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Sunday, May 4, 2014

ONCE UPON A TIME is "A Curious Thing"

Article originally written for Seat42F.



This week’s ONCE UPON A TIME on ABC, titled “A Curious Thing,” is the Big Reveal episode in which we find out who enacted the latest Dark Curse to bring everyone back to Storybrooke and why. It’s also the hour in which the curse is lifted and a mini-showdown with the villain is had. So it’s action-packed and full of plot twists.

It makes sense to start in the Enchant Forest during the missing year when talking about “A Curious Thing.” Our heroes know that Zelena (Rebecca Mader) wants Snow’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) baby for her end game and are clueless about how to stop her. After learning from Belle (Emilie de Ravine) that Rumple (Robert Carlyle) has been resurrected, they break into Rumple’s castle to see if he can help them. Rumple is nuts, though, so his words seem like ramblings.

There is just enough sanity leaking through from Rumple to provide a clue as to who might be able to offer assistance – Glinda the Good (Sunny Mabrey, The Client List). Snow, Charming (Josh Dallas), and Regina (Lana Parrilla) set off to find her at once. Glinda, however, can’t defeat Zelena, telling them that they need someone who is very powerful, full of light magic. Meaning they need Emma (Jennifer Morrison).

Unfortunately, the only way to get Emma back is to enact a new Dark Curse. Regina can’t do it, as Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) is whom she loves most and he isn’t in the realm. So the task falls to Snow, who must kill Charming, her true love. He willingly sacrifices himself for their baby, but before the curse can sweep over the land, Zelena shows up and drops in a potion that will wipe all of their memories (she herself has a brew to protect her own mind). Thus, we have the Storybrooke of these most recent episodes.

Of course Emma is the Savior again. She is always the one needed, a baby born of pure love. Emma is always the key to everything in ONCE UPON A TIME, so it’s not a big surprise that her family needs her again to save the day.

It is troubling, though, that Snow has it in herself to cast the Dark Curse. After all, she’s supposed to be the truly good person, and while she’s flirted with darkness in the past, it has never suited her. Still, the way the writers carefully handle the situation, making it all about love, not evil, protects Snow’s character as it unfolds.

Is it a little too easy that Snow can have Regina split her heart so that Charming can live? Yes. It seems more like the type of plot twist invented after the fact. Having written themselves into a corner, the scribes come up with this clever contrivance to keep the story going as they have it. It works, but it’s also slightly disappointing, a little bit too easy. Though, to be fair, with only three hours left, ONCE UPON A TIME doesn’t have time to stretch out Charming’s peril.

In Storybrooke, Emma, Snow, Charming, and Regina come to the conclusion that Henry’s memories must be revived to break the curse and restore everyone else’s. For some reason, only Snow can find the magic storybook, looking in a place Emma just searched. That bit is weird, but “A Curious Thing” doesn’t have time to delve into it, racing to get the book into Henry’s hands.

Meanwhile, Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and Smee (Christopher Gauthier) are trying to spirit Henry out of town because Zelena has vowed to kill the boy if Hook doesn’t kiss Emma and take away her powers. Zelena and her monkeys act to prevent the escape, but only Emma showing up and using her magic can drive off the Wicked Witch… for now.

Hopefully Emma will get over being mad at Hook. While Hook should have told her what is going on, at least he does his best to protect her son, proving he’s a noble man, which, funnily enough, confuses Smee. And while no one trusts Hook because they didn’t send him to find Emma and he insists they did, it will have to come out that Neal (Michael Raymond-James) is behind that development eventually.

Does it bother anyone else that, during the battle, the good guys are killing flying monkeys left and right? These are their friends, like Little John, Aurora (Sarah Bolger), Phillip (Julian Morris), and others! Our heroes know that Zelena curses people into being monkeys. Shouldn’t they be attempting less lethal means in the hopes that once Zelena is defeated her victims can be restored?

Henry is super confused by the monkeys’ appearance, but touching the story book restores his mind. Soon after, Regina plants True Love’s Kiss on his forehead, and everyone remembers everything. Again, this all seems just a little too easy, but given the pacing of “A Curious Thing” and how little time is left in the season, it’s necessary to move past it. I’d rather they go a little fast that too slow right at this juncture.

It’s great that Regina is the one who kisses Henry and breaks the curse. This only reinforces her redemption arc. In fact, everything about Regina in this hour, including what is going on in the past, screams that she’s a good guy now. She’s put her evil ways behind her and is happily in love with Robin Hood (Sean Maguire). Might this be enough to make her magic light, combining with Emma to defeat Zelena?

There have been more interesting character-driven episodes of ONCE UPON A TIME, but in terms of moving along the current story, “A Curious Thing” is a solid hour, full of revelations and run-ins. It’s exciting enough to get past a couple of little gripes about a too-easy solution, and overall, I really enjoyed it.

ONCE UPON A TIME only has two weeks left in its third season. Tune in Sundays at 8 p.m. ET for the conclusion.

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