The residents of Storybrooke, Maine may well be long-lost fairytale characters who don’t remember who they are. At least one little boy from the town, Henry, is convinced of this truth. He believes an evil queen placed a curse that made the townspeople forget who they were once upon a time. Finding and enlisting the help of his birth mother, Emma Swan, Henry is determined to prove his theory about Storybrooke. He believes Emma is the key because she’s the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming and is the only one who can save the town and Henry from the Evil Queen, and bring back the happy endings. Who is the Evil Queen? None other than his adoptive mother and the town mayor, Regina. That’s the premise of ABC’s freshman hit, Once Upon A Time.
The series premiered in October, drawing 12 million viewers to see its first outing. Apparently, most liked what they saw, and have been returning to the setting of Storybrooke week after week, handing ABC a bona fide success. In recent years, sci-fi and fantasy programming has not fared well for the networks with the majority of the genre shows being cancelled after one or two seasons. But OUAT is drawing a steady 10-11 million viewers every week and is well on its way to earning a coveted second season pick-up.
Creators and Executive Producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz have created a complex, interesting and believable world combining the modern story seamlessly with the enchanted fairytale world. Kitsis says that at its core, the story is about hope. “Adam and I just wanted to write about something hopeful that for one hour a week allows one to put everything aside and have that feeling that your dreams just may come true.” Edward Kitsis, quoted on the ABC official site for OUAT. The creative duo is best known for their work on Lost and Tron: Legacy.
Each episode pairs a modern storyline in Storybrooke with one set in the “Enchanted Forest” of the fairytale world. All the characters from our favorite stories live in this world and have a counterpart in the present world. The remainder of the article is a recap/review of Episode 1.06, “That Still Small Voice.” If you haven’t seen the episode, there are probably spoilers.
Henry puts himself in danger when he decides to explore an old mine he hopes will hold clues to the fairytale world, while Jiminy Cricket wants to leave the family business and become the person he wishes to be. Jiminy’s parents are portrayed by guest stars Harry Groener (Mayor Wilkins, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Carolyn Hennesy (General Hospital, Cougar Town and best-selling author). The roles perfectly suit them and they deliver with avaricious panache.
At a wooden marionette show, a young pickpocket creeps through the crowd relieving the audience of their coin. He climbs into the wagon. Later, the wagon is parked in the forest as a canny twosome count the haul. They’re the puppeteers and the boy’s parents. The boy, whose name is Jiminy, is fond of crickets because they are free, and he wishes to leave the life of thievery he has been born into.
Henry is at a session with Dr. Archie Hopper, his psychiatrist. He’s convinced Dr. Hopper is really Jiminy Cricket because he’s a conscience helping people see right from wrong. Henry points out that they never hear crickets in Storybrooke; he’s convinced it’s part of the proof of the curse. Archie desires to help Henry overcome his fantasies.
Emma Swan has been hired by the sheriff as a deputy. She’s not so keen on wearing a uniform but agrees to wear the badge in sight. As she slides it onto her belt, an explosion rocks the town.
The tunnels of an old mine collapsed, creating a large sinkhole. It has drawn a crowd of townspeople. In the effort to control the crowd, the mayor learns the sheriff hired Emma as his new deputy. The Mayor promises to keep the area safe by bulldozing and paving it. Henry protests that there might be something important inside the mine. Henry brings Emma and Archie together for a meeting of what he’s termed Operation Cobra — his effort to prove the curse is genuine. He’s convinced Emma’s continuing presence in Storybrooke is weakening the curse.
The Mayor threatens to fire Archie and ruin his life if he doesn’t stop Henry from his quest to prove his theory about the fairytales and the curse. One of the nice touches for the character is Archie always carries an umbrella, just like Jiminy Cricket.
Years later, Jiminy is almost grown. He still wishes to leave his life as a puppeteer/petty thief, but his parents provide creative excuses why he shouldn’t go. Setting up for a show in the rain, he encounters a young boy. The boy has come to listen to the crickets. He gives Jiminy his umbrella so he can stay dry.
