Once Upon a Time: Ruby Slippers Review

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By: Marianne Paluso

Before the second half of season 5 began, I was really excited for this arc in part because the first half was beyond brilliant and in part because we were finally about to embark on an arc about Emma fighting for her happy ending. Of course there are always sub-stories and in the 100th episode, “Operation Firebird” became not only about saving Killian but also rescuing other souls and our characters encountering people with unfinished business. I was truly excited to watch the stories unfold, but with the exception of “Labor of Love” and “The Brothers Jones,” this arc has been nice but underwhelming resulting in a mixed bag, and this week’s episode was the second, maybe even third in a row that resulted in these underwhelming mixed emotions, derailing quite a bit from these main storylines. “Ruby Slippers ” was a nice episode and included a love story that is new territory for the show that had a very sweet, and thankfully happy, result. And yet at the same time, this episode was also another reminder of the underlying issue with this particular arc. Once Upon a Time is not perfect; no show is. And we are used to “filler “episodes in the middle of arcs, as well as episodes devoted to guest stars. However, what matters with these episodes is whether the main storyline remains connected and is not forgotten. I remember the “Frozen” arc being criticized because the guest stars took up too much screen time. And while they did, the characters were also engaging and the story compelling, and most importantly, it all reflected and related back to the main character, Emma, in a very significant and beautiful way. The same can be said for the 5A “Dark Swan” arc where the guest stars were highlighted but were undeniably and intriguingly connected to the main Dark One storyline resulting in amazing drama and revealing mythology about the show. But this Underworld arc has been all over the place. For an arc about Emma fighting for her true love, these past few episodes have almost felt like she has been downgraded to a supporting character. Of course, this is an ensemble and all the characters need their chance to shine. I was hoping to see, for example, more development for Regina and Robin as opposed to the confusing story of Belle and Rumple or the continuing story of Zelena and Hades, though at least I do for the most part find the second entertaining.

Another love story was also introduced in this episode. At the time, I could not understand the point of the episode from 5A “The Bear King” with the exception of setting up the first LGBT story for the show with Ruby and Mulan. It’s a bold move to include a storyline like this and the set up was clear in that episode in hindsight. So I was surprised that when “Ruby Slippers” finally came, the love story was not with the already established queer character of Mulan with Ruby, but instead with Ruby and Dorothy, a character we barely know and don’t necessarily care about. And similar to “The Bear King,” “Ruby Slippers” had little connection to the plot main story arc. It did not move the plot forward enough. However, on the positive side, there were some connections as we got to see things we’ve seen on the show reinforced: the Ruby and Snow friendship as well as the idea that you must take a leap of faith when it comes to love. And this love story, though not what I expected, was indeed cute and had a very happy, lovely ending. You could understand why Ruby and Dorothy formed a connection, bonding over similar experiences, feeling different, not always feeling accepted, and not or knowing what they’re looking for in life. And the few scenes they had together were very sweet. However, there were a few issues. It is one thing to see connection and even a love form between them, it’s quite another to believe they formed the truest of loves. To punish Dorothy, wanting her silver slippers, Zelena put Dorothy under a sleeping curse. Ruby was devastated to learn this and with her friends helping in the Underworld, they go in search of Aunt Em, thinking she is the one who could save her with True Love’s Kiss. Hades, rather gruesomely so, thwarts their plan by melting poor Aunt Em. But Snow, knowing her best friend well, believes she can see that Ruby loves Dorothy and could break the curse. I actually really enjoyed the scene between the two friends because it was definitely a reminder of that relatable feeling of being unsure and scared of love. As Snow says, “Love is freaking scary.” And in the end, it was lovely to see Ruby find happiness and awaken Dorothy with True Love’s Kiss. But at the same time, this felt very rushed and a little unearned. It is common in fairytales and the show to have characters fall in love quickly but Dorothy and Ruby knew each other for only a few hours and had one meaningful conversation. And it isn’t true love supposed to be rare and special? It’s wonderful, of course, to see darkness did not win, and to show that with a same sex couple, but it was also far too rushed. It’s also disappointing when thinking comparatively to a couple like Emma and Killian who have not yet shared this magical kind of kiss, yet have been developed for three seasons and have literally been through hell so far this year, against a couple who literally had about 15 minutes together on screen and were bestowed such a special magical moment. And that is the mixed bag of emotions. More development would have helped this feel more believable and earned. Moreover, the already established queer character was sidelined to supportive friend and given the fact that she and Ruby had known each other for a while, had love story developed and a TLK happened for them it would not have felt as rushed. But as I said, it is not as if the story we did see was not welcome or lovely in many ways. What I liked was that although it was quick, it was natural and easily accepted and that Snow was there to encourage her friend to believe and take a risk. When it comes down to it though, the mixed emotions have to do with the underlying underwhelming quality of the arc. More development would have been nice, but at the same time I am not overly invested in these characters and they have gone down on these meandering paths away from the main objective for too long. It’s been disappointing that Robin was made a regular and has received so little screen time and the arc about Emma saving Killian has featured so little of the couple. It’s important to have variety of characters yes, but at the same time, I am ready to get back to the main ones. That is what I care about the most. And I am especially ready for Emma, the main character, to be front and center again.

