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‘Once Upon a Time’ Review: A Tale of Courage in ‘The Tower’

ABC/Jack Rowand

Once Upon a Time tackled the tale of Rapunzel last night in “The Tower.” As usual, the series put its own spin on the tale and the flashback to the missing year in the Enchanted Forest focused on Prince Charming doubting himself and his abilities to protect his expanding family.

The opening dream sequence of Charming dancing with Emma in her nursery, the latter clad in a princess dress and nervous about her first ball, was beautiful and heartbreaking. The moment was everything Charming had ever wanted for his little girl and of course that happiness was taken away when Emma was sucked through the wardrobe, told her father that he’d failed her and to do better with the next one (Ouch).

A talk with Robin led Charming out into the forest in search of some magic root that would help him defeat his fears. That’s when he found Rapunzel in her tower and vowed to help her. There was a witch keeping her prisoner and Charming was going to fight her, but it turned out she was just the reflection of Rapunzel’s fear and it was up to her to defeat her. She did, Charming reunited her with her parents, etc. Nothing against Rapunzel, the actress did a lovely job, but these scenes felt very much like filler and told us next to nothing about what was going on during the missing year.

Back in present day, Zelena reminded Rumple that she had his knife and he basically dared her to kill him. That wasn’t what she wanted though and instead used the knife to shave him. The scene was creepy and overly sexual and please, please, please, Show, do not make him her father. I am begging you on this one. Zelena stole some of Rumple’s blood and used it to break into his safe at the shop. This makes me think she’s not related to him. And I know everyone is thinking of how she stole Regina’s blood, but remember – she was already living in the castle at that point. She got through Regina’s blood magic because she’s her sister. While she was at the shop, Zelena ‘mistook’ Belle for Mrs. Gold just so she could pour salt in her wounds (Rude).

Zelena also spent some time with Snow and Charming. It’s easy to point out how ridiculous they are for trusting a stranger when they know there’s a witch living among them, but that’s who they are, especially Snow. Yes, it seems naïve to us, but her whole character is a beacon of hope. Of course she’s going to assume the best about people until proven otherwise. Charming was overly distracted and Zelena easily slipped something into his tea to make him lose more of his mind so he’d have to fight his fear.

This was a cool scene. At first, we didn’t know who was beneath the cloak and then it was revealed to be David. And he was definitely not the nice version. Charming battled his inner demon and was able to find the strength to crush him with his sword, which then disappeared. Regina arrived to explain that the sword took his courage. I really loved this reveal. I think the writers are doing a great job of tying in the Oz mythology without sending the whole group there like they did earlier in the season with Neverland. First the witch took Rumple’s mind, now Charming’s courage and I’m guessing someone’s heart will be a stake.

But will it be an actual heart or a symbol? Considering how often people’s hearts get ripped out and used against them in this universe, I think it will be a symbolic heart, like Rumple’s knife and Charming’s sword as opposed to the actual beating organ. Either way, I love this story so far and look forward to see where it’s going and what Zelena’s actual endgame is. Is this just a simple tale of revenge or does she have something much more sinister in mind? Regina doesn’t appear to be her only target. So many questions…

Let’s talk about two more things before we wrap up this week’s episode. First, Regina volunteered to watch Henry so Emma could help search for clues and not worry about him. I said this last week and it’s worth repeating – I love how much Emma and Regina are working together and finding ways for Regina to be there for Henry. It’s so touching to see them putting him first and I love everyone being on the same side. Regina and Henry had a conversation about how Storybrooke is a little odd and Henry was convinced Emma left New York because she was upset about Walsh. He told Regina he wouldn’t have minded having more than two places at the dinner table. Regina assured him that someday he’d have more family than he knew what to do with (well played, Show).

Meanwhile, Emma was with Hook searching for some berries that they found remnants of in Regina’s office. Emma made a comment about the past year and Hook didn’t want to get into what he’d been up to, which led to Emma sensing that he was lying. Hook insisted on sticking to his tale and left it at that. There’s definitely more to the story, like where Hook’s ship is, and what he was doing the past year, but whatever it is, he knows it’s not as important as to what’s going on now. Obviously, I want to know every detail and look forward to finding out all the answers, but I give props to the writers for the way they’re giving us little mysteries and bread crumbs as the episodes unfold.

The conversation switched to Emma’s near engagement to a monkey. Hook wanted details and Emma wasn’t in the mood to be forthcoming, but he pushed her and she admitted that she’d gotten her heart broken. Hook was happy to hear that, which confused Emma until he pointed out that meant it still works. I know reactions to this scene vary, but I loved it. And yes, I do ship Captain Swan so you can say my opinion is biased and maybe it is. But the way I see it, Hook’s point is that Emma is capable of feeling pain and she’s not numb anymore like she was for so long. No one likes pain, but numbness is a million times worse. Emma got hurt and it sucks, but she’s not closing herself off, she’s not shutting down and pushing everyone away. She’s picking herself back up and she’ll be stronger because of it.

That’s what I got out of the line and of course part of the reason Hook said it is because that means there’s a chance she’ll open her heart to him and that makes him happy. I don’t have an issue with that either. Who doesn’t want the person they love to love them back? Emma’s not quite ready to deal with those feelings yet and that’s okay. The two resumed their search and discovered a farmhouse; complete with a bicycle that had a wicker basket on the front and a storm shelter (again, perfect Wizard of Oz touches). Emma wanted to investigate the shelter, but Hook correctly pointed out that they were up against a witch and it wouldn’t hurt to have some magic on their side.

So they called Regina and after the brief interlude to get Charming, the four of them prepared to go inside. They found the empty cage with a spinning wheel instead and some straw that had been turned into gold, which meant Rumple was alive. My absolute favorite part of this was the look on Regina’s face. She’s happy that he’s not dead (Me too, Regina, me too). But that leaves the question of how did he get out, where did he go and what the heck is the witch up to with this plot of hers?

This episode had some slow parts, but it still moved the main story along and added some emotional touches for our favorite characters so it was a winner in my book. But next week looks amazing. Judging by the preview, we’re going to get some backstory on what Belle and Neal were up to in the Enchanted Forest, how Rumple came back and what Zelena plans to do with all of them.

Now it’s your turn. Did you enjoy the episode? Are you impressed with the Oz lore? Whose heart, literal or metaphorical, do you think Zelena will collect? Do you wish Snow and Charming were more suspicious? Hit the comments and share your thoughts and theories with us!

Mandy Treccia
Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that.

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1 Comment

  1. [” She did, Charming reunited her with her parents, etc. Nothing against Rapunzel, the actress did a lovely job, but these scenes felt very much like filler and told us next to nothing about what was going on during the missing year.”]

    If you had been paying attention, the scenes regarding Rapunzel were a reflection of David’s own mental state in present-day Storybrooke.

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