Once Upon a Time 3×11 ‘Going Home’: There WAS a town in Maine…

Source: ABC

Here we are, the last episode before a three-month hiatus. I have to say, the writers and cast sent us out in glorious fashion. This has to be the most emotionally charged episodes of Once Upon a Time I have ever seen and I’ve seen them all. The final ten or so minutes had some cinematically gorgeous shots, and the parallels this week were popping up like daisies. Many plot threads were tied off and obviously a new threat is hinted at for the back half of the season. It was quite the episode.


This week starts off with Panry and Felix visiting the Well of Doom aka the Font of Magic for Storybrooke. As Panry drops ingredients for the Dark Curse down the well, he explains that this curse will enslave the population of Storybrooke, giving them eternal suffering. Lovely notion. And even lovelier is Panry’s next dastardly deed. He speaks to Felix about loyalty, of how it’s another form of love. Fans familiar with the Dark Curse and it’s ingredients should start waving their good-byes to the Lost Boy for sure enough Pan needs the heart of the thing he loves most. And that’s Felix, who crumples into a heap on the ground as Panry grinds the heart into dust and sprinkles it like Mrs. Dash into the well. Looks like soup’s done as an ominous, lime green smoke begins to billow up from the depths.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

At the same time, Rumple is holding a pow wow with Henry’s entire extended family, in other words a town meeting, outside of the vault. He also has some explaining to do, revealing that the new curse can only be undone via the scroll that it’s printed on and only by the person who initially used the scroll, Regina. If she destroys the scroll, she will cancel out Pan’s curse, but there is a hefty price that needs to be paid in return. Geez, I knew Rumpelstilskin likes his contracts, but this think has more conditions that a shampoo aisle.

In order to get the scroll back, Rumple suggests they perform a spell to switch Henry and Pan’s bodies back. But this kind of tinkering is powerful stuff, so a powerful magical item is needed. Tinkerbell suggests the Black Fairy’s wand. The Black Fairy was apparently a serious dark magic practitioner who was banished by the Blue Fairy, but not before her wand was confiscated. Man, first wings, then wands, the Blue Fairy was putting everyone in a magical choke hold. The men folk and Tink, who desires to pay her respects to the departed Blue, head over to the convent, while the rest of the group follow Rumple back to his shop to prepare Henry for the switch. And none of them see the ethereal abomination that is the Shadow, lurking above their heads, eavesdropping on everything.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Now comes the first of three flashbacks to the Enchanted Forest. I’m pointing it out in this manner because unlike previous episodes, these flashbacks really don’t have a direct link to each other, which is odd. They are more like random housekeeping, things that were implied before but are now spelled out. We find Snow White and Charming in Emma’s nursery, the half-finished magic wardrobe in the corner. Snow is deeply concerned that sending her only child to this new realm is a risk that may not prove to be fruitful. I just realized that the original plan from the pilot was for Snow White to go through the wardrobe and give birth to Emma on the other side, not for her to go alone. Perhaps this is just an oversight by the writers, but this seems like a fairly large plot point to be presented now so inaccurately so I wonder if something is amiss.

The Blue Fairy is present and stresses to the couple that their savior will find a way back to them, that their “story” will reveal itself to her when the time is right. It’s interesting that Blue specifically uses the word “story”, obviously alluding to the Book, but in the flashback she seems unsure of its existence. Perhaps Snow White herself wrote the Book, as was pointed out by a friend of mine, with the intention of educating young Emma of her parents’ story while their memories were lost. Remember, not everyone’s story is found in the book, but we do know that Charming and Snow White’s were definitely included. Both the Blue Fairly and Charming tell Snow White to choose hope, to have faith that with whatever twists and turns there may be, because no matter what a future this there for their family.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Over at the convent, the Blue Fairy’s wake is in full swing with nuns a-plenty as Hook, Charming, Nealfire, and Tinkerbell arrive. Our heroes try to get the nuns to reveal where the Blue Fairy stashed the dark wand, but the nuns aren’t willing to release that kind of black magic into the world. Before their argument can progress much further, The Shadow appears outside of the stained glass windows of the church, buzzing around like an angry wasp. The nuns high-tail it to safety and with the nuns on the run, our heroes hunker down with the intent to capture the Shadow in Neal’s coconut so as to imprison it once and for all. Odd sentences like this don’t even phase me anymore.

