Wow, a lot to process this hour: When Once Upon A Time gives you a midseason finale, they frickin’ mean it. With the Pan plot coming to a close, a new storyline needed to open up. And in Storybrooke’s case, that’s wide open.
Problem is, so much happened that sometimes the characters ridiculously had to just gloss over it, so the timing seemed rushed. After the demise of the Blue Fairy, our heroes Hook, Charming, and Neal need to go to the convent to find the wand of the previously unmentioned Black Fairy. They need to break Pan’s incoming curse that will make them lose their memories and basically make them all slaves to his will. Tink asks: “Can I come? I should pay my respects to Blue, after all.” Sure: two birds, one stone. After a painful CGI battle, Tink destroys Pan’s shadow, releasing the Blue Fairy (what about Tamara and Greg?), who immediately hands over the wand. When the crew returns, they announce, “She’s back, the Blue Fairy, so she gave us the wand,” and no one even blinks. In fact, I believe the next line is, “So what’s next?” Blue died and was in a coffin. What do you mean she’s back?
The show’s other problem—its insufferable, insufferable problem—is that these writers seem not just attached but practically addicted to their Storybrooke themes. So they are pounded home in the dialogue again and again. Anyone dare to venture a guess on the number of times the phrase “happy endings” was uttered in this episode? I counted. Fourteen times. In an approximately 43-minute episode (without commercials), that’s about once every three minutes. And it’s uttered by almost every major character: God, even Hook says it. (See also: “best chance.”)
What makes it worse is that the “happy ending” in and of itself is an idiotic concept. Life is not exactly a fairy tale, so most of us humans in the real world don’t spend much or any time despairing over our supposed lost happy endings: We do our laundry and pay our bills and love our friends and family and have good times and bad. Even Charming points out that “Life is full of twists and turns you never see coming,” which most of use just have to ride through, but Snow White would use this time to sit on her hands and do nothing and wait for things to get better.
Because “Going Home”’s other belabored concept involves the item left in Pandora’s Box. The episode’s first flashback features Blue Fairy (in an unfortunate beehive hairstyle) trying to explain to pregnant Snow and Charming what will happen when Regina’s curse takes over. Blue assures them that their story will be told eventually, and Snow replies: “Our story, what does that mean?” Blue counters: “I don’t know yet . . . but I do know that it will happen,” which is completely not an answer. But it’s enough to turn Snow around: “I choose hope. I can believe.” What? Why?
Snow’s new faith carries her over into the Storybrooke world, where she tries to convince Henry that “things really will change if you just believe it. Life is unpredictable.” Which is such a crazy and ridiculous statement. Things only change if you do something; in fact, nothing in Storybrooke ever would have changed if Henry, a believer in action more than faith, hadn’t gone out and found Emma. But Snow would have just still been sitting there, pining over a man in a coma, hoping desperately for things to get better. It’s maddening, so much so that you have to wonder if this isn’t some sort of message from show creators (and writers of this episode) Kitsis and Horowitz for viewers to have faith in their plans for the show.
This may be why the villains on Once Upon A Time are so much more likable than the supposed heroes—because they actually go out and accomplish things. The minute Rumple says that there’s a way to stop Pan’s curse, you know that the curse will be broken in exactly this way. But to stop Pan, Rumple realizes that he’ll have to kill himself as well. In a terrific scene in front of his frozen comrades (although the Pan-Rumple conversation did seem to go on for a long while), he gets his shadow to return with the dagger of the Dark One (although how did he conjure him without magic?) and stabs both Pan and himself, finally fulfilling the “boy will be your undoing” prophecy. In a neat trick, the dagger reverts Pan back to his adult self, and Rumple heartbreakingly kisses goodbye the father who never loved him, who he had to kill. Not for a minute do I believe that this is the end of Robert Carlyle on this show, but so long to Robbie Kay. We will really miss you.
Although Pan’s gone, his curse is not, and Regina’s breaking of it will cause everyone to go back to wherever they came from, be it the Enchanted Forest or Boston. Since only Emma and Henry will stay in the present day, thus commences one of the longest goodbye scenes in the history of goodbye scenes, as menacing green clouds barrel down toward our cast of characters while Snow is still kissing Emma on the forehead. Finally, Henry and Emma drive off, leaving all of us in an actual what-the-fuck moment, as there’s no real reason for them all to interact ever again. It almost felt like a series finale, instead of just a midseason one. (And it wouldn’t have been a bad one, if that’s the way things played out.)
What a difference a few minutes can make: “Going Home” ends with a “one year later” epilogue. For Lost fans, these moments offered a definite nod to that show’s season two premiere, “Man Of Science, Man Of Faith,” which famously showed Desmond preparing for his day to the strong strains of Mama Cass’ “Make Your Own Kind Of Music,” eventually revealing that he was living at the bottom of Lost’s mysterious hatch. In this episode, Lou Reed’s “Charley’s Girl” is the backdrop for Emma and Henry hitting the alarm, preparing breakfast, and getting ready for another great day in Boston. The Lost episode seemed to rejuvenate the second year of the show by opening up a whole range of possibilities: Will this episode do the same for OUAT?
Honestly, I was on the fence. And then someone banged on Emma’s door. My family all offered theories on who the culprit was; I guessed Regina, but my husband correctly picked Hook. His attempt to bring her memories back with true love’s kiss was hilarious, and his report that her parents are in trouble opens up a whole range of possibilities (and questions) for the rest of the season. Not the least of which is: How was Hook able to travel back to present day (are those magic beans still jumping around)? Did all the Storybrookers retain their memories in the fairytale world? Will Emma and Henry ever get theirs back? And is there even a compelling reason for them to do so?
- Snow cleans out her hallway closet every week? She would. But how did the fairy tales get in there?
- Why would just hiding behind pews keep Charming and the rest of them safe from the shadow? At least Hook makes an effort: “I’ll draw its ire.”
- Hook and Tink’s first meeting was all sorts of steamy, but other than that, not sure what the point of that flashback was.
- Efforts to revive Regina involve standing over her and saying, “Regina? Regina!”
- No one can comfort Belle after Rumple’s demise, so she has to drop to the ground like a bag of stones.
- Explanatory Once Upon A Time dialogue: “It’s just what the curse does.”
- The promo states that Once Upon A Time will return in March, so we’ll see you back here then.