Once Upon A Time, Season 1, Episode 21: “An Apple Red As Blood”
Written by Jane Espenson & David H. Goodman
Directed by Milan Cheylov
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on ABC
This penultimate entry builds for a jam-packed finale by gathering all the characters together in both worlds. In Storybrooke, Emma tries to kidnap Henry, but instead takes him home to find a better way to keep him out of Regina’s grasp. Meanwhile, Regina scrambles to rid Emma of Henry’s life for good by using a reliable solution. In the Enchanted Forest, Snow White and company lead a brutal raid on the Evil Queen’s castle to save Prince Charming. These Enchanted Forest sequences tie up loose ends in exposition, but also serve to physically link both worlds for a brief and exciting moment.
The raid on the Evil Queen’s castle is a fun scene in that the writers utilize many of the characters and their strengths. The action is tame, but impressive for a show that usually focuses on the romantic side of fantasy. There are also some surprisingly violent scenes involving Snow and Grumpy. Nothing is gratuitous, but still unexpectedly graphic. Unfortunately, the scene goes too far with the fairies. When the Blue Fairy leads her attack on the Evil Queen’s soldiers, it unravels into a ridiculous mess. The bright, glowing fairies mixed with a bee buzzing sound doesn’t mix well with the dark attack that just played out.
In nearing the finale, these past few episodes seem to showcase the entire town. Yet, this week really belongs to Regina and her weakening hold on Storybrooke. Often noted in these reviews are the ease and frustration with which Regina one-ups Emma in almost every interaction they share. This time, Regina scrambles to maintain her power in a world devoid of magic. Her plans have failed and her confidants abandon her. Seeing her struggle is satisfying because it humanizes her. It adds more depth to her character than “The Stable Boy” did when it uncovered her past.
Regina’s opening dream sequence is a bit cheesy and plays out too long, but it’s a great introduction to the themes this episode explores with her character. Her inadequacy almost sympathizes her thanks to Lana Parrilla’s performance. Parrilla wears many emotions with grace, easily switching between scorn and sorrow. It works with Regina, who is still hard to believe as completely insidious. Yet, with the way she’s written, it’s hard to imagine her the victim in any scenario. Still, she comes close. Even in last week’s episode, “The Return,” it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for her when Henry calls her “The Evil Queen” to her face. Though he’s right, she has still assumed the role of raising him. And for an Evil Queen as a mother, Henry lives a pretty good life.
Regina is indeed a complicated character, but in the Enchanted Forest, we see her at her most evil. The poisonous apple that “kills” Snow White creatively links the two worlds as Regina uses her last bit of magic to retrieve that same apple in order to kill Emma. The apple grab is a neat visual that connects the worlds in a way not previously seen. The method by which Regina recovers the apple allows for the possibility of physical time travel between the worlds. This is just wishful thinking, but the potential is definitely there for next season.
Writers bring back Jefferson, aka The Mad Hatter, for the apple retrieval sequence. It’s a welcome, yet confusing return. When we last left him, he fell out of a window and disappeared in Storybrooke. His reappearance comes without explanation or acknowledgement of how he managed to do this without magic. It’s not absolutely necessary information, but right now, it feels too easy to ignore this fact.
In the final moments, Regina finds herself back in control. Her final confrontation with Mr. Gold reveals that Gold is for the first time powerless himself. It goes without saying that Robert Carlyle plays these small guest spots beautifully. His chemistry with Parrilla could sustain an entire episode.
Only one more episode remains until the season finale. This week ends with another unexpected turn, cliffhanging audiences in the best way possible. How did you feel about the last scene? Do you believe in the permanence of these consequences or do you think the show will weasel its way out of such a grievous action?
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