This review may contain spoilers.
The series wraps up a solid freshman season with a whole new set of questions.
After Henry succumbs to the poison apple, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) realizes that what ails him can only be explained by magic. She confronts the visibly distraught Regina (Lana Parrilla). Calling a temporary truce, the two women go to Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) to ask for help curing Henry.
Mr. Gold sends Emma to retrieve the only remaining magic he has in this world. Unfortunately, that is kept in a golden egg inside the belly of the imprisoned dragon, Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten). Emma succeeds, but is double-crossed by Mr. Gold, who really just wants the magic for himself.
In the fairytale kingdom, Prince James (Josh Dallas) also succeeds in freeing himself from the Evil Queen (with a little help from the Huntsman). He sets off to meet Snow White, but ends up having to accept the help of Rumplestiltskin to find her.
Rumplestiltskin wants James to hide his most powerful magic, "True Love," in the safest place he knows: the belly of the dragon Maleficent. James succeeds, and he reaches Snow White just in time to wake her with True Love's Kiss.
As Henry lay dying, Emma kisses her son one last time, but this breaks the curse and wakes him. In fact, it wakes the whole town to their true selves. David and Mary Margaret, finally realizing who they are, have a touching reunion. Belle is reunited with Rumplestiltskin.
However, good old Rumplestiltskin decides to use his last bit of magic to bring back something he lost -- the power of magic. And as the closing credits role, magic fills Storybrooke in a vast psychedelic purple cloud ...
James and his daughter fighting the same dragon in different times, with opposite but related goals, was a fantastic bit of writing.
The continuity fairies were working overtime in this episode, bringing back the late, lamented Huntsman, Belle, Jefferson, and the opening scenes of the series. They even remembered that Charming was wearing a fancy red outfit in the pilot episode and corrected the matter.
For all the efforts over the season to humanize Rumplestiltskin, getting the audience to empathize with him, his selfish treachery and lust for power were a nice turnabout.
The resolution to this finale set in place what appears to be a game-changer for next season, (hopefully) creating sufficient mystery to keep the audience coming back next fall.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
Emma's realization about the fairytale world was a little too sudden and slightly jarring. It might have been better timed after she fought an actual dragon or seen August turn completely to wood. It was also slightly jarring to have her first magical conversation happen in a broom closet. Perhaps that was the point, though, who knows?
Between the series' emphasis on the power of "True Love’s Kiss" and ABC's previews last week, the way to save Henry's life was always pretty obvious. The whole dragon-hunting trip was just a giant red herring, destined to fill out the hour.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
"A Land Without Magic" was written by co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. It was directed by Dean White.
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. New episodes will return in the fall.
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