Once Upon a Time: Fall Review

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By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P)


Spoilers Ahead

It seems apropos that a show that involves ripping out hearts does so metaphorically to its viewers on a weekly basis. This week’s episode, “Fall,” was no exception, filled with happy reunions and tearful goodbyes as the dreadful spell of Shattered Sight is about to rain down on Storybrooke. For the first week, what seemed to be another Arendelle flashback is revealed to actually be happening concurrently with the crisis in Storybrooke. The freeze upon Arendelle is somehow undone and Anna and Kristoff race to escape from Hans who plans to take over as king and put them to death for treason. The couple seeks out the pirate Blackbeard, believing he has the magical wishing star that can help them free Elsa from the urn. Sadly, they walk into a trap on Blackbeard’s ship – coincidentally, the Jolly Roger – as Hans arrives and Anna and Kristoff are put into a trunk in the ocean, death surely awaiting them. Many of these scenes provided a much-needed levity amidst the heavy drama of the episode. Elizabeth Lail’s Anna and Scott Michael Foster’s Kristoff are so delightfully engaging with a witty banter that would make any classic film actor proud, while Charles Mesure’s Blackbeard is a real treat. Dastardly and amusing and looking like our traditional view of Captain Hook, I may hate what he’s doing, but I love to watch him do it. Meanwhile in Storybrooke, our heroes are preparing for imminent doom, each one planning on separating from loved ones so as not to do harm to each other. But hope manifests itself in Anna’s retrieved necklace from the ice wall. If they can find Anna, a hair from her can create a potion that can undo the effects of the spell; moreover, mirror dust from said necklace can achieve the same, but it will be destroyed in the process. Belle and the fairies prepare, but as time clicks away and Anna is not found, a choice must be made. Elsa, wanting only to find her sister, takes the necklace while Emma pursues her. When led to the beach, Elsa’s wish to be with her sister reveals that she had the wishing star in her hands the entire time and the sisters are happily reunited. But when they race to the fairies, they discover them all gone. Unbeknownst to them, Rumple, in control of Killian’s heart, forces him to trap the fairies in the sorcerer’s hat so he can collect enough magic to cleave himself from the dagger and leave town with Belle and Henry (thanks to a deal with the Snow Queen), leaving the rest of the town to fend for themselves. This self-serving act by Rumple, as Killian says, kills the cure as the spell falls down upon everyone, leaving only himself, Emma, Elsa, and Anna immune to its effects.

So much happened in this fast-paced episode, but it was how each character dealt with their fate that proved to be very moving storytelling. Regina finds Robin in his camp to say goodbye and memorize the look of love in his eyes, knowing that as soon as the spell hits, it will turn to one of hatred. It was lovely to see him reassure her that no matter what happens, what they have is true. And although their situation is still complicated, their love was obvious and something they want to hold onto while they still can. It was also sweet to see Regina bid Henry goodbye, the steadfast and faithful young man who believes everything will be alright. She tells him she wishes she were as brave as him, truly one of the kindest things she has ever said to her son. Henry’s hope never waivers, proving why he has the heart of the truest believer. Happy and sorrowful tears were also shed for the happy reunions and farewells of Elsa, Anna, and company. Never for a moment do you doubt their sisterly bond and it was beautiful to see Elsa’s wish to be with Anna granted after her relentless quest to find her. One could also not help but smile at seeing David embrace his old friends Kristoff and Anna as they laughed about shorter hair and introduced their families to each other. But the most tear-inducing scene for these characters was one between Anna and Kristoff as they believe they are about to drown, trapped in the deep depths of the ocean. It takes both powerful writing and talented actors to be able to convey feelings so true in such a short amount of screen time. When they declared their love, hands clasped, ready to take their last breath together, I was taken back to the first moments of the pilot when Charming awoke Snow from her sleeping curse, and to “Tallahassee” when Emma and Killian spoke of their past. In the hands of gifted actors, it only takes an instant to express deep love or the possibility of it. These are the kind of moments that make this show so superb. Anna and Kristoff’s clasped hands also continued the lovely hand motif of the season and was reminiscent of Emma holding Killian’s hand after their date, reassuring him that all was well. These situations could not be more different dramatically, but both were meant to show comfort. Sometimes a gentle touch can say more than words ever could.

