Once Upon a Time: Wish You Were Here (Review)
By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)
If I were to describe my thoughts on the Once Upon a Time mid-season finale “Wish You Were Here,” they would be conflicted but still hopeful for what’s to come. Upon first viewing, I found the episode odd and confusing and was quite upset and angered by some aspects, which was an entirely new experience. So I did something I never do. I read what other people were analyzing and because of that, combined with clarifications from writers, and another viewing with those things in my mind, I was no longer confused or completely upset and understood things much more clearly. However, I should not have to rely on those things. It should’ve been clearer in the episode, so we are faced with a case where the intent and the execution did not meld as well as they should have. Overall, some things I quite enjoyed, some things left me intrigued, and some things left me somewhat disappointed in a comparison and “what could have been” sense. But in the end I still feel hopeful for what’s to come.
To summarize the plot: upon discovering the sword fated to kill Emma can harm the Evil Queen but not Regina, they plan to take care of her once and for all. Unfortunately, the Evil Queen gets a hold of the magic lamp and wishes Emma away to a world where she was never the Savior. After Killian, David, and Jasmine work together against the Evil Queen, they get the lamp for themselves and Aladdin and Jasmine depart wish a wish back to Agrabah. But danger still looms as the hooded figure from Emma’s vision arrives, turning the Queen into a snake and revealing themselves to Belle and Rumple who were grief stricken that their son had been taken by the Black Fairy. But the hooded figure and their son are one and the same. Meanwhile, Regina wished herself to the same world as Emma, who had memories of growing up happy, but was not herself, and so Regina resorts to violence to try to convince her of the truth. It’s only when Henry was about to kill that Emma wakes up. They’re ready to go home with the magic bean this world’s Rumpelstiltskin traded to them for his freedom, but Emma and Regina lose their chance when Robin Hood suddenly appears and the portal closes before they can return home.
One of the things that was most intriguing was that the hooded figure fated to kill Emma turned out to be Rumple and Belle’s now fully grown son Gideon. How did he go from sweet son protecting his mother to an evil and ominous figure who wants to kill Emma? He was taken by the Black Fairy so it seems she has corrupted him. To what point and purpose? Is it because Emma is destined to vanquish darkness? As far as his parents, I thought Rumple had crossed too many lines to make a reconciliation with him and Belle possible, but I’m willing to be open-minded based on the positive improvement in his behavior in this episode, leading with his actions instead of empty words. Although I wasn’t keen on Belle saying “what have we done to each other,” because all she has done was stand up and protect herself, I do like that what we are seeing between them is about protecting their son. With Gideon clearly on a dark path, now it will be interesting to see how they go about helping their son and not wanting to hurt Emma (at least from Belle’s perspective) and how those two things can reconcile. Corrupt or not, I did enjoy seeing him turn the Evil Queen into a snake, as her presence has worn thin. And was that a clue that perhaps Jafar is involved in all of this?
Speaking of reconciling, as I’ve stated before, it’s time to reconcile both sides of Regina, either by finding a way to absorb the other, or by killing the Evil Queen. What’s conflicting is that we’re finally seeing more recognition that they are two halves to one whole, but at the same time it feels like Regina still hasn’t learned much. With half the season over that’s disappointing, but one thing that has been made clear is that even with splitting herself, darkness is still in Regina because you can’t simply cut part of yourself away. I once thought destroying Evil Queen would be a bad message, but because of the darkness she still has, I actually think it could progress her story. We could see more growth where her good intentions are matched by good methods. That’s still a struggle and perhaps this could be a positive way that lesson could be learned. I hope the reappearance of Robin Hood in her life in whatever form he is will lead to this and help her find peace and happiness in whatever way that may look like. Robin was always a positive force in her life, so I look forward to where their story may lead. And it’s quite interesting how these two sides of Regina may very well be associated with David’s wish. He called the Evil Queen a snake and made a wish that she get exactly what she deserves. At first it seemed as if that was wasted, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that right after, Gideon arrived and turned her into one. But the price of that wish is that Emma’s fated foe is now in Storybrooke. And this would also explain why Robin suddenly appeared in the wish world – so Regina could find what she deserves with her soulmate. What that is remains to be seen.
