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ONCE UPON A TIME There Was a Lousy Magic Reset Button

Episode 311 “Going Home”

Well, that happened.

The mid-season finale has come and gone, and has finally wrapped up the Peter Pan arc that’s been wasting so many episodes this season. It’s something we’ve discussed behind the scenes during our sessions recording Level Eleventy-Seven, in which several of us have noted — on more than one occasion — that Peter Pan just never felt like a credible threat to anyone.  And once everyone made it back to Storybrooke, it was (thankfully) relatively simple to defeat this brat and get on with a new story arc.

Frankly, this episode felt more like a drawn-out denouement than it did a full-blown episode, but that’s just the way things have been going this season — lots of filler and backstory to make one single present day scene have any meaning. Which, to me, is trite and contrived.

The essential nuggets: Pan’s unleashed the curse, which is going to evade the escape clause because there’s no “saviour” safety mechanism built into it now that it’s been used already. With the curse taking its sweet time getting from the well to the center of town, everyone gets to stumble around and wrap up a lot of loose ends with a lot of talk and standing around in the middle of the street. And talk.

Tinkerbell gets her moment of redemption when she manages to use just that little bit of magic she has to capture Pan’s shadow. Destroying the shadow in a tiki torch inside the church, she also happens to save Blue Fairy — now not dead because Pan’s shadow has been destroyed. And because who else can rock that Blue Fairy corset? Hm?

Rumpelstiltskin confronts his pa after they manage to make the switcheroo and get him out of Henry’s body, but it backfires because of course it does. The anti-magic bracelet — who do you think made it? Oh, that’s convenient. If Rumple’s father made the thing, and Pan generally stayed on the island, then 1) how did Rumple get it in the first place, and 2) how did he not know who made it? This leads to a soap opera serious confrontation, where Rumpelstiltskin, sword in hand, looks like he’s about to cut off his own arm to get the anti-magic bracelet off.

But then suddenly he’s out on the street face-to-face with his father, and it looks like he’s still got both arms. What the what? Why show the sword and Rumpel looking at his arm if nothing’s going to happen? Chekhov’s Gun, writers!! Learn about it.

Now remember, the evil curse is still descending ever so slowly upon the town, giving our heroes time to watch Rumpelstiltskin summon his own shadow — along with the Dark One Knife — and kill his own father. Which destroys Rumpelstiltskin as well — how? That knife isn’t long enough to go through them both. And why would he need to stab both of them to destroy Pan? This scene — while it’s played very well by Robert Carlysle — makes no sense at all. It only serves to leave the audience asking whether Rumpelstiltskin will be back.  And of course, he will.

And now we can deal with the curse, which has politely waited until the third act to arrive, thus letting everyone get they’re affairs in order. This time, in order to avoid the terrible fate that awaits them, Regina has to reverse the curse. This will render Storybrooke and everyone that came over with it a non-happening, wiping the whole thing out from ever happening in the first place. Which means Emma won’t remember being the saviour, and Henry won’t remember being the son of the Evil Queen. Regina, in a last burst of redemption-seeking, gives Emma and Henry false memories of actually having a life together since his birth. And as they make their way out of Storybrooke, the cloud descends and takes everyone back to the Enchanted Forest.

And then they go and wreck it.

“One Year Later” is never a good thing to do, folks. Did we not learn anything from Alias jumping ahead two years? Hook shows up at Emma’s door in the big city. She, of course, has no idea who he is. True Love’s Kiss doesn’t restore her memory, meaning either Hook really doesn’t love her that much or magic is completely gone. And now we’re left wondering — what’s been going on the last year? How did Hook cross back over when it’s supposed to never be possible? And who did that lousy make-up job on the upcoming villain, the Wicked Witch of the West?

The idea of everyone being stuck back in Fairy Tale Land while Emma and Henry live in ignorance of the whole thing — that was intriguing to me. The least that could happen would be to let this play out a bit, with the two of them running across things in their lives that tweak an almost-memory, something that’s just barely on the tip of the tongue, and then gone. That, at least, would be a decent setup for the punchline we already got with Hook showing up on her door. Instead, we’ve skipped over the build-up completely and gone for the next cliffhanger gasp — because why?

[Official Show Site at ABC]     [Previous recap: “The New Neverland”]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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