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Episode 1.22: A Land Without Magic

An Apple Red As Blood

(1) Charming frees himself from King George with the help of the Huntsman (the show always teases the audience with bringing the Huntsman back, and then, Bingo, flashback!, but I guess that's better than Ye Olde bringing-the-dead-back-from-the-grave plot ploy). The prince rushes off to find Snow White, who has bitten the Queen's apple and is under the sleeping curse. Regina waylays Charming by throwing him deep into the forest, where he encounters Rumplestiltskin. Rumple has enchanted David's mother's ring to help him find Snow.

But as usual, he has a price for this talisman. He will "help" Charming and Snow White reunite if the prince hides an egg containing Rumplestiltskin's flask o' Twu Wuv inside a dragon (AKA Maleficent). This is how Rumple plans to smuggle the flask into the Land Without Magic without Regina being the wiser.

(2) Regina's attempt to get rid of Emma without killing her (which would apparently break the curse) backfires. Henry eats the apple tart and falls under the sleeping curse that once felled his grandmother, Snow White. But this evidence of real Magic is what finally allows Emma to have her Believing Moment. The doctor assures her there is no good medical explanation for what's happened to Henry. And the evidence that's been gathering all season comes together finally, forcing Emma to finally see the truth. Fairytales are real, and she's living in one. Or, you know, a couple dozen. This is her heritage.

Which means the Curse is real, and she's really the Savior.

(3) I love, love, love when Angry!Emma takes out her fear and rage on an equally fearful Regina. The Big Moment has come; the Evil Queen faces down the Savior. But the moment isn't just enemies having their showdown. It is two mothers both worried sick about their child and willing to work together to save him. Regina admits to Emma that Henry is under a magic curse, but there is no magic in this land to reverse what has happened to him.

They need the help of Rumplestiltskin.

This is where things get interesting. Rumple sends Emma off to retrieve the egg with the flask o' Twu Wuv he hid inside Dragon!Maleficent. But she does not actually need the flask to save Henry. The anti-curse escape hatch is already in place, and has been in place since Rumple put a drop of liquid from that flask onto the parchment that contained the Curse spell back in the Enchanted Forest. Rumple wants the flask in the present day to bring Magic to Storybrooke and empower himself in post-Curse life.

That drop of liquid, a potion made from strands of Emma's parents hair, weaved Emma's existence into the Curse. It ensured her actions would have the power to break the curse, and they have already been doing so all season. Likewise, it will be an act done by her--an act of true love, kissing Henry, not retrieving the flask--that will save Henry and break the curse on Storybrooke.

Rumplestiltskin pretty much out-and-out tells Emma and Regina the spell to break the curse is already in place, and yet they still think Emma needs to retrieve the egg to save Henry.

(4) This mission to save Henry also forces Regina to decide what is more important: her need for vengeance (continuing the Curse) or her love for Henry. This is not the first time Regina was compelled to make this particular choice, as we know now. When she learned infant Henry's mother was the savior, she chose to keep Henry and remove her memory of this fact rather than give up Henry and keep her advantage over the Savior.

This was a decision she could never make back in the Enchanted Forest. She couldn't chose her love for her father over vengeance. Nor her love for her mother, nor the promise of love with the man Tinkerbell found for her.

(5) Lame!Cursed!David seeks out Mary Margaret. He tells her he's going to leave town unless she gives him a reason to stay. But he hasn't proven himself to her, so he's headed for the town line. Good thing David wasn't so lame back in the Enchanted Forest. It really means something when Rumplestiltskin presents Emma with her father's sword, and we see her battle the dragon in parallel with her father in flashback (again, *total love* that the echo is between father and daughter).

But who brings a gun to a sword fight? Emma, of course. Symbolically, she's still hanging onto the tangible over the magical. The point here, though, is to pierce the dragon's breast just enough to free the egg that contains the flask.

Back in the past, Dad puts the egg into the dragon and wins his mother's ring back from Rumplestiltskin. Then the season finale comes full circle with the pilot: Rumplestiltskin outfits Charming in regal robes and sets him off in search of sleeping Snow White (how very Fairy Godmother of you, Rumple).

(6) In the present, Gold steals the egg from Emma, but as mentioned, she doesn't need it. An act of true love, in this case, parallel to the act that helped her father save her mother from the Queen's magic, helps save Henry and Storybrooke from the Queen's magic.