My favorite aspect of “Wish You Were Here ” was David and Killian working together, which showcased some wonderful development for their characters. After being noticeably absent last episode, I loved seeing David back in action and working alongside his friend. From tension to understanding, these two have come such a long way in their relationship and the way that has progressed was showcased within this episode in itself. Besides becoming friends, there are no two men who love Emma more. Side note – when David questions Killian’s knowledge of Emma’s wish because they live together now and Killian yells back that they don’t sit around discussing when a genie would appear, I thought to myself, “Please show us what they really do because we’ve yet to see it!” But I digress. What I found really interesting was the way the two characters reversed roles in a way and it says significant things about where they are individually and in relation to each other. David is always fiercely protective of his daughter. It is one of the best parts of the series and one that continually moves me. And while he often has bursts of anger, David more often than not remains cool and collected. But for a moment, his anger nearly got the best of him when he confronted the Evil Queen, but thankfully Killian knew something had gone wrong and arrived just in time. But that didn’t stop David from feeling ashamed and fearful that he is as dark as his brother. And I really love that the writers are giving his character more complexities to deal with. Between the shared curse with Snow and threats and dangers involving his daughter, David is understandably stressed and worried. It broke my heart to hear him fear that without Snow, his dark side will break free. But it warmed my heart to see Killian be the one to assure him that we all make mistakes, that he is a good person, and to go kiss his wife. If you think about who they are, it feels like it would have been Killian expressing these fears. But the fact that it was David’s fears and Killian’s reassurance was a really significant and meaningful moment for them. The camaraderie between them is a joy to watch and as far as Killian, the growth he demonstrated here was simply amazing. The roles were reversed indeed as he acted in the way David usually does. One may think Killian wasn’t frantic enough. But just because he was more calm doesn’t mean he wasn’t deeply worried and doing what whatever he could to help Emma. On the contrary, he was merely showing how far he’s come and how much everything he’s gone through has affected him. In the past he’s been reckless, and Emma was horrified at the thought of losing him because of it. But now he’s acting in a way that Emma would be proud of and being the Killian Jones he lost and has once again found: thoughtful, intelligent, and still proactive. He would go to the end of the world or time for Emma but he can’t do that if he gets himself killed. After having his life miraculously restored, he never wants to leave Emma again.
As far as the other moments of the episode I enjoyed, these were: Emma, David, and Killian walking down Main Street in slow-motion, hero-style with such an epic feel; and Aladdin and Jasmine continuing to be sweet and a little nod to the film where Jasmine reaches out her hand and asks him, “Do you trust me?” It was wonderful and while I am sad to see them go, I know there is still much more to their story. From one Savior to another, Aladdin’s gesture of leaving Emma his scarab jewel was touching and however their stories intertwine, I will be a captive audience. I also loved the way in which Robin Hood appeared and seeing Sean Maguire on my screen again made me incredibly happy. His robbery attempt made me smile and Regina’s awed and tearful pull toward him was touching. Even though no one in this world is supposed to be real, one cannot fault someone being amazed and overwhelmed to see the love of their life suddenly before them. I also laughed at Aladdin’s little “Eww” at the Evil Queen’s advances, at Regina’s happiness of seeing dwarves, as well as her amusement at seeing Snow and David much older. I liked revisiting Rumple at his most impish self as well, and how Robert Carlyle always has a way of making him creepy and funny simultaneously; and lastly Emma softly humming “Someday My Prince Will Come” while flower picking was very sweet.
Which leads me to the conflicting parts of the episode. From an aesthetic perspective, I really loved the wish realm. The costumes were gorgeous and sets stunning and I loved not only the grand marble statue of Snow with David, but also seeing how they would look as an older, regal, and royal couple. Similarly, seeing Emma as a princess instantly brought a smile to my face and Jennifer Morrison looked absolutely radiant. And it was incredibly sweet hearing her call her parents “mommy and daddy” and her in a world where she clearly grew up with endless love. However, while the sweetness makes sense, the way in which and she was also meek, timid, and afraid of the Evil Queen with absolutely no sign of the fierceness and strength that she embodies left me feeling very upset. Emma would never act this way and Snow and David would have raised her to be courageous and not grovel or beg for mercy. I could not believe they would present this character that way and had to instead believe that this wasn’t the intent. Thankfully, as I said, it shouldn’t have come to this, and seeing analysis and confirmation that this wasn’t the case and merely my confusion was a relief but also clearly showed a lack of proper execution. I thought this was meant to be a world to show what Emma’s life would have been like without being the Savior if the curse was never cast. And it was in a sense, but it wasn’t that straightforward. Instead, this was the Evil Queen’s twisted perversion of that and knowing this not only alleviated the bad feelings, but also made things make perfect sense that didn’t previously – Henry’s existence despite Neal not being in the Enchanted Forest at that time, Rumple still wanting the curse cast, Granny not aging while Snow and David did, Killian being conspicuously absent, and most of all Emma’s behavior. It still was far from my favorite thing to watch but when examining it, it certainly sheds interesting light on how the Evil Queen views Emma. This world was meant to trap Emma in a place where she felt comfort but with nothing that would trigger that something was not right. It perfectly explains why Killian wasn’t there. He would have been so altered that whatever he was would cause a rift in the dream because the real Killian challenges her, encourages her, and praises her tenacity. It makes me wonder what the Killian she is bound to encounter will be like. Whatever version of him she meets, I am happy that the real Emma has returned.
