Once Upon Time Season 6 Review

  • Series Title: Once Upon a Time
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: ABC
  • Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Sean McGuire, Rebecca Mader
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD

I put off watching Once Upon a Time Season 6 for a very long time. I haven’t really been watching it as it airs for several seasons, and after Season 5 I think it just left a very bad taste in my mouth. However, season 6 was excellent! It was brilliant! And it was a return to the first season or two of Once Upon a Time. The season is not split into two distinct halves, but once more is a single story told over the entire season, with a unifying theme.

Season 6 of Once Upon a Time really does play out as a planned final season. The Land of Untold Stories and Aladdin are important influences, but this isn’t like seasons 5, 4 or 3 where there are two distinct plots in two distinct halves of the season. Rather, the arc plot is The Final Battle. There are also a lot of call backs to season 1 of Once Upon a Time. This season was so well-done and so circular back to the beginning (and perfectly done as well) that it makes you want to watch the entire series again. In that way, even though it’s television, is resembles a good novel.

The first episode of the season is extremely confusing, so much so, that I double-checked my DVD case to make sure I hadn’t accidentally grabbed the wrong disc. However, the second episode provides some much-needed exposition and from that moment the story flies along. The characters from “The Land of Lost Stories” arrive in Storybrooke, including Regina’s evil half, The Evil Queen, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There are some episodic tales of the Lost Stories characters where we learn that the characters who go to the Land of Lost Stories are the characters who didn’t get their happy endings – not because they were “evil” or “villains” but simply due to bad luck, or the actions of someone else. It other words, Lost Stories, are both depressing stories – and more like real life.

Regina’s evil half also is transported over to Storybrooke – where she does cause a lot of havoc. However, all our characters have grown and matured over the years – so now they no longer fall for the Evil Queens manipulations and tricks. They might briefly fall for it – but give someone a chance to think and they realize, “hey, two Reginas – that’s not the Regina she’s pretending to be”.  Meanwhile, Dr. Jekyll works with the town, and we learn the details of his story (it involves a woman named Mary – his love, whom he can barely speak to, who’s fridged – we think). Yeah, it’s that story again, but Once Upon a Time does give it a bit of spin. It turns out it was Dr. Jekyll who, albeit accidentally, kills Mary – and as he’s unable to deal with what he’s done, he blames Hyde. When Jekyll is killed – Hyde also disappears.  Regina discovers that if she gets hurt or if the Evil Queen is hurt – so is the other, and this extends to death – if they kill the Evil Queen she will die too. Regina briefly toys with the idea of committing suicide to stop the Evil Queen – but is talked out of it by the people around her.

Meanwhile, Belle is pregnant with Rumple’s child. Rumple goes to the land of Morpheus to wake her (Belle having been under a sleeping curse from last season). In the dream realm, he meets Morpheus, Gideon, their child. Gideon convinces Belle to not trust Rumple. Belle wakes – and tells Rumple she wants nothing to do with him, and she won’t let him near their child. Poor Rumple – all he wants is  second chance at a family. Rumble expresses anger and resentment at “the fairies” (such as Blue Fairy etc) but at first we don’t know why.  We learn the missing piece of his story. Belle is serving in his castle when Rumple brings her a baby to care for – a baby without a name. Belle is confused and angered by this, reading Rumple’s contract with the parents. Rumple takes the child to the Black Fairy who takes children, babies, away to a place where they will be tortured. Rumple doesn’t want to turn over babies to the Black Fairy but he has no choice. And we find out the Black Fairy is Rumple’s mother, who gave him up, without giving him a name. Rumple ended-up in the care of his father, who names him Rumpelstiltskin. His father blames him for losing Fiona, his mother. But Fiona had read a book of prophecy which was “good news/bad news” – her son was destined to be “the Savior” – and the Savior always dies. Fiona studies fairy lore, tricks Belle into translating an spell for her, and turns herself into a fairy. She starts developing the Dark Curse – the same curse the Evil Queen would cast on the Enchanted Forest to send everyone to Maine (the Land Without Magic). Blue Fairy and Tiger Lily (from Neverland – which we briefly revisit) try to stop Fiona. But Fiona takes a pair of shears, Shears of Fate that can separate a person from their destiny. Fiona cuts the ribbon that links baby Rumple to his destiny as a hero. This single act turns her into the Black Fairy, and creates the Rumple that we know. The Black Fairy then steals children. Children Rumple gets for her. These children end up in her realm where they are tortured and made miserable.

Meanwhile, Belle’s pregnant, and the Evil Queen slips her a potion to speed-up her pregnancy. Belle jumps to the conclusion that Rumple did this to her. She again swears she won’t be with Rumple – and she won’t let Rumple have anything to do with her child. But she names the child, Gideon, as in her dream, names his godparents, and then – hands the child over to the Blue Fairy to watch over, which of course was precisely what Rumple didn’t want to happen. Blue has good intentions, but she is unable to stop the Black Fairy who takes the child to a land where time passes differently. From this point on it appears Gideon will be destined to kill Emma, the Savior.

Meanwhile, Zelena, the Wicked Witch is raising her daughter. She tries living with Regina, but the two just cannot get along under the same roof, so she moves out to her own farmhouse. Regina still blames Zelena for the death of Robin Hood. She even gets upset when Zelena tells her she had a feather from Robin for her, but she lost it. However, getting a little distance works. Zelena slowly learns, she slowly improves herself, and like Regina, she learns to leave aside “being Wicked” for the sake of a child, in this case – her daughter. Towards the end of the season, Zelena tries to prove herself by taking on the Black Fairy alone. This doesn’t work and makes things worse for the town. But she learns her lesson and she and Regina work together.

Lana Parrilla is brilliant in a dual role here. her Evil Queen really brings back the first season when Regina was truly evil. But, she’s our Regina deep inside – and Regina shows her that. In the end, Regina realizes she cannot kill her “evil half” – she takes on some of the darkness from the Evil Queen’s heart – and gives her some of her light. And she then uses one of the wishes from the genie of the lamp (now Aladdin) to send the Evil Queen someplace where she can get her second chance. She’s sent to the Enchanted Forest – to meet Robin Hood.

