Once Upon a Time
Episode 18: Selfless, Brave and True
By: Carlos Uribe
Once Upon a Time is a show about fairy tale characters who got sent to our reality, which has magic now.
What drove August to Storybrooke when the curse was first broken? It had everything to do with his leg. It had started to turn into wood and he needed to break the curse to try and stop his transformation. It wasn't necessarily Emma's arrival in the town that caused his leg to become wood but because of how he had been living his life. He had been selfish, a coward, and a liar. When we pick up on his story, he's in Asia living with some girl when he discovers that his fairy tale past is catching up to him. He tries to go to a hospital to solve his problem but they all think he's crazy. After all, you have to believe in magic in order to see the leg. Of course, this implies that he would have already known this when he tried to show his leg to Emma to prove the existence of magic. I understand that the audience didn't know that at the point and it worked but it's not good when future plot developments like this undercut what has happened in the past. First we find out that what August had shown Neal was very stupid and now we find out that he knew better than to expect his leg to serve as evidence? I'm starting to think that his brain was the first thing to turn to wood. These flashbacks are supposed to add understanding but this series keeps failing when it comes to adult August. Anyways, his condition leads him to the Dragon.
Who is the Dragon? He's an Asian figure who is able to use magic. Did he come from the fairy tale world? If not then how come he is in Storybrooke? Is he the dragon from Mulan? His presence is mandated by the plot but it makes no sense. The Dragon does have a way to stop him from turning into wood permanently but warns him that it will only treat the symptom. This is to say that August must become a better person. The flashback adds a whole other layer when it reveals that Neal's fiance was also after the Dragon. She pretends she wants his magic in order to cure a rare form of cancer that she has but it's really because she's been looking for magic. To make a long story short, August steals her money to buy the spell but then ends up losing it when she catches up to him. He has no choice but to go back to Storybrooke for his own selfish reasons. He does stop by New York City to tell Neal that Emma is in Storybrooke and that he'll send a postcard to him when the curse is broken. Whose listening in? Neal's fiance. She sees her way into a town of magic so she basically forces them into meeting. This whole reveal about Neal's fiance is completely ridiculous but it only works because we barely know the character. We met her for like one scene in a previous episode and that was it. It's a big twist but it doesn't betray anything we know about her.
The flashbacks were mixed. On one hand, it keeps making August a bigger idiot than he's supposed to be. On the other hand, I like the development with Neal's fiance. What happened in Storybrooke was also mixed. Let's start with the bad first: I couldn't take a lot of the serious moments in this episode seriously. This is partly because of how terrible the Pinocchio CGI was. The series has a limited budget but it seriously should stop trying to push it. It's also kind of disappointing they didn't actually make a puppet to play August in puppet form. It was also bad for two other reasons that the writers have control over. The whole redemption arc was a bit too on the nose. It also ends with adult August dying. Neal's fiance tazers him and he falls down. He tries his best to warn the other characters about her treachery but he dies before he can reveal her identity. At this point, the blue fairy comes and reveals that because his last actions were brave, selfish, and true then she could bring him back to life as a real boy. She performs the spell and he does become real. Only he regresses back to a little kid and he has no memory of what happened. This is insanely ridiculous. I'm sorry, but why does he regress in his age? Why did the writers have to take the easy way out and give him amnesia over who Neal's fiance really is? Why did the writers take what was a fan-favorite character ruin him by first underusing him and then turning him into an idiot?
On the other hand, there were a lot of aspects I did like about this episode. The first is that the writers went soap opera crazy with Neal's fiance. She's not just in Storybrooke to take the magic away but she's a competent villain whose weapon of choice takes down a powerful wizard and a man made of wood. She's able to play the role of an innocent well. To top everything off, she's also really in love with Owen. Owen is still trying to find his father but he's not as careful as he thought he was. Regina soon manages to figure out who he is and basically tries to get him to leave. It's always nice when characters are smart, are able to figure things out, and try to resolve the problem. Regina is on top of her game tonight. The whole redemption arc might have been a bit on the nose with August but it really did resonate when it came to Mary Margaret. Ginnifer Goodwin basically gave an Emmy-worthy performance in this episode as she tries her best to figure out if she can redeem herself. When she realizes what it's going to cost her, she almost loses herself. It's a bit cheesy when David tells her that nobody knows her heart better than him but that's Once Upon a Time sometimes. The plot at Storybrooke didn't work when it came to August for multiple reasons but just about everything else was did.
Selfless, Brave, and True is really the send-off episode for Eion Bailey. He might return in some flashbacks but his character is now a kid once again. Sadly, it's not the best episode for August. Neal's fiance not only steals the show but the flashbacks don't do his character any favors. His plot at Storybrooke had one of the most ridiculous developments when he sort-of died and was brought back as a kid. This was only after we had to suffer a very distracting CGI version of him as a puppet. On the other hand, the soap opera twists, Regina, and Ginnifer Goodwin really shined in this episode as they were given actual material to work with.
Other frustrating element of the episode's end: the kid doesn't look at Neal's fiance once. I kept waiting for him to look back but the scene is staged so that he doesn't set eyes on her. This was so frustrating because I kept waiting for it to happen.
If I was August, I'd be disappointed that I've have to go through puberty, middle school, and high scool all over again. As if life wasn't bad enough for him.
I really should learn the name for Neal's fiance.