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Once Upon a Time – Strange Case – Review

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Such twists and turns this season on Once Upon a Time. Season six really seems to be giving it’s all in terms of storytelling. Status quo is out the window with Rumple and Belle, no one really seems safe from the threat of death, and the callbacks to season one keep piling up. I enjoyed “Strange Case”, though it didn’t blow me away with the twists or overall story. It was a comfortable episode in a way, we got things like a lovely Charming Family breakfast and a side plot of Snow White returning to teaching. The flashbacks were an interesting interpretation of the classic story of Jekyll and Hyde and I admit I enjoyed the change Once Upon a Time made to their story. There was just a lot going on in the episode and attention felt like it was divided equally among so many characters. I can’t comfortably call it a Rumple and Belle episode, though they got some of the meatiest development and attention, and Hyde and Jekyll were more prominent in their flashbacks than the present day action. “Strange Case” ultimately opened the door for a new villain to take the reins of terrorizing Storybrooke and I’m interested in how that will play out as we get closer to the halfway point of the season.

First off, I thought Snow White returning to the classroom was a great diversion from the main plot which centered so much on death and destruction. Not only does it bring back nostalgic feelings for season one, it makes us appreciate these character’s journeys and history, something that Once Upon a Time does often that I enjoy. Snow giving Jasmine the crash course on her status season one is amusing and reminds us that the curses constantly confining the town are something long time viewers take for granted. Also, I absolutely love the addition of Karen David to the cast as Jasmine. She was excellent in Galavant and I hope she brings more of the fire and humor that made us love Princess Isabella to Once Upon a Time, and that the writers give her ample material to work with. I will say, due to all the buzz about her casting, the “twist” at the end of Shirin being Jasmine fell a little flat. However, the mystery surround this new princess is more intriguing. Obviously, Jasmine referred to herself when telling her story as a way of advising Snow White, but that just raises more questions. What happened in Agrabah and why is Jasmine in cahoots with the Oracle that predicted Emma’s death? Given Once Upon a Time in Wonderland’s unique interpretations on Jafar and genies, I’m looking forward to how the writers will bring Jasmine and Aladdin to life and how their story will tie in to others we already know.

Speaking of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, fans of that show would have been surprised to see a familiar face in “Strange Case”. The doctor that ran the asylum Alice was confined to in the beginning of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland was a major player in the flashbacks involving Jekyll and Hyde. I hope this means that continuity regarding Jafar’s story, which was so well fleshed out in Wonderland, will be carried over to the main Once property. I enjoyed how Hyde in these flashbacks was more reined in and clearly part of a whole rather than a separate entity. He wasn’t evil; he was just the opposite of Jekyll. In these flashbacks it’s easier to understand that how Jekyll and Hyde were one person. Hyde is anything but monstrous in his actions, but I still constantly was expecting him to snap and throttle someone, a moment that never came. And I love how the episode subtly points to the dubiousness of Jekyll’s virtue. Rumple even mentions that Hyde is “the scars Jekyll wanted to hide from the world”. It’s a great interpretation of the story to show that not only does Jekyll have the capacity for evil, but Hyde had the same capacity for love. This pair was the manifestation of the struggle many characters on Once Upon a Time have, that ultimately paints them in a grey light. It was interesting that while they were separate and enemies during their time in Storybrooke, Jekyll and Hyde did work towards the same goal in the end.

I will say the death of Hyde shocked me more than the death of Jekyll. On one hand, I’ll miss him. The villains on Once Upon a Time always have a place in my heart and I feel like we didn’t really see that much of Hyde. On the other hand, he story wrapped up, his plans for the town amounted in a revenge against Rumple, and his death prevented him from getting stale and losing that edge and threat. The question is who will fill in the villain shoes for the rest of the season? I don’t think it will be the Evil Queen. While capable of dastardly deeds, she seems a bit myopic without her Regina side of things, even if Regina is her focus. The Evil Queen is just being evil to be evil, whereas Regina was doing everything she did out of a misguided sort of love. And I don’t think Regina will die any more than I think Emma will. I appreciated the call back to the Camelot storyline and how Regina was willing to follow Emma’s wishes. Hyde’s death, while inevitable, did show that Once Upon a Time is toying with our expectations. All the meta talk of “twists” in “Strange Case” highlight this, and provide a bit of fun regarding all of the characters’ literary origins. I don’t know why Regina was surprised that Jekyll retained the capacity for evil though. We saw in a past season that Rumple having the Dark One-ness removed from his heart still resulted in his returning to darkness.

And so on to Rumple and Belle. I appreciate how Belle is continuing to stand up for herself and how her resolve has not crumbled. Regina quips early on in “Strange Case” that it’s always out of one prison and into another with Belle, and while that may be true in the past, season six Belle is holding her own more than ever. And that just makes Rumple’s advances and treatment of her seem pretty much abusive. I was disturbed in this episode at the lengths he would go to “keep her safe” and how he seems think he knows what’s best for her. This is most apparent in the lines where Rumple declares necessity and not the threats he made will make Belle come back to him. Rumple didn’t seek out Jekyll to rid himself of the darkness, he wanted to rid himself of the love he had for Belle when they first met, seeing it as weakness. It’s just so hard to root for Rumple now because his selfishness has compounded over the seasons; his good credit with Belle has run out. I appreciate what the writers are doing having Belle not forgiving him for the umpteenth time and the more I see of Rumple’s actions, the more I wonder if this couple will get back together. It was never a wholly healthy relationship, but they tried to work things out. I wonder if they are past that point now.

Tune in next week for “Street Rats”!

About the Author - Ashley B
Ashley is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention enthusiast, and resident sass master, Ashley writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.
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