Since the writers of the show wanted to change things up a bit this season (and I think that it has been better so far) and tell smaller, more complete stories, these two episodes both focused primarily on peripheral characters. The Other Shoe focused on Cinderella, while Strange Case seems to conclude the Jekyll/Hyde arc. Our main characters are still in the picture, but we learn more about them through learning more about the secondary characters. Thus, as an audience, we don’t get bored by constantly rehashing the same character plotlines and we don’t get confused by the introduction of lots of new storylines.
So far in this show, we have seen Cinderella in the present Storybrooke as well as a flashback to after her successful marriage to her prince – with only a brief glimpse of her life before, namely when Rumplestiltskin usurps the role of her fairy godmother (er, godfather). We never saw what came between her going to the ball and her marrying the prince. This was a gap waiting to be filled in and it did not seem too contrived. On one hand, it felt like a throwback to the first season of the show – down to Cinderella wearing the same dress – and we got to see poor Gus alive again. (One nice thing about this show is that it can kill off characters and still bring them back in flashback scenes to develop them further. It rarely comes across as contrived. After all, one would expect scenes set in the past to occasionally have dearly departed characters in them. One only has to think back to one’s own past to find similar examples.)
On the other hand, the storyline felt like a filler episode in that it did not really move the plot along. The only significant development was the Evil Queen breaking Mr. Hyde out of prison at the end, as Regina realises that her other self is a strong opponent for her indeed. Meanwhile, Emma and the Evil Queen confront each other as the latter threatens to destroy all that Emma has accomplished. Since Cinderella’s happy ending was one of the first things that Emma did when she first arrived in Storybrooke, it was fitting that it was one of the first stories threatened. But of course, the heroes saved the day. Not only did Cinderella survive, but her relationship with one of her stepsisters was restored and her stepmother was defeated.
As portrayed on the show, Cinderella is an ingénue character – not nearly as savvy as the main characters. She is sweet and innocent – a good person caught up in bad situations. However, in her first appearance, she was willing to go along and trick Rumplestiltskin, and in this episode, she is so desperate to keep her own happy ending of marrying the prince that she deprives her stepsister of her own happiness. She feels very guilty about that, even though her sister mistreated her (saying it was an act for her mother, but really, that was a cowardly excuse) and Cinderella’s actions were understandable. They were not in keeping with her sweet nature, though. But then, everyone acts against their nature sometimes.
In keeping with the theme of acting against or with their nature, Strange Case gives us the backstory for Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. It is an abbreviated version of the original story, with some help from Rumplestiltskin. (He really is the glue that ties all realms together, it seems.) As it turns out, neither Jekyll nor Hyde is pure good or pure evil, but merely aspects of the same man’s personality. They even look different – not quite sure why, although it works well. One would think that they would at least be the same height, but I digress.
Hyde is the personality that everyone likes – the academy of sciences, high society, and most importantly Jekyll’s love interest. Whereas Jekyll is ruled by his mind, Hyde is ruled by his heart. Instead of exploiting this, Jekyll grows insanely jealous of Hyde and kills his love interest (perhaps accidentally, perhaps not…), putting the blame on his alter ego. Naturally, his alter ego decides to embrace being evil after spending time in anguish. And Jekyll blames all of this on Rumplestiltskin.
Throughout the episode, some other subplots are touched on. Snow White returns to teaching, weirded out slightly by Henry now being in high school, and we are introduced to the next plot-relevant character, whom we will learn more about in the next episode. Hook bonds awkwardly with Belle and ends up coming to her rescue while her estranged husband can only watch. Regina realises that the only way to destroy the Evil Queen is for herself to die…
What she actually realises is that it is not as simple as splitting away her evil self. Ridding herself of the Evil Queen did not rid her of the capacity for villainy.
And thankfully, Jekyll and Hyde come to defeat as the former is killed. Just as Hyde cannot die as long as Jekyll is alive, he cannot live without him. They are, after all, the same man in two bodies.
I do wonder if the writers have painted themselves into a corner with this. Are they planning to kill off arguably their most popular character? Are they going to find another way to defeat the Evil Queen – perhaps by re-integrating her into Regina? Or is the Evil Queen going to decide to forgo her revenge and go off to explore the world?