Once Upon A Time 6X01 Review: One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

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It’s been a while, Oncers. But here we are, back for another season of Once Upon A Time. Hang on to your hats, because I’m back, more sarcastic, more opinionated, more informed and in possession of a way more Funkos than I was last year.

So, join me as we discuss the miracle of Regina’s character growth, the been there, done that nature of Emma’s storyline, as well as Belle’s rude and necessary awakening. The women have always ruled Once Upon A Time, and this episode is no different. For right OR wrong.

A WHOLE NEW WORLD

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The thing with this whole new world, though, is that it seems to be just as crappy as the old one. Maybe even more. We only get a glimpse of Aladdin, but he seems to be in very bad shape – and it’s not exactly physical. Mostly he seems to have lost hope, something that we can actually relate to, as we see it happening to Emma later on in the episode. And hey, we get it – being a savior is hard business. But, am I the only one thinking that the saviors themselves aren’t really helping it make it any easier?

I mean, believing all the bad omens and acting like you’re doomed before you have enough information kinda seems like the recipe for …well, being doomed. Doesn’t it?

CAPTAIN SWAN INTERRUPTUS

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Okay, Once Upon A Time, what gives? I get that Emma and Hook haven’t been together that long in show time and all of that, but this is a tad cruel. Not just on the Captain Swan fans, but on the characters themselves. I mean, sex is a good thing. It releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people are more likely to want to be saviors. So, ergo, the solution to this whole savior problem is just …well, sex!

All joking aside, despite the fact that Emma does have a kid, it seems like she’s the only one not having sex. Snow and Charming are clearly doing it. Regina and Robin …yeah, we all saw that. Don’t even get me started on how Zelena got pregnant. (*pukes*) Belle is pregnant right now, so you do the math.

So, basically, what it comes down to is that, in Once Upon A Time, if you want to have sex you have to be:

  1. Married
  2. Evil
  3. Regina

And that’s pretty much it. Since Emma is not married (yet), was never really truly evil and is certainly not Regina, that doesn’t seem to bode well for her (and Hook). Although maybe the writers will prove me wrong. I hope so. Endorphins, I tell you. Endorphins.

They probably would have helped Emma make the right decision – trusting the man who loves her and the family who’s been there for her, instead of trying to face a possible (Emphasis on the possible, Emma. Never trust random people who show up in the middle of the wood with dark omens. You should know better!) bleak future alone.

HER VERY OWN HERO, AT LAST

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Belle and Rumple never get to me. Seriously, they never do. Mostly because nothing ever changes with them. Rumples  promises that, this time, he’ll really change. Belle believes him. He chooses power over her. She’s left alone.

Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s the story of our Beauty and her Beast.

At some point, something’s gotta give. And though I’d begged the show to put a stop to it, I didn’t really think they would.4

But hey, it’s finally time to throw Belle that “YOU GOT RID OF THE ASSHOLE” party I’ve been planning for years.

It’s not about loving Rumple – she does love him. It’s not about her love for her – he does love her. It’s about what’s best for Belle and her unborn baby. It’s about a strong woman finally saying, you know what, I’ve given you one too many chances, and this time I’m putting myself first. This time I’m putting my baby first.

Hallelujah.

What does this mean for Rumple? For Belle? For little Morpheus (Dear God, don’t name him that!)? I don’t know. But, for the first time in about three seasons, I’m actually somewhat interested in where this is going. Imagine that.

ONE STEP FORWARD

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“Evil did not make you strong,” Emma tells Regina at the beginning of the episode, and these words spark Regina’s self-introspection, because, fact is, Regina always believed evil had indeed made her stronger. And, as nice as it is to have someone believe on you, Emma’s words are not enough to change that. Snow’s come closer, because as much as Regina and Emma might have established some sort of bond, Regina and Snow are family. They always have been. Even when they didn’t particularly want to. But, as always, growth doesn’t come from the outside. It comes from the inside.

Regina has to find the answers herself. It was never about getting rid of her evil half, it was about believing that she could go forward without it.

“I was an awful step-mother,” she says, at the end, in that conversation with Snow that seems to be the beginning of a new Regina. And truth it, she was. She just never truly knew how to own up to all she’d done. It was easier to think that the Evil Queen had done it. But this is a monumental moment of character growth for Regina. “I hurt people, in ways I can never make up for,” she finally admits, and it’s true. She probably can’t make up for everything she did.

But she can try to be better.

“The only story I heard was the one I kept telling myself,” Regina continues, admitting that, in a way, she was hiding behind the Evil Queen. Because it was easier. Because she didn’t have to feel that way. And then, in what I hope is the actual arc they’ve got planned for her this year, she ends with: “I want to start a new story. 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.”

For the first time (in forever), I truly believe this is possible.

THREE STEPS BACK

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Apparently, only one character gets to actually grow this episode. Regina is it, so Emma has to take not one, but three steps back. Or, well, at least, she doesn’t move forward the way we expect her to.

