Once Upon a Time Season 3.21 and 3.22 Review: Snow Drifts and There’s No Place Like Home
May 11, 2014 – ABC
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there! Tonight you got one hell of a present: a double dose of Once finale. And what a present it was! Between “Snow Drifts” and the aptly named “There’s No Place Like Home,” Once delivered a joyful romp through stories past that reminded Emma and the viewers what home truly is. For the first time in a long time, the spirit that made Once so wonderful in the beginning shone through with a vibrancy that could not be denied. Every moment was a delight. Every quip was funnier; every emotion was more meaningful. Re-experiencing the first moments was a gift to fans of every kind that hopefully made everyone believe in magic again (without needing an inspirational speech from Henry, which is always a plus!).
Eighteen years ago, in a group home in Boston, Emma had to watch as yet another child was adopted. “Don’t worry, you’ll find a home too, Emma,” one of the caretakers comforted. Of course, eighteen years later, an adult Emma is still searching, even when her son seems to have found his own home in Storybrooke. When Henry comes to her with apartment ideas, she deflects and chooses to focus on her new brother who still does not have a name. Apparently the name will be revealed during an FTL tradition: a coronation ceremony. Or at least, the Storybrooke version: a potluck at Granny’s.
Elsewhere, Robin and Regina have a romantic fireplace picnic now that her heart is in the right place. “I just never thought I’d have this,” she remarks quietly. For the both of them, this is a second chance at love, and it looks magical. Regina finally tells Robin of their first almost meeting. “Maybe things all work out how they’re supposed to. Maybe it’s all about timing,” he observes. I love how Robin brings out the soft side of Regina. They are such a lovely couple, and the timing really does seem to be working for them.
At Gold’s shop, Rumple hides away the real knife just before Belle walks in with her fake. She is looking for a safe place to stash it, afraid of its supposed power. Rumple insists it’s not a danger because he trusts her. With every lie he tells her, I get more and more upset. They were the first couple I was really invested in, and after all the time they have spent apart, I just want him to let her in completely and erase all potential drama. They deserve true happiness. At the very least, he should have allowed her to hide the knife to convince her that it is the real deal. His nonchalance does not really sell the charade. And I still don’t think her purse is a safe place to keep a knife. Even without magical powers, wouldn’t it be sharp? Or dangerously pointy?
Back at the “coronation celebration,” Snow and Charming reminisce about their rocky relationship via Henry’s book. We are reminded that Kathryn (David/Charming’s former betrothed) is still in Storybrooke along with Ruby. Remember Ruby? She used to be Snow’s best friend until she disappeared for the entire Zelena ordeal. Kathryn hasn’t been seen for even longer, but now they are back for the big day. Let’s now question it too deeply, shall we?
The party is interrupted when Hook accidentally spills the beans about Emma’s plans to return to New York, and everyone immediately gets up in arms. Emma runs because that is what she does whenever anything good or bad or even neutral happens, and Hook goes after her because that is what he does when Emma runs. He brings Henry’s book with him and tries to remind her of her family and everything she would leave behind in Storybrooke. But Emma doesn’t see her family in the book. She sees fairy tales. That is not her life. She has never been and never will be a princess. What it comes down to is something she was once told: “Home is the place that when you leave, you just miss it.” She has never felt that way, so she is going to keep searching. Why she can’t see that Henry could be her home and that she could find her happiness wherever he finds his home, I do not understand. Even though I hate the kid, I recognize that he is often the poorly delivered voice of reason. Either way, talks of home are cut short when Emma sees the beam of light in the sky. Zelena’s portal is active, and in typical Emma fashion, she runs toward danger. Hook runs after. They get too close, and Emma gets sucked in. Hook plays hero and follows. That’s pretty romantic, in its own way.
A Costly Mistake
They end up in FTL in the past, back when Snow was an outlaw. This poses a major problem. Any minor change in the past could have catastrophic repercussions in their future, including but not limited to Emma never being born. Luckily, the book came with, because now they have a handy-dandy guide for what is supposed to happen. What follows is a bunch of hilariously exchanges between the pair. Between Emma trying to explain to Hook what Back to the Future is, to Emma seeing Regina in Evil Queen mode for real, to Hook getting Emma into period appropriate attire and enjoying the view a bit too much. The back-and-forth between Hook and Emma quickly became one of my favorite parts of the show (in addition to Regina’s spot-on quips), and FTL seemed to bring out the best in them. They actually get along for the sake of the better good, and getting along never looked better on them.
Emma in particular benefits from being in FTL. She gets to witness first hand the moment when her parents first met. This was exactly what Emma needed to feel like a part of the family. The fairytales were just stories to her; now they can become real. The awe in Jennifer Morrison’s eyes was perfect in portraying the importance of the moment. Too bad Emma’s unintentional movement alerts Snow, causing her to fall from her perch, and ruining any chance at the outlaw robbing the yoral carriage passing through. Past irrevocably changed as Charming and his fiancé continue on to their new castle without ever meeting Snow. Apparently all is not lost and they still have a chance to course correct. If not, Emma would have blinked from existence that very moment.
Too bad that history has been rewritten enough for the book to become completely useless. They need to get history back on track and get Snow to steal Kathryn’s ring. If they can do that, Rumplestiltskin can use a wand to reopen their portal and send them back. Luckily, Snow cannot get passage with Blackbeard without selling the ring to gain the money. A new captain could help her given the proper incentive, and Hook is willing to impersonate himself to get the job done. Emma gets the wonderful job of distracting his former self long enough to manage the charade. I don’t know what I love better, Emma plying the former Hook with drink after drink while he falls more and more for her or current Hook punching out his former self after the man gets the privilege of kissing the woman he loves. The whole sequence was just beautifully done. Luckily, Emma gave Hook enough time to convince Snow that if she steals the ring, he will provide her the trip out of town she seeks. History reset, right?
Not quite. Rumple thinks that they should not leave things to chance. In fairy godmother style, Rumple gives Emma and Hook clothes for the big ball so they can keep an eye on things. Emma quickly goes from trying to blend out to standing out in a floor length red ball gown. Luckily Rumple provides a glamour as well so that no one of importance will remember her face. Hook gets to put his gentlemanly skills to use and whirls Emma around the dance floor. Or I should say Prince Charles and Princes Leia dance the night away, as those are the best aliases they could come up with at the time. Again, so many wonderful moments of comedy and emotion that I truly cannot chronicle them all.
Upstairs, Charming finds Snow stealing the ring and vows to find her again. Snow escapes, but she drops the ring in the process; Emma must return it to her, but so much for keeping a low profile! She gets “arrested” with ring in hand when Regina’s soldiers report to the Evil Queen that this stranger had a hand in Snow’s escape.
Back when Neal first met Emma in Portland in 2001, he very vaguely told her about his troubled past with his family. But even with the problems, there were good memories before it all went bad. He was the one to tell Emma about what home truly is, of course. He is also the one who taught her how to pick locks, which will know come in handy.
In the jail cells, Emma meets a woman she wanted to save the previous day. Hook stopped her because if this woman died, she must stay dead to preserve the future. Who is she? It might not matter; everyone will be executed the next day. Emma and her new friend talk about family before Emma remembers how Neal taught her to pick locks. Can Emma leave her friend, or will she risk changing time once more? Who bet on the latter? The two run away from their cells and straight into a rescue party composed of Charming, Hook, and Red. Again, she’s here, and she is useful!
Upstairs, Snow confronts Regina and uses her magic weapon to no avail. Captured, Regina decides to take no chances and orders her executed that very night. From a castle window, Emma sees her mother burned alive at the stake. I forgotten until that moment that I had heard there would be a burning in the finale. Never did I imagine it would have been Snow. Of course there is a way around it, because Emma still exists, but for a moment, the emotion hits the Savior hard. I can imagine seeing your mother die like that would mess you up a bit, especially if it should invalidate your entire existence. Because of the emotional response, it takes Emma a bit too long to realize just that. She is still alive, which means Snow is still alive. Apparently a little left over dark fairy dust turned Snow into a bug just in time for her to escape. The Blue Fairy (who can see past Hook and Emma’s disguises) makes an appearance in time to return Snow to her true form. In keeping with the past, she steals Charming’s ring for real and disappears into the forest with him in pursuit.
Things are still in danger because Snow has already used her fairy dust, which got them out of trouble at the troll bridge. Hook and Emma to the rescue once more? Not needed. Snow turns around to save Charming and bluffs her way out of a confrontation. From the bushes, Emma and Hook spy on her parents and see history as it should have happened. “It’s ok, Swan,” Hook comforts as Emma’s eyes fill with tears, “Not everyone gets to watch their own parents fall in love.” The book fills in with the future as it should happen, and all is well. Except don’t forget about the woman Emma saved. To keep the past the same, it should be as if she truly died that next morning. They decide the only way to make that happen is to take her with them into the future. Problem solved!
