I rather feel like I'm going out on a limb here, but what the heck -- Snow Falls is my favorite episode of Once Upon a Timeyet. In the interest of full disclosure, it's highly possible I rank this episode so highly because I am a romantic sap. This episode just worked for me on all levels, plus it gave me the first real hope I've had since the show began that it could continue a successful season(s?) run beyond what initally felt like a six hour or so miniseries-length premise.
This episode reveals how Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) met, and to the show's everlasting credit I was really and truly pleasantly surprised by the set up. In Fairy Tale Land the Prince was on the verge of proposing marriage to a snotty blonde (Anastasia Griffith), part of a distasteful but necessary political alliance. Their coach is robbed and a pouch of jewels stolen -- most importantly his mother's ring. Shockingly the thief turns out to be Snow White, who is apparently living a rather Robin Hood-esque existence in the woods as the Queen's (Lana Parrilla) most wanted. To say that sparks fly when the two meet would be an understatement -- and the Prince is anything but "charming" (I really liked how Snow bestowed that moniker on him just to irritate him!), and Snow is far from the ladylike princess of legend.
Cut to the real world for a moment -- in Storybrooke we see just how much Mary Margaret wants a happy ending (even if, thanks to the curse, she doesn't fully believe in the possibility) as she ends a disastrous first date with a local doctor. Henry (Jared Gilmore) takes a particular interest in Mary Margaret's happiness (as any good grandson should, right? LOL). He theorizes that if she reads Snow White and Prince Charming's story to the John Doe in the hospital, he'll remember who Mary really is and wake from his years-long coma. Emma (Jennifer Morrison) convinces Mary Margaret to play along, sure Henry's plan will backfire. When John Doe responds to Mary's voice by grasping her hand, both Mary and Emma's shock is very well played -- one gets the feeling they are startign to suspect there's much more going on than they are willing to admit to.
As an actress, Goodwin is doing an extraordinarily good job of conveying Snow/Mary Margaret's emotions with simply a look. Snow is confident and self-sufficient, but not wholly unsusceptible to the Prince's presence -- and Mary Margaret just breaks my heart with her palpable longing to know and be known, to connect with that special someone. I loved how the simple act of John Doe grasping her hand drove Mary to find him when he wanders into the woods -- she's connected with him and though she doesn't fully understand why she's compelled to act. The way this episode played with the idea that these soul mates have an undeniable connection across time and space (sorry to delve into Doctor Who territory there for a sec -- HA!) was incredibly romantic. I am a diehard romantic, but the use of the "you found/saved me" lines (not to mention Mary employing the kiss story beat to wake John, in a nice reversal of the legend) in Fairy Tale Land and Storybrooke just killed me with their poignancy, especially since John Doe is completely out of the Storybrooke loop. Goodwin and Dallas have tremendous on-screen chemistry and look forward to seeing how their story plays out over the season.
While the John Doe wake-and-rescue storyline plays out in Storybrooke, we're treated to a lovely look at the Prince and Snow's adversarial introduction. When its played like this hour gives us, the whole "I like you but I'll die before admitting it" convention never gets old. First, when the Queen's huntsmen catch Snow while she's enroute with the Prince to retrieve his ring, he saves her -- once again revealing that the man has some mad fight skills, and for all I may find the occasional CGI shot in Fairy Tale Land lacking, the Prince's sword-wielding heroics are a WIN EVERY TIME. EVERY SINGLE TIME, PEOPLE! (I'm developing quite the thing for my man Josh Dallas, aren't I? HA!) Note to the writers -- any time the Prince fights an episode automatically gains tons of bonus points.
I love the way the show takes a very adversarial Snow White and Prince James/Charming and plays with the fairy tale ideal of love at first sight. In Fairy Tale Land, Snow and the Prince each take a turn saving each other's life. The first time, when the Prince stops the Queen's men from killing Snow, Goodwin lets her dawning attraction slowly blossom on Snow's face, only to have it crushed by the Prince's response of "let's get my stupid ring!" was so, so well-played. And when Snow later saves the Prince, the realization that there's something between them, something they don't understand but can't deny, is nicely reflected in their real world counterparts -- heart-breakingly so because John Doe is just awakening from a years-long coma. Making the Prince's erstwhile fiancee his real world wife is a terrific way of throwing a wrench in the Snow/Prince reunion. At this point I think it is possible they're not even really married -- but Mary Margaret's powerful reaction to "losing" John Doe just when they've "found" each other KILLED me, so it'll be interesting to see how the show navigates the snobby blond chick obstacle.
A few quick notes -- I liked having the Queen/Regina in the background for a change. I'm rather torn, though, on just how much Regina knows -- is she fully aware that her curse is dictating events in Storybrooke, or did the curse wipe her memory (as I suspected last week) and she's operating on some preset playbook? Regarding Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan), another favorite guy, this episode leaves me more convinced than ever that his fairy tale identity is that of the huntsman who spares Snow White. He's at the beck and call of Regina but doesn't seem entirely at ease with her orders -- thoughts? It was a hilarious touch seeing two of the seven dwarves -- Grumpy/Leroy (Lee Arenberg) and Sleepy/Walter (Faustino Di Bauda) -- make brief appearances as hospital security guards. And Gilmore as Henry is in a fair way to delivering one of my favorite child actor performances. I love his earnestness, his pure faith in the fairy tales and this never say die attitude he has to his whole situation.
So fellow Once fans, chime in with your thoughts as I'd love to discuss this episode! :)