(7) Back when I first watched this episode, I thought what Rumplestiltskin did at the end--bringing magic back--was merely a twist to up the stakes in Season Two, but not really part of Season One proper. Thematically, though, it fits into this episode, which is all about finding magic in the Land Without it. It also makes a LOT of sense when you consider Rumplestiltskin's arc as a whole.

It's interesting that at the moment the curse breaks, Rumple is so intent on bringing magic to Storybrooke, the curse breaking is almost incidental to him. It's sort of, "Oh hey, Belle remembers, curse broken, let's get back to bringing Magic to the land!" Wasn't getting to the Land without Magic and breaking the curse so he can find Baelfire the whole point of this, for him? And yet here he is, more intent on his his need for power than his Quest for his son at that moment. Or perhaps the town coward is afraid to venture on in his Quest without his "cane." His real cane/crutch. Magic.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 24th, 2014 02:12 am (UTC)
I can't believe we've reached the season finale already! Possibly because I can't seem to quite believe we're ever going to be finished with the interminable wait for the rest of S3. Still, here we are! So, my thoughts:

I was very surprised on first viewing, because I really didn't think they would break the curse this early on in the show. The curse just seemed like such a fundamental part of the premise that I expected it to happen much, much later, maybe even at the end of the series. Of course, OUaT has since proved that it's not at all afraid to make major changes. And making this one at this point, IMHO, was a very good call.

I find myself curious about the relationship between Regina and Jefferson over the last 28 years. He seems to know a lot of her business. He not only knows she's got Belle, he knows where she is, and why she's important. And he must know Rumple has his memories back, too, since he expects him to react to the news that Regina's had Belle locked up, well, pretty much the exact way he does react. I suppose the one person in town who knows what's really going on can be potentially very useful, but, man, she should never have trusted him with that much if she was going to screw him over that badly. Then again, she was very distracted, or that confrontation probably would have gone differently.

I think the fight scenes in this one are quite well done. The cutting back and forth between David fighting the dragon and Emma doing it works surprisingly well. Plus, I have a lot of love for Emma's "You have got to be kidding me!" face, and she certainly brings it here. The sword fight between Rumple and Charming is fun, too. I think Rumple looked like he was enjoying it.

The conversation between Emma and Regina before Emma goes down in the elevator annoyed the crap out of me on first viewing. It seemed to me like a classic example of one of those conversations where a character isn't given very important information just so what they're about to face can be a surprise to the audience. Reflecting on it now, though, I think I can just about buy Regina not wanting to say, "Yeah, you need to go and cut the thing out of a dragon," because Emma likely would have responded to that with more "What? Are you serious?" and Regina didn't want to deal with it. I will try to go with that explanation.

I think this is the first time we get to hear any actual text read out of Henry's storybook. Yes? Which makes me think... How weird is the existence of that thing, post-curse? Can you imagine what it would be like to know that some little kid has a book describing all the details of your life in fairy tale form? I don't think I could resist wanting to see what it said about me.

I really, really like the fact that the curse-breaking True Love's Kiss turns out to involve maternal love. Too often, I think, our culture puts romantic love on some kind of pedestal and treats it like it's the only kind of love that really matters. Fairy tales especially seem to be full of that, and it's always nice to see that sort of thing subverted in OUaT.

And masqthephlsphr, I think you've got some good points about the characterization. I like the fact that the relationship between Regina and Emma is more complicated than simple hatred or rivalry by virtue of the fact that they both have their real love for Henry in common. It's an unusual and interesting dynamic, and they use it to good effect both here and later.

As for Rumple, I hadn't thought about it much before, but you're right, at this moment, this crucial turning point in his plans, he really is more obsessively interested in the magic than anything else. I suppose some of it is just him habitually being one step ahead of things. He seems confident, for reasons best known to him, that the spell is about to be broken one way or another, so now it's time to work on the next thing. But it is perhaps telling that even the clearly emotionally overwhelming reappearance of Belle doesn't seem to distract him for more than a few minutes. That guy really, really wants his hands on magic again, ASAP. Which... is completely in character.
Feb. 24th, 2014 05:29 am (UTC)
I find myself curious about the relationship between Regina and Jefferson over the last 28 years. He seems to know a lot of her business. He not only knows she's got Belle, he knows where she is, and why she's important. And he must know Rumple has his memories back, too, since he expects him to react to the news that Regina's had Belle locked up, well, pretty much the exact way he does react.

Indeed. I didn't catch that the first time around, but this time I did, and you know, I also noticed: Jefferson obviously has had this knowledge for quite a while, and yet he didn't do anything to help Belle. At all. Until he well and truly wants to see Regina done for.

