by Jeremy Grossman
Finally, it feels like “Once Upon A Time” knows what it’s doing. For the first four episodes, the show has been hit-or-miss, with stiff plotlines that did little to develop the confused cast of characters. But “That Still Small Voice” was exciting, clever, heartwarming, and even a little scary.
Continuing with the character-centric theme, “Voice” delved into the background of wishy-washy Archie Hopper — “Jiminy Cricket” — but the show has explored a character’s history in every episode. This time around it was particularly exhilarating because the real world story flowed as fluidly as its fairy tale counterpart. When a mine in Storybrooke collapses, leaving Archie and Henry trapped underneath, the show creates a direct conflict that forces its characters to develop.
Archie and Henry, two of the show’s most repetitious characters, at last grow, as this near-death experience brings them closer together. Emma and Regina, while not at all friends, become something more than shrieking dogs when their shared love for Henry forces them to work together toward a common goal. These characters now have room to breathe and places to go. They are characters worth caring about, and when a character almost dies, it actually means something.
Also worth caring about is the show’s mythology. What is the significance of the mines? What is Regina trying to hide there? Could it be a portal to the fairy tale world, like the rabbit hole from “Alice in Wonderland?” As the characters become more fascinating, so do these mysteries. It seems unlikely that the show won’t unite the two worlds, and it seems that with the addition of the mysterious mines, the show may be beginning to do just that. Although it sure would be funny albeit a somewhat unfair payoff to audiences if the fairy tale universe really just resided in Henry’s imagination.
The episode writer, Jane Espenson, is famous for her work on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” where she helped to create a show that brought chills and thrills while still exploring complex human relationships. Espenson knows what she is doing, and it shows in “Voice.” While the show reached a new level of humanity with its characters, it also instilled a previously non-existent level of terror. The shocking revelation that Rumpelstiltskin’s potion turns people into puppets, and the shot of those who fell victim to the curse, was wonderful, if only because it proved that “Once Upon A Time” means business. It’s exciting to think that the show could be something more than a fairy tale soap opera; something rather dark – a twisted treasure of a show.
There are many doors that the show has opened with “Voice.” It had so many interesting places to explore that the show’s many flaws fell by the wayside. For once, I can say something that I haven’t been able to say about this show before – I can’t wait to see what the show has in store.
Jeremy Grossman is a staff writer. Email him at email@example.com.