Like many of you, I spent many sleepless summer nights worrying about what was going to be left of my beloved Snow and Charming when the purple smoke cleared. And, you know, all those other fairy-tale folk, I guess. Would magic restore the curse? Would they forget each other again? Would they be "contact high"?
When the smoke dissipated last night we were left with one of the best Season 2 premieres these bright eyes of mine have ever seen. This was a episode that felt like a finale and it just made so many great choices. OUaT did practically everything right last night, starting with casting this guy:
Michael Raymond-James of Terriers and True Blood is now a part of OUaT, someone pinch me. Although neither his human nor his faery identity has been revealed yet, let's take a nice long look at his environs for amateur sleuthing:
Lots of radio sets and microphones (for contacting his dad, since he's PROBABLY BAELFIRE?!!?). Whoever he is, someone else knows he's out there, knows that he's aware that Storybrooke is cursed, and knows that he would want to know the curse was broken (possible candidates: August, if he's not still SOLID WOOD and Jefferson, if he's not too busy packing up his daughter's things and moving her into his Hat Mansion).
How glad was I to see Charming and Snow hugging when the smoke cleared? And then Snow being embraced by all her little men, even Dopey the Hipster (420 y'all!)?
And of course, the whole big family reunion—like hats off to Ginnifer Goodwin for her facial acting in this scene. It was extraordinarily touching. The show gave us something it's been denying us a long time: a sense of emotional connection between out main characters. This long-separated royal fairy-tale family's reunion was SIMPLY MAGNIFICENT!
Of course, almost immediately they had to hasten to Great Grandma Regina's side, as the township of Storybrooke was breaking into anarchy in broad daylight. The "town gone wild" vibe that swept through the empty streets was eerie and exciting and one of the more inventive uses of a set I've seen on TV. Very well done.
They got to Regina in the knick of time, she had just attempted to launch a fireball at the angry mob gathered on her front lawn and then realized her magic wasn't working.
Good thing her entire extended family showed up and got her out of there (and into jail. "Kharma police just signed your warrant, bitch!" —Snow). Yes, we all knew they'd regret not immediately snuffing Regina, and that it would come back to haunt them (within the episode, even!). Their protective instinct toward her, besides being standard heroic "good guy" behavior, was grounded in one of the best things the premiere created: the new dynamic of Henry suddenly being protective of his adopted mom, and her grieving their estrangement. It's such a tragic and real and beautifully confusing connection and all of the complexity plays across Lana Parrilla's face whenever Regina's in a scene with Henry. Their dynamic going forward could end up being the best thing about this season.
Meanwhile, Prince Phillip and a certain mysterious young man were riding through Bakersfield, CA. Their trail ended at Sleeping Beauty stretched out on an Applebee's coffin-shaped banquette in what appeared to be an ancient Applebee's, and he woke her with one of OUaT's patented "PULSE OF POWER" kisses.
I laughed out loud when I saw that the show had scrapped Disney's traditional Aurora costume. Cinderella and Belle got real-life recreations of the animated gowns, but someone (someone smart) took one look at that pointy mess from 1959's "Sleeping Beauty" and said, "Not on my watch." Which hey, GREAT CALL—the OUaT version of the dress was sooo covetable. And frankly I doubt Disney has much loyalty to the spiky, stylized aesthetics of Sleeping Beauty considering that property was so unsuccessful it just about bankrupted the company's animation movie department, and forced them to discontinue their fairy-tale animated movies until 1989's The Little Mermaid. The More You Know.
Something else that was hilarious about Aurora was that from the moment she woke up, Prince Phillip was trying to get her to go back to sleep. "You must rest," "Someone needs a nap!" and "You look really tired, girl" are all things people should not say to me without taking a leap back to escape my flailing slap-hand, and Aurora seemed equally peeved. Then the handsome young stranger removed his delicate silver veil to reveal that he was actually the lovely Mulan, Disney's SECOND-lowest-performing fairy-tale princess!
Clearly Disney studio heads are giving these two characters a chance to redeem themselves/boost sales of their dolls at the Disney World Princess Store. Assuming they could survive the flying Rite-Aid Halloween tree decoration that zipped down from the sky: a soul-sucking WRAITH! Such a good adversary. Who doesn't love wraiths?
