Around the Water Cooler: “Once Upon A Time,” the Season 3 Finale and Winter/Spring Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “Once Upon a Time” airs on network TV, specifically on ABC, fall/winter/spring Sundays at 8:00 PM.

What: “Once Upon a Time,” a fantasy drama wherein storybook and fairy tale characters are not only real but are living in this world, away from their enchanted kingdoms and worlds beyond reality, and how they all interrelate (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/once_upon_a_time/summary.html).

When: The Season 3 finale aired on Sunday, May 12, 2014, on ABC at 8:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in fictional Storybrooke, Maine, as well as in “The Enchanted Forest,” the fairy tale kingdom from where most of the main characters originate. The action takes place primarily in present day, though there are flashbacks to the characters’ past lives, before they were whisked away to Storybrooke via curse wrought by the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parilla) and before they were made run-of-the-mill real world residents with serious bouts of amnesia.

Why: Two primary reasons: one, I love fantasy and fairy tales, and the Disney network green-lit a live action serial television program about fairy tale characters that they would probably own the rights to, if the characters weren’t already public domain.  Two, the creators are Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, two of the head writers of Lost. Whatever else may be said about the latter program, I don’t think anyone could argue that Lost wasn’t well written.  Once boasted some whopper ingredients that promised to result in an explosive and tantalizing mixture of story possibilities; the show has done nothing but live up to that expectation and then some.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

For a recap of the first half of the season, including a comprehensive look at December’s mid-season finale, click here.

Well, we’ve been to Oz and back, and now it looks as if we’re going to get a little Frozen.  And this viewer doesn’t know how she feels about it.

The second half of the third season of Once Upon a Time can best be described as “squandered potential.”  After a first half meditating almost exclusively on Never Land and the convoluted family tree surrounding young Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), the second half of the season took a brilliant mid-season finale and endless possibilities for storybook (ahem) potential and became a somewhat boring affair that ended on a satisfying if less than riveting cliffhanger, with little story cohesion in the process.  What’s more, the Once production team apparently got in bed with the unerring capitalists behind the network and decided to introduce a timely – and chilly – villain for next season, in the most exploitative way possible.

In some ways, season 3 of Once felt like season 3 of Lost all over again, only backwards.  The bad first half of the third season of Lost led to the cliffhanger of all time (“We have to go back!”) in a progressively better second half of that season. For Once, a decently harrowing first half, with at least some startling revelations despite a prolonged visit with Peter Pan – the man-turned-teen good-for-nothing dad of Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) – landed with an anticlimactic thud, despite a fun season finale that finally gave Emma (Jennifer Morrison) the chance to experience and understand the former world of her parents, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas).  In fact, the Back to the Future parallel stopped being a subtle reference and became an all-out homage in the finale, when Emma found herself back in time and interfering with the first chance meeting of her parents.  It was Marty meets Lorraine and George all over again, and even Emma remarked, so obviously meta and cheeky in the clunkiest bit of dialogue in the finale, that she did not want to be the Marty McFly of the situation, much to Hook’s (Colin O’Donaghue) befuddlement. There was even a dance involved, though it wasn’t exactly called “Enchantment Under the Sea” – or “Fish Under the Sea” for that matter.

Let’s back up, though.  As of the mid-season finale, bratty Peter Pan, aka Rumpel’s dad, met his demise at the hand of his son, who stabbed him with the Dark One’s blade, puncturing his father’s heart through his own shoulder in a brave and loving sacrifice to save those he loved. Rumpel and his selfish father disappeared from the streets of Storybrooke, though, unfortunately, Pan had unleashed another version of Regina’s curse;  the town of Storybrooke was doomed to fade into non-existence.  All the fairy tale characters would be whisked back to their former lands.  Emma and Henry were encouraged to run by all involved, with Regina casting a spell that would wipe their memories of Storybrooke and all who lived there clean.  As green smoke enveloped the sleepy, magical Maine town of Storybrooke, Emma and Henry drove in Emma’s yellow Volkswagen Beetle away from the town they had called home and set up shop in New York City.  There they lived a year, believing that they had always been together, content to enjoy waffles and hot cocoa with cinnamon, and life was good.  Henry was well adjusted and happy; Emma was dating a man she believed would propose to her.

Hook subsequently shows up at Emma’s door in his best Doctor Emmett Brown manner.  Though he tries, unsuccessfully, to jog her suspicious and forgotten memory with a kiss, Emma, not knowing who he is, threatens to call the cops.  She slams the door in his face, just as he says: “Your family is in trouble!  You have to save them!”

