After weeks of tedious Neverland episodes, Once Upon a Time has finally emerged from the doldrums. Last Sunday’s mid-season finale, “Going Home,” closed the book on the Peter Pan storyline and sent the plot off in new and unexpected directions.
At the end of the previous episode, Pan!Henry stole The Curse from Regina in a bid to turn Storybrooke into the new Neverland. I’d been wondering how he was going to cast it since it has a rather nasty material component (the heart of the thing you love most). As far as I can tell, Pan never loved anyone except himself, and ripping out his own heart to cast The Curse would be rather counterproductive.
But, as Pan!Henry helpfully explains to Felix, love isn’t just romance or a familial bond. It can also be loyal friendship, and Felix has always been devoted to Pan. Sadly, Pan repays this loyalty by ripping out Felix’s heart and crushing it to dust before dropping it into the magic wishing well along with the other ingredients for The Curse. Great clouds of green smoke start billowing out of the well, letting us know that something wicked is coming to Storybrooke.
Naturally, the only way to stop The Curse is with the aid of a magical MacGuffin: the wand of the never-before-mentioned ‘Black Fairy.’ Apparently, the Blue Fairy/Mother Superior had it stashed in the convent, and Hook, Charming, Neal, and Tinkerbell rush off to find it. They go to the chapel, where the Blue Fairy is apparently lying in state after being killed in the previous episode, only to run into Pan’s shadow. There’s a CGI fight and Tinkerbell ends up trapping the shadow in Neal’s coconut nightlight thingy before throwing it onto a very conveniently located fire. Once the shadow is dead, the Blue Fairy springs back to life and hands over the wand. Oddly enough, the other townspeople seem pretty blase about her sudden revivification.
Photo Credit: ABC/Jack Rowand
Stopping The Curse will also require the destruction of the scroll on which it was written. In order to get it, the townspeople decide to pull a reverse Freaky Friday and switch Pan and Henry back into their proper bodies. As a precaution, Rumple decides to slap Greg and Tamara’s (remember them?) anti-magic bracelet on Pan’s arm so that he’ll be powerless when he returns to his body.
The body-switch spell works perfectly, but alas, Rumple forgot that Pan was Greg and Tamara’s boss, so the cuff doesn’t work on him. Pan promptly transfers the cuff to Rumple’s arm, divesting the Dark One of all his tricks. Pan also takes the opportunity to rub salt into the wound by telling his son that he never loved him, not even for a moment. Ouch. He leaves Rumple on the floor, confident that his father will revert to his cowardly nature now that he can’t hide behind his magic.
I really like the following scene where Rumple struggles to get the cuff off. For a moment, it looks like he might hack off his hand with a cutlass, which is a nice little callback to how he deliberately injured himself in order to get out of fighting in the Ogre Wars.
Meanwhile, Henry is reunited with his body and has a nice group hug with his family. Regina takes The Curse and immediately collapses. When she wakes up, Pan arrives and freezes everyone as he tries to figure out who to kill first. But he’s stopped by Rumple (who didn’t cut off his hand after all), who reminds Pan that he isn’t the only one with a detachable shadow. Rumple’s shadow returns with the Dark One dagger that Rumple hid when he was in Neverland, which Rumple uses to skewer his dad.. Pan transforms back into a middle-aged man, and there’s a sweet little moment as Rumple kisses his dad right before they poof away in a cloud of smoke. It’s hard to believe that Rumple is actually gone for good when a tertiary character like the Blue Fairy didn’t even stay dead for an entire episode, but it was still a very touching scene. It was also a nice way for the writers to fulfill the longstanding prophecy that “the boy” would be Rumple’s undoing.
The rest of the episode is pretty much a conga line of sadness. Regina says that the only way to save everyone from The Curse is to transport them back to the Enchanted Forest, but Henry, having been born in the Land Without Magic, won’t be able to come, though Emma can stay with him because she’s the Savior. As always, magic comes with a price, and Regina’s price is that she’ll never be able to see her beloved son again. Emma and Henry will also lose all their memories of Storybrooke and its inhabitants.
With Green Clouds of Doom rushing across town, Henry and Emma say their goodbyes, and I loved how Henry finally told Regina that he was wrong about her: she wasn’t a villain after all, and he loved her. As a final gift to Emma and Henry, Regina gives them false memories of a happy life together, one where Emma never gave Henry up for adoption. Regina re-casts The Curse to send everyone back to the Enchanted Forest, and her Purple Clouds of Doom envelop everyone just as Emma and Henry cross the town line in her trusty yellow Beetle.
We then jump ahead a year and see Emma and Henry going about their usual morning routine in New York City. It’s all very happy and domestic, but then there’s a knock at the door. When Emma goes to answer it, there’s a hunky pirate on her doorstep who breathlessly tells her that her parents are in trouble. She’s like “WTF?” and Hook tries to make her remember using True Love’s Kiss (TM), but she responds by kneeing him in his treasure chest before slamming the door in his stubbly face.
Gratuitous Captain Hook pic. You’re welcome. Photo Credit: ABC/Jack Rowand
Although there were some uneven moments (Felix being the thing that Pan loved most seemed like a bit of an asspull, as did the Black Fairy’s wand) and the repeated bits about hope and happy endings got a bit saccharine, the final moments more than make up for those deficiencies. Even though we viewers know that the Storybrookers aren’t saying goodbye for realz (this is a mid-season finale, not a series finale!), the scenes between Rumple and Pan and Regina, Emma, and Henry still tugged at the heartstrings. I also liked how the episode contributed to Rumple and Regina’s character development. Regina finally shed her villain persona, while Rumple showed once and for all that he’s not a coward.
The only bad news is that the show is on hiatus until the spring premiere on March 9. The promos suggest that the Wicked Witch of the West will become the new Big Bad. It will be interesting to see her as a villain again after Gregory Maguire rehabilitated her in Wicked.