Monday, March 10, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (3x12)

"We're back." 
Yes, Snow White, we are! Three months is a terribly long time without this show. A small confession first; because of how active I am in this fandom, I know way more about these 11 episodes than your average viewer (though despite all that, the show still managed to surprise me this week with "New York City Serenade"). Because I knew so much going in, I was more or less dreading this episode. From all the media spin, it sounded like I wouldn't find this episode very appealing at all. But, as I shall remember henceforth, the media blitz is all hype to get money. Don't trust them, kids. This episode was phenomenal. It had something for everyone, which is what I loved most--if you're a SwanFire, a CaptainSwaner, a Rumbeller, if you love Snow White and Regina or if you love a strong fierce Emma Swan, you got it in this week's episode. If the theme for the first half of the season was belief, then the theme for this second half is "home." Each of these characters are searching out for their home--be it a fortified castle, a quiet spot in the woods, a ship, or an apartment in the heart of the city. When we last left, the fairy tale characters were being sucked back to the Enchanted Forest away from Storybrooke while Emma and her son Henry drove off to their new life, ignorant of everything that happened in the first 2.5 seasons. They started a life in New York City, a good quiet life, before a certain one-handed pirate showed up on Emma's door stoop claiming that her parents were in danger. 

Back Where We Belong 

Did you catch all the callbacks to the pilot in this episode? It began with Philip riding down a road (a la Prince Charming) where his wife, Aurora, waited, though not in a glass coffin, but with a nice little picnic. But instead of a nice holiday with the wife, a dark purple cloud OF DOOM descended upon them. And lo' all our characters magically (pun!) appeared back in the Enchanted Forest, dressed in their Fairy Tale Land clothing. There were a few problematic continuity issues, though they didn't bother me as much as I thought they would. Snow, Regina, Belle, and Neal are not in their clothing from when the original Curse hit, but I can excuse most of that. Snow and Charming waste no time getting caught up with Philip and Aurora. Turns out the ogres were defeated? Good to know. This is nit picky of me, but that was a potential storyline that never developed and it bugs me. That would have been a very cool plot line for season 4--retake the Enchanted Forest from the Ogres and make a new life.

But home isn't all it's cracked up to be. Almost no one is excited to be back (except the dwarves who are ecstatic to be handsome again). There are too many memories and too much left behind in Storybrooke to be happy about being home. Surprisingly, Aurora and Philip aren't thrilled to see them either. The interaction between the two sets of royal families give the appearance of kindness, but there is a seedy underbelly waiting to poke through. As the Prince and Princess send our heroes on their way, Aurora remarks that they have to tell "her" about this return and it's not their job to save Snow and Charming. What has happened in the Enchanted Forest since everyone left? Who has moved in? And why wouldn't Aurora tell her friends? Is her unborn babe in danger from this new threat? That remains to be seen.

What coming home has done is create some forced unity between characters who typically loathe each other. When it is suggested that the heroes head off to Regina's castle, there is some scuffle about to whom that castle really belongs. It belonged to Leo, Snow's father, whom Regina married and then took by right on conquest, but in a absolutely beautiful turn of events, Snow tells Regina, "we're going to take it back. And you're coming with us." It's time to move forward. They can't keep going over the same history; this is a time to come back together. A curse took them to Storybrooke and a curse brought them back. Now Regina has lost her child, Snow has lost hers for the second time, and it's time to end this feud. They're a family and it's time they started acting like one. And good for Snow for not giving up on Regina, for insisting that she come with them. Like it or not, they are together in this.

This moment between Snow and Regina was brought up again a little bit later when Regina decided to separate herself for a very heart wrenching (pun!) reason. Loosing Henry, knowing that he doesn't even remember her, is too much for the Evil Queen. That hole in her heart that Henry filled is empty once more. So in a drastic moment, Regina decides to remove her own heart and bury it. Snow caught Regina in the act and the two had a very beautiful conversation about loosing their children and how it's important to not take the easy path out. Regina has to feel her pain; she has to learn to live without Henry because that's her sacrifice and taking an easy path past that pain is not allowed anymore. Snow understands this more than anyone. This is the second time she's lost her daughter to a curse. I am really excited to see these two lean on each other--deep down, I think they really love each other. Before there was the feud, there was a budding friendship between Young Regina and Snow.

