Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Once Upon A Time 6x15 Review: “A Wondrous Place” (Homecoming) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]

“A Wondrous Place”
Original Airdate: April 2, 2017
Adventurous, risky, and messy are the best words to describe the latest episode of Once Upon A Time. A forgotten storyline has its much-needed conclusion, a favorite character returns, and girls’ night is in full swing in the jam-packed hour that felt like classic OUAT. The episode layout may have been right, but it was easy to dislike the ridiculous content.


The main plot of the night focuses on two groups of characters that are lost. First, Hook and the crew of the Nautilus are traveling mystical waters, after Gideon uses magic to send them away from Storybrooke. They wind up trapped in the Enchanted Forest and happen upon the other lost couple: Aladdin and Jasmine. A handful of episodes ago, Jasmine wished for Aladdin to bring them to Agrabah, and they have been missing ever since. The wish brought them to the Enchanted Forest and gave Jasmine a ring from her past. It was beyond obvious that the ring would play a role later on in the episode.

The two groups unite with the same goal — getting back to their respective homes. To help them accomplish that goal, they decide to hunt down Jafar, who would be helpful to Aladdin and Jasmine but not Hook. Why Hook goes along on this crazy journey is beyond me, since he knows he doesn’t have a way to cross realms and make it back to Emma. At the very least, the journey seems to have helped Hook realize his wrongdoings and want to fix his mistakes. However, there’s not much he can do without being home. The gist of the plot point is solid, yet the execution and writing left me rolling my eyes.


The best part of the episode was Regina, Snow, and Emma’s girls’ night. Regina knows that Emma is internally struggling with Hook’s absence and decides to force her out of solitude for a round of drinks at the hilariously named Aesop’s Tables. As much as I love a great pun, this seems like the writers watched The Good Place in the fall and liked how they named a restaurant The Good Plates.

There were many positives with this smaller subplot that made the episode tolerable. First, Lana Parrilla’s new haircut looked fantastic. I really like how the hair and make-up department has been changing up Regina’s look for the past few episodes, and this makeover really helps to showcase the character’s transformation. Regina has come a long way, so it is appropriate to make sure the audience can clearly see the changes. Second, a drunken Snow White is one of the funniest ideas to come from the show in all its seasons. Snow has a few too many drinks and challenges some Vikings to a game of darts with throwing knives. If you thought Snow was good with a sword or bow, then you should be very surprised at her throwing skills, which led to a really great moment that stunned me and the other characters.

Third, Emma finally shows some real emotion when she thinks that Hook has left town and bailed on her after their one-sided argument in the previous episode. This is both a positive and a negative. On the positive side, the truth of who killed David’s father is finally out in the open, and Emma isn’t the emotionless robot she has been in the second half of the season. On a negative note, Emma is extremely mopey and broody, which starts to drag the character back to the dark side. Positively, the costume department did a great job of showing Emma’s emotions instead of Jennifer Morrison having to act much differently. The high-throated, dark colored turtle neck Emma wore with messy, unkempt hair was a better indicator of her true feelings than her constant denial of missing Hook. More of these types of girls’ night moments would help make the show much more enjoyable.


The other great moment of the episode was watching two classic Disney princesses meet for the first time. Even though it was totally random and really didn’t make sense in the grand scheme of things, Ariel and Jasmine meet and form an alliance to save Agrabah in flashback scenes. This is a moment that I think most Disney animation fans would love to witness. Jasmine and Ariel are two of the most classic, beloved princesses from Disney’s animation renaissance period. Watching them interact was a special moment for the show, and OUAT always delivers on these big character moments.

The key reason that this was a fun moment was that Karen David and JoAnna Garcia Swisher are great at playing Jasmine and Ariel respectively. The other reason that the moment worked was it put both the characters outside of their comfort zones. The scene takes place in a beautifully designed Agrabah, where Ariel is literally a fish out of water and Jasmine is too forward-thinking. Later on in the episode, Hook, Jasmine, and Aladdin happen upon Ariel’s real grotto on an island, which was also cool to see come alive. The gadgets and gizmos were aplenty in the cleverly crafted set. These little moments made me smile and think that the show still has a lot of promise, and then each moment became ruined when the plot started to show back up.


There were lots of instances of finding courage in this episode. The creative crew of the show were courageous in creating the background story of Agrabah. The sets and costumes were beautiful, but the CGI was disastrous, especially the magic carpet ride. Disney should take note of what did and didn’t work in these scenes as well to help with the currently in-development live-action remake of Aladdin.

Hook was courageous in attempting to do everything in his power to make his way back to his true love. Emma gains some courage back after Hook manages to make contact with her through Ariel’s aptly named shellphone, which is a very tiny conch shell that can be spoken through across dimensions. This was honestly more of Emma gaining her sanity back, as she realizes that she does belong with Hook and that he truly does love her. Emma also shows some old spark of courage after being approached by Gideon, who wants her help to destroy the Black Fairy. The fact that this took how many weeks to happen is beyond ridiculous. The OUAT writers need to explain why Gideon didn’t use teaming up with Emma as his first option. On the downside, Hook won’t be back in Storybrooke until Emma fulfills her duties with Gideon.

Jasmine has the largest courage arc of the episode. I was quite annoyed for most of the show at the interpretation of the character because she was showcased as a weak woman who wouldn’t stand up for herself. This was surprising because it goes against the grain of the purpose of the show. The female characters are supposed to flip the script of their animated counterparts, not simply be them. It was an odd choice to present a very weak Jasmine, but at least she does learn to come into her own by the end of the episode to face Jafar. The episode does end with Jasmine and Aladdin making it back to Agrabah, so it appears that they won’t be showing up again for now. As much as I did enjoy having Jasmine and Aladdin on the show, there really isn’t a use for them anymore.


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