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Once Upon a Time S03E12: "New York City Serenade"

After all the debating amongst Once Upon a Time fans over who Emma’s love interest would be, after all the intense speculation over Captain Swan vs. Swan Queen vs. Thief Face and more, the show made a bold choice in having Emma Swan’s first canon love interest be an Evil Flying Monkey. Sure, the Evil Flying Monkey was disguised as a human being named Walsh (Covert AffairsChristopher Gorham), but make no mistake, at no point was it NOT, in actuality, an Evil Flying Monkey. Sure, it worked at a furniture shop and it shared dinner dates and big kisses with amnesiac Emma, but secretly it was dreaming of shooting through the horizon or enjoying a big pile of bananas and peanut butter crackers. “I was starting to like you,” the winged primate disguised as a person growled before barreling toward Emma, then spreading its wings and shooting into the sky. Emma didn’t even seem that surprised. Yow. Bold choice of bestiality, yo! 

And just so we’re all clear on the OUAT canon relationships count: gay couples, zero, Evil Flying Monkey + a human lady, one.

Once Upon a Time's highly anticipated mid-season premiere opened a year prior to the meat of the episode/moments after the show's last sojourn in the Enchanted Forests of Vancouver. Walking Corpse Phillip and pregnant Aurora were living in a stone gazebo in the middle of a soccer field, passively aggressively arguing about much food they'd been needing to forage because SOMEONE had been eating more than her share, when immédiatement the entire population of Storybrooke minus Rumple materialized in front of them! Ginnifer Goodwin was overjoyed to be reunited with her wig.

The costumes in which our heroes returned raised a lot of questions: Was Charming’s blouse stained with fresh blood because they’d been returned to the exact physical state they were in when the first curse was enacted (and Charming had been slashed by Regina’s guards)? Has Snow returned to being physically postpartum? And where did Neal get his rakish little Samwise Gamgee ensemble? 

Aurora and Phillip were quick to welcome the group back to the Enchanted Forest. Regina, returned to her “Cher as Styled by Bob Mackie for the Oscars 1986” attire, was suitably annoyed to roll right into another chirpy princess, but despite her 'tude there’s no arguing that the royal family had never been on better terms. In fact, Snow and David wanted Regina to come back to the castle and live with them, because what would cheer the People of the Enchanted Forest and give them more hope than seeing the Rebel Forces embrace their world’s Darth Vader? IDK guys, you've been gone for 28 years... maybe the peasants have grown accustomed to not paying taxes and self rule? But, imaginary politics aside, the idea of Regina, Snow, and Charming all living in the castle together was kind of darling. As they skipped off practically arm-in-arm, Aurora and Phillip decided not to warn them that a TERRIFYING NEW BIG BAD was lying in wait! (Shady, you two. Mulan would have told them!)

Meanwhile back in New York City (A YEAR LATER FROM THE LAST SCENE HENCE THE PRESENT DAY phew), an Evil Flying Monkey disguised as a human was treating Emma to an extremely tiny dinner. And then it surprised her with a proposal couched in an ice cream sundae! Emma really had to think this through. Sure, Walsh did romantic, impromptu things like skittering up a tree to get her a coconut, and he was the most enthusiastic “Peekaboo” player she’d ever met, but something still felt off. Maybe her “superpower” sense was vaguely tingling, since literally every moment with Walsh was technically a lie? LOL, JK, Emma’s “superpower” is about as effective as a coin toss minus a coin. 

Look I didn’t bring up this super weak and inconsistent plot device, it was unfortunately directly referenced in this very scene by Hook, who rushed to grab Walsh’s seat when Walsh went to powder his nose. 

Hook, dressed as appropriately as ever, offered Emma an address to visit if she wanted to know the truth, and appealed to her superpower to judge whether or not he was a Firefly cosplay enthusiast run amok or telling the truth. Moments later, a rattled Emma walked out on Walsh’s proposal, though he assured her that even if she didn’t want to marry him, he’d be happy as long as they spent the rest of their lives together—which, what? Oh, Evil Flying Monkeys can be so SMOTHERING in relationships!

Emma went home and played video games with Henry, who had a truly flattering new haircut. While talking about bringing a new dad into the family unit, Henry talked some SMACK on Neal, a moment that was on one hand very sad for Henry (that he’d lost all memory of his dad) on the other FINALLY SOMEONE TALKING ABOUT NEAL ON THIS SHOW WAS MAKING SENSE.

Meanwhile back in the medieval hellscape of the Enchanted Forest (a year previously) Charming got very worried about Hook packing up his horse and heading off to the Jolly Roger. Charming legitimately thought Hook was going to move into the castle with him and his wife, and was super disappointed that he wasn’t. “You’re not coming with us?” Charming asked, chin trembling. “Where are you going?” beat. “Take me.” he mouthed. Then Neal showed up in his Hobbit fanboy costume and said he was going to continue to look for Rumplestiltskin in the hopes that Rumple could return him to Emma. At which point Snow seriously lost her cool.

SNOW. YOU HAVE LEARNED NOTHING. Impossible things happen in your world, by my count, every two minutes and 45 seconds. Despite knowing that your daughter never recovered from your abandonment, and you swearing you would never leave her, you’re ready to do it all over again. “There’s no way to cross over. It’s impossible. Don’t even try. Let’s move on. We’re going to have more babies so NBD really.” And Charming was just as bad, all, “We have to move on, even if we could cross over they wouldn’t remember us... we gave them their best chance.” Shame on both of you, Snow and Charming! It’s pretty funny that your whole relationship’s tagline is “I will always find you!” but when it comes to your daughter you’re like “Eh she’s got her best chance whatever.” The next time I drop some food on the floor I’m just going to be like “Eh, I gave that spaghetti its best chance. Go on, spaghetti. Live your life. I won’t interfere.” 

