Just in time for Halloween, ‘Once Upon A Time’ put its stamp on a classic monster masterpiece, ‘Frankenstein.’ In ‘Once’s’ interpretation, the enigmatic Dr. Whale turns out to be the fabled mastermind and ultimate scientific risk-taker, Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Naturally this begs the question: Who is Frankenstein’s monster? Well, that depends on the place and time we are dealing with, for it seems that “The Doctor” has experimented on more than one patient.
Fairytale Land: “It’s not magic. It’s science.”
Our first fairytale flashback drops us in the middle of Regina’s magic lesson with Rumple aka “The Dark One.” Using a black unicorn as target practice, Rumple instructs Regina to rip the majestic beast’s heart out. He explains that once you have a heart, it becomes enchanted, giving you complete control over its body. If you destroy that heart, then the being it belongs to will die for good. Since she is still pre-Evil Queen Regina, she finds it hard to be so cruel, so Rumple clarifies his motives. Magic equals power and all you need to do is take it. When he asks what is holding her back, we learn the obvious answer: Daniel.
Ever since Cora pulverized Daniel’s heart, Regina cast a preservation spell over his body in hopes of finding a way to bring him back to life. Daniel is the only reason she is interested in using magic. Regina visits Rumple at his home full of magical and other-worldly trinkets and explains what she wants from the mastering dark arts.
In the midst of Rumple making a transaction with Jefferson (a crystal ball in lieu of ruby slippers is exchanged for Rumpy’s home-spun gold), Regina reveals she desires true happiness by being with her true love. Rumple bursts her bubble by saying magic can’t get you happiness and that “transcending death” is “beyond his reach.” That’s when Jefferson chimes in with a solution. He knows of a “wizard” that can help and he will introduce her to him in exchange for a Royal Passport, so he can travel between lands with ease.
Jefferson tags along as the doctor checks Daniel’s blood to see if his experiment would work. He is impressed by Regina’s spell and claims Daniel is a perfect candidate, but he needs an extra-strong heart for the procedure to work. Regina takes them to Cora’s grand vault of hearts and the doc picks one out. Then they head out to set everything up.
The doctor insists that Regina keep her distance, for his land has a lot of things they can’t understand. Regina and Jefferson stand at the edge of the forest and look on to see the doctor’s silhouette at work in his tent. It all seems vague, but it doesn’t look like the doctor did anything at all to Daniel, other than mime putting a heart in his chest. He walks out with disappointment and tells Regina that the procedure did not work.
After the devastating failure, a hardened Regina storms into Rumple’s magic session and rips the heart out of his new pupil, proving that she is ready to use the dark arts to gain power. Rumple squeals with glee at her new-found dedication. Later we learn that Rumple made a deal with the doctor and Jefferson.
Rumple has made his own monster with their help, so now the doctor is free to make his with the enchanted heart. The doctor clarifies that he is not making a monster rather his experiment will transcend the limitations of magic by bringing the dead back to life. Rumple warns him to be careful because even science comes with a price. With that said, Jefferson and Rumple jump into the portal to travel to another magical land.
As the fairytale flashback concludes, we see Dr. Victor Frankenstein in his lab as he inserts the last missing piece into his test subject. The enchanted heart (coupled with a huge dose of electricity) breathes life into the man of many parts. Dr. Frankenstein welcomes his brother back and victoriously tells Igor that science succeeded over magic.
Yet another clever twist, which leaves us with more questions: What happened to Frankenstein’s monster-brother? How did his brother die? What is their land like? How much of this story will we get to see this season?
Storybrooke: “I need magic.”
Over in Storybrooke, the past has returned to haunt Regina and Dr. Whale. Now that the curse has been broken, Dr. Whale wants to find a portal back to his land and he wants to know if the rumors are true: Is Prince Charming looking for a way back and do their lands still exist? Dr. Whale is in for a surprise when he goes to question the prince and receives a brutal punch in the face for having dishonored Snow White. Charming honestly admits he is working on finding a portal, but hasn’t made any progress, so Whale marches off to visit someone who can provide more answers.
A very vulnerable Regina reaches out to Dr. Hopper, talking about how difficult it has been for her to abstain from using magic. She surprisingly sounds like a true addict, it has only been two days and she is already tweaking. Right in the middle of their session, Dr. Whale bursts into the room and demands for Regina to send him back home to his brother. Regina explains that she can’t help him because the terms of the curse only brought the living over to Storybrooke. However, if that is the case, then how is it that her entombed father, Henry Mills, is resting in the Storybrooke cemetery? The answer is simple: Regina brought over whomever she wanted, including her beloved, deceased Daniel.
On her way home from Dr. Hopper’s, Regina is faced with the exact thing good old Jiminy Cricket was trying to convince her to let go of – her past. Regina suddenly sees Daniel across the street and wonders if he could really be alive. She rushes over to his glass tomb and finds that it is empty. Daniel is on the loose and only one person could be behind this miracle.
Regina speeds over to Dr. Whale’s lab and finds the doctor trapped under the rubble. Whale admits to reviving Daniel, but claims that he has created a monster so violent that he tore off Whale’s arm. Ewww. Regina takes Whale to the hospital and soon receives a visit from Sheriff Charming.
