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.