Wherever we end up, we’re gonna win.Emma
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, and Robert Carlyle.
Episode 20: The Song In Your Heart
Having a musical episode of a TV programme may, at this stage, seem like a bizarre right of passage. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to How I Met Your Mother to Riverdale, these musical versions of fan favourites range from delightfully inspired to a captivating form of car crash. Considering Once’s habit of ranging dramatically in quality, it really could have gone either way, but I was delighted to discover that Once’s musical episode is nothing short of fantastic.
The fortunate thing with Once is, owing to the use of so many Disney characters, to see them all burst into song really doesn’t feel that strange, and so these elements slotted in to the episode quite well. The decision to include them predominantly during the flashback sections also worked, and the justification made enough sense not to be too silly, though I’d advise viewers to slightly suspend disbelief, as the logic doesn’t entirely hold up to extended scrutiny.
The success of a musical episode, of course, is partly a result of the quality of the songs in question. Written by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, composers of “First Date”, the musical numbers fit the personality of each of the respective characters, and are, quite frankly, earworms. The first song of the episode, “Powerful Magic” is a typical Disney-style number, as we’re introduced to the concept through Snow and Charming. The buoyant and energetic song perfectly captures the pair’s endearing/infuriating optimism, and certainly wins over the audience to what they’re to expect from this instalment.
The next number, “Love Doesn’t Stand a Chance” is vastly different in genre, giving the Evil Queen a Rock and Roll number to growl over, which, of course, Lana Parrilla sells convincingly. “Revenge is Mine” is another brilliant number, and Colin O’Donoghue’s voice soars during it, even though this moment is clearly designed just to get him involved on the soundtrack. Really, Hook’s presence at this moment of the tale makes very little sense whatsoever – it’s got something to do with needing the Jolly Roger to help them defeat the Queen? But it’s really not that important to worry about.
“Wicked Always Wins” is also spurious for plot reasons, but with Rebecca Mader prancing around Oz with green skin and a broom stick belting her heart out, who can really complain? It’s a standout number, despite it taking away from the plot momentarily.
Possibly the most impactful musical numbers come when they enter the world of Storybrooke. Conceiving of the songs being present in Emma’s heart the whole time is inspired, and a nice way to make this episode work contextually without it feeling shoehorned in. Having Emma sing her own theme (which usually plays during the end credits, and occasionally crops up during episodes) was a brilliant touch. It really sells the idea that her parents have been with her all along even if she didn’t know it. It’s not as toe tapping and life affirming as the other musical moments during the episode, but it’s certainly much more effective for the audience. Seeing Emma using her song against the Black Fairy, with defiant tears in her eyes is marvellously satisfying, and the entire scene is carried by Jennifer Morrison.
The final number, “Happy Beginnings” is a typical Broadway group number, as our heroes celebrate Hook and Emma’s wedding together. It’s a perfect ending, even if it’s shortly followed by the Black Fairy’s curse taking hold over Storybrooke.
All of those musical elements to one side, the episode really succeeded in taking the narrative of the series and continuing it. The musical numbers themselves also helped to advance the plot as opposed to feeling as if it was removing anything. Some of those moments were clearly just excuses to hear some of the cast sing, but when they’ve all got such brilliant voices, who can complain? I’m assuming Emilie de Ravin was bound and gagged somewhere, as she didn’t appear for a single moment this episode, and Jared Gilmore was evidently incredibly uncomfortable with his single line, so it’s perhaps fortunate that he didn’t get a moment to himself either.
Having said that, the Black Fairy’s plan really did just come out of nowhere. Apparently now she wants to set off a Dark Curse, and she just casually dropped this piece of information at the beginning of the episode as if it were something that the audience knew that she was after. What’s more, considering that the previous episode had seen Rumple pretend that she had been banished and nobody was expecting her to do anything, precisely why she felt the need to advertise her evil plan is anybody’s guess. Not only this, but she also thought it a good idea to let them know exactly what time the curse would be occurring so that they could adjust their plans accordingly. That’s respectful, at least.
It is a confusing logic for the Black Fairy to even cast a Dark Curse. Apparently, now Black Fairy dust can be used to make a dark curse. This is brand new information, and seems overly convenient, but sure. Not only this, but she wants to cast it so that she and Rumple can be a happy family once more by removing Emma. Last I checked, Emma didn’t actually care that much about Rumple or his life, so if the pair of them were to happily cohabitate without murdering or pillaging (which, to be fair, they tend to do ), then she’d have no problem. Does the Black Fairy even know exactly why she’s doing this? I doubt it. It seems like she read a prophecy and now she’s like “Well the piece of paper says there’s a final battle, so I suppose I’d better stir up some shit now”.
What’s more, considering everybody knew that the Black Fairy’s curse was going to happen at 6 o’clock, precisely why was Leroy so shocked when the curse did, in fact, happen at 6 o’clock? You were warned, Leroy! That’s almost as ridiculous as Henry taking the storybook to his mother’s wedding, as well as small infant children appearing and disappearing as plot demands (I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Neal was 4 the next time we see him).
Another disappointing element is that nobody really seemed all that surprised or even irked by the fact that Rumple had lied and was in league with the Black Fairy. Sure, Hook kind of went after him, but that was it – and nobody thought it was appropriate to mention to Belle the fact that her husband is still evil? She wasn’t even invited to the wedding, which seems monumentally harsh, but I suppose Emma’s invite criteria only extended to those whose songs existed in her heart. Speaking of which, the fact that Hook’s song has been inside her since birth is more than a little bit like child grooming for my taste.
Finally, I get that Blue said that Emma would need the song in her heart at some point against the great evil, but in the grand scheme of things, what did Emma randomly singing at the Black Fairy actually achieve? It temporarily stopped all of Emma’s loved ones (oh, and Zelena) from being frozen, and the Black Fairy just sort of disappeared and still enacted her curse. It seems a strange amount of importance that Blue has placed upon this, frankly, inconsequential act. After all, what would have happened if Emma hadn’t unfrozen them? Literally nothing. The curse still would have come, and they would all be plonked into different locations regardless, so the entire basis upon which the episode is built on sort of then collapses if you think about it too hard. So maybe let’s not!
So, finally, we reach the end of this story. Hook and Emma are married, and the new Dark Curse has hit Storybrooke. I forget which dark curse we’re on now, but there have been a fair few. I’m intrigued to discover what the Final Battle actually entails, and hope that the finale can pull through on all of the Doomsday and drama that has been invested into this plot line. Ultimately, the Black Fairy, as yet, hasn’t provided anything extraordinary in the way of villainy to prove herself as the Final Enemy, in my view.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.