Here falls the second of out non-sequitur flashbacks. We are back in the eternal twilight of Neverland where Hook and Smee are tramping though the underbrush. Hook, having just learned of the Dark One’s dagger, is intent on leaving the island to enact his revenge, while Smee is content to cower in the underbrush. The pair doesn’t get very far before Hook’s crew man is clubbed and the captain himself has a blade at his throat. And who is it who is about to give the pirate the shave of his life but Tinkerbell. Hook realizes that Tink is a fairy and tries to get some magic from her in order to leave the island, but as we know Tinkerbell is bone dry when it comes to magic. In order to break the ice and get the blade away from his throat, Hook pulls out his ever-present rum bottle. I’m beginning to think Killian Jones has stock in sugar cane or something, this guy always has a rum on him. He explains his need for revenge and how even the risk of certain death would be enough if his revenge is satisfied.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Back in the present, our heroes are still pinned down in the pews, the Shadow swooping around above them. Realizing that their target is too high up for Nealfire to put the lime in the coconut, the group turn to Tinkerbell, the only member of their party who has been known to fly. She made pixie dust work once before, she can do it again. With Hook sacrificing himself as a decoy, and falling spectacularly on his face, oh how I’ve missed that, Tinkerbell succeeds in conjuring the powers of pixie dust to fly up into the rafters and snare the Shadow in the magic coconut. With the specter trapped, Tink throws the coconut into one of the church braziers, burning both it and the Shadow into nothingness. As everyone recovers from being dive-bombed by the Shadow, Tink goes up to Hook and lets him know that contrary to what he said in the past, that he would only risk his life for revenge, she knows he risked his scruffy seafaring neck for Emma.

And this episode just begins to pile on the surprises, for who has jumped out of their casket and joined the group but the Blue Fairy! I have never been more happy to see her Grand-High Shadyness on my screen. When the Shadow was destroyed the Blue Fairy was restored it seems. Blue apologizes to Tinkerbell, stating that she has definitely has earned her wings back. She also grants them the Black Fairy’s wand so that they may finished what needs to be done. Prediction time. It has finally been revealed in the promo following this episode that the new big bad of season 3 will be none other than the Wicked Witch of the West (lost a bet on that one, I was rooting for Cruella DeVil). My guess is that the Wicked Witch is actually this Black Fairy of legend, banished to Oz by the Blue Fairy for practicing dark magic. There can be no other reason to introduce the idea of the Black Fairy in this episode.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

At Gold’s shop, where Rumple, Bell, Regina, Snow, and Emma all prepare Henry for the impeding body switch. Emma mentions to Snow how different life would have been if she had never given Henry up and if that isn’t some heavy foreshadowing then my name is the Blue Fairy. The rest of Team Henry arrives with the wand and Rumpelstilskin prepares to Freaky Friday his grandson back into the proper body, not before adding one last measure of security. The cuff Greg and Tamara used to nullify Regina’s powers, an event she quickly reminds Hook that she hasn’t forgotten about, is produced and placed on Henry’s wrist. This way Pan’s powers will also be squelched once he returns to his body. Henry is instructed to hang on to the curse scroll for dear life once he is himself again and to come find them. With that, Rumple puts Henry under and the boy is violently transferred back into his body, leaving the unconscious Peter Pan in his wake. Henry’s extended family leave to search for him, all except Rumple, who wishes to stay behind and have a chat with dear old dad.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Here we have a flashback to Storybrooke prior to Emma’s arrival. This is one of the more interesting flashbacks, showing Henry looking glum over a blank piece of homework entitled “My Family Tree”. I see what you did there writers. Snow White, in her cursed personal of Mary Margaret, comes over and chastises Henry for not finishing his homework. It would take days and several bottles of Hook’s rum to effectively fill that thing out, just you wait lady. Henry laments that he wasn’t wanted by his birth mother, Regina doesn’t love him, and it’s easy for Mary Margaret to be so optimistic since nothing ever changes for her. So Henry is already well aware that he is trapped in Groundhog’s Day. Mary Margaret, wanting to instill some hope in the boy, produces the Book, stating that it just appeared this morning among her things. The teacher echos the speech she gave, or rather will give to Emma when she arrived in Storybrooke, that “believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a powerful thing”. As Henry gazes at the illustrations in the Book, he glances up at Mary Margaret and in one of my favorite little sight gags, she, for a minute, appears to him as Snow White, dressed for her wedding. I think this is the moment Henry became a believer and he thanks his teacher for the Book.

