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Once Upon a Time - Midseason Review and Evaluation

Hey guys! I hope everyone had a nice holiday season and managed to survive all the winter weather. We pretty much got it all where I live: polar vortex, snow, ice, sleet, rain, flooding. But I do love the snow, so I’ve been enjoying it. As I promised in my midseason finale review, here is my overall evaluation of the first half of the season. I’ve broken it down into three categories: things that I thought worked really well, things that weren't executed very well, and things that I’m quite frankly still up in the air on. After that I thought we could discuss a few of the burning questions I have leading into the second half of the season.

Things that Really Worked:
--- Robbie Kay: I think it goes without saying that Robbie Kay was the best thing about the Neverland arc. When we first found out that the big bad for the first half of the season would be Pan, I was a little leery. I actually trusted the ability of the writers to make Pan a darker character, but I couldn’t fathom how they were going to make this work with a younger actor (let’s be honest, most of them are like Jared). Well, Robbie was a freaking gem. He can share a scene with Robert, Lana, Jennifer, etc. and be a distraction in the best possible way. He really brought the sinister quality of Once’s version of Pan to life and did so amazingly. He even played Henry better. He definitely rose to the challenge of being such a focal part of the season.

--- Actually Addressing Issues: Putting this group of characters together in an isolated environment where they had to work together resulted in a lot of tension. Between this tension and Pan’s meddling, we actually had a lot of issues reach the surface, which was really awesome, because this group has historically been really good at brushing things off. We know that Emma has really struggled with having her parents back in her life, and this season really forced her to explore WHY she is struggling and forced them all to examine their family dynamic. Emma was also forced to confront her feelings for Neal, and we had Rumple dealing with his issues with his father. These were all things that needed to happen, and I think it definitely allows for some interesting exploration of these issues and what resolution we did see going forward.

--- How The Love Triangle was Treated: So we pretty much knew that once Neal made it to Neverland, there was going to be some degree of a love triangle between Emma, Hook, and Neal. I was kind of dreading it because this show really doesn’t need one of those. And for an episode or two it looked like we were going to get it. Then something magical happened. Emma flat out told them that she wasn’t interested at this juncture in her life. This made me incredibly happy. Sure the triangle is flitting about on the periphery of the action, but they took it and made it a non-issue for the time being.

Things that Didn’t Really Work For Me:
--- Knowing The Lack of Robbie Kay We'll Have Going Forward: Seriously, I want him to stick around. And not in the occasional flashback sense. I hate that he’s seemingly dead, because of all the things I mentioned in why I loved him. I know that the villains eventually lose (at least in standard Disney fare), but this is probably going to end up being the thing that I hate most about this arc.

--- Charming: Ugh, I wanted to hit his self-righteous self with a club most episodes. I get he wanted to make sure the focus was on Henry, but if I was his family, I would definitely want to know if my hubby/dad could potentially croak at any moment. Sometimes our heroes go too far in the name of doing things for the greater good, and this was definitely one of those things. And aside from a very short spat with Snow, everyone seemingly took it as no big deal. That whole thing just bothered me.

--- Jared Gilmore: I know, I know. I shouldn’t be so hard on the kid. But when the rest of the cast is so strong, and Robbie Kay comes in and plays your part better than you do…..

--- Underutilization of Regina: For a lot of the season, Regina was there in the background. Outside of trying to teach Emma how to tap into her magic, she mainly was there in the first several episodes as the person to insert some snark into things. Yes, she got a lot more playing time in the last few episodes, but Lana is too freaking good to be relegated to the sidelines or the occasional one-liner.

Things I’m not 100% Sure About Either Way:
--- The Neverland Arc as a Whole: This definitely leans towards the positive side for me, because there were a lot of awesome things to come out of it. But I was hoping to check on Storybrooke more than we did. That town still has some evil characters in it, and with all of the powerful people gone (even if it was only for a week or two), I’m surprised no one tried anything. Aside from that aspect of things, things did seem to move slowly at times, but there was enough content on the emotional side of things that I could completely forgive the show lacking a bit on the action side of things.

--- The Flashbacks: So, the flashbacks were a big necessity early in Once’s run, especially since we had several of the tales having these interesting little twists and it laid down a lot of the groundwork. Unfortunately, a lot of the flashbacks since then have felt forced, and this season was no exception. Granted, we did have a few that we definitely needed to see (Tink’s backstory, and Pan’s origins), but there were plenty of others that were just a waste. If the show can find a way to make the flashbacks not seem like a handy tie-in the plot of the week, they’ll be ok. Otherwise, they just need to stick to the absolutely necessary ones.

--- Another reset: So I’m still not sure on this. I worry that the show is becoming too reliant on pushing the reset button at season and midseason finales. How many times do we need to see Emma realize who she is and what her destiny is? It will eventually get old. I will obviously reserve final judgment until I see the episodes and see how things turn out, but I’m a little weary of this idea.

Burning Questions:
--- So what exactly happened to Rumple? It was certainly made to look like he’s perished, but I know none of us actually believe that is the case. Could he be in a ghost-like existence? Did he get transported to another realm or dimension? Will he be powerless? There are so many questions surrounding Rumple and I’m sure the show won’t waste a lot of time on answering at least some of them.

--- Assuming they have Emma quickly remember who she really is, how long will they spend on her trying to find a way back? I would hope that, for the sake of moving things along, they have her reach Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest sooner rather than later.

--- Does anyone see a non-flashback storyline that could bring Robbie Kay back??????

--- How terribly will they have to dress Snow to hide her pregnancy?

So, with that I now turn things over to all of you. How did you enjoy the Neverland arc? What things worked and didn’t work for you? Any of my opinions you disagree with? What burning questions do you have going into the back half of the season? Hit the comments and let’s discuss!!

About the Author - Caitlin Rice Anderson
Caitlin is an avid TV watcher. Her all time favorite shows are Buffy, Angel, and Veronica Mars. Her current TV obsessions are New Girl, Once Upon a Time, Hannibal, and Sleepy Hollow. Outside of watching and discussing TV, she can be found pursuing her doctorate and impatiently waiting for the return of college football.

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