Henry believes Archie’s friend Marco is really Geppetto. Henry has a plan for going to the mine. In a session, Archie comes down hard on Henry, forcefully telling him his belief is a delusion and has to end.
Mary Margaret is spending her volunteer time at the hospital with John Doe. They’re getting to know each other and discover there’s an attraction. His “wife” shows up and the moment is ruined. Emma warns her not to get involved with a married man. A distraught Henry shows up at their door looking for Emma.
Emma confronts Archie and realizes the Mayor must have threatened him in some way for him to act in such a manner. Her phone rings. It’s the Mayor wanting to know where Henry is. Archie deduces Henry has gone to the mine looking for proof of the enchanted world.
Jiminy pays a visit to Rumplestiltskin. Using his gold thread, he creates a potion that can set Jiminy free if he gives it to his parents. But everything from Rumplestiltskin comes at a price. The fascinating and repulsive little man of gold is one of my favorites on the show, elegantly brought to life by Robert Carlyle, the linchpin of a stellar cast.
Archie and Emma rush to the mine to search for Henry. Archie brings his Dalmation, Pongo. What else would a Dalmation from a fairytale world be named? The show is liberally sprinkled with references from Disney’s versions of the tales. Henry finds an interesting piece of glass wedged between rocks. When he pulls it out, more of the mine collapses. Archie climbs past the mouth of the mine as it fills with debris and rock. He finds Henry, but now they’re trapped.
Jiminy and his parents run their “elf tonic” scam on an unsuspecting couple claiming it makes them immune from plagues. In exchange, his parents take all the valuable belongings. At the wagon, he pulls the vial from his belt and splashes the liquid on his parents. It’s just water. His parents suspected something and switched the vials. The potion from Rumplestiltskin was the “elf tonic” his parents sold to the couple. He runs back to the cottage, but the potion has turned them into wooden marionettes. The boy arrives at the door. It’s his house, his parents.
Archie and Henry find an old elevator shaft deep within the mine. They try to escape by moving the elevator up the shaft manually. But workers outside the mine are preparing to detonate an explosion to clear the opening. The force of the explosion doesn’t clear the debris at the mine entrance. It does trap Henry and Archie inside the elevator with no way out.
John Doe invites Mary Margaret for a walk. He tells her nothing feels real to him except for her and he doesn’t remember anything about his life before waking up from the coma. They almost kiss but are interrupted by the woman who claims to be his wife.
Marco has an idea to rescue Henry and Archie. If they can pinpoint their location, they can drill down to them and pull them up. Emma has the idea to use Pongo to locate them. Pongo finds the elevator shaft.
Henry assures Archie he can be a good person, the person he wants to be. After all, he’s Jiminy Cricket. Archie points out that Jiminy was a cricket, a conscience, and he doesn’t think that’s him. Henry says it’s harder for him to hear the voice inside because of the curse.
Emma volunteers to be the one lowered down the shaft. Archie hands Henry up to her. There’s another tremor and the elevator falls. Thanks to his trusty umbrella hooking into Emma’s harness, Archie is freed before the elevator falls. On the surface again, he finds the strength to stand up to the mayor. He tells her he’s going to treat Henry his own way, the way his conscious tells him to.
Jiminy wishes on a star, and a fairy comes to grant his request. She can’t undo what has been done. Instead, he wishes to become a cricket. She tasks him with finding the boy, Geppetto, and helping him as he grows.
As everyone relaxes after the rescue, Henry notices something — the crickets have returned. Things are changing.
A glimpse of Mr. Gold leaving his pawn shop reveals he possesses the wooden marionettes. Mary Margaret turns in her letter of resignation at the hospital. The Mayor drops the piece of glass Henry found down one of the mine shafts. The viewer follows its journey to the bottom where it bounces off the other shards of Snow White’s casket. Looks like Henry is right: there is something important inside the mine.