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S03.E14: The Tower

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While Emma, David, Regina and Hook continue their search for the Wicked Witch, she, in turn, is planning a dark surprise for David, and Zelena's prisoner is powerless under her watch as she plots her next course of action against the townspeople. Meanwhile, in the Fairy Tale Land that was in the previous year, Prince Charming stumbles upon Rapunzel, who is trapped inside a tower, and must help her confront her fears in order for her to be free.

 

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Well, I'm almost a little ashamed to say that I didn't see the "witch" twist coming. Then again I guess I can be kinda gullible, because I didn't see Zelena and Regina being sisters until like 2 seconds before she said it.  That said, I *did* say "That witch is built like a dude." when it started stalking David in the Storybrooke woods.

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I felt this version of Rapunzel's story was too contemporary.  It could have happened on almost any drama - her brother died saving her and she felt guilty about it.

I am personally not caring for Zelena.  She seems like a replacement "bad guy" who is just there because the writers feel they can't use Regina and/or Rumpel for that purpose anymore.  Meanwhile, Snow has slipped even further into her early-onset dementia and the other "good" characters are not far behind.  There is not even the slightest bit of suspicion on their part that Zelena wasn't there for the first curse and seems awfully eager to offer her midwife services to Snow.

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The only thing I dislike about Zelena is her green skin. And not because I have a problem with green skin, but because hers looks  just plain awful. I mean, it doesn't look professional at all, it looks like I applied it. I expect more when she's surrounded by such great costuming... and i wish her hair was black. Maybe even dark brown. But that gingery shade just looks awful with that ridiculous paint job. 

I'd be willing to let the "wasn't here for the first curse" thing slide a bit easier if there were others shown that have made a first time trip to Storybrooke. Like, are Aurora and Philip there? Oh yeah, I guess Robin Hood and his Merry Men cover it... Maybe that's why it doesn't really bug me so much. 

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The only thing I dislike about Zelena is her green skin. And not because I have a problem with green skin, but because hers looks  just plain awful. I mean, it doesn't look professional at all, it looks like I applied it.

Her skin was bugging me and I finally realized what it was: it is shimmery/metallic.   The OUAT makeup department really likes their glitter stuff.  In my opinion, they should have left her makeup matte, then maybe it would have come closer to looking like real skin (albeit green) but going with a metallic/shimmery green makeup just makes her skin look shiny instead, adding to the cheap Halloween makeup effect. 

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Blue Girl, that's it! Thank you for figuring that out. If only they had gone matte green, it would have worked, I think. We as an audience have been willing to use our imaginations to compensate for things like less-than-state-of-the-art green screen shots. But I just can't with the sparkly green.

OTOH, Rumpelstiltskin's glittery gold skin wasn't a problem for me. OT Other OH, I'm quite willing to believe that it's more to Robert Carlyle's credit than the makeup department's.

Or maybe I just have a green problem.

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This glitter makeup must be a lighting nightmare, green and gold, doesn't matter. But guess that Zelena is glittery like Rumple is on purpose.

 

I felt this version of Rapunzel's story was too contemporary.  It could have happened on almost any drama - her brother died saving her and she felt guilty about it..

Didn't find it too contemporary, just unoriginal. When I heard, they wanted to go a bit "The Grudge" I had somewhat different expectations:  an undying anger/fury attacking people using their own fears. So I was like, what, there is not even any grudge involved (okay, maybe Zelena's, but was not that much of a thing here)? It was not even scary (but I'd just watch that day a short film that really gave me the creeps with some figure in the dark, it's called "lights out" by David F. Sandberg, so maybe was desensitized). I liked that they wanted to give some insight into the emotions of one of the main characters for a change, and less plot!plot!action!, but the story of Rapunzel fell short, there is so much more to it than some young woman with long hair trapped in a tower. I know, they can't give every Fairy Tale character big attention,but this was a tad too random.

