Once Upon a Time: It’s an Alt-World After All
Welcome back to Storybrooke, folks! It’s a magical, mystical land where characters leave, die, and return from the dead, age (or don’t) whenever they feel like, a place from which Continuity and Logic escaped together on a romantic vacation about 3.5 seasons ago, and haven’t been seen since.
But that’s okay, because it’s also a land that allows us to see a fat old unwashed version of Captain Hook fight an occasionally wooden, occasionally young, occasionally absent Pinocchio, in front of a massively large tree that can magically move from a forest to inside a workshop, whenever Plot requires it to do so.
Let’s jump right back in, shall we?
It’s a Hard Knock Life for Swan
It’s winter in the early 90’s. So, it makes sense that young Emma conveniently finds herself homeless on what appears to be the set of the Broadway musical Rent. Emma is cold, so she’s burning pages of a rather antique, rare, and expensive-looking story book for kindling. After all, rare and expensive storybooks are super prevalent on the “mean” streets of Minneapolis, almost as prevalent as crack pipes and hypodermic needles.
(But wait, if she burns a book that’s her only source of income, how will she pay her rent? This year’s rent? Next year’s rent? RENT! RENT! RENT! RENT! REEEEEEEENT! Sorry… I got a bit carried away there for a moment.)
Anywhoo, an age inappropriate older gentleman is watching Emma. He approaches her, and starts making small talk about the fairytales in the book she’s burning, like any seasoned pederast would do. Emma openly admits to this creeper that she has no family, and no one would be looking for her, were she to suddenly go missing. (EMMA, NO! What kind of fairytale character-turned-sassy-self-aware-street-urchin are you? Have you no sense of self-preservation!)
But just when you’re thinking that this story is either about to take a very dark turn, or Chris Hansen from To Catch a Predator is going to pop out of the trash can and launch a citizen’s arrest, you remember that this is Once Upon a Time, when the dumb actions of characters only have real consequences when The Plot desires it.
So, the creepy-maybe Pederast (who ends up being a young version of Pinocchio?) convinces Emma to turn herself in to child services, but only after he inspires her with a recounting of his favorite fairytale, The Ugly Duckling, a tale of redemptive transformation that would be doomed to become the theme of superficial high school rom-com films for decades to come.
“What’s your last name?” Child Services Lady asks Emma pointedly at the end of this flashback.
“Swan,” replies the girl, with the self-assuredness to know that she’s going to look like actress Jennifer Morrison in about twenty years.
Tree to Be, You and Me
Meanwhile, over in present day Alt-World, a not-so-dead, not-aged-a-day, possible vampire or zombie, Robin Hood has stolen Regina’s and Emma’s jewels. And the shock of seeing her dearly departed love back in the flesh caused Regina, and consequently Emma, to miss their chance to jump into the portal back to Storybrooke, and stand around staring at one another for three months, while the show went on hiatus.
Fortunately, Emma sees a tree (because they are in a forest, duh!). And this reminds her that, back in Season 1, her baby self and Pinocchio were able to travel inside a tree-turned-into-a-wardrobe to another universe. But who will build the wardrobe? Why, Pinocchio himself, of course!
Emma and Regina visit Emma’s real-world friend, Pinocchio, who, in Alt-World, is a “humble” puppeteer who makes clones of himself for a living. Emma quickly fills Pinocchio in on this season’s ridiculous plot, and Pinocchio is instantly totally cool with it, because this hour-long tale (45 minutes with commercials) doesn’t allot him any time for reasonable skepticism. Puppet Man agrees to build a wardrobe that will get Emma and Regina back to Storybrooke.
Except… wait, where’s Regina? It appears that in the literally two seconds it took Emma to explain to Pinnochio the plot of Season 6 of Once Upon a Time, Regina escaped, but not before penning to Emma a two-page missive on why she was leaving. (Evil Queens write fast!) Apparently, Regina wants to take another ride on the Robin Hood train, zombie or no zombie, before she leaves Alt-World for good. (I hope, for her sake, the sex lasts longer than the letter-writing did.)
Little Orphan Angsty
Meanwhile, back in Real World, Prince Charming is super cranky, because he hasn’t slept in days. (If you recall, he and Snow White are still under that sleeping curse thing where only one of them gets to sleep at a time.) He’s dead set on killing the Hooded Man who is fated to “murder” Emma Swan during an improbable street duel at the end of the season. The same Hooded Man who just so happens to be the adult version of Rumple’s and Belle’s baby-just-last-week boy Gideon.
Both Belle and Rumple try to reason with their bratty man child, who apparently turned 28-years old in three months (I’ve heard of rapid aging on TV shows, but this is ridiculous!). They gamely explain to him that murdering the lead of a series at approximately the same time it’s been earmarked for likely cancellation, before he’s had any screen time, would not be the savviest career move for him. Also, that killing is bad and stuff.
