Saturday, December 8, 2012

Once Upon a Time 2.09: "Queen of Hearts"

“Oh you foolish girl! Don’t you know? Love is weakness.”

The fall finale of “Once Upon a Time” showed one area where creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz seem to have learned from their experience working on “Lost.” They seem to be making an effort here to parcel out the mythology in small bites and create defined story arks within that larger mythology. There isn’t one defined goal for the whole series like there was on “Lost” (getting off the Island…or so we thought). Instead, there seems to be a goal per season or half season. Last season it was breaking the curse and making the people of Storybrooke remember their true identities. This half-season was about getting Emma and Snow back to Storybrooke. This will hopefully help Kitsis and Horowitz to avoid completely pointless episodes like “Lost’s” “Stranger in a Strange Land,” because there is always something new that the characters are working to achieve. In the course of watching the characters try to meet these goals, we’ve been given backstory, often in the form of the character-centric episodes that were a staple of “Lost.” Actually, I think that “Once Upon a Time” is strongest when it sticks to the character-centric episode model. When it doesn’t it becomes a bit meandering and disjointed. This particular episode wasn’t character-centric, but because it was trying to wrap up the story arc, it held together anyway.

We start with an Enchanted Forest flashback, where Hook finds Belle in Regina’s dungeons. Hook offers to free Belle if she helps him kill Rumpelstiltskin (because of that whole feud they had over Rumpel’s wife back in the day). Belle, since she’s still inexplicably in love with Rumpelstiltskin, refuses. Hook is about to attack Belle when Regina enters the dungeon and stops him. Regina says that she is in a better position to help Hook kill Rumpelstiltskin, and she will help him if Hook helps her kill her mother in exchange. Hook agrees, and Regina pulls out Jefferson’s hat to send Hook to the land to which she banished Cora long ago. Wonderland, of course. It doesn’t take Hook long at all to find Cora in Wonderland. She’s the Queen of Hearts, naturally. And so we see the beginning of Hook and Cora’s unholy alliance.

Cora explains to Hook that if Regina’s curse happens as planned, it will still be more difficult than Hook thinks to kill Rumpelstiltskin. In the land without magic, nobody will remember their true identities, so Hook won’t even remember that he wants to kill Rumpelstiltskin. Instead, Cora wants Hook to help her kill Regina. So Hook and Cora head back to the Enchanted Forest, and Hook shows Regina a seemingly dead Cora in a coffin. Regina asks for some time to say goodbye, and she gives this long monologue about how Cora was her weakness, and now that she’s gone, she can do what she needs to do. After Regina leaves the room, Cora sits up, clearly not dead. She’s shaken by what Regina said, and she’s worried that Regina might have gone farther down the dark path than she originally thought (she’s not upset that Regina’s gone evil, she’s upset that Regina might be able to defeat her, really). Cora tells Hook they need a new plan. They are going to protect themselves from Regina’s curse with a sort of freezing spell. This spell is what created the safe haven we saw the ladies visit earlier in the season. This is when I became especially appreciative at how quickly the creative team is explaining things.

In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold is still trying to work all the angles, as always. He’s kind of the Ben Linus of this piece in that sense. He wants Regina to help him sort of poison the portal that Emma and Snow are supposed to use to get home, because both he and Regina are worried that Cora might come through that portal instead. He points out that Regina really wins either way. If Cora comes through the portal first, she dies and Regina is free of that baggage. If Emma and Snow come through the portal first and die, than Regina will be the only mother figure left in Henry’s life. Gross. Regina seems a little reluctant to participate in this at first because of her promise to Henry, but when she sees Henry reading fairy tales to a still comatose Charming, she tells Henry that she’s going to go help Emma and Snow. Instead, she helps Mr. Gold steal all the diamonds from the mine so that they will have enough magic to poison the portal.

In the present day Enchanted Forest, the ladies find Rumpelstiltskin’s old cell (the one where Snow and Charming talked to him about how to avoid Regina’s curse). They’re looking for the squid ink that is supposed to help them return home. As they’re searching around, Aurora finds a scroll that just has “Emma” written on it over and over. Clearly things aren’t going to be quite as easy as Emma and Snow hoped. Oops. Things then go from bad to worse. Aurora (controlled by Cora) locks the gang in the cell, and then Cora arrives to make her Evil Speech of Evil about how she has Aurora’s heart. Hook is with her, too. While the ladies are stewing in the cell and trying to figure out how to get free, Emma realizes that she’s been Rumpelstiltskin’s pawn for pretty much her entire life. He set things in motion to almost guarantee she’d be the Savior he needed.

After the Evil Speech of Evil is said and done, Cora and Hook head out to the (now dry) lake, because they’re hoping the lakes magic will re-energize the wardrobe dust and create a portal. The dry-ness of the lake isn’t much of a problem, because Cora just uses her own magic to make the water reappear. Cheater. Back at the dungeons, Snow realizes that the writing on the scroll Aurora found is all in squid ink, and she uses that magic to break them out of jail. Cora and Hook are just about ready to jump through the portal (which Regina and Gold have successfully poisoned on their end) when the ladies arrive on the scene. First the ladies successfully retrieve Aurora’s heart, and Mulan rushes off to return it to its rightful owner (this whole concept of ripping out hearts is so odd…and gross). Snow and Emma continue the fight, and the first on Team Evil to go down is Hook, thanks to a knock-out punch from Emma. Cora is a bit more difficult to take down because she can teleport, but she’s stopped when she tries to grab Emma’s heart and is stunned by the realization that it is magically impervious to her heart-grabbing ways.

As soon as Henry finds out what Regina and Gold are up to, he heads out to the magic well and begs them to stop. Gold still wants to leave the portal curse in place, but Henry insists that good always triumphs and it will be Emma and Snow coming through that portal, not Cora. Regina finally decides to believe Henry, and she steps up to the well and absorbs the curse herself. It takes a toll on her, but she survives. Emma and Snow are indeed the ones to come through the portal, and there’s a happy little family reunion while Regina just glowers from the sidelines. She’s feeling left out, poor thing (that was sarcasm for you Sheldons out there). Emma goes the pawn shop (what an appropriate place for Mr. Gold to own, by the way) to talk to Mr. Gold about what she learned in the Enchanted Forest. He admits that he did orchestrate most of her life, but the magical impervious heart powers were all hers. Snow awakens Charming, and Henry thanks Regina for saving everybody. Emma, who has rejoined the group by that point, suggests that they all go over to Granny’s to celebrate. Regina decides not to join and continues to look sullen.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, Mulan gives Aurora her heart back. Aurora tells Mulan about how she learned that people ffected by the sleeping curse aren’t really dead, and the two ladies decide that their next mission is going to be to try and rescue Prince Phillip. On our side of the portal, we see the Storybrooke crew happily walking down the street to Granny’s. The camera pans out, and we see a ship approaching the Maine coast. In what might be my absolute favorite moment of the series thus far (mostly because of the really cool visual), we learn that this is Captain Hook’s ship. He and Cora somehow found their way into our universe, and they’re heading to Storybrooke to make trouble. Hook and Cora’s arrival should make for a very exciting second half of the season. I certainly don’t object to seeing more Hook. He’s a somewhat more cleaned up Captain Jack Sparrow, which is most definitely fun to watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment