Let me be clear: I have missed Once Upon a Time during its hiatus. I have missed it badly. Galavant, while a fine enough diversion was not only too brief, but was nowhere near OUAT when it comes to levels of camp fabulosity. I hungered for the show in its absence. Now, having said all of this, when I tuned in this week I was 99 percent sure that I mis-clicked and was watching the most recent episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It didn’t take me long to realize my error. “Ohhhh,” I said, as Ursula’s CGI tentacles twitched about hither and yon, “It IS Once!”
It wasn’t even the tentacles that convinced me of my earlier error. It was knowing that RuPaul Charles would have burned the ensembles worn by the triad of lady villains on the small screen with all of the fire he could find. And rightly so.
This post-hiatus premiere was a mixture of the very good and the very bad. For all their pining for a quiet life, let’s be real, we all know the gang in Storybrooke would very quickly turn towards hard drugs in the face of a boring magic-free life trapped in a small, Maine town with no hope of exiting. Can you imagine? It would be like visiting the LL Bean store and getting terribly lost. Initially you’d be overwhelmed by the giant Bean Boot sculpture and the indoor fishing pond and heady aroma of cedar and pine. But soon that joy would turn to panic in the face of a thousand pairs of high-rise boot-cut jeans that threaten to keep you trapped in this Stephen King-esque worthy department store nightmare possibly forever. This was all a very long-winded way of saying that I’m glad the show knew that a glimpse of quiet life was all we needed before tossing a hell-bat with fire for eyes into the mix.
Now is the part where I get to write a sentence that will shame my family. Dude, that ripply hell-demon with wings who emerged from the sorcerer’s hat along with the returned fairies? He was kind of hot. I was into it. When he is vanquished — as he inevitably will be — maybe he will call me and we will go out and split a carafe of blood of the innocent. The hell-beast’s arrival is key to allowing Ursula, Maleficent, Cruella, and Gold back into Storybrooke. Gold shares with us that the hell-beast is looking for the heart with the greatest potential for darkness and that heart? It’s Emma’s.
Great, great, great, fine, fine, fine. The arc for the second half of the season has been set. But why bring all of these women back at once? It feels like a waste of strong women AND of hot glue for all the nonsense required to make their dollar store costumes. As usual, it feels like the show is trying to do way too much. Disney characters are a relatively finite resource, why not build a relationship between Gold and just one baddie – Ursula, perhaps? Leave the other two until we need them.
As it stands now there is simply too much white noise. Gold’s return should be a revelation, but instead he’s hidden behind these glowering evil-doers. Has he changed? What does he want? Where does this leave him with family in Storybrooke? What does happily ever after mean for a villain? There are big questions to be asked and answered and it doesn’t feel like either of those things are happening.