Season 3, Episode 15 (Quiet Minds)
Quiet Minds was one of those episodes that was not very fast-paced, but yet packed a lot of emotion and plot into a very short period of time. It was a very dark episode, with the only comic relief stemming from a short, sexy scene involving Robin Hood flirting heavily with Regina. Furthermore, while this was a comic scene, there was little relief, since the romantic tension was strong and it ended with Regina realising that Robin is her mystery man from years back. She runs away in fear, leaving a very concerned and confused Robin with two tumblers of whiskey (aye well, tragedy that). Later, however, she sneaks into the woods to watch Robin interact with his small son and his remaining Merry Men. She seems intrigued. Hopefully that plot and relationship moves in a positive direction!
Regarding the other relationships of the story, the rest of the characters suffer severe emotional trauma, and the actors do such a convincing job of portraying it that the audience senses the confusion, agony, and despair. The episode ends in tears.
In the space of only a day or so in Storybrooke time:
Snow White is feeling left out of the adventure since she is nine months pregnant. She is nervous about her impending motherhood, as any woman would be, and her only seemingly sympathetic friend turns out to be the Wicked Witch of the West. She is understandably distraught at this, and then she discovers what happened to Emma.
Prince Charming is rather nervous at his lost sword, but pushes it behind in order to solve the mystery at hand. He is, however, quite upset for Snow and Emma.
Captain Hook faces the return of Neal, rival for Emma’s affections, and generally feels mixed emotions in that he once cared for Neal/Baelfire as a surrogate son. He keeps getting shoved aside to help those not on the front lines, first Belle and then Snow, and he only finds out later that his competition for Emma’s affections has taken a very different turn.
Rumplestiltskin turns out to be suffering from magical schizophrenia on account of the conditions of his resurrection. In the end, he returns, but still subject to the Wicked Witch’s control and at terrible personal cost.
Belle is shocked at the possibility that Rumplestiltskin might be alive in the present; in the past, she and Neal embark on a quest to resurrect Rumplestiltskin that ends in tragedy and terror for her. Befitting her librarian-type persona, she spends more time searching in Mr. Gold’s shop and researching, so her emotional turmoil is only hinted at.
Neal/Baelfire reappears in a state of confusion and is dismayed that his son does not remember him. However, he has several touching scenes with Emma that hint at what they missed out on had they been able to make it to Tallahassee. He also gets to reconcile with Hook. When it is discovered that he and Rumplestiltskin are sharing bodies, he sacrifices himself so that his father can help the heroes. Despite his selfishness displayed earlier in the episode, he follows his father’s example.
Emma is ever pragmatic, much as her father is, but Neal’s reappearance unsurprisingly causes her angst. She also has to deal with Henry’s increasing suspicion that she is lying to him. She does not want to tell her parents that she wants to leave Storybrooke again once they break the new curse. Neal reminds her of their dream of Tallahassee and it is clear that she still wants to find that, even if not with him. This leads to the tragic ending wherein Emma has to let Neal die while helping Rumplestiltskin and finding out the identity of the Wicked Witch – thus saving her mother and unborn sibling. It is only now that Emma is coming to realise that Tallahassee is never going to happen. For the first time as a viewer of this show, I actually felt Emma’s pain conveyed. No matter how tough her exterior, this was too much for her.
Bringing us to poor Henry – who has no clue what is actually going on other than his mother is behaving awfully suspiciously and is thus likely lying to him. He had to leave his friends and New York life behind. He does not remember that he met his father previously, and thus has to learn that his father is dead and regret never knowing him. That is tough for a thirteen-year-old, especially as his mother seems to be much more upset than she ought to be, given that she supposedly had not seen his father in years. His last line is “Mom, you’re not making any sense.” For the viewers, and for Emma, his confusion is understandable but beside the point. We know what she means.
However, this is still the grandson of Rumplestiltskin, who set in motion most of the show’s plot simply because he got confused at a Seer’s prophesy. This is the great-grandson of Peter Pan, who thought the world made so little sense that he wanted to abandon it and remake it into his own playground. Henry may be noble, as befitting his mother’s lineage, but he is dark. He also has no idea about any of this at the moment. What is to become of him?
Meanwhile, however, we are to be treated to a showdown between the Wicked Witch and the Evil Queen next week. After the despair of this episode, hopefully their sisterly squabble will be entertaining and lighthearted!
Season 7, Episode 17 (Blast of Silence)
Progress has been deified over the past few centuries, but in the early twentieth century, belief in Progress’s benevolence had reached its highest point. Only thirteen years away from the First World War, Murdoch Mysteries takes place in this era of naïve trust in the inherent goodness of Progress and Industrialization.
Enter a crazy lunatic who decides to get his revenge on said industrialists for creating noise and traffic in his neighbourhood. A prominent factory owner is tied to a bomb triggered by noise and suspended atop a telegraph pole. Needless to say, he does not make it, despite Murdoch and company’s best efforts. All the while, the mayor insists that the city cannot be shut down simply to save one individual life. Even when he himself is strapped to a second bomb, he insists that the city must go on. For a good portion of the episode, I thought that it was perhaps a publicity stunt from City Hall to drum up support by making a martyr out of the mayor. In fact, there is still evidence that this might be the case.
In the end, those that are anti-Progress simply wither away. The bomber ensures that the last sound that he hears is the sound of his brain matter being torn apart by a bullet. (For someone that hates noise, that really is not the way to go.) Others are dismissed as irrelevant.
The episode tries to make comparisons to our modern era, wherein traffic congestion and urban noise are daily issues. However, it falls short of stating the obvious: we no longer think of Progress as a wonderful, benevolent entity, but we still believe in its inevitability. We have also learned from the mistakes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Much has improved since then, albeit our over-reliance on the automobile might still prove to be our downfall. Our cities are cleaner and better planned. Our traffic is less congested. We still believe that we can counteract bad Progress with good Progress, as though the entity has split into two.
On the character front, this episode fares much better. The relationships between our main leads have reached difficult turning points: Crabtree thinks that Dr. Grace is too good for him and refuses to take her back, while Murdoch is reluctant to propose to Dr. Ogden for fear of still getting his heart broken again. To further complicate matters, Higgins has taken a liking to Dr. Grace as well, albeit his feelings are not reciprocated.
Next week is the season finale and Dr. Ogden’s father appears to be the victim of the week. Hopefully, the finale is a good mystery with romantic tension, leaving the historical philosophizing behind.
Until then, we are left with the “silence” of a babbling brook and crickets singing, with churchbells tolling and factory machinery whirring in the background.