Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Once Upon a Time, Season 3, Episode 11: Going Home

Panry and Felix go to the well which is like a nexus of magical shenanigans in Storybrooke, preparing to cast the curse which will turn everyone into memory-less slaves of the new Neverland Panry wants to make.

The good guy cast gathers to consult on the terrible Curse and Rumple reveals you can stop the curse using the scroll it’s written on – but only by the person who has used the scroll – that would be Regina. They need to destroy the scroll, ending both curses (but there’s a big, ominous cost to that). Rumple thinks the best way to do that is to simple reswap the bodies then Panry will become Henry and he can just bring them the scroll. But, as Regina points out, that spell is beyond even Rumple – so he needs a magical boost of the Black Fairy’s wand. Super-evil fairy was banished by Blue Fairy who also stole her wand. Blue Fairy was a kill joy.

Meanwhile at the well, it’s time for the most important ingredient to really make that curse zing – the heart of the thing Panry loves most. And no, that’s not Rumple. That would be Felix, his bestest friend.

Let’s have a Flashback! To pregnant Snow White who is all kinds of worried that their big plan relies on a magic wardrobe and a new born breaking the curse. The Blue Fairy reassures her with good-guy logic: that means no actual plan or concrete thought but lots of “hope” and “faith” and good wishes.

Which leads to the present, Mary Margaret’s dubious choice of cut-glass ornaments for a toddler and angst about giving Emma up. Emma then shares her angst about giving Henry up. Everyone angsts together (I think this is clumsily setting up some kind of moral for this story – probably something very irritating like “have faith everything will turn out ok in the end, even if you have brains of tapioca”.).

Tink and Neal go to the nunnery where several nuns are gathered around the dead Blue Fairy/Mother Superior. They’re not thrilled at the idea of giving Tink the Black Fairy wand but Tink rather sarcastically passes over their worries; alas, Pan’s shadow swoops in.

Time for a random flashback: Hook and Smee in Neverland being ambushed by Tink so Hook and she can have some pretty intense chemistry in which Hook says he will only risk his life for love or revenge

Which means we return to the church in the present and Hook risking his life adding a third one to that list: “me”. Which makes zero sense, but hey. The shadow kind of flies back and forth not doing a whole lot so everyone can have a conversation and plan their next move and they resort to Tink using pixie dust so she can use the coconut candle to catch the shadow – of course that means Tink gaining belief in herself again, which she manages to do quite easily (emotional crisis of self-worth? Totes over that!) She flies up and the shadow is trapped, she burns it in a brazier hopefully killing it.

Side effect of killing the shadow is that Blue Fairy comes back to life and gives Tink back her wings –she’s a fairy again. She also hands over the Black Fairy’s wand.

To Rumple’s shop and Rumple puts Greg and Tamara’s power stealing bracer on Henry (in Pan’s body) so when they swap bodies Pan doesn’t just kill them all. They cast the body switching spell and it seems to work – Regina and Emma and co go to find their son, leaving Rumple to guard Pan.

This calls for another completely random flashback! To Storybrooke, before the curse was broken and Emma arrived, Henry at school with Mary Margaret and he’s upset about how everything never changes (except him), being given up for adoption and issues with Regina. She gives him the book of fairy tales that magically appeared in her cupboard – stories that are designed to give hope and unexpected happy endings. Henry thanks her and, for a second, sees her as Snow White.

Back to the present and Granny leads the pack, following Henry’s scent until they’re reunited with him – the real Henry; he runs into Emma and Regina’s arms. Henry gives the scroll to Regina to work her mojo – and Regina passes out.

Rumple and Pan get to have a little reunion. Pan describes how awful it was to have a baby, a small creature eating his dreams and how he hoped to be free of Rumple now he’s 200 years old or so. Not winning any awards for father of the year this one. Rumple prepares to kill Pan – but Pan made the cuff and he never makes a cage he can’t get out of – it doesn’t work on him. It does work on Rumple when he flips it over to Rumple’s wrist, leaving him helpless. Pan mocks him, taunting him with the curse he intends to use to take their memories and their lives; and without magic, Rumple is just the village coward

Random flashback time! Rumple holding a little ritual counting the years since he last saw Baelfire/Neal and Belle asking him about his remembrance. It’s Bael’s birthday and he tells Belle that his ending will not be a happy one

Back to the present and Rumple can’t remove the cuff – he reaches for a sword instead and holds up his arm.

Outside, Regina wakes up with the scroll in her hand and tells them she saw what needs to be done. Henry asks if she’s ok and Regina avoids the question – the important thing is Henry will be. Then Pan arrives to freeze them with magic and steal the curse. How pesky. He prepares to kill Baelfire/Neal and Rumple steps in. He’s finally willing to pay the price to stop Pan. He says pretty goodbyes to his son and Belle (Pan just kind of hangs around while he does).

