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Once Upon a Time S03E11: "Going Home"

What funny creatures humans are! On this huge, indifferent planet in the midst of absolutely merciless nature, we matter so much to each other. That each of us receives some sort of justice is important. So intense is our interest and affection for other individuals that our imaginary versions of them can poke little holes in people and unhinge waves of feeling. 

OUAT used this innate human property skillfully by taking a huge dramatic scenario and then slooooooowing its usual roller-coaster pace to a crawl so we could just WATCH our characters feel emotions. Snow’s smile as she kissed Emma’s forehead, Rumple as he sucked his dad’s neck while they disappeared into a cloud together, Emma and Regina holding hands and weeping bitterly over losing their chance to finally be a family. The characters of OUAT have been feeling huge crazy things all season, but because this was the mid-season finale, the show actually tapped the brakes and gave the proceedings some gravity and the actors time to process it and to transfer the feeling to us. And we felt all of it! I get infuriated sometimes at how good this show can be, because it could be this good in every episode if it wanted to. It doesn’t take flashy CGI to make this show intriguing, all it takes is slowing a scene down every once in a while and letting two people process in some real way the batshit hoop they’re jumping through. But instead of wagging my finger, I'm letting myself just appreciate the fact that my cold, carbon heart felt something last night aside from impatience. It felt deep, deep cathartic pain.

The good news is, it would be ridiculous to get too worked up over the jagged holes that "Going Home" ripped into our very beings. As the promo at the end of this episode revealed, the Charmings are coming back and Snow’s bringing her wig with her. Rumple and Belle appeared to hug, and I hazard a guess that him disappearing in an inky cloud will not be the last we see of Robert Carlyle. As we saw in the last moments of the hour, Hook tracked down Emma and he’s still wearing the exact same outfit as when we first met him. The return of OUAT in 2014 will no doubt return our characters to the usual hurry-up-and-find-it status quo, but this time presumably in an effort to fight this bitch:

So green. #WickedIsComing! Successful Disney Property, AHOY!!  IDK. I feel like at some point Season 2, after the writers' weird attempt to ramp up the Evil Queen into the Ultimate Biggest Bad despite Lana Parrilla’s intense character-building, they conceded that audiences weren’t buying the Automaton Adopted Mom routine, so they were like “How about we just acknowledge that Regina is a fan favorite and a cool mom and bring in another big bad lady who’s more hate-able?” I mean, this whole season has been the de-villainization of Regina, and "Going Home" really sealed that deal. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This episode began with the highly predicted murder of Felix by Jared Gilmore (I’ll miss his feather earring) but then quickly shifted focus to a high-stakes search for a brand-new item that no one had heard of before, yet that is suddenly central to the plot going forward! Where is the Black Fairy’s (who?) dark magic wand (what?) because suddenly it is crucial (why?)! This led Tink, Bae, Hook, and Charming to crash the Blue Fairy’s extremely empty and lonely funeral.

Man, if there was any question in your mind about who the least-popular lady in Storybrooke was, the many many empty rows of pews at the funeral as the Mother Superior was laid to rest was the resounding answer. However before our crew could so much as rummage through her desk drawers looking for the wand, the Shadow started whizzing around the stained-glass windows until Tink thought of Regina and lit a candle in a coconut.

Forgive me if this has been explained, but can someone remind me why this all-powerful magical wraith who can transcend realms is so easily distracted by a candle in a coconut shell? There he was, flying around not caring about two GIANT BOWLS OF FIRE, but a tealight in a dried tropical husk pulled him in with irresistible force? Sure. 

But whatever, this part isn’t important. The part where Hook and Tink had eye sex at knifepoint isn’t important either, or the part where Charming saved Hook one-handed. What’s important is that the Blue Fairy rose from the DAMN GRAVE and clamored with her little biddy high heels out of her coffin without making a sound and in that moment we realized this episode was not out to please the OUAT fans.

We also got a pilot flashback to when the curse was first descending upon a pregnant Snow and her baby bump and Blue Fairy was like “I have something that will save us all” and Snow was like “Oh thank goodness. Something magical? A portal key? A hoarcrux? Don’t hold out on me, lady in charge of all the magic!” and Blue Fairy like a big old bitch was like “ERM Hope.” Well faaaaaaantastic. Thank you so much for that, Blue Fairy. Where would we be with out your smug, condescending platitudes? Oh that’s right we’d be knee-deep in August’s sexy cheekbones. And then Charming was so MADDENINGLY CALM ABOUT THE CURSE. Like WHY was Charming so laid back about certain doom tearing them out of their known world and estranging him forever from their unborn daughter? There was a level of taking things in stride going on there that was almost psychopathic. Snow was like “I dreamed of us being together and raising our baby” and he was like “Oh yeah? Huh. Well, now we’ll have a new dream that our worst enemy will decide. Luckily she seems a lot angrier at you than me. With any luck I’ll end up on the high seas second mate to a troubled pirate.” 

And then Snow and Emma locked eyes through the unicorn mobile and had a mutually painful knife-twisting session about how much they regretted giving up their kids and I was just like “Why can’t we have these moments more often!? Why do we only save interesting talks for the finales? COME ON Y’ALL I AM LOVIN’ THIS AND IT DOESN’T TAKE CGI JUST DIALOGUE” and then my neighbors beat on the wall because I was getting “worked up.”  Then the show mumble-mumble acknowledged the existence of cough cough TamaraandGreg cough so Gold could  haul out the old magical snap bracelet that he’d “pilfered” from Tamara and Greg despite not being anywhere near them for most of Season 2. Sure. Even harder than explaining how he’d laid his hands on such an item was finding a spot on Pan’s lanky arms that wasn’t covered in rustic leather cuffs to actually snap it onto. But then he did and it was time for a good old fashioned soul-body switch while everybody watched! 

