Season finale review: ‘Once Upon a Time – ‘A Land Without Magic’

A brief review of – and mainly just lots of spoilers for – the “Once Upon a Time” season finale coming up just as soon as I just go for my gun…

I wasn’t wild about “Once Upon a Time” when it debuted in the fall, in part because the only characters I felt any investment in were Emm and Henry, but mainly because the episodes I saw suggested a show that was going to take its sweet time undoing the curse. And I didn’t like the curse because it robbed most of the characters of personality and agency, and because it made the Wicked Queen seem to omnipotent, evil and one-note.

I stopped watching after 3, maybe 4 episodes, and decided I would come back at the end of the season to see what happened. Kitsis and Horowitz cut their teeth on “Lost,” which is a show that, from an arc perspective, tended to run in place for most of the season before having all the plot happen in the last couple of episodes. With “Lost,” I didn’t mind as much because other aspects of the show (the characters, the action, atmosphere, etc.) grabbed me more, but I figured I would jump ahead, see if the place where the season landed was more interesting than where it started, and perhaps decide from there if I wanted to go forward with the show.

Of course, doing that took away any emotional investment I might have built up with any of the characters. I recognize that. (I also missed out on a lot of new characters, like Pinocchio and what I’m told is The Mad Hatter.) But I was pleased to see the show getting on with things in the finale, as Emma’s true maternal love for her biological son not only brought him back from the dead, but broke the curse and gave everyone their memory’s back – while leaving everyone stuck in the real world, and with the approach of magic on the way courtesy of Rumplestiltskin. That, to me, is more interesting territory to explore than Henry trying to get Emma to break the curse, because at least all the other characters will actually get to be themselves and have free will.

Mainly, though, I’m curious about what those of you who watched all season thought. Did you feel like the show dragged its feet, or was the overall pacing on this first arc to your liking? Were you surprised/impressed that everyone got their memory’s back this early in what should be a healthy run? Are you looking forward to the new direction more than you enjoyed this one? And if I have a spare 40 minutes this summer and wanted to go back to sample one earlier episode to see “Once Upon a Time” at its best, what would you suggest?