Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Once Upon a Time, Season 6, Episode 21 & 22: The Final Battle

So begins the double episode season finale of Once Upon a Time. Which begins with a flashback that primarily serves to remind us just how much Henry has grown over the last 6 seasons

Last week, because everyone decided that getting married was way more important than actually stopping Fiona, the Black Fairy. She unleashes her curse on everyone.

This curse resembles very much the curse Regina unleashed. It turns Storybrooke into a magicless world with everyone forgetting all about the supernatural – only instead of Regina, we have Fiona as the evil Mayor

While Snow, David and Regina have all been zapped to the Enchanted Forest.

In this Storybrooke Emma is in a mental institute being fed pills and encouraged to let go the “delusion” of magic etc. She’s going along with that in the hope that she will be released so she can go back to Boston

While Henry is running around as the only person who knows what is happening and trying to convince Emma that magic is real. Again (Fiona is also playing his mother, having completely filled Regina’s role in the curse). This again leaves us in the awkward situation where the good guys demand people believe in fairies, magic and that sharp hooks are reasonable prosthetics without any kind of evidence at all and not doing so is apparently a bad thing. It was weird in season 1 and it’s even more weird now.

While Henry is trying to encourage everyone to embrace make believe, not everything is going Fiona’s way. Because she’s also got to convince Rumple and Gideon to go along with her fantasy world. Rumple is struggling, not believing that Belle has run out on them when Gideon was a baby (leaving Fiona to act as mother figure for Gideon). If nothing else with Rumple, we know he is always desperately obsessed with Belle and there’s no way that he’s going to let a few photographs produces by Fiona convince him that she’s gone on a world tour.

In Storybrooke, the gang is joined by Aladdin, Jasmine, the Evil Queen and a few others because all of the lands of story are dissolving. Apparently they’re all linked to the Saviour’s belief system (despite that there’s been a whole lot of Saviours so do they all have to belief). How this happened during all those years when Emma didn’t believe I don’t know; it’s Once Upon a Time don’t poke the plot too much

This is the last battle. No big sword fight – but a battle for Emma’s soul, in making her embrace terrifying delusion of magic, or everyone she loves dies.

Henry tries to step it up, but Fiona is far craftier. He tries to get Rumple onside – who is awake. Of course he is, because Rumple never gets caught in his own curses – but he’s obsessed with Belle and not ready to save the world. He tries to get through to Emma but Fiona outflanks him and instead convinces Emma that she has to crush her own “delusions” in order to save Henry from himself.

She burns the Storybook and returns to Boston. Seems like a win for team bad guy. Henry you totally failed. This leaves him with no recourse but to go after the Black Fairy with a sword, which is unlikely to end well

In the Enchanted Forest things are going from bad to worse – Killian and David have found a beanstalk to climb (a nice call back to how Killian and Emma first met) to try and get their hands on a magic bean to get everyone out, complete with dragon duelling and David nearly dying but being revived by Snow White’s kiss (because kisses are now first aid in Storybrooke). They get the bean back to the castle – but there’s little magic left with the loss of the Saviour’s faith. The castle is pulled into the void of the curse as more and more worlds go down – and the Evil Queen (who moved on to a different world because the wish world that Regina sent them too had the downside of the Evil Queen being considered evil. So she and Robin have taken to robbing the rich and giving… most of it to the poor.  I do like her) shows her full redemption pathway by sacrificing herself to buy everyone more time. It’s like an ultimate martyrdom for Regina without her having to martyr herself. When even the dark side of Regina is now willing to give up everything so everyone else can live.

In the real world Emma arrives in Boston to find that Henry has sent her a delivery – a new storybook, hand written by himself, depicting all the adventures Emma has. All she has achieved.

Apparently a hand written book is all it takes to convince Emma, because she heads back to join Henry on his battle against the Black Fairy. Look I know this is supposed to be all about hope and belief – but I just can’t get on board with “I saw a sketch book so fairies are real” idea.

But let’s run with this – throw out the logic this is for epic and emotion and lots of characters making big dramatic speeches about love and hope and positivity with big epic moments. I’m not being snarky here. This is an episode that is ALL ABOUT THE FEELS. This is big emotions and big speeches and connections and hope and doesn’t need or want you to look too closely at the man behind the curtain. And perhaps that’s not all bad, it is a fairy tale after all

And Emma finding that bit of belief, of the person she wants to be even if she’s not all there yet, means the Enchanted Forest clings on, a tiny island of survivors left to use the bean.

On another front Rumple finds Belle – and the Dark Fairy has turned her into a terrified, agoraphobic shut in who can’t face the world and doesn’t know him. Rumple is not amused.