The Aladdin plot is very brief – we meet Aladdin, and Jasmine, see Jafar, the mystical city of Agrabah, and even the flying carpet. We briefly see Ariel the Mermaid again. We find out Aladdin is the “diamond in the rough” and the Savior of Agrabah. And for no good reason whatsoever, the actor playing him – plays him with a Cockney accent, even though he’s born and raised as a street rat in Agrabah. Yes, that makes no sense whatsoever. With the characters from the books of lost stories in Storybrooke, Aladdin and Jasmine arrive in Storybrooke. But their storyline is not long (really no more than a few episodes), it’s integrated into the rest of the storyline because the wishes are useful but a double-edged sword (never has “be careful what you wish for” been more important). But in the end, the wishes are a plot device, and, like the tales of lost stories – it’s a brief part of the season, not the focus, like when Once Upon a Time did Frozen.

From the first episode of the season, Emma is finding her hand shaking, and she gets visions of the future, a future where she dies. She goes to see Dr. Hopper (Jiminy Cricket), who is in several episodes (he also counsels Capt. Hook a few times). With the Evil Queen back in the enchanted forest, Hyde dead, the Aladdin and Lost Stories plots wrapped up, the rest of the season focuses more and more on the Final Battle. Though, Aladdin and Jasmine are present until nearly the end.

The relationship between Captain Hook and Emma heats up. Even with some interference by August (Pinocchio), Hook gets some advice from Dr. Hopper, and decides he will propose to Emma. Being an old-fashioned guy, he first asks David’s permission, even with the secret in his past. David grants his permission for Hook to marry Emma after Hook proves himself. Hook decides to come clean with Emma about his secret and then propose (because he doesn’t want to do anything to break them up later like hiding things). When he shows up at the house where he and Emma live together, she proposes to him having found the ring. So he doesn’t tell her. But he feels conflicted. He talks to Dr. Hopper and Nemo (of the submarine fame – he showed up with the lost stories characters), and decides to be honest with Emma. But he goes to say goodbye to Nemo and his brother who is on the Nautilus crew – and the sub sinks anyway – sent to another realm. Moreover, Hook is cursed to never return to Emma. Emma thinks Hook left voluntarily, but eventually learns the truth when Ariel lends Hook a shellphone. Emma hears Hook’s message but can’t reply and have him hear it. Gideon uses the tears of a Savior to control her and enact this curse.

But Hook makes it back, he and Emma marry, and just as the wedding finishes and everyone is celebrating, the clock tower strikes six – and the Dark Fairy dust is released cursing the town. The call back of Leroy (Grumpy) being the one to announce this curse, just as in the Enchanted Forest, he announced the coming of the Dark Curse is beautiful.

With the Dark Fairy Dust cast – everyone is returned to the other Realms. Henry wakes in Storybrooke, where everyone is only their “real world” counter parts. Moreover, the Dark Fairy is mayor, acting as Henry’s “mother” and has Emma in the local insane asylum. The belief in fairy tales is said to be Henry’s delusion. As Emma loses her faith and belief – the realms crumble and disappear. Emma’s last battle is a battle of faith. And it appears she loses, when she burns the fairy tale book, Once Upon a Time, and returns to Boston. She even gets a call from her old job offering her a skip to catch. But she finds in her bag, a book – a storybook written by Henry (remember, Henry is the Author), as she sees the pages with images from the serious showing herself doing various things, she gets an idea and returns to Storybrooke. Emma’s belief starts to lift the curse – and she remembers more about the stories as she learns to believe again. In Storybrooke, we now get the scene, at night, in the rain, we’ve seen so many times, as Gideon and Emma fight. But Emma is in a holding pattern – she knows that killing Gideon will make her dark, but if he kills her, the battle is over.

Yet, everyone has forgotten about Gold – Rumple – the Black Fairy tries to manipulate him one last time and experiences epic fail. He kills her, turning her to dust. Rumple and Belle run to the underground tunnels. And it is Rumple, who finally fulfills his destiny, finding Gideon’s heart, doing the right thing, and launching a counter-curse that makes everything right again. Gold is, at the end, the savior. Gideon once more becomes a baby to be raised by Belle and Rumple. The last episode ends with a montage of everyone in Storybrooke being happy at Granny’s – Emma and Hook together, Zelena with her child, Regina is happy, the Charmings have their son, Neal, and Snow is a teacher. Emma is sheriff, with Hook at her side. Everyone is happy – and end, at a dinner table, everyone together, to live “happily ever after”.

Oh, and that little girl bringing the book, Once Upon a Time, to the real world? She knocks on the door of now grown, 28-year-old Henry Mills, and tells him, she’s his daughter.

Before we get into the implications of all this, the penultimate episode of Season 6 of Once Upon a Time is The Musical episode – which is absolutely brilliant. It’s integrated into the overall storyline of the season, it starts in the Enchanted forest, the theme of the “song in your heart” carries over into Storybrooke where Emma has her own song and the last song of the musical is very joyful, and the music is perfect, and just what you’d expect for each of the characters. It really is just how a musical episode should be done and it works perfectly.

OK, back to season 6, because there is a lot to discuss. Starting at the end – by showing Emma who she is by writing her in to a book – Henry creates Emma as a storybook character. Now, granted, her parents are Snow White and Prince Charming and she’s co-parenting with the Evil Queen, but still, one thing that made Once Upon a Time work for six seasons was that is was grounded in “reality” through the character of Emma. That she is now a storybook character as much as her parents, both gives her a happy ending (and the last montage is incredibly joyful) but it’s a bit artificial too – very much like a romance novel. Still, I did love it. I wanted to see happy endings for these characters, including Gold and Belle – and we got it.

Second, with all the mentions of “The Final Battle”, I kept thinking of CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. Fortunately we didn’t go quite down that route. But even though Emma isn’t killed in the final battle, she is changed, and it’s her “final battle” because she won’t have to fight again, thought someone else will – the baton will be passed.

