Title A Wondrous Place
Two-Sentence Summary As Killian works to get back to Emma in Storybrooke, his adventure aligns with Jasmine and Aladdin’s quest to find and save Agrabah—with some help from a familiar face. Meanwhile, Regina and Snow take Emma out to help her open up, which has some unintended magical consequences.
Favorite Line “You are a hero.” (Aladdin, to Jasmine)
My Thoughts “A Wondrous Place” was the television equivalent of a magic carpet ride: bumpy at times and sometimes dangerously close to crashing, but ultimately inspiring, beautiful, and unique—and despite a bit of a rocky takeoff, it nailed the landing.
Despite the plethora of other characters who played important roles in this episode, this was finally Jasmine’s time to shine. “A Wondrous Place” revealed the layers to her story that have been hidden from us since she was introduced earlier this season, and as each of those layers was peeled back to reveal her reasons for her desperation to find Agrabah and her distance from Aladdin, she became more of a fully-realized character with flaws she was more than aware of and strengths she had yet to fully embrace. In short, she became the kind of princess Once Upon a Time specializes in bringing to life: a fierce, complex female leader learning to love herself and to accept love in her life.
Jasmine certainly retained that “I’m not a prize to be won!” mentality from Aladdin, but she was given even more depth beyond that independent, outspoken streak. This version of Jasmine was allowed to be afraid, was allowed to have doubts, and was allowed to fail before succeeding—not because she wasn’t strong enough to defeat Jafar, but because she didn’t believe she was strong enough. She felt like a real person with flaws and emotional baggage, and I have to give the writers and Karen David credit for creating such a nuanced and believable character arc for Jasmine in such a short time.
Jasmine’s entire arc was about facing her fears and discovering that she could be afraid and still be a hero—what defines a hero isn’t their lack of fear, it’s their ability to fight even when they’re afraid. She spent so much of the episode trying to find a hero to help her save her kingdom when she was that hero all along. She didn’t need a prince to fight for her; all she needed was to believe in herself.
Jasmine lost her kingdom when she lost faith in herself and agreed to marry Jafar instead of fighting to find another way. She essentially gave up, and a defeatist attitude never got anyone anywhere on this show. What she needed to find was someone who believed in her to help her believe in herself, and she had that in Aladdin.
For a while, I found myself fairly unimpressed with the development (or lack thereof) of Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship. It always felt like Jasmine was pushing him away, which made it hard for me to invest fully in what should have been an easy couple to root for. However, “A Wondrous Place” finally showed us why Jasmine had kept Aladdin at arm’s length for so long, and it the reason was heartbreaking: She felt undeserving of love. She pushed Aladdin away to punish herself for her perceived cowardice, which, as Killian pointed out so astutely, was itself another act of cowardice.
I loved the scene in which Killian and Jasmine talked about love because Killian finally got to use his wealth of experience to help someone else, showing how much he’s learned from his recent mistakes. For too long, Killian also acted as if he was undeserving of the love of a Savior, and that sense of guilt and shame controlled him. Once again, Colin O’Donoghue was a master of sincerity, working beautifully with David to create a lovely connection between their characters.
Both Killian and Jasmine were far from home in this episode, and it was nice to see them bond over that shared longing for the place they knew they belonged. And while Jasmine’s longing for Agrabah made sense, it was a sign of how much Killian has grown that the sea no longer feels like home to him—Storybrooke does, because Storybrooke is where Emma is. Home truly is where the heart is for these characters, and Killian’s desperation to get back home—back to Emma—mirrored Jasmine’s in a poignant way.
Home is something you fight for, something you’d do anything to protect. For Killian, that meant fighting to get back to Emma because he knew that his absence would make her feel abandoned; he understands her so well, and O’Donoghue did a great job of showing how much pain it was causing Killian to know that he was causing Emma pain. And for Jasmine, that meant finally fighting back against Jafar when there was no one left to fight for her. All she had was her belief in herself, which was bolstered by the belief Killian, Ariel, and Aladdin had in her. But that proved to be more than enough. With faith in yourself and the support of people who care about you, this show has proven time and time again that even the most fearsome foes can be vanquished and that you can make your way back home where you belong.
Jasmine’s support system included a kindred spirit in Killian, her True Love in Aladdin, and—my personal favorite—an encouraging female friend. Only on Once Upon a Time would you see Jasmine and Ariel team up on an adventure, and it was everything I never knew I always wanted. “A Wondrous Place” put female friendship in the spotlight in multiple storylines, but it was this friendship that I found the most inspiring in the episode. I loved the twist on the romantic magic carpet ride, with it being shared instead by two female friends on a mission. And I loved the warmth both David and Joanna Garcia Swisher projected in their scenes together. My only complaint is that we most likely won’t see more of them together.
With Killian serving as a mentor of sorts (or a grumpy matchmaker as he might describe himself) and Ariel serving as a friend, the final piece of Jasmine’s team was the man whose faith in her and love for her never wavered. Aladdin belongs in my favorite class of Once Upon a Time male characters: men who love badass princesses and think everything they do is amazing but also aren’t afraid to remind them when they’re not being their best self. Deniz Akdeniz was incredibly convincing and charming in this episode as Aladdin was completely unable to hide his affections for Jasmine, despite her emotional distance. His chemistry with David was palpable, and it allowed me to completely believe their love story, which was necessary given that it culminated in a True Love’s Kiss.