Present day Storybrooke and Granny is tracking Henry’s scent to find his location. Now, if you follow me on twitter you’ll know I love Granny, she is my favorite, but here I feel as if she is just a Ruby stand in and that disappoints me. Granny’s lines could obviously be given by Ruby, but as her actress is working as a lead on her own series, I understand her not being able to be present. Anyway, they track Henry to the clock tower, why is it always the clock tower, where the newly de-Pan-ified Henry rushes the join his family, being scooped up into a hug by both of his mothers. He hands the curse scroll to Regina, who, as soon as she handles it, collapses. My first thought in this scene was “Oh damn, now what”.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Across the street at the pawn shop, Peter Pan wakes. Rumple felt it was important that his father see him and think about all that he has done. Realizing his is wearing the cuff that saps one’s magic, Pan uses verbal blows to chip away at his son. This is a particularly nasty speech, with Pan commenting on how Rumpelstilskin was a financial drain, a burden, and a problem. Peter Pan wants nothing more than to be free of his son, and Rumple is ready to accommodate his father’s request by killing him. As Rumpelstilskin brandishes a sword, Peter Pan deftly removes the cuff, which never affected him in the first place since he was the one who made it. But oh can it affect Rumple, who is shocked to find the tables, or in this case arm wear, have turned as Peter Pan poofs the cuff onto his son’s arm. Using magic, the Lost Boy slams Rumple across the room and beings to taunt him, telling him that without his magic, Rumpelstilskin is what he’s always been, a coward. Pan takes pleasure in assuring the Dark One that those he loves, Nealfire and Belle, won’t suffer under the curse, they will be slaughtered by Pan. The father leaves his son, powerless and writhing on the floor trying to remove his magical bond. Family show, riiiiight.

The final flashback to Fairy Tale Land takes place in Rumpelstilskin’s Dark Castle. The imp with the limp has his son’s old cloak out and is lighting a candle for the lost Baelfire when Belle appears up the stairs and interrupts. Rumple is insistent that she leave, even after she realizes that what she walked in on was a memorial. But Belle, stubborn as ever, insists on staying, coaxing out of the Dark One his regret for the act of cowardice that separated him from his son and how his end will most definitely be an unhappy one. This is the worst kind of foreshadowing, especially since they reversed the Blue Fairy’s death so now something terrible has to happen so that there may be dire consequences that stick.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

In present day Storybrooke, Rumpelstilskin is still clawing at the cuff on his arm. In an act of desperation, he grabs the sword he used to threaten Pan minutes before. No, not that dire a consequence! Though, it would only be fitting since he removed Hook’s hand himself. Rumple bares his wrist on the table, his face twisted with emotion as he steels his nerve, but before he see him do the deed, we jump over to outside the shop, where Regina is recovering from her collapse in the street. Seeing the entire group help her to her feet is so lovely, especially considering these same people were gung-ho on lynching her on her doorstep at the beginning of season 2. Regina seems shaken and explains that when she collapsed, she saw what needed to be done. Here she gives Henry an odd look, but there’s no way they will be playing heart hot potato with his ticker again. However, before Regina can do so much as unfurl the scroll, it disappears from her hand and into Peter Pan’s.

