Review ABC’s Once Upon A Time: “And Straight on Till Morning” (Season 2 Finale)

[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]

Season two of Once Upon a Time started off with the major shift of magic returning to Storybrooke, courtesy of Rumplestiltskin, as the curse was broken and everyone remembered their forgotten Fairy Tale Land identities. Come season three, Emma and her core team of family members/enemies won’t even be in Storybrooke. Here are some of my thoughts on the finale and its set-up for future changes yet to come this fall, which will inevitably include endings, but not necessarily of the “happily ever after” variety.

 

Likes:

Hook/Baelfire Connection Flashbacks

Hook and Baelfire

Hook and Baelfire sailing the “Jolly Roger”

  • I’m not yet sold on Neverland and Peter Pan, the villain, (more because Peter Pan’s “never grow up” mantra always had a certain appeal to me). Still, I guess it’s the price of allowing Hook to be heroic over pure villainous. You need that counterbalance between good and evil, and with Colin O’Donoghue being so brilliantly cast (which was clearly recognized fast since he was given the designation of full cast member before the season even started), it’s not a terrible cost, losing Pan to the ranks of evil. Playing the part with swashbuckling relish, Hook started off the season seeking revenge on Rumplestiltskin for killing the women he loved (who also happened to be Rumple’s runaway wife, Milah). Then he fell under the company of Evil Queen Regina’s eviler mother, Cora, and was overshadowed by her, acting as an errand boy of sorts, only to disappear for some episodes*. The finale allowed him to be back in his element, both sailing his ship and triggering a buried conscience due to his soft spot for my favorite male character**, Bae/Neal.*** After all, while the term “loner” is thrown at Hook a lot it’s clear that he also knows how to be a group player, and, occasionally, might be motivated to play his part for more reason than survival and duplicity.
Neal, pre-falling through portal to Fairy Tale Land

Neal, pre-falling through portal to Fairy Tale Land

While at the end of the episode he claims his search for revenge against Rumple has been dropped, I don’t believe his transformation has gone that far or drastic quite yet. He will not be able to forgive Rumple for what he did to Milah, and his revenge would more properly be declared as “on hold” or “standby,” for the sake of cooperating towards a shared goal of rescuing Bae’s son, Henry, who’s been kidnapped by Tamara and Greg and taken to Peter Pan in Neverland. That, or his “connection” with Henry’s mom, Emma,**** has weakened him…

  • As for Neal/Bae, it turns out he had a complicated childhood, one that never gave him the chance to settle down in one place for very long. We already knew Bae was Rumplestiltskin’s son, and that when he tried to convince his father to give up magic so they could be together, he ended up falling through a portal alone, Rumple for  the first time breaking one of his infamous unbreakable deals in not going with Bae as promised (season 1’s “The Return”). We then found out Bae and Neal were the same person in this season’s, “Manhattan,” a reveal ruined by the previews for the episode that inferred he would be the face behind the hoodie-wearing guy Emma was chasing in New York. Now we know that the original portal Bae fell into as a child dropped him off with the Darlings in London, and in saving Wendy Darling’s brother from he ended up stranded on Captain Hook’s pirate ship (where Hook made his own discovery of Bae being the son of his enemy and his love). Bae, in turn, angrily realizes Hook is his family’s home-wrecker and Hook responds rashly by relinquishing him to the Lost Boys. The Lost Boys deliver him to Peter Pan, but as it turns out he was not the boy Pan was searching for (the real target is Bae/Neal’s son, Henry, for reasons unknown) and now it’s unclear how Neal got from Neverland to America, where he eventually runs into Emma to become Henry’s father in the first place. Basically, Neal’s time line is not only pleasantly packed with surprises, but still unfinished, with mysteries left to solve that were not created out of gaining information at an agonizingly slow pace, but because there is apparently much to tell. For example, at the end of the penultimate episode of this season, “Second Star to the Right,” Neal is shot by (assumedly) ex-fiancée, Tamara and there’s no means for Emma to help him because he fell through yet another portal away from Storybrooke and back to Fairy Tale Land. The fellow can’t win (and hopefully he can’t die either).

