This review contains spoilers.
2.22 And Straight On Till Morning
Take a few minutes to meditate after the season two finale of Once Upon a Time – your blood pressure’s probably up. The show is firing on all cylinders, rocketing between plots and characters fueled by raw, devastating emotion. The frantic yet strangely balanced combination of action and drama makes this finale a heck of a ride. Despite too many characters and some too-convenient plot points, And Straight On Till Morning is a thoroughly entertaining watch that makes viewers regret the end of even a season as uneven as this one has been.
It’s astounding that so many characters with such deep-seated issues could all get their few minutes in the spotlight in a single episode. Structurally, the finale is really a bunch of characters’ individual stories woven together, along with a plotline about the impending destruction of Storybrooke that becomes almost incidental in the episode’s storm of feelings. It is best discussed, then, via those individual character threads.
Let’s start with Rumple. Robert Carlyle puts on a spectacular, heart-wrenching performance when he learns that Bae/Neal is “dead.” He blames himself, and moves seamlessly from guilt and penitential sacrifice to redemptive cooperation with Emma and co. Not so seamless, though sure to please Rumbelle fans, is the abrupt end of the Lacey storyline when she drinks a potion to restore her memory. This solution reverses the entire plotline, revealing it for a pointless drama-monger. It does provide a cute Grumpy moment, though, and lots of kissing. Rumple/Belle kissing, not Grumpy.
The hackneyed villain-sacrifices-herself-for-redemption plot is surprisingly not terrible in the hands of Lana Parilla. Best line of the episode: “Everyone looks at me as the Evil Queen, even my son. Let me die as Regina.” It doesn’t even matter that it’s obvious from the beginning that she is not going to die. After constant relapse and so much revulsion from the people of Storybrooke, it’s great to see her move forward and get a little love, especially from Henry.
The anti-climactic solution to the destruction of Storybrooke/death of Regina issue comes when Emma uses her latent magical powers to join with Regina and stop the unstoppable trigger from destroying the town. Nobody seems concerned about why or how Emma is able to do this; she just puts out her hands and poof, everyone’s saved. And I’m sorry Swan Queen fans, but I’m pretty sure the canon answer is not true love between Regina and Emma. It’s probably that Emma is destined for unprecedented God modding powers or something lame like that.
It’s okay that the trigger climax kind of sucks, though, because the Neverland plotline more than makes up for it. Honestly, Hook playing dad could make up for just about anything. Since his introduction, Hook’s main role had been to be pretty, with supplemental roles of impersonating Jack Sparrow and conveniently stabbing people in the back. Finally, this week he takes on some of the emotional depth of fellow semi-villains Regina and Rumple. His plea to Bae that they become a family is brilliant, as is his characteristic betrayal of the unreceptive Bae. More please!
Young Bae/Neal’s flashback story really blossoms this week after last week’s slow but potential-filled beginning. He’s a cute kid, and his acting is hit-or-miss but his young age earns him a pass. The character is certainly well-written this episode, with a painful complex of emotions toward his mother, father, and Hook, all of which he responds to in a realistic fashion for a boy that age. It will be interesting to see how his story progresses now that the Lost Ones have him.
Now that the main characters are all getting along, the role of villain falls squarely on the ill-equipped shoulders of Greg and Tamara. These two continue to astound with their boringness, and it was rather disappointing that they didn’t bite it this episode. Rumple hints that Belle and the other Storybrooke citizens may have to deal with Greg and Tamara’s magic-killing coworkers next season, so here’s hoping the two of them are just Grunt #1 and 2 for somebody much more intimidating.
Meanwhile, Emma and Co. have followed Greg and Tamara into Neverland, so the threat of the lacklustre baddies’ continued presence looms over season three. Luckily, we have a new set of Neverland villains in the “Lost Ones”—not Lost Boys, which is a perfectly acceptable change when you’re turning little kids dressed into forest animals into a group of men so intriguingly creepy. The main Lost One, the guy who does all the talking, has a perfect face for this role, angular and snakelike but weirdly handsome. Maybe Snake Man will do us all a favor and knock off Grunt #1 and 2 in the first episode of season three.
Then of course there’s the shadow, who is apparently Peter Pan and is not only kidnapping children, but looking for a specific boy: Henry. It was hinted a while back that there’s something special about Henry, but that got lost beneath all the Emma/Regina fighting over him drama. Bringing it back up made for a great end-of-season surprise, and the mystery over Henry’s role ramps up the anticipation for season three. The idea of an evil shadow Peter is intriguing, especially the bit about how if you piss him off he rips your shadow from your body. I’m not sure what’s so bad about losing your shadow, but that sounds thoroughly threatening.
Miscellaneous observation #1: The episode ends on a cliffhanger plot-wise, but in an oddly congenial fashion for the usually antagonistic characters. How long can this last? It makes for a nice diversion from the old evil-Rumple/evil-Regina plotlines, but it could quickly become boring. Meanwhile, Hook has suddenly decided he doesn’t want to kill Rumple because… all the cool kids are being good guys now? I don’t get it at all.
Miscellaneous observation #2: Why are Snow and Charming still here? Do something interesting or get out!
Miscellaneous observation #3: As a side note to the ending, we learn that Bae/Neal is not dead (shocker). He is found in the Enchanted Forest by Mulan, Aurora, and Phillip. Does this mean we’ll have present-day Enchanted Forest scenes in season three, too? So, present-day Storybrooke, present-day Neverland, past Neverland, present-day Enchanted Forest, and past Enchanted Forest? Maybe the root of the problem with the writing of this show is that they don’t know how to exercise moderation.
Last week it was officially announced that ABC has renewed Once Upon a Time for a third season. They also announced Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, a stand-alone spin-off planned to run for thirteen episodes. There isn’t much solid information on either yet, so keep an eye out over the summer.
What did you think of the finale? The season? What are your predictions for season three? We’ve got a long wait, so get theorizing!
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