Pan uses the Force and with a wave of his hand freezes our heroes on the spot as he gloats as only a megalomaniac can, though really Pan does hold all the cards here. While Peter Pan is playing eenie-meenie-minee-moe to decide who to kill first, a someone grabs his shoulder and jerks the Lost Boy aside. It’s Rumpelstilskin, who mercifully has both of his hands intact. Peter Pan wastes no time taunting his son, who explains that there is a job to be done and a price he is finally willing to pay. The Dark One turns to Nealfire and tells him that he has a chance at happiness, only it isn’t with Rumple. Rumple, what are you doing… He then turns to Belle and tells her that he loves her, that she makes him stronger. Rumple seriously, think it through man. Peter Pan, still focused on getting his smart remarks in, makes note that Rumpelstilskin can’t do magic. But Rumple doesn’t need it, reminding his father that he too has no shadow, that in fact, Rumple’s shadow was sent away on a special mission.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

And with one last impish flourish of his wrist, Rumpelstilskin calls his shadow back to him, the shadow that still bears the Dark One dagger, which Rumple retrieves, grabbing Peter Pan in a tight embrace. Rumple tells his struggling father that the only way for him to die is if they both die. And without any other hesitation, Rumpelstilskin literally stabs his father in the back, driving the Dark One dagger through his father’s body and into his own chest. Peter Pan, as gravely injured as he is, ages rapidly to look more the part of Rumple’s father. The swindler tries for one last bargain, tries to talk his son out of this final decision with talk of being a family, but Rumple will have none of this, claiming that villains do not get happy endings. Rumpelstilskin twists the dagger and the two of them disappear in a burst of golden light, leaving behind only the curse scroll. And so the prophecy is fulfilled; a boy was Rumpelstilskin’s “undoing”, though I’m still skeptical if that means death. I feel as if we haven’t seen the last of the imp with the limp.

All this time, Rumple’s friends and loved ones were frozen by magic, forced to watch him sacrifice himself for their safety. After Peter Pan died, this enchantment lifted and we see a wide range of reactions from the group. Regina seems devastated, having lost her mentor and teacher, or perhaps having been reminded that as a villain she might not get a happy ending either. She is very distracted by what has just occurred and it takes a few tries from several people to get her attention. Nealfire looks so lost, barely able to keep the sadness out of his voice. But Belle… Belle is shattered. She sinks to the ground and weeps freely and it is very hard to not feel an emotional pang watching Emilie De Ravin in this scene.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

There is no time to mourn though, as Peter Pan’s curse has still been cast and holy cow there’s about a good fifteen minutes left in the episode. “What more could happen”, I ask naively. Grumpy comes running through the streets, announcing the curse in the same fashion he did in the pilot. All these call backs to the start of the curse are very fitting considering what is about to happen next. Regina explains that the new curse can be stopped, but the price that has to be paid, what she felt when she first received the scroll, is the thing she loves most. After all this time, all her fighting and growing as a mother, Regina Mills has to give up Henry, her son. Regina has to undo what she started, the original curse that brought them to Storybrooke and created the town.

And if the town is unmade, all of its residents, all of these storybook characters, will go back to where they came from. Only Henry will remain since he was born in the real world. But he won’t remain alone. Emma is the savior, she was created to combat the curse and she is destined to escape it. Emma, hearing this, refuses the task. All she wants is for them all to be happily ever after. Being the savior, Emma reasons that her job as to bring back the happy endings. She just found her parents and how she must lose them again, but Snow White echos what Charming told her in the nursery, that sometimes happy endings aren’t as they seem. Regina comments that since she met Emma all she wanted was for the savior to leave her with Henry, but really what she wanted was for her son to be happy. So it’s final, for all their sakes, especially Henry’s, and Emma has to go.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

And here is the part of the episode that did me in. The music is so moving in the part, hats of the Mark Isham, as well as the visuals. So much emotion is expressed without dialogue and this has to be one of the saddest moments on the show to date. I’m sure the writers will cook up new ways to torture us, but the melancholy of this scene is enough to make a seasoned reviewer tear up a bit. What, no I’m not crying, I’ve just got some fairy tales in my eye. Everyone is gathered at the Storybrooke town line, with that iconic bug primed and ready to speed off into the sunset. Emma and Henry are brought into a hug by Charming and Snow White. Henry moves on to say good bye to Regina, assuring her that she is no villain; she’s his mom. This is the complete opposite of how season 1 Henry felt, oh how far we have come. Nealfire embraces Emma, assuring her and Henry that he will see them again. Finally Hook tells Emma that “not a day will go by I won’t think of you”. Emma replies with a simple “good” and a small smile.