This season was brilliant, especially the musical (one of the best musical episodes I’ve seen), but I don’t think I will watch season 7, which is a soft re-boot with a new cast. I tried Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and didn’t care for it. And season 7 has been moved to a Friday night death slot, so it’s on it’s way to cancellation. But as a way to go out, you can’t beat season 6 – it truly was brilliant. it ws acted brilliantly, it looks gorgeous (rain and mist and snow – with Winter reflecting the darkness of the story, pure perfection), there are callbacks to the first season, everything works. I truly loved it, and I don’t know why I delayed so long in watching.

My Review of Once Upon a Time Season 5.

My Review of Once Upon a Time Season 4.


Once Upon a Time Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Once Upon a Time
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: ABC
  • Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Sean McGuire, Rebecca Mader, Liam Garrigan, Gregg Germann
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD

Last season, both halves of the season, “Frozen” and “Queens of Darkness” featured female guest heroes, villains, and storylines. This season was decidingly more male, though there is a lot and I do mean a lot going on. Stories, myths, and Disney/Pixar films that Season 5 of Once Upon a Time did their own take on included:

  • Dark Swan
  • King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
  • Brave
  • Hercules (and his girlfriend)
  • Hades, King of the Underworld
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (mention only)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Plus the return of the following characters from previous seasons:

  • Ruby, the wolf (of Little Red Riding Hood)
  • Evil Peter Pan
  • Mulan
  • Zylena, the Wicked Witch of the West (Oz)
  • a grown-up, more bad-ass Dorothy (Oz)
  • Cruella deVille
  • Liam, Hook’s brother (and a more detailed look at the brother’s back story)
  • Cora, Regina’s mother
  • Henry, Regina’s father
  • Neal, Henry’s father and Emma’s ex

If that sounds like a lot – it is. The first half of the season is extremely confusing. However, the second half of the season, though at times also pulling in a great deal of conflicting plot threads, manages to pull things together, as well as return to Once’s theme of redemption for characters oft thought as “evil”.

The season opens where the previous season left off, with Emma as the Dark One. With a little help from Zylena, our characters travel to another realm, and immediately meet King Arthur, and search for a way to get Merlin out of the tree he’s trapped in, which, eventually leads to a quest to find Excalibur. However, the first season cuts back and forth in time – and it’s some of the most confusing time and realm jumps that Once has ever done. In the first episode, the main characters return to Storybrooke, with Emma as the Dark Swan, having, apparently embraced the darkness – and everyone else having lost their memories of the six months they were in Camelot. Emma is angry about something but we don’t know what. I found the switching back and forth between Camelot and Storybrooke, not to mention the various time-jumps in Camelot to be really confusing. Several times, I’d watch a scene then realize, “Oh, they are in Camelot. Or, oh, wait, this must be Storybrooke.” Since Arthur, his knights, and many of the main characters are transported back to Storybrooke with our main characters, it adds to the confusion. That Emma, Regina, and the Charmings wear their contemporary clothes from Storybrooke in Camelot on all but the most formal occasions, such as the ball, also adds to the confusion.

In Camelot, Arthur turns out to be a really bad king, and not the king of legend. This Arthur is manipulative, insecure, has a really bad case of impostor syndrome, and over-compensates for his own inadequacies by shifting blame to everyone else. He uses magic to control his wife and kingdom. He acts like a teenager who never grew up and has far too much power. Whereas I liked Evil Peter Pan from season 3 (and the young actor was fantastic!), I did not like Arthur at all. When I watched part 1 of the season last year, I thought they had simply cast a bad actor as Arthur (because it was hard to follow the plot week to week). Re-watching on DVD in a much more compressed time-frame, it wasn’t the actor’s fault – but Arthur was poorly written. Other than all his faults, there wasn’t really a reason for his behavior. Regina became the “Evil Queen” because her mother told her she could be with her beloved boyfriend – then killed him horribly in front of her for her “own good”. Zylena became the Wicked Witch because Cora abandoned her, leaving Zylena with a deep-seated sense that she was unlovable, worthless, and incapable of being happy. Zylena also was incredibly jealous of Regina. But Arthur? All we can tell is he doesn’t feel like he deserves to be king, or he’s so afraid people will find out he’s a fraud so he goes to incredible lengths to stop them (including trapping Merlin in a tree, exiling Lancelot, putting his wife under an obedience spell, and doing the same to his entire kingdom). What was disturbing about the Arthur plot was it takes a hero and makes him a villain – and it doesn’t give Arthur a good reason for being a villain. This Arthur also kills one of his loyal knights (talks him into suicide) for absolutely no real reason. Arthur frames his own knight for stealing from the Camelot camp near Storybrooke, then when he’s placed in jail by David (Prince Charming), kills him and disappears the body – so he can claim the man used a “magic bean” to return to Camelot. This is ploy the Charmings and the rest of the heroes see through immediately, so there’s really no point to Arthur’s actions. Done right, Arthur and the Knights of Camelot can be a very good story, for me, Once Upon a Time did not tell the story right.

Interwoven through the first eight episodes of season 5, we find out Emma’s story. As the new Dark One, she has visions of Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) who encourages her to embrace her dark powers. Since we see her as Dark Swan in Storybrooke, it appears that she will. At times, the discussions of Light vs. Dark, whether it’s Emma’s Light Magic or just her general decision she has to make for which Side she will serve sound very Star Wars. There are characters who seem to quote Yoda, when talking to Emma about her choice.

The first actual person Emma meets in the Enchanted Forest is Merida, aka “Brave”. Merida and Emma both want a “wisp” to led them somewhere. The wisp is a McGuffin, though Merida needs it more than Emma. While Rumpelstiltskin urges Emma to kill Merida and take the wisp – David, Mary Margaret, and the rest from Storybrooke arrive and take her to Granny’s Diner which landed in the Enchanted Forest thanks to a magical tornado. Merida goes on her quest, finds the wisp, and loses it. Merida later on meets up with Mulan who teaches her how to fight, goes on a quest herself to find a magical helm (which Arthur had stolen from her father or so she thought) and discovers her father is an honorable man. She also learns how to be a good and just queen. Part of her learning is that even though she finds the helm, she doesn’t turn it over to the “evil witch” citing that, as a weapon, it’s too dangerous for anyone to have and she will destroy it. Merida’s test however, was just that – if she had turned it over, or even just kept it, she would not have been a good queen.

