A Halloween-themed episode reveals Dr. Whale's true identity -- and no, he isn't Monstro from Pinocchio

By Hillary Busis
April 30, 2015 at 08:52 PM EDT
Jack Rowand/ABC
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Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz are powerful wizards indeed. There’s no other way to explain how they timed tonight’s episode of Once to coincide with Frankenstorm Sandy. Did the showrunners see the snowicane’s advent in a crystal ball, or did tea leaves reveal that it would hit on October 28? Or wait — did the terrible twosome actually cause the storm? Think about it: The entire east coast is buckling down for major flooding and winds strong enough to make a cow fly. But California, where Kitsis and Horowitz live, remains bone dry. We’re onto you, Eddie and H-Bomb.

Maybe it’s best not to anger the all-powerful sorcerers. Instead, let’s talk about their televised creation: “The Doctor,” which revealed that Dr. Whale was once known as Dr. Horrible — I mean, Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Though I know that not all of Once‘s “fairy land” characters actually hail from folklore — like Frankenstein, Pinocchio and The Mad Hatter are both inventions of 19th century novelists — I’ve still got mixed feelings about bringing Mary Shelley’s classic into OUAT‘s potent public domain stew. If any and all stories are fair game, where will the show’s writers draw the line? Will future episodes feature Emma befriending Elizabeth Bennet and Jo March, then trying to reunite Romeo and Juliet? It just seems like expanding the show’s world beyond fairy tales and Disney properties — like Captain Hook — has the potential to turn Once into a giant, fanfiction-y mess.

But hey, I’m not Kitsis or Horowitz — I can’t see the future. I can, however, see how tonight’s opening scene recalls the end of “A Girl Worth Fighting For.” Emma, Snow, Aurora, and Mulan are chattering as they return from Snow’s abandoned castle. Their conversation stops short when they discover that the safe haven isn’t so safe anymore. Cora has torn out the heart of every villager, leaving their sanctuary dead and ravaged. There’s only one survivor: a one-handed man who knows how to pull off the Adam Lambert look.

Mulan recognizes the guy as Henry Gale a blacksmith who lost an extremity in an ogre attack. But Emma and her sporadic internal lie detector are suspicious. She convinces the gal gang to tie him to a tree and leave him for the ogres — and in order to avoid becoming Shrek’s lunch, their captive admit that he’s really Captain Hook. Hook explains that Cora is planning to use the wardrobe’s remains to open a portal to Storybrooke. First, though, she must engage in a magical scavenger hunt — and Hook is willing to lead the ladies to an object she seeks in exchange for his life. Exposition must bore ogres, since they never appear to rip the gang limb from limb.

Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Regina takes the next step toward kicking her magic addiction: starting therapy. Unfortunately, her first session with Jiminy Human is interrupted by an irate Dr. Whale, who has just discovered that the curse didn’t destroy every other world after all. He demands that the Queen send him back to his own land, so that he can be reunited with his brother. (Think the brother’s name is Moby?)

NEXT: Avert your eyes, unicorn lovers!

Regina tells Whale that he’s out of luck — she doesn’t have the ability to jump from world to world. Whale doesn’t believe her, and he leaves the therapist’s office fuming. Careful, Regina — you may not like this doctor when he’s angry.

Fairyback Regina is also facing challenges, albeit of a different nature. Rumpelstiltskin is acting as her personal Dark Arts tutor, teaching her how to use black magic to remove a creature’s heart. But the newlywed queen still retains some of her innocence, as symbolized by her long single braid — and she isn’t interested in harming other living things just so that she can gain power. Specifically: “I didn’t sign up to kill unicorns,” she tells Rump. This doesn’t sit well with the imp; he’s not interested in an apprentice who’s only going to be the Diet Coke of evil.

When Regina shows up at Rump’s castle a few days later, he blows her off and tells her to stop wasting his time. He also reminds her that raising the dead is beyond his abilities. But as Regina soon learns, there’s someone who might be able to help her out — someone her new pal Jefferson would love to introduce her to. Ah, so this is where Regina and the Mad Hatter met — in Rumpelstiltskin’s palace of doom, before Jeff quit the world-hopping business.

He leads her through the Halls of Computer Generated Imagery and past a grove of incredibly fake looking trees, where waits another man: The Doctor, a.k.a. Dr. Whale’s still unnamed alter ego. In this universe, he wears a fully buttoned smock-jacket and his hair parted neatly down the middle. Doc tells Regina that he can bring her lost love back to life, as long as she can fetch him an enchanted heart. Little does he know that she’s the heir to Fairy Land’s Hearts-R-Us. When Regina leads Doc and Jefferson to Cora’s secret heart vault — “my mother was a collector,” she explains — the freaky physician finds that he’s got his pick of plasticky, glowing organs.

Back in Storybrooke, Regina is startled when she spots a familiar figure lurking on a street corner. It looks an awful lot like dearly departed Daniel — but that would be impossible, since Daniel’s magically preserved corpse is lying peacefully in Regina’s mausoleum. Except, wait — the body’s gone. Looks like Regina and Rump aren’t the only Storybrookites who have retained their old powers; Dr. Whale has used his own brand of voodoo to reanimate Daniel in the Cuckoo’s Nest asylum below the hospital. He’s lost an arm for his trouble — and now his creation is on the loose, just moments away from tossing some poor little girl into a lake. Good thing Gretel has apparently disappeared!

