Once Upon a Time has reached season 7. This means that someone needs to be searching the homes and officers of the producers to check whether they’ve made any demonic pacts (I would suggest the Winchester brothers, but Kripke owes that demon so very much). But apparently they’re going to keep this alive and keep this fresh by completely rebooting the whole series complete with an adult Henry…. And I’m intrigued.
We begin with a nice wordy recap because Once Upon a Time is resting on the quaint illusion that new viewers are coming to this show who haven’t felt the previous 6 seasons. In fact, in this era of catch up, streaming and netflix, does anyone join a show half way through? Anyway we open with a highly questionable scene of Henry setting off on his own - using the old actor for Henry who has aged like 5 years in the last season.
So Henry, as the author, wants to have his own adventure rather than writing everyone else’s. He’s also looked through all the books and found a gazillion versions of every story (therefore conveniently freeing the series to reboot every character and recast them) presumably all with versions of them all. But there’s none of him (hey, there’s none of me either) so he wants to skip college and get out there and adventure. And I call shenanigans because the chances of Regina signing off on this plan are on the far side of remote. Also exactly how’s he going to make a living? It’s not like he has a relative who can spin straw into… ok, I withdraw that. Still his plan is to get on a motorbike, go through a ONE WAY PORTAL and have an adventure trying to hopefully find his way home
SHENANIGANS. Regina would turn him into a frog or a statue before allowing this nonsense to happen! No way she’d let this go ahead and see him drive off. In fact, I can’t even see her tolerating the motorbike let alone anything else!
Also, why is Henry not a sorcerer? Between Granddad Rumplestiltskin, Mother Regina the Evil Queen, Mother Emma, the Saviour, Aunty Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West Henry has a whoooooole lot of magic heading his way.
So he takes a motorcycle into an Enchanted forest and apparently spends several years (enough for him to change actors, become all grown up and hot enough for me to feel faintly disturbed because it’s hard to get past seeing this character age from childhood even if the actor changed) and in all that time never needed to add petrol to his bike or suffer anything untoward on these unpaved roads (see, magic.)
Until he drives Cinderella off the road. A new Cinderella, not the old one. Thankfully she lives because “And Cinderella was killed in an RTA by a hit and run driver” is bleak even for the brothers Grimm. She is heading to the ball but happy to flirt with the guy on the strange mechanical conveyance who just nearly killed her (he is hot), at least for a little while for him to show her how to work the bike (he’s all ready to help her because he’s Henry and if there’s a story to complete and a happy ever after to make happen then he’s there. Though Cinderella does point out the inanity of glass-slipper identifying true love since there must be a whole lot of ladies out there with her shoe size. I’ve always assumed that Cinderella had some monster massive feet or a killer case of bunions or something) - so she can knock him out and steal it. She’s got a ball to get to. Cinderella you have my attention.
Ok, I know this is a world with magic but I call shenanigans. There is no magic in human imagination which could have that woman, in that dress and those shows, ride a motorcycle.
By somewhat shady means (since he doesn’t know where the ball is nor does he have any conveyance to get there) Henry manages to arrive at the ball to find the whole fairy tale a little less shiny. It seems the Prince is responsible for killing her father, ruining her life and saddling her with an Evil Stepmother (fairytale land - there’s ALWAYS an evil stepmother) so she is going to stab him viciously in response. Using Henry’s monogrammed knife
Now hear this, I hereby decree across the lands of Speculative Fiction that no-one should monogram murder weapons. You’re positively asking to be framed.
Let’s drop in on said Step mother, Victoria Tremaine and her daughter Druzilla. Victoria believes in power, disdains magic and thinks it’s best if everyone is terrified of her. I am trying not to call her Diet Regina, because Regina did it first and Regina did it better. Accept no imitations.
Victoria proves her evilness by murdering Cinderella’s fairy godmother. This is suppose to show how she doesn’t horde magic and just relies on evil for power - honestly it kind of loses me: magic is proven to be powerful and she clearly does use it so the message is a little lost.
Back to the ball, more dancing and flirting and Henry wants Cinderella/Jacinda to forget all about this murdery stuff and come with him to a new realm and build a new life. Tempting but murder first. And Henry is taken out by some drugged wine
He finds himself confined and confronting Alice - as in Alice in Wonderland (and many other places) who disapproves of him meddling in other people’s stories. She warns him terribad things will happen
This is an interesting twist - adding this idea of barriers between stories, perhaps a firewall preventing the various Cinderellas, Snow Whites etc from meeting. Henry was in a storytale setting and he’s jumped across boundaries so an Alice (clearly a different Alice) has stepped in to warn him. Not threaten him - it seems she’s not the one who will bring back the bad ending though. This would also be an indication why in 6 seasons of Once Upon a Time, multiple versions of each character hasn’t been a thing. Oh and she says that Rumplestiltskin is involved - not an alternate one - because of course he is. He always is.
Of course Henry ignores her and it’s back to the ball where Cinderella is planning to do some murdering. Except when she meets the prince she can’t bring herself to do it because Good Guy. Unfortunately Victoria can and stabs the prince in the back (the prince isn’t into Druzilla but his little brother is so Victoria is having a little rearrangement of the line of succession) and tries to frame Cinderella. Henry steps up and with some daring sword fighting from Henry and Jacinda (you can always tell good guys by their ability to sword fight without actually hurting anyone) she escapes on his bike to the portal he told her about, leaving him a glass slipper to follow.
