Can I confess something to you dear reader? I LOVE The Wizard of Oz like LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I mean, I love it so much that my twitter and instagram handle is thirdwitchofoz (see what I did there? And yes, you can follow me). So needless to say I was initially very VERY excited when I heard that Oz was coming to Once Upon A Time (OUAT), but then another thought hit me: “Isn’t OUAT created by Disney? The same Disney that butchered Oz in Oz the Great and Powerful?” So then the inner debate ensued.
Before Christmas, we were left with a cliffhanger that threatened to take us back to the first premise of OUAT: will Emma remember and believe that her family and friends are storybook characters? And after the purple curse cloud engulfed that characters of Storybrook, Emma and Henry start a life in New York with no memory of the town or their friends and Hook tries to break Emma’s curse with true love’s kiss, we get a preview of the mid-season return with the glimpse of a yellow brick road and an updated, but familiar green witch.
So here was (and kind of still is) my dilemma, dear reader. Do I allow Disney to butcher my Oz cannon to the extent of me yelling at the TV screen again? Do I allow this craziness to continue after the way I felt about OUAT’s take on Neverland and Peter Pan? Well, after 2 months of a hiatus and debate with myself, I decided, in the name of journalism I would power through — and, let’s be honest here,I’m WAAAAY to invested in my fairytale soap opera to stop now.
This half of the season not only takes place in two different worlds, but in two different years. With this rather confusing set up, I’ve decided to make it easier for everyone if we discuss one plotline and then the other.
ENCHANTED FOREST, ONE YEAR AGO:
In OUAT’s return, we find Snow White, Prince Charming, Evil Queen, Hook and the rest of the Enchanted Forest residents back home in the Enchanted Forest. The only two people to witness their return is Prince Philip and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and, while everyone seems well aside from missing Emma and Henry, something is definitely amis. As the group (sans pirate, who takes the only random horse this group has) head toward Snow White’s castle, Philip and Aurora stay behind and ask if they should inform a very mysterious “her.” With one less pseudo-villain, in the group travel through the woods but realize rather quickly that their Not-so-evil-anymore Queen, Regina is missing. Being ever the heroine, Snow White treks out alone into a darker part of the forest to find Regina burying something in the ground. Seems Regina has used the kinda creepy “Kali-ma” take out your heart but still live magic to take out her own heart so she doesn’t feel the pain of losing Henry. Snow uses the only magic she has, the power to make people happy (or nag them until they do what she wants) to get Regina to take back her heart. It’s a touching moment until a flying simian come out of nowhere!
Let’s stop right here for just a minute. I know, I know we’re not even two paragraphs in to the actual review and I have something to say, but this bugs me. Notice how I said flying simian. I refuse to call what they created a flying monkey. Let’s take a look at a little graphic shall we?
To the left you will see a flying monkey from the stage play Wicked. I chose to show you this version of a flying monkey because IT LOOKS LIKE A FLYING MONKEY! What we have on the left is Disney’s version of a flying monkey which is A FLYING BABOON!! The characters in OUAT do not say flying baboon nor do they say flying vampire baboon nightmare creature. They say flying monkey… so why, Disney, do you give me a flying simian that will most likely haunt my dreams for ever?
Alright, back to the enchanted forest. Our freakish flying foe tries to carry off Regina, but just scratches her before she and Snow are saved by a man in tights. Robin Hood has a very complex little backstory associated with him. Unbeknownst to Regina, Robin is her second true love, but he also has a child and a dead wife. Talk about baggage. But like any good fairytale, the two don’t know they’re meant to be together. None the less, he saves Snow and Regina. With that, the little band grows and they get in view of Regina and Snow’s castle, but it’s guarded by a protection spell… tinged green (Surprise surprise). Regina is upset about her castle being taken from her, but the safety of the group gets top priority and while Regina tells the group there’s another way inside through the secret tunnels that go under the castle, the group go to make camp in the woods.
While the group presses onward to safety, inside the castle, we get our first glimpse of it’s new resident: The Wicked Witch. Which witch? The Witch of the West of course. And it looks like her flying simian wasn’t trying to kill Regina, but gather her blood because The Wicked Witch takes her blood and preserves it in a bottle. Hmmmmm… theories theories theories. We’ll get there I promise! But wait! Princess, you don’t have something to say about this Witch?? You’re ok with her? You feel like she’s ok?!?! Well, dear reader, no, I’m not. But I want to get a little further into the story before I get into that, because it’s not necessarily the acting, but Disney’s lack of trying with Oz. We’ll get there, I promise, but let’s continue.
The group make it to the forest, but there’s another flying simian attack. Regina quickly disposes of the monster by turning him into a stuffed monkey and giving it to Robin Hood’s son to play with. While people are wondering where the flying beast (try as you might OUAT, you’re not getting me to call those things what you called them, “flying monkeys.” No no no), the bookworm Belle saves the gang a lot of sleuthing by telling them she read a book on Oz, and those are the product of the Wicked Witch. Aaaaaaand that’s about all that happens until Regina starts off for the underground tunnels, finds Robin Hood is following her and gets to the castle.
