After the Underworld arc wrapped up last week, it was a little unclear where Once Upon a Time was going to take its last two episodes. We got a lot of callbacks to seasons One and Two, but mostly everything is a set-up for season Six. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone paying attention over the past five years, but hey, sometimes the writers don’t even pay attention to what they’ve produced, so it gets hard to keep up.
Basically, we’re officially expanding beyond fairy-tales. And expect double the amount of Lana Parrilla next season.
Emma tries to delicately break the news of Hook’s return to Regina, but Rumplestiltskin’s latest shenanigans throw a wrench into her plans. Rumple tethers all of Storybrooke’s magic to the remnant of the Olympian Crystal that he picked up last episode. Since Belle is still under the sleeping curse and her father refuses to try True Love’s Kiss, Rumple needs more power to break the spell. Emma doubts whether Regina should be involved in stopping him, worried that the woman will relapse into her Evil Queen tendencies.
Henry takes love interest and Camelot native Violet on a road trip to New York City, after using his Authorial Power to steal the Olympian Crystal. Henry plans to destroy magic in our world for good, picking up a quest that his father Neal never completed. Emma and Regina take off after their son, hoping to reach him before Rumplestiltksin does. Meanwhile, the Merry Men, Merida, and various Camelot folks are desperate to bail when they hear Storybrooke is in peril. They return home through a portal summoned with the Sorcerer Wand. However, Henry leaving with the crystal has some side-effects: Snow, David, Hook, and Zelena are pulled into a mysterious new land, and magic begins to work outside of Storybrooke.
Following his dad’s notes takes Henry to a rare book section in the New York Library, where he finds several different versions of The Storybook, and a black chalice reminiscent of the Holy Grail. Since the Grail was the start of magic, Henry reasons The UnGrail (as I’m going to refer to it) will destroy it. Rumple tracks his grandson to the library, taking back the Crystal. Regina and Emma show up soon after, and Henry keeps mum (pun intended) about his secret weapon.
In our new Mystery Land, the gang are imprisoned by a disfigured warden who apparently has a history with Rumplestiltskin. To make an already convoluted story short, the man is both warden and prisoner: Mr. Hyde (Sam Witwer) and Dr. Jekyll (Hank Harris) are among a slew of residents in The Land of Untold Stories. The Jekyll side is timid and tries to help our protagonists escape by repairing the broken wand. Hyde is completely aware, however, and lays a trap for his alter-ego that not only results in them separating, but he obtains Pandora’s Box which currently houses a sleeping Belle.
Back in New York, Rumple charges up the Olympian Crystal. He deduces what’s happened to Box!Belle when Regina informs him of the portal mishap in Storybrooke. Henry uses the UnGrail to destroy the Crystal, having no idea he’s just doomed half of his family stuck in other realms. Understandably miffed at his grandson, Rumple takes Regina to Chinatown to find someone with magic who can help them. The Dragon (last seen in Season Two) is conveniently alive again and–while he he has no fondness for Rumple–he sees a “noble battle” being fought in Regina’s heart and promises to assist her. This is one of many conversations Regina has about her past deeds, the pull between dark and light, and how she wishes for a truly clean slate. This will be important later.
The Dragon conjures a live image of their family members on the run from Hyde in The Land of Untold Stories, but he doesn’t have enough strength to open a portal. Henry, however, takes some of the Dragon’s advice to heart and comes up with a solution: tossing pennies in a fountain and wishing for their family’s safe return. It started off cute, but quickly became a very cheesy, second-hand embarrassment kind of solution: Henry asks a group of total strangers outside the New York Library to believe in magic and toss wishes into the fountain. It’s very “Clap If You Believe in Fairies.” The crowd thinks it’s some kind of performance art in the end, but whatever, it worked. Happy ending, right?
Not quite. When the portal from the Untold Land opened, Rumplestiltskin stepped through to confront Hyde. The clever warden offers Rumple a deal in exchange for something that will help wake Belle. I worried that the Jekyll/Hyde separation serum would be used on Rumple, but it was Regina instead, and of her own volition. Emma and Snow are by her side as Regina physically confronts the worst part of herself and crushes the Evil Queen’s heart. Too bad no one on this show seems to remember that ashes can be used for all sorts of magical things and YOU SHOULD NEVER LEAVE THEM LYING AROUND .
Oh and Hyde’s now in Storybrooke with some unseen friends, claiming he owns the place thanks to his deal with Rumplestiltskin. What the what?! I’ve got mixed feelings about the finale itself, but it does lay the foundation for a potentially interesting season Six. The recent arrivals from The Land of Untold Stories may mean more of a Season One feel, where the lives of many characters had been put on hold. Besides Jekyll and Hyde, we may see Paul Bunyan, The Three Musketeers, or Gulliver.
But the Evil Queen is still in New York – will she make a beeline for Storybrooke or is she going to gather forces first? Could we have a Hyde/Evil Queen partnership, or will she infiltrate Storybrooke and undermine him from the shadows?
Lastly, where is Rumplestiltksin? Hyde implied that Rumple was off to another land to find something to wake Belle. Will we actually follow his adventures, or is Robert Carlyle going to get a vacation for the 6A arc? Carlyle is one of the greatest actors on the show, but his character’s story is now closely tied with Belle. With Emilie de Ravin on maternity leave, Rumbelle shippers might have to wait until Rumple returns to Storybrooke with Belle and newborn baby in tow.