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Published on May 13th, 2012 | by Alan Danzis


‘Once Upon a Time’ Season Finale Review: A Magical Conclusion

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For a show that spent an entire season treading water – having Mary Margaret and David together, then not together, then together, then not together – Once Upon a Time wasted no time changing the story arc of the show in the opening minutes of the show. And forever changing the show at the very end and in a way I did not see coming.

That’s right. Within 6 minutes, Emma had picked up the book and completely believed. Then she kicked Regina’s ass and learned Mr. Gold is really Rumplestiltskin. She was even fighting a dragon by the half hour mark.

As someone who went into this finale afraid that either Emma still wouldn’t believe, or wouldn’t until the final minutes, it was a very, very pleasant surprise. Just as they learned while working on the show Lost, the creators/writers of Once Upon a Time decided to have big things happen in the finale, and more importantly, they paid off storylines from all season long.

For instance, the love potion turned out to be a way bigger deal than we thought. I had been so focused on the fact that Regina was all out of magic in our world, that I forgot that Rumplestiltskin had been working on his own.
Belle of course made her return. And it was a very touching moment to see Mr. Gold truly happy in our world for the first time.

Even little story moments got shout-outs. We caught but a glimpse of Snow White’s glass coffin at the end of the episode that was all about Jiminy Cricket, but we saw it again in the pit where Emma fought the dragon. (That must mean she was technically in Fairy Tale world, no?)

In addition, unless my eyes deceived me, I spotted Mary Margaret in our world wearing her ring from Charming on her right hand when she was reading to Henry in the hospital.

Other favorite moments:

• It was pretty much spoiled ahead of time, but the return of the Huntsman was still great, especially because it made perfect sense for him to help save Charming.
• I loved the symmetry of the two dragon fights, even if I wanted to laugh – not in a good way – at Emma trying to shoot a gun at it. Luckily the CGI wasn’t as terrible as it had been in other episodes.
• Even though I was pretty sure they wouldn’t kill of Henry, the way he was resurrected by Emma was a nice touch.

Two parts I didn’t like: Emma trusting Mr. Gold with the egg even though she knew he was Rumplestiltskin. And the fact that we saw everyone “waking up” except August—is he now a real man again? Or is he still Pinocchio?

Now, let’s talk about those final ten minutes or so. I was convinced that while it was likely Emma would know her true nature by the end of the episode, I certainly was not prepared for everyone to know. I figured that would take at least a few seasons, and that most of next season, Emma would spend time “waking people up.” Instead, now everyone knows.

The creators instead, went in a different direction that I definitely did not see coming. I also thought that once the townspeople woke up, they would spend at least a season or two trying to get home to Fairy Tale land. Now, it appears, however, that next season they will be dealing with the fact that magic has now come to our world.

While watching the show throughout this season, I often felt the Fairy Tale land plots were way more interesting than what was going on in our world. (Tonight and the pilot being the exception.) Next season, however, looks to make our world a lot more exciting now that magic is in play. For a show that I initially loved, and then just kind of liked, I now can’t wait for next season.

Alan Danzis is a lifelong TV watcher, especially of serialized dramas. In his top five list of all time, you’ll find The Shield, The Wire, Deadwood, Lost and Friday Night Lights. (He’s not sure where Mad Men and Breaking Bad go yet since they haven’t finished airing.) But his favorite thing to watch are the sci-fi shows, like Battlestar Galactica, anything British and sci-fi, and shows with vampires. He even put up with Terra Nova, because, well, it had dinosaurs and time travel–you had him at just one of those things. If you can stand his nerdy interests, you can follow him on Twitter at @adanzis.

Full Disclosure: Alan Danzis works at Ketchum Public Relations, which is his day job. His opinions here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of Ketchum, nor the clients Ketchum works with. His BuzzFocus.com writing is wholly unrelated.

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  • Jyme

    MM has worn that ring on her right hand the entire season

    • http://twitter.com/adanzis Alan Danzis

       Good point! Last night was the first time I ever noticed it.