 

Regina gets her chance to be the hero (and others witness it)

Regina saying “good-bye” to adopted son, Henry

  • In contrast to Neal’s growing difficulties, Regina may have made some progress towards renovating her public image. She keeps trying to be good, for adopted son Henry’s sake and her own, having never perceived herself as the “Evil Queen” but misunderstood. Her season goal to redemption, however, has been laced with pitfalls and reversions to her renowned reputation as pure bad. Here she gets her moment of glory, and no one can deny it of her. Was the trigger device that she was attempting to prevent from blowing up Storybrooke hers? Yes. Did she destroy all the portal-forming magic beans, giving evil humans Tamara and Greg all the power when they stole the last remaining beans from her? Yes. But she reveals a willingness to sacrifice her life to safe everyone else in town, and that’s an act most truly evil people aren’t willing to commit. She made mistakes, is acknowledging them, and trying to make up for them (only on a life-or-death scale, which is usually the way in fairy tale adventures).

 

Belle gets her memory back (FINALLY)

Belle and Rumple, Temporarily Reunited Credited ABC

Belle and Rumple, Temporarily Reunited

  • So long, Lacey. We barely knew ya and that’s alright. Memory loss is always a shaky addition to a show, a plot contrivance whose true nature of being a contrivance can be difficult to pull off as anything else. Because Belle was such a well-formed character on her own, I hated this unnecessary back tracking, where she forgot who she was only to have Regina provide her with the replacement personality of Lacey, who loved when Rumple beat guys up and was bored when he was kind. Reflective of how the curse’s Storybrooke personas were the antithesis of their Fairy Tale matches, such polar opposite mannerisms were alright when everyone wasn’t acting like themselves, but unnecessary when only one person suffers from forgetfulness and false identity, especially a person as spunky and sweet as Belle was.

 

* Have since read O’Donoghue broke his leg, so I’m not sure if that affected his number of appearances on the show or if all was according to plan

Ruby

** Ruby/Little Red Riding Hood gets the favorite female award but that unfortunately doesn’t help her get much story this season, except brief camera shots reminding us she still lives in the town. During season one the show included more one-off episodes that focused on single fairy tale characters, even those not part of the core hero/villain teams, and provided their back story (with a twist). This was fun for multiple reasons:

  1. You often weren’t positive of the Storybrooke character’s alter-Fairy Tale character ego
  2. Learning their dual personalities added to the multi-layer, big picture nature of the story, to show who these characters interacted with before the curse and how those relationships differed and carried on in Storybrooke
  3. Their origin stories created some fun mash-ups (like Red being close friends with Snow, two literary characters that live in separate worlds and never meet in their actual tales).

Dr. Whale/Frankenstein (played by David Anders, who was so slick when he was on Alias but comes off dweeby in this role) and August/Pinocchio got that focused treatment this year, but there’s little return back to the spotlight for others, like Red and the Dwarfs (specifically Grumpy) who shone when given the time to stand out earlier in the series run. Granted, season two’s twenty-two episodes were a great continuation on the first’s twenty-two, and I can’t say any time was wasted (I wouldn’t have wanted to drop any of the new tidbits we gained about the big name characters, like Regina/Evil Queen and Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin, either) but it’s just a shame that viewers can’t have it all.

*** He first appears in the flashback episode earlier this season, “Tallahassee,” which remains my favorite episode of the series overall.

**** About that connection: On the one hand, they do have on screen chemistry. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s difficult for Hook to have on screen chemistry with any actress. And there’s the whole Neal, father of Emma’s child and first love thing, which some fans seem to have moved on from. I loved Neal and Emma’s good-bye sequence, though. Correction: I didn’t like Neal falling through the portal and ending up in the no-longer-safe Fairy Tale Land with Mulan, Aurora, and Prince Philip (who I forgot turned out to be alive, so congratulations, Phil), but before he fell the couple admitted they still loved each other, and I like the whole vocalizing of affection. I know they didn’t really have to put their feelings into words, but it doesn’t hurt to, either. It takes away any doubts, comes off as a sweet moment, and, since he fell into the portal, the writers can keep them apart and not feel like their allowing fans to have their happy coupling too quickly, since complications seem to be the preferred state for television relationships (the “Moonlighting excuse”, as I like to call it).

