Once Upon a Time RETROSPECTIVE - SEASON 2: Mommy Issues & Lesser Villains

OUAT Magic is coming

Achieving a successful second television season is probably one of the biggest challenges a showrunner will face in her/his career. On one hand, if you are lucky enough to even get a second season, you can pretty much be assured that “They like you. They really like you.”

After all, you’ve already beat out buckets of flash-in-the-pan pilots that premiered beside you… the ones whose names nobody will even remember by next season. Your Season 1 fans are intrigued enough to tune in to Season 2. But they don’t yet love you enough to “Hate Watch” you, if everything goes to crap… So, you better do a good job!


All in all, I’d say Once Upon a Time offered up a decent second season. They stuck to their Lost-esque formula of “Fairytale Flashback offers insight into Alt World Present” enough to appease the change averse, but still managed to mix things up enough (New York! Left-Behind Fairytale Characters! Regina’s MOM!) to keep them interesting.

Having already mined through most of the Major League Fairytale stars, Once boldly sought out the farm team, introducing us to the likes of Mulan, Sir Lancelot, and Robin Hood… heroes who, while not technically fairytale characters, still proved themselves memorable enough literary figures to fit in with the rest of the fictional crowd . .

And… there was Captain Hook…

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And lots…

Of Captain Hook. Need I say more?

Of course, there were a few misses… like the time Once dedicated an entire episode (in black and white, no less) to… Dr. Frankenstein, who is about as much a beloved children’s literary hero as…

Norman Bates from Psycho…


…the embroidered Letter A from The Scarlet Letter…

Scarlet Letter A

…and that SUPER annoying Progressive Lady…

Progressive Flo

But, all things considered, Season 2 of Once Upon a Time could have gone much, much worse.

Let’s review, shall we?

The Purple Fart of Enlightenment

Season 2 of Once actually started in a locale WAYYYY more bizarre than Storybrooke, Maine, or even Fairytale Land…

New York City! HOLLA!

We see this guy we’ve never met or seen before, cross through Central Park, ride the subway, head up to his apartment, lose his iPod because it falls out the window (and as someone who once dropped my brand new iPod underneath a subway car, and literally heard it crunch, as it got run over, I can relate), and get a postcard from Storybrooke, Maine, (delivered by carrier pigeon, no less) baring just one word…

ouat broken postcard

“Broken”… you know, like my iPod…

We now know that this Mystery Postcard Reading Man is none other than Rumpelstiltskin’s son / Henry’s baby daddy, Baelfire / Neal… and that the author of the card was Mr. Wood Tits himself, Pinocchio…

Of course, at the time, all we were thinking was…

“Hey, isn’t that the serial killer from Season 1 of True Blood?”


“I wonder if that iPod was still under warranty?”

Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke, we are starting right where we left off last season, purple farts and all…

I love how our characters — with memories of their fairytale alter egos restored — are now seeing one another in an entirely different light. They are engaging in a Fairytale Me / Fairytale You Reunion of sorts…

I especially enjoy when Red Riding Hood reunites with her old friend, Snow White. And while she’s trying super hard to be nice, you can just tell by her facial expression that she’s thinking…

“What the heck did you do to your hair, girl? My wolf self has eaten rodents with more fashion sense.”

“What the heck did you do to your hair, girl? My wolf self has eaten rodents with more fashion sense.”

Of course, not everybody is quite as thrilled about this recent turn of events. For example, Poor Emma is left wondering how a fashionable leather jacket-wearing urbanite like herself, came from a mom with such HIDEOUS taste in hair? (Is it genetic? Should she be worried?)

In all seriousness though, as far as Emma is concerned, her parents are the two people who abandoned our heroine when she needed them most. And much of the season deals with how Emma, Mary Margaret/Snow and David/Prince Charming adjust to their new reality as a “family,” as well as Emma’s attempts to overcome her feelings of resentment toward her bizarrely-the-same-age-as-her parents.


It’s all VERY Dr. Phil…

“Step aside Jiminy Cricket! There’s a new shrink in your Purple Fart-encrusted town...”