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Creepiness and scariness is very subjective. I watch a lot of horror movies (creepy, atmospheric horror movies a la The Conjuring and Insidious, because I although I do like to be scared, I don't like to be grossed out), so the Fear Witch wasn't all that scary to me. The way the Fear Witch moved, with the blinking in and out and fast-forward stutter-stops, was very Supernatural and Samara-from-The-Ring of them, and I appreciated it even if it didn't make me squirm uncomfortably on my couch. My friend who hates horror movies, on the other hand, was legitimately creeped out.

I liked that they tried to do something with the story other than "evil person keeps young girl prisoner in a tower" and I liked the parallel that your own fear keeps you trapped within yourself, just like Rapunzel is trapped in a tower. The issue I had is I wish they'd said how long she was there. Just because I kept trying to figure it out and the fact that I couldn't kept taking me out of the story.

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Creepiness and scariness is very subjective. I watch a lot of horror movies (creepy, atmospheric horror movies a la The Conjuring and Insidious, because I although I do like to be scared, I don't like to be grossed out), so the Fear Witch wasn't all that scary to me. The way the Fear Witch moved, with the blinking in and out and fast-forward stutter-stops, was very Supernatural and Samara-from-The-Ring of them, and I appreciated it even if it didn't make me squirm uncomfortably on my couch. My friend who hates horror movies, on the other hand, was legitimately creeped out.

 It's subjective, you're right. Unfortunately it reminded me more of some silent movie comical moments, so felt more like laughing than getting the creeps. Didn't help me to stay in the moment of the story.

I liked that they tried to do something with the story other than "evil person keeps young girl prisoner in a tower" and I liked the parallel that your own fear keeps you trapped within yourself, just like Rapunzel is trapped in a tower. The issue I had is I wish they'd said how long she was there. Just because I kept trying to figure it out and the fact that I couldn't kept taking me out of the story.

 

Was wondering about that too. Pesky details. Were she and her parents among those who under Cora's dome or somehow else were left in the Enchanted Forest the first time, or had they just come back? When did her brother die? Her parents and her didn't look that much to me like people who would have survived the ogres, and it still puzzles me anyway, if there were others besides the survivors in the Safe Haven and  Robin and his Merry Men (who were used to survive in the woods) who stayed back in the Enchanted Forest during the first curse. But weren't all in the Safe Haven killed by Cora? If they were among the returning, then Rapunzel could have been in the tower maybe only 2-3 months. So her long hair was what, part of her fears? Or some amazing quick growth? I am okay with more people being left back the first time, Regina not been interested in providing for so many people, but it makes me all scratch my head. 

Edited by katusch

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I, too, thought the Rapunzel story was a little underdeveloped. I didn't hate it, but her stated fears kept changing: she doesn't think she can be a good ruler! her brother would have been much better! except he's dead and it's her fault! her parents might not forgive her! It's not that any of these are contradictory or unbelievable, but - and I don't know if it was the actress or that the pace of the story never allowed these moments to really land and breathe - I just wasn't feeling it. Ultimately, it all felt like set-up for the Charming/nightroot scenes in Storybrooke. Which was part of the point, yeah, but Rapunzel's story should have mattered on its own.

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I agree the whole Rapunzel/Charming/Flashback/Present-day parallel fears setup was very clunky.  But it was the price we had to pay for having a Charming centric episode.

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I'm all for a Charming-centric episode. I love him. And the parts that were Charming-centric were well done. But Rapunzel felt entirely superfluous. If they had cut that part of the story out entirely, they could have dug further into Charming's head. It felt weird that one (admittedly creepy) nightmare would leave Charming desperate and afraid enough to hare off on a search for a magic root that would do god knows what. I wish we could have seen his fears taking more of a toll on his life. Maybe having him literally fighting his fears in both the Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke would have been too repetitive? I don't know. But Rapunzel's story felt pointless and that was disappointing.

It wasn't a bad episode. But I wish it had been better.

