Monday, December 16, 2013

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (3x11)

"What do you think fairy tales are? They are a reminder that our lives will get better if we just hold on to hope." 
It's wholly possible that I am still in shock. After only a few hours of sleep, a vat of coffee, and lots of note taking, I think I'm finally ready to blog this episode. Some honesty: I knew way more about this episode going in than most people. I knew most of the characters were going to the Enchanted Forest; I knew Emma was in New York at the end with Henry and Hook. I knew Pan would die and that Rumple would do it. But the stuff I didn't know--like why Henry, Emma and Hook were in New York, or what happened to Rumple, or the sheer amount of emotion--is what is making this blog difficult. Knowing everything I knew and still the winter finale of season three, "Going Home," rocked me to my core. Say what you want about the entire season (and I will be saying a lot about it at the end), Adam and Eddy know how to write a finale. So hold on tight, reach for a loved one...this one is going to be long. 

YOU Get a Flashback! And YOU Get a Flashback! YOU ALL Get Flashbacks!

Ok, Once Upon a Time...THIS is how you do flashbacks. Flashbacks are supposed to parallel something significant in the present day; a lesson that characters learned, a moral story or a motif that continuously plays out. I was hesitant about the idea of multiple character flashbacks. How confusing would that be? From a timeline perspective, if the flashback wasn't obvious as to  where it fell, it could come across as retconning. But they played out well, I will admit. And every flashback, with the exception maybe of one, all dealt with one thing: hope. Have hope and belief and faith in yourself, in the Savior, in the possibility of a happy ending, in second chances. The theme of hope was replete in this weeks episode. I lost count of the number of times it was uttered by any character. Let's just take these one by one.

First Flashback: Snow White and Prince Charming 

A pregnant Snow White is scared to put her baby in the magical wardrobe. If Snow can't go with her, then how will little baby Emma know that she is the Savior? How will Emma know that she has to break the Curse? The Blue Fairy (more on her later) tells Snowing that they must have faith and hope that one day Emma will come back into their lives. One day "our story will reveal itself to her." If you have any doubt about who wrote the storybook, I think this clears it up for you. It has to be Blue. How does Blue know that someday Emma will come to Storybrooke? Why does she have so much faith and hope? Blue reassures Snowing that Emma will be fine (except for the 18 years of neglect and hardship) and leaves. Snow is devastated that she is going to have to abandon her child. This isn't the life she wanted; this is not her happy ending. Snow had it all planned out; she and Charming and baby Emma would live in their castle, happily ever after. But instead Snow has to send away her only child for 28 years. Charming, as usual, is trying to be supportive and delivers life lesson number one for the night: "life is full of twists and turns that you never see coming." And this curse, this horror that is about to engulf the land, is just another twist. "I choose hope," Snow says (life lesson #2). As Snow told her now grown daughter Emma way back in 301, "the second I give up hope, I know I'm lost."

Second Flashback: Hook and Tinkerbell

This is the one flashback that felt out of place. It felt lacking in the hope department. What it didn't lack was spark and chemistry and above all, a huge left flank attack in the never ending shipping wars. I'm convinced that Adam and Eddy enjoy playing the ships off each other. I think they like walking into the powder keg that is this fandom and dropping a match. I half expected Hook and Tink to give in to their heat and do it on the Neverland rocks. Hook is looking for a way off the island. Having learned about the dagger of the Dark One (from Baelfire) his purpose in life is renewed and it's off to kill himself a crocodile (still not on good terms with Hook). But he is confronted by Tinkerbell. And this is where the timeline goes stupid. Hook learned about the dagger from Bae maybe 250, or a bit less, years ago. Tink lost her wings only about 10 years before the Curse. How is she already in Neverland, de-winged? She shouldn't be. If Tink is even born by that point, she would be in the Enchanted Forest. The highly sexual first meeting resulted in what we already knew about Hook: "I risk my life for two things, love and revenge. And I lost the first." There was no mention of hope in this flashback, which is why it bothered me. This one was more about showing Hook in the present day and how he is risking his life for the former once more.

