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Once Upon a Time: The Return

“You can’t just turn someone into a snail and step on them, can you?”

This episode had something important to say, but just took too long to say it. Everything that happened here was a necessity in continuing this show’s journey towards an eventual turning point, and though it spent a little too much time following characters talking nonsense, it was still a strong episode in what is so far a solid season-ending arc.

What’s been a massive driving force in Once Upon a Time’s underlying narrative is the fact that though we know the bones of the story, we’re still completely at odds as to what led to those events, and what sacrifices were made for these characters to end up in the position they’re in today. That idea permeated ‘The Return,’ taking Rumple, someone who has already seen some strong character deconstruction, and further cemented him as one of the show’s driving characters.

The familial discord that has affected almost everyone else still remains a massive part of Rumple’s story, and though I appreciated the twists this episode attempted, I’m a little irritated by the amount of filler we were subjected to along the way. I don’t know if I’m alone in thinking there was a little bit too much of that ominous, vague chit chat than normal, particularly in August’s case. I was happy enough with my first assumption of August’s identity, but where it ended up after that took his story that much farther to justify him a position in Once’s game of thrones.

‘The Return’ still maintained that momentum established in 'Heart of Darkness,' and got the series to yet another pivotal position. Though Regina’s deception is still keeping her from suffering the consequences of her actions, Sidney’s confession only solidified any hatred viewers might feel towards her. The one person that actually feels something for her, and she used him like a napkin. One thing that’s becoming clear is how much work the writers will have to do when Regina eventually switches sides, and fights for what’s right, though ‘The Stable Boy’ helped her case quite a bit.

Considering the vast amount of episode-time dedicated to Kathryn’s disappearance and eventual re-emergence, I was a little surprised at how little that story was focused on. It didn’t need any extra attention, mind you, but since it had driven the show for so long, Mary Margaret and David’s absence was a little strange at first. I love how well Mary Margaret is growing, too. I was instantly thrown off by her shy, reserved and dismissive nature when we first met her, but since her affair with David, she’s proven just how much spine and strength she has; valuable traits for a classic story character who spent years as a representation of damsels in distress.

Regardless of any extra padding it might have suffered, ‘The Return’ was still another essential piece in the puzzle, giving all of the character’s decisions and motivations more backbone and plausibility. In a story that’s starting to really depend on those characters and the decisions they make, that’s an important thing to get right.


I can’t imagine Gold will go easy on August now. He’ll probably play him right into a corner.

I’m also glad Emma has officially declared war on Regina, where Henry is concerned at least. One thing I’m not sure of though, does she actually care for him, or is he just a trophy?

Who is August, really? Is he someone we’ve met before?

He Said, She Said

Mr Gold: “What do you know about him?”
Emma: “He Goes by August, he’s a writer. A typewriter, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in stubble.”

Mary Margaret: “Something just keeps pouring poison between us and what I don’t want is to have all of those good memories replaced by moments like that.”

Emma: “You’re a sociopath, lady. You tried to take away someone that I love and now, I’m going to take away someone you love. I am taking back my son.”

3 out of 4 magic beans.

Previously posted at PandaTV.


  1. Much, MUCH better than last week's episode. Not that THAT was exactly difficult.

    I thought August was Rumpy's son, and knew that he wasn't as soon as Rumpy aknowledged it way too early into the episode. Not good when you are trying to outsmart the writers instead of following the episode.

    Still, more acting propos to Mr. Carlyle. He really is one of the best out there.

  2. I'm very pleased with the way things have been coming together of late. This was a great piece of the overall puzzle, and I loved getting new insight into Mr. Gold's role in setting up their current circumstances. It fits so well with the reveal that he was playing a really long con with the murder plot. I'm also pleased that the writers revealed the mystery of Mr. Gold's "gardening." It's great to have little things come back later, and know that small moments are not forgotten.

    My biggest thrill in this episode was when Gold finally realized that August was NOT his son. I spent the better part of the episode thinking they were telegraphing it way too hard. There had to be some twist. Plus, the eye colors were wrong again! Bay's eyes were clearly brown, while August's are very blue. It was nice to have my bizarre obsession with his eye color pay off!

    I think Emma genuinely cares about Henry, and her threats to Regina are about wanting to protect him, as much as they are about getting even. Emma knows that Regina is evil and manipulative, and she believes she's psychotic, so of course she'd want to get her son out of Regina's care. The getting even thing is a nice side benefit.

    I've got a theory about August's true identity that I really, really want discuss, but what triggered it was a 2-second clip in the previews, so it feels like getting into spoiler territory. But, if it turns out to be true, it fits nicely with a lot of what we've actually seen in the show thus far. Plus, it should allow some of our peripheral characters to come back into play. I'm excited to see what's coming down the pike.

  3. Loving your reviews as usual, Panda.

    I also felt that the dialogue yesterday was less than stellar. Few good lines and too many obvious ones.

    Jess, unlike you, I rarely pay attention to people's eye colors, unless they're really unmissable.

    And I haven't seen the clip, but I saw on another site a theory that fits. I still hope to be pleasantly surprised when it's finally revealed, though. And it'd better be by season's end.

  4. Regina is really just a puppet who can't see her strings. Since he need someone to enact the curse for him, Rumple has probably been manipulating her life since before she was born. What exactly is his endgame? Did he mastermind the entire Kathryn situation just to escalate the conflict between Emma and Regina? But why? If he wants to be reunited with his son he can't want to break the curse. Of course, we only think Emma is the meant to break the curse because he said so. What if she is actually meant to do something else?

    Even though I don't doubt that she cares about him, Emma little speech did make it should like she was using Henry to get back a Regina. |I found it interesting that she described Henry as someone Regina loved. It was implied back in the pilot that Regina was lying when she said she loved Henry.

    I think this has been the first time there has been any kind of acknowledgement that Regina does love Henry. I wish that the show had done more to develop Regina and Henry's relationship. I would really like to know some of the background into why did she adopt him in the first place, and why he hate her so much. Sure, we've seen her be strict with him but never abusive. I've often felt that Regina does genuinely love Henry, but that curse has maybe prevented him from loving her back. Or it could be the fact she herself is emotionally damaged.

  5. Mark's comment about Rumple, Regina is really just a puppet who can't see her strings. Since he need someone to enact the curse for him, Rumple has probably been manipulating her life since before she was born. made me wonder.

    If indeed Cora is the miller's daughter from the Rumple tale, then Regina would be the first born that was denied to Rumple when Cora guessed his name. It would come as no surprise that he would be more than willing to use her every chance he gets.

    I do think that Regina loves Henry, but only in as much as he is an extension of herself. She has not seemed to be all that interested in being a parent, more in having a child that she can show off from time to time. The story of how these two came together will be fascinating.


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