Just when we think that Once Upon a Time has forgotten about our beloved Belle, the writers hit us with an episode like “Quiet Minds”. While Belle does not have much of a role in the present day storyline, it is nice to see her and Neal popping up in the past.
Emilie de Ravin has always been a nice addition to the cast and she knows how to hold her own against the big gun characters. She proved that when she first debuted back in the first season of Once Upon a Time. It’s clear that she is glad to be given something to do here and that something just happens to be teaming up with Neal- the two of them are convinced that Rumplestiltskin can be resurrected and they are determined to do just that. Pairing de Ravin with Michael Raymond-James is brilliant on the writers’ part. Like Josh Dallas’ storyline last week, it’s a chance to spend time with characters we never get to see up front and center. Ever since the shock of Raymond-James’ Neal coming back into Emma’s life wore off, he has often been pushed the back burner. Once Upon a Time returned from its long hiatus, but until now we’ve been left scratching our heads, wondering where Neal is, hoping and praying that he hasn’t been turned into a flying monkey. The past storyline moves along nicely and coincides wonderfully with the present day arc. The writers even throw us a nice treat with a special appearance by the candlestick, Lumiere.
The other special treat of the episode is the magnificent return of Robert Carlyle’s Rumplestiltskin. He made a brief appearance in the last episode of course, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy our longing for Rumple to be back front and center. Robert Carlyle handles everything the writers’ throw at him with aplomb. He’s able to display rage and fear to angst and heartbreak all in a single episode. It’s nice to have Carlyle back but the shocking method the writers use to return him is heartbreaking, to say the least.
Once again, Rebecca Mader’s Zelena wins the MVP award for this episode. Mader is delightful in her role as the Wicked Witch; the way that she presents herself and her actions just scream wicked. She’s definitely earning her keep among this cast of tight knit characters. Whereas Peter Pan grew tiresome and flat out boring, Mader makes sure that our eyes are glued to the set when she is around. She wants everyone to know that she’s not just capable of brewing trouble in Oz- she’s going to start wicked drama in Storybrooke, as well. Mader undoubtedly climbs the ranks in her interpretation of the Wicked Witch. The way the character is crafted by the writers and the life that Mader breathes into her is most certainly one of the best portrayals of the Wicked Witch, ranking right under Margaret Hamilton’s Witch from the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.
The writers once again need to be commended for their excellent work in the second half of season three. It’s clear that they’ve learned from the monstrosity that was the first part of the season. This is evident with the fact that the entire town now knows that Zelena is the Wicked Witch, and it’s only three episodes in. Bad pacing and stretched out storylines are what made the first half of the season very rocky and quite frankly, very irritating. It’s great to see the writers avoiding these mistakes with Zelena. They also prove that they still have several shocking twists up their sleeves this week thanks to the shocking and gut wrenching death that takes place in “Quiet Minds”. It definitely leaves us in a very quiet, contemplative state.
Hopefully the writers can keep up their pacing and set the bricks for a fantastic season finale. Otherwise we might all be flying off on broomsticks in frustration.