Some episodes of Once Upon a Time have been excellent, some have been mediocre, and some have left me wanting to reclaim that hour of my life. The Peter Pan storyline had its highlights: the choice to make Peter Pan a villain, the passionate kiss between Emma and Hook, the forcing of Emma, Snow, and Charming to reveal some hard truths about their relationships. That said, I was ready for the next chapter, or at least I thought I was. Rumple is gone! Aside of some dodgy details, like why Rumple had to die in order for Pan to die, or how a magically-crippled Rumple summoned his shadow from Neverland, it makes sense. Rumple’s struggle to find his son and redeem himself: interesting. Rumple settling down with Belle and living happily ever after? As Faith Hill and Tim McGraw would attest, not so much. The romance between Snow White and Prince Charming may have lured many of us to the show but Robert Carlyle‘s brilliant portrayal of Rumplestiltskin and Lana Parilla‘s wonderfully snarky Evil Queen kept us watching.
While I had high hopes of Rumple and Regina starting their own Wicked Schemers Anonymous club and discussing the challenges of a Dark Magic-free life over tea at Granny’s Diner, I am intrigued by the show’s next direction. The Curse that originally created Storybrooke has been recast. It removed all memory of time spent there, at least for Emma and Henry. I’ll admit, my first thought was, “If Regina can plant whatever fake memories she wants, why can’t she re-plant real memories? Magic sucks.” However, there’s a legitimate reason why Henry would have to lose his memories. The price of magic is high, and in order to stop The Curse from devastating everyone in town, Regina has to give up Henry, truly give him up. He can’t just be elsewhere, pining for another mom who gave him up to give him his best shot; he has to be completely unaware of her and her sacrifice.
What about the fairy tale folk? Regina “stopped” The Curse, which I think means they get to keep their memories this time around. I think. If they forget their time in Storybrooke, Regina will be dealing with more than heartbreak. Apparently, somebody remembers something though, because we know that Hook finds his way back to Emma and he remembers her well enough. Sadly for him, his attempt to kiss her lacked that True Love’s Kiss Can Break Any Curse punch. Although, Snow and Charming did a lot of kissing in their Mary Margaret/David days and weren’t able to break This Particular Curse either. Not only do the rules of magic usually suck, but they are infuriatingly inconsistent.
I seem to be taking the loss of Rumple well, don’t I? It’s only because this show is always filling in the gaps, and Rumple is likely to appear in a variety of backstories. And who knows, maybe the magic of Rumple’s dagger interacted with The Curse and somehow spit out a magic-free but living Rumple? Kind of like what happened when Tink tossed Pan’s Shadow into the fire and the Blue Fairy popped up out of her casket? I mean, there had to be a reason for that scene, right? Right?
Ridiculous moments aside, Once Upon a Time is a show that asks us to look below the surface, even as it dazzles us with its fantastic settings. It asks us to consider big questions. What makes a hero? Where does forgiveness end and naivete begin? Can even the most wicked person find redemption? Can a villain have a happy ending?