I know you’re hurting. But you can’t just run from this.Regina
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, and Robert Carlyle.
Episode 15: A Wondrous Place
“A Wondrous Place” is a delightful return to the original appeal of Once Upon a Time. Seeing characters like Ariel and Jasmine interact in Agrabah is really the kind of bizarre fan fiction mashup that the show riffed off of, quite successfully, for its first couple of seasons and it was thoroughly diverting to have such an engaging, almost standalone tale in this story’s final run. Having said that, it did come at an odd spot in the season and simply felt like a way to successfully wrap up a couple of loose plot ends before getting to the meaty confrontation against the Black Fairy.
As it turns out, Hook’s trapping on the Nautilus at the end of the previous episode mainly served to get him in the Enchanted Forest, as Nemo soon promptly disappeared off the programme as soon as Hook had encountered Jasmine and Aladdin. At least this particular plot strand helped the episode, while it focussed primarily on guest stars to feel as if it were slightly advancing the main plot: in this case, the tension of Emma and Hook being separated.
Back in Storybrooke, we also saw Emma dealing with the emotional ramifications of being abandoned by Hook, which was touching, though also frustrating, seeing as the audience knows the whole thing is a complete misunderstanding. One of the main irritations of this is the fact that Emma reveals to Charming Hook’s role in Charming’s father’s death, which really should have been something that Hook himself should have revealed. Charming is mainly concerned that Hook isn’t the one to have revealed the information, instead of the actual news itself. Seeing as David and Hook’s relationship is one that season six has attempted to build somewhat, this has robbed that potential storyline from a decent growth point.
The girls’ night out portion of the episode was highly amusing, and reminded me a lot of the night out that Snow, Ruby and Ashley had in the first season, which was also a delightful touch. Seeing Snow cut loose and get drunk was wonderful to see, as well as just how far these women have come, from warring with Regina to now consoling each other in a bar. What’s more, the pun of “Aesop’s Tables” was absolutely spot on.
It was a huge relief when Emma discovers that Killian was intentionally spirited away as part of Gideon’s plans; not least when we know there are only a handful of episodes before we may never see half of these characters again. Emma and Hook’s relationship has been a huge part of the show since Season 2, so it’s only fitting that they should stay together, even after their brief misunderstanding in the past episode. If this season doesn’t heavily feature their wedding, it would be a tremendously missed beat.
The ultimate reveal that propels us into next week is Gideon attempting to enlist Emma in his quest. Personally, I am wholly confused by whatever Gideon’s plan is. It seems to shift on a weekly basis, depending upon whatever is the most dramatic for the particular script. I have whiplash from keeping up with whether or not he is good, working with or against the Black Fairy. Apparently, instead of trying got kill Emma, he now wants Emma’s help to stop the Black Fairy (which, if you ask me, would have been the logical thing to do in the first place. But nobody did ask me. They should do though. I have lots of interesting things to say, despite what you read here.)
So, onto the real meat of the episode, which is Jasmine and Aladdin’s story. Ultimately, the flashbacks were utilised successfully and added depth to Jasmine’s claims that she had failed Agrabah. Jafar was used in an interesting way here: he was suitably menacing, but I can’t help but feel like we’re missing a substantial part of his story. I imagine that this is partly to do with his large role within Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, which might explain things like him suspiciously becoming a genie by the time we encounter him again in the present. I’ve only watched Wonderland the once, and I found myself quite confused by those elements, but I suppose if you watched with a less anally retentive gaze, you’d casually overlook it.
Ariel’s appearance, while – as ever – beguiling and endearing was slightly jarring, especially in working out where she fits in. The fact that she suspiciously appeared in both the flashbacks and the present day was a little too convenient, and exactly where the flashbacks come in her personal storyline is more than a mite confusing. As I understand it, it’s after she encountered Regina when Prince Eric was going on a tour around the mystical realms or whatever they’re called. If this is the case, then we are to believe that, after being cursed by Regina to not be able to talk, Ariel managed to find a necklace that would grant her legs and her voice, and used this to try and find Eric. She clearly was not successful, as the next time she is then accounted for is when Regina calls her in Neverland, where apparently, through some bizarre twist of fate, she has lost said pendant and is now rendered speechless once more. I can see the draw in wanting to include Ariel, but that seems a touch lazy, when there are many other characters who might have fit in more seamlessly, but perhaps the writers had to make do with whatever guest stars were available. Would a Mulan appearance be too much to ask? Yes. Apparently, it would.
Aladdin and Jasmine finally getting together and restoring Agrabah was almost enough to forgive these many sins, however, even if the logic of true love’s kiss apparently now just being a remedy for any sort of magical problem seems to be stretching the rules of the Once universe. The wonderful sight of Jafar turned into the magical staff was beautiful, if a little terrifying. The main draw of this is the fact that Aladdin and Jasmine’s story is now nicely tied up, which I imagine was the intention, though I do feel like there was enough material here to drag it out through more episodes than randomly appearing in the way that it did. The Aladdin and Jasmine storyline has been quite compelling since being introduced, but really has suffered from pacing issues. I feel like the writers every so often forgot that they existed and decided to wrap everything up here so they no longer have to include it anymore.
Something that is tangibly obvious by this point of the season, however, is that as a season, Once has not kept up with its successful juggling of its large cast in the same way that it did at the beginning. In particular, Zelena and Belle have suffered. Snow has also been more in the background than usual. Belle’s lack of screen time is hardly surprising, as, sadly, Once has never really known what to do with Emilie de Ravin despite her electric onscreen presence. It’s been clear from the off that Belle is nothing more than a plot point within Rumple’s story and not worthy of much development of her own, which will forever make my blood boil. Meanwhile, short of a few quips here or there, Zelena hasn’t had nearly enough development here considering she lost her love at the end of the previous season, and her sister, and is now a single parent to her daughter. She definitely deserves more screentime before the end of the season, especially considering that Rebecca Mader is one of the greatest actors that Once possesses.
Overall, though getting rid of the obligatory two-story-arcs-a-season has been great in many other aspects, there have been huge swaths of this season that have been more than a little bit messy. While some story arcs, such as Emma’s fear of dying, have been played quite well and juggled quite nicely with other ideas, the season is starting to fall down on its interior logic, such as Gideon’s ever-changing allegiance. The show seems torn between whether he is a willing agent of the Black Fairy, corrupted by his time with her, or whether he is acting against her to destroy her. Hopefully we gain answers sooner, rather than later, because, since there are only 7 episodes left of this story, the ending had better be more cohesive than some of the past few episodes have been, as high quality as this season has been as a whole.
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.