“Step aside Jiminy Cricket! There’s a new shrink in your Purple Fart-encrusted town…”

…with just the slightest hint of Jerry Springer thrown in for good measure.

Then, there’s the whole issue of why — if Emma’s kissing Henry broke the 28-year-old curse on these Fairytale characters… and Rumpelstiltskin has released his Purple Fart Magic into the town… they are still in Friggin’ Maine, instead of… you know… the fun place… with the castles and stuff… where they all used to live.

But, at least, in those initial moments after the curse breaks, a good portion of the town just wants to KICK REGINA’S WELL-TONED-BY-EVIL tushy…

“Ass-kicking party of 37? Your table is now available.”

“Ass-kicking party of 37? Your table is now available.”

I’m pretty sure my favorite part of the Season 2 premiere episode was the part where Regina attempts to “magic” away the townspeople on her doorstep who very much wanted her dead, only to find that the weird dance move she did in front of them (Jazz Hands!) did nothing more than make her look like one of those crazy people you see on the subway who scream about knowing all the secrets of the universe while wearing trash bags on their feet and underwear on their heads.

“This is TOTAL CRAP! I have no magic... I look like a loon... and what’s worse, I have DISHPAN HANDS!”

“This is TOTAL CRAP! I have no magic… I look like a loon… and what’s worse, I have DISHPAN HANDS!”

As we mere mortals know, magic in the real world is super stubborn, and also kind of an asshat. So, Regina’s going to have to do a lot more than strike a few inspired yoga poses to get it to do her bidding in this realm.

In other Regina Fail news, when she cast her curse, our Evil Queen always assumed that she had completely destroyed Fairytale Land, and taken all of its inhabitants with her to good ole Storybrooke. This season we learn that this is not technically true…

In fact, the curse only impacted part of Fairytale Land, and took part of its inhabitants… (See, I told you Magic can be a douchenozzle!)

Whiny princesses…

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ouat mulan

And a couple of really hot guys…

ouat some dude


ouat captain hook 3

… were left behind…

You had me at Hot Guys! Fairytale Land: The Straight to Video Sequel… Here we come!

ouat swimming

Emma: “You don’t think this portal is made of water do you? I don’t want to be wet when I see the hot guys.”

Snow: “As your newly-discovered mother, I really don’t think it’s appropriate for you to talk to me about such things.”

Emma: “Whatever… don’t act like you won’t be wet too. On a positive note, this might actually help your hair situation.”

I’m not going to lie. How the writers manipulated Emma and Snow to end up in the other realm without the rest of the cast was a bit contrived… (I vaguely remember it having something to do with the Dementors from Harry Potter. And a cheap necklace that gave everyone who wore it a really bad rash…)

Talk about dish pan hands!

Talk about dish pan hands!

But I guess you can’t blame the writers of Once for wanting to change things up a bit by throwing in a few new characters. Because, really, there are only so many “Prince Charming rescues Snow White from the Evil Queen, then proceeds to rape her face with his tongue”-themed flashbacks a fan can watch…

Imaginary Walls

“I’ve literally got a stick up my ass. And this tree smells like feet. Bondage seemed so much hotter in those Fifty Shades of Grey books...”

“I’ve literally got a stick up my ass. And this tree smells like feet. Bondage seemed so much hotter in those Fifty Shades of Grey books…”

How bound are we by the prisons of our own circumstance? If we had a mean mother, a lousy childhood, some physical deformation… if some random chalk line drawn on the street outside our town caused us to lose our memories just by crossing it… does that mean we are doomed to lead miserable lives? The question of choice and fate loom large over Season 2 of Once, as the fairytale characters and Emma continue to struggle with the people they are, and whether that image they have of themselves matches with the people they want to be.

And, of course, because this an ABC/Disney show, the message we get from Season 2 of Once is a resounding “NO!” No, you are not bound by your circumstances. No, you do not have to be evil, or cowardly, or selfish, just because you were brought up that way, or because harsh circumstances made you so.


Basically, you are free to be whoever the f*&k you want in Fairytale Land!

