Once Upon A Time: “Quiet Minds”
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Once Upon A Time: “Quiet Minds”

RIP Swanfire

Continuing TV’s current death march, this episode, Neal bites it on Once Upon A Time. By the fierceness of the violins accompanying his final scene, we can point to his death as permanent (My kids: “Why is that music so happy if he’s dying?” Me: “It’s not. It’s, um, dramatic.”), although, of course, you never can tell in Storybrooke.

The death of Neal is also the death of Bae, his far-more-interesting persona (mostly due to the acting chops of Dylan Schmid, who played him as a child). Neal was a goner from the moment Hook hugged him (“this is long overdue,” the pirate noted), but that act was  still a nice nod to the Hook/Bae relationship when he was in his crew.

While the Hook scene was effective, the ones leading up to Neal’s death were awfully confusing, with various talismans and conflicting curses. Belle and Neal are led by a poor man’s Oz-looking Lumiere (a nod to the Disney version of Beauty And The Beast) to a key that could bring back the Dark One. While Neal may have his father’s determination, unfortunately, he lacks his calculating smarts, so his efforts to bring his father back and “to hell with the cost” in fact costs Neal his life. Rumple is able to save his son initially by having Neal go into his body. At least Rumple chooses his son over the dagger this time, effectively canceling out the horrible choice he made when he chose magic over Bae going into the portal.

But if Rumple saves his son in Fairy Tale Land by having Neal go into his body, then how can Rumple be running through the Storybrooke forest while Neal is in a hospital bed? Does Emma really have enough magic now to separate the two? At least in the end, we get the briefest glimmer of some semblance of plot progression that results from Neal’s death: the reveal of Zelena, the Wicked Witch’s real name. Which may save Snow from future orange juice dates and poisoned tea from her mysterious midwife, but the Witch points out that it doesn’t even matter by this point anyway. 

I question OUAT’s decision to base entire seasons on focusing on a Big Bad. This strategy kind of made sense when the town was fighting Regina. But then we were “treated “ to an endlessly long journey into and out of Neverland, and now we’re being haunted by the pretty green lady. Who seems to just want to take over the town to get back at Regina, or something, which is not really a compelling enough argument to spend this much time on one main storyline. Besides, whom are they going to fight next: The Heat Miser? How about Robert Carlyle in a dual role? (I refuse to beg...) 

This pondering led me to wonder what I would do to fix the show right now, if I were able to. OUAT still excels at reinterpreting of fables and legends, like the off-kilter look at Rapunzel in the previous episode. We’ve seen an Evil Queen progress from a villainous character to one whose flawed heart now is open to more possibilities. But numerous characters running around for an hour searching for the Wicked Witch is not compelling, and does nothing for the show overall. And inspiration from recent Disney interpretations would probably not be as effective as more elements from the classic Grimm tales.

Neal was always been a problematic character, as, like Emma and Henry, he has no fairy tale component and his ties to Storybrooke are purely biological. He and Emma declared their love for each other right before Neverland, but contrivances were sure to keep bouncing up to keep them apart. Michael Raymond James gamely played every troublesome hand he was dealt with this part, but there just wasn’t much good there. He played a tear-inducing death scene, though, and Jennifer Morrison brought it as well, but plotwise, it’s almost an afterthought. When immediately afterward the others run to the still-clueless Snow to warn her about her midwife, the announcement of Neal’s death just seems awkwardly shoehorned in.

So Rumple’s previously seen mental illness was actually caused by his son Neal living inside him. Sure, that would be confusing. But since the Wicked Witch has the dagger, Rumple is now also controlled by the dark one. It’s fun to see Robert Carlyle spark with anyone, so I’m looking forward to more of his scenes with Rebecca Mader to see how he breaks out of his underground cage. Because as sad as it was to see Neal go, when faced with saving either Neal or Rumple, Emma definitely made the right choice. 

Stray observations:

  • Well, at least Regina’s going to get a boyfriend, at long last. Robin Hood’s no match for the Evil Queen—who could be, really?—but the two show some chemistry in the scene where they’re searching the witch’s farmhouse, and it’s engaging to see Regina vulnerable for a change.
  • Is Belle’s Enchanted Forest outfit actually tights and short shorts?
  • Should Snow not be tracking the Wicked Witch because she should rest, or would it be helpful for her and her unborn child to stay out of harm’s way? Also had to laugh at her perplexed expression as her husband and daughter bust in, guns drawn; she knows everyone is out looking for Wicked, so why else would they be there?
  • So Neal was the person who sent Hook after Emma in New York? 
  • Anyone think that Hook knows more than he’s letting on? That hug he gave Bae was downright surprising. 
  • There was an awkward cut from commercial right into Emma and Neal’s conversation in the woods mid-sentence, but at least the two could laugh and bond over the fact that she almost married a flying monkey while he almost married “a minion of my evil grandfather, Peter Pan.” 
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