TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.18

Title Ruby Slippers

Two-Sentence Summary After Ruby lands in the Underworld, she begins searching for a way to return to Oz and wake Dorothy from a sleeping curse, which ultimately leads Snow and Charming to discover a way for one of them to return to Storybrooke to be with their son. As Ruby worries about who will give Dorothy True Love’s Kiss, Snow helps her see that the answer is clear: It’s Ruby herself, who we see fall in love with Dorothy during flashbacks to her time in Oz with Mulan.

Favorite Line “What you get back when you love someone far outweighs the risk.” (Snow)

My Thoughts Love, hope, and courage are deeply connected on Once Upon a Time. It takes courage to open your heart to the hope that someone could see all of you and still choose to love you. And it takes courage to allow yourself to hope that your love for someone—and theirs for you—is strong enough to create magic.

In the words of Snow White, “Love is freaking scary.” (How perfect was Ginnifer Goodwin’s delivery of that line, by the way?) But as Snow also said last week, “Love is worth it.” Love of all kinds is worth fighting for. Love may be scary, but love also makes us brave.

This episode gave me another chance to really think about True Love and how it functions in this world, and that made me a little more skeptical of things on the Hades/Zelena front than I had been previously. Do I still think Hades loves Zelena? Yes. Greg Germann and Rebecca Mader have sold me on their incredible chemistry. (As a shallow side note: Mader was looking even lovelier than usual in this episode. I was having some major hair envy during all her scenes.) But am I actively rooting for them as much as I was when we were first introduced to their dynamic? No. And that’s because I’ve come to sincerely believe that Zelena might have a chance to grow into a better person, and I think Hades is holding her back. And that is a statement I never thought I would make, which is a credit to how well the writers and Mader have handled Zelena’s storyline in this arc.

Love should help bring out the best in a person, and I think the person who does that for Zelena right now is her daughter. I think Zelena genuinely wants to do the right thing for her daughter, and I believe she does want to try to start making better life choices—if not directly for her child yet, then at least to be able to spend time with her (which is a start).

Zelena’s daughter might be her motivation for many of the things she’s doing, but there’s another character who is trying to help her be a better version of herself: Regina. I have adored their dynamic so far in this half-season, and that’s because it’s allowed Regina’s growth and newfound maturity to take center stage. With Zelena, Regina gets to continue to spread hope, and that hope comes from a deeply personal place. Regina can relate to Zelena, so when she says Zelena can always start choosing to do the right thing no matter how much wrong she’s done, we know she’s speaking from experience. And I love that these words aren’t just platitudes. They’re coming from a place of sincerity, and Lana Parrilla delivers them as such.

I loved seeing Zelena do something good by giving up her slippers so Ruby could get back to Oz. It was a baby step in the right direction, and that’s honestly not something I thought we’d see from her. And those baby steps on the road to becoming a better person have me hoping that she’ll eventually follow her sister’s path and come to believe that she deserves a happy ending not brought about by vengeance but brought about through love. However, I’m not sure that I can see her having a happy ending with Hades at this point. He still wants to destroy hope, while love should create hope. And he still delights in doing terrible things for Zelena (like destroying Aunt Em in a very creepy but also very cool nod to Wizard of Oz mythology), when love should inspire you to be your best self.

While I think it’s fun to see this twisted little relationship act as a foil to so many of the romance on this show, I’m ready for it to either pick up steam or fade into the background for a little while. In fact, by the end of this episode, I was wondering if Zelena was starting to manipulate Hades, which I could appreciate, because the uncertainty I’m feeling about their dynamic (especially Hades’ intentions) is starting to feel less intriguing and more frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating, I’ll admit that I rolled my eyes a little bit when the episode cut to Belle and Rumplestiltskin working together in his shop. After the last episode, I needed a bit of a break from their relationship, but there was still unfinished business to attend to with their baby’s safety at risk. I didn’t think about the possibility of Hades speeding up Belle’s pregnancy like Dark Swan did to Zelena. Is he powerful enough to do that? I suppose that doesn’t matter as much as Belle’s belief that he is, because belief is a powerful thing. It can create hope, but it can also create fear.

Belle’s fear and desperation caused her put herself under a sleeping curse to protect her child. This was Belle’s way to fight for the person she loves most right now: her unborn baby. And yes, she did have hope that her father would wake her (I was happy Rumplestiltskin acknowledged that it wouldn’t work with him.), but it still felt like it was coming from a place of hopelessness rather than hope. It still felt like she was finally taking action only to be rendered inactive. I know that this was probably done because of Emilie de Ravin’s pregnancy, but I would have loved to see Belle work to fight for her child herself instead of putting herself to sleep and trusting the men in her life to save her and the baby. It was an interesting twist, but a bit of a letdown as a character moment for Belle.

Luckily, there was no shortage of other female characters acting from a place of hope in this episode. This was another fantastic episode for Snow. Whatever anyone might think of this arc, it’s impossible to deny that it’s done incredible things for her as a character and for Goodwin as an actor. I find myself crying nearly every week at something she says or does because it’s like my favorite character—the character who I relate to more than any other on this show—is back from the dead. I’m so happy that the writers didn’t just devote energy to her character in the episode centered on her backstory; they allowed the decision she made in that episode to impact every moment afterward. She really does feel like Snow again. She’s a wife, a mother, a friend, a leader, and a badass princess, and her sincere but not cloying sense of hope is what gives her the strength to be the best she can be in all those areas of her life. And it’s beautiful to see that the writers finally remembered that Snow’s hope isn’t just rooted in abstract concepts pulled out for generic speeches; her hope is powerfully personal. She believes in things like happy endings, but more than that, she believes in other people. She doesn’t just believe in love; she believes in those she loves, and that’s a part of her character I have always related to and have missed seeing reflected onscreen.

And because Snow loves and believes in so many people, she has so many people who love and believe in her, too. That’s the thing about love that’s rooted in belief and support: The more you give away, the more comes back to you. And in this episode, it was her husband’s belief in her that led to some much-needed forward momentum in the “Leave the Underworld” plot, as Snow found a way to return home to their son.