Unless, of course, you are Regina’s mother. Then, you are pretty much going to be a big stinky piece of poo for as long as you walk the Earth, and possibly longer…

ouat regina mom 1

ouat regina mom 2

But on the bright side… all of your clothes will be fabulous.

Because in Once world, Magic indeed has a price. But so does “Goodness.” And that price is FASHION! Just ask her…

ouat mother superior

Is it just me, or does the Blue Fairy/Mother Superior look like the Mean Teacher in just about every Catholic School Girl Movie ever written? And don’t even get me started on the Jeri Curl. Clearly Mary Margaret and Mother Superior go to the same hairstylist in Storybrooke. And I’m guessing that stylist is this lady…

“I see a perm in your future. But the problem is that when I cut your hair, the scissors cover my eyes, and I just have to wing it.”

“I see a perm in your future. But the problem is that when I cut your hair, the scissors cover my eyes, and I just have to wing it.”

So… back to Cora. With Regina remaining woefully magic-free, and Rumpelstiltskin having to sort of/kind of pretend to be a nice guy if he wants a shot at getting back in the sack with Belle (which reminds me, do fairytale characters screw or are storybook babies created by spontaneously combusting purple farts and magical “vibrations” that look suspiciously like orgasms?)…

Once needed a new villain. And boy did they get one with this biatch. While Regina, Mr. Gold and the Newly Introduced Captain Hook are multi-dimensional villains, with real live vulnerabilities and hearts they occasionally wear on their sleeves, Cora is just out-and-out sociopathic. I mean, talk about a Long Con! This is a woman who shielded an ENTIRE PORTION OF HER WORLD from a curse and voluntarily allowed herself to be frozen for 28 years, just so that when she returned to the land of the living to wreak havoc, she would still have the “Element of Surprise.”

ouat regina mom 3

*shrugs* I don’t know… It seems like kind of a waste to me. You want to surprise your now-grown child? Why not just come up behind her in a dark hallway and yell, “BOO! Remember me? I corrupted your childhood, ruined your chances to bone the stable boy, forced you to marry an old guy (who you eventually murdered in cold blood), and made you into a kind of terrible human being. SURPRISE!!!!!! Now, where’s my Mother’s Day card?”

Here’s a list of just some of the incredibly sh*tty things Mama Cora did to our Onceies in Season 2…

1)      Poisoned Snow White’s mom, and then impersonated the Blue Fairy to make sure that Snow White would willingly not save her under the belief that doing so would cost the life of an innocent.

ouat blue fairy fake

2)      Masqueraded as Sir Lancelot to gain Emma’s trust, in hopes of using her to gain access to a portal that would enable her to travel to Storybrooke and terrorize her own daughter.


3)      Killed a whole bunch of red-shirt extras in Fairytale World: The Direct-to-Video Sequel, without remorse.

star trek expendability

4)      Possesses Aurora, in order to imprison Emma, Mary Margaret, and Mulan.

5)      Having successfully won passage back to Storybrooke, impersonates Regina (Am I noticing a pattern here?) in order to frame her own daughter for murdering Jiminy Cricket, who isn’t actually dead… but… details…

“The last time I was bound and gagged like this, it was because Grumpy wanted me to stop singing the ‘Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide’ song... So I started humming it instead. Screw him!”

“The last time I was bound and gagged like this, it was because Grumpy wanted me to stop singing the ‘Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide’ song… So I started humming it instead. Screw him!”

6)      MURDERED MS. PATMORE FROM DOWNTON ABBEY BY THROWING HER OUT A WINDOW!!! (There’s a special place in hell for people who mess with loveable gingers! It’s called Ginger Killer Hell, just in case you were curious…)

downton abbey ms patmore

But perhaps, the worst thing of all Cora did during her reign of terror on Once Season 2 was allow Snow White to kill her, by literally poisoning her heart and tricking Regina into inserting it back into her body…

Yeah, I said it. I’m blaming Cora for MAKING Snow murder her, which, by the way, is a terrible rationale, and pretty much the same excuse used by wife-beaters the world over. (DO NOT TRY THIS EXCUSE AT HOME!)

