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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Once Upon A Time: “A Curious Thing”

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As we slog through Once Upon A Time every week, we are occasionally rewarded with episodes like this one. What with OUAT’s frequent off-pacing, it seemed like enough events happened in “A Curious Thing” to fill a few episodes, but so many annoying questions in this Oz half-season were cleared up. It was just so satisfying.

Over these past few weeks, there have been frequent static scenes of people standing around, puzzling about the mysterious curse, muttering about their lost year, and wondering why they’re back in Storybrooke. This week, we finally find out why this particular curse happened, with some climactic scenes that are actually downright suspenseful. Was Zelena going to hurt Henry? Would the Storybrookers ever find a way to defeat her? Who cast that blasted second curse? How did the message get to Emma in New York? And will Henry get annoying again once he gets his memories back? The answer to that last question is “almost instantly”; somehow he just was so much more likable when he was a surly teenager with his Gameboy. I especially liked him yelling at Emma about her frequent secrecy, and swiping her keys. Although you have to appreciate his excitement that his mom is dating Robin Hood.

Henry also had some fun with Killian, as Hook awesomely tries to save Henry from Zelena’s plans to use him as leverage against Emma. Action Hook is the best kind of Hook, although a vintage revolver may not be the best defense against flying monkeys. Fortunately, when defeated they just disappear, instead of littering up the Storybrooke landscape with flying monkey carcasses. Then Hook turns on his sensitive side by clearly aching for Emma when Henry gets his memory back and calls Regina “Mom.” Still, everyone unfairly turns on Hook at the end for not revealing the extent of Zelena’s evil plan, but no doubt this will lead to some romantic showdown as the season finale looms nearer.

And with only a few episodes to go, the twists are coming fast and furious. And mostly for the better, like having the Charmings being the culprits behind the curse, aiming to disrupt Emma’s nice life in New York so that she can be the savior once again. Not as much a fan of Snow and Charming’s drawn-out farewell scene, and had to laugh at Snow’s reasoning for why splitting her heart in half to save Charming would work (as far-fetched OUAT plot progressions go, that one is really out there). It’s the same reason she does anything: “Faith! Belief!” But it was a smart and surprising move to have Snow crush Charming’s heart; it’s great for this show, or any show, to make the audience wonder, “How in the world are they going to get out of this one?”

Similarly, Henry looks like a goner in Zelena’s clutches (I love how she always appears to be smiling even when she’s screaming at people) until Emma pulls out her all-powerful “light magic,” the only thing that can defeat Zelena. Regina may want to explore some more powerful spells or something, because in her battles with Zelena so far she just gets knocked down a lot. Glinda might be a more formidable foe, but she’s banished to the North from the South, thereby covering Glinda’s territory in the Oz books (South) and in the original movie (North). Full disclosure: I haven’t read all the Oz books, but Glinda telling Snow that she’s not as powerful as Zelena (seems no one is) departs from Oz literature in which she is the most powerful sorceress of all. But when Glinda talks about how she and Zelena used to be friends, I couldn’t help but think of Wicked (book and musical). At least Glinda helps Snow and Charming finally come up with a way to stop Zelena, even though in true OUAT fashion, it is a very complicated way, involving an oh-so-magical pendant, and the re-enactment of the curse.

And although we knew Neal was the originator of the message from his hospital scene with Hook in “Quiet Minds” (although why didn’t Hook point that out?), we didn’t know how he did it. This episode concludes by showing Neal’s effort in a pretty spectacular fashion, resurrecting Michael Raymond-James for a few moments, as in the Enchanted Forest he’s inhabiting the body of Rumplestiltskin. It may be our last glimpse of Neal ever, but at least he went out doing a good deed.


I know I complain a lot about Once Upon A Time’s near-constant repetitions and catchphrase wannabes, but all the action in this episode made the hammering home of a lot of these messages more understandable. It wouldn’t make sense for everyone to get their memories back when Regina kissed Henry if we weren’t already conditioned to the power of True’s Love Kiss or how the curse was broken the first time. OUAT is trying to tell stories by crafting a language of magic and how it works; sometimes these developments are helpful and logical, and sometimes they’re an enormous leap of faith (The storybook just appears to people who need it? Neal can tell a bird to give his message to Killian?). But this week these reveals helped OUAT push just enough plot progression forward to keep us hooked until the end of the season.

Stray observations:

  • So long Aurora and Philip, now flying monkeys. Finale prediction: after Zelena is defeated, all the flying monkeys turn back into people. Aurora and Philip will miraculously be among the monkeys that were not shot at the docks.
  • GPS: the modern-day tracking spell.
  • It has got to be awkward landing a flying broom.
  • My possible favorite line reading from Lana Parrilla in a season filled with snark: “Where you come from, people bathe in the river and use pine cones for money.”
  • Snow also got a good line in this week: “After true love, there is no more powerful magic than footwear. It has to be protected.”
  • And even Henry’s “What are those things, and why does he have a sword?”
  • How can they put Regina in all these fancy hairstyles and yet continue to drag Snow White’s Enchanted Forest wig out from the bottom of whatever dumpster it came from?
  • Storybrooke florist mural on a brick wall: Game Of Thorns.
  • What was with that weird one-scene-only snowstorm?
  • Nice eyeroll from Granny over Snow and Charming discussing doing whatever they need to save their unborn child.
  • “Grumpy, tell me you found something.”