“A Curious Thing” is the title of this week’s Once Upon A Time, but it also describes our reaction. Answers to the season’s lingering mysteries are flying thicker than monkeys.
- Director: Ralph Hemecker
- Writers: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
- Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Michael Raymond-James, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire
Episode Title: “A Curious Thing”
Team Swan is in planning mode while Regina and Robin Hood are exploring the fruits of their new relationship. It’s about the 43rd time Snow and Charming have wondered about their lack of memory and if something in the forgotten year could help them defeat Zelena. The group decides that if Henry can believe in magic again, they’ll get their memories back. They go looking for Henry’s book of fairy tales. The kid is super surly about being stuck in town and lied to by his mom. He plans to steal her car to get back to New York. Hook catches him, and tries to convince him to leave by sea with Mr. Smee instead. However, Hook’s got other motives. Zelena threatened Henry’s life if Hook doesn’t kiss Emma. She sends her monkey minions to the harbor, but luckily the Charmings and Regina arrive in time to save the day. When Zelena threatens Henry again, Emma wards her off with magic. Giving Henry back the book restores his memory, but it’s the loving kiss between him and Regina that returns everybody else’s. In the lost year, the Charmings sought out the exiled good witch Glinda, who told them Zelena’s weak spot was her pendant, and once removed, a source of light magic (Emma) could defeat her. So they were the ones who cast the dark curse to return to Storybrooke. But it was Neal, still stuck in Rumple’s body, who managed to send the memory potion to Hook. Henry goes back to his dad’s grave to pay tribute to him. Just when things look calm and contemplative, Snow goes into labor.
- People of the Book: As corny as it is to bring in Henry’s book of fairy tales as a libro ex machina, it was nice to see it again. The scene between him and Emma was tense and well acted. But the moment between Regina and Henry, his immediate and overjoyed “Mom!”, was something both the character and this half-season have earned. Happily Ever After is never in the cards, but narrative satisfaction sometimes is.
- Expositionland: If you’re going to have a giant dump of plot information, a benevolent good witch is perfect for that. That portal to Narnia or wherever Glinda’s chilling out (pun intended) was well done. The good witch of the south had a wonderful delivery that’s differentiated from the original character but still captured her delicate kindliness. Her dialogue was baldly obvious about how to defeat Zelena, but it worked.
- Brooklyn Style Pizza: Henry as a stubborn gamer who could potentially see through or question all that magic was a device that brought a little tension to his scenes. It made the character more interesting, and was somehow right up Jared Gilmore’s alley. It was adorable and well earned for Regina to have Heart of the Truest Believer Henry back, and his reaction to his mom dating Robin Hood was great. But he was also somehow instantly more grating with his little satisfied believer face on. We suppose all good things must end.
- Half a Heart: The emotional climax of the flashback, Snow casting the Dark Curse with Charming’s heart, didn’t have the punch its screen time and emphasis needed. It’s hard to pull off a sacrifice like that when Charming’s walking around and chucking swords in the other part of the episode. Splitting Snow’s heart is, in theory, a moving solution, but have the Charmings been emotionally in trouble, or even in a place where the show needed to illustrate or resolve their heart-sharing situation? Not really.
Pacing has never been Once Upon A Time’s strength, but “A Curious Thing” is the episodic equivalent of rounding the corner on that last quarter mile straight. There’s a satisfying sense of accomplishment as well as an anticipation of what’s to come. We could’ve taken or left the Charmings’ heart-bleed problem. But given Emma’s magical proficiency at this point – shielding Henry’s skin to burn at Zelena’s touch was unequivocally badass – we’re ready for the final sprint.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Is Henry more annoying now that he’s got his memories back? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.