Hades would shut down the haunting booth after it started to give people hope that they could reach their loved ones, because Snow and Charming proved (through the story ending up in Henry’s book) that they reached baby Neal. But instead of making Snow and Charming feel hopeless, Hades’ actions just made them more determined to find a way to reach their son. They’re heroes; they don’t despair at every obstacle. Instead, they keep fighting for those they love, and in this episode, they fought to be with their son.

I had a feeling Snow was going to be the one to go back to Storybrooke because of Goodwin’s pregnancy, so I spent much of this episode wondering how they were going to get around the fact that her name was on the tombstone. And in an episode where friendship played such an important role, it seemed fitting that Snow’s path out of the Underworld was forged by the combined efforts of two friends: Charming and Killian.

It feels right that Charming is staying on with the mission to rescue Killian. While I’ve loved seeing Snow voice her support of and care for the man her daughter loves, Charming has always had the closer relationship with Killian, which was reinforced in “Ruby Slippers.” I’d almost forgotten how excellent Colin O’Donoghue and Josh Dallas are as scene partners before this episode. They bring out both a playfulness and a sincerity in each other that makes their characters’ unlikely friendship feel genuine. Others might have come to the Underworld only because Emma’s happy ending is worth fighting for, but Charming also came because he believes Killian is worth fighting for. The way Charming’s sincere admission of caring was played with just enough humor by Dallas and just enough enthusiasm by O’Donoghue was perfect.

Hearing those words from Charming meant a lot to Killian because there is still a part of him that struggles with believing he deserves the kind of love that these people are showing toward him. Last week’s episode directly addressed Emma’s guilt, but this week’s dealt with Killian’s. However, Charming reminded him that when you care about someone, you make the choice to fight for them because you believe they’re worth risking everything for. And not only does Charming care about Emma; he cares about Killian, too.

Charming convinced Killian to put his name on the tombstone instead of Snow’s, because when you love someone, you find the courage to do what’s right for them, even if it means staying the Underworld. Charming believed Snow was the better choice to return to Storybrooke because of her role as a mother and a leader. So he said goodbye to her with a kiss that showed off the fairytale chemistry between Dallas and Goodwin (complete with their beautiful theme music playing in the background). And Snow said goodbye to Emma, who seemed much more sure of herself in this episode than last week’s. Emma knows she’s loved in so many ways, and it’s been beautiful to watch all those kinds of love give her strength as she fights for her happy ending.

For a long time, though, Emma was afraid to let herself believe she could have the kind of love her parents have: True Love. But her love for Killian made her brave enough to hope that kind of happiness was in the cards for he. Now, there’s no doubt in her mind that she’s found her True Love and is willing to risk everything, because their love is worth fighting for. Emma has gone from being afraid of happiness to embracing it without fear, and this episode’s focus on the bravery inherent in loving and letting yourself be loved reminded me just how far Emma has come.

Many of the characters on Once Upon a Time have struggled with believing they’re worthy of happiness, love, and a partner who sees both their light and dark and still chooses to stand beside them. And “Ruby Slippers” reminded us that Ruby is one of those characters. Ruby’s story has always been about acceptance and identity—accepting herself for everything she is and finding people who accept and love her, too.

Ruby has friends and a grandmother who love her, but she still felt something was missing. For a long time, she thought it would be found in a community, but she found it in one person who also knew what it was like to feel like she didn’t belong anywhere: Dorothy. My heart broke when she told Ruby that her family tried to have her committed after she came back from Oz because they didn’t believe her (which reminded me of Alice on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland).

As Dorothy and Ruby traveled together, it became clear (especially once Dorothy gave her that flower) where things were going. Taking a journey to find something to defeat a foe is a common Once Upon a Time romance setup. While it took me a moment to readjust my expectations (since I was sure that Mulan and Ruby were going to become a couple), I was won over pretty quickly by the sweet sincerity Ory brought to this new relationship. I thought Teri Reeves’s performance as Dorothy was a little flat, but the commitment Ory brought to showing the excitement, confusion, and fear of falling in love made up for it.

Did Dorothy and Ruby’s road to True Love feel a little rushed? Of course. But that happens often on this show. Fairytales don’t typically develop over long periods of time (with the exception of Emma and Killian). While I would have loved to see this relationship have more time to blossom into True Love, that’s not the focal point of this season (especially because neither actor is a series regular). So I’m choosing to hope that this is the start of a relationship that we’ll return to again instead of the end. Once Upon a Time is more about what happens after “Happily Ever After,” and there’s still plenty of story to tell with these two characters.

For so long, Ruby felt hopeless when it came to love because she accidentally killed her boyfriend. She didn’t believe she would have that kind of love again, and part of that was because she didn’t believe someone would be able to love her for everything she is. But Dorothy didn’t just see her as a wolf; she trusted her as a wolf as much as she trusted her as a woman. And Dorothy seemed to feel hopeless about anyone loving her besides her Aunt Em. She’d grown hard and distrustful for good reasons, but Ruby helped her see that some people will believe in her enough to fight for her happiness.

At first, Dorothy and Ruby both approached their feelings with fear. Dorothy was afraid to lose Ruby, so she tried to take on Zelena on her own (which we know is never the right option in this universe). And Ruby was afraid of getting her hopes up and letting herself believe she’d found something worth fighting for only for it to fall apart. Luckily, she had two friends who were there to remind her that love is worth the risk.

I thought it was beautiful to see Mulan encourage Ruby using her own experience. The reason I’m not completely heartbroken about the show failing to put these two characters together romantically is because of Mulan’s reactions to Ruby falling in love. I love female friendship, and I was happy to see that Ruby had a true friend to listen and help her without it feeling like another sadly unrequited love for Mulan. She’s genuinely happy for her friend and wants her to find love, and I’m still hoping there’s a chance the show might return to the possibility of Mulan and Aurora after bringing up that Mulan might not be over her yet.

