‘Once Upon A Time’ recap: Can the curse be broken?

Because this is “Once Upon A TIme,” I don’t know if I accept any character as really and truly dead, um, ever. I don’t accept any plot twist as irreversible, either. But dammit, “OUAT” has me worried with this midseason finale. Logically, I understand there was a need for the show to make some big moves. I suspect, given the ending, those big moves won’t be as permanent or lasting as earlier scenes led us to believe. But still, I think Kitsis and Horowitz have decided to shake the toy box to mix things up, and I can only hope (Hope! Hey, the theme of the episode!) it portends a fresh storyline — one we richly deserve after the claustrophobic Neverland. 

First fatality: Felix. Bye, Felix, we hardly knew you. Of course, Pan is evil and selfish, so we knew he wouldn’t hesitate to rip out his heart if it served his own purposes. As Pan so charmingly puts it, “Don’t be afraid; be flattered!” We also learn that Pan just can’t wait to make the residents of Storybrook suffer eternally, which suggests, of course, he won’t. 

Our Scooby gang comes together around Gold to learn exactly what needs to happen to beat Pan’s curse. Regina must destroy the scroll, but as Gold points out, “the price will be steep.” That better not mean the end of Regina, as I really feel she’s one of the lynchpins of the series. Maybe she can get a hangnail or migraines or something, but if any cast member needs to go, don’t let it be Lana Parrilla.  

In addition to destroying the scroll, they need the wand of the Black Fairy, which the Mother Superior (Blue Fairy) had in her possession before she died. So, Charming, Hook, Neal and Tinkerbell head off to get it — and, zut alors! Pan’s shadow is dancing around, bugging he hell out of them. This really is just an excuse to let Tinkerbell use her fairy dust, as capturing the shadow in a coconut and destroying it in a conveniently located fire is just a little too easy. Blue springs back to life (See? No death is ever final on this show!) as the shadow’s death allows her shadow to return, and she gives Tinkerbell back her wings. Oh, and she hands over the Black Fairy’s wand. I’m thinking we need to see more about this Black Fairy, but I’m sure we will.

Much of the episode is made up of Very Meaningful flashbacks. In one, Charming and the Blue Fairy try to assure Snow that giving up Emma is the best decision, and she can still find another happy ending. A distorted echo is shown as we see Emma turning away from Henry eleven years ago, unable to see a future as a mother. And finally, we see Rumple mourning for Bae. That flashback sets us up for a scene at the most awful end of the spectrum — Pan’s encounter with Gold.

Reversing the curse is also about getting Henry back into his own body, and, by default, Pan back into his. When it happens, Gold wants to have a chat with Dad. Though it was moderately clever for Gold to think Tamara and Greg’s magic-killing bracelet would work on Pan, I’m a little surprised he wouldn’t have remember that Tamara and Greg’s boss was Pan and the bracelet might not be as handy as he thinks. Still, Pan’s ability to turn the tables gives him a chance to deliver one of the most horrible, caustic father-to-son speeches I can remember on a show that’s ostensibly family programming.

“I remember looking at you, the littlest babe, those big eye just full of tears, pulling at me, pulling away my name, my money, my time…” Robbie Kay growls as Pan (he’s much more charming in person, as I learned in my interview with him. The fact that Pan knows he’s about to take away his son’s magic and easily escape makes his decision to make him feel like a sucking leech who only wanted to ruin Daddy’s good time even more awful. It’s totally in keeping with Pan’s character, but this also makes Gold’s ultimate fate that much sadder. 

Pan doesn’t kill Gold (he’s all for the suffering, remember) and heads out to confront the Scooby gang. He freezes them in place so that he can decide who he wants to kill first — and, of course, he hones in on Belle and Neal. Gold isn’t far behind, though, and Pan lets him say some tearful goodbyes. I’m always amazed at how villains, confident in their powers, have no problem letting our heroes take a moment here or there. Go ahead, hug it out! I’ll be over here, filing my nails, because I’m 100 percent confident I’ve won this! Just being charitable!