Ahem! All this is imaginary, I know, I know. Anyway. Emma, back in Present-Day New York City, had put on the most unfortunate pants.

Just nasty tartan boxy felty things, but luckily she wasn't going anywhere fancy as the address Hook had given her was merely Neal’s apartment! (Sad trombone) But wait—Henry’s camera was in Neal’s apartment somehow! Hook met Emma on the building’s stoop and offered her some poppers, but Emma had arranged for cops to be there in waiting for Hook. Henry’s camera in hand, Emma contemplated this latest turn of events and hit up a one-hour photo stand.

BACK IN FAIRY FOREST A YEAR PREVIOUSLY: Belle and Neal were giving each other the nod about secretly looking for Rumple’s dagger, which, sure. And news had reached Snow that the Queen was missing! Snow and her hyper-shaped eyebrows tore off into the woods to find Regina on her knees, digging about in the forest floor! Yes, Regina was burying a heart... her heart.

Guuuyyyyyyys. Regina is just always, far and away, the most compelling character, isn’t she? This was such a simple, lovely little detail. Regina burying her heart so she wouldn’t miss Emma Henry anymore. It would've been a poetic enough device even without the knowledge that this is exactly the same mistake Regina's mom made, but the fact she went off and did it without telling anyone is so poignant it hurts. What a devastating way to remind us of how completely isolated Regina still is, and how much she sacrificed by leaving her family, and how much it bothers her. And there's also the fact that her actual heart was GLOWING RED under a web of lacy darkness. I don't use the term "feels" often because I am 87 years old, but this gave me more Feels than the Animal Collective album of the same name. Of course, Snow’s solution to Regina's tragic situation would be a whole lot of boy talk, OF COURSE, but luckily that was briefly forestalled by an Evil Flying Monkey.

Regina’s battle cry of “I don’t run from monsters, they run from me”—expect to see that as a tattoo someday, possibly on my lower back, as I get more into fire-dancing and round purple sunglasses. The monkey beast fetched her up in his monstrous monkey paws and Snow saved her and then Robin Hood showed up with his band of Merrie Men—including Little John, who got a plus-sized serving of sass from Regina herself when she told him to show “a little respect... or a little restraint at the buffet.” Like, WHAT. Guys I know Regina is our only hope of someone cracking a joke on this show, but who has the presence of mind to slide in a fat joke five minutes after nearly being lifted off into the heavens by a dragon/simian hybrid? Oh Regina. 

Regina is now on an extended hike with Robin Hood, her Assigned Soulmate via Fairy Dust, so consider yourself officially mandated to start caring for this pairing by decree of our corporate overlords. 

Emma, meanwhile had gotten Henry’s pictures developed and was losing it over the pictures. What be this Storybrooke place?! I never lived in Boston!! Who is this hot brunette?! Thanks to the overburdened state of the East Coast police system due to socially profitless drug laws, Hook had been released and was once again offering Emma a memory-restoring potion. This time, she was game, and EMMA WAS BACK! 

Yeah, happened quick, I know, but I could not be happier that Emma’s memory was restored so quickly. We all saw far too much of her walking around obliviously with a troubled squint on her face in Season 1 for that to ever be suspenseful again. This time Emma knows the truth about her Fairy-Tale past, but Henry (the one-time Truest Believer) does not. The small tragedy in the evaporation of Emma’s amnesia is that she’s lost “being a mom” again, which awwwww. Cue FEELS.

There was only one loose end to sew up: Henry had invited Walsh over and had also arranged for a sleepover with a friend so that his mama and her Evil Flying Monkey suitor would have the place to themselves, suggesting that yes Emma has been EFFING AN EVIL FLYING MONKEY FOR MONTHS, so now she had to break the news to Walsh that they would not be getting married, and he turned into a flying monkey, and I wrote in my notes, “LOL girl you been sleeping with a dragon?!” but that was my mistake because obviously he was an Evil Flying Monkey.

But importantly he’s a MALE flying monkey so it’s all good, right? My desk is getting a small dent in the place where I pound my forehead.

Emma and Hook packed up Henry and headed back to a re-materialized Storybrooke, where David and Snow had been hilariously chilling?! LOL YOU ARE NOW IN THE SAME DIMENSION, A COUPLE HOURS AWAY FROM NYC AND YOU STILL COULDN’T BE BOTHERED TO GO FIND EMMA?? Well they’re having a replacement baby anyway so probably they were like “Eh, she’s got her best chance or whatever let’s get caught up on Game of Thrones instead.”

Aside from not understanding how the Charmings could get back to Storybrooke and still not bother looking up Emma when Hook was out there fighting the fight to restore her memory, I did love the little bow on Snow’s maternity dress. 

After months of promising us a look at the Wicked Witch, we got a blink-and-you’d miss it shot of her. She has the Queen’s blood! That means something! Look I don’t know. She’s got Regina in her sights, and that’s good because the more time we spend with Regina, the better OUAT show tends to be. Good things happened: I’m super glad everyone is back in Storybrooke. It’s fantastic that Emma’s memory has been restored so quickly. It’s an interesting shift in dynamic that she will now be trying to convince Henry that all this stuff is real. The crazy train is pulling out of the station, and I'm getting on board. We'll know in a few more stops whether it's headed in the complete wrong direction.


... Is Walsh better, worse, or just as bad as Greg and Tamara?

... Are Aurora and Phillip super shady, or just trying to give themselves their best chance?

... Are Snow and Charming negligent parents?

... At what point do you think Henry will regain his memories, and will it involve a kiss on the forehead from Regina?

... How long 'til Rumple returns? Next episode, mebbe?

... How did you like “NYC Serenade”?

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