In the past, Ruby had Mulan to remind her that love is worth fighting for. And in the present, she had Snow. There’s no better person to speak about the value of taking a leap of faith for love than Snow White, and there’s no better actor to deliver that speech than Goodwin. That conversation between Ruby and Snow was my favorite moment in this episode It felt incredibly realistic because of the honest emotions both actors brought to it. And what was especially lovely about it was the fact that Ruby being a bisexual woman in love with another woman was treated as the perfectly normal thing that it is instead of something shocking. Snow didn’t draw attention to the gender of who it was that Ruby loved or even act surprised by it; she treated the situation the same as she would have if Ruby had told her she was in love with a man. It showed that there’s nothing weird or abnormal about loving someone of the same gender. Love is love, and all kinds of love should be fought for and supported.

With the support of her friend giving her strength, Ruby found the courage to believe that she and Dorothy could have the kind of love strong and pure enough to break a curse. And she was right. I loved the way Ruby and Dorothy’s True Love’s Kiss was staged so similarly to Snow and Charming’s, only with Munchkins replacing the Dwarves around the cursed woman. And it made me incredibly happy to see Snow witness this moment of True Love for her friend and to see Mulan’s sincere smile, which gave me hope that True Love will be in the cards for her, too.

This moment was a start. It wasn’t perfect, and I can understand why people took issue with its execution, its pacing, and the characters involved. But—not surprisingly—I’m choosing to be optimistic and believe this kiss was the start of this show increasing its representation of all kinds of love and not just a one-and-done story.

As Ruby and Dorothy kissed (and KISSED—that second one was probably one of the show’s best and most passionate kisses), all I could think about was the fact that happy endings always start with hope, and this moment probably gave a lot of viewers hope for their own happy ending. The romantic love between two women was shown to be just as powerful as the romantic love between a man and woman and the love between parent and child. While it felt a little rushed to bring these two characters to a place where they could share True Love’s Kiss in one episode, it was important for them to share such a monumental kiss. Because somewhere out there, a young person struggling with self-acceptance saw that the love between two women can create magic and spread light. They also saw a love story between two women included in Henry’s book alongside the iconic fairytales we grew up with. And that fact that at least one of those women is bisexual is also important, because it’s still depressingly rare to see bisexuality acknowledged and treated with respect in the media.

There are certainly criticisms to be made concerning this episode and how it handled this love story, but all I can do is write my truth. And my truth is that I cried happy tears more than once during “Ruby Slippers.” Sometimes one moment of hope is enough for me, and that’s exactly what Ruby and Dorothy’s kiss was: a moment of hope. Love can be scary—especially when it’s a kind of love that too many people in this world still don’t accept. But it’s worth fighting for. And that was the theme of this episode: Your love and your happiness are worth fighting for, so don’t be afraid to fight for them.

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27 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.18

  1. Can we get Meghan Ory back as a series regular? Or at least more often than once every half-season. I’ve missed Ruby.

    I will always adore everything that Josh and Ginny pour into their on-screen relationship because they make everything feel so solid and grounded. I get that Snow had to be the one to go back because Ginny’s a little busy getting ready for a baby but the scene where Charming tells her that their baby and the town needed her more still made me tear up.

    I wish I cared at all Dorothy as a character so I could have been more invested in this particular pairing but at the end of the day, Ruby is happy and loved and that makes me happy. I think the pairing was a little overhyped in press leading up to this episode, which is both understandable and unfortunate. I would have loved to see a larger build-up to them and have the relationship be one that got to develop over the course of several episodes but that would have been difficult to fit into this arc in the first place and I’m not sure what actress availability was like. So I’ll hold out hope that later on down the road, Ruby and Snow can help Mulan find Aurora again so she can get her own happy ending and we can maybe watch them fall in love. Really I just want Mulan to be happy and to have more of this amazing set of ladies being friends and supporting each other.

    I also continue to be entirely in love with Regina Mills. I love characters who recognize that they’ve made bad choices and own up to them while actively seeking to do better in the future and that is exactly who Regina has become. I love seeing her support and encourage Zelena and try to find a way for all of them to work together and be another weird, complicated family that this show specializes in.

    • Your first paragraph voiced what is one of my biggest wishes for this show going forward. I honestly think it lost something important when Meghan Ory left, and I’d love for her to come back in a larger capacity. Her friendship with Snow adds a different dynamic to this show’s variety of relationships, and I think she’s always fit in really well with this whole cast. Ruby was probably my second-favorite character in S1 after Snow, and whenever she comes back I’m reminded of why I love her so much and why I miss her when she’s gone.

      And that’s exactly why I liked this episode and the “Ruby Slippers” relationship despite feeling absolutely nothing about Dorothy. Ruby is one of those characters whose happiness means a lot to me, so if she’s shown to be happy, I’m happy. And that’s all I want for Mulan, too. There’s at least another full season of episodes that could feature a good story for Mulan’s quest for love and happiness, and I’m going to hold out hope that we’ll see that for her. And that when we do, she’ll have friends around her who are just as happy for her as she was for them. (I actually saw a theory on Tumblr about how cool it would be to have Shang be a woman instead of a man and for Mulan to fall in love with her, and I would LOVE that twist on her story from the movie.)

  2. Lovely job, Katie.

    I almost hate to post because this one fell a little flat for me, and I don’t want to be the voice of cranky. I have difficulty with rushed relationships. (Honestly, it feels like Dug from UP — I just met you, but I love you.) Now, I understand that we see this quite a bit in fairy tales. I tend to like compressed timelines rather than love-at-first-sight. (In other words, I’m more of a Tangled girl.) However, I can (sorta) buy love-at-first-sight if I have a good sense of both parties and can see why they would work (animated Cinderella). I think the reason the fast really didn’t work for me here was because of Dorothy. A better job could have been done establishing her character. We were told a number of things about her, but we saw very little of it. (Enough with the “love of the people” already.) Why does she have the love of the people? Why is Zelena worried about Dorothy? Why the frowny-face? (Ok, I get the frowny-face now and how she and Red could connect on the “I’m an outcast” level.) The one-time Dorothy pulled one over on Zelena (that we saw), it was really more due to Toto than her.

    Ok, enough with the cranky.

