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S02.E18: Selfless, Brave and True

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Mary Margaret begins to deal with her guilt concerning the death of Cora while Neal's fiancée arrives in Storybrooke. Meanwhile, back in Phuket, August seeks the help of a healer known as the "dragon" when he starts to turn into wood.

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Instead of actually rewatching this execrable episode I'll just revisit my initial thoughts upon watching it the first (and last) time I saw it. I will note that this episode was the final straw for me and caused me to quit watching the show. I skipped the next few episodes and only came back because the finale sounded like maybe they were trying to get back on track. There was also a four week break between when this episode aired and the next. Not the best way to take a month off. Anyway, on to my original thoughts.

Seriously, show? What the hell was that? Here was an episode where we could finally get a bit of closure about what went down between August & Neal and deal with the fallout of the whole the tree takes two thing and you gave us that?  Total and utter crap. I've continued to watch hoping that eventually we'll get an episode that's more character driven than plot driven, desperately wanting to see these characters interact and react as they gain the knowledge of how badly they were betrayed by friends and foes alike. This was the episode that was totally set up to do that and instead of giving me those interesting character moments, all we got is Evil Tamara whose superpower is to kill with a taser. 

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I watched a few clips.  One was near the beginning.  Henry had brought the storybook over and said he was hoping Neal would tell him what it was like in the Enchanted Forest.  I would rather have seen that. 

Tamara was still as annoying as I remembered her to be.  Tamara describing the coffee "accident" with Neal was cringey to listen to.  

At first, Emma did not like the idea of Tamara coming to Storybrooke, which I totally agreed with.  A few lines later, Emma then encouraged Neal to tell Tamara the truth about the town.  But did she seriously think Tamara would believe that fairytale characters really existed?  I think that was a potentially interesting but complex issue.  Neal telling Tamara wouldn't just affect them.  It technically affected everyone in Storybrooke.  This was of course not taking into the account the fact that Tamara was actually evil.  It didn't need to be explored because it was a moot point.

I also watched the 'HER' scene when Tamara phoned Owen, and they kissed in the hotel room and then they closed the door.  There was just so much annoying crap they introduced that no one gave a rat's behind about.  

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Wow, the end of 2B really was a trainwreck, wasn't it? Until the last couple of episodes, I'd been thinking that season 2 was better than I remembered it. 

Beyond the continuing of the ridiculously over-the-top treatment of what Snow did, the episode fails for three reasons. One, it is asking us to be heavily invested in a character who doesn't deserve it. As usual, the show has no idea of how to create a realistically flawed but sympathetic character. If I handwave the absurdity of Neal's ostensible reason for setting up Emma and pretend that he was operating by some recognizable Earth-logic, I can start to forgive him, although the fact that he has been so undermining of Emma in the present day doesn't help. But August not only suggested Neal's course of action, he stole 20K from Emma - a homeless, incarcerated teenager he supposedly feels guilty for letting down as a child -- and now we find out that he also stole 10K from a woman he thought was desperate to cure her terminal cancer. That's on top of, apparently, living a life of meaningless decadence long after he was old enough that he should have taken some responsibility for helping Emma - that 8 year old August left baby Emma is forgivable; that he didn't, say, seek her out after jail and offer her significant aid is not -- makes it really, really hard to care about him. For me to give a crap about August after that, there would have to be some major, countervailing positive qualities, and several episodes worth of cryptic comments and cries of "You have to believe" in S1 doesn't cut it. It is especially insulting that the show seems to be getting around this by retconning a closeness between Emma and August that really isn't justified by their S1 interactions. I'm not saying she should be indifferent to the fact that he's turning into wood, but MM acts like the two of them were best friends, and that just isn't the case.