Mulan is also having issues – but teaching Merida, and meeting Ruby (of all people), helps her over-come them.

Ruby, in turn, ends-up in Oz, assisting Dorothy (now grown-up and bad-ass), whom she’s fallen for. In the end, the feeling is mutual (when Dorothy is put under a sleeping curse, it is Ruby’s “true love’s kiss” that wakes her). Their kiss is magical. I loved the new Dorothy (not to mention that Ruby, Mulan, and Dorothy – although an odd mix when you consider the source material – sparks on-screen). I enjoyed those episodes, and wouldn’t mind somehow seeing more of Dorothy and Ruby. Maybe Ruby could adopt the name Ozma?

At the end of the Camelot plot, we find out what’s happened to Emma. Hook was wounded in the throat during a skirmish with Arthur. The cut is from Excalibur. When Emma tries to use her magic to unite the two halves of Excalibur (the Sword, and the Dark One dagger), Hook collapses. His wound re-opens and he starts dying. Emma, in tears, cannot face the death of her true love. She stops the spell to reunite Excalibur, places everyone under a forgetting spell, and sends Granny’s, everyone inside, and the population of Camelot to Storybrooke. This returns us to the beginning of episode one, where everyone arrives but with no memory of the previous six weeks.

Emma is saved from being the Dark One. But Hook becomes the Dark One. Emma has to kill Hook with Excalibur to save him and he dies. But Rumple had tethered the Dark Magic back to the Dark One dagger. Rumple is now the Dark One again and Killian’s been taken to the underworld. Emma, Snow, David, Rumple, Belle, Regina, and Henry travel to the Underworld to rescue Hook. They are in a town that looks like a destroyed Storybrooke with red skies, where they discover Hades is Lord of the Underworld. Regina meets Cora (her mother) again. Cora tries to use Regina’s father to manipulate Regina, but Regina, much more grown up now, doesn’t fall for it. In the end, Henry Sr. is able to finish his “unfinished business”, make his peace, and literally walk into the light. Freeing Henry’s soul let’s the broken Underworld Storybrooke clock move forward one minute – and angers Hades. Soon Emma (now having prophetic dreams), Snow, and Charming meet Hercules and his girlfriend. Discovering that both were killed in a quest to destroy Cerebus (who now guards the path to where Killian is being held), the Storybrooke heroes help Hercules and his girlfriend – who walk into the light. Fortunately, this doesn’t become an every episode thing. Bringing back the dead, though, is a theme. Rumple runs in to his dad, Peter Pan. Pan is just as evil as ever, and at first it seems Rumple will work with Pan. But instead, having found a way to destroy Pan forever, with water from the River of Souls, Rumple actually destroys Pan. However, Rumple is too late to stop Belle, who discovers he is now the Dark One, from putting herself under a sleeping curse. Meanwhile, Killian, once rescued by Emma and company, meets his brother, Liam. In “The Brothers Jones”, we discover their full background. Their father sells the two into servitude on a ship. When Liam gets old enough to try to break the contract by joining the Royal Navy and getting a signing bonus (for both him and his younger brother, Killian), Captain Silver gets Killian drunk and steals all their saved money. Liam tears up his papers with the Navy, and stays with his brother. When the Captain Silver steers the ship into the eye of a hurricane to get a fabled gem, Liam attempts to raise a mutiny. It works somewhat, but Liam still feels forced to make a deal with Hades to see to it that he and his brother survive. Hades even “gifts” Liam the fabled gem. The two brothers survive, are found by the Navy, and we know much of the rest of the story from season 3. In Underworld Storybrooke, both Killian and Liam show an incredible amount of hero-worship vis-a-vis each other. They are both willing to sacrifice themselves for each other. Fortunately, Killian is able to save Liam, who, with his dead crew, who now know the truth, also all go into the Light. But, the details of Hades story are lost. Still, having now lost close to a dozen souls, Hades is very angry, not only are Snow, Regina, and Emma tied to the Underworld by having names on gravestones – but the entire group is now trapped in the Underworld.

Zylena, having had Robin’s baby earlier in the season, becomes a character similar to first and second season Regina – she’s “Wicked” but we want her to become good. And similar to how Regina’s love for Henry made her a better person, and eventually her own sort of hero; Zylena, though still manipulative, does honestly love her baby daughter. Sadly, Zylena also believes she is not lovable and that no one could ever love her. Part of why she wants her baby at first, is she thinks a child will love her. But we also have an episode where a young Regina plays with one of Cora’s magical items and is knocked cold and remains unconscious. Cora finds Zylena and convinces her to use her magic to save Regina – something Zylena does easily and effortlessly. However, as she sees the two young girls becoming friends, and even almost acting as sisters – though neither knows they are sisters, Cora decides to separate the two. Cora tells Regina she can’t have friends or rely on anyone but herself. Then she has Zylena taken away, and wipes the memory from both of them. Throughout the back half of the season, Regina is constantly trying to help Zylena, trying to work with her – but since she also seems to always be asking Zylena for something, Zylena thinks Regina only wants to use her. When Cora decides to tell the two the truth, that they met as young children, and were, for a time, sisters, it becomes enough for Cora to also walk into the Light. And Regina and Zylena are more united.

However, to make things more complicated, Hades also appears to fall in love with Zylena. At first Zylena rejects him because she feels she can’t be loved. Then Zylena tries to figure out if Hades is honest about his feelings. At first Regina tries to convince Zylena that Hades doesn’t love her, but someone will. Later, as the two are united as the sisters they are, Regina tells Zylena to try – try to make Hades a better man. Yeah, the god of the Underworld, a better man. It doesn’t end well.

Hades and Zylena return to Storybrooke. Hades meets Arthur, and kills him. Hades then tries to convince Zylena they need to attack first against Snow, and David, and Regina, and the rest of the Storybrooke characters, whom he tells Zylena are after them and will never let them live in peace. Zylena points out they can live in peace, just find a nice house in Storybrooke and settle down. Hades reveals his hand that he’s a lot more interested in power and destruction than in settling down. But before Zylena can leave on her own, Robin and Regina show up. Hades unleashes a magic attack towards Regina, but Robin gets in the way. Robin dies. Zylena is appalled. But it’s Gold who uses a magic crystal from Zeus to get rid of Hades – in another bid for power. Gold is also still trying to bring back Belle, who is still under a sleeping curse.

