Once Upon a Time's third episode, "The Other Shoe," played upon Season 6's theme theme of the Land of Untold stories by rehashing Cinderella again, and sexing it up with a shotgun, a Converse sneaker, and a stabbing! That's right, it was a filler episode, but it's nice that actress Jessie Schram got a check cut to her after disappearing off the face of the earth along with Aurora and Ariel for the last 40 episodes or so. Ashley, a.k.a. Ella, a.k.a. Cinderella, is back and she's ready to blow your mind with a whole new take on her backstory!
Like how she got her name!
It's interesting when you consider that, almost parallel to OUAT's development, we've seen Disney investing in and releasing live action versions of its animated features. The 2015 Cinderella starring Lily James, which was a massive commercial success for Disney, honored the transition of the narrative to live action by making the characters and relationships, i.e. Cinderella and her Prince's love story, more three-dimensional. James' Cinderella and her Prince met in a woods before the ball and retreated to a garden for an extended conversation before falling in love, presumably to teach impressionable children that true love is earned not merely via physical attractiveness, but by a meaningful exchanges of ideas and values.
OUAT, on the other hand, which seems to have all the artistic license in the world, appears to set a stop watch at 15 seconds for the hard limit of time spent on romantic development between its iconic characters. Cinderella attended the ball for seemingly a grand total of three minutes: long enough for a two-minute conversation with Snow about how stupid dresses are, 45 seconds to be confused about whether the Prince was engaged to her Wicked Stepsister Clarinda, and roughly 15 seconds to fall in love with the Prince.
Whatever, we had to pare down on romance to make room for the REAL story of Cinderella: how SHE (and not Clarinda) was actually the wicked stepsister, because when Clarinda fell in love with a footman, Cinderella told the Wicked Stepmother about Clarinda's planned elopement, and when the Stepmother tracked down the couple in an attempt to kill the footman, Cinderella showed up and really poured fuel on the fire by showing off her freshly-acquired royal engagement ring.
Later in Storybrooke, when Cinderella went hunting after her Stepsister (who had been punted by her mother into the Land of Untold Stories) she brought an actual shotgun with her to fend off her apparently homicidal Stepmother. And of course, the gun immediately found its way into the hands of said homicidal Stepmother, who then gave a speech about how guns were cowardly and then stabbed the heck out of Cinderella with a cane.
I get that the show is trying not to use gun violence. Once Upon a Time generally does a great job of keeping its threats non-gun-related in nature; its characters are much more likely to be threatened by a quill or magical pair of sheers or blue CGI fireball than firearms, and that's a great decision for a family show that we can all get behind. Still, it was strange to introduce a shotgun that would never get fired so prominently into the proceedings. I dare say Chekhov would not have approved and neither did I.
What did all this rearrangement of Cinderella, a story the show had already checked off in Season 1, achieve? Not much. Emma's hands trembled a little bit before she was able to magically suture Cinderella's stab wound closed. The series seems to be circling back to what worked during its magical Season 1 instead of forging ahead and breaking new ground: new twists on high-name-recognition fairy tale characters, plus Emma and Evil Regina fuming at each other. Back to basics!
After seasons of Regina and Emma becoming increasingly thoughtful and affectionate towards each other, this was a reminder of the raw power of their bare-knuckled rivalry in Season 1, the energy and entertainment value it had, and how much I've missed this dynamic. In contrast, Emma's guilty fretfulness over her tedious progress with Hook, whose mischievous villainous edge has been absolutely excised from his character, paled in comparison.
Emma felt conflicted over her and Hook being "happy" together because: A) she's apparently not that happy B) her magic is fading and C) she is probably going to die soon, according to that bruise-faced Oracle. So she decided she needed to find the Oracle and get some specific answers about her visions and the prophesy!
Just kidding, nothing that rational was attempted. Instead Emma kicked Grumpy out of an anger management session to whine some more at Archie about her existential angst.
Archie cheered her with the thought that hey, we could all get hit by a bus every time we leave the house, so why not live in the moment? It must have been a pretty liberating concept for Emma, because by the end of the episode she was able to put aside her deep misgivings and ask Captain Hook to move in over a delicious fried chicken luncheon on a pumpkin farm, while they watched Cinderella's homicidal Stepmother pick up trash in a prison jumpsuit.
Just another modern day fairy tale!
Also the episode really tried to fan the flames of our interest over this Charming-centric revenge plotline that lives in a vacuum from everything else going on. Good luck with that, writers!
Perhaps the best part of the episode was a thoughtful little detail at the end, Rumple's throwback cassette tape for Belle, on which he'd recorded a little poem for his unborn son, read in actor Robert Carlyle's full Scottish accent. The simple tendernesss of an estranged father reaching out to his family was such an understated contrast to the usual magical shenanigans that it stood out as a highlight of the season so far. If the show could only slow down and focus on seeding in more of these specific, mundane yet meaningful moments between (but not limited to) the major canon couples it's asking us to root for, the effect could honestly be magical.
...who wore the hair better, Cinderella's Stepmother or Bram Stoker's Dracula?
...On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you care about Prince Charming's father's murder?
...Are you secretly rooting for The Evil Queen to win this season (or at least stick around)?
...does anyone know the name of that poem at the end? Or should we just assume Robert Carlyle wrote it?