With the future back on track, Hook and Emma return to Rumple to make their way home. Too bad Rumple cannot reopen the portal. Apparently only the ones who went through the portal can use the wand to reopen it, and Emma cannot wield magic. Given the threat that they pose to his future, Rumple stores them in his doorless vault, where Rumple stores everything he is too scared to touch. There Hook gives Emma a pep talk to see if they can get her magic back. Apparently she doesn’t need one. Seeing her mother die was all she needed to realize that she had already found her home, and Henry was the one pointing her to it all along. “I didn’t see what he was doing. He wasn’t bringing me back to break a curse, he was bringing me home.” Emma’s parents are her home. Storybrooke is her home. With this realization, Emma’s magic ignites the wand, and she reopens the portal. Hook jumps through with their “captive,’ but Rumple appears to stop Emma from following. He needs to know more about Bae. Emma tells the truth, breaking Rumple’s heart and the viewers’ in the progress. “He died a hero, you can’t take that away from him!” she begs. Rumple lets her go and takes a memory potion to protect him from knowing too much of his own future. Emma flies through the portal, and the whole ordeal comes to an end.
In the aftermath, Emma returns to her mother and father and finally gives in to the idea of having a real family. We learn that our little prince will be called Neal. Damn it. More tears. So very predictable, but with all of the emotional material that we had previously slogged through, my eyes were primed. Seeing Rumple’s teary eyes at the name certainly didn’t hurt either. Follow that up with a Rumbelle wedding in the woods and the revelation that Hook traded his ship for a magic bean to get to Emma and you get the perfect happy ending complete with some passionate kissing on multiple fronts. In fact, if the episode were to end at this moment, every single one of our four main couples would be happy. Of course, that would be an extremely boring place to start season four.
Trouble In Paradise
My initial thought was that the woman Emma brought back would be the next season’s big bad. She seems innocuous enough for now, sure, but we all know how quickly a character can turn on Once. In some respects, I was not wrong. Though the woman could be innocence herself, she is the most evil thing that Regina could encounter, because Emma brought Robin’s lost love back from the dead. That’s right, Maid Marian is alive, and Regina is none too happy. “You’re just like your mother, never thinking of consequences,” she tells Emma with a bit of venom tempered with heartbreak. It slays my heart to see Regina’s happiness put in danger. I have always rejoiced when her character arc has swerved into good territory, and anything that threatens to send her screaming back to the bad side has me gritting my teeth. Although I hate to see her in pain, I am hoping she chooses to wallow in heartbreak rather than focusing on revenge. It would be new to see Regina indulging in an entire gallon of Haagen Daaz instead of baking a few toxic apple pies.
If that were not enough, Hook and Emma brought something else through the portal. Out of an urn comes an ice queen. Hello, Elsa. Ok, so it might be the original ice queen, which is most likely given that she was not a nice lady, but the styling is pure Frozen. I can’t imagine Elsa ever doing anything that would hurt Storybrooke intentionally, so some twisting of the new or old fairytale must be in order. Given the world’s (and my) obsession with the hit Disney movie, this addition could either be pure genius or complete and utter mistake. Who will be tuning in next season to see how it pans out?
Unlike last season’s finale, where I knew exactly where things would go, this year there is a bit more ambiguity. With the big bad being in Storybrooke, will we even have flashbacks? And what will happen to our happy pairs? With Outlaw Queen threatened and Rumbelle hiding a major lie, surely things cannot remain all rosy with Captain Swan, especially given their rocky past. I, for one, will still be along for the ride.
Quotes of the Night
“That’s a good thing, because if that Sleeping Beauty had been a monkey a day longer, she would have had a monkey baby. Wouldn’t want to change those diapers!” – Grumpy to Granny re: the Wicked Witch’s demise:
Hook: “No, Swan. The safety first nonsense is just that. You defeated the bloody Wicked Witch. You defeated Pan. You broke the curse. But you keep running. What are you looking for?”
“We could have appeared in the middle of the ogre wars. Or smack dab in the belly of a whale.” – Hook, looking on the bright side.
“On the bright side, I’m sure real estate is much more reasonable here.” – Hook again, the optimist.
Emma: “How would I know how to get back to the future? Who do I look like, Marty McFly?” Hook: “Marty McWho?… is he some kind of wizard?”
“She’s even worse without the sensible pantsuits.” – Emma on the differences between Regina and the Evil Queen.
“Your discomfort is a cross I’m willing to bear.” – Hook on Emma’s corset.
Hook: “Let’s just say we buried the hatchet.”
Rumple: “Yes, but why not in your skull?”
“Making sure he stays occupied. It shouldn’t be difficult. We both know I’m his type.” – Emma on charming the Captain Hook of the past.
“I’m not so sure her parents’ approve of me.” – Hook to an oblivious Prince Charming on why he and Emma are not together.
“At least he did us one favor. I’m devilishly handsome again.” – Hook, still looking for the silver lining.