  • http://twitter.com/Pawbyte PawByte

    Besides first comment I will have to say I am too ready for season 2!

  • http://twitter.com/bstolemyremote bitchstolemyremote

    Completely agree. While I would have appreciated this kind of drive in many of the meandering middle episodes, it was a heck of a way to go out for the season. It’s pretty awesome that the curse was broken just like that because it would have been seriously painful to try and watch her wake people up individually episode by episode.

    Will be interesting to see where they go next. Our forecast here: http://wp.me/p1VQBq-Vo

    • http://twitter.com/adanzis Alan Danzis

       I think this show would benefit GREATLY from only having 13 episodes next season.

  • Mrjamesdandee

    Agree with all the top shows. currently, I’d add Justified to the list though Breaking Bad is brilliant beyond belief.

    • http://twitter.com/adanzis Alan Danzis

       Completely agree there.

  • Asksmk1

    Your eyes deceived you all season…MM had her ring on her right hand all along.

    • http://twitter.com/adanzis Alan Danzis

       I figured she might, but tonight is the first night I noticed it. Probably because it was such a big part of Fairy Tale land story.

  • Laney

    What I really didn’t get is, why did touching the book NOW make the difference? Just because she thought it was magic that was hurting Henry? I don’t know about that. Also, Regina looked all too happy to have her magic back, like she and Rumple were in this thing together. I don’t know that he would do anything super evil since Belle just came back to him and he was happy, but I may not be right about that. 

    As for the dragon slaying scene…TERRIBLE. K that’s all. 

  • http://twitter.com/BagsHooper Bags

    I was also upset that the whole Pinocchio/August issue wasn’t addressed. It was a major part of the second half of the season not to mention he turned into a puppet during the finale. It would only make sense to show his fate. My guess is that it got dropped on the cutting room floor due to time and it’s somewhere on the blu-ray special features when the series makes its way to home video. If I had to guess, he was probably still a puppet at least until the purple smoke seeped through Storybrook

    I thought that the kiss that woke Henry up was a great payoff. This whole show is based on fairy tales so having him “die” then finally coming back to life was great. And, it didn’t feel too cheesy or contrived Having said that, Emma throwing the egg up to Rumplestiltskin was total BS. I mean, seriously? And how did she through a two-handed sword with deadly accuracy at the Dragon. Come on… They could have made it a little more believable. But, I did laugh when Emma whipped out the gun and started shooting. I would have done the same if a dragon popped up out of the shadows. 

    I am a little upset that Regina went from tears to evil smile just because magic returned. She made a huge transformation in this episode, where we got to see her humanity. Then, instantaneously it was stripped away. I wanted to see more of her positive side before she inevitably slipped back into her vile Snow White-hating activities. 

    Definitely agree that Fairy Tale world had the most interesting stories for most of the season. Loved what they did with Red Riding Hood as well as Stealthy Dwarf. And, I too thought that they’d spend at least one more season trying to learn the truth about fairy tale land or working on going back to fairy tale land. However, I think the creative team realized that the story was dragging on with Emma not believing. It needed to be rectified. It was the harder choice, but I think they can open it up for a lot more drama minus the horrible green screen. That was also probably a factor in calling it quits to fairy tale world. I still can’t forget how bad the green screen was on the King Midas episode, where we first learned the of Charming’s origin. 

    Looking forward to season 2. Season 1 had a lot of mystery and intrigue in it as we worked towards figuring out which person was which fairy tale character. Hopefully, they can find creative ways to add in more subtle mysteries down the road. Also, I can’t help but wonder if Disney will try to sneak in some Marvel Comics characters given the success of The Avengers.

  • Guest

    I love this show.  Why are people complaining so much?  Granted there have been a few disappointing episodes, but for the most part Once Upon A Time is a fabulous show.

  • Hal 2012

    I loved the season finale. Very satisfying.

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