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David's dream at the beginning offered a lot of promise for development in terms of his relationship with Emma. It would have been nice to see this be continued beyond this episode. It's not something that should be "fixed" by learning a very special lesson in the tower. He and Snow did fail their daughter and their people. Dealing with that isn't done by admitting you're afraid of failing again. Of course, this whole thing was only done to get to a plot point of needing the courage totem, so it was meaningless in terms of character anyway. I hate that this is how the show is written. Create an interesting character story and then dump it in the same episode once the plot point has been met.

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6 minutes ago, KAOS Agent said:

Of course, this whole thing was only done to get to a plot point of needing the courage totem, so it was meaningless in terms of character anyway. I hate that this is how the show is written. 

That really encapsulates how bad the writing is on this show.  They have zero interest in actually developing or going deeper with their characters, to the point it's transparent, like with this episode.  They didn't even give David a proper scene with Emma at the end to debrief the whole incident.  

Spoiler

Remember when some of us were so disappointed that Rapunzel only got a one-off filler episode?  And then came Season 7, LOL... seriously, be careful what you wish for.

Edited by Camera One
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Hated this episode. Boring filler. Waste of Rapunzel. Mary Margaret is so gullible, “she knew my nanny” smh.

I do love the scene in the woods where Emma tries to get Hook’s story out of him but he keeps quiet about giving up his ship to save her. He immediately launches into talking about feelings to get Emma off his back because he knows she’ll run.

I also like the scene at Zelena’s storm cellar where Emma teases Hook accusing him of being scared when he’s actually being quite reasonable wanting backup before heading into the cellar.

They can write good character scenes when they want, I just don’t understand why they are so allergic to it.

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The flashback in this episode was such a waste, and it's an example of why I really hate the thematic flashbacks. We could probably have understood the present-day story without the setup. David's fears were dismissed, so it's not like it set up a character arc for him. They could have better spent this time on developing something real from the missing year (though at least we got an episode without Regina whining about not having the kid she used to neglect in her life anymore).

But I did like the investigating scenes with David, Emma, and Hook. There were some good conversations that actually did develop the relationships. I hate that Snow was so trusting of Zelena, but I really like the way Zelena is played. Really, it would have been better if they'd found another character for Rebecca Mader to play. She's so good, but that character never quite works.

The scene between Zelena and Rumple in the cell was rather beautifully filmed, the way they kept doing the extreme close-ups showing their eyes or showed them in silhouette. There was a lot of tension in the scene. I'm not sure what good it did (it was a lot of time to set up Zelena getting a drop of blood), but it was very well done.

I always feel bad for Colin when they're out there in the snow and his shirt is open practically to his belly. I'm sure the leather of that coat helped keep him warm otherwise, but couldn't they have laced the shirt up a bit more when in the snow? It seems like even Hook might have covered up some in those conditions. It's like they're terrified to break with their branding even that much. Everyone else gets to wear coats, hats, and scarves, but this one character gets stuck in a costume that can't be altered, even to fit the conditions.

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I love getting a Charming episode, but this weeks flashbacks are just so pointless, almost hilariously so. Not only do they reduce Rapunzel to a one off character with hardly anything going on for her, but the whole flashback is just an exercise in pointlessness. We dont really learn anything about the missing year, it doesent really move the plot forward, and it isnt interesting enough or well done enough to just be a character piece. Its especially disappointing how shallow the story ends up being, considering how great the opening is, with Emma and the dream sequence. Its such a tragic, heartbreaking look into Charmings head, and the terrible loss he feels, and it reminds us of how much damage this curse really did. It deprived Emma of a childhood and young adulthood filled with love and family, and the Charmings lost the chance to raise their daughter. Its actually really well done, and then Emma getting sucked into the wardrobe, its just so visceral, and it seems to be really getting into this curse and its aftermath, like I've wanted them to do since season two, and then...it just peters out. 

It also makes me retroactively roll my eyes even more at Regina and her endless drama about being separated from Henry. It would have been nice to see Regina see first hand how awful it is to be separated from your child through a magic curse, but of course we cant have that. Regina suffers more than ANYONE damn it!

 I do like a lot of the investigation stuff in Storeybrooke, and the banter between Hook, Snow, and Charming is a lot of fun, and all three of them, in all combinations, are a good team. Like, I really enjoyed Hook reminded Emma that not going into the witches cellar isnt about being scared, its about being smart. There are a lot of beats between them all that I really enjoy, and it keeps the plot interesting, even though we already know whats up. 

Speaking of, wow is Snow an idiot here. Maybe if they focused more on her being desperate, and clinging onto this person who can come in and save the day or something, but she mostly just comes across as so naive and trusting, like she hasn't even seen the rest of the show! Oh, she knew Johanna? A woman who you clearly cant get a reference from, who she could have easily knew about from the missing year, or from pre curse world, without ever having to actually know her? Oh yeah, seems legit, Snow! At least Charming seems to be suspicious, but of course, he cant just fully tell Snow that they need to really check on this person they allow near their unborn child. This one person in town who no one knows...

I have to give Josh and Jenn some more credit, its kind of impressive how they have such father/daughter or platonic chemistry, despite being around the same age. Even during the dance in the dream, it really comes across as a daddy daughter dance, and there is no weird romantic vibes, being two attractive people together in the same peer group. 

Spoiler

It especially stands out after the weird incest vibes between Roni and Adult Henry, who often came across more as love interests than as mother and son. That might be the writing, or the acting, but it was always super weird in ways that Emma never was with the Charmings. Also, I remember watching this wishing we could get a bigger Rapunzel story. Oh, how young I was. 

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2 hours ago, tennisgurl said:

I have to give Josh and Jenn some more credit, its kind of impressive how they have such father/daughter or platonic chemistry, despite being around the same age. Even during the dance in the dream, it really comes across as a daddy daughter dance, and there is no weird romantic vibes, being two attractive people together in the same peer group.

Now that you point this out, I realise that I have always

Spoiler

bought David as Emma's dad far more than Mary Margaret as her mom. Though to be fair, they do have more parent-child moments. 

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It's crazy that they have a character who actually has an evil twin fighting someone who seems to be an evil version of himself, and the evil twin thing doesn't come up at all. There's not even a moment of "Hey, I thought you were dead" when he first sees who's under the hood and cloak.

And I still wish they'd gone with the idea that the Storybrookers only knew about the Wicked Witch of the West and the other Oz stuff because they'd read the books or seen the movie (or had fake memories of having done so) during their time in Storybrooke. There should have been a lot more "seriously?" when it looked like their enemy was collecting totems of the virtues from the story, and that should have allowed them to figure things out, maybe given them a slight advantage over Zelena, since she wouldn't have known how they could have known so much about her, even after she wiped their memories of having met her. That could have been so much fun, with her being frustrated that they seem to know all about her even though she thought she wiped their memories, and she doesn't realize that she's famous in this world, so she may have wiped their memories of interacting with her and what she was up to, but they still knew a lot about her.

Spoiler

It's a pity they never even tried dumping a big bucket of water on her, just to give it a shot.

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8 hours ago, Shanna Marie said:
8 hours ago, Shanna Marie said:
Spoiler

It's a pity they never even tried dumping a big bucket of water on her, just to give it a shot.

 

Spoiler

They didn't have to.  Dorothy had already tried that, and it didn't work.  Zelena only pretended that it did.

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Spoiler

 

11 hours ago, legaleagle53 said:
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They didn't have to.  Dorothy had already tried that, and it didn't work.  Zelena only pretended that it did.

But they didn't know that, especially while they were all missing the Missing Year memories. So, when they're confronting the Wicked Witch of the West and they know that in the stories, dumping water on her works, then why didn't they try?

 

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They probably didn't want to do it twice when they knew they were going to do it later.  It's another case of plot plans driving characters and what they do or don't do.

The parallel between Rapunzel and David was also poorly done.  Rapunzel was afraid she wouldn't be a good ruler, and that could have been something she shared in common with Snow, now that they were back in the Enchanted Forest and people looked up to them as leaders.  Heck, even David the shepherd boy could have doubts that he could be a decent leader again after all the problems that beset their kingdom.  

If their intended theme was worry about parenthood, then they could have gone another route.  As said above, the starting scene with Charming's nightmare raised such hopes that they would deal with David reflecting on his failures as a father and both Snow and David dealing with the loss of Emma from their lives.  Snow was back in the childhood palace where her father was murdered.  There should be an emotional impact.

Adding insult to injury was the last time we got a Charming-only flashback centric was "The Shepherd" in Season 1, and this was the second episode he got to himself.  So it's not like they've exhausted everything they could do with the character.  It's times like this when you think if it's lack of creativity or utter lack of interest in certain characters.

Edited by Camera One
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The theme of fighting your fears didn't carry over into the present Storybrooke. David was fighting himself like he did in the Enchanted Forest, but it wasn't fear related except in the most basic sense. This is where the whole thing fell down because there couldn't be a bookend conversation with Emma in the present. He didn't remember his dream or fear of failure. He was too busy being worried about the Wicked Witch and what it meant to be recursed and memory-less with people turning into flying monkeys to focus on his fear of impending fatherhood. 

This is why this show is so damn frustrating. Post-S1, they lost most of the deeper parallels between the past and the present stories and there's usually only a loose connection between the two. In this case, they had the perfect opportunity to have David in the past struggling with his failure at parenting, while forging a better parental bond with Emma in the present. Instead, Emma is off with Hook, which I enjoyed, but it could have been an Emma/David adventure that built on the same fears in Storybrooke. This could then have culminated in an Emma/David discussion at the end. It would also allow for David to continue to struggle with this throughout the season and maybe align him more with Emma and her plans to return to New York.

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They were mostly just using the flashback to set up the magic root so Zelena could use it in the present, with only the slightest handwave to tie in David's fear of impending fatherhood. Not that they even needed the magic root for Zelena to get his courage. Wouldn't any attack have worked, or did it have to be him fighting his inner demons? Not to mention it's a little creepy to have him in the flashback resorting to taking drugs to help him deal with a perfectly normal anxiety. Okay, so he didn't actually end up taking the drugs, but that was his plan -- I'm feeling anxious about this thing that just about everyone goes through, but instead of dealing with it, I'll go take this magic root.

47 minutes ago, KAOS Agent said:

This is where the whole thing fell down because there couldn't be a bookend conversation with Emma in the present. He didn't remember his dream or fear of failure. He was too busy being worried about the Wicked Witch and what it meant to be recursed and memory-less with people turning into flying monkeys to focus on his fear of impending fatherhood. 

You'd think he'd have had similar fears, especially with it coming on so suddenly. He didn't have nine months to get used to the idea of becoming a father again, and then Emma shows up, so he's got double the fatherhood anxiety, and he wouldn't remember having come to terms with the anxiety in the past. It should have been even stronger in the present than in the flashback.

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10 hours ago, KAOS Agent said:

Instead, Emma is off with Hook, which I enjoyed, but it could have been an Emma/David adventure that built on the same fears in Storybrooke

As much as I love the “heart still works” scene how much better if Emma and Charming had done the investigation while Hook stayed with Mary Margaret, I would have loved them to have an actual conversation.

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5 hours ago, daxx said:

As much as I love the “heart still works” scene how much better if Emma and Charming had done the investigation while Hook stayed with Mary Margaret, I would have loved them to have an actual conversation.

I hate this show. 

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13 hours ago, daxx said:

As much as I love the “heart still works” scene how much better if Emma and Charming had done the investigation while Hook stayed with Mary Margaret, I would have loved them to have an actual conversation.

I'm not so concerned about what Hook is doing (it would have been rather inappropriate for him to be meeting the midwife with Mary Margaret), but in an episode that's supposed to be about David facing his fears of fatherhood because of what happened with Emma and in which facing those fears creates a Courage totem for Zelena to use in her spell, it is rather ridiculous that David faced his fears by fighting a cloaked version of himself while alone in the woods rather than having to fight to save his daughter, the one he didn't save before and has nightmares about failing. Either have the cloaked figure attacking Emma, which gives David a big freakout about failing his daughter or skip the whole magic root storyline, do something different in the flashbacks, and have David and Emma fighting flying monkeys. In the fight, he not only realizes he can help her, but he also realizes she can take care of herself and had turned out okay regardless of what he did, which takes off some of the pressure. Then maybe he talks to Emma about his fears and it turns out that admitting and facing his fears is the real courage. It wasn't about swinging a sword. It was about facing Emma and admitting to his feelings of failure because of what he did to her.

Meanwhile, it was a waste for him to have his conversation about all this with Robin. Wouldn't it have been more meaningful if he'd talked to Neal, since Neal actually knew Emma and knew why David would be worried about his impact on Emma and Neal was wrestling with the same issues, of feeling like he failed his son by bailing on Emma? Not to mention, if the two of them had ever had so much as one moderately meaningful conversation

Spoiler

it would have been less out of the blue for David to name his son after Neal and claim that they all loved Neal and he loved them

Maybe move the "your heart still works" conversation to a different episode, or have that be an earlier scene before Emma and David work together (maybe Emma flees Hook to work with her father because he hit a little closer to the truth than she's entirely comfortable with).

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I didn’t mean Hook meet with the midwife. Change the episode so it makes sense for David to go with Emma.

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They could still have had Hook and Emma trekking through the forest together (though really, they do an awful lot of aimless wandering looking for villains on this show) just have them get attacked by monkeys or something and it's more than the two of them can handle, then David appears and saves the day. 

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3 hours ago, profdanglais said:

They could still have had Hook and Emma trekking through the forest together (though really, they do an awful lot of aimless wandering looking for villains on this show) just have them get attacked by monkeys or something and it's more than the two of them can handle, then David appears and saves the day. 

It's astonishing how simple most of the fixes for this show are. Just trim some of the wandering in the woods, have Emma and Hook call David for backup when they find the locked storm cellar, then they're all attacked by monkeys, David helps save the day and then confesses to Emma about being scared about parenthood, and his sword vanishes.

Do something more relevant to the Missing Year in the flashback, like they're trying to get people settled and rebuild what was destroyed in the curse. David can still be worried about being a father. In the present, the fake midwife stuff was really just about getting him to drink the magic tea to have his vision to fight so do something else that doesn't require them to look like idiots for not suspecting the one new woman in town.

Spoiler

I don't think it even became relevant later. They find out Zelena's identity in the next episode, and then it no longer matters. The only thing to really come out of it was a later quip from Zelena about knowing about childbirth because she used to be a fake midwife.

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I really hate this episode because it kills the momentum. The first two episodes were about the aftermath of the Curse being undone and then the Missing Year stuff in Storybrooke. Here, nothing really happens except for the "reveal" that Zelena is collecting objects. The cliffhanger is lame because we as the audience already know Rumple is alive. It's just the characters finding out. It doesn't really change anything. They have no idea where he is and Zelena has him enthralled. Most of this episode just feels like filler. I realize it's the "mid-arc drag" where episodes are less plot-heavy and more character-driven, but...

Spoiler

Quiet Minds and It's Not Easy Being Green come directly after, and they're both meatier. 

Edited by KingOfHearts
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Alternate episode description for "The Tower":

Quote

While Emma, David, Regina and Hook continue their search for the Wicked Witch, she, in turn, is planning a dark surprise for David, and Zelena's prisoner is powerless under her watch as she plots her next course of action against the townspeople. Meanwhile, in the Fairy Tale Land that was in the previous year, Prince Charming stumbles upon Quasimodo atop a tower, and must help him confront his fears and insecurities in order for him to be free.

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