Article originally written for Seat42F.
This week’s episode of ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME, entitled “Lily,” should be an exciting, awesome, come-together moment for the season. Instead, it is a mess, with plot holes galore and lots of things that don’t make sense. The problem with ONCE UPON A TIME, and this has been an issue for awhile, is that they come up great stories but fail to think them through. “Lily” is a prime example of that.
As the hour begins, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) embarks on a road trip to find her childhood friend, Lily (Agnes Bruckner, The Returned), who turns out to be Maleficent’s (Kristin Bauer van Straten) daughter (is this Disney Channel’s new Descendants series?). But Emma is really, really angry, the darkness that sprouted when she killed Cruella (Victoria Smurfit) taking root. So Regina (Lana Parrilla) offers to come along, helping Emma and picking up her in-danger love, Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), on the way home.
The thing is, Emma doesn’t have anything prompting the darkness within her to grow. The villains on the show go dark because they do something really bad, and keep making poor choices or pay a magical price. Emma kills Cruella through magic, sure, but to save Henry (Jared Gilmore), and then has no other tempting factors to drive her further onto the wrong side. If there were some sort of explanation offered, such as Emma doing bad breaks the spell that is supposed to keep her good and draws in all the bad she avoided earlier in life to make up for it, leeching it from Lily, who would turn good at the same time, that might be OK, but there isn’t.
Lily has a similar issue with darkness, always making bad choices. In flashback, young Lily (Nicole Munoz) finds young Emma (Abby Ross) again, but because she can’t stop lying and stealing, Emma sends her away. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Timothy Webber) tells Lily the truth behind why she can’t stop doing bad, darkness has been put within her magically, which makes more sense than what is happening to Emma. But then Lily never tracks Emma down again, despite living close to her in Massachusetts and the two being drawn together by fate? What? Really?
Emma finds grown-up Lily, who runs away and steals Emma’s car. But when Emma doesn’t shoot Lily, a very low bar of goodness, Lily goes along with Emma and Regina on the second leg of their journey quite cooperatively. No double-cross or trying to sneak ahead to kill Emma’s parents? No simmering anger at Emma for getting the good side of the magical deal? Why is Lily being so friendly?
Then, ONCE UPON A TIME gets to New York, where Robin at first doesn’t believe Regina, a woman he supposedly loves and trusts, then willingly expresses a desire to stay with Zelena (Rebecca Mader) just because she tricked him into impregnating her. Zelena is completely evil, and Robin’s just going to keep shacking up with her and expose his children, both the already-born one and the unborn, to her? Shouldn’t he be for capturing Zelena and then taking away the baby after its birth?
Worse than all of this, Belle (Emilie de Ravin) seems to have no clue that Regina has possession of her heart, something Belle agreed to, and then softens on Gold (Robert Carlyle) just because he gives it back. After Will (Michael Socha), not Gold, retrieves and brings the heart home, no less. We’re expected to believe that Gold saying he wants Belle to be happy is just going to turn her around, even after knowing all of the bad things he has been doing?
I love the friendship between Regina and Emma, and that part of “Lily” feels real to me. Emma has earned Regina sticking by her when she errs, even if Regina has shown reluctance to being buddies prior to “Lily.” But that is the only thing that feels right in the hour, everything else playing out with typical ONCE UPON A TIME disregard for established characters and arcs. It is extremely disappointing, especially as the program proved for awhile in the past that it could do much, much better.
ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.