Like GRIMM, I’ve been hanging onto ONCE UPON A TIME out of habit, and kind of hating myself for still watching it. When OUAT first came on the air, I was forced to watch it for work, but quickly, I was surprised by how much I liked it, despite its abundant flaws. The first season was great, introducing a world with near limitless potential, a slew of great characters and actors (and more mediocre ones).
As it progressed, the flaws grew more noticeable, the bumps and bruises more prevalent than the fucking happy ending that we have to hear about every 30 seconds. There were no stakes: death proved more frivolous and less permanent than something out of a 1990’s comicbook, and none of the characters had anything to lose…because OUAT would always revert back to its same formula, with the Evil Queen evil again, Emma stubborn and un-believing, Snow and Prince Charming painfully in love but without any chemistry to show for it (yet they’re married in real life, go figure), and Henry bogging down the narrative with Project Give Me a Break.
The third season shaved off the fat and sent the main cadre of heroes and villains to Neverland to deal with a Big Bad Peter Pan, a fantastic idea that they never fully capitalized on. But, the show was trying to muck with the formula, and threatening to up the ante. They killed off Rumpelstiltskin, a risky move that was hard to fathom being permanent, since Robert Carlyle is the best part of the show.
They came closer with Zelena and the Wicked Witch storyline, thanks to a maliciously game Rebecca Mader (LOST). Rumpel was of course brought back to life…but it came with a price: his son’s life. It was heartbreaking, heroic on Neal/Baelfire’s part, and made us pay for having Rumpel back. All of a sudden, in a show that constantly harped on about magic requiring a price, OUAT was starting to pay it.
The Evil Queen’s journey to redemption has been fantastic, and her finding true love (again) with Robin Hood was one of the more pleasurable subplots of the latter half of the third season, as SHE was the savior, and not Emma, against Zelena. While the Robin Hood love story was forced, it all worked, because Lana Parilla’s the best, and we somehow want to root for her, even though they’ve gone back and forth on her being evil, kinda good, antihero, and all the shades inbetween.
In the two part, two hour finale, that is a madcap time travel adventure that I loved, despite its logic leaps, Emma saves a woman from certain death, something that would irrevocably change the future. That woman turned out to be Marian (Christie Laing), Robin Hood’s deceased love. Right when Regina is truly happy, and has Robin Hood, OUAT throws one of its best curveballs ever, bringing back Robin’s first true love back from the dead. The twist was brilliant (and since we’ve never seen Marian dead, it’s the good kind of death reversal), and totally caught me off-guard, and I’ve never felt more for Regina…but I hope that this doesn’t serve to reset Regina back into Evil Queen mode, rinse, and repeat. The head writers and creators, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, claim that this won’t be the case, and I believe them. This isn’t the same Regina that swore vengeance on Snow White, even if the parallels with her daughter are there. It could devolve back into that…and if it does, I probably will stop watching OUAT. But I’m more optimistic for the show’s future than I have been since the awesome end of season 1.
Another wonderful thing that happened in the finale was Emma and Captain Hook-ing up, which has been a long time coming. Hook has been one of the consistently great things in OUAT since Colin O’Donoghue appeared, and they earned this moment. I’m sure it’ll go to shit immediately, but for now, yay.
But, what everyone talked about with the finale came in the final moments. Marian isn’t the only thing that came back from the past with Emma and Hook.
Yup. Elsa is coming to ONCE UPON A TIME, less than a year after the movie came out in theaters, an unheard of and incredible turnaround. This entrance brought with it a million questions (will Idina Menzel reprise the role? Is Anna coming along for the ride, and would Kristen Bell be into it? Is Elsa a villain? Is she going to be another long lost relative in this convoluted, silly family Storybrooke tree? Are we going to see Arendale?), and because FROZEN is a behemoth, likely has promised the show its best ratings ever with its fourth season premiere, when we start to get some answers.
Until then, I’m just going to take solace in the fact that I care about ONCE UPON A TIME again, and since FROZEN is probably the biggest property that Disney owns (non-Marvel division), they’ll likely be very hands on in making sure ABC and the OUAT writers don’t muck it up. See ya in September.
I agree with practically everything you said. While I’m not a huge Mader fan, she was really quite brilliant as the Wicked Witch, but really what swept me back into OUAT after an average-at-best Season 2 was the adorable kid they cast as Pan. The Neverland storyline itself was a bit lacking, but Robbie Kay was the perfect child-villain.
While watching the finale last week I kept trying to figure out who the random lady Emma saved was. I wondered if it might have been Odette from The Swan Princess (the title screen for the second half had a swan and I couldn’t figure out if it was for Emma or Odette, and the way Emma was dressed in the white gown and blue cloak resembled Odette – also, Rothbart would be a baller villain!) but my heart completely shattered for Regina at the end with the big reveal.
Am I worried about Elsa coming in? Yes, a little. I hope they’ll stay as true to her character as much as possible and limit her past-involvement with the other characters – please no cousins twice-removed. It would be nice to make her merely someone Rumplestiltskin knew a long time ago. Of course, knowing Horowitz and Kitsis that’s highly unlikely, but it would be really refreshing to have an entirely new, stand alone character with a past that’s not entwined with the entire Enchanted Forest.
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