This is the first episode I’ve truly enjoyed since this godforsaken Underworld arc began.
Here’s the thing: I really, really don’t ship Captain Swan. I don’t even know why. I certainly wish I did; it would be way more fun that way. Before the Frozen arc (one of my favorites!), I actively despised the pairing. For some reason, having Elsa in the mix warmed me up to Captain Swan a whole lot. Now, I no longer despise the pairing, but I don’t love it either. Best that could be said is that I’m ambivalent. So having a whole arc essentially devoted to Emma and Hook’s love wasn’t appealing to me in the least. Not to mention the grimy, red sepia filter of an Underworld wasn’t doing anyone any favors (though it provided the appropriate ambiance, I suppose).
Before anyone jumps to conclusions, no, I didn’t love this episode because Emma left Hook behind. I loved it from the minute it began. So let’s get started:
What I Loved:
→ Emma’s backstory! The moment I saw Emma in glasses, I leaped up in joy! Emma is my favorite character on the series, and I eat up any scene she’s in. Then she runs into bail bonds person Cleo Fox, who delivers to Emma a speech parallel to the one Emma gave in the pilot episode. That’s when I started laughing maniacally (my brother thought I had gone mad), as I realized we had just found out how and why Emma became a bail bonds person. And when Emma took off towards her yellow bug, with Cleo sauntering calmly after her in a mirror image to Emma in the pilot, I knew exactly what was about to happen. This entire plotline was utterly delightful. Watching Emma easily pick her way out of the handcuffs (classic Emma), followed by Cleo freaking out only to find Emma casually lingering at her computer, was priceless.
The rest of this plot then became way too convenient, but I loved it anyway. Cleo is inadvertently killed while she and Emma are running away from the police, and Emma takes up her mantle as a bail bonds person. Not only that, she tracks down Cleo’s daughter Tasha, who Cleo gave up for adoption. Then, in a symbolic moment, Emma picks out her red leather jacket from Tasha’s store, giving this storyline some very neat closure. Overall, I honestly think it’s one of the best flashback plots this series has ever done.
Despite how utterly ridiculous Once Upon A Time can be sometimes, one of the things I love most about it is that it’s all about women’s stories. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. It prioritizes women’s stories over anyone else’s. This is not to say that its treatment of women’s storylines is always flawless (far from it), but its lead female characters are hardly ever given the short end of the stick. Especially Emma. This episode was a great example of that.
Sidenote: That owner of that lobster house in Maine may not think the food is worth sticking around for, but that view certainly is! Wow! I mean, would you look at this:
Other Sidenote: As someone who wears glasses, I always love seeing Emma (or anyone, really, but especially Emma) in glasses. But I can never stop wondering what happened to them. Did Emma get LASIK? Does she wear contacts (sometimes, when I peer into Emma’s eyes, I think I can see the outline of contacts)? If so, does she, like, carry her contacts/contact case/contact solution with her to the Underworld? What did she do in season 2 when she was, without warning, sucked into the Enchanted Forest? What about in Neverland?
→ Regina being a protective sister to Zelena. Sure, she’s only been “a devoted sister for all of three hours,” to quote Hades, but I’m already loving the dynamic! Regina’s morals may be questionable, but what’s not in question is how fiercely she protects those she loves, once she decides they are worthy of her protection. Zelena’s always been given a bad hand, anyway. If Regina, Mass Murderer Extraordinaire, can be given a pass, then Zelena can too. That quiet moment between them, when they exchanged smiles and Regina handed Zelena her daughter back? Precious.
→ Zelena hesitating before stepping into the portal with Hades, insisting that she couldn’t leave her sister behind. I mean! What a transformation! I totally buy it, though. Memories come with intense feelings, and since Regina and Zelena now remember loving each other, it’s believable to me that they so easily love each other once more. I mean, I have a feeling this sisterly bond won’t last too long, since next episode will involve Regina and the others trying to convince Zelena of Hades’ treachery, but who knows? Maybe this show will finally give Zelena a break.
→ Emma’s snark. Always and forever. I mean, her creeped-out “Okay…” when Cleo called her pretty had me doubled over. Also: “Let’s have that be the last time we do this today, okay?”
→ Henry being relevant. I think the show managed to find a pretty clever way to keep Henry important, and also to tie him to the Story Book.
What I Didn’t Like:
→ Cleo dying. I mean, was that really necessary? I get that her death makes Emma’s transformation into Good Citizen more meaningful, but I still think it could have happened with Cleo alive. I also don’t understand why they had to run. Aren’t bail bonds people law enforcement adjacent or something? They carry a license, right? Couldn’t Cleo have just told them she was chasing Emma? She seemed awfully scared they’d get shot, but I have a really difficult time believing that the cops in Nowhere, Maine are gonna shoot two petite white women on sight. Speaking of white women, way to miss an opportunity to cast a woman of color.
→ Belle being sucked into a box. Look, I get it, Rumple has to get her out of the Underworld somehow, and it’s not like he’s about to carry her. Still, the sight of a Sleeping Belle (ha!) being sucked into a box and tucked into someone’s pocket left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This was exacerbated by the show previously giving us a decent taste of how awesome Belle can be when she’s fully in the know and functions as Rumple’s reluctant partner rather than his ignorant wife (I mean, remember her snarky “This isn’t murder, we’re opening a locker”?). I know she chose to put herself under a sleeping curse, but narratively speaking, is there any better way to place her into the position of non-acting agent? Also, what kind of logic was that on her part? She was, what, three months pregnant? Hades wouldn’t have been able to take her kid for at least another four months. She couldn’t have waited a bit? (This is why I blame the narrative, because Belle ain’t stupid.)
Overall, great episode, one I can see myself watching again. I look forward to our return to Storybrooke!