The midseason premiere of Once Upon A Timewas one of the more convincing arguments I've seen for the British system of television, in which an episodic series extends to only two seasons, three seasons at most, and is plotted as one concrete story with a beginning, middle and end — versus a half-formed premise that can be forced on and on long after the premise is exhausted and the series should no longer be running, but producers still keep it going because, hey, people are still watching, cynically flogging all meaning and worth out of once-beloved and formerly well-written relationships until the whole debacle is so irretrievably dead the world turns its eyes away in disgust.
Don't get me wrong. I have loved this show for a long time. It's occupied a vast portion of my mental real estate for what feels like a thousand years, but what are we watching? Regina (Lana Parrilla) falling back in love with a figment of Emma's (Jennifer Morrison) imagination. A grown puppet-man hauling a tree from the forest into his woodworking shop with just a chisel and turning it into an armoire in the space of mere hours. A woman who just met her fully-grown son days after his birth mincing around town in a rabbit fur coat. The timeline is as elusive as water, the characters as constant as fire. Also: just me, or did the Sheriff of Nottingham (Wil Traval) and Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) having more molten chemistry than a thousand high school lab experiments burning away on a thousand Bunsen burners?!?
On the other hand, you'd have to go pretty far to find a more well-funded theater of the absurd, and for that I will forever salute you, OUAT.
Perhaps I'm just being extra salty because it's an especially bitter pill for me that the last episode of OUAT I'll review (more on that in a second) was a Robin and Regina lovefest. But from the moment Regina scratched out a full page letter in cursive in .02 seconds I knew that's where this episode was headed: Bummer Town.
Regina couldn't go back to the Real World without knowing if Robin Hood would have been better off without her, so she tracked him down to the same tavern Tink had once led her to (they helpfully included a flashback of this moment; despite the fact the OUAT fandom is one of the smartest and most curious and picks up on clues and motifs like a legion of Miss Marples, they insist on spoonfeeding us like we're infants) and cleared the place out by walking inside.
Regina asked Robin if he was happy, he was like "yup," and then the Sheriff of Nottingham strode in and arrested them both and made things weirdly steamy. I know that the catastrophic OUAT: Wonderland made it so ABC will never green light an OUAT spin off again, but it's a shame because the Sheriff of Nottingham could keep me tuned in.
Elsewhere, Pinocchio man (Eion Bailey) was pretending like he could cut down a tree with a chisel.
Remember in Pride and Prejudice, when Mr. Darcy comically stumbled into through a time portal all drunk and unkempt and everyone was like "LOL ewww Mr. Darcy hahaha what an idiot!" Oh you don't? That's because actual romantic heroes are aspirational, or at least not plodding drunk buffoons. While Robin remained miraculously un-aged despite the time jump of Wish Alternate Reality Fairy Tale Land (something Regina hung a big old lampshade on that Emma dismissed as "well, we're living in a wish"), Old Killy was a gray-haired rapscallion with a big tummy who had to be knocked unconscious and spirited away by Emma so the scene could continue. Wish fulfillment for me, at least.
Meanwhile in Storybrooke, Belle (Emilie de Ravin) was confronting the fact that sending off her son with a fairy to have his best chance had actually ended up with him being tortured by an evil fairy for 20 years. Who could have seen that coming? It's not like Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) doing the exact same thing condemned baby Emma to a life of fleeing foster care and sleeping under bridges.
If this show has taught me one thing, it's hold onto your baby, no matter how dire the situation seems. Even if everyone in your palace is very worried, things CAN get worse. Anyway, Gideon (Giles Matthey) had decided to become a hero by killing Emma and inheriting her Saviour powers. I guess Saviour powers pass the same way has Dark One powers? Sure.
Gideon also remembered Belle somehow, from his gestational period I guess, and yet still liked her? I can't remember a single moment Belle was likable since he was conceived, but sure.
Rumple (Robert Carlyle) lost no time in challenging his long lost son to a slap-fight.
Hahaha never change, Rumple, never change.
Regina and Robin totally bonded in jail, even though this Robin was completely different. Like, he just straight-up stole from the poor and stuff. Regina's low self-esteem, as we have often discussed, is the real villain on this show. They bonded so much that when they returned to Pinocchio's wood shop Robin agreed to try and hop through the tree into another dimension, even though it could just instantly vaporize him or something.
Pinocchio quite astutely pointed out to Emma that if she left the sword in the alternate dimension, she wouldn't have to worry about being killed with it — but she had a great response, which was that literally the only thing driving the plot was her impending death. Can't argue with that.
So Emma and Regina popped out of the tree back in Storybrooke, but no Robin. I was about to crack some champagne when suddenly he popped out of the tree anyway, and a wave of pure relief washed over me that I am no longer obligated to watch this show.
So then Emma faced off with Gideon in the deserted main street of Storybrooke, and they froze everybody so they couldn't interfere, but then she believed in herself so hard she totally overcame him and almost cut his throat in the middle of the street in a small Maine town?
Gideon spirited himself out of there, and then hilariously Belle kind of just minced away like all of this somehow wasn't her fault, LOL. "Whoooops my homicidal son from the future is trying to kill your daughter for no reason ha ha ha off to read a book!" Never change, Belle, never change.
OK. So. Like I said, I'm no longer going to be recapping this show or any show for a while, which part of me can barely imagine because I haven't missed an episode of OUAT in SIX YEARS. And I have absolutely no regrets because I have met so many cool, smart, and truly special people by covering OUAT, and I want to thank all of you who have read my rants.
I will continue to rant about TV and other things, and if you're at all interested in that you can follow my Twitter (@lilyroro), and thank you times one million for being one of the illuminating sparks of understanding that has collected around this show in a swan-shaped constellation and banished so much of the dark, cold abyss of post-modern life. One of the most genuinely valuable aspects of TV is the context it provides to create weird, specific inside jokes with people you've never met, and in that sense OUAT has been a magical gift to the universe and to my life indeed, and I will forever need to talk about the greatest love story that never was with all of you.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.