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Once Upon A Time - Wish You Were Here - Review

6 Dec 2016

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I am always a sucker for the Once Upon a Time midseason finales, particularly when the writers play with their well-established characters in alternate reality situations. It’s always fun to see what “what if?” scenario they will explore and how they will twist our expectations of the characters and situations we’ve seen in the past. “Wish You Were Here” is no exception. It’s an entertaining exploration into a question many longtime fans have wondered: What would it be like if the curse never happened? What was shown of this alternate reality was well balanced with the rest of the episode. We saw enough to be excited, informed, and entertained, but the novelty didn't wear off and the story wasn’t bogged down. This was a well-paced episode that finally put the Evil Queen in her place. My favorite shot of the "Wish You Were Here" was when we see the Evil Queen just lean against the hood of that car. She knows that her time is growing short. In my opinion, the Evil Queen wore out her welcome as a threat and the new villain on the scene in Storybrooke is going to provide an interesting conflict when the show returns in the spring.

Aladdin and Jasmine’s story seemed to draw to a temporary close in this episode as well. I would have liked to see more of them, or perhaps more movement in their story. Aladdin, however, proves to be a bit more interesting as a genie rather than a former savior. His willingness to work with a master he likes to thwart someone else could continue to be intriguing and he was much sassier as a genie. Aladdin's interactions with the Evil Queen, particularly that well placed “Ew”, had me smiling and I think his and Jasmine’s return to Agrabah will only be for a short while.

Charming was interesting in this episode. I always like when he gets to do more than just team up with Snow, though their pairing is fun and welcome. In “Wish You Were Here” we see shades of Charming's darker side. His concern of being more like the rotten James brings to mind the fledgling storyline concerning Charming’s lost father mentioned early in the season. The seeds have been sown for this to come back in the second half of the season. I enjoy seeing Charming, and perhaps even Snow in the future, working independently and appreciate the fact that their mutual curse still has not been lifted. We are seeing these characters deal with an ongoing problem instead of getting a magic solution at the eleventh hour and I’m intrigued to see how long this will play out.

Princess Emma was something. Not to put too fine a point on it, she was a wimp but that’s understandable. She lived a comfortable life and wasn’t molded by the lost and hardship our Emma endured. The interactions between her and Regina, watching a modern woman have to deal with a Disney princess essentially, were hysterical in my opinion. Regina’s exasperation and disbelief at meeting and coping with a singing princess who avoids conflict both lightened the mood and then really put it into perspective how much we value the Emma Swan we’ve has these past seasons. Emma said it herself, the fighting and pain in her life made her who she is. Sometimes failing and lost are the lessons one needs to grow into a stronger person. I loved the moment where Savior Emma peeked through the princess guise as she called Sir Henry “kid”. It was a moment that proved that the real Emma was still there.

The callbacks to the pilot and Regina playing as the Evil Queen were excellent. This entire season has been a sequel to the first season of Once Upon a Time and seeing the story we know told and retold again doesn’t bother me; I enjoy examining iconic Once Upon a Time events from different angles. One moment that just made me smile was when Regina in her Evil Queen get-up peeked around the corner, waiting to make her dramatic entrance while swelling with pride that Henry was getting knighted. Despite her resistance to acknowledge that the Evil Queen is a part of her, we did see that both Reginas wanted the same thing for Henry; for him to succeed and take on a role within a kingdom. It’s the choices and methods that separate these two. It’s interesting that in this alternate reality our Regina got what she wanted in the end; she destroyed Snow White and Charming by crushing their hearts. And she had almost no reaction to this. I hope the writers explore this in future episodes. We know Regina has moved past her thirst for revenge and her hatred of the Charmings, but to see a demonstration of it hopefully will cause Regina to no longer fear her dark side because it’s clear that side will never win.

Rumple as softened this episode. Just like last week, he is more sympathetic and I appreciate Belle taking a step back as well and wondering what they are both doing to each other. I think this is the road to healing, though I don’t know if these two can fully come back from Rumple’s actions this season. I think now I’d like to see this pair mend fences but realize that they aren’t good together. They can be there together for their son but function more like a divorced couple. This would lend some consequence to the events of Rumple and Belle's story together and put a dab of realism on a fairy tale relationship. And speaking of fairies, Mother Blueperior was looking rough this episode, I wonder what the Black Fairy did to her. Then again, we haven’t yet seen the Black Fairy and the Blue Fairy in the same room so I will hold on to my pet theories that the Blue Fairy isn’t what she seems. I was quite surprised that Gideon turned out to be the ominous hooded figure though I’m pleased that my suspicions of the manipulations last episode weren’t unfounded. His treachery didn’t come out of left field and I think Gideon will prove to be a memorable villain. He will be another interesting exploration into whether nature or nurture breeds evil in the universe of Once Upon a Time. And what tricks will he have up his sleeve considering he was raised and groomed by his grandmother who is essentially a boogeyman to most of the characters?

Robin Hood’s return at the end of the episode was half of a surprise. We knew he was coming back, but in what capacity was up for debate. He seems to have continued in his role as Prince of Thieves and I’m looking forward to Regina gaining closure from interacting with him. Also, Emma and Regina being trapped in this alternate reality is a finale cliffhanger that burns slowly as opposed to being a big shock. The more one thinks about it, the more the implications begin to weigh heavily. How will these two get back and does this realm actually exist? This is a world where Snow White and Prince Charming are dead, how will that have an impact on things? Emma has a position of authority in this reality, how will she deal with that as she and Regina search for a way back to Storybrooke? Obviously, how will Regina and Robin Hood interact? But most intriguingly, how is it this version of Rumpelstiltskin is so aware of the reality of the alernate realm and the existence of Storybrooke? “Wish You Were Here” was a solid episode of Once Upon a Time and probably my favorite of the season so far. Conflicts were resolved but not in a way that wraps everything up in a neat bow then introduces a completely different threat right at the end. Gideon’s reveal had precedence and his villainy has potential to shake things up in Storybrooke.

See you all in March for "Tougher Than The Rest"!