I kept waiting for Rumple to show his severed hands – but no, he has both. He reminds Pan he’s not the only one who lost his shadow and holds up his hand. Rumple’s shadow returns with the Dark One Dagger. The only way for Pan to die is for them both to die – he hugs Pan to him and stabs him in the back with the dagger. Pan returns to his true age, an adult: he begs Rumple to let them start over, let them have a happy ending. But Rumple says “I’m a villain, villains don’t get happy endings”.

The dagger flares with gold light and both Pan and Rumple disappear. The curse dropping behind them. The others are unfrozen and Belle falls to the floor in tears. Regina picks up the curse scroll. Even without Pan, the curse continues.

Everyone pokes Regina to end the curse but Emma thinks to ask what the price is. Regina says it’s her price – she has to say goodbye to the thing she loves most, Henry. Breaking the curse destroys the town – because the curse created Storybrooke and everyone will return where they’re from: but Henry isn’t from the Enchanted Forest and Emma because she’s the Saviour and can escape the curse. Emma protests (for Regina as well as for herself losing Mary Margaret and David), but Mary Margaret speaks up hope, touching lives, happy endings, rainbows and kittens (I’ve stopped listening to her, she’s a broken record). Regina tells Emma to go, what she wants more than anything is for Henry to be happy.

Another random flashback – Emma giving birth to Henry and her putting her baby up for adoption, and the doctor tells her she can change her mind, she shakes her head

To the present day and border with Storybrooke (wow, they all drove there in that tiny car? They must have got awfully friendly!) watching the curse approach. Henry says it was all his fault – for going to get Emma, if he had just lived with Regina they could have been happy together. Regina says it was her fault for making the curse in the first place – and that villains don’t get happy endings; Henry denies she’s a villain, she’s his mother. Emma and Neal say their goodbyes, as does Emma and Hook. And Regina tells Emma the last blow – Emma and Henry will forget Storybrooke and everyone there. She can’t preserve their memories, but she can give them new ones. She offers to give them good memories of a life together, a life where Emma never gave Henry up. Regina hugs Henry goodbye and tells them to go.

Emma and Henry cross the town line and Regina breaks the curse.

Flashback again to the day Emma gave birth and this time, Emma changes her mind.

One Year later

Emma and Henry are living ordinary happy lives, having breakfast when there’s a knock at the door. She opens the door to… Hook, warning her her family is in trouble. Except, of course, Emma can’t remember a thing. He tries to break the curse by kissing her – and gets booted firmly away.

Ok now that’s an ending, bitter and sweet and tragic and then with a very intriguing hook (yes, I did that, yes yes I did) at the end for the second half of the season. It’s almost a reboot of the series waaay back to the days of season 1.

But can we have a screeching halt on this memory retcon? Emma didn't give up Henry for randomness, she had legitimate reasons for not feeling ready to parent - all of which are not completely removed with a memory retcon. And what about 11 years of Emma's life? 11 years when she has lived, done things, experienced things now casually replaced because life as a mother - even a fake one - is more important than her real life as a single, childless woman with 11 years of experiences.

Maybe it's the only way to keep her and Henry together with the huge gap in their memories - but recognise that Emma is LOSING something there. Recognise that her having 11 years of her life completely erased is not a casual thing just because NOW HAS LIFE WITH BABBY! WOMAN IS COMPLETE!

As to the season so far:

The moral of Once Upon a Time this season:
If you wish upon a star, if you hold onto hope, if you have faith then it doesn’t matter if you have no plans, put in no reasonable effort and have brains of tapioca, you will still succeed because Regina and Rumple will actually get shit done.

No, seriously, everyone else on the cast has kind of waffled around achieving very little but constantly talking about hope and faith and happy endings and happy rainbows and shiniess. Meanwhile the “villains” have actually been getting on with things, making plans, using their power, recognising distractions for what they are, pointing out how ridiculous it is to play into Pan’s games and generally acting like they have an actual brain cell between them (unlike the Charmings, who have a collective, not very often used brain cell to share).

And then they both get to make epic sacrifices at the end… and in some ways I do think this puts a rather bitter element to Regina’s motherhood finally being affirmed this season. I loved to see it (even with my too little too late thoughts) but it’s a little like the Black characters on the Walking Dead getting speaking lines right before they’re eaten. Regina’s motherhood is finally acknowledged and respected, just in time for her to sacrifice it – because if they didn’t u-turn on their treatment of Regina then her sacrifice won’t be the poignant thing it was.

Other than Regina, who we have spoken about, we have a dearth of minorities. We had Tamara who briefly ran around the beginning of the series before dying horribly then we had Mulan, who ran around being Neal’s servant this time – before 80% probability (because there’s still wiggle room for her to declare “I was talking about Phillip!” and take it all back) not telling Aurora she was bisexual and fleeing to the plot box (which was filled with men, they were very very clear about that- whatever she’s doing in that plot box, you can be sure she isn’t doing it with women). Mulan also represents not just this season’s only GBLT character, but the entire show’s only GBLT character

The end episode gathered just about everyone together in crowd and it was very white and so very straight.

I think on the whole the season has been a good one – but it hasn’t been particularly fast and the Charmings just get on my very last nerve. And this show badly needs some minorities.