At first, the title sounds like a promise. The last episode left us with a cliffhanger, but I felt with not much more story to tell, so it was natural to assume that the Neverland story will come to an end. Going Home? Sounds good. Sounds positive.
Alas, this is, after all, Once Upon a Time. And there is still half a season left. One should have known better.
Let’s start with Pan enacting the Curse, and he actually does; actually succeeds in doing so. Okay, not so much surprise there, we need some drama to end it anyways. Drama has many faces, and so is not only Pan creating a new Curse. We all remember there was this “the thing you love most” catch with that nasty little cursy thing, right? Well. Love comes in many forms, Pan explains to Felix… before he rips his best and most loyal friend’s heart out to crush it into the well, after he had already thrown the other ingredients in. Ouch. So the curse, this time in poisonous green instead of fashionable purple is on its way.
Well, where one door closes – and one life ends – another comes back, so to speak. Because while Pan is out and about being evil, Hook, Bae, Charming and Tink at least manage to kill Pan’s Shadow. Actually, Tink manages to do so, by regaining her faith and thus magic, trapping the Shadow in the candle we know back from NL, and then throwing the blasted thing into a fire. Poof, Shadow gone. Light trumps darkness, I suppose ^^ And apparently being killed by the Shadow, as had happened to Blue, is one of those reversible things when the subject of your demise is gone — because once the Shadow has been enlightened, Blue rises from the dead. Good thing she does, since she is the one who has the Dark Fairy’s wand, the very thing they need to defeat Pan. Or at least trap him.
One should have known that when it all plays out so well so far, something terrible just has to follow.
And this is when it starts. Basically the final battle. Henry and Pan switch back bodies. So far, so good. Regina gets the Curse scroll, which she is supposed to destroy, from Henry. Also good. Not so good it that the scroll knocks her out for the moment, they I’m not sure the real reason is being explained. They say something about her having seen what has to happen or something like that, but I didn’t quite get it. Not that it matters anyways.
Meanwhile Rumple stays back with Pan, who is now back in his body – and unfortunately stronger than expected. Because after he taunts Rumple for a while, he frees himself of the magic suppressing bracelet that has been put on him and puts it on Rumple instead. After beating him up. Need I remind you that Pan is Rumple’s dad? Talk about a dysfunctional family.
“Without magic you’re right back to where you started: the village coward.”
These are Pan’s parting words as he leaves Rumple in his shop, powerless for the moment. Pan goes to the town square and freezes the Good Team that had gathered there around Regina for the destruction of the scroll. Among them are also Belle and Bae, something that will be important a little later on. And by important I mean: If you like your heart being ripped out. Not literally this time (though I dare to argue with that).
Now cut back to the past in FTL for a moment: When Belle finds Rumple in his castle’s laboratory or whatever this is supposed to be, and talks to him about Bae. How she thinks his son is dead, but he tells her he is just lost. And he should be with him then, because it’s his birthday. Belle, good Belle, always the optimistic one, believes all will be well one day. But Rumple disagrees:
“My ending shall not be a happy one.”
Foreshadowing much? What is to come is so much *not happy* in any way one can think of. Because it starts with Rumple being the hero. Rumple not being the coward anymore.
To get rid of the bracelet and regain his powers, something he needs to stop Pan and save everyone else, he cuts his wrist off. Now this is not that dramatic, seeing that he can magick it back on once his powers are back, but still – the fact alone that he does it, which would be, even knowing that it won’t have lasting consequences, a huge thing for everyone else already, is an almost insurmountable obstacle for someone like Rumple, who is, for all intents and purposes, still a coward at heart. And that is good, that is fine, it is who he is. But is also means that he has to do something truly heroic – and he does it.
And it’s only the first part, because when he arrives at the town square, the next heroic action is needed of him. And once again he does it – once again knowing of the consequences. But this time there’ll be no going back, no healing himself, no loophole, no secret backdoor for a last-minute-rescue. This time, he has to well and truly sacrifice himself.
By summoning his own shadow he once sent away with his dagger, and then killing Pan with the same dagger. But not after a heartfelt goodbye to Bae and Belle, both of whom he professed his love to. Interestingly enough, Pan waits for Rumple to finish his speeches to those frozen people who can still hear him, and doesn’t strike just then. I assume though because Pan doesn’t believe he can be defeated. Well, he is wrong. So wrong. Probably he doesn’t know his own son well enough; and doesn’t believe that Rumple will sacrifice himself. But he does. He stabs Pan with his dagger – but as the curse goes, if the Dark One kills with his own dagger, he’ll lose his life, too. And this is exactly what happens. Both Rumple and Pan dissolve into a bright light.
