What ifs seem to be all the rage these days. Earlier this week Arrow took us to a dream world that was altogether too perfect. Today, Once Upon A Time attempted to do the same.
Both shows sent a message, loud and clear, they just did it without emotionally engaging us.
In the case of Once Upon A Time, it was probably because this AU Emma felt very unlike the one we know and love. And yes, some things, a lot of things, have to do with your upbringing, but I think we all sorta expected Emma to be badass because she was… well, Emma, and not because the Dark Curse made her so.
And that means the rest of the things we got – the ones that made sense and the ones that didn’t, felt all like crumbs being thrown our way. Yes, the idea of an aged Snow/Charming who got to raise their child was nice, but we barely got to see them together and bonding. Sure, the notion of Henry growing up in the EF was cool … except, his character development seems to have come at the expense of Emma’s.
So, let’s go in depth into the good, the bad the meh of “Wish You Were Here,” starting with:
ONE DAY MY PRINCE WILL COME
For an episode as light in Captain Swan as this one, there sure was a lot of Captain Swan. From the notion that Emma, despite being happy in her life was still sorta waiting for her prince to come, to Killian’s refusal to give up on Emma coming back, these two are just as strong when they are together as they are when they’re apart.
And that’s the ideal, isn’t it? A show is, after all, more than just two people. If it were, then those two people would be going through hell 99.7% of the time and no one really wants that. Once Upon A Time has an ensemble cast, and yet, it’s clear Captain Swan is the main couple, the one they write around. The one they have painstakingly set up, slowly developed and the one that they throw little nods at every time they get a chance.
This is the couple. Endgame. True Love. However you want to call it. This is how the show ends. Write it in stone if you need to. No one’s dying, no one’s going away and this ship is certainly not sinking.
The thing the dream world was supposed to do was show that what makes Emma the Savior, the thing that makes her strong is her own choices. She isn’t the Savior because that was decided in advance and she isn’t the Savior because that was her destiny, she’s the Savior because she chose that role, with its drawbacks and it’s perks. (Are there any perks? Really, any?).
Best part (maybe the only good part) about this storyline is that Emma’s reason to remember is not clichéd or absurd and it doesn’t have to do with anyone other than herself. It’s not Regina’s words or actions that bring her back, not true love, not even Henry … it’s her own strength. Her own willpower.
And yet, this is the message that gets skewed the most in this midseason finale. The AU version of Emma is a pampered princess with two strong parents who, apparently, never showed her how to be her own hero. She has no fight in her, and despite Regina going to great lengths to provoke her, she just doesn’t seem to have it in her.
Except she should, because she’s still Emma. Being happy doesn’t necessarily make you weak. Everyone can be a hero of the situation calls for it, and when the situation did AU Emma just… wasn’t.
She was just a prop in pretty clothes. What a wasted opportunity.
It seemed way too straightforward, and yet, if there’s one thing that Once Upon A Time likes to do sometimes is go for the obvious and hope you’re too busy looking the other way.
The Black Fairy was too interesting a character to be a one-off and casting a grown-up version of Rumple and Belle’s baby meant we were probably gonna see him in more than dreams, right?
Do I hate the twist? No. It makes Rumple and Belle’s forced interactions way more interesting and it adds a layer of emotion to the idea of him possibly killing Emma because he’s not just a stranger, he’s someone with a connection to our characters. Was I surprised by it? Not even a little bit. But just because I already know the end doesn’t mean I can’t like the journey.
HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND
I really hope the choices of Regina and the Evil Queen are somehow leading up to this wonderful realization because so far absolutely nothing makes sense. Why was the Evil Queen so naive in her confrontation with both David and Regina? For that matter, why did Regina feel the need to actually murder AU Snow and Charming? I know that wasn’t real life for HER, but it was a life of sorts and she treated it like it is was nothing.
Carelessness is not a good look on heroes. It’s not a good look on anyone. Regina has come a long way, and yet it feels like she’s regressed in the past two episodes. She’s not entitled to anything just because she’s Regina. You have to earn your redemption time again and again because some things you can never make up for. And Regina’s done plenty of those.
And that’s not even going into the hypocrisy of seeing THIS Robin as a real person when she just murdered those versions of Snow and Charming.
But hey, hopefully there’s a reason for this. One that the show will explain. Sooner rather than later, please. As it stands having to wait till March is already too much.
THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE SENSE, A LIST
This list is the gift that keeps on giving.
- Why is it that the sword can hurt the EQ and not Regina?
- How did the EQ get the lamp? How does she know everything that’s going on?
- Where would Princess Emma meet Baelfire? Wasn’t he in the “real” world? How did he get back?
- Why did the AU affect only Emma? If she wasn’t the Savior everything would change.
- How did Snow and Charming defeat the EQ in this AU? Inquiring minds want to know.
- Why didn’t Regina just wish for EVERYONE to go to the EF? Or for Emma to return? Or, you know, anything that made sense?
- Are you telling me Snow and Charming didn’t raise a warrior? Is that the conclusion we must derive from AU Emma?
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE
- How many of those creepy locator bracelets did you make, Rumple? Next one goes on Hook, right? I mean, you always need an enemy.
- Blue IS the Black Fairy, right? Come on, I’ve been saying she’s shady for six years.
- Sometimes, Henry, sometimes you are just too damn nice.
- If Emma is going into a potentially dangerous and life threatening situation, wouldn’t it make sense to, you know, wake Snow for a bit to at least sort of say goodbye?
- The shot of Emma/Hook/Charming strutting down the street was my favorite visual of this episode, by far.
- Hook and Charming have mirroring looks of pain in their faces when Emma vanishes.
- The decision to bring Henry into the AU – which, of course, meant that they needed Neal as well, was suspect at best.
- It wasn’t a tribute to Neal – not even close. It merely reinforced the fact that the only good thing he ever did was sire Henry. And, as much as I dislike him, that’s just a slap in the face for his fans.
- The EQ putting the moves on Aladdin was next level gross.
- Plus, there was even a hint of a very NOT funny “joke” about her being able to order him to do what she wanted.
- Which just reminds me that this show has SERIOUS issues with consent it’s never addressed.
- I do wish they’d taken the time to explore the EQ using sexuality as a weapon. It is, after all, the only way she knows to be in control.
- Regina trying to sneak a peek at Knight Henry while in EQ garb was sort of adorable.
- AU Snow/Charming were like pod people.
- Emma was humming “One Day My Prince Will Come” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
- Her Prince will probably show up next episode. Prince Killian.
- My new headcanon is that Henry introduced Hook to the wonders of Hamilton.
- Charming, your wish was good, but I wish you’d added a “NOW” to it.
- Captain Charming scenes give me life, though. Another relationship that hasn’t really been explored as much. Hopefully that’ll change.
- Bye, Aladdin. You’re an idiot. I’m not sure I want you to come back.
- Emma, you should have just grabbed her by the arm and jumped.
- Grab Robin too, if necessary. Even if this is probably just another bait and switch meant to make us suffer.
- As if this season wasn’t already a 10 episode treaty on how absurd his death was.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC. It’s currently in hiatus and will return in March.