Yet, the pirate also known as Killian is not easily dissuaded, being as in love with Emma as he is.  He manages to finagle his way into Emma’s life and to convince Emma to drink a vial of potion that allows her to recover her memories after her boyfriend turns out to be a flying monkey.  Once Emma is able to remember who she is, though Henry is still under the spell, Hook informs her that her parents and the denizens of Storybrooke need her help.  After all – she is the savior and the product of true love.  If anyone can save everyone, it’s Emma.  She’s done it loads of times before, right?

Emma, Hook, and Henry – who Emma informs is taking a road trip with them and will be out of school for a while, much to his suspicious cheer – head back to Maine.  There, they find that Storybrooke has flawlessly reappeared, and most of its citizens have returned as well.  They find Emma’s parents, but Snow/Mary Margaret is quite pregnant.  What’s worse, none of the Storybrooke residents can remember their year in the Enchanted Forest, and they don’t know how they got back, either.  What’s more, people are disappearing here and there, becoming what are identified to be more flying monkeys.

Regina is excited by the prospect of seeing Henry again, but he doesn’t remember her.  Emma allows them to spend time together but warns everyone that it will be tough to convince Henry of the truth, particularly since their year in New York was so good, so safe, and so free from fairy tale magic.  In secret, however, Emma simply hopes that once they’ve solved the mystery of the disappearing/reappearing village, Emma and Henry can return to that life in New York City, out of the way of magic, of being the savior, and of all of the confusing heartache she has experienced for three years.

The Charmings, Emma, and Regina start to piece together clues, as flashbacks show the viewer some glimpses of the return of the fairy tale characters to the Enchanted Forest.  Coinciding with this detective hunt is the appearance of Zelena (Rebecca Mader), who interviews as a possible midwife for Snow White.  The viewer soon learns that Zelena is none other than the Wicked Witch of the West from the Land of Oz.  The revelations don’t stop there, however.

Revelation #1 – Zelena, i.e. the Wicked Witch, is Regina’s half sister, the daughter of Cora and a gardener and cad who pretended to be a secret prince to woo Cora to bed.

In fact, Zelena finds this out and makes it her mission to exact revenge.  The viewer learns over several episodes that Zelena, who was more of a natural at learning magic than her sister, and who is the elder of the two, resents her mother for abandoning her in the Enchanted Forest, only to be picked up by a tornado and carried away to Oz.  Her adoptive father didn’t love her, and Rumpel, who found her and taught her to wield her powerful magical gift, didn’t love her either, despite her obsessively romantic leanings toward him.  Her quest for the entire second half of the season was to execute a spell that would allow her to go back in time and reclaim the life she never had, with her mother, with Rumpel, and away from everyone who ever crossed her path and caused her heartache.

Revelation #2 – Rumpelstiltskin is alive!  But at a cost!

In flashback, the viewer learns that Belle (Emilie de Ravin) and Baelfire (Michael Raymond James) decide to search for the Dark One’s spirit in order to aid them against Zelena and/or to piece together how Regina’s Evil Queen castle was taken over with a magical force field surrounding it. Baelfire, on advice from Lumiere – the candlestick from Beauty and the Beast and a purported prisoner in Rumpel’s castle – believes he can bring his father back from the dead if he is able to find the Dark One’s dagger, which sheathes the magical spirit.  Unfortunately, Lumiere is enslaved by Zelena’s magic, leading Baelfire to free his father’s spirit at a cost: Rumpel can’t rise from the dead without a sacrifice, i.e. Baelfire’s death.  Rumpel can’t let his son go again without a fight, and so, he magics his son’s soul into his own body, stuffing Rumpel’s outward shell with Bae’s spirit in addition to his own.  This causes Rumpel to go a bit crazy, leaving room for Zelena to snag the dagger and to take control of the Dark One and, therefore, Rumpel.  The viewer learns that in the return to Storybrooke, she stores Rumpel in a cage in a storm shelter on her property on the outskirts of town, waiting for the moment to unleash him on the Storybrooke residents, but Baelfire emerges from his dad and sacrifices himself, so that his dad can regain his faculties and defeat Zelena.  Bae, also known as Neal, dies in a heartbroken Emma’s arms to help his dad save the town.  Both Rumpel and Emma are beside themselves with grief; the rest of Storybrooke soon follows when he is laid to rest during an outdoor funeral.

Revelation #3 – Regina finds her true love in two places.

