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Once Upon a Time - Dark Waters - Review

“Dark Waters” was not my favorite Once Upon a Time episode, mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t connect with the story being told in the flashbacks. It felt as though it didn’t add much to the present day drama, aside from giving Hook a stepbrother and a conflict to parallel against his own struggle with fitting in to a family unit. I don’t know if it was the character the episode was focused on or what, but the flashbacks didn’t succeed in adding depth to the present story. We got great visuals with the Nautilus, though I feel Captain Nemo himself was softened a bit. He wasn’t in this story to be a threat to anyone, but we’re so used to seeing the captain as a formidable force of the seven seas that throughout the episode I was expecting a sudden change of heart that never came. The present day plot again is an examination of where our characters stand after all they’ve been through and I still enjoy seeing them work through their conflicts, even though that means for plots to unfold more slowly. However, even with the looming threat of the Evil Queen focusing on obtaining Snow White’s heart, I still feel she isn’t a threat to our heroes. No one, aside from maybe Zelena and even that is up in the air, is being taken in by her manipulations. I feel we need to see her cause some real harm otherwise my interest in the Evil Queen is waning.

As I said, the flashbacks were the weak point in “Dark Waters”. Aside from reestablishing Hook’s stepbrother, mentioned last season, where they occurred in the timeline meant we wouldn’t be getting a fresh take on Hook. By the end of the episode, he still had to have his thirst for revenge to get to where he is now. I felt myself waiting for these scenes to end so the action could continue in the present day. The flashbacks on Once Upon a Time normally succeed in deepening our understanding of a character and fleshing them out more, but in the case of “Dark Waters” I feel that the new details we learned about Hook just didn’t matter.

I will say all of the visuals surrounding the Nautilus were striking and eye-catching. Despite the danger they were in, Henry even seemed impressed with his surroundings when he first laid eyes on them. I loved the iris window on the submarine, it was a memorable introduction to Nemo’s famous submarine and the CGI with the kraken as well as its design looked great. Even the lighting and the practical sets stood out to me as visually interesting. With Once Upon a Time expanding to include non-fairy tales the show is able to change up the settings and bring together things the audience isn’t used to or hasn’t seen before in the past few seasons. This is breathing new life into the visuals and keeping things interesting for the audience. Also, it was fun to see Hook in the flashback act a bit more pirate-y again, he was an enjoyable villain.

I did enjoy the fact that Henry and Hook spent so much time together in “Dark Waters”. Seeing Henry uneasy about a new addition to the family and the pair of them trying to understand each other through the conflict over the shears came off as a natural conflict. It made sense that Hook didn’t want to “ruin” another family, especially since he knew and respected Henry’s late father, and Henry’s protectiveness of Emma stems not only from his feelings about Emma’s saviorhood being his fault, but also from how hard we’ve seen Emma and Henry work towards being a family. Once Upon a Time isn’t sticking Hook and Henry together and calling it a happy family, they are still awkward and though their bridges are mended for now, they have a long way to go before they can be truly comfortable. The writers are continuing to give Jared Gilmore more to work with and he is holding his own as his character gets more scenes focused on him, not about him. “Dark Waters” displayed the very human story of a family learning to blend together framed in a fantasy situation. While I felt this episode was lacking, I can appreciate Once Upon a Time giving me this type of story, something I, as a long time viewer, have wanted. Also appreciate how candid all the characters were about the shears. It eliminates so much unnecessary sneaking around and conflict when characters just talk to each other.

I do want to see more scenes between Emma and Aladdin and to definitely see more of his take on saviorhood. I had hoped that having the pair of saviors together would lead to this, but the audience mostly got Emma helping the thief with his problems. It didn’t even seem as if helping Aladdin gave Emma a deeper insight to her own internal conflicts. Though, Emma’s candid talk about how she ran from her responsibilities more than once and the callback to the events of the pilot does give the audience an idea of where her head is at. The savior is who she is, it’s a huge part of Emma, but as we have seen, it is also a mantle to take up and a heavy burden to bear. Emma continues to make peace with this as the seasons of Once Upon a Time go on, though the finality of this season may point to a change in status quo which will be welcome. We see Emma go back and forth with how comfortable she is as the savior, so maybe it’s time to see her put the brunt of her struggles behind her. Agrabah’s disappearance is slowly becoming more intriguing. While one would naturally point to Jafar as the cause, something is telling me that Jasmine is not what she seems and we are in for a huge twist with this plot.

It was nice seeing Belle go about her life, taking care of business and being independent. Her conflict over how involved Rumple should be in their son’s life is to be expected and her continued resilience and hesitation at allowing Rumple into her own life is one of the things I’m really enjoying about season six. Belle is fully acknowledging that Rumple isn’t good for their family, but wants to do right by the Dark One and let him see his son and I welcome this character development. Rumple has gotten so many second chances; enough is enough, especially as we learn that he wants to use the shears, not on himself to cleave himself from his dark destiny, but on Belle. The Dark One still hasn’t learned and unless Rumple can see that he is the one that needs to do better, I don’t know where this character can go, particularly since Belle has been shown to be resolved in no being involved with him. She isn’t being cruel; she’s finally being smart about the true nature of her loved one. On a lighter note, the baby talk between Disney princesses was amusing in these scenes as Snow White doted over new mother Belle.

Speaking of Rumple, his involvement with the Evil Queen reminds me strongly of season one, which I enjoy, but at the same time I have an aversion to this alliance. Perhaps it’s the teacher/student dynamic that was being played up in “Dark Water” and the path it takes when the Evil Queen has the reigns of the conversation. She certainly was playing up a kind of “hot for teacher” trope, which is interesting if this is Regina’s latent attraction, but at the same time leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And I get what they were going for with the “southern belle” act in that one scene, it was just so jarring because the show has never really done that before that I had to pause and consider what I had just heard. It was funny, but also made me literally utter “what”.

The Evil Queen, where to begin with her. Lana Parrilla is excelling at bringing these two distinct personalities to life, especially when they have to play off each other in the same scene. But Snow White assured her foe that the Evil Queen would not “tear this family apart” and I think the princess is right. The Evil Queen is so confident that she is sowing discord, but nothing she does has a lasting effect, except for maybe her hold over Zelena, though as we saw in this episode the baby comes first and foremost. I feel as if it’s going to come down to Zelena choosing her child over the “family” she has with the Evil Queen. But the Evil Queen’s confidence and lack of result are the problem I have with her arc. She, in my opinion, is ineffective so when she shows up in a scene it is entertaining in the moment but also doesn’t really hit the spot in terms of the big season-wide picture. Hopefully the Evil Queen’s newest plan, the most direct call back to season one we’ve had, will shake things up.

Tune in next week for “Heartless”!

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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