Once Upon a Time: Strange Case (Review)

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by Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)
 
While this week’s Once Upon a Time may not have reached the magical heights of “The Other Shoe,” the origin story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, “Strange Case,” was quite captivating. Not only highlighting the story of the doctor and his other half, we saw some relationships continue to flourish while others moved further away from the positive, some characters met their end, others fear they have, and most especially we saw that theme the series has woven throughout since the beginning that “we are both.” We all have dark and light sides, obviously in varying degrees. Some parts of us we fear, some we celebrate, some we want to keep hidden or forget, some we accept but learn to overcome. This series may be literally be about fictional characters, but what we see is the very human truth that we are all flawed. It’s whether these flaws can become our strengths or our downfalls that really matters.
 
What was interesting about the Jekyll and Hyde story was not only the unexpected twist we saw but the ways it connected to Rumple and Belle as well as Regina and her current dilemma. It seems the serum wasn’t simply about separating the bad and the good – Jekyll says it’s about separating our primitive and beastly instincts in order to control them. Unable to perfect it, still unable to tell the woman he loves, Mary, how he feels, and in need of proper intellectual and prestigious support and funding, we see Rumpelstiltskin enter the picture who seems to offer a solution to everything. In Rumple’s experiment with the Doctor, the serum works and it unleashes Mr. Hyde – but he is not the monster we thought but rather simply the parts Jekyll wanted to hide from the world, hence the name. He is the part of Jekyll that is unafraid and unencumbered from giving into passion and desire, unrestricted from social conventions, as Mary ascertains. It was what she was attracted to and why she says she couldn’t love Jekyll that way. If only Jekyll been braver things might have turned out differently. The good and nice doctor was not so nice after all and when he wakes up in bed with Mary, unaware of her and Hyde’s night together, he is angry that she loved “him” instead, grabs her and when she tries to resist, he accidentally pushes her out a window to her death. He drinks the serum and Hyde emerges shocked and heartbroken, leading Rumple to realize his little experiment with them has failed because he sees that separating yourself cannot stop love and feelings for someone. And to him love is weakness. When will the villains learn how untrue that is? And so in anger he sent them to the Land of Untold Stories. Cut to the present day and we see how the story connects and parallels tremendously as we see what Hyde’s agenda was – kill Belle to get revenge on the Dark One for what happened to Mary. Rumple and everyone knows this and go after Hyde, not realizing the real villain they should be after- Dr. Jekyll. The protection spell Rumple put on the Jolly Roger so Hyde cannot board, but Belle cannot leave nearly gets her killed until Killian arrives, disarms Jekyll and knocks him back onto harpoon. The Doctor dies but so too does Hyde because they are one and the same person, leading Regina to realize that she has to die in order for the Evil Queen to also perish. She makes Emma promise to kill her if necessary, the same way Emma asked her to do what is necessary when she was the Dark One in Camelot. Emma says it won’t come to that but agrees nonetheless. Of course I don’t believe that’s the only solution. It’s clear they need to figure out a way for Regina to put both sides back together and for her to accept that it’s a part of herself that simply cannot be erased, because importantly, even when the person is split the capacity for evil remains. It’s why Jekyll nearly murdered Belle and Regina’s personality isn’t drastically different since she’s split herself. It’s a lesson she’ll have to learn, and a journey that will be difficult, but there is no other way except for death. And I will say I’m surprised this is already the end of Jekyll and Hyde’s story and I will lament the loss of Sam Witwer’s Hyde who was so enthralling, but there are other stories to tell.
 
Not only was this the end of Jekyll and Hyde but it also seems to be the end of a Rumple and Belle’s relationship, or at least the end of it resembling anything positive. As it turns out, everything Rumple did in the past was because he had developed feelings for Belle and thought that would make him weak. And while he says he ultimately would not trade the love that he feels for her now, that fact he wanted the serum in order to eliminate this love caused so much destruction, and despite what he says, he still continues to prove that love is not enough for him. He desires power too. He could’ve protected Belle without making her unable to leave the ship. It shows a lack of respect for her to make her own choices and a need to control her, as if as she said she is one of his objects being locked away in a glass case. And of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting to protect her, but is so often the case, the method he uses was wrong. What was once a story about a woman who saw the good man behind the beast and always believed he could be that better man if he simply let love fully in has become a very dark tale of loving someone with a severe addiction they are unwilling to give up, and the consequences of that. He’s told her that if he could do it all over again he would be the man she deserved. But it never happens. And she’s finally realizing this and so was standing up to him and doing what’s best for herself and her son. I don’t know what’s to come for them but I do know that right now, what they’ve become is the antithesis of what a healthy relationship and marriage should be. I always say there is hope and I’m an optimist, but between their confrontation at the end of the episode, to the obvious ways in which Rumple was paralleling Jekyll’s we may have reached the point of no return. It was very telling that Belle could sense something was off with Jekyll when he said Mary “would’ve been mine.” It’s as if she recognized the possessiveness because she’s experiencing it herself, and so she called for help. When Rumple says it was never his intention to have caused so much destruction she’s heard enough because as we all know “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” She’s right about why he changed his appearance, as was Hyde – it won’t change who you are on the inside and that is what truly matters. But also like Jekyll who suddenly became very angry when rejected, Rumple does as well when he says that she needs him and that she’ll come back to him because she’s pregnant with his child, and that “necessity [will make her love him again].” That is vey manipulative and was unsettling to watch, and certainly not romantic. But I was happy to see Belle be strong when he was trying to threaten her because of their son. Only time will tell, but if there is any hope for Rumple and Belle his behavior must change- truly change. But for now, I hope to see her continue to do what’s best for her and for her child.
 