Two, as usual, people aren't allowed to act in realistic ways. Yes, the situations are inherently fantastic, but good genre fiction still bothers to think about how a human being would react if they lived in a world where x or y were possible. One example of this is Emma's reaction in the scene where Geppetto confesses to lying about the wardrobe only carrying one person. I'm on record supporting the unpopular opinion that what Geppetto did, while selfish, actually was sympathetic (actually, until Snow went into labor early, I thought he was in the right - Geppetto shouldn't have to risk his kid, essentially, so that Snow and Charming don't have to be separated; Emma would have been just as likely to break the curse with one parent to raise her). But Emma has just learned that, if not for this man, she would have grown up with her loving mother. If she doesn't process that immediately, that's fine, but the idea that she would respond to her mother's understandable, immediate anger with a worried "What are you doing? He's apologizing!" just isn't authentic. This isn't like he's apologizing for accidentally tripping her, and it isn't like Snow was planning on murdering him. Emma's response would be bad for anyone; it is particularly bad for Emma, who hasn't been shown to be a naïve optimist in the way that some of the EF characters are. Everyone's reaction to August turning back into a child is even worse. I can understand Geppetto being thrilled; from his perspective, he is getting back precisely the child he lost. Everyone else? Turning a man in his thirties back into a young child, with no memory of his experiences, is a kind of death. People should at the very least find this extremely strange and unsettling. But everyone seems to regard this as a wonderful miracle - including Neal, who recently specifically and disgustedly turned down an offer to be turned back into a child

Third, even if I cared about August more than I do, we're now in the point where the show's ignoring of important relationship dynamics is becoming noticeable. Namely, the fact that Neal and Rumple haven't interacted for two episodes, since the scene where Neal sort of relented towards Rumple while he thought he was dying. If the show hadn't wanted to give extensive time to the relationship just yet, they could easily have had a scene in either this or the last episode in which Neal is unwilling to deal with a father who isn't on his deathbed and tells him that he's in town for Henry and doesn't want to see him. Instead, we have no idea of what is going on with one of the most significant, foundational relationships of the show. Are Neal and his father spending any time together? If not, how is Rumple dealing with this? Instead, we're wasting time on fleshing out the backstory of Neal's unnecessary fiancée - Greg Mendel didn't need an accomplice, especially once the show had already given him a motivation tied to Regina's past, and Neal has quite enough to do with reuniting with his father, the former lover he screwed over, and his newly discovered son. Instead, these relationships are being given short shrift in favor of cheap shock value. 

I will say one thing for the episode: It brought the phrase "woodpile of failure" into my life. For that, I am grateful. 

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It's interesting how on this show, they make you lose all sympathy for a character in the very episode they claim that same character is redeemed for making some sacrifice.

There were so many holes in August's backstory and yet we got this useless diversion.

After equating Snow's actions with Regina last episode, now they equate her with August. I was so annoyed David called her Mary Margaret.

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And the hits keep on coming! I honestly feel like the back half of 2b basically killed the season for me in retrospect. Prier to the re-watch, I always remember season 2 sucking, which is weird because I've enjoyed most of it so far, and it gave us lots of really good episodes...but now its all coming back to me. This run of episodes, from the last one until the end, is so unbearably shitty, that it poisoned the whole season in my memories. It was so awful, it left a dark mark on this shows soul, that just grew and grew until its soul was black with awful. 

God I hate this episode. I can kind of forgive a lot of the crap August pulled early on, because I felt bad for him as a kid, and then we didnt really have all the facts as to why he was doing what he was doing. I mean, I never really liked him, but I was kind of reserving final judgement. However, seeing more of his backstory, he dumped poor teen Emma in jail, along with Neal, because he was worried about himself. And, of course, we see him stealing money from a seemingly kind woman who was dying of cancer. What an asshole! His moments of guilt dont make me feel bad for him, dude is just a dickhead. I can appreciate that he doesn't end up making excuses, and owns up to being a selfish asshole, but its hardly enough to make me interested in him. And he basically dies anyway, so who cares?

