Stay on target
After Once Upon a Time spun its wheels last week, this week’s episode was a definite step up. It moved the story along, though we still don’t know what the point of the final battle is, and finally gave us some information about our villain. That “deepest darkest secret” line at the end of last week’s episode was super corny. Yes, this show is a cheesy soap opera, but it had never felt more like one than in that supposed cliffhanger. This time, they tried dragging it out for a couple of scenes, but the characters quickly set about finding out what the Black Fairy is so desperate to hide.
The opening scene is especially creepy in a way this show doesn’t usually pull off. As the Blue Fairy wakes up, Snow White bends down to comfort her. At the edge of the screen, you can see her put her hand around the fairy’s neck. By the time she starts strangling the Blue Fairy, it’s clear that this isn’t Snow. Given how well we know her character at this point, seeing Ginnifer Goodwin’s evil face is just unsettling. Evil Snow White feels wrong. Thankfully, it ends soon and the Black Fairy disappears, but not before Rumplestiltskin can restrict his son’s magic and tie him to a chair. That’s what good father’s do, right?
Sadly, the whole Black-Fairy-impersonating-people isn’t used much outside of this scene. It leads to a brief exchange where Hook distrusts Regina for half a second, sees the Fairy and apologizes. It’s kind of funny, but not as interesting as it could have been. The important thing is, the good guys find the wand that can defeat the Black Fairy, which was hidden in the heart of Storybrooke. Which is apparently Grannies. This moment would have been better if any time had been spent establishing that in the nearly six seasons preceding this episode. Now, we’re just meant to infer that it must be because a lot of stuff has happened there?
Rebecca Mader (Photo: Screenshot via ABC)
Most of the Storybrooke stuff this week is mediocre, except for the driving lesson. Now that Zelena is powerless and un-evil, she and Regina can start acting like sisters. This week, that involves teaching Zelena how to drive. The two actresses work well together, and watching Zelena struggle with the pedals is funny and a little terrifying. It also turns out to be completely necessary. When the Black Fairy ambushes everyone in Granny’s, she and Regina take it outside to fight in the street. It looks like the Black Fairy is going to defeat Regina, but Zelena comes barreling down the street in the car and runs her down. Watching the Black Fairy bounce off the hood of a green station wagon is probably the funniest fight scene this show has ever had. It was made better by the fact that the hit came out of nowhere on a show that doesn’t usually do things like that. As powerful as the magic on this show is, it can’t compare to a car at high speed.
But there are still two more episodes left, and Zelena hasn’t quite mastered reverse, so the Black Fairy lives. The final battle is still on. To that end, Rumple, Emma, and Gideon enter a shared dream state to find out what the Black Fairy is so desperate to hide. This is where the real meat of the episode is. This entire half of the season, I’ve been frustrated by the Black Fairy as a villain. We haven’t seen her do anything all that evil to the residents of Storybrooke, and we don’t know all that much about her. We’re being told she’s the greatest evil that ever lived, but we haven’t been shown why. This episode was all about giving her a backstory. By the end, we still don’t know why she wants to battle the Savior, but we know how she became who she is. As tragic backstories on Once Upon a Time go, this was one of the better ones. It was fun, had a classic fairy tale style, and wasn’t entirely predictable.
Giles Matthey (Photo via ABC)
We see the birth of Rumplestiltskin to a pre-Black Fairy version of his mother. It only now occurs to me that the show hasn’t gone out of its way to make sure we know her name. *Looks it up* Her name is Fiona. Huh. OK, well that’s better than calling her Black Fairy all the time. So it turns out that right after Rumplestiltskin is born, Tiger Lily was assigned as his fairy godmother. We also learn that he was the original savior, which is an interesting twist. OK OUAT, you have my attention. Fiona learns that an evil power will be born that winter, who will grow up to kill her son in the final battle. She learns everything she can about magic and becomes a fairy herself, which according to Tiger Lily, shouldn’t be possible. After checking every baby born that winter for the… crescent moon birthmark of doom, she concocts a dark curse. Well, THE Dark Curse. The one that sent everyone to Storybrooke in the first place. It all began with her. Another twist I didn’t see coming. Yes, this episode is the show finally fleshing out the season’s main villain like it should have been doing since it came back from hiatus, but at least it’s making things interesting.
Of course, Fiona’s desire for power to protect her son is what turns her into the Black Fairy. The moon appears on her wrist, and she becomes the evil destined to kill her son. But we all know Emma’s the savior. They wouldn’t take that away from her right at the last minute and give it to an old man. This show can be pretty stupid sometimes, but it’s smarter than that. After seeing all that, Rumple, Emma, and Gideon come out of their dream. Rumple goes off to fight his mother and get his son’s heart back because we’re meant to believe, he thinks his the savior. (Even at this point, I doubt he really does.) His mother shows him what happened after the bit he saw. She used the shears of fate on him, so he isn’t the savior after all (duh). Tiger Lily then banished her to the mine where she enslaved a bunch of children. Next, we see Rumple, he’s claiming to have defeated the Black Fairy, and he’s gotten his son’s heart back. It should surprise nobody that he’s working with her now. The mother and son are planning to attack Emma on her wedding day. Her musical wedding day.
Robert Carlyle and Emilie de Ravin (Photo via ABC)
Now that we’re getting towards the end of the season, the show isn’t wasting time anymore. Yes, a lot of this villain work should have been done a long time ago, but at least they made it fun. The Black Fairy’s backstory was interesting, and for a moment it looked like Rumplestiltskin really was the savior. Also, any story that solves its problems by running over them with a car is OK in my book. Now, we can get to the part I’ve been waiting for all season: The Musical Episode. It’s about time we saw these characters sing and dance. As a gigantic musical theatre nerd, I can almost guarantee: Next Monday morning, I am going to be insufferable.