While Regina has been wrestling with her past, Charming has been working on shaping Henry’s future. He has taken Henry to the stables, given him a horse to care for and has promised to teach his grandson how to become a proper knight. Charming emphasizes the importance of building a strong bond between a knight and his steed. Henry can start riding when his horse is ready. How cute! Prince Charming leaves Henry with the horse and heads out to take care of his sheriff duties, which leads him to Regina and Dr. Whale at the hospital.
After speaking with Regina, Sheriff Charming discovers that Dr. Whale is practicing something more powerful than magic and he is shocked to learn that Regina’s vault of beating hearts is actually in Storybrooke. Regina believes that Daniel would be drawn to the stables because that is where he died, Charming freaks out because he left Henry at the stable, so they frantically rush over there to save Henry.
A ‘roided-up and confused Daniel attacks Henry, but Charming and Regina catch him in time before he can do any real harm. Charming locks Daniel in a stable and thinks they should just kill him for everyone’s safety, but Regina wants to try speaking to Daniel first.
Instinctively, Daniel strangles Regina until she utters how much she loves him, causing him to remember their shared past. Daniel begs Regina to stop his pain, but she loves him too much to kill him. Daniel pleads for her to let him go and love again, so with a wave of her hand, Regina kills her one true love, making him vanish into the ether.
Later, Regina appears on Dr. Hopper’s doorstep once more, claiming that she used magic and asking for his help in upholding her promise to Henry. Meanwhile, Dr. Whale has been released from the hospital and he enters Mr. Gold’s shop with a cooler containing his severed arm. Whale explains why he revived Daniel; he thought if he did Regina a favor, then she would take him back home. Now all he wants is for Gold to re-attach his arm with a bit of magic. Gold will do it if Whale finally admits the truth. Reluctantly, Victor Frankenstein confesses, “I need magic.” Once again, proving Rumple’s theory that magic always equals power.
Post-curse Fairytale Land: “…worry about the Giant at the top…”
Emma, Snow White, Mulan, and Aurora encounter the wake of Cora’s carnage after she yanked out the heart of every villager, except for one: Killian Jones. When Emma questions him, Jones claims to be a blacksmith who hid beneath the bodies and played dead in hopes of making it out alive. However, given her bounty hunting skills, Emma can quickly spot a liar. After holding a knife to his throat and tying him to a tree as ogre bait, Hook finally reveals the truth.
Hook admits his alliance with Cora and even tells them about the magical wardrobe dust she collected. However, he has no problem switching sides. Hook tells them he can help them beat Cora to a magic compass that will help find a portal to Storybrooke, as long as they let him go back to the curiously-named town with them. Emma wonders why he wants to go to Storybrooke and Hook says he wants to exact his revenge on Rumple. So another deal has been struck and Hook leads them towards the compass’ unique location.
Hook, Emma, & Co. arrive at the edge of the forest and gaze upon Jack’s fabled Beanstalk. Emma and Snow don’t trust Hook, but they figure it is safer to play his game for the time being. Emma notes her concerns about the beanstalk’s lofty locale, but Hook cautions her to be more wary of the Giant they must face when they climb up there to retrieve the compass in next week’s highly anticipated “Tallahassee.”
What did you think of “The Doctor”? Did it live up to your expectations? Were you surprised by anything? Did you have any favorite moments? Share your thoughts below!
- Spoiled surprise: Dr. Whale’s identity was clearly revealed in last week’s promo, so learning that he is really Dr. Victor Frankenstein was more of a confirmation at this point, which is a bit of a shame. The only shocking thing is that Frank’s monster is his brother. That should make for an interesting episode in the future. Hopefully we’ll get to learn more about his family and past life in a distant land.
- Dr. Whale: So what does “Whale” have to do with Frankenstein? James Whale directed the first Frankenstein film in 1931, so that was a bit of a fairytale mislead from the creators.
- Can Hook be trusted? Hook shockingly confesses the truth to Emma & Co. Is that part of his plan? Does he prefer siding with Snow White’s lot over Cora? Is he simply playing both sides based on who will be more helpful? How do you feel about Hook’s actions?
- Regina’s therapy: The biggest shock of the episode was Regina’s honesty with Dr. Hopper. She seems to genuinely want to uphold her promise to Henry and she is making herself vulnerable in the process. Is she play-acting for a bigger end-game or is she for real? It is always hard to tell with Regina, she is so good at lying. Do you think she means what she says this time?
- Henry, a knight in training: This grandfather-grandson moment was adorable. Henry has already shown how noble he is at heart, but these royal perks are fun to see.
- Cheesy moments: For the most part, ‘Once’ is pretty good at keeping things from getting too campy on the show, especially given the genre. However, some scenes last night just came off so cheesy, especially when charming and Regina were trying to manage monster-Daniel in the stable. Daniel’s emergence didn’t play-off as smoothly as it could have.
- Magic vs. Science: This is an interesting new theme in the series. Rumple, Regina, even the fairies acknowledge the importance and power of magic. Whatever world Frankie comes from obviously favors science more. It’ll be interesting to learn why that is. Either way, that final moment with Gold and Whale was awesome. Rumple just wanted to rub in another, “I told you so,” to someone who didn’t listen to him.
- Rumple’s plan: We finally see how thoroughly Rumple plotted out this curse. It seems that from the moment Regina was born, he knew he could manipulate her into giving him what he wanted. Unfortunately, he couldn’t foresee the effects the curse would have in Storybrooke once the spell was broken.