Now, considering Regina has been living in a town where no one else remembers for 28 years, with the same day playing out again and again, and hasn't had Henry to focus on until the last 11, I don't find it unbelievable she dropped by for a chat now and then - or for that matter that Jefferson after realising he was in a new world, without magic, and who was in charge there tried to to get in contact. And that on some occasion(s) there was information spill over.
Feb. 24th, 2014 03:25 pm (UTC)
Jefferson, however sympathetic his basic motives, is clearly not the most selfless and altruistic guy.

And, yeah, even though there's no love lost between them, I can see Regina talking to him maybe a bit more than she ought to just because he's the only person in town she can talk to about a lot of things.

or for that matter that Jefferson after realising he was in a new world, without magic, and who was in charge there tried to to get in contact.

I'd kind of like to see that now.
Feb. 24th, 2014 04:28 pm (UTC)
We might get to see that if The Winter Soldier Flops, she says evilly. Although that's not likely. (And honestly I don't wish it. I like Steve, and that movie promises to have lots of Natasha.)

More seriously, I think Jefferson first tried to avoid Regina, find his daughter and get the hell out of Storybrooke, then, upon figuring out his daughter doesn't remember him and loves her new parents and that getting out of Storybrooke doesn't work anyway, tried the persuasion/threats method (fat chance) with Regina. As for Regina, she first probably muawahhaad at him but we saw boredom and frustration Setting in pretty quickly in Welcome to Storybrooke, so I think she dropped by for tea a couple of times over the years, the two of them bitched at each other and there might even have been the occasional hate sex. She's pretty damm sure he won't kill her himself, isn't she? Mind you, that's a common villain flaw, thinking someone else is not ruthless enough, but she might also speak from experience (i.e. at an earlier occasion he had the chance and didn't).

Incidentally, Jefferson (correctly) assuming that whatever Rumple could come up with will be nastier than anything he could imagine also speaks of experience with the Dark One. Which he has.
Feb. 24th, 2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
I'm trying to imagine Jefferson/Regina hatesex, and my imagination is almost but not quite up to it. :)

Whether we see him again in canon or not, though, I'm thinking some such scenario as you've outlined here could make for interesting fic. I, too, wondered on what she was basing her certainty that he wouldn't kill her himself -- he has proven himself capable of a certain amount of violent behavior, after all -- so it does seem like there must be some backstory there.

And, yeah, he definitely has Rumple's number. I don't know exactly how long they were acquainted for, but it was obviously long enough for him to know him well. Come to think of it, Jefferson working for Rumple is something it might also be interesting to get more backstory on, because he was clearly running inter-dimensional errands for the guy even before "The Doctor."
Feb. 24th, 2014 05:06 pm (UTC)
I was fully able to go to a scary Jefferson/Regina visual place. Thanks so much for that enhancement to my morning.

; )
Feb. 24th, 2014 06:54 pm (UTC)
It was my daily supervillain pleasure. :)
Feb. 24th, 2014 03:39 pm (UTC)
I think part of the reason Rumple's bringing magic to Storybrooke felt so "tacked on" to me the first time I watched this is in part because of the curse breaking. That was such a surprising twist--like you, I didn't expect it--that having *another* twist, bringing magic to Storybrooke, was all, "Great season finale. Wait. There's something *else*?"

At the time, I was also comparing OUAT narratively to Lost. Characters trapped in a location, present-day action intercut with character flashbacks of home, and a total reworking of the premise of the show each season to keep it fresh.

I still think the comparison is valid.
Feb. 24th, 2014 03:56 pm (UTC)
There are definitely a lot of similarities between OUaT and Lost. So far, I think it's working better with OUaT, though (and I say that as someone who mostly quite liked Lost.) It at least gives more of the feeling that they've got a lot of things consistently worked out.
Feb. 24th, 2014 04:08 pm (UTC)
It does hang together better, I think. I always got the slight feeling of "making it up as they went along" on Lost. Although never to the degree as a show like X-Files. I think Lost planned out most of the inhabitants of the Island from the beginning (although not Jacob. That felt "made up later").
Feb. 24th, 2014 04:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, don't get me started on The X-Files. Whatever tolerance I have for making things up as they go along -- and I do have a reasonable amount, I think -- that show very frequently exceeded it. :)
Feb. 24th, 2014 05:55 am (UTC)
Loved the finale then, still love it now.

Thoughts in addition to yours:

- I wish the show would have given us at some point something about the Regina and Maleficent backstory. It probably won't now, considering Maleficent is dead, but I wish it had.