The magic that froze the others is lifted – and Belle breaks down. And if everything else wasn’t bad enough, Belle weeping, heartbroken by the loss of her loved one, has broken my heart, too. Because just as they were reunited and all seemed to be going in the right direction, it’s lost again. As expected, sure, but still… And while Belle is inconsolable, there is this quiet and composed Baelfire next to her, just staring ahead, just accepting. Even though it’s obvious that he, too, will have a hard time accepting that his father is now gone for good, and it hurts, despite everything Rumple has done.
There is no time to breathe, no time to mourn and come to terms with what has happened, though. Because the Curse is still coming. And it as to be stopped – with only one way to do so: Regina has to undo the original Curse. A new Curse will have no effect if there is no one there to be cursed, right? Well.
Undoing the original Curse has a catch. Like, big-enough-to-catch-a-whale catch: Storybrooke will be wiped out of existence, will never have existed, and consequently neither will have its inhabitants. Basically the reset button. They will all be sent back to who and where they were before the Curse. Everyone. Without exception. But — Emma was never part of the Curse. And neither was Henry. So they have to leave. Leave the others… and leave their memories. They can’t remember what has never existed in the first place.
Now we can discuss the whole reset button scheme Adam+Eddy came up with. Was it necessary? It’s not like the show ended right then and there. Was it a lack of ideas how to proceed from there, how to get to the next story “block”? I suppose we’ll see. I know Wicked it coming, but I think they could have somehow worked that in another way…
Anyways, back to the episode and action. They cutting it real close with their goodbyes at the town line, where the usual suspects – meaning the main characters – have gathered to send Henry and Emma off to their new life. There are all kinds of farewells:
A friendly one between Emma and Neal, having nothing romantic, but only friendship and the bond of a common past. It leaves no expectation of a love revival, which is completely okay in my book.
A heartfelt one between Emma and Hook, which, contrary to the one with Neal, does indeed leave some expectations of what might come.
“There’s not a day that’ll go by I won’t think of you.” – “Good.”
And then a rather beautiful one between Emma and Regina, as she informs Emma of what to expect – and that she won’t have any memories of these past years. But – her gift to Emma are good memories, not real ones, but still something to fill the void and bring her happiness. And it tells so much about how far these two have come, from enemies to something like friends, two women who are not that much different, as much as they ever are. But there is respect, and there is some kind of love, or at least fondness too. And then of course there is this bond through Henry, who is, in the end, both their son.
So Emma and Henry leave and Regina enacts her magic to make Storybrooke forgotten history. Everything vanishes – even the town line.
One year later we seen Henry and Emma live a normal life in an apartment in New York City. As Regina promised, there seem to be happy memories, starting with Emma’s change of heart right after Henry was born and accepting him, after all.
It is this every day, normal life one Killian Jones bursts into when he knocks one morning on their door. Emma opens and – unsurprisingly – doesn’t recognize him. But he does, and oh boy is he happy to see her. There is a glow in his eyes (kudos to Colin for acting it so perfectly) that speaks of happiness and love and hadn’t there been Emma’s reaction, it would have made any shipper’s heart jump with joy. But, as it is, Emma doesn’t and can’t remember.
So Eddy+Adam go ahead and crush the shippers’ hearts. But letting Hook kiss Emma… and her pushing him away. Now that in itself it not the problem. The fact that this was supposed to be True Love’s Kiss which should have broken the curse – a curse – is. There is just one problem: There is no curse. It was lifted and this is basically just a correction of the timeline, thus making this reality as it should have been. No fairytale life for Henry and Emma. No Hook, no Snow and Charming, no Regina, no Storybrooke, no magic. Just plain old normality.
At first I was shocked that the kiss didn’t work. I was worried that maybe at least Emma’s love wasn’t strong enough (if I remember correctly, the whole TLK is a two-way thing). But since I didn’t want to believe that, I then was wondering if maybe TLK can’t work if one of the two doesn’t remember their love, thus making it non-existent. Until I realized that TLK can’t cure something that isn’t broken. And it isn’t. So there’ll has to be another way to get Emma her memories back. And something tells me Hook won’t stop until he has found a way.