Zylena opens a portal (at David’s request) to send the various extra characters back to the Enchanted Forest or where ever they happen to have come from. However, it back fires and Zylena, Snow, and David are caught in the portal and immediately end up in a jail. They are in the Land of Lost Stories, though, being in a jail, it’s a while before they know that. In that land, they run into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gold has gone to New York, with Belle, to perform a spell to revive her – a spell that must be cast in the Land Without Magic.  Also, Henry and Violet, his first crush, run off to New York. Henry’s decided to destroy all magic because he thinks it’s bad. The two teenagers go to the New York Public Library to do research, and find dozens of storybooks. Emma and Regina follow Henry to New York. The two get a txt from Granny telling them what went down in Storybrooke. By the time they catch up with Henry and Violet, Henry has found the anti-Grail, which will destroy magic. In the midst of Gold’s spell to wake up Belle, Henry destroys magic. Opps. Henry immediately realizes he’s made a big mistake, because without magic, they can’t get Snow and Charming back.

Emma tells Henry a story about a wishing fountain – and everyone goes there – where Henry makes a stirring speech, a lot of people throw pennies into the fountain, and the wishes bring back out characters. This includes Jekyll, who uses his separator formula to tear the Evil Queen out of Regina (who has, apparently, been like a recovering alcoholic – and who fears returning to evilness).

Season 5 of Once Upon a Time was, well, I don’t want to call it a mess – because, overall, it was entertaining, and parts of it were really, really, really good. The large guest cast was excellent. Although I found Arthur annoying at first, on a second watch-through, he got better. Hades Shatner-like diction became annoying by the end of the season though. However, I’m getting a bit tired of the idea that every single one of the storybook characters is so obsessed with the idea of Predestination, destiny, and fate. The “evil” characters, such as Regina, and even Zylena, are determined to believe that because they were once “evil” they are fated to never be happy. And in a sense, in the show’s universe and worldview they are right, because Regina has lost, what, three boyfriends now? And the first time someone really seems to love Zylena for who she is – he turns out to be a raving meglomanic who simply wants power, no matter who he has to crush to get it. Even Gold (Rumple) continuously chooses power over the love of a good woman. And Belle is finally fed-up with his choice of power over her. Unfortunately, Belle’s response is to put herself under a sleeping curse – effectively “refrigerating” a fiery, intelligent character who keeps Gold both honest and as a character the audience can relate to.

Secondly, season 5 of Once Upon a Time, was one of the most unFeminist seasons ever on the show. Season 4 had women as leads in both halves of the season, and showed use both good and evil women. Season 5 starts off praising the male hero by bringing in Arthur and his knights, as well as Merlin. That might have been OK, if Arthur hadn’t been quickly shown to be a weak, ineffective king with an inferiority complex. Showing Arthur as a lousy king was a bad move, in my opinion. And, if they were going to do that, the strong Storybrooke woman, especially Regina, Emma, and Snow, should have been able to take the king down. Instead, Regina and Snow (and at times Belle – who’s become the group’s “researcher”) are pitted against Emma. Yes, the early part of second half of the season explains that – Emma did it all for Hook. But at much as I ship Emma/Hook, having Emma make bad decisions due to doomed love puts her right back at the beginning of Season 1, where she’s in jail and pregnant. We also see Snow having to run off some bandits when she is still young, and her father is away. Snow as always been remarkably strong. Feminine, but very strong, and often badass. Yet, who teaches her to fight? Hercules. That completely takes Snow’s power away. It diminishes her. It destroys her agency. It says she couldn’t possibly become a hero without the help of a man. And that she couldn’t learn to fight without a man either. It was much more satisfying to see Mulan teaching Merida how to fight. Besides, Merida was already kick-ass with a bow and arrow, Mulan only helped her to learn hand to hand combat. But taking one of Once Upon a Time‘s strongest women and having her completely unable to fight without a man showing her how? I didn’t like that at all.


Once Upon a Time Season 4

  • Series Title: Once Upon a Time
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: ABC
  • Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Sean McGuire, Georgina Haig, Elizabeth Lail, Elizabeth Mitchell, Kristen Bauer von Straten, Victoria Smurfit, Merrin Dungey
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD

The fourth season of Once Upon a Time, like season 3, is again split into two halves. The first part of the season is based on Disney’s Frozen, and the second half is more like what the first two seasons of the show were like – it brings in three well-known Disney villains, the Queens of Evil, and has them working with Mr. Gold to “find their happy endings” by finding “the Author” to write those happy endings for them.

I have not seen Frozen, though I’m familiar with the song “Let It Go” and its parodies. However, I really enjoyed the “Frozen” section of Season 4. The actors playing Elsa and Anna had incredible chemistry. And the Snow Queen was also excellent. The interesting thing about the Snow Queen is that she really isn’t evil – she’s extremely manipulative, and she’s quick to jump on anything negative anyone says or does to her, but really, her story is that of a classic misunderstanding. Ingrid is afraid of her powers, but she’s also afraid of how people, even her family and kingdom will react to her powers. Because of this – she takes everything in a negative way. For example, she sees her sisters off to the ball, but refuses to go herself, because she fears rejection from the kingdom. She forgets her sister, especially the older one urging her to go anyway. This older sister is pursued by the Duke of Weaselton. Weaselton then makes moves on Ingrid, and threatens to reveal her secret. But when her sister shows up, she believes Ingrid – and attempts to banish the slimy duke. The duke then threatens both the sister and Ingrid. Rather than being happy that her sister believes her and believes in her, things get heated (so to speak) and Ingrid attacks Weaselton. The sister steps in the way out of instinct to protect the duke, and Ingrid freezes her – then the ice shatters, killing her. At this point, Gerda, Anna and Elsa’s mother (to be) shows up – sees her sister dead, and for all intents and purposes sees Ingrid over the body with the murder weapon – Gerda jumps to conclusions, and traps Ingrid in the urn. But we actually find this out at the end of the Frozen section which runs 12 episodes. Ingrid’s issue is she, somewhat rightfully so, feels utterly betrayed by her sister – so she, without good reason, assumes that Anna will betray Elsa the same way.