Regina spends the entire second half of the season playing the role of good guy, and it earns her just rewards.  First, Regina teams up with Emma to root out Zelena’s identity.  Second, she and Snow seem to make amends when Regina attempts to summon the spirit of Cora to learn the truth about Zelena, and her mother terrorizes her from beyond the grave in a vain attempt to keep the secret of her sister and her sister’s father’s identities.  Regina’s capacity to love grows, however, with her attempts to reconnect to Henry – it’s her kiss on his forehead that helps to break the spell clouding Henry’s memories, rather than Emma’s.  Also, after Tinkerbell’s helpful hints in the first half of the season, Regina’s heart literally ends up in the hands of Robin Hood for protection; the two met in the enchanted forest as Evil Queen and Robber of the Rich, but in Storybrooke, flirtation turns into love, and Robin aims to do everything he can to protect Regina’s physical heart outside of her chest – from Cora, from Zelena, and from herself.

Revelation #4 – Emma is blessed with light magic.

Her role as the savior includes the infusion of light magic, a product of her being the child of true love.  This means that she is the only formidable threat to Zelena, who traffics exclusively in Dark Magic.  Regina, as a result, takes Emma under her wing as Rumpel did for her, and Emma is a quick study.  Unfortunately, Zelena knows of the threat Emma poses, owing to a tip off from Glinda, the Good Witch back in Oz.  The Wicked Witch kidnaps Hook and poisons his actual lips with a spell that will remove Emma’s magic if he kisses her, which she orders him to do lest she harm Emma and Henry.  Hook reluctantly agrees, though he does everything he can to stave off stealing what he’s always wanted. When Hook is embattled with a flying monkey and the Wicked Witch’s magic, he is knocked unconscious, seemingly dead or at the brink of death.  Emma saves him with a little CPR, but her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation results in the loss of her magic, at least initially.

Revelation #5 – Snow and Charming recast the curse to stop Zelena.

Snow and Charming also spoke to Glinda after Regina’s confrontations with her half sister and learned that only light magic, the product of true love, could stop the Wicked Witch.  Snow and Charming then realized that they would have to get Storybrooke back in order to get to Emma, whose magic was the key.  As Regina reminded them, however, the curse required a sacrifice of the heart of the person the curse-caster loves most; the Queen sacrificed her father, Henry’s, heart to enact the curse the first time.  Charming, whose courage and bravery were already removed by Zelena’s spell when he attempted to save Rapunzel in an earlier flashback episode, volunteered for the sacrifice, so that Snow could cast the curse.  Regina removes his heart and gives it to Snow, who reluctantly crumbles it into the cauldron of curse-casting brew.  Charming crumples and dies, but Snow believes that her heart can be torn into two halves, one half being placed in Charming, as her love is “strong enough for both” of them.  Doubtful, Regina removes Snow’s heart at her request, breaks it in half, and replaces each half into Snow and Charming.  Charming revives, as purple smoke billows out of the cauldron.

Revelation #6 – Zelena is beyond redemption.

The viewer learns that Zelena’s Wicked Witch is green due to the unbridled jealousy she harbors given her life of abandonment and neglect at the hands of her adoptive parents, particularly her father.  When she learns of her true origins, her sole mission becomes to learn magic powerful enough to time travel backward and to prevent her mother from giving her up, which also would result in Regina not being born.  In order to cast this curse, she needs several ingredients: a brain, a heart (which she gets from her sister), courage (which she gets from Charming), and Snow and Charming’s baby-to-be.

Yet, she could have been a good and loving witch.  Back in Oz, Glinda invited the budding young witch to be part of a Witch’s Council, which included the Witches of the East and North (Glinda is Southern in this tale).  The Witch’s Council oversees Oz and its denizens, but a prophecy existed indicating that one of the Council might be pure evil and would be overturned by an innocent from the West who is brought to the land of Oz by tornado.  Initially, Glinda believes the innocent to be Zelena, until that pesky Dorothy comes around.  Zelena identifies herself as evil, Dorothy as the hero of the prophecy, and her fate to be sealed.  She confronts young Dorothy, who throws a bucket of water on her.  Zelena melts for show; Glinda takes Dorothy to see the Wizard of Oz, who is really Zelena’s Monkey Captain.  Though Dorothy gets home with the help of some silver slippers (staying with L. Frank Baum’s novel over the film version, apparently), Zelena threatens Glinda as does anyone who would challenge her.

