Once Upon a Time: There's a Cloud Hanging Over Us

Once Upon a Time S01E22: "A Land Without Magic"

How are you doing? Are you doing okay? I'm assuming you watched Once Upon a Time's finale last night and if that's the case you probably need someone to check in on you and lord knows you're not going to find that at work. Are you somnambulating from your desk to the copier with a vague sense of ill-ease? Did you spend a little extra time in the car before you went inside, fingers white-knuckled on the wheel? Were your dreams troubled?

Because that finale was INTENSE and if you took a day off to just recoup I would not blame you. In fact, if you're struggling, I suggest you go home sick right now and continue reading this at home. Tell your boss or secretary or yoga studio receptionist or the principal or whoever you're taking off for the day.

Okay. Everyone cozy? Then let's talk the shit out of this show.

First of all, the second I saw Graham take off his mask I knew we were headed for some people-pleasing. "This one is gong to be for the fans," I said in between lustily smooching the screen. Graham's appearance was brief and we moved quickly along (though of course not before he shared a scene with Regina, who had clearly dried her hair with a fireplace, one of the drawbacks to the fairy-tale world that is rarely discussed).

As quickly as Graham left my screen, I can't complain about the pace, because for once it FLEW. For a season composed largely of weird tangents, OUaT's finale was remarkably focused on a rapid succession of fan-pleasing events. The episode flew by yet stayed efficiently mindful, as mindful as Emma, who shrewdly put an apple turnover into a baggie before leaping into an ambulance with Henry.

Like, thank the Good Lord Emma finally believed in the curse. We have all seen her grab the Storybook before so I'm not sure what exactly triggered that burst of understanding, but comprehension is a hot new look on Emma.

Also: I thought her believing in the curse would mean August would be healed, apparently she also has to break the curse to save him from his now solid-oak state. (How creepy was his wooden face with the blue eyes, btw? This show is NOT for children, I'm sorry.)

Whatever the intricacies, Emma believed, and not only did she believe, she rolled with that punch, swept the frantic Regina into a closet, and demanded answers (which Regina, strung out on grief, gave. How Un-Regina of her!). From there it was a quick trip to Mr. Gold's pawn store, where he presented her with an epic, not-at-all-metaphorical quest of slaying a dragon with her "father's sword." Chills upon chills!

Elsewhere in fairy tale-land Rumpelstiltskin was giddily taunting the prince and manipulating him into feeding a gold egg to a dragon, the same one Emma was about to retrieve. (You'd think it would pass out of the dragon's system but I am not here to parse hairs or complain about a Kristin Bauer appearance—a sly way of combining Disney Sleeping Beauty's mythology with Disney's Snow White mythology. How many seasons until we lose the folklore roots entirely and the Disney revisions are the accepted truth behind traditional fairy tales? I would guess three.)

It cracked me up that Emma and Regina were in this uneasy alliance, and right before Regina lowered her down BY HAND in a rickety old elevator (fairy-world technology, ugh) Emma was basically like, "I am going to kill you, bitch! Now lower me gently to the ground." Regina has ALREADY tried to off you just to avoid splitting Christmases, Emma. Try not to tempt her TOO much into flattening you like a blonde pancake. And then we got a lot of this:

Like I'm sure it was super expensive and represented the finest that TV green screen creature animation has to offer but I am still unclear about how Emma could reasonably throw a sword and have a dragon immediately, conveniently transform into a bunch of ash with the shiny-clean gold egg deposited nicely on top.

Not that I was looking forward to her rooting around in dragon intestines like on Family Double Dare (okay yes, I totally was) but I understand the show had a lot of ground to cover. It had to break, then un-break, then re-break our hearts and there were precious few minutes left.

I did love Rumpelstiltskin giving a man-makeover to the prince. I loved seeing the Snow White kiss again, and the pulse, and the proposal after the kiss. It was a nice counterbalance to David Nolan creepily weeping outside MMargaret's closed car and then preparing to haul all his worldly goods to Boston in an old pickup. Mr. Gold had meanwhile given Regina a fetching duct-tape-over-the mouth look and snatched the Egg of True Love from Emma. Unfortunately, the dunderheaded-ness that saved her from a complete mental breakdown and allowed her to manage the concept of Storybrooke's dual reality also allowed her to be easily tricked into throwing a precious golden egg up to Mr. Gold (it's right in the name, folks).

