This Once Upon a Time review contains spoilers.
Once Upon a Time Season 6 Episode 5
Magic carpet rides can be dangerous, at least in Once Upon a Time. So can knowing your fortune. After weeks of Aladdin teasers followed up with commercials for the Broadway musical, we finally get to fly to Agrabah and meet the street-rat-turned-royalty and his princess in peril. Unlike the characters you might have grown up with, they are hardly two-dimensional.
What is refreshing about Aladdin is that he’s portrayed as a flawed individual rather than some invincible cartoon hero with a genie at his disposal—there isn’t even a magic lamp in the Cave of Wonders. This is not someone who intrepidly swoops into every life-threatening situation like a fairytale hero. While the prince of thieves can still fly around on an Oriental rug and throw lightning bolts of magic with a wave of his hand, he also exposes fears and shortcomings that are all too human. However much someone who rewound the Aladdin VHS tape countless times and sang “A Whole New World” at her second-grade talent show cringes at saying this, the ex-savior can be something of a coward. Anyone with the nerve to trick an entire kingdom into believing he’s dead has issues.
Jasmine isn’t exactly the daring princess Disney makes her out to be, either. She is brave enough to sneak out of the palace and brazenly admit that she doesn’t care much for royal life and is in the market for someone to steal a diamond for her. However, she also reveals herself to be extremely sheltered under all that gold jewelry and embellished silk. Most of her existence is lived within the marble walls of a castle that has a library enormous enough to be beyond imagining. Not that being surrounded by an endless wonderland of books is anything to be ashamed of, but she obviously doesn’t get out much. That explains why she’s absolutely terrified when Aladdin proposes sweeping her off to see the world on his levitating carpet, and it has nothing to do with a fear of heights.
And Jafar? Jafar is just evil. Though he gets extra points for having an oracle-bird with glowing red eyes.
By now we know that the teacher’s aide who passed herself off as “Shireen” is the princess herself. What we probably didn’t expect was for her to be taken into police custody for murder, though it quickly becomes evident that someone else had been having fun with the dark arts (and for once it wasn’t Rumplestiltskin). What started out as the investigation of a possible killer magically turns into a missing persons case. Aladdin has been MIA since the fall of Agrabah. He’d also be a lot easier to find if he didn’t go skulking around a graveyard and taking advantage of all the skeletons to make everyone believe he must have flown his carpet straight into the underworld.
Graveyards and ghosts aside, Emma’s visions refuse to fade. Imagine having a migraine and a nightmare at once in broad daylight. No amount of aspirin or time in the therapists chair can help her because there is a thing worse than a terrifying dream, and it’s called a vision of yourself facing what could possibly be the your own personal Grim Reaper. To assume it’s the Evil Queen is just too easy. Not she or any of of her evil elite wouldn’t be honored to take up the sword and hooded black robe in what looks like a Storybrooke meets Nazgul-esque Lord of the Rings cosplay crossover, but it would be hardly shocking enough if she or her sister or even the reformed Regina were to materialize from under that hood. To assume that Emma is inevitably going to meet her end as a savior is also too easy. While certain death overshadows the savior like a chronic stalker, she just worries out loud about it too much for it to ever actually play out. I suspect the writers have some sadistic mystery potion up their sleeve that keeps leading us onto the obvious suspects so whoever is hiding in the shadows of Emma’s subconscious can stay cloaked—for now.
This episode casts a powerful spell of suspense. There are things that stay secret, things that get revealed, things that get purposely misplaced in graves and things that should vanish in the depths of the ocean forever, but don’t. I also want to see more of Jafar’s mystically creepy bird.