NEXT: But she’s not the only vulnerable kid in town…

Regina surmises that Monster Daniel’s “final thoughts” will probably lead him somewhere that resembles the last place he saw her — the town’s stables. (Before tonight’s episode, did we know that Storybrooke even had stables?) She tells Sheriff Charming, who gasps; he just dropped Henry off at the stables so that the kid could begin Knight School. Luckily, they arrive in time to save Henry. Charming urges Regina to stop her undead lover by using magic, but she’s sure that she can calm him down just by speaking with him.

And, at first, Regina’s plan works — after she whispers “I love you” to Daniel, he stops trying to strangle her and recognizes who she is. But soon enough, he’s writhing and moaning, asking Regina to stop his pain — and before Daniel can try to kill her a second time, Regina tearfully immobilizes him and magics him into dust. Aww, I was hoping he’d get to run away to the North Pole.

Regina’s fairyback has a similarly sad end. Doc’s lightning-augmented attempt to reanimate Daniel is a failure, or so he says. This is enough to destroy Regina’s last shred of humanity. She immediately ditches the braid and heads back to that unicorn clearing, where Rumpelstiltskin is now apparently teaching The Hunchback of Notre Dame‘s Esmeralda how to be a true heartbreaker. With a flick of her wrist, Regina yanks out the gypsy’s heart and crushes it into dust; Rump is thrilled to see his favorite pupil return.

As it turns out, the imp actually hired the Doc to break Regina. He asked the necromancer to pretend to try bringing Daniel back to life, all so that Regina would finally let go of her past — and embrace her dark future. Rump will finally get a chance to make Regina into a monster. In return, Doc gets an enchanted heart, which he plans to use to reanimate his brother. Moby lives! The doctor claims that he’s going to use a force more powerful than magic to achieve his goals, and goes so far as to say that his abilities are more powerful than Rumpelstiltskin’s own.

He’ll eat those words in Storybrooke, where his disarming injury leads the doctor to seek help with Rumpelstiltskin. Rump agrees to reattach the limb on one condition — that the doctor admit he needs magic. After the arm’s back in its socket, the imp finally reveals Whale’s true name: “Always a pleasure doing business with you, Victor.”

And then we get a peek at Victor Frankenstein’s true home, a black-and-white steampunk land that’s straight out of an old horror movie. (Happy 100th anniversary, Universal Pictures!) Frankenstein shows his newly acquired, magical glowing heart to his assistant — Eye-gor? — and sticks it into his creation — a stitched-together monstrosity that’s beginning to twitch with signs of life. Is it magic? No, says Vic — it’s science. BRAAAAAAAAAHM!

Oh, and on a totally unrelated note — remember Hook and his band of merry maidens? They’re off to fetch a magical compass, which can only be retrieved by climbing a giant beanstalk. It’s going to be dicey, though, because there are giants in the sky.

NEXT: Aloha, Hurley — plus Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs

– In case you hadn’t already heard, here’s the Whale-Frankenstein connection: 1931’s Frankenstein and 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein were both directed by James Whale.

– Yep, “I/we was/were cursed!” is totally the new “We were on a break!”

– Though my roommate doesn’t watch Once Upon a Time, circumstances — coughSANDYcough — led to her catching tonight’s episode with me. This was her reaction to Regina and Rumpelstiltskin’s first scene together: “How will Mariska Hargitay and Zombie Richard Simmons tame that unicorn??”

– Way for Charming to tell Henry that he has to muck out a stable and brush his horse, then leave before showing his grandson how to do either of those things. “Charming” was a sarcastic nickname, right?

– Jefferson clearly just came from Oz. He managed to nab the Wicked Witch of the West’s crystal ball, but he couldn’t secure Dorothy’s ruby/silver slippers — which might have been able to get Rumpelstiltskin to our world.

– Think Frankenstein was in Oz with Jefferson? Could the doctor be the Wizard of Oz as well, just like Rumpelstiltskin is also Belle’s beast and the genie was also the magic mirror?

– Speaking of world-jumping: Rumpelstiltskin thinks that the magic hat can only take him to other magical worlds. But Jefferson has used the hat to link Fairy Land and Storybrooke before. Did the hatter just lie to Rump? Or did our world stop counting as one “without magic” when Regina came to town?

– Notice how Rump’s magic rules — he can’t bring people back from the dead — seem to be similar to the Genie’s magic rules.

– From the way those horses were carrying on when Zombie Daniel entered the stables, you’d think someone had just said Frau Blucher.

– Emma and Hook are off to seek a magic compass, just like Jack Sparrow’s — but don’t get too excited. Kitsis and Horowitz have said that Captain Jack will only appear on the show if Johnny Depp is available.

– Lots of limb humor tonight! Hook, saying that Emma has bested him: “I can count the amount of people who have done that on one hand.” Rumpelstiltskin, considering Frankenstein’s detached appendage: “When they say I charge an arm and a leg, that’s meant as a figure of speech.”

– Daniel tells Regina that the only way her heart will mend is when she learns to love again. Who knew he was a closet Robyn fan?

– Who else lives in Frankenstein’s black and white Gothic Horror World? My guesses: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo, Jane Eyre, Sherlock Holmes (if they can get Benedict Cumberbatch — see that Jack Sparrow link), Dracula, Dorian Gray, the Phantom of the Opera, and members of the House of Usher.

Up next: We meet a giant played by Jorge Garcia, find out who Henry’s father is, celebrate Pinocchio’s return, and learn the identity of Michael Raymond-James’ mysterious man. (His character’s name has been leaked, if you’d like to spoil yourself.) In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this Halloween-y video, which also happens to be my favorite thing in the world:

Hillary on Twitter

Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.
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