The most difficult scene to wrap my head around was the one in which Emma is woken up from this dream. Regina pretends to be the Evil Queen, threatening, and then crushing the hearts of Snow and David with Emma on the floor completely broken and sobbing. It’s only when Henry arrives, Regina says she won’t hurt him, and most importantly when Henry was about to become a killer that she woke up. I think it’s very important to note that it’s clear Regina still doesn’t know the right method to get through to Emma (forcefulness and trauma do not work), that there is still some form of darkness in her, and that it was Henry’s actions that truly woke Emma up. Her intentions were good but the methods were so severe. And even though this was not the real Snow and David, seeing them murdered on screen was horrible to watch and as Emma said, “Very dark,” and seeing her say thank you after was a bit too much. Regina did a good thing in going there to help Emma but this way she tried to accomplish awakening her was something I really want to forget.
While I was able to understand upon reflection and enjoyed some aspects of the midseason finale, there was also a sense of disappointment. While I maintain an emphasis on positivity, critique and honesty are also important. When I compared to where the show was a year ago, “Swan Song” had so much more emotional resonance and epicness that “Wish You Were Here” lacked. And if I compare it to another similar scenario in “Operation Mongoose,” that episode had a clear premise and more heart and gusto. To be fair, “Wish You Were Here” is clearly meant to continue to the next episode and I suspect some great things are still to come. Moreover, I’ve always wanted to see a “what if the curse never happened” type of episode and I’m sad that this was only partially done and therefore the premise squandered. I don’t see them revisiting this either, though I suppose one could still hope. Lastly, although the scene where Emma blew out her birthday candle was lovely and a nice callback to the pilot, I’m disappointed it was used in a world that was not real. I had long since dreamed to see a scene like this at the end of the series, and then it literally played out word for word exactly how I imagined it. Except because this world wasn’t real, it rang hollow and false. My only solace and hope is that because this was shown here, perhaps they will revisit this and Emma saying she has everything she could ever wish for will mean something because it will be in the real world and she truly will have everything she could want, with everyone she loves around her: Her true love Killian, her son Henry, her parents, and her friends. That is the hopeful attitude I’m choosing to focus on.
Whatever is next for our characters and Once Upon a Time, I am also choosing to be hopeful and excited because I know what they can accomplish. How will Emma and Regina get home? We know Emma will meet the wish world’s version of Captain Hook. And no matter what he’s like, there will always be a connection between them, so I believe he will help bring her home as he always has. But how? There could be many scenarios but I would love it if perhaps we finally saw a version on screen of one of the show’s most significant moments. We know there are magic beans and we know that Killian will encounter them. Will we perhaps see Killian once again trade the Jolly Roger for a magic bean in order to bring Emma home? There are many things I hope to see play out the rest of season six, and although the first half was inconsistent, they also achieved greatness in many episodes. I hope to see a re-focus on Emma, what it means to be the Savior, her love story with Killian, and her familial love with her family.
Moreover, I hope for a more balanced story character-wise; to finally see Emma and Killian living together in proper scenes; Regina and Robin’s story to play out in a meaningful way; for Snow and David to break their sleeping curse; more between Killian, David, and Henry because their scenes are golden; Zelena to earn forgiveness; Regina to continue her growth; and Rumple and Belle to help bring their son back to the light. I also hope for more character moments balanced with plot, with emotional resolution and resonance, the return of Aladdin and Jasmine, and lots of romance and adventure. Most of all, I believe if the main story returns to the beauty of Emma’s journey, the magic that we’ve seen so often will be achieved. We’ve seen it this season and I hope the second half will show this more abundantly. Her story of overcoming adversity, opening her heart, and embracing her destiny is the kind of story that is endlessly beautiful, inspiring, and the one worthy of the most magical of storybooks.
Favorite Moments: I loved seeing Killian a David working together and reversing roles in a way as it showed such great things for them individually and as friends. The fact that David fears his dark side but Killian reassured him that he is a good man was really touching, as was how much Killian has grown in the way he handles a crisis. The wish world, though not my favorite thing, had some beauty and nice moments: Emma looking radiant and singing as she picked flowers, and getting a glimpse at an older Snow and Charming. Lastly, Emma, David, and Killian walking down the street in slow motion was such a great hero moment, Regina being happy to see the dwarves was funny, Jasmine asking Aladdin if she had his trust, Aladdin’s look as the Genie, and the wonderful reappearance of Robin Hood were highlights.
David: What if I’m just like my brother?
Killian: You’re not your brother, mate. We all make mistakes, it doesn’t change who we are. Now go kiss your damn wife.
Jasmine: Do you trust me?
Aladdin: Always, princess.