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Once Upon a Time - Awake - Review

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There was something about “Awake” that frustrated me, even more than the convenience of the never before seen pixie petals or the Black Fairy’s continuing lack of menace. It was the flashbacks. While normally I love it when Once Upon a Time goes back a revisits the first season, when acknowledges its own history and plays with that. However, the flashbacks in “Awake” did more than acknowledge; they retroactively changed one of the fundamental parts of Once Upon a Time and that’s why they don’t sit well with me. “Awake” was a well done episode and I think Ginnifer Goodwin especially knocked it out of the park with how emotional and sincere she plays Snow White, but the story itself left much to be desired.

What the flashbacks did, from my perspective, is lessen the impact of the first season finale. All throughout season one the struggle for Snow and Charming to find each other was played out, both in the Enchanted Forest flashbacks and in the present day cursed Storybrooke. To learn that at some point during their twenty eight year imprisonment they woke up and reunited takes away from the satisfaction of Snow and Charming’s first embrace when they get their memories back. The moment of relief and joy isn’t the same now that the audience knows this wasn’t the first time they thwarted the curse. There were parts of the flashbacks that did work well; how Rumple awoke and his reference to what was waiting for him out in the world, signifying that while this season has focused on Gideon, Baelfire is not forgotten. Seeing Storybrooke under the curse again was fun, though it felt hollow somehow since most of the action took place in the woods. I cannot shake the feeling that what was written and intended as another interesting nugget for long-time viewers backfired a bit. Seeing the curse and Once Upon a Time’s roots again is a fun thing, messing with the fundamentals of the curse and the roots of the show is another, more negative thing.

The present day portions of the story left much to be desired for me. I felt the pixie dust flowers to be a bit too convenient, and the conflict wasn’t there. I should get nervous when the Black Fairy shows up, but she doesn’t carry with her the gravity that Cora or the Snow Queen did. We haven’t seen enough crazy or enough ruthlessness yet. However, I did enjoy the fact that Charming acknowledged the assumption many fans had back in season one, that the Final Battle was breaking the curse. I was disappointed that Emma used what little of the pixie dust they procured from the flower to save Hook instead of waking her parents. It just didn’t feel right. There are hundreds of ways now to travel realms; Emma knows this, even if she didn’t know that some ways were blocked by Gideon’s curse. But there was only one way, at that moment, to save her parents from eternal slumber. And I understand that Snow and Charming were once again sacrificing their happiness for someone else’s, the whole episode was about that so why did Charming and Snow appear to get the short end of the stick again? Now granted, the solution to their curse problems resulted in my favorite scene from “Awake”. I thoroughly enjoyed Regina acknowledging that life in Storybrooke wasn’t a fairy tale, and bidding the townsfolk to help save Snow and Charming. This was the kind of call back I enjoy, seeing old friends and show favorites rallying around the series regulars and reminding the audience of the community and history built around the Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke.

The introduction of Tiger Lily was odd for me. I felt her costuming could have been more akin to that of the Lost Boys, or even Tinker Bell. I’m intrigued by her past with the Black Fairy, though I’m not too impressed with her overall. I did enjoy the use of the Neverland shadows by Hook to get his message to Emma. There isn’t much to say about this other than that by the end of the episode all loose ends seemed to by tied up; the wedding is back on and Charming doesn’t begrudge Hook the death of his grandfather. I’m just glad Hook and Emma are reunited as Hooks travels across the realms were beginning to grow a bit boring.

“Awake” is part of a trend I’ve noticed in recent Once Upon a Time episodes where the stories aren’t as exciting or titillating as they have been in the past. They are just good, with some elements better received than others. The saving grace here is the cast, as in these past episodes they have been bringing comedy, drama, and everything in between. Ginnifer Goodwin brought a level of emotion to this episode that made me enjoy and focus more on scenes I wasn’t particularly invested in before. In the scene where she and Charming debate on rescuing Emma early and leaving the others to the curse, when Goodwin breaks down into tears you really feel as though her heart is breaking. I feel that at this point in the series the stories should complement that level of acting and create a rousing final hurrah for Once Upon a Time.

Tune in next week for “Where Bluebirds Fly”!

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