In Storybrooke, Snow and Charming have a baby boy, but Zelena manages to get past a magic-less Emma to kidnap him for her spell with the help of the Dark One’s dagger and Rumpel’s enslaved powers.  Emma reasons that she is not the only one capable of light magic: Regina has achieved enough goodness and love to break the spell over Henry; it’s possible she can turn her powers toward good.  Henry tells his adoptive mom that he believes in her, and, together with Robin Hood’s proclamations of love, it’s enough to get Regina believing in herself.  She confronts Zelena with the help of Emma, Hook, and Robin Hood by diverting the Dark One’s magic.  They foil the plot, stop the spell, save the baby, and jail Zelena, the green pendant, i.e. the source of her power, becoming part of Regina’s vault collection.

Rumpel is not easily quelled, however.  After a show in which he gives his dagger seemingly over to Belle, entrusting her with mastery over him and his dark impulses, the viewer learns that Rumpel pulled a switcheroo and gave Belle a fake.  He kept the real one, so that he could sneak into the jail and dispose of Zelena himself, mostly in repayment for the death of Baelfire.

And so…the Season Finale…

Emma is ready to flee back to New York City, though Henry clearly wants to stay.  Yet, she resists, remembering her time in foster care and searching for permanence, despite her rational self reminding her that her parents did not mean to abandon her.  As Snow and Charming gather the town at Granny’s for an impromptu “coronation,” at which the announcement of the new baby’s name would occur, Emma leaves for a breath of fresh air when her secret desire to leave again is unearthed, and Hook follows her, just as the portal to the past that Zelena was ready to open actually opens.  It seems, when Rumpel shuffled Zelena off from the mortal coil, her magic lost its tether and, therefore, its control, even to the pendant stored away in Regina’s vault.  A great column of orange light pierces the sky, catching Emma’s attention as Hook attempts to convince her that home is where her family is, though Emma opines that home is the place you leave and end up missing the most.  Emma and Hook go to check things out and end up getting sucked into the portal, where they appear in the past, on the day that a very forlorn Prince Charming is set to marry Midas’ starchy daughter.

Though Hook warns against changing the past, their presence sets into motion the most Back to the Future of events.  As Emma and Hook hide out of sight, Emma’s inadvertent crushing of a twig, brought on by the fact that she isn’t used to wearing corsets and cloaks, distracts her mother, up in a tree and aiming to rob the prince’s carriage with arrow and bow.  Snow falls out of the tree, the carriage stops, the Prince surveys the scene, but Snow is too caught off guard to steal the pouch with the ring that would become a symbol of their love and marriage.  The Prince and his bride-to-be drive off, and Snow runs toward the seashore with intentions of escape from the Evil Queen’s earnest search for her.  Suddenly, Emma is very much Marty McFly, forced to make her parents meet after mucking up what was supposed to be their destined introduction.

The next two hours are squarely Once Upon a Time’s very obvious nod to the film it keeps overtly referencing.  Emma and Hook must find Snow and convince her to steal the ring over which she and Charming must bond and fall in love.  This involves Hook convincing Emma to flirt with the past version of himself, only to find himself jealous of himself; Hook stealing aboard the Jolly Roger and Mr. Smee noticing he’s a bit off; Hook punching himself in the face when a very drunk past-Hook carries Emma aboard the ship with the hopes of a midnight rendezvous and espousing that he would likely forget the encounter because he would blame it on the rum; Hook and Emma crashing the Prince’s engagement ball with the help of Rumpelstiltskin, who is convinced to help them when Emma informs him that he will find Baelfire one day; Emma identifying herself as “Princess Leia” and Hook as “Prince Charles” while under magical disguise courtesy of Rumpel; Snow botching the robbery and dropping the ring; Snow deciding to use the dark fairy dust she had been carrying on Regina, only to court execution, until she uses the dark fairy dust on herself to escape death but to not have the dust available for the trolls when they threaten Charming; Emma being relieved when Snow is transformed back from a ladybug and hugging her, only to realize that her mother doesn’t know who she is; and Snow tricking the trolls on the troll bridge into believing she still had that fairy dust, only to right the course of true love in the end when the trolls, who are never very bright, fall for Snow’s ruse.  What’s more, the Wizard of Oz comes full circle when Rumpel, who was supposed to be helping Emma to reopen the portal to the future, informs her that only the person who used the portal can reopen it.  With the help of a magic wand, and Emma realizing that there’s no place like Storybrooke, her true home and the place she’s left and finds herself missing (thanks to past advice from Baelfire), as well as her family, including her mother and father, Emma regains her magic and manages to open the portal.  Rumpel at first tries to hold her back to find out what happens to Baelfire, holding a potion that would cause him to forget all he learned; Emma tearfully tells him that Bae died to protect Rumpel, Emma, and all the denizens of the Enchanted Forest and pleads with Rumpel not to let that sacrifice be in vain.  Rumpel, glimmers of hope still flickering, lets Emma go and drinks the potion (not without saying “what the hell am I doing in here?” when he finds himself in the vault to which he transported Hook and Emma for safe keeping).