Unfortunately, the Prince picked up the medallion the wraith dropped (although he was a real stoic about not reacting to the medallion sizzling through his flesh) and then found out from Mulan that the wraith will take the soul of whoever it marks. That is just so senselessly awful and nightmarish, wraiths! Also, what do those souls do all day, just bop around inside the wraith's tiny body and howl? Is it is like being on a rollercoaster with black cheesecloth pulled over your eyes for years as the Wraith zooms around? That sounds pretty awful.
Rumpelstiltskin, meanwhile, was warming up to what would be the huge theme of his evening: trying to get away from Belle. Apparently he had realized in 28 years of bachelorhood that he was more of a lone wolf/fuss-budget old grandma type. After reluctantly promising not to kill Regina, he took Belle back to the pawn shop to fix her up with a more presentable dress?! Bro, you should be helping her OUT of those clothes, not picking out some Talbot's business petites from the back, bro! Of course, he was way too busy plotting how to sidestep his vow to Belle by marking Regina with the wraith medallion and summoning the soul-sucker, and frankly, that was annoying. These two got chemistry, and you'd think after 30 years of separation, at some point Belle would have come out of the backroom in an over-sized, rumpled men's shirt. But hey, maybe I'm just a big old ho.
Snow was feeling a little "pushed away" by her grizzled daughter, and they had a very fantastic conversation in the middle of the street on the way to Mr. Gold's about how their relationship had started off kind of weird (roomies!) and how Snow and Charming hadn't meant to abandon Emma, they were saving her. However, we know super-grizzled Emma was probably a handful as a roommate, and after all these months of leaving the bathroom messy, taking apart Mary Margaret's appliances, getting drunk and flashing the neighbors, and blaring her loud music and then mad-dogging Mary Margaret like "Ask me to turn it off, B," maybe she just felt sheepish. Clearly Snow felt sheepish about having discussed her one-night stands with her former-bounty-hunter daughter. David's face was pretty good at that reveal.
Don't be a hypocrite, dude, you were doing it with Kathryn non-stop after you got out of that coma, so please. Any way, when Snow explained they had just wanted to give Emma her best chance by getting her away from the curse, Emma sniffed, "We would have been together! Which curse was worse!?" That's not technically true, Ems, Charming and Snow were separated all those years you were away, not together. That's the point of the curse. It seemed like Emma was just looking for an excuse to hang on to her sense of rage and abandonment, considering it's fueled much of her life choices. Imaginary psychology! I'm good at it guys, I am like the Dr. Phil of fairy-tale families.
After Rumples marked Regina, Emma, Snow, and Charming got hip to the fact she was going to get her soul sucked and immediately went into defense mode with Snow straight-up sending a hairspray fireball at the wraith (definitely Emma keeps hairspray at the Sheriff station, obviously, I mean come on, look at those extensions). It was great to see that all semblance of mousy Mary Margaret was gone and Snow is just Snow now: confident, bloodthirsty, ready to burn a bitch.
Based on Snow's success with the DIY fireball in chasing away the wraith, the White-Charming-Swan family hatched a cunning plan to chase the wraith with fire into Jefferson's portal hat and into the fairy-tale world to protect Regina. Their determination to help Regina served to make Emma come off as an even more heroic and unconditionally loving mother, desperate to protect Henry's adopted mom. (Although Henry can be quite emotionally manipulative in who he calls "mom" and when, just sayin'!)
In the fairy-tale world, Prince Phillip protected Aurora and Mulan by sneaking off in the woods to get HIS soul sucked (it's a private thing guys, it's so embarrassing), but not before suggesting again that Aurora grab a cat nap. When Aurora and Mulan realized they were without Prince Phillip, they immediately broke things down in a bitchy "the boy is mine" catfight worthy of a reality TV show. Mulan was insisting she and Philip were just bros, Aurora was not buying it. After arguing over how best to save him/protect him/which of them understood the true nature of love they both made a beeline for Phillip, elbowing each other out of the way in their hot pursuit of his trail. Hilariously, when they finally reached him, they did absolutely nothing to save him from the wraith. Nothing, baby, not a thing.They didn't try to pull him away from the soul-sucking light beam, they didn't throw rocks at the wraith, they didn't try to bat it away with a fallen tree branch, they just stood there and shrieked, totally hopeless, making Prince Phillip's last moments just that much more annoying.
