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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
--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.
--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"
--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