of blood onto the thing, which then spreads magically into a map.  This map reveals something glowing brightly… like, right around New Jersey?!  I approve of this.

Now, conveniently, the Charmings (I need something to call this family unit, and best I can tell this is their surname) hang out in their studio apartment (?!) recapping the important issues at hand, AND teasing next week for us!  Emma HILARIOUSLY reminds Snow about that time she slept with Dr. Frankenstein, in the funniest line ever spoken.  Henry points out that Frankenstein isn’t from their own world (The Enchanted Forest), opening up the possibility that anyone could show up on Once now, be they Disney princess or not.  And Gold comes in to a) cash in on a favor from Emma by inviting her on a roadtrip to find Baelfyre, and b) solemnly promise that if any harm comes to Belle while he’s gone he’ll kill the whole family.  Badassery!



Are we credulous that literally every attractive man in town openly hits on Emma?  First Graham, then August (WHERE ARE YOU!?) and now Hook.

I’m not one to cut a lot of slack, but maybe we could forgive Whale’s operating arm for not being tip top since it was CHOPPED OFF AND REGROWN.

The stranger’s phone has his maybe-girlfriend listed as “HER”, which I think I love.

It seems a little gauche of Henry to call both Emma and Regina “Mom.”  You can’t have your poisoned apple fritter and eat it too, kid.

“I ate my boyfriend.”  -Ruby, sounding like something out of Heathers

Hahahaha Cora riding in a car for the first time.

Is this stranger an aged Ethan Embry?!  Yaaaay!  I *can’t hardly wait* to see more of him!  Speaking of which, is anyone on the show wondering why he drove into Storybrooke?

Snow and Emma basically recapped the Storybrooke side of the episode for me, and much more succinctly: “Rumpelstiltskin and Captain Hook had a fight and someone got hurt.  We weren’t sure if Doctor Frankenstein could fix him but he did.”  I mean it guys, absurdity.


Catch up with last week’s recap: 99 Problems But Belle Ain’t One

And see you back in THREE WEEKS (!?!) for “Tiny.”


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