    I love the growth we’ve seen in Regina that she is now in a position to encourage others — and that she repeatedly does so. Snow is also firing on all cylinders. Go team!

    Belle, I just . . . *Kermit arm flail* . . . I just . . .ummm. On the one hand, this is totally Belle. She makes a difficult choice to save her baby. On the other hand, WHY DOESN’T SHE GO TO REGINA OR EMMA OR SNOW?? Why, Belle? Why? It’s also a little heart-breaking that Rumple sees that is as way of manipulating him and that Belle doesn’t even expect a TLK from him.

    Oh, wait. I was going to stop with the cranky . . . so . . .

    Captain Charming. Yes! More please. I loved Charming grudgingly admitting that Killian had grown on him and Killian’s quiet glee in making him uncomfortable about that. I love mischievous Killian. The earlier moments were beautiful as Killian thanks David for his help and admits that he didn’t want Emma, much less half of Storybrook dragged into the Underworld for him.

    Random moments of shallow:
    — Where is the Underworld hat shop? Seriously, Regina and Zelena are ROCKIN’ the hats.
    — Meghan Ory is just impossibly gorgeous.
    — I understand the narrative need to rip out the “phones” before “talking” to Neal, but I really wanted a scene with Charming talking to Neal with Killian making snide comments about baby talk or Charming forcing Killian into the box to sing to Neal.
    — Still lovin’ the sexiness that is supportive Killian.
    — I’m having fun imagining Snow smacking Arthur (who is dead to me) around once she returns to Storybrook.

    • Yes to Snow just laying down the law in Storybrooke now that she is back! I just imagine the family getting nightly reports on all the kick a$$ stuff Snow is doing back home.

      I am now imagining Killian singing some inappropriate pirate song to the baby while David looks on in horror.

      At this point I am glad Belle is in a sleeping curse, because unconscious is the only state of hers where she is not frustrating me.

    • Thanks, friend!

      And no need to worry about being too cranky. Those are all VERY valid criticisms. I think the fact that Ruby has always been one of my favorite characters on this show made me more likely to overlook some of the more obvious storytelling issues in this relationship just because I love seeing my favorite characters happy. Because the lack of any kind of development for Dorothy beyond the heartbreaking story about her family made it hard to connect with her at all. When I root for a fictional couple, I like when I genuinely care about both parties. But in this case, it was all about Ruby for me. But I also felt this way about Regina and Robin at first (and still do at times, the poor guy needs some good storylines instead of just hiding in the forest!). So I really hope that we do end up seeing even just a little more of these two now that they’re together, just to get a better sense of why they work (and because this show could always use more badass ladies running around).

      And speaking of badass ladies, I’m with you on wishing Belle would just ask the other awesome mothers she knows are in the Underworld with her for help. Maybe she feels ashamed now about killing Gaston? But those women can’t (and won’t) judge her; they’ve all killed people, too. But it just feels like the fact that Belle could go to them for protection isn’t being addressed because it doesn’t suit the plot, and that’s my least favorite way to tell a story. So you’re not the only one grumpy about that.

      But on to happier stuff…like how pretty Meghan Ory is. It’s almost ridiculous. This is a show full of stunning people, and she stands out, which is not an easy thing to do.

      And I would pay big money for a scene with Snow dealing with Arthur upon her return to Storybrooke. 😉

  3. ” I’ve come to sincerely believe that Zelena might have a chance to grow into a better person, and I think Hades is holding her back.”

    That sums up perfectly Zelena’s arc so far during this half-season. Zelena’s been my favorite character for the last few episodes. It’s kinda sad that we had to wait almost a whole year, since she “came back from the dead”, for Zelena to have a proper storyline.

    And since you mentioned Ginnifer Goodwin’s performance, I have to ask: have you watched Zootopia? Because Goodwin kicked ass voice-acting for Judy Hops.

    • I saw Zootopia on its opening weekend and adored it. I thought Ginnifer did such an amazing job, and I thought the animators also did great work bringing her mannerisms and facial expressions to life on that little bunny! It was such a good movie.

  4. I am such a sucker for a happy ending. If the episode ends on a happy note, chances are I probably enjoyed it, and this was no exception.

    I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Ruby/Dorthy paring. As much as I would have liked to see Ruby and Mulan together, I was happy that they wrote Mulan as being supportive of her friend instead of jealous or hurt. Dorthy wasnt given much of a personality, but this wasnt about Dorthy, it was about Ruby, and Meghan sold it to me (I also tend to have crushes on women with deep voices, so maybe that made me more intrigued by Dorthy than was warranted?) And this actually didn’t feel rushed to me. It would have been great to spread this over a couple episodes, but at the same time, I think what made this work was that they were both so freaked out by their quick connection that they ran away from it. I can relate to freaking out much more than I can seeing someone and being 100% convinced of their feelings and have zero doubts. They both were fighting for each other, and as you mentioned, true love on this show is about fighting and making sacrifices. I also appreciated that this romance was treated just like any other one on the show. As you pointed out, there was no commenting or eye brow raising and I liked it. It was hard not to be happy with that end scene with the two of them and the music and Snow and Mulan beaming in the background. Although I will say, if you are going to pick someone to undergo a sleeping curse that needs a TLK, and you pick a character that is pretty much forever tied to her canine companion, and you dont at least attempt to explain why said loyal companion cannot administer a TLK, its going to be confusing. I can tell you right now, I have loved my cats more than I have loved some of my partners.

    Captain charming was lovely, and we got to see the Blind Witch AND Cruella again. There were quite a lot of nice little fun moments.

    That said, does anybody else feel like laziness is setting in? I am just not feeling the spark and direction much this arc. Colin’s hair is all over the place. Robin must be bored out of his mind sitting in the woods with a newborn. Jen looks like she just stopped taking her set coat off during filming. They just kinda gave up with the timecard thing, and they didn’t even bother making Zelena green in Oz (although I wont complain about that). Then we have Emile and her pregnancy and Ginny and her Zootopia tour, which cant be helped, but coupled with the very noticeable quiet on social media from those involved in the show, its left me feeling disconnected. I want that spark back! Right now I find the Blind Witch more interesting than most of our main characters. I am hoping the action will start to pick up soon.

