This Once Upon a Time review contains spoilers.
Once Upon a Time Season 6 Episode 1
After five seasons of spells, trickery, torment, irredeemable curses, enchanted quills, people who turn into puppets, human hearts in boxes and a descent into Hades, Season 6 of Once Upon a Time looks to be taking an even darker turn in the shadows of that enchanted forest.
Maybe my seven-year-old self is still clinging to the Disney version in which Beast doesn’t make shady deals and morphs into a handsome prince at the end, but I was never a fan of Rumbelle. Their first dance made me cringe. The flashback of their first dance made me cringe. Rumplestiltskin has been nothing but a beast to Belle—which is exactly why I was so thrilled about Morpheus and his magical hourglass. He sees right through Rumple’s attempts to make Belle fall back in love with him (how she ever did in the first place still remains a mystery to me). You know someone is a greasy Mephistopheles when he enters his comatose lover’s dreamscape to supposedly lift her sleeping curse and save her from eternal damnation, only to start hissing last season’s castle-in-the-sky promises in her ear again with that poisonous tongue.
Speaking of beasts, Mr. Hyde is finally put in some very steampunk handcuffs after flying his reject brigade from the Land of Untold Stories in on a dirigible and unleashing them on Storybrooke. Even locking him up and shooting lightning at him doesn’t solve the problem of the strange and disturbing visions Emma has been experiencing ever since they landed. We see her tortured more and more throughout the episode, with what can only be described as waking night terrors. They look like swordfight outtakes from a medieval war movie that keep getting more and more explicit the longer she’s subjected to Hyde and his creepy bloodshot eye. Every time one flashed on the screen, I was desperately squinting for any cryptic clues I might have missed in the previous one. The visions seem to be unraveling into their own story, and if the oracle Emma consulted (Scheherezade?) is right, they will.
“Good Regina” is really regretting her stint as the Evil Queen. Like she should be. She also feels a gnawing guilt for Robin’s demise, especially when she realizes her failed locator spell won’t work because it’s trying to locate him. Now that she finally has something resembling a conscience, she actually seems human admitting to Mary Margaret with tearful eyes that she committed too many unforgivable crimes. Cutting out people’s hearts isn’t exactly something you can send a condolence bouquet in the mail for. She can’t exactly work out a roommate arrangement with Zelena yet, since Zelena’s bitterness over the whole Robin Hood love triangle could be problematic. At least the good witch seems to be staying for good. “I’m going to start a new story,” she insists, “one where the evil queen doesn’t get a part and I choose to believe that this story will have a better ending than my last.”
Spoiler alert if it hasn’t already been materializing all over the internet by now: Regina’s dark side is still alive (or undead) and sipping apple martinis.
Then there are the people in the woods. Who are they? Where did they come from? Why are they holding flaming torches? Should Snow White have shot her arrows at them while she still could? At this point it’s unclear whether these shadowy figures are more by-products of Hyde’s dirigible or something even more terrifying. They could be stragglers from another untold story. They could be wraiths that emerged from the bowels of the underworld. They could be nothing more than stereotypical angry torch-wielding villagers, though there are no pitchforks to be seen. At this point they still lurk in the leaves and shadows.
So where are Jafar, Aladdin, Scheherezade and Princess Jasmine, whose appearance we were relentlessly teased about all summer? There is a tantalizing glimpse of Jafar on his magic carpet and a foretelling of Aladdin’s destiny as a Savior. Jasmine is MIA and Scheherezade is still hiding somewhere in her tent. Shrouded in mystery and incense smoke, the characters may shimmer like desert mirages now, but I believe that some sort of magic will flesh them out as this season continues twisting and turning.