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Character Moments and a Tense Ending are the Saviors of Once Upon

first_imgStay on target As Once Upon a Time attempts to wrap up every story it introduced in season seven before the series finale, some characters have started to feel a little lost. Namely Henry. Think about it, what’s the last meaningful thing we saw the guy do? Start a podcast? The show realizes this too. There are just so many more interesting things to focus on that Henry gets a little lost. This week, they tried to give him back some of his own story. Henry, Cinderella and Hook are partaking in the classic fairy tale activity of slaying a dragon. It doesn’t turn out to be as epic as it sounds. There is no dragon. Just a pile of abandoned treasure and a schlubby guy taking a nap. Henry’s disappointed not only because he missed out on a childhood fantasy, but because he’s denied a story. He wants an epic story of his own to offer Cinderella. You know, older Henry has spent so little time whining about nothing I almost forgot he’s the same kid from the previous six seasons. There’s the obnoxious brat we know and… know.OK, to be fair to the kid, his grandparents did give him a lot to live up to. You can’t blame him for developing a bit of a complex. Fortunately, Hook is here to put a stop to his whining. When Henry says he wants a special, meaningful ring to propose to Cinderella, Hook says he knows just where to get one. But they’ll have to steal the Jolly Roger back from Blackbeard. Sneaking aboard is the easy part, even if the barrels make them smell like pork. The hard part is taking the ship. Though Smee is still loyal to hook, none of his other former crewmates are. Blackbeard gets the jump on them and takes Hook’s map to Davy Jones’ Locker. Which is a real, literal thing on this show. They find a giant treasure chest, and Blackbeard takes a ring for himself.Andrew J. West, Colin O’Donoghue (Photo via ABC)If this is all starting to sound too convenient, it’s soon revealed that it is. Hook and Henry free themselves, and a decent-looking pirate fight ensues. It would be cool if it wasn’t all staged. Yep, it was all a fake adventure set up by Hook. Henry’s understandably pissed, but it looks like they’re about to have a real adventure anyway. A massive storm strikes, and Hook enlists Henry to help sail the ship. The near-death experience helps Henry realize that Cinderella doesn’t want a piece of treasure forged by danger. She wants Henry to come home safe. Henry figures out that the whirlpool is caused by Davy Jones who just wants his magic ring back. Hook drifts along the edge of the whirlpool while Henry climbs the masthead to throw the ring back. I have to give this sequence to the show. CGI water or no, a giant ship sailing through a storm will never not be cool.What’s less cool is Henry’s proposal. Yes, we get it. He learned that simplicity is best and he shouldn’t keep chasing adventure and danger. We didn’t need him to wax poetic on that theme for a whole scene before finally proposing to Jacinda. What could have been a big sappy moment of the season turned into an interminable treatise on simplicity. When Jacinda cuts him off to say yes, it’s out of excitement, but I’m just glad she got him to shut up.Robert Carlyle, Colin O’Donoghue, Andrew J. West (Photo via ABC)In the present, Henry is bumbling around Seattle bouncing off other peoples’ stories in search of his own. He meets Robin/Margot at Roni’s bar, and then runs into Nick, who we now know is the witch serial killer. Nick speaks cryptically about clients just to make the neon “MURDERER” sign above his head a little brighter. Then Henry gets a call with what he thinks is the next chapter in his story. It’s a podcast company in New York who wants to fly him out the next day to interview for a producer job. Because as someone who did move from Seattle to New York, let me tell you that’s exactly how it works. The problem for Henry is if he gets this job he has to move cross=country. That means no more H-Town, no more Jacinda, no more hope of breaking the curse.He awkwardly delivers the news to Jacinda and goes home to pack up. There’s at least one thing that’s going to keep him here. Detective Weaver needs his help. He found Henry’s book at the last crime scene with a bunch of super creepy notes written in it. Weaver makes Henry pour through the notes to decipher some meaning, but he can’t. We get a genuine, sweet scene out of this. One of the elements of this season I really like, one it has that the previous season couldn’t. Henry spent the previous six seasons building up a relationship with these people that he now doesn’t remember. The ones that are awake can then subtly hint at what they used to be. In this case, it’s a grandfather telling his grandson what he always admired about him. That he would always fight for hope and belief. This kind of thing never fails to melt my heart. Because I’m a sap.Robert Carlyle, Andrew J. West (Photo via ABC)It works on Henry too. He dives back into the book, realizing that he wrote himself into the story to connect with the fairy tale. He guesses that the killer is doing the same thing. Digging through the notes, he figures out that the killer sees himself as Hansel, and he’s targeting people he perceives as witches. Also, he’s obsessed with burns and scars. That give Rogers and Weaver enough to go on, and Henry heads to the airport. Because if there’s any place you can really take your time getting to, it’s the airport. Finally, Henry starts to catch on that something is keeping him in Hyperion Heights. As soon as he tries to cross the neighborhood border, he gets a flat tire. And it looks like it was caused by part of a glass slipper.And hey, look who’s here to pick him up. It’s Nick! Henry explains he’s decided to stay in Seattle and go see Jacinda. Nick even offers him a ride. What a nice guy! Henry pulls the total Henry move of unwittingly telling the bad guy everything about where he’s been that day. He spills the whole story of what he’s been working on with the cops all day, which I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t do even if you aren’t talking to the actual culprit. Until this point, the episode has been mostly ho-hum standard Once Upon a Time storylines punctuated by welcome moments of sweetness. In this scene, it gets tense. Particularly when Henry notices the burn marks on Nick’s wrist, and realizes just how bad and how thoroughly he f’ed himself. At that moment, the episode went from just ok to edge-of-my-couch riveting.Tiera Skovbye (Photo via ABC)That’s not to say the episode was bad before that moment. The story didn’t move forward all that much, but the episode made up for that. It used its time to organically build up to these well-done emotional character moments. They were all little things, but if you’re still watching Once Upon a Time in season seven, those little things are almost more important than the overall story. You’re here for the characters, even the new ones. Like Margot and Tilly. It was cool to watch Tilly slowly grow more confident over the course of the episode as she worked for Sabine at the beignet truck. Her story got even better once she started talking to Margot. We know they loved each other in the other realm, and it’s sweet watching them discover that the love still exists in this one. Tilly even convinces Margot to trust her mother a little more, even though there’s clearly something Zelena’s not telling her.It took Once Upon a Time until the end of the episode to get to the good stuff. The rest of it was setting up lessons for characters to learn that we didn’t realize they had to learn in the first place. It’s a well the show goes back to often, and it’s annoying every time. Especially when it involves Henry, who proved he can still be just as obnoxious as an adult as he was in the last six seasons. But then we get to the end of the episode. What an ending that was. The slower pace of most of the episode allowed them to subtly build to this satisfying, scary cliffhanger. Henry realizes that Nick is the Candy Killer, and Nick knocks him out. When Henry comes too, he’s tied up and Nick is standing over him with a knife. And since Once Upon a Time knows it’s a soap opera, it chooses now for Jacinda to call Henry. That’s where the episode ends. As frustrating as cliffhangers are, this one was at least fun. It works too. I know I’ll be glued to the couch next Friday night. Once Upon a Time’s Finale Was Everything We Loved About an Imperfect ShowHenry Screws Everything Up Again on Once Upon a Time last_img read more

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