Well, that was fast. In “New York City Serenade,” Once Upon A Time trades a new direction and any emotional credit of last year’s heartfelt goodbye for more of the same tired dynamic. Though, to be fair, the flying monkeys are new.
- Director: Billy Gierhart
- Writers: Eddie 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, Rebecca Mader
Episode Title: “New York City Serenade”
Hook’s surprise appearances in Emma and Henry’s spell-manufactured life continue. This time, he drops in on her date with boyfriend Walsh, who awkwardly proposes to her. Emma struggles with whether to accept, or to listen to Hook, who offers her a blue ‘memory’ potion to help her remember the whole plot of the series. Though she handcuffs him to a park bench and has him thrown in jail for assault (“It was a kiss!” “See, he admitted it.”), he’s able to convince her to go to Neal’s apartment and there she finds evidence of their life in Storybrooke. She bails Hook out, drinks the potion, remembers everything and finds out her boyfriend was actually a flying monkey sent to keep her from interfering with another curse. Emma returns to Maine, and even though Henry still doesn’t remember anything, she finds her parents – sort of. Back in the Enchanted Forest, Snow, Charming, Regina, and the gang begin prep to take back their castle. They meet up with Robin Hood and some merry men, and are stopped by an emerald barrier. Yes, Curse 2: Purple Cloud Rain probably has something to do with Rebecca Mader’s Wicked Witch of the West, who acquires the Evil Queen’s blood for some sort of revenge. Oh yeah, and in modern world one year later, Snow White is very pregnant.
- The Rum Isn’t Gone: Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue’s chemistry was one of the strongest things about the first half of this season. Even when ‘drink this little blue vial of unknown liquid,’ is the impetus for dramatic tension between them, the dance of trust and mistrust they do is what we expect. It was grand to watch Hook bother his way to success, and after Emma remembers, pair exposition with alcohol.
- Sherwood As Shooting: Well, at least Robin Hood’s back. As silly and superfluous as the Enchanted Forest story now seems, with a new curse that’s almost exactly the same, seeing more of Sherwood does sound cool. More archery, more Mulan, and a flustered Regina (who, after all, should’ve been his True Love), would be welcome indeed.
- My Not-So Pretties!: Since we must have flying monkeys, the CGI on them was actually pretty decent. Walsh starts to make a lot more sense, physically, once it’s revealed he’s just a simian glamour. That slightly lank, shifty sense about him was off-putting at the start. That said, he had trouble carrying the plotline. The fact that he’s making a marriage proposal in his first 10 minutes of screentime was a clear sign he wasn’t going to last.
- Take The Detour: For Baelfire fans, there was a hint of more magic to come, as he thinks he might be able to engineer Rumple’s path back from the dead. There was also a nice little scene between Bae, Robin and Belle. They’ve got to go back to Rumple’s workshop, ASAP. We felt Robert Carlyle’s absence deeply, and hope his inevitable return isn’t strung out for the rest of the season.
- Reset Button: Once Upon A Time has proven that it prefers equilibrium to development and stringing old plots along rather than changing the character dynamic. It happens. It’s a choice. But as such, it makes the whole ending of the mid-season finale, moot. That’s frustrating. Another curse, another parallel story-telling structure between the modern world and the Enchanted Forest, another set of memory problems. We’ve been down this road before, and the repetition is grating. It was great to see Emma don her red jacket of Saviordom, but the why is depressingly generic.
- Adele Dazeem: This is because, apart from the fact that Rebecca Mader has the best smirk this side of Lost, our introduction to the Wicked Witch was woefully uninspired. Revenge is a pretty generic motivation, and “She may be evil, but I’m wicked. And wicked always wins,” is only wicked painful writing. It’s unclear, exactly, what WWotW will bring to the show beside the franchise name. We could also, like, see the gloss on her.
Once Upon A Time sweeps away much of the efforts of the season’s first 11 episodes in favor of returning to its original premise. We’re not thrilled. But if the show moves quickly, dispenses with its convenient memory gaps, and maybe throws in a tornado, there’s still hope of saving it.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
How many Flying Monkeys will it take to fix the show’s momentum? Let us know what you think in the comments.