But Gideon, who’s been raised by the Evil Black Fairy for either three months or 28 years (we still aren’t sure), won’t hear it. He’s convinced that murdering the Savior will be the only thing that allows him to become a Savior himself, thereby proving to his Evil Stepmother that he’s not evil… by doing something that’s really, really evil.
Yeah, I don’t get it either.
Upon failing to convince her son to spare Emma’s life, Belle approaches Prince Charming to reveal the identity of Emma’s would-be killer. “Promise me you won’t murder my son, who is about my age, and whom I didn’t raise… even if he murders your daughter, who is about your age, and whom you didn’t raise either?” Belle pleads.
Prince Charming reluctantly promises not to kill Belle’s kid, Mr. Whiny McEmo Pants, but you just know he’s got his fingers crossed behind his back when he says it. So, all bets are off.
Back in Alt-World, Regina tries to put the movies on vampire or zombie Robin Hood, by cornering him in a bar, and asking him whether he has a happy life, despite the fact that he’s clearly not getting laid regularly. (Hint, hint, wink, wink). Through their conversation, we learn that Alt-World vampire or zombie Robin Hood is a swinging single, who doesn’t steal from the rich to give to the poor, like his alter ego, rather, he steals from the rich to give to himself.
This is clearly not a deal breaker to Regina, who, after all, is a serial killer. (Nobody’s perfect?) But before she can take vampire or zombie Robin to pound-town, the pair get arrested by the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Can vampire/zombies get blue balls, I wonder?) The good news is that Regina’s and Robin’s arrest is short-lived, as they’re promptly rescued by Alt-World Rumpelstiltskin, who Regina had helped break out of prison earlier in the season. The bad news is that in Alt-World, Regina as the Evil Queen murdered Belle.
So, Rumpel locks both Robin and Regina in a tower, where he plans to murder them both.
But then Robin breaks him and Regina out of the tower, because, you know, breaking and entering is kind of “his thing.”
(They’re in jail. They’re out of jail. They’re back in jail. They’re back out again. They’re alive. They’re dead. They’re good. They’re evil. Sometimes watching this show gives me whiplash.)
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Alt-World, Pinocchio is trying to carve a wardrobe out of a magical tree, when a fat old drunk arrives to kidnap Emma.
Holy crap! It’s Captain Hook! Alt-World has not been kind to you, my friend! I would definitely recommend staying home from the high school reunion.
Emma is easily able to disarm her erstwhile boyfriend (who, let’s face it, even when he’s good looking, slim, and half-sober, has never exactly been the sharpest hook in the bait box), but in doing so, breaks Pinocchio’s magic make-a-tree-into-a-wardrobe-time-jumping-portal chisel.
How will Emma and Regina get home now? You’re going to have to wait at least a commercial break to find out!
Death versus Savior: Round 1
Ultimately, Emma is able to use the Ugly Duckling’s tale about “believing in yourself” to convince Pinocchio that, gosh-darn it, he can create a wardrobe with a magic make-a-tree-into-a-wardrobe-time-jumping-portal chisel, even if that magic-make-a-tree-into-a-wardrobe-time-jumping-portal chisel has been broken in half by Captain Hook’s fat ass!
(Sidenote: Is that what The Ugly Duckling was about, “believing in yourself”? Because I don’t think that was what the fairytale was about, at all! I thought it was about growing out of your “awkward phase.” It’s easy to “believe in yourself” when you’re a hot swan who used to be a pubescent duckling.)
In the very next scene, the massively large tree has been instantaneously turned into a beautiful wardrobe and transplanted to Pinocchio’s workshop, because apparently, magic chisels can literally move mountains. Now, if you recall, from Season 1, a Magical Wardrobe can only fit two people. This was why Snow, Charming, and Emma couldn’t all travel to another realm together, thus setting the stage for the events that launched the series.
In present day, this would mean that only Emma and Regina could travel back to Storybrooke, and Vampire or Zombie Robin Hood would have to remain behind. Fortunately, as I mentioned, Continuity and Logic left this series long ago, and are probably sunning themselves on a remote island off the coast of Mexico by now, while raising their two kids, Credibility and Character Development. And because of this, Regina invites Vampire or Zombie Robin Hood to join her and Emma back in Real World, and he instantly agrees. Why? Because he’s a dude, and dudes will generally do anything for sex… even if that sex happens to be with a deranged serial killer.
Back in Storybrooke, Emma confronts Gideon, her would-be murderer, and has a duel with him. But it’s not the Duel, because she’s wearing a winter jacket, and the Emma in the Duel is just wearing a white tank top. (Emma is destined to die in better weather, apparently.) Gideon loses this duel, but disappears before Emma can finish him off.
Then, Gideon heads up to the clock tower and breaks it, because that’s what bratty man-children do when they don’t get their way and fail at murdering the lead character in the series, whose very existence on that series keeps them employed. They break things.
And that’s all that happened this week on Once. Next week, we get to watch Prince Charming beat the crap out of Captain Hook. That should be fun.