But in this case, it fits. Stick with me for a moment. Earlier I mentioned that the theme of this season was Freedom of Choice… the ability to rise above your circumstances and be better than you were told you could be. And yet, even a “good ole” positive attitude has its limitations… and murder is definitely one of those.

It’s a good thing Jiminy Cricket isn’t dead, because something tells me Mary Margaret/Snow is going to be needing A LOT of therapy. (Let’s just hope it doesn’t involve singing “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide.”)

But enough of this morbid crap, let’s talk about Season 2’s new men…

Prince Phillip

At least in his Season 2 incarnation, Prince Phillip was, more or less, the equivalent of the hot dumb blonde chick with big boobs, little brains, and a tight tank top in every horror movie you ever watched.

He appeared. He was sexy. He made out with a pretty girl…

And then he got his soul sucked by the Dementors from Harry Potter and pretty much was never to be seen again.


ouat baelfire young

ouat baelfire old

First of all, Baelfire… AWFUL NAME. In fact, it’s so awful that I’m convinced that the only folks who would voluntarily name their child Baelfire are celebrities, hippies who took too many hits of LSD in the late 60s, and This Guy…

ouat rumpel

So, you really can’t blame the guy for opting for the much more conservative-sounding “Neal” once he managed to get the heck out of Fairytale Land…

But I can blame him for making Emma fall in love with him and then promptly getting her thrown in jail for one of his crimes, all because some really hairy guy claiming to be Pinocchio claims it’s “for her own damn good.”

I also blame him for bringing that wench faux fiancée Tamara and her bumbling boytoy Gregg Mendel to Storybrooke, thus jumpstarting Once’s worst plotline to date…

But more on that in a bit. While Neal was never my favorite character on the series, nor was he my first choice to win Emma’s heart (That honor belongs to Captain Hook, in case you haven’t figured it out yet), there were a lot of things the character brought to the series that I appreciated.


For one thing, Neal was never a hero, or a prince, or even a real storybook character. He was just an average guy, trying to live an average life… an average guy who just so happened to be the son of Rumpelstiltskin, the former boyfriend of “The Savior,” and the best friend of Some Wooden Puppet.

Neal screwed up a lot… with Emma… DEFINITELY with choosing Tamara. His relationships with his father, his son Henry, and his baby mama Emma were complicated and filled with resentment, recrimination and unresolved feelings of love, loss and anger. They were relationships we saw elsewhere on the show between other family units, like Regina and Cora… Emma and Snow… Henry and Emma. They may have even resembled complicated relationships you have with your family.

Neal may not have been the perfect guy, but he was doing his best to do better, at least when it came to the people he cared about most. And there’s certainly something to be said for that…

But I’m still never going to forgive him for the whole Tamara thing.

And, you know… for killing all those people on True Blood.


 ouat pinnochio young and old

I know… I know. Technically Pinocchio is not a New Guy to Once, as the character debuted back in Season 1. I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about the time when he turned from a Really Big Puppet with a Perpetual Boner and the ability to give splinters to anyone he “woodied”… to a very hairy dude (SOOO HAIRY)… to a little red-headed kid in the course of a single episode for no discernible reason whatsoever.

“Do I make you woody, baby?”

“Do I make you woody, baby?”

And I wanted to tell you how incredibly creepy I thought that was… and why it made me really relieved that the writers never tried to pair Pinocchio and Emma together, like everyone thought they were going to do back in Season 1…

Captain Hook

In his storybook incarnation, Captain Hook was not exactly the most formidable of villains. He was pompous and foolhardy, not to mention repeatedly bested by children in onesies and a boy in green tights. For heaven sakes, the guy was afraid of a ticking clock…

captain hook

In Once, Captain Hook is also not much of a villain. He pretty much functions as the willing sidekick to both Cora and Regina, and is repeatedly bested by all of the females on the show, from the very first time Emma leaves him chained in the Giant’s lair after they both climb the beanstalk together… until they all literally ride off into the sunset on his boat at the end of the Season…

But what he lacks in Basic Bad Guy Common Sense, he more than makes up for in bawdiness, chivalry, and out-and-out sex appeal…

I mean, this is the guy who stole Rumpel’s first wife right out from under his nose… at least, until Rumpel killed her… oops.

surprised monkey

… and made Emma fall for him despite the 10-year torch she was clearly holding for Neal… one that kept her perpetually single for her entire adult life…at least when she wasn’t busy being incarcerated for stealing watches.