And then they were attacked by flying monkeys. But we'll get back to that in a second.

Speaking of easy paths and trying to hide the pain away, let's talk about Hook and Neal. Studies in contrast, no? Hook wants nothing (and I do mean nothing) with this plan to trek to Regina's castle. This isn't his home. This is some forest that means nothing to him. His home is the Jolly Roger and he intends to find it. Emma is gone but instead of making a plan to go after her, he decides to find his real home, his ship. Now, if you think about Captain Hook's character, this makes a lot of sense. Of course his home is the ship! He's a pirate. And as he says to Snow, "I've always been a pirate." This doesn't mean that Hook, as a pirate, can't be a hero or perform heroic actions, but that at his core he is what he is--a scallywag, a rapscallion, a pirate. He has no intent to go after Emma, to try and get back to her. She's gone and that's horrible and he's very distraught but what's the use of fighting? And so, taking a horse and some supplies, Hook rides off into the great unknown and the rest of his story will be filled in as we go along I imagine, because somehow he got to NYC.

Let's get one thing straight: I love Neal. I love Neal a lot. Like, a crazy amount. Rumple may be my favorite, but Neal is a very close second. Neal is (to quote the actor Michael Raymond-James) "super not cool" with this new life. He wants out, right now. He wants to go to Rumple's castle, see if his father is alive (because he doesn't believe that he is really dead) and get back to Emma and Henry post haste. They are his home, where he feels he belongs, with the woman he considers his true love and his son. Home isn't the Enchanted Forest, it's wherever Emma and Henry are. And Neal is determined. He's lost them before, he has been down this path not so long ago and he is not about to go down it again. He won't sit idly by and accept this fate. He is going to get back to them, "this isn't over. I'll see both of you again." (Look, I have a lot of Neal feelings, okay?) Now all of this is coming on the heels of Charming and Snow telling Neal that it is impossible to get back to Emma and Henry; those two have a new life and they need to live it. Let them try to be happy and we, here in the forest, must try to move on. What's next for Neal? Well that's hard to say. Belle also thinks that Rumple is alive and that "we can get him back." Will Neal go off on an adventure with Belle? Will finding Rumple then lead to Neal trying to get to Emma? We shall see.

So speaking of thieves with hearts of gold, remember Robin Hood? Yeah he's back. Like I mentioned above, Snow and Regina were attacked by a flying monkey. Before Robin scared it off with an arrow, it managed to take some of Regina's blood (important!). But this is the first official meeting of Robin and Regina. Oh man, I am exited for OutlawQueen. I never thought I'd be excited for anything involving Regina but given their first interaction, I'd say this ship is going to sail itself. So sassy!! Robin knows of Regina and I think he's already at least intrigued by her. And she of him, even if he does "smell of forest."

And finally at long last, they arrive at Regina's former castle and find--it occupied? So let's see. We've got flying monkeys, a "her" and curses. Who could be living in Regina's castle?
Why hello there Wicked Witch from Oz! What could she want? Why is she living in Regina's castle? Why does she want Regina's blood? All good questions. Theory time! The Wicked Witch is Regina's half sister, born of Cora and the Wizard. She was swept away to Oz as a baby, long before Regina was ever born. Later in life, the Evil Queen and the Wicked Witch met, Regina being unaware of who the Witch was but with the Witch knowing, and Regina causes the Witch to turn that lovely shade of green. The Wicked Witch is envious of Regina and all that Regina had--namely Cora's love. Her plan is one of envy (being green with jealousy) and she wants to take everything away from Regina. Look out folks, it's Wicked vs Evil and "wicked always wins."

