Once Upon a Time: Souls of the Departed

"I don't think we're in Maine anymore."

‘Souls of the Departed’ surprised me. As a landmark episode it tried its hardest to pump in as much nostalgia as it could; we saw more than a few familiar faces, and a couple of subtle throwbacks to this show’s better days. But instead of a Snow and Charming clip show, or a Henry and Emma homage, we were instead treated to an affecting exploration of Regina’s troubled relationship with her parents. It’s a dynamic that didn’t necessarily have a huge impact when this show began, but with Regina’s incredible journey over the last few years, it’s wonderful that it was considered important enough to feature heavily in the 100th episode of this fun, camp, ridiculous and frequently embarrassing show.

The theme of season 5B is Unfinished Business, and boy did this episode make us know it. While we’ll no doubt be subjected to some pointless and unnecessary last words between characters that don’t deserve to ever be seen again (Pan, I’m looking at you), I’m glad the opening chapter was dedicated to something that deserved fulfillment. Although, it did develop far too quickly for it to resonate as much as it was intended to.

Regina killing Henry (Senior) was always something that pushed her across the line from woman scorned to evil queen. Even all these years, and a dozen or so heroic acts later, it’s still something that mars her perfect track record in the present. Here, we were reminded of that act as we saw Henry fight as hard as he could to tear his daughter away from the dark path she was heading down after Daniel’s death. Watching him fight for her as hard as he did back then is magnified by his desire to do the same in the present, despite being faced with eternal misery if Regina were to stick around the Underworld instead of fleeing to safety as Cora begged her to.

While I’m glad this episode ended the way it did, with Regina choosing to stay and finally getting the forgiveness she always wanted from the person she hurt the most, I feel like Once’s recurring pacing problems hindered what could have been a huge moment for her. It did make an impact on me, but if it had developed over the course of a few weeks, with Henry featuring more heavily, Henry moving on could have been more powerful that it was, here.

We still have more time to see how Regina and Cora manage to make peace with one another. Our new big bad, Hades, saw to it that Cora will be going nowhere anytime soon. I’m not sure what he’s planning on getting her to do with a cart for all eternity, but she didn’t seem happy about it so I guess I’m not either. It does seem like the worst punishment for her to become the peasant she fought all her life not to be but her hand was forced by Hades. All she wanted to do was protect Regina by getting her out of the Underworld, so I hope that her daughter will get the chance to see that she had good intentions, and that she might get the chance to redeem herself.

Not much happened elsewhere, other than a few cameos. Sadly, Cruella’s is being saved for later, but we were treated to a very sweet scene between Emma and Neal at the beginning of the hour. With Hook being the sole focus of Emma’s affections for so long, I forgot how important Neal was to her at one point. The lovely exchange between them here made me remember that, and can give Emma some piece of mind that at least one of the two men she loves is at peace.

Plus

Emma Caulfield made a fun cameo as the Blind Witch from ‘True North’. It seems like a lifetime ago, now.

Ugh, Robbie Kay and his eyebrows are back. He didn’t annoy me half as much as he used to here, but that might have been because he was only in one scene.

When do we get Cruella back? I demand that her return is permanent.

David’s twin James is hanging around. That should at the very least provide us with some vaguely interesting material for the writers to throw at the most boring couple on television.

I’m all for Regina’s savior moment as she watched the clock move forward.

He Said, She Said

Henry (Snr): “I love you, Regina. Never forget who you really are.”

Henry (Jnr): “So, who's ready for ‘Operation Firebird’?”

I’m not sure about this Underworld arc just yet. Hades is a problematic villain, at least visually, and I can already guess how this format will play out week to week, as we see characters move on from this weird version of purgatory. It could prove satisfying, or completely unnecessary. Regardless, I think it was a wise choice to put Regina and her family at the center of such an important episode. It may not have celebrated what brought this show about in the first place, but it certainly reminded me of some of the great journeys these characters have been on over the last 100 episodes. I’m not sure I’m on board for 100 more, but I don’t think Once’s story is finished just yet.

3.5 out of 5 cameos

Originally posted at PandaTV.

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