    Randomness:

    -This sleeping curse solution to everyone’s problem is getting alarming. There needs to be a public outreach campaign before people start undergoing sleeping curses to get out of their biology test or skip the cold Storybrooke winters.

    -I legit laughed when Belle said her Dad was going to be the one to wake her up. Belle needs WAY better people in her life. (Fanfic idea. Will Scarlet got himself into trouble who knows where and is also under a sleeping curse. Belle and Will find each other in the fiery sleep world, fall in love, and wake each other up from their curses! BOOM!)

    -I really loved Zelena and her terror of doing something she would regret. She doesnt trust herself right now, and the fact that she really wants to be a better person has converted me to team Zelena.

    -I love how Killian has no chill when it comes to research. I hope he shows better sportsmanship when he loses at boardgames.

    -Kudos to ABC (have I EVER said that? They are generally horrible) for not toning down that final kiss. That was not just a peck. It was passionate, and something I have very rarely (if ever) seen on network TV, especially at 8pm. I still think they probably chickened out over Mulan being the other half of that couple, but I will still give them credit for not shutting the idea down completely.

    -“Love is freaking scary” has to be one of my favorite lines ever spoken on this show. I am pretty sure that scene between Snow and Ruby was my favorite of the episode, but there were so many great friendship moments.

    -I am losing count of how many jokes we have had about eating children. It should be wrong but I still find it amusing.

    • You are a terrible influence on me. I am now imagining various badly filmed PSA’s about the dangers sleeping curses, the need for heart-protection spells, etc.

      I may still be chuckling at the children-eating jokes . . . I blame you for that, too. Obviously, I would never do that on my own. 🙂

      I have to admit that I’m not feeling this arc as much as previous ones. (There may have been a moment where I snorted tea on the keyboard over the “Colin’s hair is all over the place” line. I really shouldn’t try to drink anything while reading comments.) I think knowing Hades’ end game would help.

      I am also having fun imagining Killian and David playing board games. . .

    • YES! I always love your comments! You might have just said most of the things I was going to say, and some I hadn’t thought of. #1 – not toning down that kiss. Those gals really WENT FOR IT and that made me so happy. I’m sick of Disney kisses. They’re the hottest kissing couple since OQ and that made me very happy, especially after they cut away momentarily at the beginning of the kiss and I thought, omg they’re not going to show them kissing because it might offend the bigots. And then, woah! No! Yes! Go for it Ruby!
      Love is freaking scary! yes. Again, wow. Thank you, Once. And she said it with such feeling. I’m so happy Snow is back.
      Also, laziness. Can someone please tell me why Robin and the pistachio are safe from Hades in the forest? Robin has some special hiding gift from the god of the Underworld who can seemingly see and do anything he wants?! (but not in the forest? because Robin is good at hiding?)
      Another sleeping curse… and MO is the one whose going to wake her up?! He is the 2nd WORST! Belle really REALLY needs some better loves. Couldn’t she spend some time with Mulan? or can we get some Will? or really, anyone who cares for her more than her horrible father and husband. Maybe a better storyline too? (although, dude, her belly was busting out of that coat! lol. The only way that was hiding anything was if you just didn’t know she was preggers and had vision problems. Oh well. They’re doing what they can with what they’ve got. I bet Eduardo Castro was pissed – No more lovely outfits? You want me to design a coat to hide that?!)
      I’ve always enjoyed laughing at jokes about eating children.

      OK, I’m going to leave some more comments below, probably.

    • First of all, I am so glad you brought up ABC/Disney potentially chickening out about Mulan/Ruby. My theory is that the writers really did plan for it to be those two, but Disney was wary of using one of its princesses for this story. I’m actually wondering if they’re going to base whether or not they do anything with Mulan on the audience reaction to this episode. And while I do think they might be more to blame than the writers for Mulan/Ruby not happening, I do have to give them credit for not telling them to tone down the romance in this episode. They didn’t just have the camera pull away after the initial touch of True Love’s Kiss and never show them kissing again; they let us see those two characters share a very genuinely passionate moment, which was a pleasant surprise.

      I really like what you said about this relationship not feeling rushed because both characters acknowledged that their feelings developed suddenly and they were freaked out by them. It did add a level of honesty to the story, and that’s probably why I liked it as much as I did despite it technically moving very quickly. Also, like you, I’m a sucker for a happy ending. There haven’t been too many of them on the shows I watch lately, so the fact that these two characters (especially considering who these characters are) were allowed to be happy without anything bad happening in the aftermath was lovely. I like when my “happy place” TV shows are happy.

      And as for your point about laziness, I think for me it’s more about a lack of plot movement. So much is still unknown, which is making the plot feel frustratingly unclear. Hades and his plans are a little too ambiguous for my liking right now. But I think I’m in the minority when it comes to this arc in general because I’ve really been enjoying it. I think it’s showcased some really great character development, and I’m totally biased because so much of that development has been directed at my favorite character. Like I keep saying, I will defend this arc until the end of time if only because it gave me my Snow back. But I think the fact that these last few episodes have focused less on the characters I care about (because I know the Rumple/Belle stuff is important but I just don’t care at this point) has killed a little bit of the show’s momentum, and I’m eager for the focus to return to the heroes.

      Also, I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed Jen’s coat. It actually took me out of every scene of hers that was outside in this episode because it was so obviously Jen being cold and not really anything to do with Emma. She looked adorable, but she definitely didn’t look like Emma to me. However, I think Zelena didn’t have to be green in Oz because it was just a flashback to when she returned there after coming back from Camelot so maybe her skin was still able to stay the color it had been.

      Finally, your line about Belle needing WAY better people in her life made me laugh out loud. #truth

    • Yes to all of this!! I’m laughing out loud at the idea of Storybrooke residents abusing sleeping curses.

      While I was watching, I also noticed every single thing you mentioned in your point about the production laziness. And not to pile on, because I get that it’s hard to produce 23 episodes of a complicated show with a big cast, visual effects, Vancouver weather, a presumably dwindling budget etc…but the set design of the Underworld loft is pretty lame. All that’s different is that the furniture has a few dust covers – really? At least Emma’s house had the inspired, creepy cool effect of her cobwebby nursery furniture in her living room.

