by Sherry Lipp
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
While I thought season two of Once Upon a Time got off to a rough start, it returns with one of the best episodes of the season. “The Cricket Game” focused on all the right things, most notably Regina (Lana Parrilla). Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) showed up at just the right times, and one of my favorite side characters, Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge), had a more prominent role than he has all season. We got more details about the events just prior to the spell in Fairytale Land, and got to see a little bit of a darker side to Charming (Josh Dallas). That was nice, because I find him a little boring most of the time. My only quibbles with the episode were what I felt were some sloppy plot mechanics.
Regina’s mother Cora (Barbara Hershey) and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) made their way to the shores of Storybrooke via Hook’s pirate ship. I’m a little fuzzy on how they were able to do that, but I’m sure Cora cast a spell of some sort. Hook was anxious to confront Rumplestiltskin, but Cora made him wait until she had a chance to ruin Regina’s life. Her plan is pretty simple. She disguised herself as her daughter and killed Dr. Hopper. Ruby (Meghan Ory) saw “Regina” go into the doctor’s office, so there was even a witness to put the final nail in the coffin. Not yet knowing of her mother’s presence, Regina is blindsided by the accusation. Emma (Jennifer Morrison), however, is skeptical. Her human lie-detector abilities tell her Regina is telling the truth about her innocence.
It’s all a pretty decent setup. Back in Fairytale Land we see (via flashback) that Snow White and Charming had captured the Evil Queen and were going to put her to death. Charming has no second thoughts about this. Snow, however, spares Regina’s life at the last second, despite Regina’s statement that she wished she could have caused more pain than she already had. I thought the flashback sequences were well done. I particularly liked Lana Parrilla during her near-execution scene.
The slight weakness in the episode came when Emma was trying to figure out what really happened to Dr. Hopper. They go to Mr. Gold, suspecting that he might be framing Regina. From there things fall a little too conveniently into place. I suspect it might be due to the constraints of a 42-minute episode, but a few things didn’t quite sit well with me. It’s like they had to cram everything in to get to the ending point they needed. So Mr. Gold tells them Dr. Hopper’s dog Pongo was a witness to the murder. He tells Emma she can see Pongo’s memories through a magic dream catcher because she has the ability to use magic. Without doing anything other waving it along Pongo’s back, Emma can see the exact events of the murder through the dream catcher.
She doesn’t see anything prior to “Regina” entering the office or anything after the murder takes place. It’s a little too perfect. So Emma is convinced Regina is guilty, but without real proof she can’t do anything about it other than tell Henry (Jared Gilmore) his mother is a murderer. The fact that this whole sequence happens a little too easily doesn’t ruin the episode, I just thought it was a little lacking in drama. Everything happened exactly the way it needed to in order to turn everyone against Regina.
My only other quibble with the episode is the very final scene. We see Cora and Captain Hook on their ship and Cora reveals that she has actually captured Dr. Hopper and killed someone else she had disguised to look like him. I’m not sure this makes sense, but maybe they just haven’t shown everything yet. What doesn’t make sense is, if the man in the office wasn’t Dr. Hopper why was he acting exactly like him, and why didn’t his dog realize it wasn’t his owner? Maybe Cora switched the identity after she got there, but that wasn’t shown (and is quite a stretch). At any rate, I didn’t think they should have revealed that Dr. Hopper was still alive yet. They should have cut the scene when Cora said she had captured someone who knew all the secrets and left it as a cliffhanger.
Aside from those details, I liked the storytelling as a whole. Judging by the preview next week, it looks like Rumplestiltskin is working on a spell that will allow him to leave Storybrooke and look for his son. Hopefully we will see more of August (Eion Bailey). I have to wonder if August knows the son, since he knew so much about him and no one else – besides Belle (Emilie de Ravin) – seems to know Rumplestiltskin has a son. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with that.