Once Upon a Time: Enter the Dragon Review


By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

Spoilers Ahead

As in any season of television, some episodes feel like stepping stones towards more significant episodes and such was the case with “Enter the Dragon” which was more slow moving and lacked the emotional resonance that was abound in “Unforgiven.” The plot was fairly simple but there were some intriguing plot twists. However, the real highlights were the exceptional performances and reminders of key themes and character journeys.

In the Enchanted Forest of the past, we see Regina, frustrated with her lack of progress with Rumple, seek out Maleficent, who has metaphorically and physically lost her fire. Resembling a down and out performer who has lost their spark and zest for life, Maleficent is disillusioned and disheveled, wallowing in the fact that King Stefan thwarted her revenge by waking Briar Rose with True Love’s kiss. She spends her days taking the edge off with a watered down sleeping curse, like the Enchanted Forest’s version of alcohol and drugs. But with Regina’s help, Maleficent is reminded of who she truly is. She gets her fire back, and is able to transform into a dragon once again when Stefan and his guards attempt to arrest them. She even manages to find Aurora and quite easily put her under a sleeping curse. This punishment, in her words, is a far better way of making Aurora’s parents suffer. In present day Storybrooke, Regina goes undercover with the Queens of Darkness to prove she is still as evil as ever. After a night of heavy drinking, destruction of cop cars, and general twisted merriment (I half expected to see them creating a burn book a-la Mean Girls style), she gains their trust and the important information that they are seeking the author as well, hoping to tip the scale completely in favor of the villains. The Charmings are worried about Regina being in over her head, most especially Emma who insists on tailing them when Regina must do one final thing to prove herself-kidnap Pinocchio, who in a surprise twist is turned back into August at the end of the episode. Though Emma was not in the episode much (which is a great loss), her frantic worry felt like a clear indicator of the distance between her loved ones and temptation towards darkness which seems to be on the horizon. She feels as if everyone is keeping secrets from her and that her super power is going haywire. But the thing is, her instincts and fears are correct. Right now the only one who has owned up to a secret, though the details are still unknown, is Killian. Having experienced a life filled with darkness, I hope he will be able to help her resist any temptations as this story continues to unfold.

In addition to the return of August, the other surprising twist was that Rumple disguised himself as Killian in order to obtain his dagger and learn more about Belle’s relationship with her new suitor Will. He seeks out Belle and suggests they hide the dagger, making them swear a pirate’s oath to never speak of it again. This showed just how far Rumple has descended into darkness, reaching seemingly a point of no return that was very difficult to watch. But seeing Belle genuinely happy when talking about Will, someone who is completely honest and makes her smile, was really lovely.

Each of these plot points brought forth some wonderful performances and helped to remind the audience some very important details. One of the things I have always loved about Lana Parrilla’s performance as young Regina is the way she changes little characteristics to make clear distinctions between not only the younger girl and the Evil Queen of the past, but also present day Regina. As per usual, in this flashback of young Regina, Parrilla raises her voice from her usual lower register reflecting youth and still a shred of innocence. Moreover, her demeanor is more timid and posture more slouched and weighed down. This is vastly different than the posture and the grand and confident way the Evil Queen carries herself. It’s subtleties like this that I always enjoy. The flashback also helped to remind us how far she has come, most especially seen in how physically uncomfortable she looks when she must kidnap Pinocchio to maintain her cover. After the lovely moment of understanding she shared with Marco last week, you can see the pain on her face when she is forced to take the boy away. Through her contrasting scenes in the past and the present we see further proof of Parrilla’s talents and versatility.