Anyway, Gold tells Neal (Bae, really) he will have a chance at happiness, just not with him. Then, he thanks Belle for making him stronger. Finally, he grabs Pan into a hug and, calling his shadow to bring the Dark One’s knife, stabs him with it. 

Pan is transformed into the middle-aged man child he once was and starts bargaining. They can start over together! Have a happy ending! “Villains don’t get happy ending,” Gold says grimly. Then, he digs the dagger in deep, cutting through both of their bodies. He kisses his dad and they disappear into the scroll. Belle collapses in tears. Everyone else seems a little sad, but not as sad as Belle. Poor Belle!

I’m hopeful that somehow Gold survives somehow, simply because I’ve really enjoyed Robert Carlyle in the role. There’s a possibility the actor is just done with the demands of a series, or maybe has another project he’d like to do, but I’ve even grown to enjoy (not love, but enjoy) his giggly, high-pitched approach to Rumple. His Gold has always been more subtle, and I’ve liked the idea that Storybrooke had, if not a second Big Bad, a morally ambiguous sometimes-villain. This reversal is a nice capper to the character (he actually had a complete story arc), though, so maybe bringing him back wouldn’t serve much of a purpose, storywise. R.I.P., Rumplestiltskin. 

Of course, the curse is still barreling down on Storybrooke, so it’s not over yet. When Regina held the scroll, she got a flash of what needed to be done — and what that “steep price” would be. Storybrooke will no longer exist, and everyone needs to go back to where they came from. That means the fairy tale characters go back to Fairytale Land, while Emma and Henry are stuck in the real world. Oh, and more than that — they’ll forget all about Storybrooke. So, Regina can never see Henry again. 

This seems much more painful for Emma than it does for Henry, as she’ll be giving up the parents she just found and he’ll be giving up… Regina. The flashback to Snow moping over the glass unicorns meant for Emma’s crib is that much more poignant, as Snow and Charming will have to let go of Emma all over again — with the knowledge she’ll never know they existed. 

Snow (I guess I should say Mary Margaret) gives Emma a kiss on the forehead and holds her face. Regina gives Emma a gift — she can’t let them keep their memories of Storybrooke, but she can give them new, good memories. Emma will never have given up Henry and when they cross the town line, they’ll have the life they always wanted. Emma points out it won’t be real, but hey, their future will be. 

Neal promises Emma that this isn’t over, and I’m sure he’ll start snooping around in Rumple’s closet when he gets to Fairytale Land. But perhaps the most endearing goodbye is from Hook, who promises he won’t let a day go by without thinking of Emma. “Good,” she says in a promisingly flirty way. 

So, we have a few minutes and a commercial break to absorb the idea of all our fairytale characters stuck back in their old lives, grappling with the loss of Storybrooke while Emma and Henry have a pretty damn fabulous life in New York City. Look at that apartment!

Then, there’s knocking at the door, and who should we see but Hook? If anyone was going to go back to get Emma, it would be him. Her family is in danger and he has to remind her of who she really is! This doesn’t go well, of course, and even a kiss just makes her send him sprawling against the wall, clutching his privates. I’m not sure I need to see Emma Awakens to Fairytale Reality twice, but I guess that’s where the show is heading. It’s a bit of a disappointment, to be honest, and I hope Emma (having gotten a fabulous new life) won’t be wearing a rut in her former skepticism. But then, that wouldn’t be a happy ending, would it?

Oh, and the new Big Bad — I can’t think of any other green witches, so that must be the Wicked Witch of the West? Since Regina has gotten in touch with her nice side, we did need a rotten egg, so bring it on!

What did you think of the midseason finale? Do you think Gold is gone for good? Do you think Hook will get through to Emma? What do you think will happen back in Fairytale Land?