Third Flashback: Mary Margaret and Henry

Poor Henry, asked to do a family tree project and he thinks he doesn't have any family. Kid, you have no idea just how CRAZY your entire family tree really is. This flashback takes place in Storybrooke, October 2011. In other words, just a few weeks before Henry sets out on his own to find Emma. Henry is depressed; he feels out of place in a town that apparently never changes, his mother doesn't love him, and his birth mother gave him up because she obviously doesn't love him either. Mary Margaret wants to give Henry hope. And it just so happens that she has a magical solution: the storybook. Now this is where my mind was blown a bit. The residents of Storybrooke pretty much relive their days over and over again, ad nausem. Mary Margaret apparently cleans her closet every other day (tedious housework being a curse in and of itself). But this past time, something popped up in her closet that was never seen before: the book. She's never seen it before and forgot that she had it, but she wants Henry to have it. It may be a book of fairy tales but fairy tales inspire hope. And more than anything, Henry needs hope. I loved that as Henry is flipping through the book, he sees a picture of Snow and Charming at their wedding and when he looks back at Mary Margaret, she transforms into Snow White before his very eyes. It was a moment that I think many of us really wanted to see. And Henry, now awake sets off for Boston with a stolen credit card and information about one Emma Swan.

Fourth Flashback: Rumple and Belle

It's Bae's birthday and even though it has been close to 250 years, Rumple still celebrates every single one. A small candle and a promise that they will see each other again. This is fairly early on in Belle's stay in the Dark One's castle, given Rumple's very dark appearance and his demeanor. Belle realizes that Rumple is having a remembrance and asks him about it; Rumple is hesitant to tell Belle anything but she gives him the smallest glimmer of hope: you can see him again one day; if this person you are mourning isn't dead, just lost, then you can see him again. Rumple says he hopes that is true but then remarks "but my ending shall not be a happy one." Obviously, this was a major parallel to what happened in the present day (which I will be discussing later, once I manage to stop bursting into tears). Rumple has never thought he should get a happy ending. The village coward, the man everyone leaves, and man no one can love, he doesn't get a happy ending. Rumple may find his son someday, for a chance to tell him that he was sorry and that he loves him, but Rumple sees himself for what he is: a villain.

There is one more flashback, but because it is an altered flashback, I want to save it for later.

May Death Never Stop You

All the present day events of this episode were designed for one thing: to kill your soul and heart. The emotions were full force last night. In the end, it was really the villains who came out the strongest. One after the other, each one made huge sweeping moves down Redemption Road. Except Peter Pan who is the most vile human that has ever lived. Now that Peter Pan has the scroll he can enact his Curse, which will trap everyone in Stroybrooke, without their memories, frozen in time, and having to bend to Pan's will. Panry has all the ingredients he needs except one: the heart of the thing he loves most. Now this is where it got tricky. Pan doesn't love anything, not even Rumple as he said over and over. But love can come in many forms. Love is also loyalty and there is only one person who has never doubted him: Felix. RIP, Felix. I think everyone saw it coming, but I'm rather bummed we didn't get some sort of explanation for Felix's life. Who was he? Where did he come from? How long was he with Pan? Why did the music of the pipes back in 304 not affect him? I think in the end, Felix is more of a plot-device-boy than anything else. His purpose was to set up how truly evil Pan was by showing how evil his followers were. Felix was just a ruthless and without mercy as Pan.

Meanwhile, back at the Mills family vault, Rumple has come up with a plan to stop Pan's curse using the scroll itself. It seems that if the last person who used the scroll destroys it, then they can absorb the magic from it and create a counter curse and stop Pan's Curse. Yes, I know. Confusing. But essentially, Pan's curse is staying in Storybrooke with no memories. The counter curse would ensure that everyone got to keep their memories. But where would they go? This is all overly convenient, I'm not going to lie. This was a hail mary pass from the writers akin to the black diamond of season 2. Suddenly the Curse has a counter curse? Since when? Adam and Eddy need to stop making addendum's to the original curse. It's confusing. But of course the last person to use the scroll was Regina, which means that now she has to save everyone. Which is delicious, poetic irony. The one who cursed them all must now save them all. But all magic comes with a price, one Regina must pay. Before any counter curse can be cast, they must switch back Pan and Henry. And here is where, despite all my spoiler knowledge, I was really blown back. Who in the world is the Black Fairy? Where did she come from? We've never heard of her! Apparently the Black Fairy was incredibly powerful and versed in black magic but was banned by Blue (she does that a lot). But Blue kept the wand of the Black Fairy (of course she did) and the wand is so powerful that it can switch back the souls of two people. I don't understand why Rumple couldn't do this; he's not powerful enough? Since when? The only thing "bigger than the Dark One" is the Blue Fairy (bah) and if Blue banned Black then how does this power structure work? Rumple surmises that the Blue Fairy kept the Black Fairy's wand on her person (of course she did), so it's off to the convent!