Mulan, this one was kind of on you after all that big talk about fighting battles. Looks like you fronted, Mulan.
In Storybrooke, despite being way prepared for the wraith, they failed even more spectacularly, sending the wraith down the portal and Emma after it. Snow, obviously taking that whole speech about "WE COULD HAVE BEEN TOGETHER MOM!" pretty seriously, jumped in right after her, presumably into oblivion. Charming belly-flopped onto the floor and it was pretty sad. Of course, the floor probably felt like a sweet featherbed in comparison to the wall, after newly empowered Regina magically bound him to the wallpaper and moved in for the kill. Since Emma had touched her arm her powers had seemingly returned, which YES.
Luckily Henry and Ruby walked in right at that moment because they were all supposed to meet and go to Roundtable Pizza, and they found Regina set to kill Henry's grandpa. The ensuing revelation that Emma and Snow had basically been swept to Hell made Henry lay down an ultimatum for Regina: Get them back or no more angry, pissed-off pre-teen son for you, lady. Of course this is going to create a valid motive for Regina to be engaged in getting Emma and Snow back, so brilliant. Until then, Henry is shackin' up with gramps, Playuh-Playuh David Charming, which is actually healthy for both of them: Charming has someone he can protect and Henry gets a father figure for the first time in his life, right in the middle of his difficult teenage years.
On the other side of town, across from the cold empty Roundtable Pizza, Rumple was sitting alone spinning thread with the quiet contentment of an aging Amish grandmother when Belle busted in the door.
She had left him earlier in the episode to make a point and kind of fake a break-up and after apparently 20 minutes of walking around a town she's never seen in a dimension she doesn't understand with no money or friends, she decided not to wait for Rumples to wise up and chase her into the night. She returned and told him she was willing to give things another try, and he looked almost annoyed. He just dropped all the façade and was like, "Ya gotta go, babes. Fall is coming and I have got some spinning to do." But Belle was like, "Nope it's cold out there and you took my coat. Let's snuggle."
No, no no, that's not how it went, I know. Belle came back to him because she loves him, she saw Chip sitting next to him and was overcome with emotion, he let her know, finally, that she meant more to him than anythin,g and they presumably freaked all the long night through. Just up and down, all around, freak-a-deak-deakin', freakin'-and-a-flyin' was what happened. Yes, his instinct is always to push her away, but luckily her confidence is EVEN LOWER than his, so she thinks that's charming, as charming as back in the day when she was his housekeeper and he used to scream at her for being nice to him and lock her in the cellar. If I ever got them on my fairy-tale Dr. Phil couch, whoooo! The things that would come out.
The huge reveal at the end of the episode was that for once the fairy-tale story wasn't a flashback, it had been happening concurrently with the real-world storyline, which was both surprising and fantastic, if logistically confusing (so there are two medallions or two wraiths or what?). But the salient point was that the fairy-tale land does still exist, and had also been frozen for 28 years until Emma broke the curse. Now of course it's a post-Apocalyptic wasteland full of presumably wraiths and Chihuahuas.
And then of course the extension of that logic: Emma and Snow were now there, in the fairy-tale world, buried in rubble mere steps away from Aurora and Mulan! This is looking like it's going to turn into a lady version of Lord of the Rings. How boss is that?! How infinitely exciting is that premise?! How much more excited are you for next week? Just a genius move all round.
This premiere just really set up so many strong dynamics—we have an Evil Queen with a weak spot of love for a child, a mother and daughter reuniting, and most importantly the removal of the curse, which makes everyone so. less. dumb. Season 1 may have been just one long backstory so we could get to this moment, where backstory falls away and it's all happening now, and that's so exciting. I am so deeply involved and cannot wait for next week's episode. But more importantly, what did YOU think about it?
1. Who was the "mysterious man" in the beginning?
2. So Emma's touch is magic?
3. Will the magic Emma transferred to Regina wear off?
4. How many episodes do you think Emma and Snow will spend in the fairy-tale world?
5. Rumple: weirdly cold, or that's part of his charm?
6. What would be the weirdest part of finding out your roommate is your long-lost mom?