Next stop, further into the future, in Seattle and Henry as a struggling writer and uber driver. He has had one successful book - basically the book of the last 6 seasons but is now struggling for a follow up. When Lucy knocks on his apartment telling him he’s his daughter…
Flashback to season 1 guys. Yes, Henry is her dad, no he doesn’t remember her. Or anyone else. In fact he is sure that all the events of the last 6 seasons are a story. We have ourselves a memory curse with the up and coming neighbourhood of Hyperion Heights being Storybrooke, Henry playing Emma, Lucy playing young Henry and Lady Tremain playing Regina - only rather than the mayor she’s an evil property developer out to buy the neighbourhood and force all the storybook characters to scatter to the winds and therefore never have their happy endings. Lucy is also waving around Henry’s first book in the same way child Henry used to wave around his Storybook
Henry, with no memory, is about as ready to believe her as Emma was and has no intention of going anywhere with Lucy. So she is more crafty and steals his laptop, leaving a note that if he wants it back he needs to come to Hyperion Heights and find her.
There we see Jacinda, Cinderella, working in a fried chicken fast food joint, with a terrible boss she hates (which causes her to quit much to the worry of her room mate Tiana, yes, that Tiana) trying to raise Lucy alone but facing her step-mother, Victoria, swooping around trying to claim full custody. Victoria basically intimidates everyone and runs a really inefficient office because work just stops every time she walks through the damn place because everyone is so afraid of her. This is not a good way to run an office, even if you are having Devil Wears Prada delusions of grandeur.
It’s all quite bleak and in it all we have Lucy urging for hope and wishes and dreams (complete with the community garden she wants to bring back and the wishing well) while everyone else is squished under miserable reality.
When Henry he arrives the first place he goes is Roni’s bar - and tough bar tender/owner Roni turns out to be Regina: but the curse means neither recognises each other. She fills us in on the above, including Victoria’s plan to buy her bar as the community collapses. It’s going to be odd to see Regina in this role but at least she isn’t intimidated by Victoria. There’s only one queen lady.
Henry and Jacinda have their love-at-first-sight gazes and she returns the laptop, shamelessly encouraged by Regina/Roni. And Victoria shows up to remind us all she’s the bad guy along with her evil plan to take Lucy and try and drive Henry out of town.
Jacinda decides it’s time for desperate measures to keep her child out of Victoria’s evil clutches. Unfortunately her plan is “go to the island”. And… well, that’s about it. It lacks details. And her car gives out which Lucy attributes to the curse.
Henry does try to leave town - but his car has been stolen. The police is somewhat indifferent (hey, Victoria, you might want to address this. You want a new up and coming neighbourhood, casual theft and police indifference is not the way to do it) except for Designated Good Cop who is Killian. Yes, Captain Hook, also with cursed memories, going from sexy rogue to cop. And with no eyeliner or leather. Still uniform is good, we can work with that. It comes with handcuffs. Henry hanging around gives Lucy chance to beg and plead with him to stay and us to learn that Henry’s Cursed Memories mean he thinks he did have a wife and child - who died in a fire.
Henry hanging around also means he has chance to tell Victoria about Jacinda’s island plan -well, if you can call it a plan - so Victoria stops them leaving and grabs Lucy while Jacinda and Henry now have a required Big Sad Obstacle between them since she’s super furious with him for spilling her plans.
The bright spark at the end is Roni deciding she’s not selling her bar to Victoria with a nicely epic speech from Roni/Regina about how the neighbourhood isn’t gone yet and how she’s fighting back with extra bonuses about hope and the first step towards making changes is believing that change is possible.
We get lots of nice images accompanying that - Lucy’s garden growing and Henry getting over his writer’s block.
Time for the odd side twist - Alice is in Hyperior Heights as well, watching Henry - and she goes to see a man apparently waterboarding someone. He’s Detective Weaver - Rumplestiltskin - and apparently not a nice man. He’s also Killian’s new partner on the police force.
I do wonder how Weaver/Rumple and Alice fit into the grand scheme of things. They seem almost to be outside the usual storybook characters
I end the episode… still intrigued. I’m not against any of the characters or the plot (Alice especially intrigues me) and am very curious as to where this goes. I am leery about how close it follows Season 1. Obviously this is a stylistic choice, the curse, the memory lost, the child who knows the truth, the powerful and sinister wealthy ruler; so I do hope that they have consciously made it evoke this season without repeating it with a gender switch. Similarly of the rest of the characters I’m most leery of Regina, Killian and Rumple (to such a degree that I don’t remember their new names) - because if you’re going to reboot maybe it would be better to have a fresh break rather than taking old characters and squeezing them in where they may not fit. I do want to see Regina in a non-villain, non-guilt laden role, and Rumple’s sinister machinations are always fun and I do want to see Killian (for eye candy. I’m shallow) but are these characters going to be weights pinning the reboot down and trying to shoe-horn them in? Or are we going to reduce them to minor roles (like Regina becoming the new Granny) and, again, feel the weight of who they were pulling the story? And if they're here what justification is there for everyone else not being here? Killian but no Emma? No Charmings? Rumple but no Belle?