      And if I have to accept that the gang bought hats, coats and umbrellas in Underbrooke anyway, I am totally fine suspending disbelief enough to be ok with Killian stopping at the barbershop offscreen. He needs a haircut!

  5. I loved this episode. I think they did a pretty damn good job with it. Except for the laziness I mentioned above. Especially the idea of Belle’s horrid father coming to her rescue. Wait, how is he going to get to the Underworld? Or are they going to carry her back still sleeping? UGH. Yeah. Not a fan of that storyline at all, so far. But we’ll see. Obviously they can’t develop her side of the story much since she’s asleep… such a shame. But that’s the reality of making a show, I guess. And that’s just the type of complication we can see. They do what they can with what they’ve got.

    And that leads me to the fear that a lot of people have expressed that we’re not going to see Dorothy and Ruby together beyond this. I believe they’ll get the same kind of attention all the other minor couples get – probably something much like Ariel and her prince. Ruby will be back, here and there, perhaps. And she’ll tell us of her love. But I doubt we’ll see much more than that. It’s just the way a show with so many characters has to be. If we get more than that, brilliant! But I think that’s just the reality of having a massive cast.

    I was thrilled that Dorothy and Ruby’s story so closely mirrored the Snowing story. I don’t think you can get much more legit as True Love than that. I was sad for Mulan until I saw Mulan being happy for them. And Mulan is clearly not over Aurora. I felt like pairing Mulan and Ruby was the obvious choice, but I also had a thought… just because two gay people spend time together, doesn’t mean they will fall in love, any more than two straight people will. So although the reasons for not having Mulan be Ruby’s love may have been about other things (I don’t know what, but I saw some say somewhere that there were production reasons) I’m kind of glad that they turned out to love each other as friends and that Ruby got to have a Disney princess love story. And now I deeply hope that they have some way to give Mulan a happy ending, soon. Although I don’t really know what that would look like with Aurora – are we wanting to kill off her prince? I would be down with a threesome arrangement there, but I don’t see the network going for that! So maybe she meets someone she kinda hates and then they go on an adventure and someone gets sleeping cursed…

    I loved that we got a little Captain Charming adventure and that we got both Killian excited that David likes him, he really likes him! and Killian proud of his chicken scratch gravestone writing!

    I’m enjoying this season. I’m not spending too much time thinking about where things are not going so well while I’m watching, although I get grumpy every time Belle hides out with Rumple, but I guess that isn’t an issue any more. I think it will all come together if Hades has a really good endgame, and if they have a really good defeat story or a really good redemption for him. Right now I’m still waiting to see what the heck is up with him and whether this can all come together in a few weeks. I really hope so!

    • Thanks for coming over here to share some lovely positivity, Jo! I enjoyed this episode and am enjoying this arc a lot more than a lot of the fandom, I think, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

      I’m glad you brought up the reality of having a large cast, because that’s something I think is important to remember when we discuss this show. Its cast is HUGE. Do they always handle that well? No. (See Robin in this arc.) But I think this arc has actually done a much better job than the last one of giving multiple characters real development as individuals and within relationships. Of course I loved what 5A did for Emma and Killian, but it’s been nice to see the show share the wealth in 5B with strong character growth for Snow, Charming, Regina, Zelena, Ruby, and even Henry in addition to Emma and Killian. And sometimes having a huge cast means not returning to guest actors for a while, so I agree with you. I think we’ll see Ruby (and maybe even Dorothy) again, but it probably won’t be for a while. Until then, I’ll just make up headcanons about their happy life together in Oz or the Enchanted Forest or wherever they make their home and their friendship with Mulan allowing her to feel strong enough to find her own happy ending with whoever that may be.

    • One of the nice things about this site — at least for me– is that it’s a good/safe place to explore why something didn’t work for me as viewer. When this happens, I think everyone is pretty good about being thoughtful about considering everything from personal experience to plot and characterization. I think, too, that it works because no one demands that everyone else agree unreservedly about that assessment. We can love the show and still critique our responses. We can point out what’s not working as well as what does.

      I like your point, too, that it’s difficult to do too much assessment on the arc because we don’t know where we’re going . . . maybe we’re supposed to feel this way. I’m also taking it as a good thing that so many of us want to shake Belle until her teeth rattle — it means we care about the character. We see her as a good friend who seems to be tootling down the path to destruction.

      One of the other benefits of this site is obviously the fact that Katie has yet to kick me off for my unrepentant rabbit trailing into discussions of Colin’s hair, Doctoberfest mugs, hats! (Regina and Peggy Carter), insurance coverage for heart-removal protection spells, Enver’s sexiness, Cruella and gin, etc. (I will also point out that Shauna is my partner-in-crime in many of these.)

      • I will always be your partner in crime when it comes to all things random :). Its one of my favorite things about this show. Everything is so crazy, its never not fun making up random scenarios and tie-in merchandise!

        Seriously, where are these hats coming from?! What I wouldnt give to pick the brains of the costume people behind these wardrobe choices this season. I am thinking Edward Castro probably needed a long hiatus after all those Camelot costumes and delegated all the choices this season to a hat obsessed intern. Even Emma had her furry hood up this ep. Perhaps the underworld sun is rough on a girls hair? And Killian’s popped collar was just his attempt to keep his neck from getting burned? Ok I need to stop before this random tangent becomes a 1000 word pointless comment 😛 (I told you, partner in crime)

  6. I really liked this episode. I joked about the production laziness that Shauna and Jo mentioned, but overall I thought the Ruby/Dorothy story was very romantic AND I was impressed that a lot of other characters got a chance to shine.

