After last week's dramatic episode of Once Upon A Time, In the Name of the Brother was more low-key, as it moved characters and plots into place for the long run-up to the season finale.
But "low-key" doesn't mean it wasn't worth the watch. In the Name of the Brother is full of quiet, revealing character moments, making it fairly heart-wrenching. It is an episode of adjustment, and these characters, we see, have a lot to adjust to.
Unfortunately, the main plot in the episode didn't quite hold together. It was interesting to see more of Dr Whale/Dr Frankenstein's backstory, and the moment when he tries (and fails) to kill the monster he was so desperate to bring back to life was very powerful, but why, I had to wonder, was all his guilt coming to the front now? Before this, Whale has seemed like a pretty competent doctor. Now, suddenly, he's a drunk, traumatized by his past, and so darn angsty he tries to kill himself? The payoff was quite good, but the setup didn't quite make sense to me.
Regina's move from a woman determined to prove her innocence to regain her son's trust to a woman on the edge of teaming up with her wicked mother and punishing them all also seemed a little unnatural and sudden, although the emotion of Regina as an adoptive mother who has lost her son was very powerful. Regardless of her moniker as the "evil Queen," the things that Cora finds in Regina's house prove that Regina was genuinely a loving mother to Henry before the fairy tales entered his head.
Really, this episode belonged to its secondary plots and secondary characters. It was a transition episode, tying off the arcs of the first half of the season and setting things up for us to hurtle towards the finale, and as such, there was plenty of space for the characters who don't always get a look-in to shine. Ruby, in particular, got to show off her wolfish skills, tracking down Whale, and using her super-speed to prevent him from hurting himself. Her conversation with Whale, meanwhile, gave us a new look into her psyche and an intriguing comment on the fact that fairy tale land wasn't always as nice as the words "fairy tale" might suggest. She undergoes a horrific transformation each month. Her grandmother kept her true nature secret for years, and she killed the guy she loved as a result. These are not necessarily memories she wants back.
And then there's Belle. All her scenes this week were completely heartbreaking, but I hope that the writers flesh out her alternative character more soon. In cursed-Storybrook, Belle had no personality, and not even a name of her own. She was locked up, and as soon as she escaped, the curse was broken and she remembered who she really was. Will she be a kind of anti-Belle, like Mary Margaret and David were the weak opposites of Snow White and Charming? What will that look like?
This week, though, Belle's plot mostly focussed on Rumplestiltskin instead. Somewhat disappointing, but it had an interesting result, as he tries to mix fairy tale logic with bleak reality. In a fairy tale, you kiss your sleeping true love and she awakens to live happily ever after (at least, if you are a prince and not a villain). In real life, and apparently in Storybrook, you kiss a sleeping amnesiac and she screams in terror. You give her a sentimental object to help her remember, and she freaks out under the pressure and breaks it. It was painful, and necessary, I think, but with Rumple leaving town next week, I hope we'll get space to explore Belle's perspective on things.
Although I'm a little nervous that she's been set up as "Chekov's Belle." Warning everyone that he will kill them if anything happens to Belle simply begs the plot to hurt her, and I really don't want that girl to end up in a refrigerator. Once Upon A TIme is too good to its female characters for that to happen.