Monday, April 28, 2014
ABC's "Once Upon a Time": thoughts on the episode "A Curious Thing" (OAD 4/27/14)
My favorite network TV show that's still on-air is ABC's "Once Upon a Time." It's a really clever play on the old fairy tales that we all grew up with as kids, transposed into a modern setting. (The premise is much like the graphic novel series Fables, which I tried and didn't quite like nearly as much.)
The most recent episode, "A Curious Thing," is a textbook example of what I love about the show. This is the third season, and it was split into a fall arc and a spring arc. The fall arc took place mostly on Neverland and threw viewers a twist where Peter Pan was the arch-nemesis. The spring arc has involved Zelena aka the Wicked Witch from "The Wizard of Oz" as the antagonist. And she is quite the antagonist, seemingly possessing more powerful magic than even that of Regina aka the Evil Queen from "Snow White" (the season 1/2 antagonist, who's going through an arc of redemption).
Halfway through season 3, the fairy tale characters returned to the Enchanted Forest, and Emma Swan and her son Henry returned to our world, only to brought back by Captain Hook. By back, I mean back to "Storybrooke," the charming town in Maine where the fairy tale characters were transported at the beginning of the series, with no memory of their past until the end of season 1.
In other words, the second half of season 3 effected a reboot. Once again, the fairy tale characters forgot what happened during the year that bridged the gap between the half seasons. Viewers got to see flashbacks to that time in the Enchanted Forest, but those memories were denied the characters. The immediate mysteries were (1) who cursed them back to Storybrooke; (2) what did that person want; and (3) why are there flying monkeys(!) in Storybrooke?
By yesterday's episode, the characters have learned that Zelena is their foe, that she is more powerful than Regina, that she has captured Rumplestiltskin aka the Dark One (until now, seemingly the most powerful magic user) and bent him to her will, and that she intends to go back in time to change the past. Oh, and that she's Regina's older half-sister.
"A Curious Thing" answered a lot of lingering questions. We discovered that Zelena did not cast the curse than returned everyone to Storybrooke -- rather, Snow White did(!). While they were back in the Enchanted Forest, Snow White and Prince Charming learned from Glinda aka the Good Witch about Zelena's time-travel plans and that only white magic could stop her. (This also explained why Regina was so helpless against Zelena, as Regina's magic is very very dark.) Yea, Emma aka Snow and Charming's daughter, is a source of white magic. Unfortunately, Emma wasn't in the Enchanted Forest. So Snow had to curse them all so that Zelena would be in the same world as Emma. Unfortunately, Zelena showed up and while she couldn't stop the curse from taking effect, she added a forgetfulness potion to it . . . which is why no one in Storybrooke could remember the past year.
Back in Storybrooke, the characters realized that they needed to get Emma's son Henry to remember the magic in Storybrooke -- in other words, to believe. And then the forgetfulness curse was broken when Regina kissed Henry.
Regina? Oh yeah, during season 1, we saw that Regina had adopted Henry from babyhood (when Emma, who was in prison for felony theft, gave him up after birth), and though she was the Evil Queen, she did love Henry. Her kiss was a true love (obviously not romantic love, but motherly love) that broke the curse.
I loved the symmetry of this episode with the season 1 arc. Back then, 10-year-old Henry spent the entire season trying to convince Emma that magic was real and that the inhabitants of Storybrooke were really fairy tale characters, and it wasn't until deep into the season that she believed him. There were many cute scenes of Emma placating Henry when he beseeched her about how he wasn't crazy ("Okay, kid"). It was thus Emma's kiss to a comatose Henry (who had bitten a poisoned apple pie baked by Regina) that broke the curse and restored everyone's memory, because it symbolized her complete re-unitance with her long lost birth son.
The tables were turned last night, with Emma having to persuade Henry that magic was real, etc., and her having to beseech him ("Kid, do you trust me?"). And it made sense that it was Regina, not Emma, whose kiss to Henry mattered now, because until their return to Storybrooke, Henry had been living with Emma, not Regina. For this half season, Storybrooke Regina has been heartbroken that Henry doesn't remember the 10 years that she raised him, and thus, her kiss to Henry (once he regained his full memories) symbolizes their re-unitance.
Three more episodes remain -- one next Sunday, and then two the following Sunday. The curse has been broken, but Zelena is still moving forward with her time-travel plan. And she can still turn people into flying monkeys(!), so there's a lot of suspense left in the half season. Can't wait to see how it turns out!