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Once Upon A Time: ‘What Happened To Frederick’

“True love isn’t easy, but it must be fought for. Because once you find it, it can never be replaced.”

Back in 7:15 AM, when Mary Margaret and David started seeing each other, it was clear that their relationship wasn’t going to end well and this week featured the climax of that plot. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a fairytale-based show, true love is a big theme in Once Upon A Time and in the weeks focusing on Mary Margaret and David, and Snow and James, it is especially predominant. However, while Snow and James are seemingly getting closer to their happily-ever-after in the Fairy Tale Realm, Mary Margaret and David’s relationship is experiencing a lot more turbulence.

We first heard the phrase What Happened to Frederick back in The Shepherd, when King Midas warned one of his guards to be cautious when removing his glove for fear of turning him into gold. In this episode we learnt exactly what did happen to Frederick; he was turned to gold defending King Midas and Abigail from an attack and, perhaps more significantly, he was to marry Abigail before James. I love how this show is clearly prepared in advance for its future plots, and the fact that the plot of this episode was hinted at in a throwaway line in an earlier episode shows that the people behind Once Upon A Time have great attention to detail.

In order to restore Frederick to his original self, and help Abigail get her true love, James decided to go down to Lake Nostos and take back some healing water. There he had to confront a Siren, who tried to lure him into danger by changing into Snow. Fortunately, James refused to be taken in because he knew what true love felt like and, much like Wesley in Angel, he didn’t want an illusion in place of the real thing.

While James was fighting for true love in the Fairy Tale Realm, David was doing a fairly good job of ruining it in Storybrooke. He finally agreed to tell Kathryn the truth about his and Mary Margaret’s relationship, but he wimped out at the last moment and just told her that he didn’t love her. He also told Mary Margaret that he had told Kathryn about their relationship and when the truths came out, with a little help from Regina of course, David was left without either woman wanting to be with him.

In the past both Abigail and Kathryn have been quite irritating characters, although that may be because for both of them we know that they shouldn’t be with James/David, but here they were actually quite relatable. Abigail was pining for her lost love and helped James escape from King George’s men, and was almost an entirely different character from the one we saw in previous episodes. Meanwhile, after the initial shock of David and Mary Margaret’s relationship wore off, Kathryn realised the love the two shared and decided to leave town and encouraged them to be together. Unfortunately, she filled Regina in on her plan beforehand, who quickly set about messing it up in order to prevent Mary Margaret and David reuniting. Furthermore, Kathryn, unable to leave Storybrooke, appeared to have crashed her car at the end of the episode and seemed to have disappeared. Did that have anything to do with Regina burning the letter?

The background plot this week focused on Emma and the mysterious stranger, or August W. Booth as we now know he is called. August took her on a ‘date’ to a well, which it seems might have been located above Lake Nostos from the Fairy Tale Realm, which adds credence to the idea that Storybrooke is on top of where the Fairy Tale Realm used to be. We didn’t learn that much about August this week, other than his name, but we did see that he was doing something to Henry’s book. I couldn’t quite tell what. Was he treating it or something? With what purpose? I look forward to seeing where this plot goes.

Other thoughts:

  • The title card this week featured Frederick trapped as a gold statue.
  • There is a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale called Catherine and Frederick, which I assume is where the names of Kathryn in Storybrooke and the titular Frederick come from. I can’t see any real connection of the story with the plot, other than the fact that Catherine and Frederick were married. The story is basically about a fairly stupid Catherine who keeps making mistakes which her husband, Frederick, has to correct. Perhaps this episode was meant to serve as the opposite to that, although it was James who saved Frederick here.
  • How was Kathryn’s letter delivered from outside Storybrooke if no one can come or go? Still, as I said in the past, I imagine that this is the sort of thing we just have to accept as happening in this world.
  • Is there any significance to Abigail’s ‘ears’ in the King’s court? Will we see Abigail again to find out who they are?
  • As per usual, many scenes with Mary Margaret featured her wearing a beanie hat this week, although I don’t think it changed throughout the episode.
  • As I mentioned earlier, we learn that the mysterious stranger’s name is August W. (Wayne) Booth. Looking for significance in that, all I can find is that, as August is a month, he could be the March Hare from Alice in Wonderland. He also mentioned “I always tell the truth”, which perhaps indicated that he’s Pinocchio? Neither of those explanations explain how he was able to leave Storybrooke, however, or why he’s a writer.
  •  Speaking of lies, there was a lot of talk of them this week. As well as what August said, there was David lying to Mary Margaret and Kathryn as well as the Siren ‘lying’ to James by imitating Snow.
  • I always enjoy the scenes between Mary Margaret and Emma. As well as often being touching, they are usually quite funny, such as Emma’s “plunging necklines” comment this week and Mary Margaret’s reaction to it.
  • James asked Abigail if she had tried using true love’s kiss to remove the curse from Frederick, which implies that the Evil Queen was telling the truth with what she said to Belle last week. Can true love’s kiss restore Snow’s memories from the potion she took in 7:15 AM?
  • The lake which James visited was Lake Nostos, which had the ability to “return something once lost”. Nostos is the Greek word for homecoming and the origin of the word nostalgia, which is interesting when you consider the role of memory in what is happening in this show. Also, the word seems to have some connection to Homer’s The Odyssey, which also contains Sirens like Lake Nostos here.
  • James says “none have my fearless bravery”. Or modesty, apparently.
  • Regina bought Henry a games console which was the same type Emma used to play as a child. This makes sense, as Storybrooke has only been in existence since Emma’s childhood and if the people haven’t changed since then then it makes sense that the technology hasn’t changed either.
  • The Evil Queen’s grudge against Snow White seems to extend to Storybrooke as well, as she seems particularly desperate to keep Mary Margaret and David apart.
  • The sports teacher at Mary Margaret’s school, who found Kathryn at the end, was Frederick from the Fairy Tale Realm.
  • There was reference this week to taking a “leap of faith”, which could be a LOST reference, but it is a well-known enough phrase that it probably wasn’t.
  • August talks about how “water is a very powerful thing” and says “if anything has magic, well, I’d say it’d be water”. Is there any significance to the water in Storybrooke? Does it still contain magic?
  • Regina is apparently good with plants. We know she keeps apple trees, but is there any further significance to this?
  • We saw Regina’s many keys again this week and it appears that they can open presumably every house in Storybrooke. At the very least, they can open the door to David’s house.
  • James and Red Riding Hood are now together in the Fairy Tale Realm, looking for Snow and escaping from King George. That wasn’t a pairing I saw coming.

This was, as usual, a very good episode of this show and made we eagerly anticipate next week’s. I don’t know that the Mary Margaret/David plot is my favourite in the show at the moment, but it is certainly interesting and enjoyable to watch. Mr Gold/Rumpelstiltskin wasn’t in this episode, despite his significant episode last week, which was a touch disappointing, and neither was Archie. Considering Raphael Sbarge is a series regular, he hasn’t appeared much in the series so far. On the other hand, Meghan Ory, who plays Ruby, has been in practically every episode despite not being a series regular. Still, I’m not going to complain, as I like Ruby, but I hope we see more of Archie in the future. As always, I can’t wait for next Sunday.

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