‘Once Upon a Time’ Review: Goodbye, Storybrooke

ABC/Jack Rowand

If watching Once Upon a Time’s winter finale didn’t make you feel like your heart was being ripped out and stomped on at least once, you’re most likely watching the show wrong. “Going Home” was a heartbreaking conclusion to the tale of Neverland and the beginning of a new reality for our favorite characters as one curse ends, only to be replaced with something that has the potential of being much, much worse.

But before we get to the ending, let’s talk about how the episode got us there. Pan needed the final element of the curse – the heart of the person he loved most. Felix assumed that it was Rumple, but Pan made it clear he didn’t love his son at all and there was more than one kind of love. The love Pan was talking about had more to do with loyalty, which was why he proceeded to pull out Felix’s heart and drop it in the well with the rest of the curse ingredients.

While this was happening, the ‘good’ guys were forming a plan of their own. Rumple wanted to switch Henry and Pan back into their normal bodies and Tink suggested using the wand of the Black Fairy, which the Blue Fairy had taken for safekeeping. Once all that was done, Regina would be able to destroy the curse and the scroll it was written on, but Rumple warned that it would come at a steep price.

As everyone went their separate ways to complete their tasks, we were treated to a mixture of flashbacks from various times and places instead of the usual one character/one realm/one time period flashbacks we’re used to. We got to see Hook and Tink meeting for the first time in Neverland where Hook insisted there were only two things he’d risk his life for: love and revenge. Then there was Belle and the Dark One back at his castle as Rumple remembered Bae on his birthday and told Belle that he was lost, not dead.

In fairy tale land, we saw the Blue Fairy, Charming and a pregnant Snow discussing how Emma would be their savior. Then we saw Mary Margaret in Storybrooke, giving Henry the infamous storybook that one day just appeared in her closet. He flipped through the pages and instantly saw her as Snow White. We also got another look at Emma right after she gave birth to Henry and insisted that she didn’t want to hold him because she can’t be a mother.

ABC/Jack Rowand

ABC/Jack Rowand

Back to the present – Charming, Neal, Hook and Tinker Bell went to the church to try and find out where the Blue Fairy had kept the black wand. Unfortunately, Pan’s shadow had been eavesdropping on their plans and followed them there. Hook drew the shadow’s attention while Tink found the strength to believe in herself and made the pixie dust work, allowing her to fly without wings and capture the shadow, throwing it into the fire and destroying it once and for all. In doing so, Blue Fairy got her shadow back and was alive again (oh). It was nice that she acknowledged Tink for being awesome, but was it really necessary? This was Tinker Bell’s moment to shine.

Rumple used the wand to switch the bodies and put the magic-blocking cuff on Pan’s arm before sending everyone away so Regina could do her thing and he’d deal with his father. But poor Rumple once again underestimated the fact that Peter Pan is the absolute worst. He woke up and started mocking his son and then easily removed the cuff (he created it so it didn’t work on him) and then he placed it on Rumple and told him without magic he was nothing. Pan left him crumpled in the corner and went to carry out his plan, leaving Rumple to seemingly contemplate cutting off his hand.

In the middle of the street (where everything happens), the others had gathered for Regina to do her thing, but when she read the scroll, she passed out, which was how she knew what she had to do. First, they had to deal with Pan, who came to gloat, and froze them all so they could see and hear, but not speak. He was planning to kill them since they were important to Rumple, but the man in question arrived before he could. Pan wasn’t impressed since he still had no magic, but he had something else: his shadow and his dagger.

The price that Rumple had to pay to stop his father was his life. Rumple professed his love for Bae and Belle and then did what he had to, stabbing his father with the dagger, causing Pan to turn back into his adult self and then eventually the shadow and the magic from the dagger swallowed them both. That broke Pan’s spell and Belle fell to her knees as Neal tried to process that his father was gone (Is it just me or was his reaction seriously underwhelming?).


I was completely gutted by this scene and I refuse to believe that Rumple is really gone for good, even though he pointed out that he was the villain and villains don’t get happy endings. Sometimes they do, show; sometimes they have to because they’ve earned it when they kill their insane father to ensure their loved ones are safe. This cannot be the end for Rumpelstiltskin. My theory is that he’s just lost somewhere, like Bae was, and that was the reason they showed us that particular flashback. The alternative is unacceptable.

