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Once Upon a Time - Ill-Boding Patterns - Review

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This was another top notch episode of Once Upon a Time. Again, the flashbacks added to the story instead of padding it. We go back very far in the lore of Once Upon a Time and see what it was like before the Dark One was perceived as a monster. We also got some great interactions not only between Rumple and Gideon, the meat of the episode, but with Regina and her storyline as well. Also, Zelena is back! I always like seeing the Wicked Witch on my screen. Still, I had problems with characterization in "Ill-Boding Patterns". For many characters it felt a bit wobbly; they either committed actions that they normally would never or took a step back into a mindset we thought they'd outgrown.

The inclusion of Beowulf in a series of flashbacks rife with ogres works in "Ill-Boding Patterns" and there is a precedence for his being a part of the Once Upon a Time universe. We actually do meet Grendel in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Fans also had speculated on Beowulf's involvement since the episode title was revealed. "The iron blade with its ill-boding patterns had been tempered in blood" is an actual line from Beowulf that refers directly to Hrunting, the sword at the center of the conflict in this episode. Once kept close to the original tale by having the blood of the Blue Fairy play a role and this may point to another significant detail; Hrunting failed against its greatest challenge. Could it be that despite all of Gideon's efforts the blade will not allow him to win? Is Rumple counting on this which is why he's lending his son a hand? We shall see.

As I said, I felt the flashbacks aided to the telling of the story, though one aspect I didn't enjoy was the out of character moments for Baelfire which the character's actor being recast unfortunately added to. It wouldn't have stuck out to me as much when Baelfire decided to command his father to murder Beowulf if it hadn't been for an unfamiliar face carrying out this violent order. At the end of "Ill-Boding Patterns" we do see how these actions are stitched in to the history we know for Baelfire. I'm willing to accept that being spared the knowledge of his actions and made to believe that his father carried out the murder of his own will was what began Baelfire's distaste for magic and his more urgent desire to have his papa back. it just didn't flow as well as it could have. When Baelfire turned the dagger on Beowulf and commanded that Rumple kill him, it took me right out of the action because I was busy thinking to myself, "Baelfire wouldn't do that". This was all brought into the story to bring Gideon and Baelfire closer together in comparison, to eliminate the sense of Rumple having an inherently "good son" and a "bad son". I think in the end it did a disservice to Baelfire's character.

Rumple's relationship with Gideon is the very definition of up and down. It's sad that neither man trusted the other in their scene in the clock tower; Rumple slipping in the memory potion and Gideon slipping out the dagger. Where this happened in the episode caused Rumple's actions to have a different tone as well. I initially thought that he didn't trust his son and that it was a rather low thing to try and wipe Gideon's memory without his permission, but after learning that this is what Rumple did to help Baelfire (still without permission) in the past, the act comes off as more merciful than malicious. Throughout the present day storyline, Rumple is trying to be the best father he can be to Gideon and to shield him from growing any darker. The problem is Rumple is using his old methods; doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. However, these actions feel more selfless and gentle than the Dark One's past scheming has been. True, he is putting Emma in danger and sapped the Blue Fairy's power in order to aid Gideon and get rid of a threat to himself, but getting a second chance at saving and caring for a son has caused some of the ruthlessness to leave Rumple's actions.

The Dark One is operating with greater care, moving the pieces around the board like he did back under the curse in season one, as opposed to the more careless way he operated in later seasons, not really minding collateral damage. This, coupled with Belle's understanding of his actions, really point to the start of a true redemption for the Dark One. Don't get me wrong, Rumple is still manipulating his son, putting his former daughter-in-law in danger, and treated Belle horribly in the first half of the season, there's just something about how earnest his desire to help Gideon is that softens the reality of that. He isn't teaming up with his son so they can do evil, he's guiding his son so they can do the least amount of evil.

Speaking of team ups, Wish Realm Robin made a house call to Zelena and really showed his true colors. The moment he called Baby Robin a brat, that guy was dead to me. I grew a bit tired of Regina's efforts to make excuses and bring things back to how they were. I get that she was trying to guide him, but Robin had a point. He can't live up to the memory of the man Regina lost and he isn't that person no matter how much Regina forced it. I found Regina's assessment of her situation towards the end of "Ill-Boding Patterns" to be interesting, that her ability to move on had been tested and she failed. This, however, causes Regina to take a few steps back into that place where she feels she isn't worthy of a happy ending. At the same time, being able to help this Robin leave is a step towards letting her own Robin go and being at peace. And it's good Regina acknowledged that she should have never tried to cleave her negative aspects from herself and owns the regrettable evil she's done.

What's not good is that the Evil Queen is back. I really grew tired very quickly of the Evil Queen's moustache-twirling activities in the first half of season six. She was all talk and never did anything. Now that she has gained an ally in Robin, I'm wondering if that might chance. I will say, the Evil Queen came off more subdued that she was in past episodes. The idea of an evil twin duo running around Storybrooke wrecking havoc doesn't thrill me though, especially when Gideon is still a more menacing threat. I understand the need to have Regina confront and best the negative aspects of herself, it's just the evil twin thing that really doesn't click for me. Also, Zelena's pairing up with Robin briefly felt a little off though understandable seeing as how she's become an outsider again after her falling out with Regina. Had it not been for the apology at the end of the episode, I would have accused the other Mills sister of sliding backward in development as well.

Let's talk about fairies. What little hope I had that Gideon wasn't truly dark faded away when it was shown he was willing to steal the power of his own Fairy Godmother, Mother Blueperior. On a side note, my personal feelings that the Blue Fairy is shady have only been strengthen from this episode thanks to the reveal that Blue was involved in the forging of Hrunting. I'm sure it's perfectly innocent that she has a hand in a sword that has become the main focus of more than one character's destiny, right. The Black Fairy, without being on screen, has proven herself to be a piece of work. Just hearing the tale of what she did to young Gideon, how she mentally abused him makes me deeply dislike her and want to see more. I'm glad the Black Fairy has been used sparingly or else she'd lose her impact and I'm wondering what will happen when she's finally back on screen because she seems to be capable of a more slow, aching kind of evil.

The lack of Emma in these past episodes is now starting to annoy me. I'd like to see more of the savior since it was her coming to Storybrooke that kicked the series off in the first place. She's supposed to bring back the happy endings and she can't do that if she isn't on screen. I thought the proposal scene was sweet though. I particularly liked when Emma mentioned to Hook that it was just the two of them that there was no background music. It was quiet and still, yet emotionally-charged moment between them. However, as much as I want to see Emma happy, I'm not excited that she is engaged. And this is from a storytelling standpoint. It always seems that the spark and intrigue in television relationships fizzles out once the "will they, won't they" aspect of the couple is eliminated. There's something about introducing commitment to a pairing that takes the danger out of it. And then writers must introduce outside conflicts and threats of breaking up to continue the drama. You could look at Rumple and Belle and see that this can happen. With Hook's dark secret, there already is a conflict ready to throw a wrench in his and Emma's marriage, so we shall see what kind of waves this could make. Can it keep the couple on their toes or will things become too vanilla?

Join us next week for a real page-turner, "Page 23"!

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