The phrase “Happy Ending,” must be code for “take a drink, audience!” or the characters wouldn’t say it so much. Once Upon A Time does get somewhere in “Going Home,” but it would be a belabored journey without Rumplestilskin to impale things.
- Director: Ralph Hemecker
- Writers: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
- Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Robbie Kay, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore
Episode Title: “Going Home”
We pick up right outside the tomb, as Rumple explains their objective. Only Regina can destroy the curse on Storybrooke, which Peter Pan seals by ripping out Felix’s heart. Tink, Hook, Neal, and Charming go after the wand of the Black Fairy, which can make Henry and Pan to swap bodies again. Once they get it, Pan and Rumple throw down in Rumple’s shop. Intercut with these shenanigans are quiet flashbacks: Tink and Hook’s dagger-throat meet-cute, Snow and Charming’s flabbergasting willingness to have faith as their plan to counter the Evil Queen’s curse, Rumple’s love for Bae and Belle’s for Rumple, and a nice moment where Mary Margaret finds the OUAT book, and gives it to Henry.
The present moments are made happier by the villains. Rumple somehow races to the rescue, squares off with Pan, and fulfills the prophecy by running them both through with the Dark One’s dagger. This leaves us with the price of breaking the curse: Regina has to lose the one thing she cares about. Henry and Emma, who belong to the real world, will return to it with no memories of Storybrooke. But it’s a happy-ish ending, because Emma and Henry now live with new memories. We see a doctored flashback where Emma gives birth and never gives Henry up. But a knock at the door, a hilarious attempt by Hook to reawaken Emma’s memories with true love’s kiss, and a hint about her family being in trouble mean this story is far from over.
- Peter Pan Never Fails: A curtain call for Robbie Kay, ladies and gents, who didn’t have to spend very long in body-swap limbo. Not to say that Jared Gilmore ripping out a heart wasn’t kinda cool. But Pan has been a monstrously good villain, injecting life into the season. To have him get a last hurrah, outwitting Rumple yet again and squelching the optimism of the entire cast was glorious.
- The Boy Will Be Your Undoing: Not for a red-hot sack of rocks do we believe OUAT is done with Robert Carlyle. A ridiculous loophole can be found for Rumple if the Blue Fairy was dead and in a coffin for four minutes. As a way to go out, rocking a pimping black wand and a dagger, basically drone-dropped by your own shadow is pretty legit. The moment where Pan turns into Malcolm and Rumple tenderly kisses his father before destroying him is downright poetic. Though they may not get happy endings, the villains who hope less and dare more, and thus facilitate our happiness most of the time.
- A Fairy Goodbye Lasts Like 18 Minutes: It was played for the waterworks and played well. Lana Parrilla makes a burdened and sincere Regina fascinating to watch, even when she’s explaining arbitrary magic. But no cloud of doom could induce Snow to rush a benevolent kiss on Emma’s forehead, nor the lens flare. The end of the curse could have worked here as a series finale. It was so complete. It just took so long to complete, man.
- Because of Reasons: A lot happened, but even with an all-setup episode last week, there was an unforgivable amount of exposition here. Conditions had to be optimal for the magic in “Going Home” to work exactly how the writers wanted it to. That’s fine. But at a certain point, the audience is going to glaze over the superfluity of explaining magic things and brushing them off in order to move on to the next magic thing. We just heard of the Black Fairy. She holds no significance other than storytelling convenience. An unfortunate amount of stuff meant zippo, and we’re unfortunately not talking about lighters.
- Happy Endings: OUAT loves a good catch-phrase-of-the-episode, but damn, it seems like someone’s talking about a happy ending every five minutes. Is insipid wordplay some residual part of Regina’s original curse? Hoping and believing is admirable, but if Snow’s philosophy held sway, we’d still be waiting for the perfect moment to slay a dragon.
OUAT hits the reset button on Emma and Henry, although there’s no compelling reason for them to do so. They now have a happy ending with mod furnishings and cool-looking plants. But it’s always a party with Hook in town, so the future of Once is very much its own to make. The first half of the season had some shining moments, which we must relish in between recycled plots and poor exposition. There was an uneven love triangle, a thrilling villain, Darling hipsters and fine showcases for Parrilla, Carlyle, Morrison and De Ravin. Joanna Garcia-Swisher and Robbie Kay made huge impacts with guest appearances in this world. In some cases, we’re more in love with the ideas put forward than with their execution. Once Upon A Time went where it wanted to go. We just hope what’s next has promise.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
What was your favorite part of the season? Let us know in the comments.