Regina takes Emma aside and explains there is one last thing she hasn’t been told. “What now” is Emma’s response, and I agree wholeheartedly. It seems that when the curse takes everything away and returns everyone to their respective lands, it will also take Emma and Henry’s memories. Without Storybrooke existing, their memories of the past few years won’t be able to exist either. Emma will not know her parents, all of the progress she made bringing down her emotional walls will be gone. Henry won’t remember Regina. All of the friendships and comradely both mother and son had formed in that town in Maine will be wiped away. Those people will just go back to being stories.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Regina can offer some hope. She can give Emma and Henry new memories, happy ones where Emma never gave Henry up. It will be what Emma always wanted. Regina calls it “her gift” to Emma, very similarly to how she offered a less attractive gift to her parents in the pilot. If there is one thing this show excels at, it’s parallels and damn but if they didn’t pull out all the stops with this episode. Like when Snow comes forward, right before Henry and Emma get into the bug, and kisses her daughter’s forehead, just as she did before she put Emma in the wardrobe in the pilot. I think this show is actively trying to kill us with feelings.

With Emma and Henry safely in the bug, creeping toward the town line, Regina tears apart the curse scroll and uses it to change the noxious green smoke oppressively rolling towards our heroes into the more familiar purple smoke of curses we’ve come to know. The smoke engulfs the Evil Queen, Snow White and her Prince Charming, the Seven Dwarves, everyone until not a silhouette is left. It chases the back bumper of the car, but is stopped fast at the town line, and as the yellow bug leaves town, carrying the same passengers it brought that fateful night when clock tower started ticking, the town of Storybrooke and all its residents fade away. The purple smoke wraps around that same clock tower, it permeates every corner of that town in Maine. Even the Book is a casualty as Storybrooke slips away.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

And as Emma and Henry move on, driving towards a new future, you can see a change in them. The weight of what has just happened slides away as new memories take their place, their memories together, as a family. We get a quick flashback to the beginning of the season, of Emma having just given birth to baby Henry, only this time she asks to hold him. And that makes all the difference as her face lights up with joy for her son. Look, I know the show and the season are far from over, but this part of the episode read, not just like a season finale, but a series one. The writers truly ended this story arc in a remarkable fashion.

But you didn’t think that was the end of the episode, did you? Jump ahead one year in the future and we are in New York City, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s 8:15. We watch a normal family breakfast being prepared to the tune of Lou Reed’s “Charley’s Girl”, the same song Nealfire was listening to in “Broken”, the first episode of the second season and of course Henry wants cinnamon on his hot cocoa. Now the writers are just trying to see if we’re still alive and paying attention with these parallels. As Emma and Henry sit down to their meal, someone begins banging on their door. When the surprise visitor won’t let up on the punishment they are doling out to the door frame, Emma goes to investigate. Our mystery visitor is Hook! How did he get to New York? And find the right apartment? And why is he still wearing the same outfit? Everyone else got a costume change. Hook is relieved to see Emma, but obviously she doesn’t remember him. He must look like a nutjob in leather to her. Hook desperately explains that Emma’s family is in trouble and that something terrible has happened. He tries to jog Emma’s memory with True Love’s Kiss, but get a knee right in the Jolly Rogers for his trouble. And with that, Emma Swan shuts the door in his face and the episode ends.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Are you still alive readers? What did you think of the episode? Many have accused Once Upon a Time of coping out and “rebooting”, but I don’t think this is the case at all since the tables have turned and the believer and savior are the ones who don’t know who they are. As much as I loved that little breakfast scene, it was also hard to watch since it wasn’t real in a way. And this new state of affairs, particularly the fact that everyone else is in the Enchanted Forest with memories intact, will surely open new doors in the area of character development.

So, what theories are you all cooking up? What will become of our fairy tale characters once they arrived back in their realm? What could this new threat be? How does it tie in with the introduction of the Wicked Witch of the West? And how the heck did Hook get to New York?

We’ll have to wait three months until we can see some answers to this and many more questions.

In the meantime, I’ll be under a sleeping curse. See you all March 9th!

Ashley B.

is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention attendee, and resident sass master, Ashley looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide. Follow her on Twitter!!

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