The actress playing Tamara is actually pretty good playing nice Tamara, but as evil Tamara, she is just awful. Its like her face is set to the same smug smirk every scene, it makes her less of a threat and more of a high school mean girl. Her and Greg are such lame ass villains, and while their performances are pretty lackluster, its hard to blame the actors, because the writing is just garbage. They're constant cloak and dagger plans are embarrassingly lame, they seem to jump from blandness to smug dickishness depending on who is around, and tying it into Regina is just a mess. His smug self is clearly supposed to be a bad guy, despite the fact that Greg/Owen clearly has a reason to be pissed at Regina, and from everything he says, I have no idea why we shouldn't root for him! Wanting to find his missing father and get justice from the supervillain who orphaned him is a heroes quest, not something evil! But, because we must always feel bad for Regina, the show is already making him look like the REAL bad guy, and not murderous nutball Regina. 

The whole thing with Emma, Snow, and Marco is just such a weirdly played scene. I actually like Marcos part on it, but Emma and Snow have the weirdest reactions to this huge revelation. Marco/Gepetto did something very selfish, but they are at least for understandable reasons. He thought his son was not only going to die, but cease to exist, possibly forever. I dont agree with what he did, but I can at least understand it, and I like his apology, and think it works really well. He admitted his wrong doing, apologized, and admitted that it was wrong, no matter his reasons. I can see Emma and Snow forgiving him, even forgiving him quickly, but being angry, even for just a scene, is very understandable. Acting like Snow is a monster for being upset (and yeah, punching him in the face is bad, but not exactly evil) and Emma not reacting at all is such a weird, muted reaction to such a big deal. 

August and his wooden puppet look is unbelievably stupid. And, yes, the the taser of doom makes its appearance. And oh how embarrassing it is!

Spoiler

No wonder it was so stupid, they ended up retconnng it after everyone made fun of it for months. God, Tamara is so freaking lame. And, dont you just love how one of the first female POCs who arent killed instantly is a cackling villain who seems like she is on some kind of crazy holy war against magic, and is magic racist for reasons that are never explained. Maybe she is the direct descendant of some of those Prehistoric Regency era magic hating mean girls who hate magic for no reason? Its all connected!

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4 hours ago, Camera One said:

It's interesting how on this show, they make you lose all sympathy for a character in the very episode they claim that same character is redeemed for making some sacrifice.

This is A&E in a nutshell. Double down and add to their crimes or make the person even worse at the same time you want "redeem" the character and make people feel sorry for them.  Why they think this is a good idea I don't know. They could have easily made August sympathetic he arrived in the world when he was seven or eight and landed in foster care. All alone except for the baby he's suppose to take care of in a world very, very different world then he came from. It would be easy to get lost, messed up and fall in with the wrong crowd. 

Except of course that doesn't happen. I don't mind him leaving baby Emma he was a child and Geppetto was crazy to try and make his son responsible for a baby given Pinocchio's age. But that doesn't excuse anything that happened later. When he's an adult and instead of help Emma get back on the straight and narrow he decides to convince Neal to bail and send his teenage girlfriend to prison for his crimes. How does that help Emma break a Curse? What does that have to do with anything? It doesn't do it for Emma or anyone Cursed but for himself. Just like later when he tracks Emma down in Storybrooke to try and make her believe. Its all about him and what his needs. He steals the money Neal left for Emma. He later steals money from who he thought was a cancer patient. Oh, yeah, this is a really great guy. 

Snow's reaction yes she should be upset. She was separated from her daughter. Her daughter grew up alone when she didn't happened.  I'd be fine with Snow realizing later in the episode that she understood why Geppetto did it. But she should be upset when she first learns it about it and hitting him is understandable. God forbid Emma can't have a real reaction either. She should have either been shocked or later realized that she could have been raised by her mother. She should be angry about that. Even if she lets it go later she still should have a reaction. Snow and Emma deserve to have a reaction to that kind of news.

Turning August back into a child was as weird then as it is now. I mean why? It makes no sense. He had an entire life but that's all gone? He's now basically a new person. I understand why Geppetto would be thrilled he can raise his son from the age he lost him. It makes no sense anyone else would be happy about that. Why not have August have to make up for his past crimes instead? I know that's crazy talk. But he could have remained an adult but had to make up in someway for what he did. 

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At the time, I figured it was because the actor who played August was busy and couldn't stick around.  

