Once Upon A Time season 3 episode 11 review: Going Home

Once reaches its mid-season finale, which is an emotional ride for some. Here's Kylie's review...

This review contains spoilers.

3.11 Going Home

“And what do you think fairytales are? They are a reminder that things will get better if we just hold on to hope.”

The winter finale of Once season three rolls onto the scene like Regina on a rampage: relentless, single-minded, and ready to crush some hearts into dust. The angst-filled offering brings the Neverland arc to a close and, after a long wrap-up scene, teases us with a few minutes of next spring’s new story arc.

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Pan, still in Henry’s body, takes Felix’s heart and crushes it as the final ingredient for his curse on Storybrooke. Using a convenient magic artifact called the wand of the Black Fairy, Rumple returns Pan and Henry to their proper bodies. This means Henry now has the curse scroll, which he gives to Regina, who as its creator is the only person who can undo Pan’s spell. But Pan escapes Rumple’s guard, stifles his magic, and is about to kill Bae when Rumple rushes to the scene.

The final confrontation between father and son reinforces what a truly awful person Pan is. In a show full of horrible parents, he is the first to lack a single iota of love for his son. With his Dark One dagger, Rumple stabs him—and in doing so, stabs himself as well. Pan turns back into his adult form, and he and Rumple disappear in a flash of light that we are supposed to interpret as death.

I really don’t understand why Rumple had to stab Pan in such a way that he also stabbed himself. He says, “The only way for you to die is if we both die,” but where did he get that idea from? Couldn’t he have gone for an outward thrust instead of the hug-stab? Did I miss something here? In any case, I wasn’t too upset about Rumple dying even though he is tied for my favorite character because 1) He is way too popular to kill, 2) Flashes of light are a suspiciously vague method of death, and 3) They didn’t even have the guts to kill the frickin’ the Blue Fairy. Have they killed off any well-liked non-evil characters since Sheriff Graham in early season 1? The closest thing I can remember is Pinocchio turning into a little kid (which was basically a way of getting rid of his character without killing him).

After Rumple and Pan are gone, Regina prepares to use the scroll to stop Pan’s curse. The price, though (magic always has one) is that Regina can never again see the thing she loves most, Henry. Storybrooke will disappear as though it never existed, and its residents will return to the Enchanted Forest. The exceptions are Henry, who is not from the Enchanted Forest, and Emma, who as the Savior can stay there. Both will forget that Storybrooke ever existed, but Regina gives them new, good memories of living together.

The fandom seems to be dissolving into a collective pool of tears right now, so I expect I’ll be making some enemies when I say that, like Rumple’s death, the neverending farewell-to-Storybrooke scene didn’t do much for me. This was because, like Rumple’s death, I knew it wasn’t really goodbye. If this were the final episode of the series, it would have been perfect (and I would have been bawling). If it was a season finale and the future of the show was unconfirmed, it would have worked. But this is a midseason finale. What’s the rest of the season going to be, Emma and Henry in New York eating pancakes? I don’t think so.

I’m sure there are some people who can put themselves in the characters’ shoes and feel their emotional pain simply because for the characters, it is real. I am not so generous. I don’t think, as viewers, we should have to make an active effort to understand how characters feel. That should just happen by itself. But that can’t happen when their writer-y maneuverings are so glaring. There need to be stakes for us as viewers. If the writers aren’t prepared to kill off beloved characters or make plot twists that drastically and permanently change the nature of the show, they shouldn’t pretend they are going to. It’s a tease. 

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Nevertheless, the farewell scene managed a few good moments. Regina and Henry exchange affections and apologies. Emma says goodbye to both prongs of her love triangle (yessss!). Snow, Charming, and Emma bid a sad but contented farewell to their brief days as a family.

One year later, Emma and Henry’s idyllic pancake-eating, waking-up-at-8:15 life is interrupted by Hook, who says Emma’s family is in trouble and needs her help. Surprise! (Okay but seriously, was anybody surprised? Anybody? There were only about 7 million people watching, there’s got to be somebody.)

The flashbacks in this episode, unusually, cover a hodge-podge of characters, times, and places. They lack coherence, but make up for it with a flexibility that allows them to match perfectly with what is happening in the present. They serve both to remind us of plot points and to add depth to the current arc. In one flashback, we are reminded of how Emma gave Henry up after birthing him; in another, we see the same scene but as it is in Emma’s new memories, where she decides to keep Henry. It works quite well.

In other news, the Blue Fairy is revived, Tinkerbell gets her wings back, and a flashback reveals how Snow (as Mary Margaret) found Henry’s Once Upon a Time fairytale book in her closet as if by magic.

Things are going to change a lot in the second half of the season. Storybrooke is gone, so it looks like most of the action will take place in the Enchanted Forest. Hopefully Emma’s denial phase doesn’t last long; we already saw that all through season 1. We will also have a new Big Bad, the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the book, not the film; the book is in the public domain, but the film rights still belong to Warner Brothers). Once Upon a Time returns on the 9th of March, 2014.

Read Kylie’s review of the previous episode, The New Neverland, here.

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