Of course, by that time it didn't even seem to matter because the show was asking us to believe that Henry was DEAD and probably killed by the Mad Hatter. Who looked so James Dean hot in 1950s scrubs that I would have forgiven him for it, especially when he knocked out Nurse Ratchet and FREED EFFING BELLE.

I wonder now how the Mad Hatter knew about Belle and why he hadn't staged this coup earlier, but at the time I was far too busy screaming at my TV with joy to care. Belle was out! Mad Hatter sent her to find Mr.Gold! IS THIS HAPPENING!? I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING!

Lana Parrilla and Jennifer Morrison, meanwhile, were giving the dual performance of their lives in the hospital overhead, watching Henry flatline. Guys did you tear up? I was BAWLING. These ladies are FORCES, Lana and Jennifer are emotional BOMBS and they got detonated simultaneously as Henry was unplugged from his machines. And then in the moment we had all predicted but that was still amazing fan wish-fulfillment, Emma kissed Henry's forehead and broke the curse.

Stunning, stunning, stunning. My jaw was on the floor. David Nolan calling "Snow!" across the street was of course the most poignant. Watching the orderlies and doctors suddenly remember a time when they had wings or ate porridge, I almost felt bad for the patients of the hospital because surely there was no more work that day. "We are going to have to re-schedule your hip replacement surgery because I just remembered I'm actually a cobbler."

Obviously just as heart-rending was the reunion of Belle and Rumpelstiltskin (and how nice for Belle that he's hot Robert Carlyle now and not a sparkly, giggling gremlin. Upgrade!), but the show clearly made the point that, as usual, Rumples was more set on wielding his dark powers than taking a five-minute break to sex up the woman who loves him. Even after the curse broke and for the first time he had the woman he loves, who he thought was dead, at his side looking crazy-sexy tussled and all come-hither. Sigh.

Within minutes of Emma breaking the curse, Rumples had hauled poor Belle up to a mountaintop well and had thrown the true love potion into the magic water, creating a giant purple fragrance cloud that billowed into Storybrooke and overtook the population as the clock settled, once more, on 8:15. The ending was purposefully ambiguous. True love can break any curse/is the strongest magic, and it's just been added to water that can restore whatever is lost. So...does this mean he's re-set the curse, except with Emma caught up in it this time, as the clock would suggest? Or does this just mean the Evil Queen will again be a force in this world with crazy pineapple hair and bug-bangs and an ability to woo Henry back by Darque Magicks? I frankly doubt Kitsis & Horowitz know what that cloud means either. It was an ending that gives the writers the largest amount of options possible going into a new season.

So that's why I'm going through my day today in a haze. I'm still wrung out from sobbing over Emma and Regina's tour-de-force performances. I'm giddy from Snow and Charming returning to being Snow and Charming. And there's a looming sense of dread too, the ringing triumph of the emotional fulfillment clouded by, well, a cloud. Couldn't the cloud have been, at least, just starting down the mountain? Did we really have to watch it overtake Snow White and Charming like a horrifying mountain of purple ash?

Of course, if it means magic in Storybrooke, awesome. LOVE magic. But I'm also super afraid it's re-set the curse. It's the uneasy dance we do with this show, wanting a happy ending and yet knowing there cannot be one as long as we keep watching. Happy relationships are boring. Parents being wise and loving are a yawn. Neighbors responsibly helping each other don't sell papers, guys! This summer, I am going to think about this finale a lot, I am going to dream of the Season 2 premiere and, honestly, dread it a little too (if the curse is re-set I don't think my heart can take it). I am also going to think about what our world would be like if we were fundamentally interested in witnessing functioning happiness. Instead, Heaven help us, we're in love with the struggle.


1. Belle! Your thoughts on Mr. Gold's reaction?

2. How did the Mad Hatter know about Belle anyway?

3. What does True Love make besides beautiful, dumb babies?

4. Does it seem pretty easy to kill a dragon?

5. What was that purple cloud about ?!

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