Once.Upon.a.Time.S03E21E22.HDTV.XviD-AFG

No DeLorean necessary, Emma and Hook stumble into the past through the portal Zelena opened. The objective in “Snow Drifts” and “There’s No Place Like Home” is for the pair to get out of the past without rewriting the fairy-tale we know and love. The day has come when Once Upon A Time does a twist on its own mythology — and stages a ball, obviously.

The Players:

  • Director: Ralph Hemecker
  • Writer: 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, Sean Maguire

Episode Title: “Snow Drifts/There’s No Place Like Home”

All is mostly celebratory in the wake of Zelena’s defeat. In fact, there’s going to be a coronation ceremony, or potluck at Granny’s, to announce the name of Snow and Charming’s new son. Emma is still planning on returning to New York and runs off from the event. Hook chases after her at the same time a giant pillar of fire bursts from Zelena’s old farmhouse. Hook and Emma, removed from the group and Regina’s helpful warning not to go anywhere near the portal, fall into it and end up in the Enchanted Forest in the past. Trying to create the smallest paradox possible, they confront Rumpelstiltskin for a way back to Storybrooke. He agrees, but with his usual caveat of a price. This involves Hook and Emma re-engineering the first meeting between Snow and Charming, which doesn’t quite go as planned. Still, Emma manages to seduce present day Hook while Storybrooke-Hook recruits Snow to steal treasure from the evil queen during a ball. Of course Emma and Hook are the distraction, the ball is ridiculous, and Emma gets caught. Even as Hook, Snow, Charming, and Red Riding Hood are breaking in to rescue her, Emma breaks out with another prisoner. Regina captures Snow and tries to execute her, but Snow uses her fairy dust at the right moment and turns herself into a ladybug. Blue restores her form and the thieving, troll-filled meet-cute is back on.

Emma and Hook decide to take the other prisoner with them, although Rumple gives them a little guff – trapping them in a magic cellar. But Emma finds the magic to open the portal anyway, and after telling Rumple how Neal loved his father and died a hero, Rumple duly drinks a forgetfulness potion. An urn of some sort, comes back with them. In Storybrooke and the present, the Charmings reveal their new son’s name is Neal. Emma embraces her family and her place in the town, makes out with Hook, and all seems well in the world. The woman she brought back with her, though? That was Marian. Regina takes this setup of a triangle better than expected, but is crushed and pissed at Emma. She admonishes her for altering the future, and warns that she could’ve brought something else back with her. Which she did. The urn opens and out spills a something that coalesces into an icy, regal form. The polar vortex might’ve just hit Storybrooke.

The Good:

  • Princess Leia: Truly, if you did need a princess name in a pinch, Emma picked the go-to. She, by choice and design, has often been the outlier, our eyes into the slightly ridiculous fantasy of OUAT. It was a bold step to see her take the plunge completely into the Enchanted Forest, corset and all, and find she could operate there as well as her fairytale counterparts. Although seeing your parents fall in love is a weird way to gain a sense of belonging, Emma’s activity in trying to fix it gave her ownership in her heritage in a way that no amount of present day adventuring ever could. Jennifer Morrison made the most of the outing. Hook is also a fantastic wingman and emotional support, chivalrous and smug in equal measure, but that’s not news at this point.
  • Prince Neal: What was a surprise, and a welcome one, was the little bit of Neal we got at the top of the third act. He breaks into a carnival with Emma before Henry’s a concern, and talks a little about his home life. The conversation is completely out of context from the rest of the episode, but thematically cements the acceptance Emma gets to by the end. The Charmings’ choice to name their son after him could be seen as a little awkward, but bringing back Neal reminded us why they would.

The So-So:

  • The Story Book: This is a minor point, but those illustrations in the book were lazy. They’re just screencaps from season one that have been distorted in PhotoShop. It’s possible the show blew their production budget making Regina and Robin’s wardrobe, décor, and post-battle picnic pop. That scene looked so fantastic even the ball suffers by comparison. But still, when the book’s structurally essential to reminding us what happens and then incorporating Emma into the mix, you could put a little more effort into it.

The Bad:

  • Consequences: Our one vexation with the episode was strangely, with Rumple. He gets off scott-free for killing Zelena. Although he puts away the dagger at the end and makes some very nice vows to Belle – when was that wedding scene happening? Why was it all the way out in the woods? It’s somewhat annoying to let him have a wedding without the other shoe having dropped. It also makes Belle look foolish, which we never approve of.

Overall:

Big battles dispensed with, Once Upon A Time had a chance to get more personal in its season three finisher. While one can basically grasp the emotional shift Emma goes through from the title “There’s No Place Like Home,” it and “Snow Drifts,” played with the backstory in a funny, self-conscious way. Once Upon A Time can be uneven and irredeemably repetitive or silly, but in this finale it appeared as though they got many of the old standby concerns sorted. Emma’s a part of Storybrooke for real and always. It’s a good thing the Savior’s sticking around. It looks like next year Maine is going to get a lot colder.

Rating: 7/10

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Is that Ice Queen Elsa? Let us know what you thought of the season in the comments.