That’s the thing with Emma, expectations. She’s the main character, so we want to much from her. And though Emma has grown in the past six seasons, her growth has not occurred at the rate we would want. That, however, doesn’t mean she isn’t growing.

Yes, she’s keeping a huge secret. But you have to remember Emma’s had a pretty hard life. Her default process is inside, not outside. Add that with the fact that she feels that, as the savior, she’s responsible for everyone else, and you’ve got secrets. It’s more disappointing than it is surprising.

I don’t for a moment believe this will last all season, though. Hook, who leaves when Emma asks him to, because he respects her too much to take choice away from her, will nevertheless not give up. He’ll keep being there. And so will the rest of her family.

Hope is a choice, Snow says, and though the words are aimed at Regina, they apply to Emma more in this episode. She’s chosen the opposite of this, but I believe that, just as we’ve had to watch Emma lower her walls to accept familial love, friendship and then romantic love, we’ll be treated to Emma’s journey towards understanding that, with love, comes to expectation that you’ll allow others to ease your burdens.

Love is never truly being alone. Emma doesn’t really get that, not yet. But she will. And we’ll be here to see her get to that point.

IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME COMING

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A long time ago, this show was built on the relationship between Snow White and the Evil Queen. It was never a loving relationship, though, from the beginning, we sensed that it could have been, if things had worked out differently. And we’ve been sitting on that promise for years. Not anymore.

Regina was a victim in some respects, yes, but you don’t get to claim the high moral ground when you turn around and make other people your victims. And that’s been the problem with Regina for so long, the thing holding these two back from really connecting. Sure, Snow has tried. And yes, Regina has reached out. But not till this episode did Snow and Regina really achieve their potential.

Because the people having that conversation at the end finally put the past aside. They went from sorta allies to family. Finally.

It was a long time coming.

SISTERHOOD

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Regina, you should know better. In fact, everyone in this stupid town should know better. Treat former villains with caution, lest they revert. I repeat, TREAT FORMER VILLAINS WITH CAUTION, LEST THEY REVERT. I think we should put that in the “Welcome to Storybrooke sign.”

All Zelena wants is to feel close to her sister. Sure, Regina has more than enough reason to be angry at her, but that doesn’t change the basic fact that, even if it was late, Zelena chose her sister last season. She tried to do the right thing. And right now she feels like all of that was for nothing.

Not saying Regina needed to hold hands with her and sing Kumbaya, but I’d expect a lot of more of empathy from the former Evil Queen. Especially in an episode where Regina finally, finally allows herself to own up to all the evil she did. Her. Regina. Not just the Evil Queen. Because despite the fact that the Evil Queen is literally walking around Storybooke, they’re not really two separate people.

They’re one and the same.

But hey, Once Upon A Time really likes their character to learn the same lesson over, and over again. Until it really sticks or something. All I ask, though, is that if they’re really going to go the evil Zelena way (again), they give her the courtesy of the same introspection Regina finally managed in this episode. That’d make her a more interesting character.

THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE SENSE, A LIST

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I thought it’d be nice to, like, keep track of them. Because hey, I might like Once Upon A Time, but I’m not blind. They have some issues – especially some issues with, ahem …what was the word? Ah, yes ….continuity. So, first on the list of things that make no sense whatsoever in Season 6, we find …

  1. The fact that Emma and Regina’s magic doesn’t affect Hyde. I mean, not that we get an actual explanation for this. It’s just a thing that happens and we have to take on faith. Which, yeah. Not buying it, Once. I need actual answers. Even if they’re bad ones.
  2. Henry being in the middle of every dangerous thing that happens in Storybrooke. He’s a teenager. Stop taking him/letting him go to possibly dangerous places. It’s bad parenting.
  3. Zelena losing literally the only thing Regina was left of Robin, and bringing it UP with Regina when she didn’t know where it was. At the very least, if she didn’t know where she put it, she should have lied. But no, why use common sense? It’s not like she could foresee Regina reacting badly, right?

OTHER THINGS TO NOTE

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  • I wish I could say Hook’s leather kink surprised me, but you sorta telegraphed that one, OUAT. You really did.
  • Good twist with Morpheus there, Once Upon A Time. Just when I thought this whole thing was nonsensical, you made it right. Kudos to you. Plus, A+ casting. I CAN SEE THE RESEMBLANCE!
  • “They have no interest in walking in on this, believe me.” – So the Charmings are pretty much guaranteed to walk in on Hook and Emma at some point, right? Is that what you’re telling me?
  • Did the Dark Swan buy that house or what? Not that I mind – I like the idea of cohabitation.
  • I’m gonna go ahead and say it – the hooded figure Emma is fighting? The Evil Queen.
  • Yay, Pongo’s back! And Archie too, I guess. We can’t have one without the other.
  • So far, Hyde is a pretty ineffectual villain. Emma’s doing all the harm herself.
  • Red bird equals Jafar. We know this. What we don’t know is why Emma would listen to any bird/person she meets in the middle of the forest, at night. Have you ever seen a scary movie, Emma? THIS is how people die.

NEXT, ON ONCE UPON A TIME

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.


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