Monday, May 12, 2014

ABC's "Once Upon a Time": thoughts on "No Place Like Home" (season 3 finale)

Wow, my favorite current TV show, ABC's "Once Upon a Time," had a two-hour season finale last night. Let's get to talking about it!


At the end of the previous episode, Wicked Witch Zelena had been defeated by Regina's surprising use of white magic. Instead of killing her, though, Regina stripped Zelena of her pendant of power, and the Storybrooke residents locked her in jail, where she was subsequently murdered by Runplestiltskin. Upon dying, Zelena turned to glass, and then shattered.

However, her death somehow triggered the time travel spell that she'd been working on during her time in Storybrooke, and when Emma Swan and Captain Hook ended up near the barn where Zelena had been defeated, they saw a column of light shooting straight up in the air. Demonstrating that he was possessed of more wisdom than Emma, Hook suggested getting away, but Emma paused before agreeing. That pause was enough to get them sucked up by the vortex inside. Hook might have been able to save himself but once Emma was swallowed up, he said, "When am I going to stop chasing that woman?" and let himself be swallowed as well....

.... and they ended up back in the Enchanted Forest, in the past, just before Snow White met Prince Charming. And the encounter that should have taken place (which we saw back in season 1), didn't happen, because Emma accidentally broke a branch on the ground, which distracted Snow, causing her to fall and miss out on stealing the pouch in the royal carriage (which was why Charming chased her down in the original timeline).

You get the idea. This episode was "Once Upon a Time" meets Back to the Future -- and the writers acknowledged as much when Emma makes a "Marty McFly" reference, which completely baffles Hook. After a series of misadventures, Emma and Hook manage to reset the timeline, and with some grudging help from Rumplestiltskin, are able to return to their time, with one change, which is that Emma rescued a woman from the Evil Queen's dungeon and brought her with them.

Near the end of the episode, David/Charming and Mary-Margaret/Snow have named their new baby Neil, in honor of Rumple's son/Henry's father/Emma's ex-lover. Emma learns that Hook traded his pirate ship, The Jolly Roger, to get a magic bean so that he could travel to New York to find her (at the end of season 2), and she opens up to him. Regina is seen walking happily with her true love as foretold by Tinkerbell, i.e., Robin Hood, and Rumple and Belle get married. Seems like a happy ending for everyone, right?

Not so fast. Remember the woman that Emma saved? It turns out that she's Marian, and Robin Hood reunites with her, leaving Regina emotionally crushed. Yeah, that's not good.

Oh, and Regina's hissed warning that she hoped Emma didn't bring anything else back proved prophetic, as the last scene revealed some blue liquid gathering in the barn, much like the liquid metal terminator from "T2: Judgment Day," assuming female form. Which freezes the ground she walks on.



* This finale had a strange feeling to it, as the climactic battle against Zelena already took place; and while the time travel storyline was there to set up next season's Frozen arc, it seemed to be a quick wrap-up for what could have been a longer and thornier problem (i.e., how do Emma and Hook avoid messing things up?).

* I have to say, if I'm in Storybrooke, a place where magic is real, and I see something that looks like a column of fire erupting from the spot where an incredibly powerful witch was just vanquished, I don't think marching toward it is the right call. At least, not without the Evil Queen and/or Rumplestiltskin, among others.

* I didn't freeze-frame the Enchanted Forest scenes to see if I could tell whether they were the original (i.e., season 1) scenes, or whether they were reshot. (Back to the Future 2 involved time travel to the future, and then back to the past, and the "current" Marty McFly had to reset the past timeline the way he did in the first movie, only this time he had to do it without interacting with his past self. To film these scenes, the producers had to reshoot the scenes from the original movie.) My best guess is that some of the scenes were original footage, and some were reshoots. I'm basing this on the fact that in some scenes, Ginnifer Goodwin's (who plays Snow) face, looks like it's from her post-pregnancy state during the current season, while in others, her face looks leaner.

* Once Emma and Hook realize they're in the past, Hook emphasizes the need to avoid doing anything to change the past, as that could have dire consequences on the future (i.e., their present). Yet, one of the first things Hook does is steal local clothing for Emma. Isn't that going to have some not-insignificant impact on the past, as some poor family is now going to have to figure out how to come up with money for more clothes?

* Interesting that Emma took "Princess Leia" as her pseudonym in the past, as Hook was definitely giving off a Han Solo vibe in this episode. (Or maybe it's because I've been listening to the original radio broadcast of the Star Wars trilogy on my smartphone while running.)

* I wonder if the writers will be showing more impact of Emma's and Hook's trip to the past during season 4. True, they did reset the original timeline with regard to Snow and Charming, but there should be ripple effects from the stolen clothing to the confusion that Smee felt upon seeing past-Hook step on the ship when he thought present-Hook was already in the cabin to the public "immolation" of Snow by the Evil Queen (avoided only because Snow used dark fairy dust to turn herself into a ladybug before the fireball blasted her) -- on the last point, wouldn't the Evil Queen's minions wonder about her powers when they saw her kill Snow, only to find out later that she failed? Obviously, the main ripple is the love triangle of Robin Hood-Marian-Regina, but hopefully that won't be the only one. (One of the best depictions of time travel paradoxes and their effects on the time traveler is the episode "A Stitch in Time" from the reboot of "The Outer Limits.")

* Talk about chutzpah.... After seeing Robin Hood run over to embrace Marian, heartbroken and angry Regina hisses at Emma, "You're just like your mother, never thinking about consequences!" Emma is too shell-shocked to say anything in response, but what she should have done is ask Regina whether the right thing to do would have been to let the Evil Queen (in the past) murder her future romantic rival....

* At least, I think Marian is a future rival. I'm a little hazy on the timeline and too lazy to reconstruct it properly, but I believe Tinkerbell showed Regina her true love in the bar before Robin Hood met Marian. Actually, I don't think we know when Robin Hood met Marian, but judging from their son, I'm guessing it's after Regina walked away from the bar. If I'm right, the writers have left themselves an out in that Regina can still be Robin Hood's true love, with Marian being the substitute. So maybe Marian will sacrifice herself, or be frozen, or something.

* Entertainment Weekly has a bunch of good questions about the Frozen connection.

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