New York State of Mind

Emma Swan is not the Emma Swan we once knew. She is ever so subtly different--a red pea coat replaces her red leather jacket, plaid mommy pants replace her skinny jeans, cute blouses replace functional sweaters. Our Emma Swan is now a full time mother and that comes first. Emma has a great life and a new guy! Meet Walsh, a furniture salesman with a cute smile who helps Henry with his science projects. He seems like a nice guy, actually, which sorta makes me hate him. I don't want to like him. Thankfully by the end of the episode, I will have sufficient reason to no like him at all. The two are having a nice dinner out when who should appear? Emma's own stalker (her words, not mine!)

Hook obviously sounds like a lunatic. "Your family is in danger!!" What family? Emma is an orphan, she's never had a family until Henry. Hook realizes that he can't persuade her with words, so it must come another way--an address in the city that will prove to Emma that she has a life she has forgotten about. Does Emma want to go? Hook tells her to use her superpower to see if he is lying but in a nice call back to the pilot, "just because you believe it to be so, doesn't mean it's real." Hook tells her one final time to go and that if she does, he'll be waiting for her in Central Park. Walsh slips back to dinner and suddenly, a ring! Yes Walsh wants to marry our Ms Swan which horrifies poor Emma and ends up leaving (I'm sure leaving one of those cartoon-y clouds of dust in her wake). Emma still has commitment issues; her abandonment issues haven't resolved themselves magically. What Neal did to her still hurts--but she's able to talk about it now. Henry isn't living in the dark, which is nice to know. As much as I love Neal, I know he hurt Emma. And that's what I want them to work through. You can't sweep it under the rug, that's the easy path and Savior's don't take easy paths. Their roads are long and hard for a reason.

Emma is still curious, though. She decides to go to the address Hook provided and turns out, the apartment is super familiar. It's Neal apartment, last seen in "Manhattan" in season two. There are quite a few familiar items there that should spark a feeling of familiarity to the audience--the dreamcatcher, the bloody rag that was used to dress Rumple's wounds after Hook stabbed him, and finally Henry's camera with his name on it. It is this final item that freaks out Emma. How does Neal have a camera with her son's name on it? How is that possible? Is Neal trying to get back into her life? Into Henry's? Fearing for her son, Emma goes to Central Park to hear Hook out.

I'm not exactly a Hook fan but I did appreciate how kind he was being. He was genuinely trying to get Emma to remember. Her family is in danger and he knows she is the only hope. But with Emma, it's very difficult because her walls will always be up. Hook tells her to take a leap of faith and drink the magic blue potion he has with him (who knows from where?) But Emma still can't take that leap of faith--it's not enough. She can't open herself up enough to trust Hook, and in a moment paralleling "Tallahassee", Emma pulls out some handcuffs (kinky) and chains Hook to a bike rack and then promptly has him arrested. What would it take for Emma to believe? Not Hook, not even some of Neal's things though at least that made her open up a bit. With Emma, it's always going to be Henry. Remember that Emma still has the camera she found in Neal's apartment--well there are photos on there. Photos of her life with Henry in Storybrooke, of taking a trip to Manhattan with him to find Neal. Evidence of another life that she can't remember.

And with that much evidence, now Emma must open herself up a bit more. Neal might lie to her, Hook might lie to her, but Henry...Henry would never lie to her. Emma bails Hook out of jail (where they force fed him bologna) and finally Emma is ready to drink the potion. Her instincts and the evidence from her son are there. Time to take that leap of faith. Just like in season one, there are memory flashes--Henry showing up at Emma's door, fighting the dragon, meeting Snow for the first time as her mother, finding Neal again, loosing Neal down the portal, and finding Neal in the cave (gosh that's a lot of Neal), and then finally the Curse that took her family away from her again. And there she is, ladies and gentlemen, our Emma Swan is back. The Savior has returned.