Then everybody went out to welcome Henry with the curse except for Rumple, who had just finished reading a pile of family counseling literature and was ready to get real with Pan. 

Pan’s confrontation with Rumple was actually a pretty powerful scene. I mean, there are people who just have bad parents. I am luckily not one of them, but there are people who have parents who fail or abandon their kids during childhood and those kids are often amazing, beautiful, forgiving people just miraculously on their own, and when they try to sort of reconnect with their parents and give them the opportunity to rejoin their lives those parents often just continue to be A-holes and use, abuse, or emotionally wound those kids simply because they’re awful and always have been. It unfortunately does happen and shame on bad parents. But in the moments when I would analyze what I was literally watching, a teen kid yelling at a middle-aged man about how awful he was as a baby—how do you not laugh at that? It’s like if you saw a guy dressed in a clown suit slip on a banana peel at the top of a ski run and zig-zag his way down the hill on one leg until he up-ended into a trashcan full of wind-up chatter teeth. Like, call an ambulance, but also upload that shit to YouTube. 

But back to important stuff: Regina and Henry and Emma all group-hugged.

... and then Regina COLLAPSED! And when she woke up again, as she came to the first thing out of her mouth, eyes teary, was a whispered "Emma," like Mr.Rochester calling for Jane Eyre in his tortured night fantasies. I mean it was so freaking gothic romance. And then Pan came and froze everyone! He sidled up to Neal and Belle and was like “Who should I kill first? Oh, you obviously” and was about to kill Neal and I thought "You know, I’m sort of a Pan fan and maybe we should just let his plan play out for a bit, see what he’s got in mind." But then Rumple showed up and summoned his shadow (funny how they couldn’t use THAT shadow to escape the island?) and stabbed his dad with the Dark Dagger and gently gave him a hickey as they melted into nothingness. 

P.S., did you notice while Pan and Rumple were taking turns shouting at the frozen assembly of characters, there was like active traffic behind them? Storybrooke was just having a normal Wednesday, its inhabitants skipping the Blue Fairy’s funeral and quietly asking themselves why a giant green cloud was pouring out of the forest. But anyway, Rumple’s disappearance: Where have they gone? Will they return? Why would it kill Rumple to stab his dad? All questions I really don’t care about right now, because Belle is on the ground sobbing—which, NO. And Belle dropping to her knees sobbing was just the prelude to the the next ten minutes of the episode, which would tear all our hearts out of our chests and drop-kick them into a pool of acid. 

Regina revealed that to save them all she’d have to reset the curse again, sending Fairy Tale Land people back to the Enchanted Forest, and that Emma would have to stay behind to be with Henry. Regina’s price for setting the curse was not the heart of the person she loved most, as it was the first time she cast it and also when Pan cast it previously, but whatever. I can bend that rule, fine, for the positive treasure of the drama that then unfolded. Regina was like “The price is the thing I love most” and then she and Emma just stared at each other thunderstruck until Emma turned around and was like “Right, Henry, gotcha.” And Mary Margaret did her best Blue Fairy imitation about we all got HOPE now hold onto your HOPE Emma shush already etc. But if you’re looking for some real HOPE: How many times in the last four episodes were y’all flip-flopping from realm to realm? Go to the Enchanted Forest, which is silly with magic, and find a bunch of magic beans or make a mermaid saddle or capture a unicorn’s queef or do whatever it takes to schlep betwixt dimensions. C'mon now. There’s only 18 different ways to do this shit.

But anyway, with the green clouds consuming everyone who wasn’t Royalty behind them, our heroes walked Emma out to the town line, her hard-won parents about to zip back up to the Enchanted Forest, and Henry sought out his mom Regina apologized for bringing Emma to Storybrooke and (tears in my eyes) said he realized Regina had always loved him and she wasn’t a villain, she was his mom (knees to my chest, shaking my head) and then oh good Lord. Oh Merciful Lord give me the STRENGTH TO TYPE THIS. Regina took Emma’s hand and started talking about the beautiful life she was going to give her as a parting gift. (Sloppy sigh) She was going to give Emma and Henry a past of always having been together, because Emma was going to lose all her memory of Storybrooke and the last few years (AND REGINA!!! This is where you stop discreetly patting your eyes with your sleeves and go “Dammit!” and openly burst into tears) and Emma was crying like her heart would break but then she and Henry loaded into her little yellow Bug and drove off while the purple smoke washed over everybody and we saw them go from over Regina’s shoulder, over her little brave Mary Tyler Moore flip curl as she watched her son and wife forget her. Not Snow’s shoulder. Not Neal’s shoulder. Not a group silhouette. Regina’s shoulder. I mean how do you not chew through a tear-drenched pillow in these circumstances? I am invoicing ABC for a new pillow.

And then of course there was the heart-melting sequence with Emma and Henry living her happy ending (which involved just a ton of well-framed artwork and NYC) until Hook showed up and planted a kiss on her that did NOT restore her memory and announced her family was in trouble! (Why am I not surprised?) We only have to wait approximately three months to find out what that means. Heartbreaking? Yes. Entertaining? Wildly. A complete and total series reset? Absolutely. Good thing or bad thing?


... So what happens if Regina sees Henry again? Does that break the curse?

... Did you cry? (Be honest.)

... Rumple: R.I.P. or back in the next episode for SHEEZY?

... Help me dissect the promo: Does all of Storybrooke return? Or does Emma go to the Enchanted Forest at some point? Group huddle.

... Why does the Blue Fairy never bother to help ever? 

... Are you excited for Wicked tie-ins, or does this smell like money grab?

... What was your favorite part of the mid-season finale?

Next Episode


Season 4 : Episode 21

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