Once Upon A Time, Ep. 1.13, “What Happened To Frederick”: Show’s gold standard for melodrama

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Once Upon A Time, Season 1, Episode 13: “What Happened To Frederick”
Written by David H. Goodman
Directed by Dean White
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on ABC

There are no huge surprises this week as Once Upon A Time settles into soap opera territory with “What Happened To Frederick,” another episode exploring the strained relationship between Mary Margaret and David. The low-key episode also spends a lot of time with David’s pre-coma companion, Kathryn, aka King Midas’s daughter, Abigail, in the Enchanted Forest.

In Storybrooke, Kathryn gains admission to a law school in Boston, thinking David will join her in a fresh start. When David refuses to go with her, he also fails to mention his affair with Mary Margaret, resulting in a public scandal that turns ugly for all parties.

In the Enchanted Forest, Abigail finds a runaway Prince Charming and enlists his help to save her own true love, Frederick, who was accidentally turned to gold when helping her father during an attack. Charming believes water from a magical lake will break the golden curse. The only problem is the deadly creature that guards the lake and threatens those who seek its magical powers.

The Storybrooke universe captures a realistic tone in its examination of relationships and infidelity. David fails to live up to his namesake as he repeatedly makes one stupid lie after the next. Ironically, his imperfections demonstrate the fading curse on Storybrooke. These characters are waking up, some faster than others, and David’s stupidity is a clear sign that the real world is taking hold of the town.

Anastasia Griffith as Kathryn saves the Storybrooke sequences from falling flat. Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin always give satisfactory performances as David and Mary Margaret, respectively. Yet there haven’t been any true stakes for their characters, and thus, no real reason to see their story three times over. Kathryn’s story adds a layer of sophistication to fairy tale.

At first, she was a hindrance to the relationship that needed to form between David and Mary Margaret. Her character came out of nowhere, and she almost felt like one of Regina’s patsies. Then, we learn she’s sincere in her love for David. In a fairy tale, Kathryn’s character would usually be cast in a negative light for being the obstacle to true love. However, in Storybrooke, Kathryn is the victim. The show fortunately wanders through this often-overlooked territory in love stories to humanize Kathryn and tell her story as the abandoned wife. Episodes like these aren’t the most exciting, but do function to ground the show in a respectable position. It opts for the unconventional story, and that’s worth appreciating.

The Prince Charming/Abigail story was better than expected. Writers borrowed heavily from Robert Zemeckis’s 2007 interpretation of Beowulf, specifically for the monster in the lake, which bears a strong similarity to Grendel’s mother in the film. The lack in originality doesn’t hurt the episode too much because writers find a way to build on the template of the siren-esque myth.

Charming prevails in his fight against temptation. This is an important scene for his character. As noted earlier, his and Snow’s characters aren’t the most compelling. So, giving the prince this “side quest” of helping Abigail reignites some interest in his story.

Also, the scene in the lake was simply entertaining. The setting was eerier than most we’ve seen so far this season, and the underwater fight proved more exciting than most of the choreographed land battles.

Back in Storybrooke, Emma learns the name of the visiting author, August W. Booth. Booth also builds intrigue as we see him with Henry’s book, apparently making his own copy. The show hasn’t made his character’s role too obvious, so any moments spent with him beg for more screen time. He is by far the most mysterious person in Storybrooke, and appears to have knowledge on par with Regina and Mr. Gold.

All things considered, “What Happened To Frederick” is a decent episode. It lacks the flash of a Rumpelstiltskin story, but maintains interest through its other multiple characters. Where do you stand on this episode? Did it feel like a smart move or just slow? Leave your comments below.

Ryan Clagg

 

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