On the positive side I love seeing the other relationships continue to grow, flourish and blossom. Charming Family moments always warm my heart and seeing David cook breakfast for Emma, kiss her on the top of her head, and admit a little trepidation that Killian moving in with her will change some things was incredibly sweet, as was Emma and Snow reminding him that it won’t change anything and that in that it is in fact a good thing. They are choosing happiness. And hearing him admit that as long as she is happy he is happy was a very moving moment. He’s become friends with Killian but after losing so much time with his daughter it was touching to see his protective side but also his respect for his daughter’s choices shine through. Speaking of respect, I cannot express how much I love the growing friendship between Killian and Belle and their scenes were not only a bright spot but a lovely example of how people and relationships can evolve organically and for the better when people try to be their best selves. I love the natural rapport between them from him giving her a shell to communicate with if she needs help, to him forgetting that she cannot drink because she’s pregnant (his reaction to that was hilarious by the way), to her understanding his desire to help Emma when he fears she’s in danger. She understands immediately how he would feel and thought of them before herself. And I cheered when he showed up in the nick of time to save her from Jekyll. While Once Upon a Time and their women are more than capable of saving themselves, it is okay to ask for help when you need it and with nothing to defend herself and no way of escaping, I’m so glad she didn’t hesitate to call for him. She trusts her friend and he saved her life, just like she saved his when she stopped Rumple from crushing his heart.
 
Although there were no shared scenes, I loved how Killian and Emma’s relationship continued to flourish as they were preparing for him to move in with her. This is a big step for both their characters as Killian has never lived in a proper home before and Emma has never lived with a significant other, ever. This is special for both of them so it’s no surprise we were presented another lovely parallel between them when Killian says he only has a single chest of belongings to move in with, much like Emma only had a single box when she first moved to Storybrooke. Both claim to not be sentimental but it’s not really that. It’s that they only have a need to keep a few precious possessions. And when they finally move in together (hopefully next week because it needs to happen soon), it will be about them taking their unique pieces of their past they hold onto that make them who they are, making new memories, accumulating things as a unit, and building a life together.
 
A new friendship formed was the episode’s final bright spot as it brought forth the theme of “we are both” in a understated and positive way, which is something all the characters will no doubt continue to learn about. With the help of a new teacher’s aide Shirin, who is actually Princess Jasmine, Snow learns that she can’t simply go back to the way she taught as cursed Mary Margaret. Shirin uses an example of a princess who didn’t embrace the hero she could be which led to her kingdom being lost (which I believe is a story about herself) as an example to learn from. As we know, we are not a single thing. Mary Margaret will always be a part of her. But it’s not all she is. She is also Snow White. And when she embraces that part of herself in her teaching, the children become more open and both she and the students are ultimately happier and can reach their full potential. Isn’t that what we all should aspire to and what Once Upon a Time has shown so often – to embrace all the parts of ourselves and accept them, but strive to be the best version of ourselves. With the help of her new friend, Snow discovered how to reconcile both sides to herself and for the better. It was lovely and positive. Not all characters will learn this so quickly and easily, especially when dealing with darker problems, but what’s important is to remember what David asserted in Season 2 to the residents of Storybrooke: “I get that it is easier to let go of bad memories. But even bad memories are part of us. Storybrooke David was, is- weak, confused, and he hurt the woman I love. I wouldn’t give up being Charming just to be him. But you know what? I wouldn’t make the other trade either. Because that David reminds me not only of whom I lost, but who I want to be. My weaknesses and my strengths. David and the Prince. I am both. Just like you. You are both. We are both.” This episode was the perfect representation of this concept and how in the end the only way to move forward positively is to embrace every part ourselves because it can show us the way towards what is best. As we saw the premiere we are all made up of many stories. Some are dark and some are light, but all are part of what make us flawed human beings. It’s the choices we make that matter in the end. Own up to your mistakes and work to be a good person- that is the lesson to be learned.
 
How the season continues should be interesting, as at the end of “Strange Case” Jasmine meets the Oracle in the darkness of night vowing to find Aladdin. Where this other Savior is remains a mystery, and there is something about the Oracle that I still do not trust, but I am intrigued to see how this Savior’s story will intertwine with Emma’s, and I believe they will prove the villains wrong, that happy endings are possible, and that love is not weakness. It is strength.
 
Favorite Moments: My favorite moments were ones where the characters showed great strength from Belle asserting and standing up for her herself against Rumple, to knowing that she needed to protect her child, calling Killian and fighting off Jekyll, to our captain arriving just in time to help his friend, to Snow finding a way to embrace both sides of herself in her teaching. Strength comes in many forms and these characters proved such. The flashbacks were captivating and fictional Victorian England is one of one favorite lands as it has such style and elegance. I also loved the moments of happiness and normalcy: Henry in school, the Dwarves doing their best to protect others, David cooking Emma breakfast and them discussing her moving in with Killian which showed sweetness and ultimately respect for his daughter, and Killian discussing the same with Belle. Now the only thing we need is for that move to finally happen on screen, and another happy Charming Family breakfast with Emma’s true love at this table as well.
 
Favorite Lines:
Mr. Hyde: Changing your appearance can’t help you. You can change the outside, but what’s inside is still there.
 
Shirin/Jasmine: If you want these children to reach their potential, you need to lead by example. That means asserting your strength and embracing who you really are.
 
Belle: I don’t need your protection! Not at the cost I keep paying with you!


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