Looked at logically, “A Curious Thing” is the Once Upon a Time Season 1 finale as described by someone with a deliriously high fever and the Wicked soundtrack struck in their heads. But emotionally, it was a triumph: There were some supremely satisfying moments and a few genuine surprises. I suppose we lost whatever cardiologists had made it this far in the series when Snow and Charming decided to try and wing it with just an atrium and ventricle each, but dang if my jaw didn’t drop when Snow actually crushed Charming’s heart.
In Flashback Land, Charming and Snow gathered their kingdom together to give the people hope by announcing their pregnancy, suggesting that things had gotten unspeakably grim for this to count as good news. But before they could show off their snazzy new outfits and pregnancy photos (VERY tasteful: them standing in a field, sepia, both of them in newsboy hats and open white button-up shirts, Charming on his knees listening to Snow’s belly while Snow listened to a sea shell, classic), Aurora and Phillip showed up and warned that Zelena was an A+ #1 Baby Snatcher. For their indiscretion, they were immediately turned into flying monkeys.
HAHAHAHAHAHA oh that’s a good one. Are all the Evil Flying Monkeys just humans who have been transformed against their will into demons? Because our Storybrooke gang has been incinerating them pretty casually. Aurora and Phillip might be charcoal briquettes by now!
We then got to see an extremely long canoodling sesh betwixt Robin and Regina upstairs at Granny’s. Obviously their romance has been building up for so long—like, what, three or four episodes now? And we’ve seen them overcome by so many obstacles (like that time he hid her heart in a termite nest and it got stolen, but she was like “u did ur best”), and we've watched in heartbreaking suspense HOPING it was love as they grew closer and closer (like that time when Tink was like, “This guy is your soulmate, deal w/ it”). WELL GUESS WHAT: All the tension paid off, guys! The show explicitly told us they would get together, and then—they did! Man I feel like anything is possible!!!
And the explanation of how Regina could still feel for Robin even without her heart, that was super cool too! Guess Cora’s entire backstory is impossible then, oh well! There’s nothing like some good old fashioned lamp-shading to make a romantic moment feel especially organic.
Of course, Emma threw some burning hot shade at Regina after she came downstairs from Robin’s room with the most delicate of beard burns going on.
Emma was sorta tense this entire episode, just snapping at everyone. She was downright cruel to Regina and she yelled at Henry on her way out of Granny’s and she was all sour-faced back in the apartment, telling her mom she couldn’t wait to pack up Henry and head back to New York and forget about this horrible town and its heartless Evil Queen mayor, just forget about it forever! Then later she wore the most sexually frustrated outfit yours and mine eyes have ever seen:
I mean is she wearing an Adidas jogging pant pulled up to her waist as a skirt? That beanie is BEGGING for deliverance. It’s a sartorial scream for help, that’s what happens when you dress in the dark after crying yourself awake. Anyway: The Charmings had one of those moments where they start thinking uncharacteristically coherently, and Regina joined in and they all decided to get the Story Book to make Henry believe in magic again, because that would break the curse. Where is the Story Book? It’s wherever the person who needs it to be is. Like when Henry needed it, it showed up in Snow’s closet. Now that Emma needs it, it’s appeared in Snow’s closet. See how that works? Me neither.
Snow got the Story Book without much muss and fuss, and of that I approve.
Back in Fairy-Tale Land they had to deal with Rumple reciting half of “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” about “Rumble Bumble” and “Skimbleshanks” and “The Rum Tum Tum Tum Tiger is a Curious Beast” until Belle finally squeezed his hand and said “GIVE US SOMETHING WE CAN USE.” And then he told them duh, find Glinda, have y’all even seen Wizard of Oz?
Glinda the Good Witch was hiding behind a door that could only be entered if your IQ was lower than 45, so the Charmings obviously had no problem but Regina had to wait for them to stop giving each other flowers before they could all head out, and then she also had to wait outside the door for them talk to Glinda. Glinda was cheerfully unhelpful, she informed them that Zelena’s power source is the frying-pan-sized necklace she’s been hauling around all season, but also told them there was nothing she could do to stop Zelena. Only Emma, their “do-over” abandoned daughter could save them now, so too bad they threw her away like old hotdog water.
After the Charmings left, Glinda squeaked back over to a snowdrift where she liked to sit, pulled out her Kindle, and watched the battery fade on it and the screen go blank. Then she threw it ineffectually into the quiet falling snow and tried to imagine her own ending to The Hunger Games because she was not powerful enough to recharge the device.
Meanwhile Charming, Snow, and Regina consulted over what Glinda had told them, and Charming came up with the bright idea that Snow should cast the Dark Curse again to get them back to Storybrooke—BY CRUSHING HIS HEART. Charming is seriously unhappy, guys. Remember when he decided he would just die of slow-acting poison on Neverland? Remember when he raced out to the stables and drank himself calm when Snow said she was pregnant? And now this? Is there like, no such thing as divorce in Fairy-Tale Land?
Approximately whilst all this was happening, Hook had had a rough day. He was sassed by Zelena, who had bundled him into the boot of a car and smacked his lips with a rose and threatened Henry’s life. Hook ran into Henry trying to jimmy open Emma’s ride so he could drive himself to a bus station and back to his exciting NYC life, and Hook was like, “How about a nautical voyage instead?” and Henry was like, “I’ve learned all about the importance of trusting strangers in NYC, let’s go down to the docks alone together.”
Obviously they were almost immediately attacked by flying monkeys, and then Emma and Regina and the Charmings showed up and started burning up the monkeys. R.I.P. Aurora and Phillip or Bo Peep or Scare Crow or whatever unfortunate people had been transformed into those primates.
Then Emma stood in front of Henry and held up the Story Book and was like, “Do you trust me?!” and he was like “Mom, you have a lot of makeup on, are you on a date right now or what is this?” and she was like, “DO YOU TRUST ME?!” and he was like, “Normally, yeah, but right now you’re wearing fake eyelashes so thick they’re pulling your eyelids askew mom, it’s the middle of the day and you’re supposedly on a manhunt, who are you trying to impress with all that glitter eyeshadow?” and she was like “STOP QUESTIONING ME AND START BELIEVING IN MAGIC” and shoved the Story Book into his hands and he remembered everything!! Especially his MOOOOOM Regina, and like is my heart torn in half? Because him recognizing her was adorable.
So obviously Regina having a moment’s peace meant it was time for Zelena to show up and bring some conflict. She knocked Regina to the floor and throttled Henry, which, yaaaawn how many times will this boy be in mortal peril? Please.
You know what was surprising? Snow actually going ahead and casting the Dark Curse. Charming, Snow, and Regina stood around a giant beer vat as Charming reminded Snow that he would be in a better place once she’d crushed his heart, and she begged him not to let her do it, and it was genuinely so touching. Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas are fantastic and their actual personal connection brought a lot of weight to the dialogue, making the moment unexpectedly heartfelt. I was expecting at literally any minute for Snow to find a workaround, but low and behold, she actually crushed his heart, and good for them, honestly. That shocked me quite much, y’all. As Regina (wearing a tasteful nude lip) comforted her that Charming hadn’t died in vain, Zelena showed up to pour some Boone’s Farm in the punch.
So that's how everybody got to Storybrooke yet didn’t recognize Zelena—okay, tidy, nice, sure. I crossed my arms and just waited for this show to come up with some way to save David and sure enough, Snow asked Regina, her former mortal enemy, to rip her heart in two. Regina was like, “Sweetheart that is so sweet, but that is so very, very dumb. I’m sorry, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Seriously, think about what you just asked me.” I mean, it was logically just the silliest thing ever, but emotionally you know what? It worked. I just wanted to see Charming get back up, and Regina carefully breaking Snow’s heart in two and plunking the heart-halves into their chests, it was deeply satisfying as the last lap of Regina’s transformation from villain to heroine, and the forging of a true trust and affection between her and Snow. She should have also taken out her own brain and slapped a few chunks into the Charmings’ heads while she was playing Operation, but we can’t have everything.
Meanwhile back at the docks, Emma used her newfound magical ability to make Henry’s neck SIZZLING HOT!
Henry broke free and ran over to Regina to try and revive her, and when she came to she gave him a big kiss and broke the curse. This was something I really wanted to see happen, it was an important acknowledgement of Regina’s role in his life and the true love that exists in the hearts of adoptive parents everywhere, and it sealed the deal on Regina officially being one of the good guys. Then Henry got weirdly nosy and all about the locker-room talk, as is his wont this season—asking about kisses this and kisses that. Hopefully Tinkerbell can explain the Robin Regina relaish because I sure can't, lad.
Hook told Emma that he had been kidnapping Henry out of concern. Let this be a lesson, though: no matter how good your intentions, don’t try to parent other people’s kids. Not even a little bit! Generally it’s not appreciated. Hook quite nobly then regaled Emma with the story of his cursed-yet-luscious lips.
Emma was like “THE PRESUMPTION.” Like her day hadn’t been bad enough! She went off on Hook for how he handled Henry and then all the Charmings turned on him about "who sent the message, huh? Who sent you the message? You in league with Zelena even though you just told us all her plans? Huh? HUH?!"
But then we learned that Hook was telling the truth: The mighty morphing powers of CGI were at play in the mysterious memory cure that had been sent to his ship. While Neal was "absorbed" into Rumple, he'd pulled himself out of his father’s body just long enough to send a drunk dove message to Hook about finding Emma and explaining everything. Sure, you know what, sure. We’re here to watch fairy-tales, and I know one of my old favorites was “The Boy who Shared a Body With His Father Until He Wanted Something Really Badly and Then He Had His Own Body Back for a While But Then Shortly After He Flopped Back Onto His Dad’s Body Like a Drunk Frat Boy Onto A Beanbag Chair,” so cut the show some slack.
To round out the traumatizing day, Emma stopped by the graveyard with Henry so he could drop Zelena’s rose on Neal’s grave. She was wearing clothes such as you wear when the girl you like is into some loser that’s totally wrong for her but you can’t say anything about it because after all who dated an Evil Flying Monkey for a year? You dated an Evil Flying Monkey for a year, so you just grimace a lot and get angry at everybody for a while. We’ve all been there, hang on kiddo.
... How do you think the season will leave Robin and Regina?
... How do Hook’s lips fit into all this?
... Did Emma seem testy to you?
... Regina not having her heart for this entire episode: problematic? Is it significant that she could lift the curse without it?