Spoiler

Who knew they would bring him back in Season 4 and then pretend he was some wise sage all chummy with The Apprentice.  

 

45 minutes ago, andromeda331 said:

God forbid Emma can't have a real reaction either. She should have either been shocked or later realized that she could have been raised by her mother.

Now that would have been interesting and character-based.  I wish we had an Alt episode where Snow did come through with Emma, and we see their struggles, we see Snow tell Emma about her past, and their mission to break the Curse, and we see the bittersweet moment when an Old Snow is reunited with Charming.  And then another Alt episode where Snow AND Charming came through together and they give birth to Emma in the World Without Magic, and all three of them come to Storybrooke to break the Curse.

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50 minutes ago, Camera One said:

At the time, I figured it was because the actor who played August was busy and couldn't stick around.  

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Who knew they would bring him back in Season 4 and then pretend he was some wise sage all chummy with The Apprentice.  

 

Now that would have been interesting and character-based.  I wish we had an Alt episode where Snow did come through with Emma, and we see their struggles, we see Snow tell Emma about her past, and their mission to break the Curse, and we see the bittersweet moment when an Old Snow is reunited with Charming.  And then another Alt episode where Snow AND Charming came through together and they give birth to Emma in the World Without Magic, and all three of them come to Storybrooke to break the Curse.

That would have been so cool to see! 

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I don't even know what to say about this one. I think the rest of you have covered it all. We really are in Opposite Land for most of the stuff going on in this episode. The victim is the villain, getting angry at being betrayed is evil, being a total jerk is being noble.

Didn't we just have a whole episode in which they were debating whether to let Greg die instead of doing surgery so he couldn't talk about what was in Storybrooke because of the dangers of the outside world discovering them? And now we've got Emma outright telling Neal that he has to tell his fiancee the whole truth about who he is, right now. Also, I don't think the storybook necessarily works as proof. It looks like a storybook, which usually by definition means it's made-up. If it looked like a newspaper or textbook, it might have been more effective as documentation.

A lot of the time, we have decent episodes that are hurt by what comes after. Here, we have a bad episode made even worse by what comes after.

Spoiler

First, with August/Pinocchio, where the guy who convinced Neal to send Emma to prison, took the money Neal tried to send Emma and squandered it on what looks like a sex trip to Thailand, where he stole more money from a woman he thought was a cancer patient looking for a cure, is later retconned into Emma's best friend who gives her wise advice. And then there's the Home Office nonsense involving Tamara. There's no way you can look at this episode and say that they were setting up the Peter Pan stuff. Pan just wanted Henry brought to him. You can kind of squint and imagine that Greg and Tamara's work in storybrooke and Tamara conning Neal was part of Pan's plan, and he used the guise of a fight against magic to get them to come to Storybrooke. But why would Pan have cared about killing all magic in this world? I suppose they could have already have had the anti-magic thing going on and then Pan co-opted it, but Tamara had a magical weapon, didn't she?

While I'm sympathetic to Gepetto's reasons for wanting Pinocchio to go in the wardrobe, my issue with him (on behalf of Snow) was that in lying to Snow and Charming, he betrayed his friends. They might have felt differently when Snow went into labor early and there was the prospect of either sending the baby alone with the unreliable kid or a parent being with the baby, but Snow and Charming are the kind of people who would have given up being together to take Pinocchio through, so in lying to them, Gepetto not only lied to them and betrayed them, but he also indicated that he thought they were the kind of people he needed to lie to, which doesn't say a lot for how he views their friendship. I think in Snow's shoes, I'd have punched him for that alone.

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I'm rewatching the "November 2011 New York City" scene.  There is something about August's demeanor that felt so slimy when he was talking to Neal.  When Neal said Emma probably won't want to see him and August was all, "Ya never know."  Did he already have the plan to impersonate Baelfire so Daddio would heal him?  

If someone spilled hot coffee on themselves, they would be in pain.  Unless hot coffee works differently here.

"Take my scarf - it will cover up the stains."  LOL!  Buttoning up your raincoat would cover up the stains too.  No need to worry about possible first/second degree burns.