When Jasmine finally believed in herself, she also finally believed she could have True Love, and that magic—the magic that comes from the heart—was enough to bring her and her True Love back home. David was radiant in the moment in which Jasmine realized the love she felt for Aladdin was strong enough to create magic. I also loved that their kiss freed Aladdin from his life as a genie. Love has freed so many of these characters in so many ways; this was just one more example. In just this episode alone, we also saw how love helped Jasmine free herself from the idea that she always had to be defined by her past failings. She chose a new path—a brave path—and by choosing belief in herself and choosing to open her heart to True Love, she became the hero she had spent so long searching for.
Jasmine’s story in this episode was a story about the ways fear can keep us from believing the truth about ourselves, and that same lesson was reflected in Emma’s storyline in this episode. Emma spent much of the hour fearing that she had been abandoned by Killian, and that fear consumed her, blinding her to the truth about herself and taking her back to a place where—like Jasmine—she defined herself by her past heartbreak (every painful time she had been abandoned). Was it pretty to watch her abandonment issues rear their head again? Of course not. But it wasn’t pretty to watch Killian’s self-loathing rear its head, either. Both of these characters have been damaged by their pasts, and for as painful as it may be, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to show that love may give you the strength to battle your fears and demons, but it doesn’t erase them altogether.
Despite understanding Emma’s fears, I still found myself confused by how her storyline played out in the episode. My main complaint was that it felt as if much more time had passed after Killian’s disappearance than was actually the case. Emma’s certainty that he had left her could be excused by her long history with abandonment causing her to jump to the worst-case scenario, but there was no excuse for how quickly her family (especially Henry, who shouldn’t even have been in the episode for how much of a plot device he was—all that did was annoy me because he should have been giving his mom some hope) wrote off Killian as having left her and how quickly they were forcing her to deal with things on their terms instead of her own. (Although they did the same thing with her grieving process last season; I have a bit of a sore spot for characters telling each other how to express their feelings.) Yes, drunk Snow was hilarious, but I would have gladly traded those laughs for a conversation where Emma’s mother gently reminded her not to give up on her True Love so quickly.
Because, for a long time in this episode, that’s what it felt like: Emma had given up. It was a sad parallel to Jasmine giving up her quest to find a hero and agreeing to marry Jafar because she had no faith. But once again, why was Emma so quick to give up after a day? I could understand if a year had a passed or maybe even a month, but after a day, all of her talk about moving on felt incredibly rushed and not at all in line with her character growth and the overall theme of the show. Emma and Killian’s relationship has been defined by fighting for each other—even going to the Underworld and back for each other—and, while I could see her talking about moving on as taking what she learned about letting go last season and using that to drive her actions, it still felt like not enough time had passed for her to be so thoroughly defeated and for everyone else to be so thoroughly convinced that Killian was never coming back.
In the end, though, we all know why Emma was saying what she said and acting how she did: The plot called for it. Once Upon a Time is a show where the plot often dictates how the characters are written. And in this case, the plot called for Gideon to get one of Emma’s tears, so the writers had to craft a scene in which she mourned the loss of her relationship. I knew something was up with Aesop from the start (He was just too gosh-darn charming and attractive.), so I had a feeling whatever conversation he and Emma would have was going to be more about the end result for the plot than anything to do with her character development. So while it was nice to see her get hugs from the women in her life (in another parallel to Jasmine’s story), the whole scene felt hollow because it was so clearly a setup.
The same could be said for Emma’s seemingly rushed decision to move Killian’s things to the shed. It felt like an unnecessary step so soon after he left, but she needed to hear him through the seashell in the most dramatic way possible, which is exactly what happened. And although I should be mad about how contrived the plot that came before it was, all my frustration ultimately faded away as I watched Killian remind Emma of the truth: He would never willingly leave her. Between O’Donoghue’s pleading voice and the emotion on Jennifer Morrison’s face, I was an emotional mess. Should Emma have figured that out without him contacting her? Maybe. But there’s nothing wrong with needing some help believing when your faith is at a low point. Sometimes you just need a sign to keep believing, and Emma has needed signs and support on her journey to believing more than most characters—for completely understandable reasons. So for her to get that reassurance from the man she loves was the perfect way to close their story in this episode and move them now into a place where they are once again on the same emotional page, working together to tackle an outside problem instead of an inner emotional conflict.
That outside problem came in the form of Gideon, who used Emma’s tears to close the portals and keep Killian away from their realm. (How convenient that we’re just learning now that Savior tears can close portals.) However, I am glad that Gideon finally got wise to the fact that working with Emma to destroy the Black Fairy made a lot more sense than killing her to take her powers. It’s going to make for an interesting partnership; although I hope they defeat the Black Fairy quickly so Killian can come back home—this angst has gone on long enough.
• Were the Vikings in the bar supposed to be the guys from Tangled? Or was I the only one who noticed their similar vibe to everyone’s favorite Snuggly Duckling patrons?
• Aesop’s Tables might be the best name for a business this show has come up with yet. I’m going to credit Jane Espenson with that one until proven otherwise.
• The costumes in this episode were stunning—from Jasmine’s camel-colored coat to her Agrabah clothes.
• I loved the return of “kleptomaniac Ariel,” even if it did seem way too convenient for her to be hoarding the container that just happened to hold Jafar.
• I was honestly shocked they didn’t have Ariel slap Killian for old time’s sake, but I did love seeing them hug and being reminded of all the history between them.
• I actually laughed a lot during this episode, which was a major clue that Espenson wrote it. She has the best sense of this show’s unique humor potential, and she always uses it to its fullest.