Emma and Hook return to Storybrooke in Christmas Present, and the first thing that happens is that Emma finds her parents and calls them each “Mom and Dad” for the first time, vowing to remain in Storybrooke with Henry and the rest of her family.  Snow and Charming name Emma’s baby brother (and Henry’s baby uncle) Neal in honor of Baelfire, which catches Rumpel for a visible heart-string tug.  Rumpel marries Belle, despite the Dark One dagger he still has hidden, with the help of Dr. Hopper/Jiminy Cricket.  Emma learns of when Hook sacrificed the Jolly Roger to save her (and to help Ariel), and she gives him quite a kiss.  Regina and Robin Hood are happy, and Emma even appears in the Once Upon a Time storybook that Snow gave to Henry at the start of the series, though as both Princess Leia and as the Savior.

Yet, two wrinkles emerge.  First, while in the past, Emma saved a woman locked up by the Evil Queen, pending execution for opposing her in defense of then-fugitive Snow White.  In order not to further dilute the timeline, Hook and Emma agree that this woman should be brought with them to future Storybrooke, as she should have died by all rights but for Emma’s penchant for saving lives. When Regina and Robin Hood enter Granny’s diner with Robin Hood’s young son, the saved woman initially recoils, until Emma convinces Regina to talk to her and persuade her of Regina’s new-found goodness. When the woman emerges from the crowd, Robin Hood calls out “Marian?!”  It seems the young woman is Maid Marian, the mother of Robin’s young son.  Regina watches as her hopes of true love crumble, wither, and turn to ash, and she rounds on Emma, accusing her of being exactly like her mother and threatening possible revenge.

In the meantime, the portal opened by Zelena’s untethered magic somehow becomes active again. The final shots of the season are of what is unmistakably Elsa, from Disney’s recent film Frozen, icily materializing from the glowing embers.  Why or how that happens – we don’t know.  All we know at this point is that Regina is unhappy and possibly hurtling toward an evil heart again and may be joined by magical commercialism in her quest.

And so the third season of Once lands with a thud.  After a promising mid-season finale that could have traveled in so many different directions, with so many story possibilities, the writers chose first to fracture the fairy tale of The Wizard of Oz and did so by casting another Lost alumnus, with a far less effective and competent result, as this viewer never enjoyed Mader’s Wicked Witch. Second, they chose to kill off Baelfire, the key to most of the story lines in seasons two and three, and Rumpelstiltskin’s entire reason for being who he is, effectively ending the love triangle with the most interest (and this viewer’s personal horse in that race).  Third, while reintroducing Maid Marian into the mix adds a certain amount of intrigue, particularly given Regina’s tenuous hold on good feelings and intentions, making Elsa a random new character so soon after Frozen’s successful run in theaters makes this viewer start to gag at the Disney business model yet again.

At the end of my mid-season review, I proffered that there is nothing like Once on TV right now, and that is still true, but I think by repeatedly suggesting that it is firing on all cylinders, I may have jinxed it a bit.  A few of those cylinders started to overheat this third season, based on this viewer’s observations of the second half of the season. True, this viewer was disappointed by where the story ultimately went, hoping instead for action set almost entirely in The Enchanted Forest or even New York rather than a quick and initially unexplained reemergence of cursed Storybrooke.  I was ready to accept the direction the audience was provided in the end, given that characters like Emma and Regina reached important evolutionary milestones, such as Emma’s acceptance of her parents, same-aged though they are, and Regina’s real strides away from evil.  I’m even happy that Rumpelstiltskin lives, though I loved Baelfire and still hope for a magical resurrection there.  Yet, the entire third season really lacked the intrigue and impact of the freshman and sophomore seasons, by spending too much time in Never Land and by squandering the emotional impact of the mid-season finale.  As a result, the major revelations of the entire season began to feel forced, artificial, or lacking finesse in presentation (i.e. clunky) as they were revealed.