 

~ SIDENOTE ~

  • Spin-off series Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, has officially been picked up by ABC. The bright side is the idea has been thrown around that the show would could air during Once Upon A Time’s hiatuses, time periods when most of regular television chooses to offer little in new content at the same time. As filler for some of that emptiness, this show is definitely one to look forward to. The catch is there’s no guarantee that Sebastian Stan (who played Jefferson/The Mad Hatter) will be part of it. Rather, “his busy schedule” has been thrown around a lot, and that’s fine, but then don’t make a spin-off series. Recasting is lame and to not include the Mad Hatter would be to not include one of the most colorful personalities in a naturally colorful land. Plus, this didn’t have to be a spin-off series but could have remained part of the original show, instead of evidently replacing Wonderland with Neverland… which gave us Hook so let’s keep Neverland ,but drop the evil Peter Pan plot, please!

Indeed, it’s just not right, seeing Neverland and its children inhabitants getting such dark connotations. How can they fly without happy thoughts? Will the kidnapped, Henry, separated from his parents, fare well doing something other than defend his mother (Emma’s) or adopted mother (Regina’s) decisions of the week? Is Peter Pan only a shadow now, or is there a boy behind the shadow who we haven’t met yet? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but it’s my belief that I would much rather have spent time learning who rules over Wonderland in Cora/The Queen of Heart’s stead, now that she’s been killed, over following this new storyline.

 

Dislikes:

Question about their original plan to stop the trigger device by throwing it into a portal

  • If evading the trigger device’s detonation in this way had prevented Storybrooke from being destroyed, wouldn’t another world have gotten blown up instead, the one that the device is sent to, forming a moral issue not fitting the usual “moral issue free” style of Team Good? Or is this a place-specific explosion?

 

Too many obvious details that our intelligent, clever characters inexplicably miss

Hook stole the magic beanHook and the Magic Bean

Am I wrong, but I saw this coming as soon as he willingly handed over the pouch that once contained the bean to Emma? And she’s supposed to have the super power of knowing when a person is lying!

 

Regina doesn’t have to stop Storybrooke, and everyone in it, from being destroyed alone

Emma’s magical abilities has already been acknowledged on the show, so why is it that no one thinks of her giving Regina a hand until the last minute, when Regina’s already exhausted and everyone’s under the impression that they’re about to die. Is this some kind of prejudice for Regina being the Evil Queen, because I thought we were supposed to put our biases aside in times of crisis?

 

If Charming and Snow stopped hugging for a moment, maybe they would have noticed Tamara and Greg kidnapping Henry

You know you’re being a bit obnoxious when you can’t even sail a ship into a portal to safe your grandson without holding onto a rope together, wrapped in each other’s comforting embrace.

Snow and Charming Hugging and Sailing the "Jolly Roger"
Snow and Charming hugging AND sailing the “Jolly Roger”

Truthfully, the fact that Tamara and Greg have been able to get away with all their plotting against these magic-wielding folks seems a tad absurd. I guess it would be an empowering “go humans”, “two people can make a difference”, sentiment, if these particular two people weren’t so despicable and unworthy of their success at evading consequence, but as is its baffling. And why is the same duo that claims they want to put a stop to magic willing to travel to Neverland? Either Henry was their end game all along, the magic-hating an act, or these two are very confused and conflicted about what they seek to accomplish in Storybrooke. There’s also the chance they have gone power mad like Rumple did when he first encountered magic as The Dark One, and are deciding their moves as they make them. If so, and they’re not following a well-thought out plan or a boss’ instructions, as claimed, then maybe they’ll make a mistake.

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As it stands, Emma, Snow, Charming, Hook, Rumple, and Regina are sailing to Neverland to rescue Henry from Pan and his Lost Boys. Neal (who may be dead or dying from his gunshot wound) is in Fairy Tale Land, and I’m curious to see where he ends up next. Belle is left behind in Storybrooke (under the pretense of having to cast a cloaking spell over the town to protect them from Tamara/Greg copycats), and while she should have been allowed to go with her just reunited with boyfriend, Rumple (having always shown a willingness and enthusiasm for adventure), the main cast being in Neverland should enable her and the more background characters to gain some attention again in season three. These are all intriguing developments, and it can never be said about Once Upon a Time season finales that they are unwilling to shake things up.
 

– screencaps from the web-site, Once Upon A Fan

 
 

Watch “And Straight on Till Morning”

 


 
Which character and/or land do you like best? Do you feel satisfied with the finale? What are your questions for the future? Post them in the comments below.
 

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