- The Huntsman/Graham: is still able to make his own choices without a heart (as he has done/will do so in the present once his memories start to come back), and over in the Wonderland spin-off, Will can not only make his own choices but obviously can act on loyalty and friendship to Alice, an emotion. Cora, of course, was under her own control post heart removal all the time, yet also felt emotions. Aurora, once she realised what was happening, for that reason told everyone else to tie her up so she wouldn't endanger them. All of which tells me that in this verse the removal of your heart doesn't end your capacity to feel or your own choices, but it does diminish the power of emotion (Will and Cora both remove their hearts/keep them removed in order not to be governed by love), and if someone else is in control of your heart and speaks a direct order (as for example Regina does with Graham's heart in "Welcome to Storybrooke"), they can control you, but not otherwise.

Like everyone else, I approve of the fact it's maternal love that breaks the curse, and that this establishes True Love in this universe does not have to mean solely romantic love.

Regina and Emma teaming up to save Henry: there was a little of that early in the season when he was missing in the mine, but this time is the first serious occasion, and it establishes a key to their dynamic and what makes it different from your avarage hero/villain constellation. It's also, for the first time viewer, the first unmistakable demonstration Regina really does love Henry.

Rumplestilskin changing Charming's outfit so he looks like he did in the pilot and there's no continuity problem will never fail to crack me up. Though my favourite thing about the Rumple/Charming scenes in the finale is that Rumple sees it fit to tell Charming about his love life (well, one instance of same) - and that David remembers what he's been told in season 2 when the topic comes up again.

Re: the punchline of Rumplestilskin bringing magic back: upon first watching I thought that was so clever on both a Doylist and Watsonian level: the show's writers show they're not afraid of really changing the odds for s2, and as for Rumple, it underlines his ambiguity, lest we think he's just a bereft father who helped Charming then and helps Emma now out of the goodness of his heart; doublecrossing Emma and Regina and being no more than a few minutes distracted by the return of Belle from the overhelmingh goal to get magic back emphasizes how much he still needs power.

In s2 when he realises he's without magic outside of Storybrooke and it's actually Emma and Henry who look after him on that trip, we see how helpless he still feels in any position where he doesn't have either magic or secret knowledge or both to support him. In the end, he is willing to face that for Bae, but I think it's very Rumplestilskin to try to for the longest time to have his cake and eat it - find his son again in the land without magic, yes, but change the odds so he does have magic in this land after all.
Feb. 24th, 2014 03:34 pm (UTC)
I wish the show would have given us at some point something about the Regina and Maleficent backstory. It probably won't now, considering Maleficent is dead,

I'd still love to see her show up in a flashback sometime. (Which is far from impossible, as the Huntsman's presence in this one demonstrates). They seem to have this potentially interesting frenemies thing going on that's never really explored. Plus, having another heavy-hitting magic user in the Enchanted Forest could make for some interestingly different plot dynamics. Still, I suspect you're right, and it's not something we're going to get. At best, I suspect maybe we'll just have a cameo from her sometime.

And I think your reading of how the heart removal thing works sounds right.
Feb. 24th, 2014 03:42 pm (UTC)
The hearts thing might be partly the result of the strength/nature of an individual's personality. Some bit characters seem entirely zombified when their hearts are taken. Others seem to be able to keep some control. Some lose their emotions, others retain them somewhat.

IOW, one of those handy Plot-driven McGuffins.
Feb. 24th, 2014 04:03 pm (UTC)
I don't remember... Who else has had their heart taken to control them, besides Graham and Aurora? (Well, Will, presumably, but if he was controlled with his, it was in backstory that we haven't seen yet.)

I think I was kind of figuring that how much the person is controlled has a lot to do with how careful and diligent the controller is. Like, whisper to the heart exactly what you want them to do and say, and they'll do it robotically. Give them some general commands and leave them to their own devices otherwise, and they'll have a lot more autonomy. That does seem to be what we see with both Aurora and Graham.
Feb. 24th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)
Cora killed a village and left the bodies, including Hook (alive) to waylay Snow and Emma in FTL. They all rose like Zombies.
Feb. 24th, 2014 04:11 pm (UTC)
I thought those actually were zombies. As in, dead people whose bodies she was controlling through magic, not live people she was controlling via their hearts. Although it's possible that I missed something.
Feb. 24th, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
What Astro said. Those were actual Zombies, who rose after they were killed. Not heart-controlled living People.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )