It wasn’t until the closing moment of Once Upon a Time's Season 3 finale, when the show revealed that Disney intends to steer it into Frozen territory next season, that I truly felt the last bit of my hope for what this series could be evaporate out of my body like a puff of discontinued perfume. But guys, it's gone, it’s gone and it’s not coming back, because WTF a Frozen tie-in? I don’t want to sound impossibly speculative, but what if, a couple months from now, little kids are into the next big thing and NOT Frozen? Like the Jonas Cousins or Star Twins or Boob Quadruplets or whatever over-sexualized pre-teens du jour Disney is peddling come fall 2014? Does it make anyone else feel weird that Frozen’s ONLY cultural value is being (allegedly, according to unconfirmed rumor) the first (albeit heavily veiled) Disney fable about accepting gay loved ones, a topic that OUAT has seriously shilly-shallied on? Elsa rising from all that Blue Razzberry Jell-O at the end of this finale felt like such a cynical, calculated cash-in.
As soon as Frozen got involved, OUAT moved from the realm of “adorably indulgent tale that possibly means something to someone, somewhere behind the scenes” to “the scripts are plotted out by algorithm via Disney marketing computers and shuttled by long pneumatic tubes to Vancouver.” My life, like your life, is finite—and for that reason it's precious, and I cannot in good conscience sit here and talk about OUAT like it’s a piece of pop-cultural art. That consideration belongs to things like My So Called Life and Twin Peaks, things with weird emotional hearts that bleed real blood. OUAT is a slick, shiny, finely tuned amusement-park ride, and I'm a fool for thinking otherwise. So let’s hit these ten talking points about the finale and go back to licking our wounds:
1. Why you have to burn a mom to death on Mother’s Day, Once Upon a Time?
I know Snow used the dark fairy powder to turn herself into an inflammable ladybug, despite having her hands tied over her head, despite having only a fraction of a nanosecond between Regina’s fireball hitting the hay and the entire funeral pyre bursting into flames, but for at least as long as a commercial break on Mother’s Day, MILLIONS (okay, hundreds of thousands) of families nationwide believed they had just watched Snow White burn to death in front of her daughter.
Also, since Emma had magic all along, how did she not get upset enough to magically stop that from happening? HMMMM.
Also also: Regina helped set the whole curse in motion for the joy of watching Snow White suffer without actually killing her. Yet in the finale, she could not kill Snow fast enough. She was like, "UNWRAP THE DURAFLAME LOGS—NO WAIT LEAVE THEM WRAPPED, THEY BURN FASTER!” This small change turned Regina into a much more bloodthirsty, sinister Evil Queen, and was a terribly sloppy retcon of Regina’s carefully balanced nature. Excuse me, that's a bit of an understatement. In fact, saying this whole episode was a sloppy retcon of Regina's well-earned redemption is like saying the Hindenburg had a sloppy landing.
Final also, cubed: Since Jiminy Cricket and Snow-as-an-Inflammable-Ladybug were able to summon the Blue Fairy, are fairies part insect?
2. Emma's breasts were uncredited featured extras this episode, rude
We spent a good five minutes when Emma first changed into Fairy Tale garb– and like every fan, this was a moment directly from my dreams– of Hook going “AH-OOOOGA!” and getting all cartoon wolf about her 4 inches of exposed sternum, until Emma was forced to throw her extensions over her décolletage the way one might throw a tarp over a dead body. Then later she broke out the girls to distract Past Hook from Future Hook commandeering his own ship. I have yet to see more male flesh on this show than Charming bearing his poison-riddled abs to Captain Hook six months ago. If there’s going to be good-natured sexual objectification as a plot point, you know what, sure! Sex is fun and often funny. But there better be some gender parity up in there, otherwise you’re making the little girls you claim to be writing Emma for feel actually very weird.
3. Home is a feeling
You know what, I like this message. I mean, all of OUAT’s messages are calculated to have inoffensive, universal appeal, so how could I not? But also I loved that Emma didn’t “get” how much she loved her parents until they no longer recognized her. Snow was like “Whoa, who are you?” and the reaction to her long hug was genuinely well done.
Still, if Emma has always been looking for a “feeling” of home, since Neal described it to her that time they broke into a rainy amusement park, it’s kind of crazy she does not give two shits where Henry’s concept of home is. Henry’s like “Hey let’s find an apartment, my other mom lives here, you know the one who raised me? Plus we get to be around the grandparents.” and Emma is like “Eh well, I’m still seeking that certain je ne sais quoi.”