It also proved difficult to watch Rumple descend even further into darkness and utterly painful to watch Killian forced to do his bidding. With every clench of his jaw and sorrowful look in his eyes, you can see how much he hates what he’s doing, none more painful than when he sits down behind the counter at Granny’s after trapping the fairies, struggling to hold back tears. The scenes between Killian and Rumple possess such a dynamic dichotomy. We see further proof of what was established in “The Apprentice.” Killian has changed so much and has tried so hard to be a better man, while Rumple has reverted, choosing power and himself above all else. Killian again attempts to reach any shred of humanity Rumple has left, saying that Belle truly loves him and he could have her forever, or he could choose power. But Rumple scoffs that he doesn’t have to choose and to enjoy his final moments because once his plan is complete, he will kill him. We see here that while Rumple has love, it is not enough for him. More than anything, our choices are what truly define us. Rumple is choosing darkness, while Killian has shown to be choosing the light. He did so when he relinquished his hand, believing it was cursed. He did so when he gave up his ship, which we can now infer he traded to Blackbeard so he could reach Emma in New York. If true, the fact that he willingly gave up his home to an enemy all to save the woman he loves further solidifies that love means more to Killian than anything else in the world. Rumple may physically have Killian’s heart, but it truly belongs to Emma. This is what makes seeing Killian lose all hope even more devastating.

The heartfelt goodbyes between Emma and her loved ones were so reminiscent of those we experienced in “Going Home”: filled with tears and yet still a sense of hope. As the spell is about to rain down, Emma must lock up her parents and take her baby brother for safety. Once again, a curse is about to separate Emma from her family and she can’t stop the tears from coming as her loved ones express their belief that she will prevail and everyone will be fine in the end. Snow and Charming’s faith in their daughter was exactly the boost of confidence she needed. Always the pillar of strength, their ability to give their daughter the same is quite moving. As heart-wrenching as it was to watch this family forced to say goodbye to each other again, my soul was deeply moved when Killian arrived to say goodbye to Emma. She believes that they are parting simply because of the curse and yet is still heartbroken to be separating from him. For Killian, when he says he needed to see her one more time, what he means is one last time before he dies. He surely believes in her and that the curse will be broken, but any hope he had for himself has vanished. When Emma says she is not a tearful goodbye kiss person, his look of sorrow is devastating, but she kisses him anyway. And as they passionately kiss, Emma holding onto him for dear life with tears staining her face, Killian placing kisses on her cheek and neck before burying his face into her shoulder, all that they feel for each other is exquisitely expressed. There are no romantic speeches or verbal declarations of love, but rather a raw and deeply intimate moment that felt beautifully real. There is something truly special about the chemistry between Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue. Like lightning in a bottle, it radiates warmth, authenticity, and beauty in a truly rare form. And this moment demonstrated what finding love means for their characters. Emma has always been so guarded with her feelings, but here her level of vulnerability showcases how she may still be afraid of losing love, but is now brave enough to embrace it with her whole heart. Killian, who is without his heart, cannot fully show his affections to the woman he loves, but his belief that he will never see her again makes his desperation even more potent as he kisses her like he’s never done so before. In “Going Home,” he made her a promise to think of her every day and her hopeful response of, “Good” kept her in his heart while they were apart. But here he cannot promise her the same. In the final moment they cling to each other, we can see that Emma has hope and that Killian has lost his. As he softly says goodbye and departs, Emma touches her lips with both a look of confusion and realization in her eyes. She can tell something is wrong because she knows what kissing him feels like. But much like their first kiss in Neverland, this goodbye kiss also exposed something even more profound – that their hearts only beat for each other and will do so until their very last.

As the spell of Shattered Sight engulfs the entire town and shards fall into their eyes, we see a glimpse of how destructive this curse can be as Snow and Charming let go of each other’s hands and her expression turns to one of utter disdain that sent chills down my spine. I don’t know how Emma and Elsa will fare against Ingrid, but there is one thing we can surely count on: more tears will likely be shed as our heroes fight to save all that they hold dear.

Favorite Moments: The tearful goodbyes for Emma and Killian, Emma and her family, Anna and Kristoff, and Regina and Robin were all beautifully poignant and demonstrated that this may be a fantasy show, but is grounded in heartfelt truths about love, hope, and faith.

Favorite Lines:
Killian: I needed to see you one more time.
Emma: Killian, I’m not a tearful goodbye kiss person, but maybe just this once.

David (to Snow): No spell is strong enough to break what we have.

Elsa: You have wonderful parents, Emma.
Emma: I know.

Anna: Pirates are better than wizards!


    One Comment

  1. Lucky ScrunchyDecember 5th, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Wow!!! I am speechless.

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