Meanwhile, Anna and Elsa actually have a very good relationship, and Anna accepts Elsa including her powers. And the actors playing Anna and Elsa had great chemistry. If they weren’t playing sisters, you’d think they were together. Watching the two, especially in the flashbacks, then at the end of the Frozen section of the story, when Anna is found in Storybrooke, is a joy.  Anna is also engaged to Kristoff, who’s simply adorable. He’s cute, and funny, and he let’s Anna take charge.

The flashbacks to Arendale, and Anna’s quest to Misthaven (the Enchanted Forest) were also very well filmed, as were the sections in Storybrooke. I’ve always liked just how good Once Upon a Time looks and most of Season 4 is no exception – the mist in the forests of Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest just looks so good, as do the rays of sunlight filtering through the mist.

In the end, the Snow Queen decides to get her revenge by controlling her “magical sisters” (Emma and Elsa) with magical ribbons that Ingrid had shared with her real sisters in Arendale. She also casts the Spell of Shattered Sight which awakens everyone’s darkest impulses and turns them all against each other. The Spell is one of the scarest curses we’ve seen on Once Upon a Time, but it’s realized only with the characters saying very nasty things to each other, and some scuffles in the street. In the end, though, to break the spell, Emma, Elsa, and Anna convince the Snow Queen to sacrifice herself to end the curse – which works. It’s Anna who finds the information needed to break the Snow Queen, finding a letter in a bottle from Gerda, her mother, in which Gerda has decided she made a mistake, and Ingrid must be released from her urn and the forgetting spell cast by the rock trolls reversed. However, since Gerda and her husband never returned to Arendale because their ship was sunk in a storm – Gerda was never able to return to set Ingrid free.

What the Frozen section also did, however, was it integrated well with the second half of the season. The last episode of the Frozen section actually is a transition to the second section with the “Queens of Evil” (or Heroes and Villains, which is the theme of the entire season). In the Frozen section, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s hat – a magical portal that can absorb magic – appears several times, and although it’s use seems self-contained, it’s not. The Hat even appears in the finale of the season. Also, in the Frozen section, we see a flashback to Emma’s past – which we think is there to show us that she knew Ingrid – Ingrid was one of her foster mothers, someone who became so close to her that Ingrid wanted to adopt Emma. But what you also see in those flashbacks is Emma meeting a girl called Lily – and Lily will turn out to be very important to the second half of the story – in many, many ways, the catalyst of the second half of the story. So, in Season 4, the season feels much more like a cohesive season – not two completely different half-seasons, like season three with Peter Pan at the beginning and Wicked second.

In the second half of the story – the “villains” are in search of their happy endings. Regina, one of my favorite characters, is now “good” really – she’s Henry’s mother, she’s friends with Emma, and she gets on with Mary Margaret and David. Regina is strong, smart, and a sharp dresser to boot, which I love. Regina becomes convinced that to really have her happy ending she must find the Author of the Storybook and ask him to write her a happy ending. And what she’s lost is Robin Hood. – Regina falling for Robin was one of the best things about Season 3 (well, that and Evil Peter Pan) – but just as Robin and Regina are getting together in Storybrooke, Emma returns to the present with Marion – Robin’s wife. Robin then tells Regina he can’t break his marriage vow, and he has to stay true to his wife.

Marion becomes the first and only victim of freezing sickness – and it becomes Regina’s duty to try to save her. Yep – Regina has to save her lover’s wife, so her lover can go back to his wife, and she won’t be happy. It’s to Regina’s credit, and her much more heroic status, that she actually agrees to this with no tricks up her sleeve and no force being used against her to get her to “do the right thing”. Marion is unconscious for most of the Frozen section, Regina and Robin do have an affair, and Robin keeps doing things like telling Regina he loves her but he can’t leave his wife. (Seriously, has the man never heard of divorce?) Robin even admits he no longer loves Marion. At the end of the section, Marion recovers, but then collapses again. But rather than dying and solving everyone’s problem – Regina realizes that the only thing that will cure Marion’s sickness to to send her away from Storybrooke where she will no longer be touched by magic. Robin takes his son, Roland, and leaves for New York with Marion. It’s a sad moment for Regina, but it doesn’t turn her evil.

Regina then goes undercover with the other Queens of Evil to find out their plans. And again to Regina’s credit – she reports everything back to Mary Margaret, David, and/or Emma. And again, she’s not dragged back into darkness.

But, not all is over with Marion. It turns out, she’s not Marion at all – she’s Zelena – the Wicked Witch, and Regina’s sister – who had killed Marion and taken her place years ago. This would be fine, but Zelena is also pregnant with Robin’s child. Or claims she is.  I didn’t like the Wicked section of Season 3 because I just wasn’t convinced by Zelena’s backstory, and I just didn’t like seeing her again. Plus it seemed too convenient that it was Zelena, disguised as Marion, that Emma brought back from the past, and that the minute Regina finds that out – Zelena also reveals she’s pregnant with Robin’s baby. Really?

Maleficent’s story was excellent, and a prime example of what Once Upon a Time does well – which is to show us that everyone is the hero of their own story – and from the point of view of an “evil” character things might look different. And, her story is the story of a wronged mother. I haven’t see Angelina Jole’s Maleficent film, so I don’t know if that’s where the plot came from, or if it was original to Once Upon a Time – I’d like to think it was original, because then it’s more impressive. Snow White and Prince Charming are manipulated by a peddler (whom we later discover is the Author, but more about that later) into a quest in the Enchanted Forest with Maleficent, Cruella, and Ursula to find the tree of knowledge. They do, but are unable to ask their question because Snow is pregnant. That her child might have the “potential for evil” freaks out Snow White (because she’s apparently never heard of “nature verses nuture”) and she ends up talking Charming into seeing a Wizard (actually the Apprentice) who then tells her there’s a spell which will remove all evil from Snow’s unborn child. To cast the spell, they need a vessel. So Snow White and Prince Charming go and steal Maleficent’s dragon’s egg – not entirely realizing that it’s her child. And that the reason she burned down the forest was to make a nest for her child (Maleficent being, well, a were-dragon, a human who can turn into a dragon, but also must reproduce in dragon form). Snow and Charming take the egg, bring it to the Apprentice, get him to cast the spell – and are surprised when the darkness not only goes into the egg, but it breaks, revealing a human-looking baby, who then falls through a portal. Taking away her dark impulses is what gives Emma her strong light magic – and possibly her “real world” superpower of being able to tell when people are lying.