Time for Hook to fill in a few missing gaps, though there are still a lot more questions to be had. Hook tells Emma he left her family because Snow and Regina put aside their differences and he was bored ("I see you haven't changed") and then quickly covers up with, "there was nothing for me in the Enchanted Forest." Smooth, Hook. He sees that what he is saying isn't appealing to Emma, so time to change tactics. Brief ship moment here but this episode really solidified for me that Emma and Hook can never make it work. Emma Swan rejects her archetype, she doesn't want to be the Savior, she just wants to be Emma. She wants to be a mother and have a quiet life. But Hook is his archetype--"I've always been a pirate." Even after his brother Liam died and he had a chance to become something new, Hook just moved to a darker version of his archetype. From a sailor to a pirate. Hook needs his ship and adventure, he lives for it. So when the chance came to go on some sort of adventure, he jumped at it. Emma was just the pot of gold at the end. Apparently after Hook left the Charmings, he received a message that there was a new Curse that was going to take everyone back to Storybrooke and that Emma was the only hope. That's when he decided to go after her. Who sent him the message? Rumple? the Witch? Someone we haven't met? My first thought is Rumple but I don't know why he would send it to Hook of all people. More questions that will hopefully be answered.

Before Emma can don her red leather coat and once again go save the day, she must first deal with her boyfriend Walsh. So Emma goes to break this poor guys heart--but it's totally okay. Why? BECAUSE HE IS A MONKEY. I'm not kidding. Walsh is flying monkey sent to keep Emma in NYC and away from Storybrooke. Is it jumping the shark? Probably. But it's so hilarious and weird that I'm okay with it (MonkeySwan!). Emma makes quick work of the monkey, though I doubt it's the last we'll see of him. And now there is nothing left but to go home. I love how Emma put on her red leather coat before they left. That coat is her cape, her protection. It is her coat of power. Now she's our Emma Swan. Wicked Witch beware! She's coming for you.

I didn't expect to get a reunion in this episode but was pleasantly surprised. So here is how this new curse is different from the original--everyone remembers who they are. David knows he is Prince Charming and Snow knows she is Snow White. What they don't remember is the last year in the Enchanted Forest. They have no idea what happened to them. I won't lie. This annoys me. It takes all that character development that is going to happen in the lost year and sweep it away--Regina and Snow, gone. Belle and Neal, gone. I really hope the writers don't put us back at square one for long. I want these characters to move forward. Because they remember nothing, Snow has no idea when she became pregnant, and they don't know when they got back. So many questions and 10 episodes to go.

Miscellaneous Notes on New York City Serenade

--Some good one liners.
"You are a stalker!!"
"Here I thought you'd gone and changed." "I tried the hero thing. It didn't take."
"I don't run from monsters. They run from me."
"Drink the thing the crazy man just offered me? No thanks."
"He smells of forest"

--When will Henry get his memories back? If they are reverse paralleling the first season, then it will probably be 322.

--The Belle/Neal stuff was short but perfect. "You'll see them again, Henry and Emma..."

-- The season so far is off to a great start. We'll see more of the lost year in the Enchanted Forest as well as watching Emma take down the Wicked Witch. Or will it be Regina who takes her down? Is Regina the new Savior? Should be fun!

--I'm looking forward to Oz but I hope the stick more closely to the original text, unlike what they did with Peter Pan and Neverland.


  1. I was pleasantly surprised with how good this episode was. It came back, answered enough of the questions without raising too many more just yet.
    I don't share your fear about Regina and Snow though. They mended things within a day, I would wager that they could swing it again. They are still feeling that sense of loss. If there is not at least a tolerance for each other now, I would be very disappointed in the writers.

    1. Pleasantly surprised seems to be the general reaction of most of the fandom. After the emotions of 3x11 wore off, everyone began to pick apart the first half of the season and realize why it felt a bit wanting in hindsight. And then over three months, as little things were leaked, it all became a bit worrisome. But then the episode aired and, while we do have 10 episodes to go, it was a good episode. I don't know where it stands on my mega list of rankings for the show as a whole, but I'm giving credit where credit is due: funny, emotional, plot driven with nice character moments. If they keep it, we might be okay this half.