Saturday, May 12, 2018

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (7x21)

There's a line from the musical "Hamilton" that has been running through my head all week: "and if we get this right, we're gonna teach them how to say goodbye." I talked about nostalgia a lot last week, about how it was inevitable for OUAT to trot out familiar moments and flashbacks during the last few episodes in order to make the final showing as impactful as possible. This week's episode, the penultimate, "Homecoming" doubles down on this and brings out not only familiar beats and plotlines but also a slew of long gone characters--human and other--in order to give a giant wink and nudge to the audience. At the beginning of this season, I said the only thing OUAT had to do to be successful was be entertaining and that holds true this week, but now it needs a little bit more: it needs to teach me how to say goodbye. I know that, over the years, I've become more critical and harsher but I've been here through it all. Snow Queens and Dark Swans and Hades and personality splitting potions and Black Fairies and genocidal tree nymphs...I've watched and blogged and talked about this show. This is the second to last episode and OUAT needs to not only wrap up their seasonal (and series) long stories but also needs to teach the audience how to say goodbye to the characters and the show itself. And that's what this episode is trying to do, hamfisted though it may be. 

Guess Who's Coming To The Finale?

Name some of your favorite OUAT non-regular characters. I'd wager that the list would include Peter Pan, Cruella de Vil, and Ariel the Little Mermaid. Well, you're in luck because all of those characters show up in this second to last episode. Whether or not they deserve to be there is another story. When these aforementioned characters have shown up in the past, beyond their arc seasons, it wasn't just for show, but rather because the narrative of that season could easily fit them in. Season five, being in the Underworld, had actual dead people running around so it made sense that a deceased Peter Pan and Cruella would show up and harass the family clan. In this episode, the returning characters didn't add much to the storyline except to indulge the audience and show them some fan favorites before the show goes off air forever. Did we really need Peter Pan trapped in stocks or Cruella locked in a dog cage? Was Ariel and her Magical MacGuffin really necessary to the plot (aside, but are Magical MacGuffins ever really necessary?). The answer to all of those questions is a resounding no. The only appearance that actually made a difference plot wise was the Apprentice showing up again, ironic given that no one would catalog the Apprentice as neither a fan favorite nor a character anyone was dying to see again. Don't misunderstand me, though; it's not that it wasn't nice to see Peter, Cruella and Ariel because all of those characters are among my favorites but the writers didn't need them, the plot didn't need them and the only way the writers could even get these characters back was to move the entire show to the Wish Realm (a place that still does not make any sense) and have our family interact with them there. It's sloppy and haphazard (there's the season six word I used so much!) but I guess if it's a way to help the audience say goodbye then that's a point in the returns favor. Putting all that aside, though, there are a few beats of this episode that also return to take us into the final episode (ever!), namely the return of the show's most ambiguous prophecy. I get the feeling that the writers believe that they had resolved the prophecy from the Seer in which Rumple learned that a boy would be his undoing, but because the audience never understood it or could agree on which boy (Henry? Bae? Peter Pan? Gideon?) was Rumple's ultimate undoing, the writers felt okay in bringing the prophecy back into the narrative fold and trying to resolve it once and for all. It puts Henry and his role as the Author at the center of the finale and the idea that it's up to Henry to bring the happy endings back is very in line with one of the major beats of the show. Yes, Emma was the Savior but if Henry hadn't gone to find Emma and beg her to come to Storybrooke, the original curse would never have been broken and the past seven years would be but a dream. The other big return is not a person or a narrative point but rather place: Storybrooke. If we're talking nostalgia, seeing the Storybrooke sign as Alice and Robin drove into the tiny hamlet actually gave me a big jolt in the stomach. How many times have we seen that sign? How many times have conversations and moments and important themes happened around that sign? Round and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved (Don Draper always says it best). Let's end where we began, with a family fighting a complicated villain, trying to restore the happy endings to a bunch of equally complicated fairy tale characters just trying to make their way in this very real world. One last time...we gotta teach them how to say goodbye.

Miscellaneous Notes on Homecoming 

--Nook and Alice talking on the phone but not being able to be any closer was really heartbreaking. I can’t believe there’s a version of Hook I genuinely like and am rooting for.

--"We don’t negotiate with villains! We kick ass and protect the people we love.”

--“I know it’s a bit cluttered; but it’s beach front property.” “All I see is a cave where booze goes to perish.”

--“That is indeed a complicated story. The timelines alone would make one’s head spin.”

--“If it comes in with a built-in Margo, then I’m all in.”

--Tiana’s crisis of personality would be interesting if we had spent any time with her over the last year. She’s been such a background character that I honestly forget she exists half the time. And when did she and Naveen become romantic?

--Horrible CGI dragon is horrible.

--I can't believe next week is the last blog I'll ever write for Once Upon a Time. I've been trying to think through what I want to say in advance and I'm finding it...difficult. 'Till next week, readers.

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