The moments involving Rumple’s deception of Belle showcased the striking differences between him and Killian and treated us to truly stellar performances. The moment Killian sat down at the booth at Granny’s, interrupting Belle and Will’s date, I should have suspected it wasn’t really him based on his behavior. He sits down and forcefully shoves Will in the shoulder, talking about how much he’d enjoy bloodying him again. It was perplexing why he would act with such severity, and the answer is simple- Killian wouldn’t. After he punched Will in “The Apprentice,” he was horrified and feared his hand was cursed, and since that altercation the interactions between them suggested more annoyance rather than hostility and hatred. But Rumple on the other hand uses Killian’s new friendship with Belle as a way of taking a jab at Belle’s new boyfriend. It was the first clue that this was not truly Killian, and demonstrated the stark contrast between the two men, most especially with Rumple’s inability to comprehend changing for the better. Besides interactions with Rumple, when was the last time Killian used such harsh language and hostility? It must have been with Blackbeard during the missing year, fighting his mortal enemy to get his ship back. And it should be noted that is the same man whom (for all intents and purposes) Killian did not hesitate to later trade his ship to in order to save Emma.

The final scenes between Rumple/Killian and Belle further illuminated the dichotomies of these characters and most especially the brilliant acting of Colin O’Donoghue. Belle takes him to where she has hidden the “Dark One” dagger to give to him to hide and she expresses anxiety that Rumple may already be in town. He says the solution is simple- use the dagger to call him. She commands for him to come and face her, and the moment she does Killian/Rumple turns toward her and we see the depth of O’Donogue’s talents. The expression and look in his eyes not only lacks the light and softness that is usually reflected in Killian’s eyes, but it matches the expression we so often see in Robert Carlyle’s Rumple. The way O’Donoghue perfectly captured the look and mannerisms of Carlyle was nothing short of brilliant and gave the scene an eerie, chilling quality. I was not only chilled by what Rumple was doing to Belle, but also left awestruck by O’Donoghue’s performance. When he watches Belle depart, he slowly lifts his head with the exact same rhythm we’ve seen numerous times from Rumple and the evil smirk on his face, though similar to ones that Killian emoted at his darkest point, was still different because it was meant to reflect the darkness in Rumple’s character. It takes a gifted actor to be able to mimic another equally brilliant actor such as Robert Carlyle with such subtle nuances, and O’Donoghue did so to perfection.

Moreover, in the scene where Rumple/Killian insists on swearing a pirate oath, Emilie De Ravin does a fine job of portraying her sense that something is not quite right. The way the oath required placing their hands over each other’s hearts, and the way he moved closer to her and looked into her eyes did not in the least resemble how Killian would act with her, and De Ravin’s performance suggested her awkwardness and uncertainty. Additionally, the way in which Rumple is lying to and manipulating Belle, made a gesture, that in another situation may be sweet, extremely uncomfortable and even creepy. When he says he dislikes Will because he “took something that I cared for,” it was a final example of why Rumple is also known as “The Dark One.” Instead of learning from his mistakes his keeps repeating them showing a lack of understanding and remorse. Will did not take anything from him. Rumple lost Belle through his own actions and it was very difficult to watch him manipulate the situation and taint the sweet, growing friendship between Belle and Killian. It makes me wonder if redemption is even possible for him. I hope Belle learns of his deception so her new friendship is not lost and that she finds the happiness she deserves with someone who will be honest and respect her. With Rumple’s descent into darkness we see just how different he truly is from characters like Regina ad Killian who, though still have their struggles, have changed so much, and for the better.

This contrast in dichotomies was also illuminated by something Aurora says to Maleficent before she is put under a sleeping curse. She affirms she shall defeat her because she has what she never will- True Love. Of course Maleficent is confident too because as you may recall, when she curses Prince Philip in the form of a fire beast called the Yaoguai, whom everyone does not understand and fear. She believes this will ensure they will forever be apart and in their cursed states. But Philip was saved by Belle thanks to her intelligence, bravery, and compassion. Belle’s heroics in the past, as well as Aurora’s belief in True Love reminds us what Once Upon a Time is really about, and what the villains so often underestimate. Compassion and redemption are possible, intelligence is immeasurable, bravery can come from anyone, and true love is the most powerful magic of all.

Favorite Moments:
Rather than character moments, my favorite aspect of this episode was the brilliant performance of Colin O’Donoghue whose talents continues to awe, amazing, and inspire.

Favorite Lines:
Aurora (to Maleficent): My mother defeated you, as shall I. All it will take is what I have and you never will.

Regina: Gold’s cabin? What are we doing here?
Maleficent: We needed some place out of the way to hang our head dresses and hide our kidnapped puppets.

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