When Regina gets to the castle, we find that while she does intend to lower the protection spell to let Snow, Charming and the rest in, but once she does she’s going to use a sleeping potion on herself so she doesn’t feel the pain of losing Henry. BUT then our dear green nemesis appears and reveals a very dark and confusing secret. The Wicked Witch (whose name, we learn in our world is Zelena NOT Elphaba. We’re getting there I promise) came to The Enchanted Forest for a very specific reason: to destroy her sister… Regina. Ok. Who saw that coming?!? Everyone? Ok. Good.
So, why don’t I like OUAT’s Wicked Witch? Let’s look at a picture to clarify here:
On the left we will see an updated version of The Wizard of Oz’s wicked witch, Elphaba from Wicked. On the right we will see OUAT’s wicked witch. First let me say, the witch in The Wonderful World of Oz is NOT green. She’s a hag with one eye and is described as so old that all the blood in her body has dried up. Second, I’m not using the original Wizard of Oz as OUAT is trying to update a classic so I’m comparing it to another updated (and good) version of Oz. So here’s how I feel Disney got lazy with this Oz adaptation: after 3 seasons of villains, there have only been two that have been completely fleshed out (Regina and Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, who are now likeable and somewhat good). They’ve turned a character that has always had some sort of motivation into a fashion-loving witch with no real motivation for revenge. The only reason Zelena ever gave for turning Regina’s life into a nightmare was because their mom, Cora left her in Oz. I feel that Regina really had no hand in that since she didn’t even know Zelena existed until now. In the book and film, Glinda gave the Wicked Witch’s sister’s shoes to Dorothy when it was the only thing she had left to remember her sister. That is motivation for revenge (grief). In Wicked, Elphaba is fighting animal cruelty and discrimination. That is also motivation and it’s not her fault no one understood her. And no, we’re not talking about Oz The Great and Powerful, that movie does not exist to me.
REAL WORLD, PRESENT DAY
So let’s talk about Emma and Henry and there’s not a ton here, so let’s see if we can zip through it. Buckle up kids, here we go. So Emma and Henry are happy, and blissfully unaware of Storybrook and the past two years of adventure, in New York. For being commitment-phobic, Emma even has a boyfriend that Henry loves. All that is in jeopardy though as we saw before the hiatus as Hook re-enters their lives. Emma threatens that if Hook ever comes back, she’ll call the cops and next thing we know we see Emma and her boyfriend Walsh at a very romantic dinner. This happy ending can only have one ending, yes, Walsh purposes. Emma is stunned and doesn’t immediately give him an answer. Even while the woman he loves is freaking out, he stays eerily calm. As Walsh goes to pick up the tab or to the bathroom, it’s never really said, but he leaves the table and guess who comes to sit down: Hook. He begs Emma to at least explore the option that this life may in fact be a lie. He gives her an address and pleads with her to at least look at it.
The next morning after Henry tells his mom that she should marry Walsh, Emma goes to the address Hook gave her. It’s Neil’s (Henry’s dad) old apartment and in the apartment is Henry’s camera he had in Storybrook. Emma seeks out Hook and while Hook thinks she’s changed her mind, Emma has in fact called the cops and has Hook arrested for stalking. Emma goes to pick up Henry and on the way home, Henry tells Emma that he’s arranged for him to sleep over at a friends house and that Walsh is coming over so Emma can say yes to him. As Henry goes into the house, Emma looks at the pictures she got developed from Neil’s house and sees her, Henry and the residents of Storybrook.
Emma does the right thing and bails Hook out of jail and takes him up on drinking the memory potion he offers her (things real people wouldn’t do for 1000, Alex). And suddenly she remembers everything. That night, Hook and Emma plan on how to get back to Storybrook and how to tell Henry they’re leaving New York. As they do this, the doorbell rings and it’s Walsh. Emma takes Walsh up to the roof tell him she cannot accept his proposal. Then all of a sudden, Walsh says “And I was beginning to really like you” and with that, Walsh turns into a flying baboon (FUN FACT: Walsh is the last name of the man who played the flying monkey in the original Wizard of Oz). Emma makes him disappear in a cloud of smoke by smacking him with a lead pipe.
The next day they’re off to Storybrook. They find everyone back in the town, but cursed (surprise surprise). They don’t remember the last year and obviously things have happened in the last year because Snow White/Mary Margaret is pregnant. The town blames Regina, but Emma knows better and the two team up to find who cursed the town. There is one new character in Storybrook, a midwife named Zelena. However, one character is very noticeably absent from both of these plotlines: Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold. It’s because Zelena has him in a cage in her farmhouse. Interesting…
I’ll leave you with one last thing, my dear Oncers. Zelena was collecting blood, remember she put Regina’s blood in a vial. And her monkeys could take human form. So WHAT IF everyone in Storybrook are flying monkeys? We’ll find out more next Sunday and don’t miss my recap and analysis here!