Remember, Adam and Eddy's only regret in the entire second season was not making it clear that Tamara's taser wasn't actually a taser.

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23 hours ago, Camera One said:

If someone spilled hot coffee on themselves, they would be in pain.  Unless hot coffee works differently here.

That's if it was all that hot. If she was setting Neal up for a meet cute, I doubt she'd have been carrying scalding coffee. Who knows how long she'd been lurking on that part of the sidewalk, waiting to "accidentally" bump into Neal and spill coffee down her front.

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4 minutes ago, Shanna Marie said:

That's if it was all that hot. If she was setting Neal up for a meet cute, I doubt she'd have been carrying scalding coffee. Who knows how long she'd been lurking on that part of the sidewalk, waiting to "accidentally" bump into Neal and spill coffee down her front.

I meant Neal should have been a little more concerned that she could be burned, not helping her to cover up so she would look presentable at work.

Tamara's idiotic "looking in her compact to spy" method would have been soooo obvious to people passing by especially with her weird "I'm evil" facial expressions.

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7 minutes ago, Camera One said:

Tamara's idiotic "looking in her compact to spy" method would have been soooo obvious to people passing by especially with her weird "I'm evil" facial expressions.

LOL. This reminder made me laugh so hard. OUAT could get so hilariously terrible. I can just imagine Tamara standing around for thirty minutes looking suspicious, staring her into compact and never taking a sip out of her coffee. 

Person: "Excuse me ma'am, are you looking for someone?"
Tamara: "Just the son of Rumplestiltskin so I can pretend to be his boyfriend and infiltrate a town full of fairy tale characters in the hopes of annihilating magic for bosses I've never seen nor heard."

Edited by KingOfHearts
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19 minutes ago, Camera One said:

I meant Neal should have been a little more concerned that she could be burned, not helping her to cover up so she would look presentable at work.

We're talking about Neal, here, the guy who couldn't think of a way to allow his teenage girlfriend to make it to Storybrooke to break the curse other than getting her sent to jail. Being more concerned with her looking presentable for work than with her being injured is par for the course.

In fairness to him, she expressed far more concern about being late for work and not being presentable than she did about being burned. She was whining about being late and stained, not jumping around, fanning her chest, and screaming in pain.

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5 hours ago, Shanna Marie said:

We're talking about Neal, here, the guy who couldn't think of a way to allow his teenage girlfriend to make it to Storybrooke to break the curse other than getting her sent to jail. Being more concerned with her looking presentable for work than with her being injured is par for the course.

LMAO! Your right! We're talking about someone who believed Pinocchio of all people! 

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6 hours ago, Camera One said:

Tamara's idiotic "looking in her compact to spy" method would have been soooo obvious to people passing by especially with her weird "I'm evil" facial expressions.

So you're saying New Yorkers would have followed the see something, say something rule and reported Tamara?

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The Neal/Tamara meet-up scene was just an egregious case of characters not acting like real people.  Were they seriously implying that Tamara could hear their conversation from such a far distance, especially with the guy who mumbles everything?  

I was thinking about Storybrooke and their fear about outsiders coming in.  There are very few magic users in town.  Greg was a problem because he saw Rumple using magic, but a memory spell could have easily cured that.   They still wouldn't want droves of people coming, but one or two isolated cases may be alright.  Now that time was moving normally and people aged normally, that's not as much an issue.  During Season 2, I thought maybe Storybrooke wouldn't exist in outside records which would make visitors even more suspicious if they saw the town and then later found it doesn't exist.  Or if the town was still under a cloaking spell and no one could find it again.

Spoiler

But in the adoption of Henry episode, we find that Storybrooke was on record, so people checking up on the existence of the town after visiting wouldn't be a problem either.    

There was no pressing reason why Neal needed to tell Tamara the truth.  It was a completely different case in "Tallahassee", where Emma deserved the truth because of her true identity.  Tamara is presumably some random human.  

