“The Garden of Forking Paths”, third episode of Once Upon A Time’s seventh season, certainly tries to one-up itself from beginning to end, throwing us a fresh bone every few minutes or so with new surprises. But because Once Upon A Time’s seventh season is relying on doing different spins on familiar stories, it also means the show is rehashing earlier plotlines too.
So, let’s start with the fairy tale land, since the name seems to change every episode. Cinderella is on the run after being framed for murder, but is rescued by Tiana, who turns out to be a member of – get this – the resistance! Apparently, there is a rebellion against the wrath of Lady Tremaine. Alright, I get that this lady is quite influential and ruthless, but come on, she’s a snobbish aristocrat. She doesn’t even use magic. Unless Drizella marries into the royal family, it would be a whole different situation, and for now, Tremaine is just a local jerk. Anyway, Tiana convinces Cinderella to team up to help topple Tremaine, revealing she and the dead prince murdered her father. They then ride off on Henry’s motorbike. Never thought I’d see that.
At the rebel camp, the princesses are joined by Henry, Regina, and the new Hook, who offer their services. I did laugh when Cinderella and Tiana were puzzled by the age differences between Henry and his mother. There is also a brief moment where Tiana gives Hook a suspicious or distrusting glare. Curious. She hopes Regina will be a big help in the battle against Lady Tremaine, who is reported to be gathering up tons of magical items and moved something of importance to her mansion.
Cinderella later sneaks into her old home to confront her stepmother about her father’s murder. Lady Tremaine then reveals the surprisingly humane reason why she has turned evil and hates Cinderella. She whips out a large coffin, revealing that her daughter Anastasia is in it. Tremaine explains that she was mortally wounded when she was fourteen, blaming Cinderella’s father – but, apparently, Cinderella herself is actually the culprit for Anastasia’s condition. However, Tremaine drops the bombshell that Anastasia is actually alive, magically suspended in time, and requires a pure heart to revive her. Now, I wonder whose heart that could be?
Tremaine offers Cinderella a deal to steal Henry’s heart, or she will destroy the rebel camp. Cinderella, at first, looks ready to pluck out her future husband’s heart, only for Regina to stop her. That is very appropriate, showing the growth and change of the former Evil Queen over the past six seasons. She would have once ripped out hearts on a whim, but now is squarely against it. She then convinces Cinderella to stay and fight against her wicked stepmom, not to get revenge, but to perhaps give or earn forgiveness. The reveals behind Tremaine’s hatred are good, but are a little too familiar to how Regina hated Snow White. Hook doesn’t get much screentime, and since it is a new incarnation of the character, it will be nice to see how this pirate changes as a person.
In Hyperion Heights, Jacinda is bummed out about being separated from Lucy, but secretly has been trading letters with her at the neighbourhood’s communal garden. But, surprise, surprise, Victoria knew all along and plots to demolish the garden in order to build condos. Damn. She’d probably nuke a hot dog stand if she found out Jacinda and Lucy bought food from it. Henry, Roni, and Rogers scheme to find a way to bring down Victoria, learning from Roni that a building planner has made a deal with Victoria to demolish the garden. Jacinda strives to protect the garden by making a petition.
Meanwhile, Lucy ropes Henry into spying on the demolition of the garden, concluding that Victoria is destroying it to either unearth or hide something related to the curse. By chance, the workers hit something hard, revealing a hole in the ground. Lucy, inheriting her father’s reckless streak, throws herself down the hole with Henry in pursuit. Underground, they have a chat about the missing graveyard where Henry’s “family” are buried, Lucy trying to convince him to reject that lie. They then find a piece of glass which Lucy identifies as her mother’s glass slipper. This is basically reusing the events of season one’s fifth episode, where Henry and Archie got trapped in a mineshaft, but it doesn’t have the same level of drama and emotion.
Rogers keeps an eye on the dodgy planner, witnessing Victoria give him a bribe and promptly arrests him. However, Weaver, who has been watching his partner, releases the crook, but on the condition that he will report Victoria’s activities to him. Jacinda gets a nice long list of names for her petition, but Victoria smoothly offers to let her live in one of the new condos with Lucy if she burns the petition. Jacinda takes up the offer just as Lucy comes around the corner and runs away in tears. Even Victoria looks slightly stunned at being caught in the act.
However, Jacinda has a change of heart thanks to Roni, rallying the neighbourhood to sign a second petition. There is obviously a sense of community in Hyperion Heights, but it’s no Storybrooke. Since all of the characters are part of the main cast, we don’t know any of the other neighbours, who so far have been extras, so this merry sense of community feels a little empty.
Things are looking up for Lucy who gives the piece of glass to Henry to open his eyes. However, Henry just so happens to stumble across the “Hyperion Heights Cemetary” where he finds the graves of his fake family. So why was Henry convinced that they were in another named graveyard? And the neighbourhood doesn’t look big enough to have its own personal cemetery. It’s built under a train overpass and the only two notable places of community are Roni’s bar and the garden. Unless Victoria magically whipped it up to remove any idea of Henry starting to believe Lucy, this seems a mildly conveniently, well-hiddden cemetery.
Speaking of Victoria, it is revealed she was actually using the dig to look for something after all: Anastasia’s coffin. She didn’t know where it was, giving the hint that Lady Tremaine was not the one who cast the Dark Curse. When Regina cast it, she made sure that Storybrooke was crafted to her will, and had special tombs for her father and dead boyfriend in place. Tremaine might be weaving the curse, but did not cast it. She takes the coffin up to a hidden chamber at the top of her skyscraper, where we meet a witch, chained up in the tower. It is kinda obvious this is Mother Gothel from Tangled, and it is a pleasant surprise to see the character appear – and considering how she addresses Victoria makes me wonder the wicked stepmother might be a certain grown up princess herself…
Victoria is confirmed to maintain her fairy tale memories, knowing who Henry, Jacinda, and Lucy really are, and still plots to use a pure heart to revive her daughter. The only catch is now instead of the disillusioned Henry, she intends on using Lucy’s heart, but the process would need her granddaughter to willingly abandon all she believes it to use her heart. That’s a very specific, rather evil way to do it. However, the witch warns her that the consequences will be severe, and Victoria will still have to face her wrath sooner or later.
This episode did take the time to introduce some interesting new twists, the motivations of the villain, and explore the development of our main characters some more. But, I do feel like that Cinderella as a character is too similar to how Snow White was portrayed, and I hope there is a more interesting spin put on her journey as we go along.
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