Thus far we are underwhelmed with ABC's Once Upon a Time. The show remains s Moreau-esque mixture of modern paranormal mystery and fantasy epic, and frankly neither one is really panning out.
The second episode mostly deals with Emma (Jennifer Morrison) attempting to stay in the town of Storybrooke in order to watch over Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago. In her way is Henry's adopted mother the Mayor Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla) who will stop at nothing to keep them apart.
Admittedly, it's this storyline that has us gnashing our teeth. We were very close to going down the road to adoption ourselves after three years of fertility treatments, and the idea that a birth mother will swoop in and fix every single problem between an adopted child and the person who has raised them is a premise that makes us a little nauseated. What it implies is that adopted parents can never live up to biological ones no matter what the circumstances, and we've know enough adopted people over the years to take offense at this notion.
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To be fair, any psychiatrist will tell you that abused children often dream of actually being the spirited-away offspring of a famous person or royalty, and they're only waiting to be found by their "real" parents so they can be taken away from their reality. Granted, Once Upon a Time has made it pretty clear that Regina, the Evil Queen in the fantasy world is a destroyed moral sinkhole of a person, so we get where they're coming from, but in the end it still plays like some half-assed morality tale about the power of maternal instinct that is an insult to the many adopted families out there.
Meanwhile in the fantasy world we get the appearance of Kristin Bauer van Straten as Malificient. We hope she's not missing any paychecks from True Blood on this gig. Not even Kristin can overcome the sadness they've reduced Disney's greatest villain too, Instead she and the Evil Quenn engage in a wizard duel that didn't really work out when Peter Jackson had Gandalf take on Saruman and doesn't work out here with a fraction of the budget.
Most of our time in the fantasy land is the Evil Queen trying to unleash a curse of unspeakable darkness because of a beef with Snow White still not fully explained. They're still giving Parrilla some of the hokiest lines this side of Doctor Doom to deal with, and even though they try to throw us a curve ball on her character by handing her a loving and supportive father she must kill in order to begin her revenge, we already know what's going to happen so it's really just tedious.
As in the pilot, some truly great moments do come about from Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin. In both realities it's impossible to tell which side he's working for, except his own of course, and his intentions in Storybrooke are particularly multi-layered. He's carrying this show as best he can, but even he may not be strong enough to bear the load.