If the mid-season finale came off as bittersweet, this one is the happily ever after we were searching for. It’s Back to the Future meets Once Upon A Time (complete with Marty McFly reference), as Emma and Hook get sucked into Zelena’s time portal and have to figure out how to get back without setting off dire consequences in the timeline, and Emma has to figure out what exactly “home” is. Spoiler alert: only one of these 2 goals is accomplished. That ending! But first, remember the very sweet and fresh story of how Snow White and Prince Charming met in the first season? Well unfortunately, some of those details are about to get rearranged in a giant Captain Swan fan-service episode. Payoff is a lovely thing.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The arrival of Snow’s baby means that it’s time for Zelena to make her move. Emma finds herself backed into a corner while confronting Zelena, and the “mystery of Hook’s lips” is solved. In past Oz we learn how Zelena rose and fell from power, with a few iconic Wizard of Oz moments throw in for nostalgia’s sake. Then we have a final confrontation, character development (and arrested character development) and events set in motion by that will most likely change the course of the show.
To say a lot happens this episode is an understatement. Pretty much a checklist of everything we’ve been wondering since the second half of the season started is crossed off in rapid-fire fashion. We finally find out how the Wicked Witch can be defeated, along with how and who cast the dark curse again, and how Hook was able to restore Emma’s memories. Speaking of curses, Hook’s dilemma backfires on him in a showdown in which a bunch of memories are restored, and we take a lot of liberties with the rules of magic on this show. and there is scant time to process everything. Emma acts uncharacteristically harsh, but thankfully this is short-lived… for the most part. I’m expecting some recanting and apologizing next episode. (Pretty please?)
Every now and then, Once likes to remind us that it’s a family-friendly show by inserting a whole bunch of sexual references instead of stating it outright, and somehow that comes off a lot dirtier. The story of Zelena’s birth is revealed, and it is an unsurprisingly simple barhopping story of: boy meets girl, boy wants to sleep with girl so pretends he’s a prince, gets girl pregnant and then wants to blackmail her. Oldest trick in the book; no true love here. Also, the family tree becomes even more disturbing. But Regina and Snow finally address the giant elephant in the room of Cora’s death, somewhat glossed over last season after the duo who shall not be named joined the plot. But at least one of the ships this season moves forward, while the other is stuck in limbo.
Yo ho, yo ho, it’s an episode starring our favorite dashing rapscallion swashbuckling resident pirate Captain Hook. Ariel appears in Storybrooke suddenly, trying to find the whereabouts of her missing Prince Eric, while we flashback to Hook and Ariel’s adventure in the Enchanted Forest and Hook’s quest to reclaim his ship from the pirate Blackbeard, who like Rapunzel, is more of a cameo appearance for a fantasy historical character. Emma becomes Regina’s padawan in learning magic, and in a ridiculous minor plotline, Charming and Snow try to prove to Henry that they are as cool a babysitter as Hook is. But we have a major heartbreaking twist by the end with something that would have already been important if it happened becomes even more important.
David gets some character development this week as he confronts not only his guilt over abandoning Emma twice, but also his fear in raising his new child when he doesn’t know how to be a father. Meanwhile Emma is back in full sheriff mode with Hook, tracking down the Wicked Witch the old-fashioned way (or should magic be the real old “old-fashioned” way)? The main storyline with Zelena’s motivations slowly reveals itself, and although there are some nice moments, and a clever take on what the Wicked Witch is after, there was just a little something off about this whole episode after last week’s fantastic hour.