He returns to his shop where Fiona the Black Fairy has reclaimed her wand so she can translate Henry’s last prediction of the last battle as author. She also still has Gideon’s heart and uses it to control him and give him his marching orders

Rumple confronts her and she reveals the truth of the Last Battle: yes it’s not just Emma’s belief: she needs to kill Emma and the only thing that can kill a Saviour is light magic (well, the dramatic tension of the last 6 seasons just vanished). You need light magic to kill light magic properly so Fiona can’t do it. But Gideon can (he has light magic? Apparently? Somehow? Don’t stare at the man behind the curtain!) and by compelling him she can get Gideon to kill Emma. Or get Emma to kill Gideon which will turn her soul black for killing an innocent…

An innocent trying to murder her. In self defence. This is apparently soul blackening and… c’mon Once Upon a Time, your plot is screaming here!

Fiona claims a win-win situation and how she’s totally going to have ultimate cosmic power – and with that she’ll be able resurrect Baelfire and make everything right again and make everyone love Rumple and get to keep his dark magic. He tells her no. For once he is not going to be tempted by the Dark Side. He is not going to take the easy way for once. For the first time Rumple says no to the offer of power and love on one plate and finally says: “Magic has a price, and I’m not going to pay it”. And being the Dark One he not only fights the Black Fairy, he kills her – reducing her to dust

And we know it’s real because the curse drops and everyone gets their memories back, including Belle. But that doesn’t free Baelfire with his magical compulsion so Rumple has to run to find his heart, which he does. And again he is tempted – this time by the Dark One on his should again pointing out how much power he could have, how he could have everything. And again Rumple makes the right choice and says no… but he can’t break the compulsion on the heart, the Black Fairy is too good for that.

Emma, reunited by the newly portalled guys from storybrooke (having had Henry clong Gideon on the back of the head with a fire extinguisher to help them get away) has made the same realisation: murder Gideon and go dark or let the darkness win. And again he makes the right choice.

OR you realise you have 1 pirate, 2 soggy Charmings, a Dark One, Regina, Henry, Belle, human who thinks he’s a cricket and a dog. You could just dog pile Gideon. You could just clong him in the head with a fire extinguisher again and lock him in a cage. Duct tape, wrap him in duct tape!

There are OPTIONS here folks.

Instead Emma decides to lower her sword because she refuses to kill and innocent. She lets him stab her in the name of hope and goodness and who even knows. It creates lots of fireworks and sparks and pretty lights though.

Emma falls and Henry kisses her – True Loves First Aid Kiss. This breaks all curses, cures stab wounds, brings people back who fell into storyland (including the Evil Queen) and turns Gideon back into a baby.

I… ok… fine?

Henry sums up the remainder of the story “Good and Evil both did the right thing and the Last Battle was one”.

To return to my previous point – this seems to be this entire episode and, to a degree, the entire season. There’s lots of holes, lots of plot failures and lots of woowoo being used to cover and heal everything. True Love’s kiss has gone beyond all rational and everything is just shaky as hell. This whole season finale feels like one hand wave after another with absolutely no real coherent logic. Magic is just rammed in to move the plot along and it’s a distinctly disappointing end to the actual season finale – it’s lazy, it’s weak, it’s shaky to say the least; I’m not impressed.

Of course, equally, this episode was clearly not about the plot or coherence but about the emotion. Killian and Emma, Regina sealing her redemption train, Rumple finally making the right choice (after so many chances that it’s unreal), reunions, lots of shout backs to the previous season. This sealed by a completely mind-numbingly long closing montage as everyone lives their newly happy lives and is all happy and peaceful and joyful and everyone has forgotten that Rumple has screwed them again and all the Realms are back etc etc etc. Seriously this thing goes on forever

Because this is the end of season 6 – and season 7 is apparently going to be a whole reboot: and we see a hint of that. An adult Henry, his daughter Lucy with the Storybook apparently trying to convince him that she’s his daughter, so a complete shout back to season 1. That’s going to be interesting. So this episode was all about saying goodbye to the plots and characters we won’t see again

But in some ways that makes me more frustrated because if this is going to be the LAST BATTLE and close off all these storylines then that’s even more reason to include a little more coherence than we have here. Show some respect for your creation and the end of the era – don’t brush it off this quickly, this clumsily. Doesn’t it deserve better than this?

I am looking forward to the reboot though – a lot of the core cast of Once Upon a Time, especially Regina, Henry and even Emma have felt increasingly superfluous. Despite being the Saviour and having this big ominous legacy, Emma seems more focused on being the love interest of Killian than anything else. They feel like they have side character inserts more than main plot-line driving protagonists.

Diversity wise it has also failed quite poorly. We have Regina, but, again, she’s kind of taken a big step back for many episodes. We’ve had bit part POC but they’ve largely been here for one or two episodes then faded out. I’m not even sure why Jasmine and Aladdin and Agrabah were even there for all the meaningful amount of input they have actually had on the show. Why were they there? Their aborted non-storyline was just thrown in to, what, world build Saviourness?

And did Mulan and Dorothy even appear this season? This tiny, non-existent crumb of inclusions seems to have been 1 episode of tokenism to tick the LGBT box, never ever to be mentioned again.

We’re coming to a reboot – so take the opportunity Once Upon a Time. Do better.