As the story is told, Mary Margaret and David are keeping what they did to Maleficent from Emma and the town – they reveal their mistake to Regina, in part to get her to spy on the “Queens of Evil”.

We also get Ursula’s origin story – and ironically she’s the only one to get her happy ending as Killian (Hook) not only gives her, her voice back – but helps her to reconcile with her father.

Cruella’s origin story, and her relationship with the Author is also explained, but very quickly and in a single episode – so it just didn’t seem to work. At first, Cruella seems to be the victim of a cold and cruel mother. Later, it seems Cruella is a psychopath who had killed three of her mother’s husbands, including her own father, and who uses her superpower of controlling animals given to her by the Author to kill her mother using her own dogs, and then kill the dogs to make a coat (fortunately off screen). Cruella is also killed by Emma Swan to protect Henry whom she had kidnapped. But killing Cruella doesn’t make Emma dark. And in a sense, since Cruella is a psychopath she can’t be redeemed (and she seems to have no goal for happiness either) so dying is, for her, the best path, really.

Mr. Gold also returns to Storybrooke, let in by the “Queens of Evil” after being banished by Belle for lying to her, primarily about the dagger, but about other things too. Mr. Gold represents chaos much of the time. Once he’s no longer Rumplestilskin, and falls in love with Belle, he often doesn’t do outright evil – but he’s not on the side of good either. His return to Storybrooke isn’t really motivated by love for Belle, though there’s a scene or two where we see that – Gold is motivated by self-preservation. He’s dying, his heart is turning completely black from all the evil he’s done, and he also knows that once all the flicker of life has left his heart, the dark one will be free. Gold really wants to prevent that. So from that perspective, Gold’s actions with the Hat, and bringing in the three villains, and trying to find the author to re-write his story, even his actions towards Belle make sense.

In the search for The Author (called by Henry and Regina “Operation: Mongoose”) the characters follow several leads. One leads them to Pinocchio, who, as he’s become a child, doesn’t remember anything. Gold & company bring him back to being an adult, August, who tells Henry, Emma, Mary Margaret, and David, that “the Author” isn’t a person – it’s a job description, there have been many authors recording stories. The one they want is trapped in the book. Our heroes then learn from the Apprentice, that one author went bad – manipulating the stories. For example, he was the peddler that changed Snow and David’s path so they ended-up stealing Maleficent’s child. The Sorcerer and his Apprentice get very upset at this and trap the Author in the book.

In the finale, while Mary Margaret, David, Emma, Hook, and Henry figure out the last clues – the Author (Isaac) is with Gold, who’s collapsed in his shop, writing the story Gold wants – “Heroes and Villains”. Everyone is headed to Gold’s shop when poof. Henry wakes up, alone, and everyone in Storybrooke is gone. Henry heads to the local gas station/diner outside Storybrooke, finds Lily, who’s no help, but also find the “Heroes and Villains” book and from there goes to the film premiere where the author is speaking and signing copies of his book. Henry confronts the Author and they both end-up in “Heroes and Villains” – where the heroes lose and the villains win. There Henry, with help from Emma (now a Cassandra figure – doomed to remember everything from before the Author, Isaac, changed everything but to have no one believe her), and ultimately, from the alternate reality, Regina, who’s a bandit on the run from Snow White the Evil Queen. Regina’s sacrifice and literally her blood allow Henry to change things back.

With another poof – everything is back to normal in Storybrooke. Regina and Hook, who had died in the alternate realm are alive. Everyone goes to Gold’s shop – and finds him dying. The hat is used to draw the evilness and the dark one from Gold and the dagger show’s no name at all. Gold still doesn’t look well, but we suspect he’ll recover. However, the hat cannot contain the evil and it escapes – heading straight for Regina. Emma sacrifices herself, becoming the new Dark One to save Regina and give her her happy ending with Robin.

Overall, I liked season 4 of Once Upon a Time, especially the Frozen section which had a real innocence to it compared to the back end of the season. But I couldn’t help but notice that all the Fairy Tale characters believe not only in The Book – but predestination. Every single one of them believes they are fated to be either good or evil – and they can’t change that fate. That even if they try to be “good” they will still end-up doing evil things, and as such they won’t be given their happy ending. This really does defy a certain logic. Regina is the loudest mouthpiece for the “because I was evil I can’t be happy” mantra – but she fails to see that Henry is her happiness. Mr. Gold, also, at a point in the previous season, marries Belle – which should be his happy ending. But his search for power, and determination to be “free of the dagger” breaks apart the one happy thing he has – his relationship with Belle, which was why I saw her banishing him to be one of the saddest scenes in the show. Still, Once Upon a Time works best when it takes characters like Maleficent, like The Evil Queen, and not only gives us an origin that explains their actions, but also makes us want to root for these characters and see them happy. We do see, for example, Lily (Lilith) reunited with Maleficent – and I hope they are in Season 5 as regular or at least semi-regular characters. And since I totally ship Emma/Hook, I hope that while dark, Emma doesn’t permanently harm him in the upcoming season.