I love this show, and I don’t mean to keep comparing it to Lost; however, given the fact that the creators and executive producers keep casting Lost alumni and seem to be following the pattern of their previous show, I can’t help it.  Elsa could very well be Nikki and Paolo.  What saved Lost was putting an end date on the series and forcing the writers to map out the story arc far ahead, even if the series finale and sixth and last season were controversial in how they were ultimately executed. Since the writers here overlap in significant ways, and the show’s creators hail from that prior show, they may need similar boundaries to regain some story focus.

The performances are still good; the visual effects are a bit of a mixed bag; and Henry is less annoying than he used to be (his voice is changing, so that helps).  Yet, Once might be suffering a hangover from the intoxication of its initial success story-wise.  This viewer will keep watching but with trepidation.  After all, there are so many story worlds to mine out there – they could have waited a season or two before introducing Elsa the Frozen.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) The show never addressed what the Shadow actually was or where it actually came from, and now it’s destroyed.  We know it’s evil, but why did it exist to begin with?  What was Never Land really, in the end?

Answer: The show dropped this answer like a rock off a cliff.  We left Never Land, Pan died, and the Shadow lived, but as what, I guess we’ll never know.

2) So, how are the Storybrooke residents faring now?  What does the Enchanted Forest look like, having never been cursed, since the revocation of the curse caused the effects to blip out of existence?  Or, is the Forest still destroyed as an after-effect, and do our characters remember everything (Hook certainly does)?  What has happened to our beloved characters in the eleven years of the lost memory and/or the one year since Storybrooke was no more?

Answer: The Enchanted Forest went back to normal, as if the curse had never been cast.  The characters remembered their lives in Storybrooke when they were in the Enchanted Forest, but due to the recasting of the curse, they forgot their year in the Enchanted Forest.  See above for what happened to our characters.

3) What will happen when she sees these guys again?  Hook’s risky kiss might have damaged his quest for love a bit, but Emma finding these men again should be interesting.  What will fate reveal?

Answer: Though Emma loves both men, fate voted for Hook.  Baelfire sacrificed himself to save his father and, therefore, Storybrooke, Emma, and Henry.  Hook got the girl in the end.  Yay?

4) The biggest question of all: how will Emma and Henry get into that Enchanted Forest, and what will happen to convince them that they are related to heretofore fictional characters?

Answer: Henry didn’t get to go at all, and Emma only got to visit the past Enchanted Forest at the end of the season.  Emma drank a potion provided by Hook to allow her to remember.  Regina’s true love kiss for her son allowed Henry to regain his memories.

5) Is Rumpelstiltskin aka Mr. Gold really dead?  I hope not!

Answer: Nope.  He lives, by sacrifice of his son.  Poetically tragic.

New Questions

1) Is Regina really going to go full-on evil again because Robin found Marian?  And how will that affect her relationship with Emma, Henry, and the Charmings?

2) Is Robin really going to forget his love for Regina just because Marian is around again?

3) Will Belle find the Dark One’s dagger?  She seems to know Mr. Gold’s shop better than he does. And what will finding the dagger do to them if she does find it?

4) Is baby Neal magical like his sister?

5) Elsa?  Really?  I vote no.  Oh, sorry, question: what the hell does she want, and how the hell did she come through that portal?  And most importantly: why did she come through that portal?

6) Is Henry magical?  Did Emma and Baelfire have true love, ever?

7) Is the fourth season of Once going to be good or predictably mediocre, now that so many story lines have been resolved and the only inspiration the creators could find was from a movie that is six months old?  PS: Sellouts.

PARTING SHOTS

While the Lost alums learned lessons from their prior job by keeping the audience guessing and knowing when to provide the key answers at the key times without it becoming frustrating or a story too big to rein in by the time all is said and done, it feels like they’ve shot their full clip in this last uneven and disjointed season. Creatively, the tone and hodgepodge of story sources, such as The Wizard of Oz and Frozen, render the whole proceeding as if the producers are reaching and may be a bit too in bed with the network heads (or maybe the latter is a bit too controlling of the property).  While the third season of Once offered some exceptional episodes, particularly the mid-season finale, the quality of the season overall did not live up to that of the first two seasons.  The back half of the third season leaves this viewer with a growing sense of apprehension and trepidation over the future of the show, though for now, faith reigns supreme, as I will tune in for season 4.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Once Upon a Time was renewed last week for a fourth season, which will premiere in Fall 2014 on ABC.  The show is officially on hiatus.  Until Fall, Once fans!

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