Everybody Gets Played in the Once Upon a Time Midseason Finale

first_imgStay on target The seventh season of Once Upon a Time has been so much better than anyone could have expected. As far as most of us were concerned, the story ended in season six. Jennifer Morrison didn’t renew her contract, and Emma got her happy ending. When we heard this season would be half-reboot, half-continuation with an older Henry, we were skeptical. We didn’t need to be. Not only is Once Upon a Time the same show it’s always been, it’s a real good version of it. Its new spins on fairy tales kept things interesting, and it was able to play with our expectations. It used our memories of the first season against us, changing things up when we least expected it to. And yes, some cameos and lines were pure manipulative fan-service, but seven seasons in, that’s a lot of why we still watch this show. This midseason finale did all that and brought all its story threads together in a pretty spectacular package.With Lucy in magic-induced critical condition, we immediately flash back to just after Lucy is born. Henry is the proud father, showing off his baby girl to the crowd (minus Regina for no real reason), when Drizella appears. She starts to relate a prophecy of doom like a dollar-store version of Maleficent, when she gets turned to stone by blood magic. It turns out Lady Tremaine decided to make herself useful. So the resistance is just cool with her now? Just because her daughter is super evil doesn’t make the things she did any less terrible. But hey, blood magic help is hard to come by, I guess. The flashbacks then take us forward to Lucy’s eighth birthday, which is interrupted by Gothel and some hooded figures. It turns out that blood magic can be brute forced with enough witches. Also, they just happen to be having a party right next to the Drizella statue. Why did they keep that around?Lana Parrilla, Rebecca Mader (Photo: Screenshot via ABC)In the modern world, Jacinda and Sabine are trying to figure out what’s wrong with Lucy, not knowing that the only one who can help her is a few rooms down. Anastasia is recovering and getting up to speed with the modern world. Weaver shows up and the two come to a begrudging agreement. Weaver will guard Anastasia from Drizella and Gothel, and in exchange, he gets to figure out whether or not she’s the Guardian he’s been looking for. Meanwhile, we finally catch up with Henry and Regina/Roni. It turns out they’ve come to San Francisco to find Zelena. She’s teaching an off-brand Soul Cycle class! The build-up to her reveal was just so well-executed. Of course that’s what she’s doing in this new world. She even commands the people exercising by calling them “her little monkeys.” It’s the kind of fun fan-service this season is very good at pulling off.Unfortunately, Zelena isn’t so happy to see them. Apparently in this reality, Roni was the cool aunt to Zelena’s daughter Robin. Yes, Zelena and Robin Hood named their daughter after the father. It’s cute. At her suggestion, Robin apparently went off to Amsterdam to travel and party instead of going to college. Oops. Fortunately, all it takes is a potion and a strongly worded recap to remind Zelena who she really is. She’s all ready to run back to Hyperion Heights and fight evil, but there’s just one problem. The curse gave her a whole life in San Francisco. She’s getting married tomorrow. She quickly puts that aside to help her real family, but it’s a nice little moment. It means that the stuff that happens under the curse matters. It’s real. Once Upon a Time is best when it explores the messy details of both fairy tales and its own premise. These characters are in a world without magic, but they don’t live in a bubble. They still interact with the real world and breaking the curse won’t undo any of that.Robert Carlyle, Yael Yurman (Photo by Jack Rowand/ABC)With Zelena back for this episode, we know this can’t be the first time Regina called for her help. In the past, she called on her sister to help her fight off whatever Drizella had planned. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to do all that much. She gets a dramatic entrance, but that’s about it. Because this is the midseason finale and that means we finally get to see how the curse was cast. It doesn’t leave much room for any Zelena badassery, but it means she’ll stick around for at least a few episodes once the show comes back. When the day of the curse finally comes, and witches chase Henry through the woods, we see that father-daughter scene from last season’s finale once again. Only now we know what’s going on. Henry runs to fight them off while Regina and Zelena go to stop whatever Drizella’s planning. Only it turns out that’s what she wanted them to do. See, just like she hides her curse under a layer of obscurity, making her mother think she was in charge, she does the same thing to Regina. It turns out the witches caught Henry, and poisoned him. And the only way to keep him alive is to take him to a world without magic. See, Drizella still needs Regina to cast the curse, and this is how she’s making her do it. It also explains exactly why Drizella was suddenly able to get Regina to keep Henry and Jacinda apart. We knew it had to be something like this, but it was still pretty harrowing to see it play out. That’s a real cold move, Drizella. Also, the special effects in this episode are great. Watching the curse take over the realm is a spellbinding moment. They really went all out for this one.People in the past aren’t the only ones getting played. This episode saw yet another villain rise up. This kind of twist-after-twist-after-twist would get tiring, but to be honest, Gothel is a much better villain than either Drizella or Tremaine. Tremaine felt too much like a Diet version of season one Regina, and Drizella… was anyone ever intimidated by her? Looking back on it, she always did have to be led around by someone else, which doesn’t make for a great villain. Alright Once Upon a Time, we’ll give you this one. As soon as Rumplestiltskin and Tremaine figure out that Anastasia is the Guardian, and have her work on a spell to save Lucy, Drizella shows up and captures her. Pretending to be a concerned sister, she lures Anastasia to a room with Gothel and tries to steal her magic. I say tries to because this whole time, Gothel was manipulating Drizella. The cuffs she gave her actually transfer Drizella’s power to Anastasia. Gothel wants to form The Coven of Eight, the group of witches who helped cast this curse to begin with. We don’t know anything about them or what they plan to do in this new world, but that’s just how this show rolls.Gabrielle Anwar, Robert Carlyle, Yael Yurman (Photo by Jack Rowand/ABC)This midseason finale was Once Upon a Time doing what it does best. It spun out its fairy tales into the twistiest soap opera, and actually pulled off some shocking twists. I know a lot of fans were ready to dismiss this seventh season as an unnecessary extension but once again, it proved that it can still be the same show it’s always been. It’s even capable of surprising us after all these years. It just has to work more to pull it off. As convoluted as Gothel’s plan was, I have to admit it worked. It was set up well so that when the twist happened, it came as a shock, but still made sense. And since this is the midseason finale, that means the show is leaving us at a serious low point for the characters. Henry, in reading his book to the unconscious Lucy finally believes that he was her father in another world. He kisses her forehead just like Emma did his and nothing happens. Tramaine has destroyed her belief. The only way for Regina and Zelena to save her life now is to break the curse. Which we now know will kill Henry. That’s one hell of a cliffhanger to leave us on. Especially since the next episode isn’t coming until March. Once Upon a Time’s Finale Was Everything We Loved About an Imperfect ShowHenry Screws Everything Up Again on Once Upon a Time last_img read more