As if this wasn’t hard enough to process, things were about to get much worse. The curse was coming and Regina could stop it, but once again, there was a price to pay. To undo the curse Pan had started, Regina had to destroy hers and everything that came from the curse…like Storybrooke. The town wasn’t supposed to exist and destroying the curse would make it go away and send everyone back where they came from. Unfortunately, Henry came from the world without magic, which meant that he couldn’t go back to the Enchanted Forest with them and since she was the savior, Emma had to stay behind with him.

Seriously, show, why do you want us to be sobbing messes? Emma was going to lose her parents all over again and Snow had to be the strong one and tell her that it was for the best and she could live her life with Henry. She pointed out that Emma had touched everyone’s lives and the camera panned to everyone’s sad faces and my emotions were all over the place. Then Regina stepped in and told Emma there was something else she needed to know: since Storybrooke wouldn’t exist, it wouldn’t exist in their memories either. She and Henry would forget all of this, but Regina could make it so they only had happy memories and Emma never gave him up. It was her final gift.

Please excuse me while I sob for a week at this and at the emotional goodbyes that followed. Neal promised his son that he would see him again and Hook told Emma that he would think of her every day and she said, “Good.” Then Emma and Henry got in the yellow bug as the curse tore through the town, erasing it and everyone stood at the town line, waiting to be taken away. Emma drove off and then the town and the line itself, disappeared.

But that wasn’t quite the end. After seeing a revised version of the flashback where Emma asked to hold Henry, the action flashes forward to one year after the end of Storybrooke. Emma and Henry are living in New York City and have a cute, mother-son morning breakfast routine. There’s a knock at the door and when Emma answers it, Hook is standing in the hallway! She has no idea who he is, but he tells her that her family is in trouble. Then he grabs her and kisses her to try to make her remember, but all he gets for the effort is Emma shoving him away. Hook mutters that it was a longshot, but he had to try. Emma closes the door and goes back to Henry.

THAT is how you end a midseason finale of a series that we have to wait almost three months to see the next episode. I know better than to speak for everyone, but I think a good portion of the fandom is wishing we had some sort of magic potion or a curse of our own to use so we can find out what’s next a little faster. What’s happening to Emma’s family? How long have things been bad? Has Hook spent the entire year they were apart looking for her?

I have so many questions and we have to wait such a long time before we get any answers. But even though I’m desperate for more, I thought this finale was incredibly well done. When you break it down, there wasn’t a lot to it story-wise, but it toyed with our emotions and changed the direction of the series without missing a beat. I’ll have a more in-depth midseason review in the near future, but in the meantime, we want to hear from you.

Did you enjoy the winter finale? Do you think Rumple is really gone for good? Which emotional goodbye hit you the hardest? What do you think is happening in the Enchanted Forest that is so terrible? How awesome was Hook showing up on Emma’s doorstep? Or would you have preferred it be Neal? Hit the comments and share your thoughts with us!

Mandy Treccia
Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that.

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  1. Oh yeah, I forgot to respond to the question involving Hook. Hook was way freaking awesome, hot, sexy and beautiful (and….did I mention hot?) when he showed up at her doorstep. I love Hook to the death of me, as well as Emma, but (Totally going to get a lot of nasty comments because of this)I don’t think they would work out as a couple. The only reason I say this is because Hook doesn’t really show any interest in Henry. We all know that he is hot for Emma, but when it comes to Henry, he doesn’t pay any attention to him unless it involves Emma’s influence. To add on, Emma is a doted parent, she loves Henry to death and her devotion to Henry, as well as Hooks lack of it would cause a major gap if they were ever to start a relationship. So I kinda wonder about the actuality of the ship, but don’t get me wrong I love Emma and Hook, just…..separately.

  2. I seriously almost started crying/ yelling/ crying during this episode. Personally, the part that kind of got to me the most was the last glimpse of everybody leaving and the scene in the car when Emma kept stealing happy glances at Henry (This was, of course, after both curses were broken). It was the realization that after everything they have all gone through together the moments and memories were gone. I do admit though that I was happy that Emma and Henry were given new memories, due to the unnecessary heartbreak it stopped the characters and audience from viewing. Also, concerning Rumple, I was deeply depressed about his ‘death’, but I do believe that he IS NOT dead. Rumple is too important to the story, the viewers, and the characters to of just ‘died’.

  3. that was like seriously the best episode once upon a time has ever made i felt like 5 different emotions at once in a course of 1 hour. after an episode like that i don’t know how i’m going to wait till march 9

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