What do you do when you’ve got an over abundance of characters, a few mythology based plotlines and 22 episodes worth of story to tie up? If you’re Once Upon A Time, you open a portal and…send your main characters on a pirate ship to Neverland.
My prediction for the end of the season (bold might it have been) was that the fail-safe for the curse would be activated, Storybrooke would be destroyed, and everyone would be saved but also be forced to start over - say, in Neverland. Despite Greg and Tamara’s best efforts (and a rather close call), Storybrooke didn’t get destroyed, and Regina (with the help of Emma) was able to stop the fail-safe before it could take down the town. But while Storybrooke still stands, it does appear that we’ll be actively visiting Neverland next season via the journeys of our core characters, as they search for a kidnapped Henry. This is where we effectively left off in our finale, so what does this mean for season 3? It means that come September, we’ll now be split between three different worlds – Neverland, Storybrooke, and the Fairytale Land That Was (not to mention flashbacks.)
In other words…if you thought it was hard to keep track of going between two worlds at the beginning of this season, you might want to prepare yourself.
“And Straight On Til Morning” was undoubtedly the stronger half of this year’s two-part finale, though slightly less strong than last year’s single hour outing, which had Emma finally facing her magical past and as well as Emma and Snow going through the portal. A large part of this hour’s strength came from the more emotional moments, which finally gave some focus back to characters whose storylines we had been building up all season – Regina and Emma, Rumple and Belle, and Charming and Snow. I have to admit, like Rumple, I found it more than a little convenient that the Blue Fairy just happened to find a cure to the memory loss problem right before the world was about to end. Still, it didn’t stop me from feeling moved when Rumple accepted the potion from Grumpy and then used it on Belle – proving that, for all his slips from redemption, he still very much loves the one person who forever changed him.
Realistically, could Rumple have used magic to restore Belle’s signature broken cup before now? Yes. But keeping the shattered pieces bore a greater meaning to Rumple’s character - shattered, they were representative of his loss and the person that he could never get back. Put back together (for Belle to use in order to get her memories back) they became representative of hope. By fixing the cup, Rumple fixed himself, as well as his relationship, and more importantly, he fixed Belle – something that grounded him more than any other experience could have. I’m a little sad that we seemed to tie up the Rumple/Belle storyline in this hour, but I’m hoping that was just for this season’s plot and that we’ll have other scenes to look forward to next season.
Picking up where we left off last week, with Bae being taken in by Hook’s ship, the hour gave us some backstory on Hook’s travels with Bae in Neverland and the path to Hook’s revenge. Turns out that Bae is ultimately the one that spilled the beans about how the dagger and how his father could be killed, but he’s also the reason why Hook returned to Emma after making off with the bean. I wish we had a little more insight into Hook’s past life, especially after his admission about how his father left him as well – and after tonight, I’m petitioning for a full, or at least semi-full, Killian Jones backstory in season 3. (Maybe that will be my number one question at Comic Con this summer!)
As a viewer, I remain completely intrigued at the route Once is taking in their decision to make Peter Pan completely and totally evil, to the point where we’re possibly looking him being one of the main villains of next season. While the historic rivalry with Hook is still there, it’s in a much different way than we know. Peter steals shadows? And he wants Henry? Why? I suspect that will be the big question when we return next season, especially since I seem to remember creators Kitsis and Horowitz saying that at some point, we’ll get backstory on Henry’s adoption. (Is it wrong that the first thought in my head was that the kidnapping storyline was a clever way to take care of the “Henry is clearly growing way too fast” problem? Nonetheless, I do hope this means that we’re free of the Greg and Tamara, whom I’ll admit haven’t been my favorite people this season.) It was also nice to find out that, as suspected, we haven’t seen the last of Neal/Bae and I’m curious to see what’s going to happen now that he’s back in the fairytale land – picked up by Aurora and Phillip, no less.
One of my bigger issues with the second half of the season was the fact that I felt a lack of emotional connection between some of the main characters that usually pull together such wonderful performances – but this episode made up for that tenfold, specifically with the exchange between Regina and Emma. Watching the two characters together made me realize just how little we’ve gotten in terms of emotional scenes between Lana Parrilla and Jennifer Morrison, as most of their interactions have been heated arguments. Once started its show by grounding the two rivals in a common interest, one that has become the foundation of their mostly volatile relationship: Henry. Bringing that back to the forefront by having Regina make the decision to sacrifice herself and having Emma choose to help based on realizing that Regina was choosing the greater good made the entire scene – as well as their journeys of the season - that much more powerful…and both actresses nailed their respective moments.
So is this the completion of Regina’s redemption arc? Just as Snow’s heart will always be black from her murder of Cora, I believe Regina will always have a bit of corruption inside her – as will Rumple. But this hour went out of its way a good deal to put all its characters on a renewed path, one that ended with them bonding together in perhaps the strangest way possible despite their differences and prejudices, but nonetheless leaving the viewer with the theme of Once’s main message – hope.
Interesting that the Lost Boys weren’t Lost Boys but Lost Ones.
After I got slightly emotional when Emma called Snow and Charming “mom and dad” – it is in our most desperate moments that our emotions truly become unleashed, and there was something so pure and genuine about the way Jennifer Morrison delivered those lines that it hit me in a very specific way.
I touched on this earlier, but just to reiterate, Lana Parrilla absolutely sold all of her scenes tonight – from her goodbye to Henry, to her apologies to Emma, to admitting that the town will always see her as “the evil queen.” In that moment, Regina’s redemption arc came full circle, finally saying out loud the one thing she’s struggled with coming to terms with since making the turn towards good in the season premiere. Well done.
That’s a wrap for this season of Once Upon A Time, folks! I’ve enjoyed bringing you your weekly reviews, and look forward to doing it all again when we return to Storybrooke in the fall. But for now, what did you think of the finale? Did it live up to your expectations?