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32 minutes ago, Camera One said:

There was no pressing reason why Neal needed to tell Tamara the truth.  It was a completely different case in "Tallahassee", where Emma deserved the truth because of her true identity.  Tamara is presumably some random human.  

To be fair to Neal (yeah, I know!), supposedly, he does want to marry this woman, which means she deserves to know who Neal is and where he comes from. And as hard as it is to believe, there actually is plenty of proof to back up what Neal is saying. Part of the reason I think people got so frustrated with Emma in S1 is that while obviously the idea that all these people are fairy-tale characters is ridiculous, at a certain point, evidence of something really weird going on was mounting to the point where it seemed like denial on her part. But Neal has brought Tamara into a world where, in the first place, an entire town full of seemingly sane and normal people would be willing to confirm his claims. If Tamara persisted in thinking of it as an elaborate hoax, or mass psychosis, there's also the presence of a number of magic users and magical artifacts, not to mention a person who will turn into a wolf at the next full moon. So not only was she owed the truth, if she had been who she claimed to be, but Neal had reason to believe he could convince her he wasn't totally insane.

Also, while it is lost in the general awfulness of the rest of the episode, I found Neal's willingness to flat out say "this is where I'm from/this is my story" in presenting the book to Tamara a significant character moment for him.  

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Emma's "she needs to haul her ass out of bed" is a good line. I don't think gets enough credit for her response to Snow's depression. I just wish it wasn't so downplayed and that she could've taken a real stance. When Charming said, "She took Cora's life," Emma should've been able to say, "Yeah, to save the whole town." I don't know why Emma, a woman with a sense of morality closer to the modern era, would cry with everybody else over how killing in self-defense is bad. Even if A&E thought what Snow did was wrong, and that in fairy tale world heroes don't kill, it's still weird Emma would be in that same boat. As a bailbondswoman, you'd think she'd be acutely aware of what appropriate action is in life-threatening situations.

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Plus, again, Snow has totally killed people, without a hint of angst. I highly doubt all of those guards she shot arrows into got up and walked away, and I seriously doubt any of those guys were as evil as Cora, OR as dangerous. But, when it affects Regina directly, I guess that makes it a real crime, not like when Regina kills people. Thats just self defense! You have no idea what those children she sent to die in the gingerbread house had under their dolls! I bet every one had a dark heart, and Regina was doing the world a favor by sending them to their deaths!

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4 minutes ago, tennisgurl said:

But, when it affects Regina directly, I guess that makes it a real crime, not like when Regina kills people. Thats just self defense! You have no idea what those children she sent to die in the gingerbread house had under their dolls! I bet every one had a dark heart, and Regina was doing the world a favor by sending them to their deaths!

Spoiler

All hail the Good Queen!

Edited by KingOfHearts
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6 hours ago, KingOfHearts said:

Emma should've been able to say, "Yeah, to save the whole town." 

Everyone should have said something like that at least once.  Cora threw someone off the clocktower.  She murdered men, women and children in the Safe Haven, possibly relative of the people in Storybrooke.  Everyone hated Regina, and Cora was her mother.  There should have been a crowd clapping outside Snow's window.

Spoiler

This was clearly intentional on the writers' part because two seasons later, in "Bleeding Through", neither David nor Emma defended Snow against Regina's snide references to murder, either.

Yet this whole episode was framed around how Snow MIGHT be able to redeem herself since August was able to get a second chance.  

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Charming's response doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense either. He was in favor of executing Regina and we've seen him cut down foes plenty of times. I understand his coddling of Snow because he knew this was a hard thing for her, but he had to come to a point where he assured her she did the right thing. Just showering her with Eggos and letting her stay in bed all day seems complacent. It's weird because Charming is usually used as a counter to Snow's viewpoint, but here he doesn't seem to take any foothold. Typically, he suggests doing the harder thing.

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18 minutes ago, KingOfHearts said:

It's weird because Charming is usually used as a counter to Snow's viewpoint, but here he doesn't seem to take any foothold. 

Because Snow was catatonic, Charming became a counter to Emma's viewpoint.  These aren't characters - they're chess pieces.  

Edited by Camera One
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