    Katie, I think it’s awesome that you are being positive about this episode, because I think they really did do a great job doing what they set out to do – making a love story between two women feel like any other true love relationship previously portrayed on the show. They had a real connection based on a shared history of being ostracized (not a subtle metaphor, but when is this show subtle?) They had friction initially, but learned to trust each other while on an adventure. They experienced fear at admitting their feelings, but overcame that and were rewarded. I also share your hope that they’ll return, and echo all your and others’ feelings about Mulan’s role. I think it’s more likely than not that we’ll see all three women next season. Look, this show absolutely deserves criticism about an overall lack of diversity among the main characters, and there are people that, for various reasons, were going to have a problem with this story no matter what (because it went too far, not far enough, or because they were hoping for another same sex pairing.) I am with you though, that this was a good faith effort and a good first step in the right direction.

    In addition to that, I thought this was a really well balanced episode with some great character moments, particularly the one-on-one scenes between Regina and Zelena, Ruby and Snow, and Hook and Charming (seriously, they have been squandering the chemistry between those two guys – when was the last time just the two of them had a scene together?)

    Finally, the storyline that hit me hardest in this episode was Charming and Snow’s. I think there was fan outcry at the end of the last arc about the craziness of Snow and Charming leaving their baby behind. Whether it was planned all along, or just in response to the fan angst, turning their decision into a dramatic storyline for the couple this arc has been a great move. I have sympathized so much with their longing and regret. The scene in which Charming laments to Hook that Snow is missing time with another baby was so heartfelt and sad, and I love that he puts his wife’s feelings first even though he is suffering too. Charming giving Snow the gift of returning home to be with Neal is one of my favorite twists of the season so far, and all the actors involved just played the emotions beautifully. I’m calling Ginny Goodwin as the 5B MVP so far. She has been wonderful, and I’ll miss her for the next couple of episodes!

    • I agree, even with my criticisms, I still very much enjoyed this episode. (I think I let my snarky humor run away with me to a point that it drowned out my positive feelings about the ep, but Katie covered all that so well I wanted to throw out a few new things).

      I also love the Snow/Charming dynamic this season. I feel like we havent gotten decent material for them since Season 2, and they were way overdue for a (positive) storyline. Snow has just been fantastic all around. When I say that the “spark” in the characters seem to be missing, Ginny has been the one main exception to that rule all season. She is the one character that is beaming with emotion, and has almost single-handedly kept me invested. I am really gonna miss her presence down in the underworld in the immediate future!

      • Ditto on Snow. I understand the need for her to return — both from a story and production standpoint, but I’m going to miss her. Just glad we had her back to Snow-y self before she left.

        Hopefully we’ll continue to get Author-Henry updates on what she’s up to. Someone really needs to look into de-treeing poor Dopey.

        • I totally forgot about Tree Dopey, poor guy!! This show is about hope, unless you are a goofy dwarf who has been turned into shrubbery.

      • Shauna, definitely keep the snarky humor coming! The fact that you love the show still comes through, and it seems like most of us are on the same wavelength when it comes to gently picking on it sometimes – it is done with affection!

        I wasn’t going to talk about Emma this episode since she didn’t have much to do, but she was the first person I thought of when you mentioned characters lacking ‘spark,’ and I think her story this half season ties into some of the things Katie said in the comments above about wanting to see more forward motion in the Defeat Hades story. As Katie mentions above, this arc has been much more balanced than 5a in terms of telling stories about a variety of characters. I think most of us agree that it’s been great at times (Snow and Zelena) and not so great at others (Ugh, Belle.) Because Emma is so tied to the overall Underbrooke end game – Defeat Hades, Free Everyone, Resurrect Hook – she is necessarily sidelined as these other subplots take root, and I miss her! For me, I am still enjoying it overall, but my overall impression definitely hinges on two things: If and how Emma gets her mojo back in time to play a key role in fighting Hades AND whether the story can generate real tension and big emotions from Hook’s eventual resurrection, which will hopefully be by Emma’s efforts (not the author’s pen or some deal with Hades.) In the meantime, she still seems kind of sad and scared, so I hope the next episode gives her some spark and forward momentum.

    • Thank you so much, Kate! Immediately after the episode aired, it was hard for me to find anyone (besides my sister on the couch next to me) to share my enthusiasm with, so it’s been nice to see others here who felt the same way I did (or will at least respect my point of view about it—another reason why NGN commenters are the BEST). It’s making me feel less alone, which is always nice. Like you, I completely understand that there will be people who have very valid reasons to not like this storyline and that one episode doesn’t negate the lack of diversity on this show, but all I can do is speak for myself, and I personally thought they did a good job telling this story. As you put it, it’s a “good first step in the right direction.” And I also think we’ll come back to those characters again next season. It’s not like the show is ending forever in May (thank goodness!).

      I also really loved what you said about Snow and Charming’s story. It was so smart not just to acknowledge the fact that they left Neal behind (which most of us assumed they wouldn’t really do) but to turn it into a really strong story arc with some of the best material Dallas and Goodwin have been given in ages. It was such a good writing decision, and it’s been a while since I felt the show made one of those with regard to Snow and Charming.

  7. First of all, I’m just so proud of you for writing this because honestly, your honesty is incredibly important. And being true to who you are and your opinions is important. It’s scary to put ourselves out there as writers because we’re bound to make someone unhappy, but I just love that you conquered that fear in the end.

    Next up, the thing I really really really want to talk about is the fact that I cannot believe I’m now actively rooting against Hades/Zelena because she has so much potential for growth I don’t want to see it taken from her. The thing is, we’ve seen horrifying parents on this show. And Zelena is someone that has the potential to really show that you CAN be better. You can break out of your own walls and abandonment and making another child’s life easier. And I just can’t get over the fact that Regina’s genuinely open and honest with her. If Zelena redeems herself, I can just imagine how nice it’d be for both of them to have each other. Their mom screwed them over and they screwed each other over, but in the end, Cora wasn’t ever brave enough to choose the right path, and they both have that bravery in them. I now desperately need this and I never ever thought those words would come out of my mouth. The thing is, I love Zelena as a villain because Rebecca Mader is just so wickedly fantastic, but this vulnerability she’s been showcasing is on a whole new level. Keep the sass strong but choose the good road! That’s what I need. And it would just be so interesting to see her choose the family she once hated with every fiber of her being.

