This is a tough episode to evaluate because on the upside: Dorothy and Red Riding Hood are now a couple. After the previous unrealized Mulan/Aurora teases on this show, this is a huge, important development, something to celebrate, because it doesn’t happen nearly often enough on network TV. Meghan Ory has been missed on this show as Red, and her love for Dorothy is acute, and lovely to witness, as is their true love’s kiss that awakens Dorothy in Oz.

So, well done OUAT! Kudos to whoever went forward with this plot development in the writers’ room. And too bad they couldn’t have come up with some more great ideas, because outside of Red and Dorothy (Kansas and Wolfie), the rest of this episode is almost a complete snooze. Mulan, Red, and Dorothy try to stand off against Zelena in Oz, with the resulting sleeping curse. Red and Snow are best friends, a nod to the old Snow White and Rose Red fairy tales. And all of our Storybrookers sit around their non-apartment while not doing much of anything. No progression against Hades, barely anything else of consequence. Belle is trying to come to grips with what happened to Gaston last week. Highly improbably, Charming is able to cross out Snow’s name on her tombstone and replace it with his own. And Zelena continues to be one of OUAT’s most interesting characters this season, as she seems to be softening, but she still has to deal with the ramifications of her prior actions.

So the episode doesn’t really offer us much except for people chasing (an extremely cute) Toto, or people looking for Dorothy, and just watching people go off and look for something or someone is far from a compelling plotline. Luckily, Dorothy and Red have some heated chemistry in the dark woods of Oz, especially when Dorothy appears momentarily freaked out Red’s wolf transition, and Red has a dawning realization about her feelings.

Speaking of freakouts, Auntie Em’s transition to River Of Souls water was a bit unnerving, with Hades still up for his various hijinks. But it makes very little sense: Since he’s all-powerful, why doesn’t he just dump all the heroes in the River Of Souls and be done with it? And there’s no way they can hide from him at all in the Underworld, wouldn’t he always know where they were? They have made very little progress against him; wasn’t Henry’s author status supposed to help? In the meantime, Zelena and Hades appear to finally align, which is much more interesting than having her stuck alone in her house, staring at a dead flower. It also shows an different side of Hades, that he can be selfless (although, still extremely evil) when the occasion calls for it. These two are more fun together than apart, which is helpful since our other couple with major momentum, Belle and Rumple, is also taking a powder this episode. Belle is off in the sleeping curse, just when her character has become the most dynamic she’s ever been (I assume for Emilie De Ravin’s maternity leave). And Snow mercifully heads back to Storybrooke (I assume for Ginnifer Goodwin’s second maternity leave).

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So, you see the dilemma. All the Red and Dorothy stuff was great, but it’s bogged down with packs of several people going off to ask a single person a question. How many times are we going to have to watch the Storybrookers endure snarky comments on the other side of the counter from the Blind Witch? Or stand around looking dumbly at each other in the cemetery? I had high hopes for this Underworld arc when it started, but I haven’t felt so let down by a setup since all those weeks when we stuck in the neverending darkness of Neverland. Grappling over a phone booth or a sleeping curse is hardly compelling enough to keep us hooked on coming back to the Underworld week after week. Even though OUAT has already been renewed for a season six, its ratings are the lowest than they’ve ever been. Only five episodes left this season; hopefully things will start to rev up sooner rather than later.

Red and Dorothy: A-

Everything else: C-

Stray observations

  • “I darkened my soul Rumple, just to save you?” Harsh, Belle.
  • Hey, Roland shoutout! Guess Robin’s still in the woods with the unnamed baby.
  • Henry calling Charming and Snow Grandma and Grandpa is never going to not be weird.
  • Is Zelena’s hat with the feather the most ridiculous thing anyone has ever worn on this show? If not, what was worse?
  • Add silver slippers to the list of things that can get you from realm to realm, like magic beans and green cyclones.
  • “Ruby, we’ll find you what happened to Dorothy, I promise.” “What we always do- find a way to fix things!” Snow, I will not miss your chirpy self at all on your maternity leave.
  • Belle straight-up eye-rolling Zelena’s despair over never having her happy ending ftw.
  • So Cruella has taken over as mayor of the Underworld after Cora’s departure? “Looks like Chisel Chin Jr. will just have to go to bed without what I can imagine are terribly dull bedtime stories.” Preach.

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