While at the convent, Pan's shadow (which over heard the whole plan) attacks Hook, Neal, Charming and Tinkerbell. Hook decides to be a hero and draw the shadow's ire (honestly, you couldn't just saw wrath or anger or say you'll cause a distraction?) and ends up on the floor (CaptainFloor! Reunited and it feels so good). There are no other options, except the pixie dust. If Tink can just believe in herself she can fly with the coconut (giggle), light the candle inside the coconut (giggle) and trap the shadow. Clap your hands if you believe in fairies! Didn't take much time for her to believe in herself, cause up she flew, lit the candle and the shadow got sucked in to the coconut (giggle). However, since trapping the shadow didn't do much good last time, they decide to destroy it by tossing the coconut(giggle) into a fire. Cause fire destroys shadows? I need a shadow handbook. How in the name of sanity does fire destroy a magically ripped shadow? Light creates shadows. Science!

But then the most bizarre (sneaky) thing of all, The Blue Fairy comes back to life!!! Destroying the shadow brought back Blue's shadow and now she's alive once more. And she is just so proud of Tinkerbell that she welcomes Tink back into the fairy order with open arms. Ok, listen Sneaky Fairy. I don't trust you. You make no logical sense most of the time. I am convinced--CONVINCED--that Blue knew she was going to come back. She challenged Tink to believe in herself once more because she knew Tink had pixie dust, which would be helpful in taking down the shadow. I don't for one second trust this Mother Superior! Oh, and Blue just happens to know that they want the Black Fairy's wand and gladly hands it over? Why? Just because Tink believes in herself. No. There is something else happening here. I suspect that the Black Fairy won't be as devious as we think.

The heroes get back to Gold's shop where Henry is ready to go back to his body. The only thing left is to cuff Pan using the same device used on Regina (in season 2) to block her magic. With Pan magicless, they can save Henry and the town (yeah, it'll be that easy, guys). The body switching spell works perfectly fine and everyone except Rumple goes off to find Henry and begin the counter curse. Rumple has unfinished business with his Papa. I really hate Peter Pan. Back in his own body, he takes perverse pleasure in showing Rumple how the cuff does not affect him because he made it. And then he goes on--at length--about how he never loved Rumple. At all. Not even a little; how little baby Rumple was nothing but a burden, taking his time, his money, and his energy. And once free from the cuff, Pan gets violent and kicks Rumple, calling him a coward and threatening to take away Bae and Belle, to kill them, because they mean so much to Rumple. I don't know how I got through this segment of the show without breaking something. Rumple, on his hands and knees, crying, cowering from his Papa. Wanting so bad to be a good man and rise above being a coward, to rise above being a villain. And now that Peter Pan magically cuffed him, he is powerless. He is again without magic, making him weak and a so-called coward. But don't count him out yet. Oh no. My Imp is a hero.

Having left Rumple on the floor of his shop, the real Pan manages to find everyone out on the street, with the scroll. He freezes the heroes and starts to go after Baelfire, wanting to kill his own grandson first. Meanwhile, Rumple is torn between cutting off his own hand so that he can have his magic back or facing his father without his magic and paying the price for all his past deeds. The moment when Rumple comes out of the shop with both hands, prepared to face his Papa was amazing. There's my Imp, in his full glory. He is unafraid. He will show his scars but be fearless in the face of the man who caused all his problems to begin with. Rumple tells Peter Pan, "what needs done is a price, a price I am finally willing to pay." For everything he has done in the past, Rumple hasn't paid too step of a price yet. He found true love with Belle, he found his son and was on his way to a reconciliation. But the price of magic must be paid. And so with a heavy heart, he tells Bae and Belle goodbye. Rumple wants Nealfire to know that he can have a happy ending, but it won't be with Rumple and that he loves him. And to Belle, that she made him stronger, she gave him hope. She was his brief flicker of light amidst an ocean of darkness. All season Rumple continually says that the only way to kill Peter Pan is for him to die as well. And in the back of our minds is the prophecy that a boy would be his undoing. Rumple may not have magic, but he did detach his shadow. And the shadow went and hid a very important object--his dagger. Which is now delivered to Rumple's waiting hand.