    I can’t agree with everything you said about Ginny Goodwin and Snow. Sometimes writers will present us with a storyline but they won’t follow through with and from the moment she decided to be Snow again, she was PERFECT. Her optimism. Her heart. Her speeches. I’ve missed them so much and I’m so glad there’s consistency in this area.

    “Because somewhere out there, a young person struggling with self-acceptance saw that the love between two women can create magic and spread light. They also saw a love story between two women included in Henry’s book alongside the iconic fairytales we grew up with. And that fact that at least one of those women is bisexual is also important, because it’s still depressingly rare to see bisexuality acknowledged and treated with respect in the media.”

    Finishing off with the fact that this paragraph is absolutely perfect and you’ve outdone yourself. Amazing job, babe. Wonderfully said. Truly!

    • Thank you so much, Giss! This one was a bit of a challenge for me to navigate, but in the end it’s good to remember that all I can do is share my true feelings and hope that honesty is what resonates with people and encourages them to be honest in return. Writing—like Snow said of love in this episode—can be freaking scary, but what you get back in return is worth it. 🙂

      I really love how many of us are on the Zelena redemption bandwagon now—and how many of us never thought that would ever be a reality. If you would have told me during Season 3B that I would be actively rooting for Zelena and for more screentime for Rebecca Mader, I would have laughed. But it’s true! This arc has done wonders for her story, and I love that it shows that these writers still have some surprises for us and some unexpectedly great things up their sleeves even five season into this show!

  8. Great Review, Katie. I really loved this episode. As frustrated as I am with Belle, it’s a plan that is in character and I am glad that she is not expecting Rumple to wake her up.

    If you would have told me during 5A that I would feel sorry for Zelena and consider her one of my favorite characters, I would have laughed. But the writers and Rebecca have succeeding in making me believe that Zelena does want to be with her daughter and does want to be better for her daughter. I personally believe that Zelena is manipulating Hades, which makes that dynamic even more fascinating as relationships of power plays and unequal levels of romantic feelings make for brilliant character work and moments. I loved her honesty with Belle and I like the show reinforcing the idea that change has to be chosen, it can not be forced on characters or on human beings in our world. Side Note: That hat made Rebecca look so good.

    The Snow and Charming arc this half season has officially made me love them again. They are heroes and they are parents and their duty to both is complicated and real. I loved Charming replacing his name with Snow’s, it gave us great Killian and Charming scenes – something that I have been missing and the combination of banter and sincerity that both actors used was awesome. I honestly liked that Emma supported her parents this episode, telling them to go be her brother is major growth for her and I liked how many reassuring touches occurred during and after Snow and Charming said goodbye. I loved Snow’s return to hero form and her desire to be with both her children. I expect that Snow being back in Storybook will allow us to tie up the Camelot arc, because that was my biggest grip with 5A that that storyline didn’t feel complete. I teared up when their theme played.

    I cried a lot this episode, happy tears but still this episode made me emotional in a number of ways. I am bisexual and Ruby being a bisexual character means a lot to me. Moreover, it was the way the show treated Ruby and her relationship with Dorothy that matter more than I can express. Love is scary, it often makes people scared shitless and that extends to everyone no matter what their sexuality. I loved Ruby and Dorothy because I love Ruby. ( I agree with everyone who has asked for Meghan Ory to come back as a recurring guest star, yes please). Snow was so incredibly supportive of Ruby and just watching her watch Ruby was amazing to see. When Ruby and Dorothy kissed, I was crying but then they kissed again and had one of the most passionate kisses on the show and at that point I was screaming and clutching my mom’s arm and pointing at the TV in awe. It matters to see their love story being given equal weight as all the other one episode love stories in Once. It matters that in Henry’s book there is a drawing of them kissing and getting their happily ever after. Despite wishing I was more invested in both halves of the pairing, I love them and they mean a lot to me.

    The message of the episode was ultimately that love and happiness are worth fighting for. Some of those messages were shown in better than others but Ruby and Dorothy, Charming and Snow, even Zelena and her daughter are examples of that love is about sacrifice and trust and an honesty about yourself. Love is about a connection that extends beyond yourself and makes you believe in something you thought was impossible.

  9. Thank you for this post, Katie. I think it’s wonderful that Adam and Eddy treated Ruby’s story as if it were any other love story, with dignity. It makes a lot of sense for the character of Ruby that she’s felt like an outcast of sorts since she found out that she’s part wolf. I also think it was terrifying for her that the first person she loved romantically, she killed accidentally.

    Those two elements definitely turned her off from looking for love for a long time and it’s understandable.

    But I’m glad about this episode, she realized what it was that she was looking for. She was looking for a place to belong and she didn’t really feel that in Storybrooke, and it’s a perfect metaphor for probably how most LGBT people feel: that they don’t belong. So, I think it was perfectly executed with Ruby’s storyline because she finally met someone who had gone through similar experiences like her and understood her.

    I also think, it was a powerful statement about true love’s kiss and how true love works. I’m working a massive true love meta and it’s wonderful, there’s always something for me to write when it comes to 5B.

    But I think that this episode is going to be my favorite to write about for my true love meta because it’s saying true love is not an exclusive straight only club: anyone can experience true love towards another person. It makes the true love’s kiss truly universal and it says, this kind of love is as normal as a true love’s kiss between Snowing, or Rumbelle or other straight couples.

    I love that message, especially when we live in a world today where there’s still hate against gay marriage and homophobia. (Note: Don’t go on facebook and Once’s official page, it’s a scary place after this episode). That’s not to say that kind of discrimination doesn’t exist in the Enchanted Forest, it might, but when it comes to true love’s kiss at least, that is golden and cannot be touched.

    Adam and Eddy were true to their statement, that they were going to treat this love story as any other, and I think in that aspect, they did. I applaud them for taking a chance with doing a LGBT love story to begin with.

    You know why else it’s perfect for Red? Fairytales are metaphors for life. I think we all know this, but the metaphor of The Little Red Riding Hood is actually sexuality, so it fits perfectly with the character of Ruby is based on that her love story revolves around that aspect of her.

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