4. Distracting body double stole the show
The combination of old footage, a boy in Snow’s costume, and Ginnifer Goodwin’s head with a giant cape wrapped around it fooled no one. I don't care, I actually love it when shows do their best to keep an actress employed despite the fact she has an actual life off-camera, but the mixing of old and new footage was, um, inexpert? Inexpert.
5. Emma is super into Hook now?
Last week, Emma was furious at Hook for essentially attempting to kidnap Henry; by the end of this episode she was clinging to him like he was the last life raft on the Titanic. Part of it was because he explained he’d traded the Jolly Roger to come get her in NYC, which, sure—huge gesture! Fantastic! What a great dude! But just as a PSA to my younger ladies: If a guy does something nice for you, you are in no way obligated to reward him with physical or romantic affection. Unless you are carrying around a sign that says “Sex for money!!!” that’s not implicit in the social contract. In the immortal worlds of Destiny’s Child, “So what? You bought a pair of shoes / What now I guess you think I owe you?” Ya don’t.
6. This show will destroy Regina’s happiness, if it is the last thing It does
Emma faced zero consequences for her trip back into the past, except that she ruined Regina’s chances with Robin Hood by resurrecting his dead wife Maid Marion.
I’m sorry Outlaw Queen is now a ghost ship, but aside from that scandal, what was with Regina’s immediate reset to FURIOUS because the guy she’d dated two times was no longer widowed? That made no sense. She didn’t become a loving, rational, redeemed family member just for some Robin Hood dick; her redemption arc started way back when she tried to give her life for Storybrooke. And when Emma finally got to see her in her fabulous fairy-tale outfits, Emma made some snide comment about her looking worse than when she wears her “sensible pantsuits”? Bitch, she’s been wearing zip-up couture bandage dresses the last half-season, where have you been? Sigh.
I don't even have the heart to point out that both of them explained to their beards that they're used to running away from the people they want to be with. Just overall: I don’t know what’s more painful, feeling gaslit all season about Swan Queen subtext or having it entirely excised, as it was in this episode. Something beautiful has been lost, something that with a little courage could have materially changed a lot of lives! Apparently that's not OUAT's problem, though, so moving on...
7. Rumple is such a dick, though
After using his betamax-erasing magic to fiddle with the security tapes, Rumple then stood there and listened to Belle have a panic attack about her fake dagger without batting an eyelash. Then, later, he and Belle got married in the dead of night in a clump of trees while dressed up like Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide from Guys and Dolls.
P.S. Archie officiated? Sure. Whatever, y’all actually atheists with a thing for gangster hats and scarves, I guess. I did like that Emma got to see Rumple in full, trilled-out, fingers-a-twiddle Rumpelstiltskin mode, if only because it was fun watching Jennifer Morrison try to keep a straight face across from Robert Carlyle with the fake teeth and lizard contacts in.
8. Uncle brother’s name
Snow: “We’re naming your brother after the man who impregnated you.” Emma: “Very cool, not to mention appropriate!” Rumpelstiltskin: “My son’s name was Baelfire, Bae for short, but, you know, whatever.” Grumpy: “Guys didn’t Aurora just have a baby too? Cuz remember that joke I was making, about how if it was born a day earlier it’d be a monkey, hahaha? Yeah I don’t care about her either. Is Phillip dead again guys? Guys, how many of you even leave Granny’s anymore? I sleep underneath the back booth now and take showers under the rain gutters. More cake? Sure!”
9. How long would you watch yourself make out with a person you wanted to get with?
Because Hook did not last 27 seconds before popping himself in the head. I for one would be RIVETED!
10. Frozen Season 4?
So is Elsa the Big Bad for next season? Will she sing at us about her feelings, because as I understand it that’s pretty much all she did in the movie. Who will she be related to? Snow’s sister or something? Can you find it in your heart to care? Does the collapsing of the creative and retail fields into one large economic singularity scare you? Can companies manufacture our own goodwill toward them if their test-marketing is really on-point? Are the only cultural values we can all cheerfully agree on hollow and purposefully vague? “Let It Go”? What does “let it go” mean? How much money have you personally spent on Frozen-related products for loved ones and family? Would a picture of Baudelaire move product? What do you love? Who made it? Are you tired? Are you just so tired?
... All of the above!
AIRED ON 10/4/2015
Season 5 : Episode 2
AIRS ON 10/11/2015
Season 5 : Episode 3