And so Rumple stabs his father with the Dark One's dagger and slowly they collapse as magic engulfs them. Pan transforms back into Malcolm, and begs Rumple not to do this, "take out the dagger and we can have a happy ending." But Rumple has come too far. He will not be bullied or bribed by this man ever again. "I'm a villain and villains don't get happy endings." And a bright golden light engulfs both father and son and they vanish from sight, Rumple having given the last full measure of devotion to save his son, his one true love, and the whole town of Storybrook. And my everything is broken. I don't know how to even respond. It's amazing that I eventually stopped crying, though I cried off and on all night. Rumple accepts what he is: a man who has made too many mistakes to get his happy ending as he thought he might. He wants a future with Belle and with Nealfire but he doesn't get to have it. He has committed too many sins. And Belle falls to the ground, sobbing hysterically, realizing that her love is gone just when they were finally going to have it all. "He did what he had to do. He saved us all," Neal says barely able to keep from bursting into tears. While I really doubt that Rumple is dead forever (no body = no death), it was gut wrenching and the wait to March is now more stressful.

But the most interesting reaction is Regina's. She is just as upset but with a renewed purpose. Villains don't get happy endings but they can be reedemed. They can do good. And so Regina makes her decision; she will cast her counter curse, even though it will cost her the thing she loves most. Irony. To cast the original curse, she had to take the heart of the thing she loves most, now to save everyone she must give up the thing she loves most: Henry. She can never see him again. That's the price of magic. Breaking Pan's curse will destroy all of Storybrooke and send everyone home to the Enchanted Forest, but they'll keep their memories. Everyone, except Emma and Henry. Henry will be alone in our world because he was conceived here; Emma too will stay because she is the savior. They can be together, but Emma and Henry will loose their entire family and their memories of the past few years. The stories they've come to know as true, will just be stories again. To quote my other fandom, "we're all just stories in the end..."

And this is where the wheels came off the wagon and I couldn't stop crying. Emma, so hurt by her parents in the past for the abandonment, doesn't want to loose them again. Snow and Charming tell her that she has to go, she has to flee Storybrooke. She has to be with Henry and have a normal life. "But I just found you." "And it's time for you to leave us again." And so it is decided. Emma and Henry will leave Storybrooke just in time to escape the counter curse but they will not remember anything from the past two and half seasons. They are going to be reset. And out at the town line everyone says goodbye. Emma says goodbye to Neal and he tells her that she has to save Henry, but "this isn't over. I will see both of you again." (because I wasn't already in hysterics). And then Hook says goodbye to Emma and I'm going to skip over this. Emma says goodbye to her parents and Snow, in one of the most heart breaking moments in the history of the show, kisses her daughter's forehead and wipes away her tears. No words are needed. No matter where Emma goes, she is always going to be their daughter. She is theirs, forever.

But Regina has one more trick up her sleeve. She can give them a different story. Regina can, in other words, curse them and give them a happy story. She can make it seem like Emma never gave up Henry. They've always been together, happy. And this is the final flashback, an altered history that now Emma remembers in which she never gave up Henry. In which she held him in the jail cell and decided to keep him. And that's the history Emma now knows and she and Henry drive away from Storybrooke as Pan's curse engulfs the town and Regina casts her own curse, watching her son leave her forever. And the purple magic swallows our heroes and like that, they are gone.

Flash Forward: Emma and Henry

One year later. Yeah I wasn't expecting this. That was a shock. But there are Emma and Henry, a normal family living in New York City. Emma wakes up at 8:15 am (SwanFire!) and plays Charlie's Girl (SwanFire!) while cooking breakfast. When suddenly, there is a knock at the door. And in a moment of "what?!" it's Hook. He tries to kiss Emma (step off already) but she has no idea who he is. But he comes with a warning, "you're family is in trouble." Emma slams the door in his face, thinking that he is just a crazy person. And cut to black. See everyone in March!

Miscellaneous Notes on Going Home

--When we come back in March, we will have one episode (I think) that is just Cursed!Emma and Cursed!Henry while Hook tries to convince Emma to believe him. The fairy tale characters will be in the EF and I expect we will see flashbacks over the rest of the season of what happened in that year.

