This season I have complained ad nauseam about what Once Upon A Time does wrong, but what it does right is in the finales. It usually introduces us to what we can expect next season, but it is always an event; a 2 hour film-like episode that takes us through a whirlwind of emotions.
This year was no different, and the fact that they finally left Hades and the Underworld behind almost made me wish that the finale had replaced the entire season, like it didn’t happen, but alas the reverberations of the rest of the season were felt in the finale. Robin Hood is dead (I sobbed when little Roland said his farewells), Zelena is now on team hero, Belle is under a sleeping curse and Rumpelstiltskin remains the worst.
The double episode featured Henry on a quest to end all magic, Regina battling her demons and the introduction of a whole spectrum of new stories to be told (at this rate Once Upon A Time can go on forever).
One of the best aspects of the episodes is that the writers did not go the lazy route and have Robin Hood’s death be the trigger for Regina to return to her Evil Queen persona, to become the bad guy again and repeat the storyline of season one. They allowed this to become a turning point for Regina, allowed her to make the choice of how she wants to handle the situation instead of just being responsive to what happens around her. It is an important journey for the character to make, and integral if she wants to become a better person.
A lot of the episode focused on the war between the good and bad side of ourselves, with the hero gang (Snow, Charming, Hook and new addition – Zelena) literally being transported to a new realm (The Land of Untold Stories) and meeting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When asking Dr. Jekyll why his alter ego looks so different from him, he says that “we all imagine our dark sides worse than our real selves” and isn’t that true – look at the Dark One version of Rumpelstiltskin, although Regina’s dark side has impeccable style.
Regina shares with Emma that her instincts are usually to do evil, but she is ridden with a sense of what is right and wrong, so she fights the urges, but she wishes that she could be cleansed once and for all from the sins of the Evil Queen. She gets a wish later in the episode when she uses Dr. Jekyll’s potion to separate herself from the Evil Queen and she vanquishes her, apparently not for good as she makes a reappearance at the end of the episode. Regina gets to have the greatest character development in the finale though – she gets to look her former self in the face, take responsibility for what she has done and start afresh. It’s more than any reformed villain can hope for.
Also somewhere in the episode Henry and his maybe-girlfriend Violet go on a quest to New York City to attempt to get rid of the magic in the world with Regina, Emma and Rumple hot on their heels; only to find out once he destroys magic that he kind of needs it to save his family from the other realm that they are trapped in , so he gets New York City to help him make wishes – yes it looks as ridiculous as it sounds.
The episode ends with the introduction of the Land of Untold Stories, and other literary characters like Don Quixote, which gives Once much more to work with than just the ordinary fairy tales. I’m excited to see what this means for next season.