Welcome back to Once Upon a Time: The Characters We Think We Know, for the five of you that are probably reading this. I’ve got a few more points to hit concerning this episode, and hopefully we’ll all come out as better people for it.
And, for convenience’s sake, here’s the shooting script.
When we meet Regina in the real world, she honestly seems like a pretty nice person. Sure, she’s got a bit of a cold, clinical air about her, and the “I want Henry to excel in life” line smacks of your typical Disney channel tiger mom–and hey, it’s not like it’s necessary for us to be feeling that good about Regina right now–but her little spiel about the difficulties of single motherhood has a tremendous humanizing effect on her. Seeing her tell Emma about raising Henry and the two of them being civil (spoiler alert: you’re not going to see a whole lot of that in the coming episodes), you get the feeling that she really is just a normal mom trying to do what’s best for her son. Note: Henry’s “evil queen” attitude towards her would have completely broken this, so it’s nice that he’s out of the room.
Weirdly enough, the thing with Emma destroying the local signage and spending the night in jail isn’t in that early version of the script. I think it’s a nice touch. It gives Regina another excuse to look down on her later on, and hey, every little bit counts.
And we all saw this one coming a mile off: the woman-goes-into-labor-right-as-disaster strikes cliché. Well, obviously Snow White wasn’t going in that wardrobe, so of course she’s going to find that out at the last possible moment. It adds dramatic tension, you know.
“There is just so much wrong with this day!”
Once Emma’s done sleeping off last night’s adventure, we get to meet two more cursed versions of characters: Leroy, AKA Grumpy, the town drunk who’s at home in a jail cell, and Marco, AKA Geppetto, a nice old guy who wants to have a child but is unable. Again, fairy tale characters with real struggles.
It’s pretty significant that Emma starts out by trying to help Regina and Graham find Henry but winds up finding him on her own after getting a tip from Mary Margaret. She’s not trying to encroach on Regina’s guardianship of Henry–like, at all–but it just sort of…happens. Fate and whatnot, I suppose.
Oh, and what happens next in the enchanted forest is probably one of the most gratuitously epic things you’ve seen in a while: new father swordfights his way through mooks while carrying a baby in one arm.
Basically the poster boy for cool dads right here.
I like it. Stories like these should have their unnecessarily epic moments.
We’re getting close to the end of the pilot now, so things are really coming down to the wire. During the scene at Henry’s castle, we see Emma starting to connect with Henry and taking those first steps toward possibly wanting to be a part of his life, all of which is key to her decision to stay in Storybrooke. Sharing a few personal stories can do that, not to mention that Emma realizes that Henry is just like her: a kid who feels abandoned and has a bad life but is still trying to turn things around. Oh, and another fun thing: After Henry tells Emma about her parents putting her in the wardrobe to protect her, Emma stops with her usual skepticism about the book. Like Mary Margaret said, these stories give us hope, and I guess this is one fairy tale that Emma actually wants to believe. (I’m not crying; it’s just been raining on my face.) Either way, we can probably expect Emma to play along with Henry a little more after this.
Regina’s tirade to Emma after she brings Henry back was a little hard for me to swallow at first. It feels like overkill, especially since Emma probably would have been willing to leave if she’d been just a little less hostile. Then again, I guess that’s Regina: used to going all the way, using intimidation, manipulation, whatever it takes to get what she wants. Too bad she didn’t count on Emma.
I feel a turning point coming on.
Real-world Regina’s painted a little more sympathetically in the early script, which doesn’t include this speech. Which means that Emma’s decision to stay is less of an act of defiance, but it also means that she has a lot less to go on in terms of thinking that Henry might be right about her being evil. Which version is better? Leave a comment to let me know what you think.
Anyway, they managed to get in some last-minute character introductions before the show ends. As far as Red goes, I think it’s a rule with these sorts of updates that you need to have at least one female fairy tale character with a skimpy outfit and plans to sleep her way down the Eastern seaboard or some such thing. I bet you never thought of that while you were watching Hoodwinked.
And then we see a familiar face, although you might not recognize him without his sparkly green makeup (I know I didn’t at first). Rayvah, author of the parody fanfiction Once Upon a Time Abridged, put it better than I ever could: “That’s Mr. Gold. He’s a very significant character to this show.” Not the actual line, but it might as well have been. Guy appears out of nowhere, tells Emma to enjoy her stay, then leaves. If Emma didn’t think there was something odd about this town, I’m sure she does now.
I love the fact that the show ends with Henry, with him smiling at the clock beginning to move, with him finally maybe starting to get his happy ending. Because really, that’s what it’s about for Emma at this point: helping this lonely little boy who believes in fairy tales. And the fact that the fairy tales are real? Purely incidental.
So there you go. The Once Upon a Time pilot does a great job of spinning its world and introducing us to the major characters. And for you writers who are reading along, here’s a clip from an interview with Jane Espenson, one of the writers on the show, about the writing process and how her career has panned out. I thought it was interesting and I hope you will too.