--I have no interest in dissecting the love triangle. Both sides are claiming victory. And if there are any CS shippers who read my blog, yes. You guys got a lot of head wind last night. But it ain't over.

--Rumple isn't dead. I refuse to believe it.

--I am perfectly fine that Peter Pan was not redeemed in the end. He didn't deserve it. Worst parent on ONCE.

A Season in Review 

--This is going to be brief, I promise. If I had to give an overall grade to the first half of the season I think it gets a solid:  B+. ONCE did somethings very well. They really pushed character development; there were lots of great character moments--like Emma telling Snow how she was always an orphan, Emma admitting that she has always loved Neal, Hook wanting to be a hero, Regina and Rumple's sacrifices. But there were some negatives too. Adam and Eddy have got to learn better balance. The Neverland arc was starting to drag out by episode nine without one attempt by the main Jolly Roger crew at rescuing Henry. They went from tangent to tangent without making progress. Neverland really started to wear on everyone after awhile.

--I am sorry to say that there were a host of unanswered questions and I suspect we will never get them, which really sucks. I'm just going to say it: emotion over substance is not ideal on a show like this. You have to give me both. Where did Pan learn of the heart of the truest believer? Who drew the scroll with Henry's face?

--Best episode: toss up between "Ariel" and "Going Home"

--Worst episode: "Good Form" and "Save Henry"

--Best individual Arc: Emma Swan. They really pushed Emma this season, making her accept not only that she is a mother and the Savior but making her confront her past as an orphan and how it still haunts her.

--Worst Individual Arc: The dreamshade arc. Prince Charming got turned into a plot device for CaptainSwan. This is not okay. They could have actually given Charming a storyline about being poisoned and how it hurt him, but instead it turned into an attempt to make Hook a hero and get Emma and Hook to kiss.

--Best New Character: Peter Pan. He may be the worst parent ever, but Robbie Kay was delightful to watch. Really superb. Never want to see him again, but he was excellent.

--What I'm most looking forward to in 2014: The Wicked Witch of the West, Emma getting her memories back, finding Rumple 


  1. It's been too long, my apologies.
    The mid-season finale or whatever it is technically called was overall fantastic. It tied things together and gave us a nearly perfect package.
    I agree that the built-in counter-curse was a bit plot devicey, and I'm still not entirely sure that I understand it. The only way to stop Pan's curse (which I shall bitch and moan about) was to negate the entire curse? And I thought that I read in your review that everyone except Henry and Emma will retain their memories. Why do you think that? I don't recall Regina saying that anyone would remember, she just specifically pointed out that Emma and Henry wouldn't. And Hook was never cursed, so would the counter-curse even effect him? This is one of three things that greatly perplexed me.
    Second was Pan's curse and his ability to enact it. I think that Pan should not have been able to activate the curse because he doesn't truly love anything except himself. I understand the bit about loyalty, but that isn't true love which is what I thought was required for the curse to work.
    Thirdly, why did Rumple use the dagger? Was it the only sharp thing he could find? (No, there was the sword in the shop.) I also don't understand why Rumple didn't just back away after he stabbed Pan. Did the dagger go through and pierce Rumple as well?

  2. To your first: well, I've seen the 312 promo. :) (and a lot of set pics) and I know that the whole crew are working together. If they went back to pre-Curse memories then Regina and Snowing working together as a team makes NO sense. So therefore, I have to conclude that everyone has their memories.
    Hook wasn't cursed but he was from the Enchanted Forest so therefore the Curse takes him (and Neal who was also unaffected by the original curse; he was in Neverland at the time).
    Yeah, the Felix "loophole" was dumb. I thought Rumple killing Pan would be the thing to enact the Curse because Pan, like you said, loves only himself. He has the heart of the thing he loves most. I figured he'd sacrifice Felix but that it wouldn't work.
    As to why he uses the dagger, I'm not 100% sure. For some reason (which was never fully explained) Rumple and Pan are linked in life. If Pan dies, Rumple dies. Rumple figures that the only way to truly stop Pan is to kill him with the Dark One's dagger. There seems to be some opinion that the dagger does go through both of them, though I don't know how as the blade isn't that long.