Beyond the sweetness of the love story, there were some more positive aspects of this episode which did serve a purpose, albeit a small one: more positive development in Zelena’s redemption, more recognition of Killian’s importance to the Charmings, and a way to leave the Underworld. I really liked the scene between Regina and Zelena as the younger Mills sister could see behind her bluster and that Zelena is ashamed for what she did to Dorothy. And when she gave the slippers to the heroes without getting anything in return, it was another positive step in her becoming a better person. I am happy to see Zelena get some proper development because her character is fantastic. In my favorite scene of the episode, Killian thanks David for coming down to the Underworld for him and even though David said he did it for Emma, he also admits that Killian has grown on him a bit. Though they have trouble admitting it, these two really have become good friends and anytime they are onscreen together is golden. The begrudging friendship is such fun to witness and the rapport that Josh Dallas and Colin O’Donoghue have developed is natural and ever appealing. And it’s clear that they also know how to not only make a good team, but also put the women they love above all else. The silver slippers are way to get out of the Underworld (realm jumping is amusingly easy now), and Emma wants her parents to return to Storybrooke to be with her younger brother. It’s time for them to get back to their baby. She’s ready to face Hades without them, but with Snow’s name still on the headstone, she is stuck. The plan was for David to leave. But in true Charming fashion, and with some smart thinking on his and Killian’s parts, they find a way for Snow to leave instead. When Hades was trying to force Killian to engrave the names on the gravestones, he had enchanted his hand to do so. While the names couldn’t be erased, they could be changed so Killian engraves David’s name into Snow’s headstone. And the look on Emma’s face when she realizes what they’ve done was so lovely as they smile and hug each other in a very sweet moment, matched by the goodbye between Snow and David complete with their beautiful musical theme. It was as sweet and heartfelt a moment between them as there has ever been, built on faith and belief that they will be really be reunited again. When Ruby and Dorothy’s special moment appears in the storybook, Henry also sees Snow back in Storybrooke with her baby boy and shows these pages to his family. They all are relieved and happy and ready to find a way back home. Where the story goes for Belle is less certain as she will willingly put herself under a sleeping curse to protect her baby. She wants Rumple to do anything he can to save their baby and then get her back to Storybrooke so her father can awaken her with True Love’s Kiss. I hope that can happen. I guess we will see. As far as how Killian will be saved; how he, Emma, Henry, Regina, Robin and David will defeat Hades; and how true love can prevail for Emma and Killian, those are the stories that I long to see and have been sidelined for too long. Yes, I do enjoy all the characters and even the guest stars, but the main ones are what I love and care about the most. I hope that after feeling underwhelmed and as if everything has been stalled lately, these final episodes will pick up and everything that has been built up will conclude in a satisfying way. Emma and Killian especially have gone through so much heartache and pain this season, so I have to hold out hope that a true love magical moment, whether it be a kiss or something even more profound, that they have earned countless times over, will be bestowed upon them in a beautiful way.

Favorite Moments: I enjoy the friendships on this show so much and two scenes in particular were lovely and meaningful. Hearing David admit that Killian has grown on him and Killian smiling about it made me smile so much because it wasn’t sappy but more of their begrudging sort of rapport while still showing that they really do care what happens to the other. And the scene between Ruby and Snow was equally lovely because we could see how much Snow understands her friend, with Ruby demonstrating that relatable fear of love being one-sided. But of course Snow being the champion of happy endings was beautifully encouraging. Lastly, although they are small moments, I loved seeing the sweet signs of affection in the scene where Snow says goodbye to her family from her kissing David, to Emma hugging Killian, to her holding onto him and her father’s hands. I live for moments between the Charming family.

Favorite Lines:
Killian: I realized I hadn’t said it yet, but thank you. I didn’t want Emma to do this, let alone drag everyone along.
David: We made our own choices.
Killian: Really? I didn’t know you cared.
David: Alright, I did it for Emma.
Killian: Ah, figured.
David: And I guess you’ve grown on me a bit.
Killian: Well I tend to have that effect on people.

Snow: Love is freaking scary. I’m about to say goodbye to David for what may be a really long time. And you know why I’m okay with it? Because what you get back when you love someone far outweighs the risk.


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