Star Trek (2009)

  • Title:  Star Trek (2009)
  • Director:  J.J. Abrams
  • Date:  2009
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Emotions run deep within our race – in many ways more deeply than in humans.  Logic offers a serenity humans seldom experience, the control of feelings, so that they do not control you.”  — Sarek

“Your aptitude tests are off the charts so what is it?  You like being the only genius-level repeat offender in the Midwest?  ….  But you feel like you were meant for something better.  Something special.  Enlist in Star Fleet.”  — Christopher Pike

“Damn it, man, I’m a doctor, not a physicist.  Are you actually suggesting they’re from the future?”  — McCoy
“If  you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” — Spock, quoting Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Abrams’ re-boot of  the Star Trek franchise re-casts everyone with a very, very young command crew. However, this crew, barely graduated from Star Fleet Academy, earns their stripes in the midst of disaster and war, so one can forgive how young and inexperienced they really are.  Moreover, the film emphasizes the immediate connection between Kirk and McCoy and the somewhat more difficult road to friendship between Kirk and Spock.

The film opens with a bang, when George Kirk’s ship is attacked by the Romulan, Nero.  George manages to evacuate the ship and protect the unarmed and unshielded shuttles by fending off Nero’s attack, but he loses his life in the process.  However, his wife survives the attack and James Kirk is born. Yet, we don’t see Kirk’s mother again.  A few years later, young James Kirk is a hellion – borrowing a car before he can really drive, driving fast and hard, and then destroying the car and nearly himself. Meanwhile, Spock undergoes typical Vulcan training – a enriched media multi-tasking experience where students are tested in individual pods.  However, he is also taunted by his school mates.

We next meet Kirk as a young 20-something (probably between the ages of 18 and 24), a townie who goes to a bar near Star Fleet’s recruitment center to pick up women.  This doesn’t go well when a couple of bruisers from security beat him to a pulp.  But he does meet Christopher Pike who gives him a different view of his father’s death.  Kirk decides to join Star Fleet.

Spock also, is at a turning point.  He’s accepted into the Vulcan Science Academy, but when the acceptance committee remarks that it’s “amazing” how well he’s done despite his “handicap” of being half-human, Spock turns down the position and instead joins Star Fleet.

Back at the academy, Kirk is preparing to take the Kobayashi Maru test for the third time.  The “no-win scenario” test is built as a test of character.  Kirk manages to win by changing the parameters of  the test.  He’s brought up on charges of cheating.  But before anyone can do anything, an emergency distress call is received from Vulcan.  All cadets are sent out on ships to assist.  Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, Spock, Chekov, and Sulu all end-up on the newly-built Enterprise, under Capt. Pike.

Arriving near Vulcan, the Enterprise encounters Nero.  As before with the USS Kelvin, Nero attacks, then invites the Captain onto his ship.  Pike, who did his dissertation on the loss of  the Kelvin, knows he’s walking into a trap, but also knows there’s nothing else to do.  But he has Kirk, Sulu, and an Australian space jump to a drilling platform the Romulans have placed on Vulcan that is also blocking transporters and communications.  The Australian dies, but Kirk and Sulu manage to shut off the transporter / communications blocking and stop the drill itself.  They are rescued, but it’s too late for Vulcan – the Romulans have injected Red Matter which will turn the planet into a Black Hole.

When Spock realizes this he beams down to Vulcan to rescue the Elders of his planet, including his parents. He rescues Sarek and a hand full of others, but Amanda is killed.

After this tragedy, Spock is understandably a little off-balance, and he falls back on calm logic — ordering that the Enterprise rendezvous with the rest of the fleet in order to plot their next move.  Kirk argues vehemently that they must do something to stop Nero, that they have no time to return to the fleet per standing orders.  Spock over-rules him, and then kicks him off  the ship via a life-pod.

Kirk lands on a frozen planet and encounters an unconvincing CGI monster (the only sequence in the entire film I didn’t like) then takes shelter in a cave. There he meets Spock Prime and learns the plot. Far in the future, Spock had been tasked with using Red Matter to turn a Supernova into a Black Hole and thus saving the planet Romulus.  But, he was too late and Romulus was destroyed.  Nero saw the destruction, went berserk and decided to make Spock suffer by destroying Vulcan.  He time-traveled back to the past, destroyed the USS Kelvin, and twenty-five years later Spock arrived, having followed him through the Black hole.

But what shocks Spock more than anything else is that Kirk can’t stand Spock’s younger self and that Spock can’t stand Kirk.  Spock gives a hint of  what their friendship means through his mind-meld with Kirk (while also explaining what’s going on).  They leave the cave and hike through the snow to a Star Fleet outpost and encounter Scotty.  Spock gives Montgomery Scott the equation for Transwarp Beaming, which Scott discovered, thus creating a non-invention paradox.  (EG — If  Scott discovered it but hasn’t yet, and Spock gave him the info to discover, which he then discovered – then where did the equation come from?)

Kirk and Scott beam onto the Enterprise, and Kirk provokes Spock into an emotional reaction to take him out of command.  He then orders a direct warp to Earth.  At Earth, Nero is using the drill to attack near San Francisco (home of Star Fleet) and destroy Earth with Red Matter.  Kirk and crew stop him and rescue an injured Pike.

Upon returning to the Academy, Kirk is given command of the Enterprise, and Pike retires.  Kirk’s crew will include Spock as first officer who is convinced to do so by Spock Prime and Scotty.

I loved this film when I first saw it, and I still love it now.  Karl Urban is a wonderful, angsty Bones McCoy, still smarting from his divorce, though they changed the origin of Kirk’s nick-name for him.  Chris Pine mimics Shatner’s body language, but gives us an edgier Kirk, still smarting from the loss of his father. Quinto’s Spock is much more emotional, especially after the loss of his mother, a parent he was quite close to.  It’s interesting that in Abrams’ re-imagining of  Star Trek – both the principles have lost a parent. When I saw this film in 2009 I wanted a sequel, and it looks like one might be coming in 2013, we’ll see.

This film also has some wonderful special effects sequences in space – the space dock, the launch of  the Enterprise and other ships, even the destruction of Vulcan are all realized well.  And I liked all the classic characters:  Sulu and Chekov are both great, the classic trio of McCoy, Kirk, and Spock, though young and new at their jobs, are already showing the hints of great friendship, and Scotty is amusing and promising.  Uhura has been updated to be confident, bright, and an expert in xeno-linguistics.  She’s also having an affair with Spock, but you can’t have everything.

Recommendation:  See it!  Highly Recommended.
Rating:  Five out of  Five Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek II The Wrath of  Khan