If you believe in something strongly enough, we all have the power to change our fate.August
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, and Robert Carlyle.
Episode 11: Tougher Than The Rest
Once Upon a Time is back after its Christmas break, and the first point on the agenda is to recover and move forward after the cliffhanger ending of the previous episode. In fact, most of this episode is spent working through the ramifications of these revelations: primarily, can Belle and Gold stop Gideon from killing Emma, and can Emma and Regina return from the Wish Realm after the portal closed when Regina spotted her lost love Robin.
It is mainly the second of these points which gets the most screen time, but it’s clearly not a concept that the show was too committed to pursuing. It was obvious throughout the episode that it wasn’t a world that Emma and Regina would be residing in for long, as the actual universe wasn’t terribly fleshed out, apart from an opportunity to bring back August, for Regina to talk to Robin, and for an amusing encounter with an alcoholic, overweight Captain Hook. None of the panic that followed Regina along in the previous episode seemed to be present, and it all seemed remarkably convenient and easy to achieve what they wanted.
The small problem of August’s broken chisel was solved merely through the power of self belief – a concept that Once is no stranger to, and regardless of the attempt to contextualise this through a random, brief Emma flashback to when she apparently took on the surname Swan after a talk with August on the streets, it wasn’t quite enough to disguise that this was clearly an attempt to drag out the journey in the Wish Realm to allow Regina and Robin to talk.
As for Regina’s storyline with Robin, there was some satisfying closure, but the character almost goes backwards by the end of the episode. Firstly, she is trying to see whether Robin, like the other members of this realm, are “better off” without her. It’s yet another way of delving into Regina’s psyche and guilt over her previous villainous ways. After seeing how happy the Charmings were without her interfering, she somehow believes that everybody is better off without her presence. It’s a logical enough thought for her to have, but I wish she would have the presence of mind to work out that the only reason the Charmings lives improved after she left it is because during the time in the Enchanted Forest she was intentionally trying to ruin their lives. This whole Regina crusade against her Evil Queen persona can really only end one way, and that is through Regina’s self-acceptance, which is running the risk of stagnating as a storyline. The spiral of self hatred that she seems to have found herself in is getting quite difficult to watch.
Bringing Robin back to the real world brings with it its own challenges. Much as Sean Maguire, and the character of Robin, are great parts of the programme, I cannot conceive that he and Regina will actually be able to have a relationship. Regardless of Emma saying that Regina deserves the happiness, this Robin is not the same Robin that Regina loved. Just because they look the same, and they share an awful lot of the same past, they simply are not the same. It’s like replacing your dead dog with a practically identical pet and calling it the same name. It’s a literal replacement for your loss, and it’s almost more disrespectful to Robin’s memory than Regina organically moving on and growing from the loss, so hopefully they don’t become a couple and “undo” our Robin’s death in that way.
In Storybrooke, Belle and Gold are faced with the fact that their now-adult child, Gideon is the figure destined to kill Emma. Apparently, his reasoning for this is not because he is evil, but that he wishes to save everybody from the wrath of the Black Fairy, and can only do that if he is the Saviour. This seems like an awfully strange way to go about this, as surely he could just get Emma to take on the Black Fairy instead of him, but it doesn’t seem as if logic is wholly working.
It’s up to Gold to confront his son about this path, and the conversation is far from positive. Also, more than a little confusing. It’s tricky to tell whether or not Gideon actually is evil or good. He wants to kill the Black Fairy, who kidnapped and tortured him, but there’s still something very dangerous and villainous about him, despite his protests that he isn’t evil. His and Rumple’s bond also seems to be highly complicated, but then again Gold is hardly the arbiter of appropriate morals, as his attempt to offer his son help turns into him slapping him in the face and demanding that the pair of them fight. Which is an interesting way to go about things for a child who was abducted and tortured for a few decades, but who am I to judge his parenting?
This culminates in a big confrontation between Emma and Gideon on the streets of Storybrooke. Quite why Emma keeps on walking down these streets when she knows she’s going to get killed there is anybody’s guess. Also, if I were her I would’ve thrown away the clothes from my premonition just in case. You never know, it may never happen if you never wear that black tank top. So the pair fight with their swords, but Emma does not die. Instead, she manages to summon her courage, stop her shaking hand and best Gideon. She is begged by Rumple to stop, however, allowing Gideon to escape.
It’s obvious that this isn’t quite the big confrontation; not least because the clothes Emma is wearing are different, and there were different characters watching on. So Emma hasn’t exactly evaded death yet, and I’m more than certain that this prophecy business will continue to trickle on until much later in the season.
With Rumple’s mentions of war, however, it does seem that the “final battle” that the Saviour was destined to stop is fast approaching, and I would be highly surprised if that wasn’t the subject of this year’s season finale.
Ultimately, “Tougher Than The Rest” does a fairly decent job at constructing an entertaining episode that stands quite well on its own. The surprise appearance of August was slightly disarming, as it mainly makes the audience realise that he disappears off the face of the planet every so often, only for him to turn up as if he was never away. The journey in the Wish Realm, while diverting, felt a bit contrived and convenient, but the advancement of Gideon’s identity and his vendetta against Emma is sure to mean some action packed episodes to follow.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.