Five minutes after the conclusion of “And Straight On ‘Til Morning,” my roommate looked at me sitting on the couch with my laptop to my side, and asked if I was going to start my review. “It’s already finished,” I replied, waving my hand in the air and making a fwoosh sound, “and you know how?”
“Magic?” She asked.
I then got off the couch and started writing, but in Once Upon A Time, that is a completely logical scenario. Need something done? Wave your hands and magic does it for you. No one has to really work all that hard to get things done, especially the writers of this show. It’s one of the reasons I stopped watching The Vampire Diaries, as it started to seem like all the plotlines were always building to a climax of Bonnie using some kind of mystical artifact to cast a spell to save everyone if she’s strong enough. She’d put her hands above her grimoire or whatever she’s using that day, shake for a little bit, maybe get a nosebleed, have her Gran give her more power, and then save the day. (Apparently, this week had some major Bonnie developments in TVD, but again, I stopped watching.)
Replace Bonnie with Regina and Gran with Emma and you basically get the big climax of this week’s episode. After Tamara and Greg hit Regina’s black diamond fail-safe with a pickaxe, they begin the destruction of Storybrooke and all its inhabitants by reawakening the forest Regina destroyed when she created her quaint New England town. After a quick earthquake, vines start growing everywhere and then fully grown trees start exploding from the ground, but no one really seems to be in any immediate danger of being wiped from existence. It’s not like people are getting sick or fading from existence once the fail-safe is activated, and the only reason the stakes are this high is because the characters are convinced they’re going to die because of this newest magical terror.
The writers don’t have to work to build any sort of conflict with the fail-safe; they just conjure one out of thin air. Regina just happens to have this fail-safe around that she didn’t have last season when she was desperately trying to return to her old self? It could be explained that she needed there to be magic in the world for the fail-safe to activate, but then why create a fail-safe if its not going to work? The fail-safe stands out as a particularly clumsy attempt to create drama in the weeks leading up to the finale, but Rumpelstiltskin’s hatred of Henry has been just as ham-fisted, it just got introduced earlier. Because of some vague prophecy, Rumpelstiltskin wants to kill his son-in-law, but after finding out that Baelfire is dead, Rumpel changes his mind and decides he’s going to be a better person.
Remember that plot point where if the fairy tale characters leave Storybrooke, their memories are erased? Turns out the Blue Fairy has been working on a cure for that off-screen the entire season, and she conveniently discovers a magical solution for the problem when the town is in deepest peril. If the characters drink a potion from a vessel that has a strong emotional connection to them, they will remember their old memories. It took 22 episodes of work we never saw, but now the residents of Storybrooke have a solution to one of this season’s earliest challenges. In general, this episode ties up all of the season’s major storylines with a neat little bow. The new Rumpel uses magic to reassemble Chip and asks Lacey to drink the potion, reawakening Belle, who laments how she wasn’t there to save Rumpel from going back to the dark side. But that’s okay, because he’s going to redeem himself by taking a pirate ship ride with Emma, Snow White, Prince Charming, and Regina to save Henry from Neverland.
While Regina and Emma are shaking their hands over a black diamond to stop the destruction of the town, Henry gets grabbed by Greg and Tamara, who don’t need to obliterate Storybrooke because now they have this little boy. Why is he important? The answers lie in the fairyback, which begins shortly after the end of last week’s chapter, with Baelfire on Captain Hook’s ship hiding from Peter Pan’s Lost Ones. Captain Hook develops quite a liking to the Dark One’s son and starts to bandy about fantasies of raising his dead lover’s son as his own, but Baelfire refuses to stay with the man who tore apart his family. When he arrives at Peter Pan’s camp, he’s not the young boy they need. Who is the little boy Peter Pan is looking for? It’s Henry, of course. He’s important for some reason, and I’m guessing it has something to do with magic.
The last thing this show needs is to give Henry even more importance in the story, and maybe the fact that he’s been snatched by Greg and Tamara and swept away to Neverland means that we won’t see very much of him next season. Jared Gilmore is about to hit puberty, so maybe they’re putting him in a position where he doesn’t have to show up much like Lost’s Walt. Also, why is everyone so dead set on rescuing Henry but convinced that Neal is dead? Is it because of the gunshot wound? He fell through a portal just like his son, why wouldn’t anyone use one of those magic beans to go get him back? He’ll be alright with the help of Mulan, Aurora, and a rescued Prince Phillip, but it’s another example of this show’s logic being twisted however the writers see fit. And if everyone thinks that Neal is dead, then his inevitable return will be all the more emotional.
Like the first season, these last 22 episodes of Once Upon A Time have been wildly inconsistent, but it’s become clear the show is at its strongest when it focuses on character relationships to create drama rather than magical spells and prophecies. An over-reliance on magic makes the writing feel lazy and lowers the stakes considerably, but with most of the characters in a fantasy world at the start of next season, it doesn’t look like the use of magic is going to be diminished in any way. Magic is a part of this show’s foundation so there’s no way for it to eliminated completely, but the writers need to stop falling back on it for storytelling and focus on finding the emotional truth of the personal conflicts.
- I had to pause the TV I was laughing so hard during the scene where Rumpelstiltskin tries to kill Henry by cutting the rope on his swing and impaling him on some pointy rocks.
- Was Jamie Chung not available to play Mulan at the end of this episode or did she just not want to go on set if she had no lines? Good thing her character wears a helmet that covers her entire face.
- The full-length Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. preview airs toward the end of tonight’s episode, and it is epic. I cannot wait for this series. Also, could J. August Richards be playing Luke Cage?
- Regina turned hero again this week. How many episodes until she goes bad next season? I’m guessing three max.
- “It’s a pirate’s life for you.” Yo ho!
- “I am not your mate.” Sexual tension!