Heck, there were times when I even thought that Prince Charming had a crush on him…

In the end though, Captain Hook bid Season 2 adieu by doing a VERY nice thing. He offered up the Jolly Roger and his navigation services to the Once family so that they could find Neverland and bring home Henry and Neal. So, perhaps the REAL reason Captain Hook is such a crap villain is because he’s actually meant to be a hero, which brings me to…

I Tried to Blow Up Storybrooke, and All I Got Was This Annoying Kid – The Tamara and Gregg Story

Season 1 of Once ended with Purple Magic Farts. So, I guess it was fitting that Season 2 ended with a Big Bang… literally. It all started with these annoying, unlikeable wackjobs, Tamara and Gregg, coming to Storybrooke under the guise of being Neal’s Fiancée and Some Guy Looking for his Dad, respectively…

But, as it turned out, they were actually these cult followers working for an unknown cult leader to rid the world of magic, one boring town in Maine at a time.

Their plan was simple. Find a Suicide Bomb Crystal conveniently located in the bottom of the dwarves’ salt mines, give it a good whack, then kiss their lame plot device asses goodbye… along with ending this series!

Some folks in town figured out Tamara and Gregg’s dastardly plans along the way and tried to stop them, but ended up… turning into a kid (Pinocchio) and getting shot by Tamara/falling into a portal to Neverland, fate unknown (Neal).

“I could’a been a condtendah!”

“I could’a been a condtendah!”

So now, pretty much everyone in Storybrooke thinks they are dead meat. Then Regina, in an uncharacteristic act of valor, decides to sacrifice herself to save the lives of all the people she’s spent her entire existence making miserable. She will go to the mines and use her own magic (which she has back now, by the way) to postpone the explosion until everyone can safely leave Storybrooke.

Cool plan. But you forget that this is Storybrooke, where everyone wants to be a martyr. And they’ll be damned if they let someone like REGINA, of all people, take that opportunity away from them! Now, Prince Charming, Snow, Emma and Henry are all in the mines, literally tackling each other over the opportunity to “Die a Hero” like Regina.

Charming and Emma get this bright idea to use magical beans to throw the Suicide Bomb Crystal into another realm (which, by the way, is the worst form of littering ever). But then they find out that Captain Hook has gone and stolen all their magic beans… possibly because he’s considering becoming a vegetarian and really hates tofu…

“So, are you supposed to like microwave these are what?”

“So, are you supposed to like microwave these are what?”

Then, Emma beats out Charming and Snow for the exciting opportunity to “Die a Hero with Regina.” YAYYYY! So, they fondle some blue balls together…

ONCE UPON A TIME RETROSPECTIVE - SEASON 2: Mommy Issues & Lesser Villains

EMMA: “Are apocalypses always this sexual?”

REGINA: “They are when I’m around, baby.”

And this causes an EXPLOSION!

But not the bad… world-ending kind of explosion… just your garden variety kind of explosion…

Storybrooke is saved… AGAIN! HOORAY!

But wait… WHERE’S HENRY?

Uh oh… I think those douchebags Tamara and Gregg took him.

Oh well, let’s party…

Just kidding. I mean, let’s face it. That’s how I reacted when I found out Henry was missing. (I’m not good with kids. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already figured out why.)

But clearly Emma and Company are much better people than I am, and so… off to Neverland they go!

Last season we got purple farts, now they are blue! I call that PROGRESS!

Last season we got purple farts, now they are blue! I call that PROGRESS!

Until next time, me lads and lassies!

Check out the Once Upon a Time Season 1 Retrospective: How Snow White Got Her Groove Back

For more Julie Kushner, check out TV Recappers Anonymous or buy one of her five novels!


TV Show: Once Upon a Time

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