Once Upon a Time Tackles Rapunzel (again)

Before I begin, I'd like to wish a very happy birthday to my favorite Disney Princess: Ariel! Can you believe it? Disney's The Little Mermaid was released 28 years ago today. ABC's Once Upon a Time tried to conquer Ariel's story in their second season, but they failed to capture the essence of the character due to a sloppy attempt to shoehorn Snow White and Regina into the plot. Today, the show took another shot at the story of Rapunzel. Their first attempt was practically a cameo, featuring a brief sequence in which Rapunzel's long hair was revealed to be a metaphor for her fear of taking the throne. It came off just as impractical in practice as it did in theory. I wanted to stop ranting about Once Upon a Time here after the Rumbelle disaster from three weeks ago, but they seem to continue fueling the fire, so here we go again. Beware that there are spoilers below the image, so if you haven't seen tonight's episode yet, I suggest coming back and reading this after you've seen it. If you don't care either way, read on.


As we all know, this season of Once features an alternate universe, where many of the fairy tale characters we've already met are returning in new and less interesting incarnations. This version of Rapunzel joins the ranks of Cinderella and Alice with a new actress and backstory. It turns out, though, that the promos were a bit misleading. Our long-haired heroine was not in this episode at all. The woman you see above is actually Gothel in disguise. She may or may not be what Rapunzel would have actually looked like in the alternative "wish world," but go ahead and ask me if I care. It was actually a relief to learn that this wasn't the real Rapunzel, as her personality was about as interesting as a block of wood. She certainly looks the part with her flower-adorned fair locks and glittering gown, but that was just part of Gothel's successful ploy to seduce Hook and free herself from the tower. The real alternate Rapunzel, who we never see, apparently found a way to trap Gothel in the tower when she escaped, just like in the 2002 Barbie movie.

I believe the writers were trying to trick us into thinking that Rapunzel was Hook's daughter for a moment, but it was so obvious at this point that it was really Alice that no one was actually fooled. What I did not see coming was that Gothel would turn out to be Alice's mother. This plot twist made the show seem even more ridiculous than it's already become. I suppose they had already jumped the shark in that respect with the reveal that Peter Pan was Rumpelstiltskin's father in the second season, though. It's rather degrading to make this deranged hobo version of Alice such an important character when the original Alice from the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland spin-off was such an amazing heroine in her own right. Rapunzel may have gotten the biggest shaft in this episode, but I would say that Alice did as well to a lesser extent. She's been reduced from a strong heroine to a tragic miscreant who's barely able to take care of herself.

As I predicted at the beginning of the season, the only saving grace of this two-hour snooze fest was Adelaide Kane's performance as Drizella. Adelaide will always be Queen Mary from Reign in my heart with her regal posture and commanding voice. Though this role is very different from that of Mary, she plays it just as brilliantly. If you're not quite caught up with Once Upon a Time yet (in which case, why are you still reading this?), Drizella was recently revealed to be the mastermind behind the this season's curse. The writers have previously stated that Cinderella's stepmother was not the one who cast it, so it didn't come off as too much of a shock. I love that Adelaide gets to play a much larger role than initially implied because she is best actress in the show this season.

Alexandria Metz is still the only "real" incarnation of Rapunzel on Once Upon a Time. Though Meegan Warner had an approximately equal amount of screen time playing her tonight, she did not do the character justice. The Rapunzel she portrayed was a hollow shadow of the character from the original fairy tale wrapped in a deceptively beautiful exterior. Perhaps that was the point, since she was actually the villain in disguise. Despite that, they still managed to incorporate the magic golden flower from Tangled as well as Rapunzel's tower-bound childbirth from the Brothers Grimm tale. I was prepared not to get my hopes up too much by the teasers of Rapunzel, but couldn't they have at least actually included the character in the episode rather than just make the whole thing a giant ruse? Without Drizella, I would have hated this two-part special. With her, it was barely tolerable.

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